A Week in the Horn of Africa- (20/07/2012)
The 19th Assembly of the African Union
The 19th ordinary session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union was held on July 15th and July 16th at the new headquarters of the African Union Commission in Addis Ababa. The Summit was preceded by the 21st ordinary session of the Executive Council and the 24th ordinary session of the Permanent Representatives Committee (PRC) that took place from 9-13 July 2012. The Summit was initially scheduled to take place in Lilongwe, in Malawi but the Malawi government felt obliged to withdraw its offer to host the Summit. The PRC therefore requested Ethiopia to host the meeting, and in spite of the time constraints for undertaking the necessary preparation, the Summit was conducted smoothly and successfully.
At the opening ceremony, His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, the Emir of Kuwait, addressed the Summit as a Guest of Honour of the African Union. The newly elected Presidents of Senegal, Egypt and Lesotho also delivered statements. The Assembly resumed its work in closed session, first adopting the budget of the African Union for the 2013 financial year, amounting to US$278.2 million. Of this US$122.8 million is assessed to member states, while US$155.4 million for various programs is expected to be obtained from international partners.
The Assembly then considered the report of the Ad-Hoc Committee of Heads of State and Government on the election of members of the African Union Commission and proceeded to the election of the Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson of the Commission. After four rounds of voting, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was elected as the new Chairperson of the Commission, securing the required 2/3rd votes. Dr. Dlamini-Zuma is the first woman to be elected to the post of Chairperson. The Deputy Chairperson of the Commission, Mr. Erastus Mwencha, was re-elected to serve another four year term. The Assembly also appointed the Commissioners elected by the Executive Council of the African Union. The election of Commissioners for the posts of Economic Affairs and for Human Resources, Science and Technology has been postponed until the next Summit as the proposed candidates for the two posts withdrew from the election. The swearing-in ceremony for the newly elected Chairperson, Deputy Chairperson and Commissioners took place in the closing session. The Assembly expressed its appreciation to the outgoing Chairperson and Commissioners for their service to Africa.
The Commissioner for Peace and Security, Ambassador Ramtane Lamamra, from Algeria was re-elected to his position, as was Elham Mahmoud, from Egypt, the Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy. The newly elected Commissioners are: Aicha L. Abdullahi, from Nigeria, as Commissioner for Political Affairs; Mustapha Sidiki Kaloko, from Sierra Leone, as Commissioner for Social Affairs; Fatima Haram Acyl, from Chad, as Commissioner for Trade and Industry; and Rhoda Tumusiime, from Uganda as Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture.
After the election of the Chairperson, the Summit deliberated on the report on the State of Peace and Security in Africa. The situation between Sudan and South Sudan, in Mali and in Guinea Bissau was of particular concern. The Peace and Security Council of the African Union met earlier, on July 14th, at the level of Heads of State and Government, to examine the situation between Sudan and South Sudan as well as Mali. Ethiopia attended the meeting in its capacity as the current Chair of IGAD and its delegation was led by Ambassador Tekeda Alemu, Permanent Representative of Ethiopia to the UN. Ambassador Tekeda noted that IGAD has commended the new strategic approach that the Republic of Sudan and South Sudan had devised to establish a common understanding on how to deal with their outstanding issues and lay the foundation for genuine partnership in the post-independence period. He expressed his hope that the new spirit would sustain the two parties to make the new trend irreversible. The PSC also welcomed the adoption by the two parties of their “new spirit”. It also noted with satisfaction the resumption of the Sudan/South Sudan talks in Bahr Dar on July 12th. It urged both parties to conclude agreements on all outstanding issues, including security, oil and related payments, borders, the status of nationals of the other State and the final status of Abyei by August 2nd as provided for in the AU Roadmap and UN Security Council Resolution 2046 (2012).
In relation to the theme of the Summit, “Boosting Intra-Africa Trade”, the 18th ordinary session of the Assembly had endorsed the Framework, Roadmap and Architecture for fast tracking the establishment of a Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) and the Action Plan for boosting intra-African trade. The Assembly had also decided to set up a High Level Committee of Heads of State and Government, Chairs of Regional Economic Communities on Boosting Trade to provide facilitation and unlock any blockage that might arise in terms of implementation. The Committee met on July 14th and its report was presented to the 19th Assembly for consideration. The Assembly took note of the report and directed the Conference of African Ministers of Trade to engage in consultation on the outcomes and make recommendations to the January 2013 Summit. Ethiopia is a member of the Committee in its capacity as the current Chair of IGAD.
In line with existing practice, the African Peer Review (APR) Forum and the NEPAD Heads of State and Government Orientation Committee (HSGOC) also met on the margins of the Summit. The APR Forum conducted the peer review of Zambia and of Kenya and assessed the progress report on implementation of the National Program of Action of several countries including Algeria, Uganda, Nigeria, Burkina Faso and Ghana. The HSGOC, among others, also evaluated progress in the implementation of NEPAD programmes including the Presidential Infrastructure Championship Initiative (PICI), and considered the outcome of the G-20 Summit in Mexico, June 18th-19th.
Next year marks the 50th Anniversary of the establishment of the OAU. The Assembly welcomed Ethiopia’s offer to host a Special Summit dedicated to the celebration of the Golden Jubilee of the OAU. The Assembly also decided that the regular sessions of the Policy Organs of the African Union (the 21st ordinary session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government, the 23rd ordinary session of the Executive Council and the 26th ordinary session of the Permanent Representatives Committee) initially planned to take place in Libya in July 2013 will instead be held in Addis Ababa, back to back with the Special Summit.
….and bilateral meetings on the sidelines
The Summit as usual provided extensive opportunities for bilateral discussions and Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister held an extensive series of meetings with visiting delegations on the sidelines of the Executive Council and Assembly sessions. He held discussions with the Emir of Kuwait, Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber, the Guest of Honour of the Summit, with whom he discussed a range of bilateral issues. He also met with new President of Egypt, Mohammed Morsi, who expressed Egypt’s readiness to reinforce relations with Ethiopia, especially in information communications technology sector. The Deputy Premier also met with the Foreign Minister of the Seychelles and signed a Memorandum of Understanding on ways of working together in various sectors, including culture and tourism as well as providing for avoidance of double taxation. He had meetings with Somalia’s President Sheik Sherif who provided a briefing on the process to end the transition in Somalia, and with Mr. Nick Wescot, EU Managing Director for Africa-European External Action Service who reaffirmed the EU’s readiness to continue its development aid to Ethiopia. Another meeting was held with India’s Foreign Minister, P.S Ragvahan, on bilateral relations and issues of mutual interest between the two countries, and Ato Hailemariam expressed Ethiopia’s desire to further bolster its relations with India in the areas of agriculture, education and infrastructure and in particular its hope to work closely with India in the areas of hydro-power and railway projects. At a meeting with Finland’s Foreign Minister, Erkki Tuomioja, the two sides agreed to strengthen bilateral ties in the areas of water development and other areas of cooperation. The Deputy Prime Minister also met with delegations from Luxemburg, the United Kingdom, China and Pakistan. Ato Hailemariam also signed a wide-ranging bilateral agreement with Mohlabi Kenneth Tsekoa, Foreign Minister of Lesotho, covering increased cooperation in all areas, and another with Zambia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Given Lubinda, to boost economic, scientific and technical co-operation.
Government takes “very serious exception” to remarks by the UNHCHR
On Thursday this week, (July 19th) the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a press statement strongly objecting to earlier remarks by Ms. Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights who had criticized verdicts in the recent terrorism trial in Addis Ababa and “overly broad definitions” in the country’s anti-terrorist legislation, alleging that the situation of journalists, human rights defenders and critics had become precarious in a “climate of intimidation”:
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia takes very serious exception to the remarks made by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights expressing concern over the decision of the High Court of Ethiopia in the recent trial of terrorists. Her statement is not only erroneous, without factual basis and highly selective. It also makes imputations which seriously impugn the independence of Ethiopia’s judicial system as a whole and of the High Court of Ethiopia. The Ministry is obliged to reject them categorically and unreservedly.
“The defendants referred to were tried and convicted in an open, regular court. They were convicted on charges of terrorism. They were not tried on the basis of the content of any writing or opinions critical of the government. They were tried on the basis of the detailed evidence of their direct involvement and participation in criminal activities.
“The defendants were convicted under due process of law, and their rights, guaranteed by the Constitution and in full accordance with Ethiopia’s international legal obligations, have been and remain fully respected. Following conviction, they do, of course, have the right of appeal to the appellate court against the decisions and sentences of the High Court.
“It is to be regretted that the High Commissioner for Human Rights has seen fit to ignore these facts. Nor is it acceptable that the High Commissioner should characterize the situation of human rights in Ethiopia as filled by a “climate of intimidation.” This is unwarranted, inaccurate and misleading. This is a statement that appears to negate the universally accepted norms and principles that guide the work of such bodies as the UN Office of the High Commissioner. It reflects poorly on the objectivity, impartiality and independence to be expected from the Commissioner’s High Office.
“Ethiopia has succeeded in making significant progress in the field of human rights in the last two decades. It has also created propitious conditions for the existence of a vibrant civil society and for the exercise of freedom of expression and opinion by all its citizens, including opposition political groups, journalists and critics. The right to hold dissident views on government policies and issues or to criticize the performance of government without restriction is fully respected. This can be seen repeatedly in the regular publications and output of the private press and the independent media. All Ethiopians, irrespective of their ideological leanings, creeds, ethnic background or gender, enjoy these rights fully. Nor can these rights be denied at the will of the government or of any government institutions.
“In this context it must also be underlined that the Charities and Societies Proclamation and the Anti-Terrorism legislation are fully consistent with the Constitution of Ethiopia and of Ethiopia’s international obligations. This is quite clear from any reading of the relevant legislation. The allegations of the High Commissioner against these laws and their application are without foundation and cannot be substantiated.
“The Ministry must in particular deprecate such assertions since Ethiopia has provided all the necessary responses and clarifications to the question raised in relation to these laws by the Special Rapporteurs of the Human Rights Council. This should be well known to the High Commissioner’s office.
“The Ministry would also note that these remarks by the High Commissioner are unhelpful towards any enhancement of the existing cooperation between her office and the various organs of the Government of Ethiopia. Her remarks are particularly inappropriate and unfortunate at a time when the Government has completed and is ready to adopt a comprehensive National Action Plan for Human Rights in Ethiopia. This involves different offices of the Federal and Regional State Governments and other stakeholders, including her own office.
“The recent dialogue in Addis Ababa between the relevant senior Ministers and officials of government and the Chairpersons of the Treaty Bodies of the Human Rights Council demonstrated an impressive spirit of cooperation and constructive dialogue. It is deeply regrettable that the High Commissioner’s remarks must now cast doubt on how far this can now be considered to enhance the necessary mutual understanding between her office and the Government of Ethiopia.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs hopes that the High Commissioner will now favour dialogue over unhelpful and inaccurate remarks allowing it to look forward to renewed cooperation between her office and the Government, and to a relationship strengthened by mutual understanding and constructive engagement in the future.”
The Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation
Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hailemariam left for China on Tuesday evening (July 17th) to attend the fifth Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC). The meeting is being held in Beijing July 19th to July 20th. It is being attended by Foreign Ministers and Ministers for Foreign Economic Cooperation from 50 African countries and from China as well as the Chairperson of the African Union. The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation was launched as a collective consultation and dialogue mechanism between China and African countries in 2000, and this ministerial conference is reviewing implementation of follow-up activities from the fourth ministerial conference of the Forum which took place in 2009. It will also examine and adopt the “Beijing Declaration” and “Beijing Action Plan (2013-2015)” to define new cooperative programs to be undertaken over the next three years.
Addressing the opening ceremony, Chinese President Hu Jintao proposed a series of new measures in five priority areas to boost China-Africa ties. “In the next three years”, he said, “the Chinese government will take measures in the five priority areas to support the cause of peace and development in Africa and boost a new type of China-Africa strategic partnership.” He said China will expand cooperation in investment and financing to support sustainable development in Africa. It will provide US$20 billion worth of credit to African countries to assist them in developing infrastructure, agriculture, manufacturing, and small and medium-sized enterprises. It will build more agricultural technology demonstration centers as necessary, implementing the “African Talents Program” to train 30,000 personnel in various sectors for Africa and will offer 18,000 government scholarships, as well as build cultural and vocational skills training facilities in African countries. In addition to that, China will also help African countries in capacity building in meteorological infrastructure and forest protection and management, as well as continue to carry out well-drilling and water supply projects in Africa.
According to President Hu, China also aims to launch the “Initiative on China-Africa Cooperative Partnership for Peace and Security” to deepen cooperation with the African Union and African countries to encourage peace and security in Africa and provide financial support for the AU peace-keeping missions in Africa and the development of the African Standby Force. China will support the African integration process and help Africa enhance its capacity for overall development. It will establish a partnership with Africa on transnational and trans-regional infrastructural development, support related project planning and feasibility studies and encourage established Chinese companies and financial institutions to take part in these developments in Africa.
The Forum was preceded on July 18th by the Fourth Conference of Chinese and African Entrepreneurs entitled “Deepen Result-Oriented Cooperation and Promote Common Development”. China’s Prime Minister, Wen Jiabao, opened this meeting, noting that China had been Africa’s biggest trading partner country for the last three years, and that in 2011 bilateral China-Africa trade had reached US$166.3 billion, an 83% increase over 2009, and sixteen times greater than the year 2000 when the Forum was established. Africa’s exports to China have doubled over the least three years and now include steel and copper products, fertilizer and other industrial and agricultural products. The Prime Minister said China had delivered on its previous commitment to provide US$10 billion of preferential lending to Africa and has supported Chinese financial institutions to increase commercial loans. As of June this year China had invested US$45 billion in Africa, including US$15 billion of direct investment; manufacturing, the financial sector and construction accounted for 60% of this and mining for another 25%. There were over 2,000 Chinese companies operating in 50 African countries; and in the last three years Chinese assistance to Africa has almost doubled, and China had trained 21,000 African personnel in various areas.
At the same time, Premier Wen Jiabao also acknowledged there were a number of issues that needed to be resolved some of long-standing. He mentioned Africa’s hopes for Chine to buy more high-value and finished African products, for it to make more investment in broader areas, provide more funding, expand technology transfer and address the concerns of African businesses moiré closely. He said these hopes and concerns were justified and said the Chinese government took them very seriously; it was working with African governments to find effective solutions.
Sudan, South Sudan talks continue – two weeks to go before the UN deadline
Sudan and South Sudan have been continuing their talks in the city of Bahr Dar in Ethiopia’s Amhara Regional State. With the UN Security Council deadline of August 2nd only weeks away, the two sides agreed last week on a new “strategic” approach focusing on the creation of a demilitarized zone along their borders, and on a cessation of hostilities. Following that, officials on both sides expressed hope that the new approach would lead to quick progress in the current round of discussions covering the issues of security, oil, citizenship and the status of Abyei and other disputed regions before the deadline. They are discussing these issues on the basis of their new “strategic” approach under the overall mediation of the AU High Level Implementation Panel.
Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir and his South Sudanese counterpart President Salva Kiir met on the sidelines of the AU Summit last weekend in an attempt to resolve the outstanding d issues between the two countries. It was their first meeting since April and it appeared to go well. After a session of talks in presence of their close aides and ministers, Bashir and Kiir also held a one-on-one meeting after which they left smiling and shaking hands. According to South Sudan’s chief negotiator Pagan Amum, the two presidents “agreed and instructed their negotiating teams to expedite negotiations and develop bold decisions in key areas as well as to reach agreements in all issues.” Pagan Amum added that South Sudan was “ready to resume oil production if there is a fair deal, and there is a guarantee that there will be no diversion (of the oil).” He said the two nations could work out a “fair deal” to end hostilities. Earlier at a Heads of State level meeting of the AU Peace and Security Council on Saturday July 14th, the two presidents had emphasized their respective concerns. President Bashir underscored Sudan’s security concerns and the need to speed up the operationalization of the buffer zone. He also noted that was no reason to contest Sudan’s current border because it had served to give South Sudan its independence. President Kiir focused on the issue of oil transportation saying Juba wanted a clear commitment in order to remove the need to divert South Sudan production, and for international guarantees. He also stressed the need to reach a quick solution over the issue of Abyei.
The spokesperson of the Sudanese negotiating delegation Omer Dahab, while speaking about the ongoing talks in Bahr Dar, described the atmosphere in the meetings as “positive” and said it had been strengthened following “the agreement on strategic approach to resolving all outstanding issues between the two countries and the meeting that took place between President Omer Al-Bashir and President Salva Kiir in Addis Ababa”. Dahab told reporters that the heads of the two delegations, Sudan’s Defense Minister Abdel-Rahim Hussein and South Sudan’s top negotiator Pagan Amum had held a series of meetings with a small number of delegates on Wednesday July18th. He said: “The two sides agreed to address all issues in a comprehensive manner [and] will focus on the details of the comprehensive strategic approach that the parties adopted on 7 July.”
Pagan Amum also noted that the talks were progressing well: “We have been holding direct discussions without involving a third party.” He confirmed that South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir had pledged a transitional financial package to the government of Sudan to close the financial gap created by the independence of South Sudan which allowed Juba to inherit three-quarters of oil production. South Sudan, he said, “will use our contacts with friendly countries to forgo debts with Sudan but only when we agree to resolve all outstanding issues. ” Amum also confirmed President Bashir’s agreement to hold a referendum for the Abyei region: “A referendum for Abyei will be held. President Bashir has accepted the formation of the Abyei referendum commission. Five members will be selected. They will nominate two people and we will nominate two other people and a chairperson will be given to someone with an independent political and ethnic affiliation to the two sides.”
U.S Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Ambassador Carson, who was in Addis Ababa for the AU Summit noted that the meeting between the two leaders on July 14th in Addis Ababa was a “significant” step toward reaching accord on the outstanding issues including oil transit fees and disputed territory. He insisted, however, on the importance of Sudan and South Sudan building on the recent talks between their leaders to resolve the disputes that brought them to the brink of war this year. If they did not, they would face a “rapid downward economic spiral”, he said. Ambassador Carson warned that both countries faces an extremely bleak economic future: “if they in fact do not reach political settlements on the differences that divide them… time is running out as the economic clock winds down.” The African Union High Level Implementation Panel is now seeking to hold another presidential summit in the next few days to present the package of propositions they intend to present to the UN Security Council on August 2nd. On May 2, the United Nations Security Council threatened to impose sanctions if the two countries fail to resolve their disputes within three months.
Somali Elders agree to continue with the selection of the NCA members
On Thursday, a press release issued by the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia disclosed that, after weeks of deliberation, the traditional elders had reviewed and approved the draft Constitution. The Transitional Federal Government State Minister for the Constitution, Abdirahman Hoosh Jibril, welcomed the review and approval by the traditional elders as a “historic move”. This also meant an end to the delays in the selection of members of the National Constituent Assembly (NCA). The statement indicated that the selection of the 825 members of the NCA would be finalized shortly and the Assembly would then convene to discuss and ratify the draft constitution, though it gave no date.
The 135 elders tasked with the choosing of the list of members of the National Constituent Assembly over the past three months failed to come up with its list by either the first deadline of May 15th or the second deadline of June 20th. This, in turn caused a delay for the convening of the NCA originally scheduled for June 21st. The delay was reported to have been caused by disagreements among the elders over the draft constitution. The elders wanted to review the constitution, something which was outside their mandate under the roadmap. This was criticized by the Somali Roadmap Signatories and by the UN envoy to Somalia, Ambassador Mahiga who said it wasn’t consistent with their responsibility or mandate for the elders to consider the draft constitution, adding “eventually it is the members of the constituent assembly, rather than the elders, who have to provide their yes or no votes.” The TFG also encouraged the elders to stick to the time line and submit the list of the members of the Constituent Assembly as soon as possible. The delays led to suggestions that some elders were trying to increase their future political importance, stalling the process until their demands for amending the constitution were met.
TFG President, Sheikh Sherif and Prime Minster Abdiweli Mohamed Ali met with the elders last weekend in a bid to resolve outstanding problems and get the stalled selection process moving again. They urged the elders to finish the selection of the members as rapidly as possible. The traditional elders said that they had selected 75% of the members of the National Constituent Assembly which at that point was meant to be meeting on Thursday this week. President Sheikh Sheriff said timely submission of the list would dispel rumours about the question of representation of the elders. The elders pledged to speed up the process and their discussions allowed it to continue, giving a jump start to the stalled selection process.
It now appears that the National Constituent Assembly will be able to meet any time, indicating that the Roadmap is again moving forwards if more slowly than intended. Once in session, they will debate the draft Constitution and nominate the members of Parliament. This should be done by the beginning of August as the date for the election of the Speaker and his deputies is August 4th. The election of the President by the MPs is due on August 20th when the Transition must end.
News and Views
Prime Minister Meles is in good health and will be back at work soon On Thursday this week (July 19th) at its bi-weekly press briefing, Minister Bereket Simon, Head of the Government Communication Affairs Office (GCAO) told local and foreign journalists that Prime Minister Meles was “in very good health and he will be back in his office in a very short period of time.” Minister Bereket said the Prime Minister Meles had recently suffered health problems, and he had undergone successful treatment for these. The result was that “he is now in very good health.” Minister Bereket added that on the recommendation of his doctors he had also been taking some sick leave to recover from the effects of the very heavy work load resulting from his duties as Prime Minister. In response to questions, Minister Bereket insisted that details of the Prime Minister’s illness were a private matter for the Prime Minister and his doctors but he could say that the Prime Minister’s illness had not been life-threatening. He also noted that the absence of the premier had no negative impact either on the conduct of the Ethiopian parliament or on the 19th AU Assembly of Heads of State and Government. Ato Bereket said “Prime Minister Meles’s proven leadership has been manifest in his dynamic participation in various continental and international issues, but his absence has not affected either the parliament or the Summit.” He pointed out that the parliament had concluded its session, approving the annual budget, without problems.
Parliament approves 137.8 billion birr budget for the 2005 fiscal year
The House of Peoples Representatives on Monday, in its last session of the year, approved a 137.8 billion birr budget for the 2004-5 fiscal year. The budget provides for a 13.6% increase over last year’s figures. Of the total of 137.8 billion, 26 billion birr is allocated for recurrent expenditure, with around 54 billion birr for capital expenditure. The federal subsidy for the regional states is 36 billion birr and another 20 million birr is specifically allocated for activities related to achieving the Millennium Development goals. Ato Sofian Ahmed, Minister of Finance and Economic Development, briefed the House on the details of the budget the absence of the Prime Minister. He said that 79 % of the budget will be covered from local sources while the remaining 21% should be covered by loans and aid. Speaking about the details of the budget composition, Ato Sofian said that 65% of the budget was allocated to pro-poor infrastructural developments intended to further speed up economic development. Responding to MP’s questions over why the defense budget had been reduced the Minister said that “as poverty stands out as our biggest enemy, the budget reduction [for defence] was made to step up our fight against [poverty] through the implementation of various other programs.” The House, with one abstention, approved the budget.
World Bank approves loans for Kenya-Ethiopia power project
The World Bank on Thursday (July 19th) approved loans for Ethiopia and Kenya totalling US$684 million to finance a cross-border power-line. This is the first phase of a $1.3 billion project to develop a regional power grid in East Africa. Ethiopia gets US$243 million, and Kenya will have the use of US$441 million. The World Bank says the financing will “allow Ethiopia to sell power needed in Kenya, which faces severe power shortages as its economy blossoms from new oil and gas discoveries.” World Bank Vice-President for Africa, Makhtar Diop, explained that the project “will expand access and lower the cost of electricity supply to homes and businesses across Kenya and help to reduce thermal power emissions in Kenya, a clear benefit to the region’s environment.” Ethiopia would also benefit from additional revenue from the sale of electricity to Kenya and the new jobs that would be created from the construction and installation of the power lines. Regional economic integration is at the center of Ethiopia’s foreign relations policy and strategy and the country is undertaking a number of different projects with its neighbors to promote integration and mutual development.
The 5th International Book Fair in Hargeisa, Somaliland
The Hargeisa International Book Fair was held this week, July 13th-18th, under the theme “Let books be your companion”. Now in its fifth year, the fair hosted authors, artists, filmmakers, musicians, actors, journalists, composers and singers from Somaliland and abroad. Somaliland’s Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, Ali Said Raygal, said in an opening address that the fair was a sign of Somaliland’s progress and that such events were important to spread a positive image of the region. It was also important as an element in the fight against ignorance, lack of education, unemployment, human trafficking and other problems, he said. Among those attending the fair were: Nadifa Mohamed, British-Somali author of the book “Black Mamba Boy”; Mary Harper, BBC Africa editor and author of the recently published book “Getting Somalia Wrong?”; and Russia’s Dr. Georgi Kapchits, author of eight books on Somali proverbs and stories, the most recent being “Somalis do not Lie in Proverbs” which was launched at the fair.
The Global Humanitarian Assistance Report praises Ethiopian PSNP
The latest Global Humanitarian Assistance Report says that Ethiopia has demonstrated a long-term process of dealing with food insecurity which will ultimately relieve the need for emergency humanitarian assistance. Ethiopia’s Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP) is mentioned as the potential beneficiary of the country’s efforts at resilience-building. Implemented in 2005 by the Ethiopian government and financed by the Donor Coordinating Group, the PSNP is the largest social safety net program in Africa, outside of South Africa. It aims to end dependency on emergency food relief and stimulate sustainable livelihoods. Although predominantly a development program, the PSNP has recently improved its capacity through the introduction of a risk financing mechanism to help address humanitarian emergencies. This is made up of an early warning system, contingency finance, contingency planning, and capacity development components. The Global Humanitarian Assistance Report praises the work of the PSNP Risk Financing Mechanism, arguing that it provides “comparative advantages over traditional humanitarian responses to food insecurity” and that it demonstrated this capacity in its response to the 2011 crisis. According to the report, the PSNP was also considerably more cost effective than the UN and NGO-managed responses to the crisis, spending an estimated US$53 rather than their US$169 per person. Where the PSNP Risk Financing Mechanism has been implemented, the Report also notes it reduced reaction time between identifying the crisis and responding, from a typical 8 months by traditional humanitarian actors to 2 months. Nevertheless, although the PSNP has led to some improvements for those living in food-insecure areas, the program still struggles to deal comprehensively with particularly severe shocks such as the 2011 crisis. Emergency humanitarian assistance may therefore still be needed.