A Week in the Horn (01.04.2010)




  • More resources, less conferences for Somalia

    On Tuesday and Wednesday this week, President Sheikh Sharif of Somalia, accompanied by a seven member delegation, visited Addis Ababa, holding talks with Prime Minister Meles and Foreign Minster Seyoum. President Sheikh Sharif expressed his satisfaction with the agreement reached between the TFG and Ahlu Sunna wal Jama’a (ASWJ) in Addis Ababa two weeks ago. The TFG, he said, was fully committed to implement the agreement and an ASWJ delegation and its spiritual leader, Sheikh Mahmud Sheikh Hassan, were expected to arrive in Mogadishu shortly to start to work together. The President emphasized that the TFG was working to bring additional forces and important clan personalities into the government to help TFG expand its control in Mogadishu as well as Hiiraan, Jowhar, Bay, Bakool and Gedo regions. The President said that the troops trained in Djibouti and those being trained in Ethiopia and Kenya as well as training by the EU that will be starting in Uganda in May, were all important steps to enable the TFG to confront extremist elements. The President said the Government’s preparations were not limited to military solutions. He said extensive political dialogue was being held throughout the country with all those who were ready to work with his government. He pointed out that some leaders from both Al- Shabaab and Hizbul Islam had joined the government. Efforts to persuade more would continue. The only real constraint, President Sheikh Sharif said, was the shortage of resources. With more resources, he underlined, it would be possible to bring on board many more from Al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam. The people of Somalia now understood the true colours of Al-Shabaab, an organization that desecrates the graves of renowned religious figures, amputates limbs for petty crimes, and stones people to death. Al-Shabaab was certainly losing support among the people of Somalia. However, foreign extremists were still flocking to Somalia under the auspices of Al Qaeda from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Iraq.

    President Sheikh Sharif expressed his disappointment that the international community had still not yet supported his government in any meaningful way despite the fact that the challenges posed by extremists were not confined to Somalia. He emphasized that what was needed now was a conference to mobilize resources for Somalia, not a conference without any clear purpose, or one designed to scuttle a process that has already begun to bear fruit as the agreement with the ASWJ demonstrates. The Ethiopian Government could not agree more. The government was itself making significant progress in bringing on board the various groups and personalities which were prepared to work together under the Transitional Federal Charter.

    The Ethiopian Government agreed with the importance of the agreement with ASWJ but emphasized its implementation was crucial. It expressed its readiness to assist the two sides in any way necessary, and welcomed the planned visit of ASWJ’s spiritual leader and the ASWJ delegation to Mogadishu. It commended the TFG leadership for its efforts to bring other groups into the political process and emphasized that the Djibouti process was providing sufficient impetus to bring about real progress. More important was the necessity for the international community to provide support to the TFG in its efforts to stabilize Somalia before it was too late. What Somalia needed from the international community now was a coordinated international conference to mobilize resources for the TFG. This was necessary because the efforts of individual countries, however significant, couldn’t bring about the desired result. Ethiopia was prepared to assist the TFG within the limits of its capacity and expressed its readiness to work with the TFG in resource mobilization at the international level.

    During his visit to Ethiopia, President Sheikh Sharif also met with President Abdurahman Mohamed Mahmud ‘Farole’, President of Puntland who was on a visit to Ethiopia this week. The two presidents met yesterday and discussed cooperation on common issues including security. It is clear that there is now unmistakable evidence that foreign extremists are playing an active role in opposition to the TFG and to peace in Somalia, and Al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam are no more being guided by any Somali agenda. There is no doubt that the TFG, and Puntland, and also Somaliland need to consider a common approach to the problems of security that they all face. The Somaliland Foreign Minister, Abdullahi Dualeh, has also been in Addis Ababa this week on his way back to Somaliland after a visit to the United States. The Somaliland delegation had meetings with Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, Johnnie Carson, and other State Department and National Security officials in the US. This morning in Addis Ababa, Mr. Abdullahi Dualeh had an audience with President Girma Wolde Giorghis, and held talks with Dr. Tekeda Alemu, the State Minister for Foreign Affairs.



  • Ethio-Egypt Joint Ministerial Commission meets in Addis Ababa

    The Third Ethio-Egyptian Joint Ministerial Commission meeting was held on Tuesday this week and concluded with the signing of eight memoranda of understanding and agreements in various areas of bilateral cooperation. These included Exportation, Importation and Transit of Live Animals and Beef Meat, Economic Development and Technical Cooperation, Health, Information, Agriculture, Science and Technology, Culture, Arts and Environment. At the end of the meeting, a joint communiqué reflected the views and positions of the two countries on a number of regional and bilateral issues of common interest and concern. The Egyptian side welcomed the agreement recently signed between Transitional Federal Government of Somalia and Ahlu Sunna wal Jama’a; both sides called upon the international community to support the TFG and its institutions in a focused and concrete manner. Both sides also expressed their commitment to continue to support the efforts of the Sudanese parties in implementing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in Sudan. The Egyptian side appreciated the leadership role taken by Ethiopia, the current chairman, in IGAD; both sides stressed the critical role that IGAD plays in ensuring the full and expeditious implementation of the CPA. They further welcomed the outcome of the international conference for development and reconstruction in Darfur, held in Cairo on March 21st. Following the extensive discussions and a critical review of the status of the implementation of various agreements signed between them in the past, the two countries stressed the need to implement the agreements based on the Joint Plan of Action adopted at the meeting. They placed emphasis on the need to further increase contacts between their respective business communities and to recognize the activities of the recently established Joint Business Council between the Ethiopian Chamber of Commerce and Sectoral Association and the Egyptian Business Men’s Association to facilitate and promote trade relations.

    The Ministerial meeting, between Foreign Minister Seyoum and Mr. Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Foreign Minister of the Arab Republic of Egypt, was preceded by a Senior Officials and Experts meeting. Foreign Minister Seyoum noted in his opening remarks that the meeting was all the more important as it followed the recent successful visit of Egyptian Prime Minister Dr. Ahmed Nazif to Ethiopia and was being convened after a rather long hiatus. He also stressed that Ethiopia saw its relations with Egypt from a long-term perspective of common strategic interests. The strategic cooperation of the two countries was also for the long-term benefit and socio-economic development of the two peoples, linked as they were by the Nile River. It was agreed to hold the next meeting of the Ethio-Egypt Joint Ministerial Commission in Egypt in 2012.



  • Congressman Payne goes off script again

    Congressman Donald Payne has recently acquired a growing reputation for criticising Ethiopia on every occasion that he possibly can, however improbable some of these may be. This is attached to his practice of even more persistently defending Eritrea, the most militarized state in Africa, if not the world, possessor of the worst human rights record in Africa, and currently, of course, subject to UN Security Council sanctions. On Wednesday last week, in his capacity as Chairman of the House of Representatives’ sub-committee on Africa and Global Health, Congressman Payne opened a Hearing on US Policy in Africa. In his own opening statement, despite the title of the hearing, he made no secret that his main concern was with Ethiopia. Claiming his own interests over democracy, governance and conflict were well known, he highlighted what he called troubling issues in Ethiopia. He even claimed Ethiopia was becoming increasingly totalitarian, despite the fact that multi-party national and federal elections are taking place in less than two months.

    Congressman Payne’s own statement, like his questioning, was in sharp contrast to virtually all of the witnesses to the hearing who included the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Ambassador Carson; USAID’s Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator for Africa, Earl Gast; Dr. Witney W. Schneidman, a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs in the Clinton Administration. The exception was Ambassador Princeton Lyman, from the Council on Foreign Relations. All kept to the brief to discuss US policy in sub-Saharan Africa as a whole. Ambassador Carson noted a number of countries of concern: Guinea, Madagascar, and Niger with the emergence of military intervention, and the fragility of democracy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan (where President Obama had appointed a Special Presidential Envoy, General Scott Gration), and Nigeria. Ambassador Carson also spoke of the Obama administration priorities in the promotion of sustained economic development and growth as demonstrated by the new Global Hunger and Food Security Initiative; the ongoing Global Health Initiative, as well as existing disease-specific programs such as the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI). He referred to US support for Africa’s Peace and Security Architecture, and its contributions to the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). AMISOM, of course, has successfully assisted the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) to withstand the efforts by the terrorist group al-Shabaab and its external supporters, including Eritrea, to take over Mogadishu. The witnesses detailed US support for efforts to meet the interlaced challenges of chronic health issues, persistent food insecurity, poverty, climate change, political instability, and weak governance. They also covered the trends of economic and political reform that have become the norm, by and large, across Africa, the increases in accountability and transparency, in elections, and fiscal and monetary policies fostering market-based growth.

    When it came to the question and answer sessions, Congressman Payne seemed unable to restrain himself from concentrating almost entirely on Ethiopia and Eritrea. In the case of the former, he appeared determined to defame it; with respect to the latter, he was clearly looking for a way to defend it. His questions again contrasted markedly with those of other committee members. Congressman Chris Smith, the ranking Republican on the sub-committee, for instance, raised questions on peacekeeping missions, Sudan and the President’s Global Heath Initiative. In response to questions from Congressman Payne, Ambassador Carson accepted that Ethiopia’s human rights record could be better, and pointed out that he himself had raised some of the issues Congressman Payne had itemized with the Government of Ethiopia. He noted that the US was encouraging the government of Ethiopia, as well as the opposition parties, to act responsibly during the election campaign and during the election itself.

    In response to a question on the possibility of dialogue with Eritrea, in which Congressman Payne felt the Government of Eritrea had shown interest, Ambassador Carson said the US relationship with Eritrea was “very, very fragile and difficult”. Both he and Secretary Clinton had been rebuffed. There were three sets of issues. One was bilateral. The US ambassador to Eritrea had not been allowed to present his credentials for over two years; the Eritrean authorities interfered with diplomatic pouches; several Eritrean nationals working for the embassy had been detained, for nearly a decade in some cases, without trial nor were they allowed to communicate with families or lawyers, or indeed anyone at all. Secondly there was Eritrean meddling in Somalia, and thirdly it had not played a constructive role over resolving border conflicts whether with Ethiopia or Djibouti. Ambassador Carson added that it was true that his deputy had just been given a visa to visit Eritrea but “one swallow in spring does not indicate winter is over.” He emphasized that the Eritrean government could do a number of very concrete things to address some of the US’s major concerns; it must perform better with respect to its own citizens, its near neighbours and the global community. It had, he added, one of the worst human rights records in Africa. This did not please Congressman Payne.

    The Congressman, strongly implying the US employed double standards on issues relating to Ethiopia and Eritrea, by downplaying Ethiopia’s alleged violations of international law while going out of its way to exaggerate the state of affairs in Eritrea, said similar things happened in Ethiopia but there “had been no general assembly resolution to sanction Ethiopia”. He was presumably referring to the UN Security Council resolution to impose sanctions against Eritrea last December, at the request of all other Horn of Africa states, and the African Union, because of Eritrea’s support for terrorist organizations in Somalia, its persistent refusal to acknowledge its seizure of Djibouti territory or withdraw, and its constant efforts to destabilize the region, including Ethiopia. It is not clear what motivates Congressman Payne. He seems to think the US has continually tried to present Eritrea in the worst possible light. It needed, he said, a balancing act. When it appeared Ambassador Carson did not entirely agree the Congressman interrupted him to insist on turning the discussion to Djibouti and South Sudan. Ambassador Carson offered to discuss the issue further with the Congressman in private.

    It is after all difficult to exaggerate the problems of Eritrea. There is no doubt that Eritrea has been and remains a deliberate spoiler in regional affairs, as it has demonstrated in Somalia, in Djibouti, in Ethiopia and at various times against Yemen and Sudan. It has repeatedly and persistently flouted international law, the international community and the United Nations, as the current UN sanctions underline. It has, in fact, the worst human rights record in the region, if not all Africa. It is the most militarized country in Africa, and currently produces more refugees on a regular basis than any other state. It has perhaps the lowest level of democracy in the continent and President Isaias has made it clear he will not allow any non-government political parties in his lifetime; all independent media is banned. And yet this is a country that Congressman Payne believes, despite US/Eritrea bilateral problems, is being treated unfairly by the US. It might be added that during the question and answer session after the evidence of the second panel on US policy in Africa, Congressman Payne again attempted to concentrate on Ethiopia, this time raising the issues of democracy and civil society. And as the hearing was about to conclude, Congressman Payne asked the sub-committee to endorse a report by African Rights Monitor on the Ogaden despite the fact that this had neither been distributed nor discussed. His enmity towards Ethiopia could hardly have been demonstrated more clearly.



  • An Ethio-India Foreign Affairs Consultative meeting held in New Delhi

    The first Ethio-India Foreign Affairs Consultative meeting was held on Tuesday and Wednesday this week in India’s capital, New Delhi. The Ethiopian delegation was led by Ambassador Mahdi Ahmed, Director-General of the Middle East, Asia and Oceanic Affairs Directorate in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; the Indian delegation by Ambassador Gurjit Singh, former Indian Ambassador to Ethiopia, and Joint Secretary for Eastern and Southern Africa in India’s Foreign Ministry. The meeting was also attended by Ambassador Genet Zewde, Ambassador of Ethiopia to India and other senior diplomats and experts. In his opening remarks, Mr Gurjit said that India considered Ethiopia as one of its closest partners in Africa, and his government wanted to diversify and deepen their areas of cooperation. He noted that the amount of investment by Indian private companies demonstrated the trust they had in Ethiopia. He said that holding regular consultative meetings would undoubtedly help to tackle any problems that might be encountered during implementation of agreements and devise mechanisms to create new areas of cooperation. Ambassador Mahdi, who expressed his thanks for the warm hospitality the delegation had received, said the bilateral relations between India and Ethiopia were very strong, and could be considered exemplary. The Ethiopian Government attached great importance to the relationship and this was why it welcomed this first consultative meeting. It would play an important role in identifying and solving any problems that arose in implementing agreements.

    In their discussions the two parties reached a common understanding on bilateral, regional and international interests of common concern. Bilateral issues included ways to implement the Consultative protocol, and the venue, time and agenda for the first Ethio-India Joint Ministerial Commission meeting as well as other common interests. The two sides briefed each other on the current situation in the Horn of Africa and on the position in South East Asia respectively. With regard to international issues, the talks focused on the reform of the United Nations and on Climate Change. Agreed Minutes were issued at the end of the discussions. The Consultative Meeting between members of the two foreign ministries was the first of its kind and was conducted, as expected, in a firm spirit of friendship.



  • Ensuring the integrity of the upcoming elections: the need to realize Ethiopians’ ownership of the democratic process

    To say that building democracy, as the most effective and most representative form of governance is a process, is to state the obvious. Most of the countries that we generally consider to be full-fledged democracies had to go through a labyrinth of historical and political processes before they achieved the level of mature democratic culture that they take for granted today. Their development of democracy was indeed the function of the interplay between a myriad of political, social and economic factors which evolved within the context of an historical continuum. Nor was this process uniform or universal. The unique historical context of each individual country meant different paths were necessary to meet the aspirations of their respective citizens in a manner that contributed to the further enhancement of their sustainable democratic experience. Of course, this doesn’t mean that there are no common threads running through the democratic experience of different countries. One common feature, for example, is that building democracy is, first and foremost, an organic political process, and the citizens of any given country have to shoulder the ultimate responsibility for its nurture and success. If history is any guide, a sustainable democratic culture is not something that can be vicariously built by others. The role of any third party, friends or otherwise, in observing, encouraging or supporting, can only be marginal at best. A full measure of devotion from domestic political actors and from citizens to democratic ideals and the basic principles of democracy is an absolute necessity to ensure the success of any democratization process. This is as valid today as it was in the past. There is no reason to doubt that it applies equally to all societies across the globe, north or south.

    This basic understanding inevitably underpins the process of democratization that Ethiopia started to undertake nearly a decade and a half ago. Even today, it informs our resolve to continue to exert more effort to continue to enhance the process. Democracy essentially is the business of the people whose aspirations and choices that it is intended to meet. The very institutions that are put in place to ensure the fullest possible participation of Ethiopians at all levels of government have already begun to achieve a promising level of vibrancy. This is in large part due to the unstinting efforts of the government and the peoples of Ethiopia to own and protect them fully. It is this ever-growing sense of ownership of these institutions on the part of the people that has not only helped Ethiopia weather all kinds of campaign by the forces of reaction, attempting to commandeer the democratization process, but has also gone a long way towards moving this nascent democratic experience far beyond the expectations of its detractors.

    The government of Ethiopia firmly believes that building democracy is an organic process best left to the peoples of Ethiopia themselves. What is more, the government has always maintained that no matter how well-intentioned, any amount of external support, whatever form it may take, can never be a substitute for popular commitment to the cause of democracy. This does not contradict the government’s belief that third parties may be able to make some constructive contribution, however marginal, to enhance the process. In fact, the government has time and time again shown real interest in drawing lessons from the experiences of others. It has demonstrated a willingness to listen to and act upon criticisms – as long as they are made constructively and on the basis of mutual respect. It has, for example, always welcomed the support of partners in programs that constructively contribute to building of peace and stability in the country. It has worked with donors and partners in the furtherance of basic services such as education and healthcare without which citizens cannot meaningfully exercise their basic democratic and human rights. Most importantly, it has been willing to accept criticisms and respond to them when these were found to be based on accurate information and informed by genuine motives.

    This has provided a good deal of rewarding outcome over the years but the government’s genuine overtures have not always been received with sympathetic gestures. There have been challenges in the form of campaigns by some third parties to bring pressure to bear on the direction and momentum of the democratization process. Some of this has been, and still is, being waged by elements with entrenched ideological motives against the very nature of the process. Their campaigns often involve a series of arm-twisting efforts to force change in policies, economic or political, they consider are antagonistic to the pre-packaged political frameworks they insist on trying to impose. They offer little in the way of respect for the sensitivities of the government in its sovereign capacity, much less any genuine consideration for the needs and aspirations of the people. Instances of shameless meddling in the domestic political process of the country have been all-too-frequent. They have varied from seemingly benign efforts to get unfavourable legislation overturned to attempts to try to effect a change of government through extra-legal means. Manipulation is the name of the game.

    The events of the 2005 elections go a long way towards explaining the insidious nature of such efforts. They also shed some light on the caution needed to avoid any repetition of those tragic events. The government did everything possible at the time to ensure the elections would be conducted without blemish. The impressive turnout and the almost passionate popular embrace of voting rights was largely the result of the government’s efforts. It was testament to the efficacy of the institutional framework put in place by the constitution. One of the things the government did to ensure the integrity of the elections was to invite third parties from abroad to observe the elections. The government was under no illusion that the observers were there to accord it legitimacy by declaring the elections free and fair, though with the single exception of one observer mission, they commended the conduct of the process. The government believed then, as it believes now, that the final and ultimate source of legitimacy for the democratic process are the peoples of Ethiopia, not observers from around the world.

    Unfortunately, however, the actions of the leader of the EU Observer Mission have haunted us ever since. Mrs. Anna Gomes, the head of the mission, wasn’t content to observe the elections and report accordingly. She believed, and she was not alone in this, that she had the right to determine who should lead the country, to dictate democracy to “the natives”. She did not succeed but the agitation she caused led to the opposition’s attempt to wrest power from the real winner. Five years after her unsuccessful attempt at king-making, Mrs. Gomes is still at it. In a recent letter to the EU commission, she urged no EU observer mission be sent to Ethiopia for these elections because, she claimed, “sending such a mission would be used by the Ethiopian government to legitimize an electoral farce that will certainly not respect basic conditions for democratic elections.” Those basic conditions she is referring to are of course those that she tried to use to manipulate the outcome of the last election. More surprisingly, she is suggesting that the mere fact of an observer mission being present, whatever its verdict might be, is what provides legitimacy to the election. In other words, however free and fair the elections, “the natives” can never be trusted with democracy.

    Her position may be exaggerated, but academics, and others in the international media, who believe themselves understanding and intelligent, often share an underlying assumption with Anna Gomes. They simply don’t believe the government means what it says when it talks about democracy. They think it is running a democratic process and organizing elections simply to satisfy the expectations of donors. So the process needs to be closely controlled and dictated. Now that we are going to have another election, it is only fitting that we should make it totally clear that Ethiopia fully owns the democratic process in this country. No amount of ill-will, or indeed good will, can add or detract from the legitimacy of the peoples’ free expression of democracy in the vote in May. And let us reiterate once again that democracy is here to stay in Ethiopia.



Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

Ministry of Foreign Affairs