The 17th Summit of the African Union in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea
The 17th ordinary session of African Union Heads of State and Government opened in Malabo, on Thursday, June 30th. The meeting continues today. Speakers at the opening session included President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea and current Chairperson of the African Union; Dr. Jean Ping, Chairperson of the African Union Commission; Ms Asha Rose Migiro Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations; Mr. Ahmed Ben Helt, Deputy Secretary General of the League of Arab States; and Mr. Lula Da Silva, the former President of Brazil. The theme of the summit is “Accelerating Youth Empowerment for Sustainable Development” and Prime Minister Meles Zenawi gave a keynote speech.
Prime Minister Meles noted how appropriate the theme of the Summit was as the problems that affected African youth were precisely those that ailed African society in general: limited access to decent jobs and sustainable income and a failure to share the benefits of recent development because growth had not been inclusive. Increased income inequality undermined social cohesion forcing the youth to seek solutions by any means including violence as had been demonstrated in North Africa. The youth lacked the political space they needed to make contributions to society and to develop as socially responsible and productive citizens. They were unable to shoulder their responsibilities, and the future of the continent was therefore under severe strain. It reflected the economic, political and social malaise of African societies, and could only be overcome by addressing the underlying causes, overcoming infrastructural bottlenecks, investing heavily in education and in agriculture, adding value to primary products, industrializing economies and promoting small and medium enterprises under a new and green path to development.
Everybody would agree on this, but the challenge was one of implementation and the need for a deeper political commitment. There wasn’t a need for a new strategy but to implement the strategies already charted. This would involve greater social inclusion and again the necessary political commitment to deliver on promises. It also needed an inclusive and participatory political process. “We need to persevere in our difficult but essential process of political reform and democratization.” The Prime Minister emphasized that it was necessary to go beyond the formal trappings of democracy to ensure all segments of society, including the youth, had the necessary space and mechanisms to participate and be engaged. Another point of departure could therefore be to create an enabling environment for active youth engagement in addressing the challenges of society. In concluding on a sobering note, Prime Minister Meles said many challenges had been raised that were manifestations of a deeper societal malaise. Specific solutions had often failed to take due regard to the fundamental issues. This highlighted concerns but could also convey an image of progress even where no real development was taking place. He stressed the importance of taking care in setting the agenda and of doing more to deliver on promises already made “We should spend more time in discussing issues of implementation of already existing strategies and programmes and sharing our experiences of implementation”. This was not intended to preclude debate and discussion on current issues but to emphasize “the need for a little more action and a little less strategizing”.
A number of leaders addressed the Summit, pronouncing their support for youth and explaining the efforts being made in their countries. There was general agreement on the need to invest in developing infrastructure to make African produce cheaper and more competitive in the world markets. Representatives of youth from Nigeria, Kenya, Equatorial Guinea and others spoke on what the leaders of Africa should do to meet the challenges of African youth. One reminded the assembled Heads of State that if they could not deliver the future then they should prepare the youth to do so. If they did not, then there was the possibility that the youth might forget to take proper care of leaders in the future.
The summit should conclude later today after discussions on a number of other subjects, including the situation in Coted’Ivoire, Libya, Sudan and Somalia. Shortly before the summit opened, Dr. Jean Ping said that the issue of an international arrest warrant for Libyan leader Colonel Gadhaffi complicated efforts to end the conflict in Libya. Dr. Ping noted that the “the ICC always acts at a moment that is not convenient, to put oil on the fire, [but] we are used to that.” He said the AU was concerned about weapons being supplied to the rebels in Libya as they could also “supply terrorism” or drug traffickers and spread through the region. “What worries us is not who is giving what, it is just what happens to the weapons that are distributed by all the parties”, Dr. Ping said. The AU stood behind the roadmap to end the conflict drawn up early March. This included an end to fighting, negotiations for a ceasefire and an “inclusive and consensual” transition with reforms to meet “the legitimate aspirations of the Libyan people for democracy”. The AU has not joined calls for Colonel Gadhaffi to go, but the rebel Transitional National Council has been invited to the sidelines of the summit for talks. Earlier in the week, the African Union High Level Ad Hoc Committee on Libya called on the Government of the Libyan Jamahiriya and the Transitional National Council to commit themselves to an immediate suspension of all hostilities, and it welcomed Colonel Gadhaffi’s acceptance that he should not be part of any negotiation process. The Committee requested the Chairperson of the AU Commission to continue to intensify his efforts to mobilize the international community in support of the AU peace endeavour. The Committee also stressed the need for unity of purpose and action among all AU member states, to enable Africa to fully play its role in the search for a solution to the current conflict in Libya and to ensure that its position is given due consideration in the international arena.
As usual a number of other meetings are being held on the sidelines of the Heads of State and Government session. These include a meeting of the NEPAD Heads of State and Government Orientation Committee (HSGOC); the 15th Summit of the African Peer Review Forum (APR Forum); the Committee of Heads of State and Government on Climate Change (CAHOSCC); and the 39th extraordinary session of IGAD’s Executive Council, the Council of Ministers.
NEPAD’s Heads of State and Government Orientation Committee meeting
The 25th Summit of the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) Heads of State and Government Orientation Committee (HSGOC) was held on Wednesday. Prime Minister Meles, as Chairman of the meeting, will later present a report on the outcome of the Summit to African Union Assembly.
As this was NEPAD’s 10th Anniversary, the HSGOC Summit devoted a special commemorative session for discussion on: “Mobilizing Domestic Resources for NEPAD Implementation”. NEPAD was adopted as the flagship development programme of the African Union in July 2001, at Lusaka. The President of Equatorial Guinea and the AU Chairperson made welcoming statements and the Presidents of Algeria, South Africa and Nigeria, the Prime Minister of Namibia and the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UN ECA) addressed the Summit on the sub-theme of “mobilizing domestic resources to finance key AU-NEPAD regional projects”.
NEPAD’s Orientation Committee underlined the opportunities for scaling up mobilization of additional domestic resources in support of NEPAD effort to advance ownership, self-reliance and development effectiveness. The President of South Africa, the chair of the HSGOC High-Level Panel on Infrastructure, updated the meeting on the status of the Presidential Infrastructure Champion Initiative. He noted that Africa was now the 3rd fastest growing region in the world and that there was a fresh wind of confidence and optimism blowing through the continent. The meeting emphasized the special role that infrastructure could play in sustaining the current economic growth and integration of the continent. Nigerian President, Mr. Goodluck Jonathan spoke on the Algeria-Nigeria gas pipeline project and emphasized the collaboration between Nigeria, Algeria and Niger that was involved. Dr. Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, Chief Executive Officer of NEPAD’s Planning and Coordinating Agency gave an account of the Agency’s activities over the previous six months. His report was adopted by HSGOC which also endorsed the implementation of key NEPAD regional and continental programmes and projects.
Prime Minister Meles briefed the meeting on the outcome of the Deauville G8 Summit held in May, highlighting two main issues. For the first time in the G8/Africa Outreach, the declaration on Africa was the outcome of discussion and consultation between the two sides. This, he said, was a most welcome development and it needed to be reinforced. It should become normal practice. Second was the issuance of the mutual accountability report, showing how both sides had performed. The report was prepared by the NEPAD Agency, the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the African Development Bank (AfDB). Prime Minister Meles also briefed the Summit on the follow-up to the G20 Summit, held in Seoul, South Korea, in 2010. One of its main outcomes had been the decision to provide creative financing and investment options for infrastructure projects in Africa. A G20 High-Level Panel had been established by France, the current Chair of the G20. The African Union had requested the ECA, the AfDB and the NEPAD Agency to come up with recommendations that could be submitted to the G20 High-Level Panel. One way of generating finance was the idea of utilizing excess savings for investment in Africa’s infrastructure. The HSGOC meeting reaffirmed full support for the G20 Seoul Development Consensus.
The African Peer Review Forum meeting
The 15th Summit of the African Peer Review Forum was held on Wednesday, with the session chaired by Prime Minister Meles. The Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Dr. Jean Ping, in his introductory statement emphasized that the meeting was being held in a year in which renewed calls for justice and freedom have been sounding loudly. He cited the changing socio-economic landscape in North Africa, and emphasized that good governance was at the core of the demands being expressed by the youth of the continent and by African society generally. He noted that the APR Mechanism provided just such an opportunity to improve governance.
Professor Mohammed Seghir Babes, the Chairperson of the APR Panel briefly presented a progress report of the work of the Panel, outlining its activities, including the missions carried out to different countries and a plan to commence a second generation of assessments. The meeting emphasized that the purpose of the APRM was not to review countries to find faults but rather to allow countries to learn lessons and correct mistakes. A major component of such mechanisms was the Progress report on the implementation of the National Programmes of Actions of countries that have already been reviewed. In this connection, the Summit considered the Annual Progress Report on the implementation of the National Programme of Action of the Republic of Benin and of Burkina Faso. The reports contained details of the implementation of the programmes of actions in both countries in the area of democracy and political governance, economic governance and management, corporate governance and socio-economic development as well as other cross-cutting issues.
The Committee of Heads of State and Government on Climate Change
The Committee of Heads of State and Government on Climate Change (CAHOSCC), chaired by Prime Minister Meles, also held a meeting on Wednesday in Malabo. It received reports from the Commission on progress in implementing previous decisions on climate change. These documented the preparatory activities that the Commission, in collaboration with partners, had been undertaking leading up to the COP17/CMP7 meetings to be held in Durban, South Africa, and highlighted some emerging issues. Algeria provided updates on the negotiation process since COP16/CMP6, at Cancun, focusing on the imperative need to update the common position for Africa through the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) process. South Africa, the host of the forthcoming COP17/CMP7 in Durban, referred to emerging issues and outlined a package of possible outcomes with the following elements: (i) operationalisation of the Cancun provisions on technology, mitigation, adaptation, and REDD+, starting with finance in regard to the Green Climate Fund; (ii) establishment of all institutional arrangements as part of the Cancun Decisions; (iii) addressing the issue of the 2nd Commitment Period of the Kyoto Protocol (iv) the conversion of mitigation ‘pledges’ by developed countries to ‘commitments’; and (v) the importance of adaptation, a priority agenda for Africa, taking the centre stage of the deal including a mechanism for concrete implementation of adaptation actions and the associated financial and technological support.
CAHOSCC stressed the importance of managing both public relations and negotiations effectively in such a way that expectations from Durban were managed realistically and practically. This was particularly significant in light of the responses to Cancun. CAHOSCC recalled the significance of good coordination among the African delegation as demonstrated at Cancun, contributing ultimately to better results. More efforts were needed to ensure the enhancement of close coordination among the Commission, AMCEN, the African Group of Negotiators, and others in Durban. CAHOSCC stressed the need for member states to participate fully at Durban to rally the continent’s support behind South Africa, to negotiate as a team with one voice. The preparatory work to stage an Africa Pavilion needed to be enhanced.
CAHOSCC reiterated the point that adaptation, linked with sustainable development, remains Africa’s priority agenda in climate change. The repeated call for a fair balance of finance for mitigation and adaptation stems from the fact that the state of Africa’s dependence on natural resources renders the continent particularly susceptible to climate change and variability. Adaptation for Africa is all about the financing of green development. The Committee stressed that Africa needed to pursue more vigorously agenda items on the progress on delivery of real money viz-a-vis pledges made previously. It recognized the existence of key emerging global players including BRICS, and encouraged engagement with such groups: for example, in attracting their financial resources for investment in sustainable green development in Africa. In this respect, flexible and innovative options should be explored. Prime Minister Meles Zenawi will be reporting a report reflecting CAHOSCC decisions to the Assembly of the African Union.
An extraordinary session of IGAD’s Executive Council
The 39th extraordinary session of IGAD’s Executive Council, the Council of Ministers, was held in Malabo on Wednesday, on the sidelines of the AU Summit. As Ethiopia currently holds the chair of IGAD, the meeting was chaired by Ato Hailemariam Desalegn, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs. It was briefed on current activities by Engineer Mahboub Maalim, the Executive Secretary of IGAD, and considered regional developments including implementation of the CPA in Sudan, Somalia and the activities of the Eritrean Regime.
Ato Hailemariam welcomed IGAD Council members to the extraordinary session. He told the Council that IGAD Heads of State would not be able to meet in Malabo as the Summit schedule was too tight, but IGAD leaders were invited to meet in Addis Ababa in early July. He briefly touched upon developments in the region, noting that as Independence Day for South Sudan (July 9th) was so close, it was “vital for IGAD to be fully appraised of current developments in the negotiations and the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.” It was imperative for IGAD to discuss with the Parties to ensure full and timely implementation of the CPA and to identify those critical issues which needed to be addressed before July 9th and those that could be handled through the Post Referendum Arrangements. This, without any exaggeration, was “crucial for the maintenance of peace and security of the Sudan as a whole, the region and beyond”. He mentioned the negotiations under the auspices of the AU High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) concerning Abyei, noting “the agreement reached between the Parties to demilitarize the areas around Abyei and allow the deployment of a Security Force for Abyei”, and extending his congratulations to the Parties and also to the leadership of AUHIP for a job well-done. For the sake of the people of the Sudan and the region, he encouraged the Parties to expedite their negotiations to conclude a comprehensive agreement before the impending independence.
Turning to the situation in Somalia, Ato Hailemariam recalled the decision of IGAD Heads of State on January 30th on how best to handle the transition there. He noted that the TFG leadership had now sorted out its problems through the signing and implementation of the Kampala Accord. He called on Somalis and on the international community to work together in unison to move the peace process forward, adding that it was necessary for IGAD to be vigilant. He called on all Somali parties “to redouble their efforts to realize the Kampala Accord and protect it from the usual spoilers”. In this context, he also noted the need to exchange views on how to address the challenges the region faced from Eritrea’s continuous policy of destabilizing the sub-region.
On Sudan and the implementation of the CPA, the Council was given extensive briefings on the status of the peace process, the challenges and the way forward for addressing the post- referendum issues by Mr. Deng Alor, Minister for Regional Cooperation of the Government of South Sudan, and by IGAD’s Special Envoy to the Assessment and Evaluation Commission, Lissane Yohannis. Members of the Council expressed their full support to the Parties and the AUHIP, and to the recent agreement to resolve the challenges in Abyei in which Prime Minister Meles played a major role.
On Somalia, the Council was briefed by TFG’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Mohamed Abdilahi Omar, who detailed the progress achieved on the ground and on the implementation of the Kampala Accord. IGAD’s Facilitator for Somalia Peace and National Reconciliation briefed the Council on current developments and suggested that the Council should call on the TFG to intensify its efforts to provide logistical support to its forces and those of Ahlu Sunna wal Jama’a to expand control and cut off Al-Shabaab supply routes and access to the port of Kismayo, and deny the organization links to its networks inside Somalia. In Mogadishu, with AMISOM and TFG forces in effective control of the Pasta Factory, the National Stadium, the Arafat area and the entire Industrial Road, the government forces would be in a firm position to control entry into the Bakhara Market. The Council was also briefed by Mr. Boubacar Diarra, Special Representative of the African Union Commission on Somalia, and UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Somalia, Ambassador Mahiga on the Kampala Accord between the President and the Speaker and the implementation of the agreement.
The Council also exchanged views on the activities of the Eritrean regime. Djibouti’s Foreign Minister, Mr. Mahamoud Ali Youssouf, briefed the Council on the status of the Qatari-led peace process aimed to resolve the issues that Djibouti had with Eritrea. During discussions on the best way to deal with the problems posed by the Eritrean regime mention was made of the recent attempts by an Eritrean based-terrorist group to disrupt the African Union summit in Addis Ababa last January, and the bombing in Kampala which had resulted in the death of innocent civilians last year. The Council was told that the bombing in Kampala had been planned in Asmara under the code name of the “Asmara Retreat”.
In a subsequent communiqué, the IGAD Council of Ministers welcomed the Kampala Accord and congratulated the President and Speaker of the TFG for their efforts in breaking the political impasse. It welcomed the nomination and confirmation by Parliament of a new Prime Minister and requested the expeditious establishment of the Cabinet as stipulated in the Kampala Accord, asking the TFIs to intensify their cooperation and implement the Kampala Accord within a stipulated timeframe. It directed the parties to the Accord to include a strategy for effective implementation of the various agreements entered onto between the TFG and other groups supportive of genuine peace and national reconciliation. It expressed its appreciation to Uganda and Burundi for the sacrifices their troops continue to make for AMISOM, and urged those countries which have pledged troops to make them available immediately. It encouraged the Governments of IGAD member states to identify specific areas of support to the TFG and intensify efforts to provide logistic support and advice to TFG and ASWJ forces, and mobilize more resources to improve the operational capacity of AMISOM and the TFG and enhance the efforts of IGAD military experts with the TFG and AMISOM. It reiterated a call to the international community to upscale its humanitarian assistance to women and children.
On the Sudan, the Council congratulated the Parties to the Sudan Peace Process for their level of courage and commitment and encouraged them to maintain this to finalize outstanding issues and cooperate after July 9th. It welcomed the Abyei Interim Administration and the Temporary Security Arrangements and UN resolution 1990 that supports the deployment of security forces to demilitarize the border areas. It underlined that the recent signing of the agreement on political and security principles would pave the way for a final settlement in South Kordofan and Blue Nile States. It congratulated the Parties on reaching an agreement on General Principles for the cessation of hostilities, and urged them to uphold the agreement. It acknowledged the determination of the AUHIP under the leadership of former President Thabo Mbeki and of the members of the Panel, Pierre Buoyoya, and Abubaker Abusalam, and commended the efforts of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. It called on AUHIP to continue its engagement with the two Parties. To this end, IGAD, on the recommendation of the AEC and with the support of the Government of the Sudan and the Government of the South Sudan, accepted a new arrangement to allow for the channelling of funds and necessary support post-July 9th.
The Council strongly condemned the activities of the State of Eritrea and the active part it has taken in destabilizing the region though support of extremist and other subversive elements. It called on the UN Security Council to take all appropriate measures to ensure that the regime in Asmara stops these activities in the Horn of Africa. It also called on the African Union and the United Nations Security Council to fully implement existing sanctions and to impose additional sanctions selectively on the Eritrean regime, to target in particular the economic and mining sectors on which the regime draws, as well as the Eritrean Diaspora, to ensure that Eritrea complies with the previous decisions of the United Nations. The decisions of the IGAD Council of Ministers are now expected to be endorsed by the AU Summit of Heads of State and Government.
Ethiopian forces for Abyei under a UN mandate
On Tuesday, Dr. Jean Ping welcomed the framework on Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile regions signed by the two Parties in Addis Ababa. Dr. Ping called it a significant development and a decisive step towards consolidating peace, security and democracy in the Sudan. He called on the two Parties to immediately cease all hostilities, permit humanitarian access, and allow the return of displaced persons to their homes.
The AU Chairperson also welcomed the adoption, on Monday, June 27th of Resolution 1990 (2011) by the United Nations Security Council. He said the adoption of the resolution was an eloquent illustration of how best the AU and the UN could combine their respective advantages to address peace and security challenges in Africa. The resolution authorizes the deployment of a United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA), to facilitate the implementation of the Agreement on Temporary Arrangements for the Administration and Security of Abyei Area, signed in Addis Ababa, on June 20th. The resolution gives the force the authority to use force in self-defence, to protect civilians and “protect the Abyei area from incursions by unauthorised elements.” It also requests the UN Secretary-General to ensure that effective human rights monitoring is carried out and report the results to the Security Council.
The UNISFA will be composed of a fully equipped brigade, of about 4,200 troops, from Ethiopia, and under Ethiopian command. It will be deployed after both North and South Sudan have fully withdrawn their troops from the region. Under the agreement signed between North and South in Addis Ababa on June 20th, the force is expected to facilitate the establishment of Abyei’s Interim Administration and Oversight Committee, to be drawn from both North and South Sudan, pending a resolution of the status of Abyei. It will also organize a police force in the area.
The Somali Parliament endorses the new Prime Minister….
The Transitional Federal Parliament of Somalia held a meeting on Tuesday this week (June 28th.) to consider the nomination of Dr. Abdiweli Mohamed Ali as Prime Minister. 437 MPs voted in his favour, four voted against and two abstained in a show of hands. Prime Minister Abdiweli was sworn in on the spot. He now has thirty days to name a Cabinet which again has to be approved by Parliament. In a statement, the new Prime Minister said he would appoint people of high calibre as ministers: “I promise that I will form a Cabinet you will accept; I will select educated, creative and talented people”. He was given a standing ovation by MPs. After approving the new Premier, Parliament ordered the Speaker to present the Kampala Accord to Parliament for approval and preferably to do so before the names of the Council of Ministers are submitted for approval. This is intended to satisfy those MPs who were angered by the way the Accord was signed without reference to Parliament.
Dr. Abdiweli’s appointment has received high approval rating among all Somali clans. In Puntland, President Farole was quick to issue a welcoming statement no more than a day after President Sheikh Sharif announced the nomination. Dir and Marehan have indicated their support and the Haber Gidir and other Hawiye clans in the central region of Galgadud view him as their own. Many in the Diaspora have also indicated their support. Now that he has Parliamentary approval, he has the difficult task of moderating and balancing the divergent interests and perceptions in the TFG and in Parliament as he begins the task of selecting his Council of Ministers. Many hope that he will be able to avoid being squeezed between President Sheikh Sharif and Speaker Sharif Hassan. They wish to see Dr. Abdiweli is given a real chance to run the business of government without unnecessary interference. The support he has secured across the board internally and from the Diaspora should provide some support for this.
…while Fazul Mohamed’s death brings more divisions to Al-Shabaab
The continuing success of the recent government and AMISOM forces’ offensive in the regions and in Mogadishu, together with the death of Fazul Abdalla Mohamed, has revealed more divisions within Al-Shabaab. The mortar shells fired at State House this week are seen as an effort by Al-Shabaab to demonstrate that it is still a force to be reckoned with despite its recent military and moral defeats. Apart from this Al-Shabaab even appear to be unable to mount its usual attacks on AMISOM or government targets in Mogadishu.
One reason for this is certainly the unexpected death of Fazul Abdalla Mohamed which was a serious blow to both Al-Shabaab and Al Qaeda and has weakened the latter’s already tarnished image. The delay in naming a replacement for Fazul Abdalla Mohamed is seen as one factor of concern to Al-Shabaab, and it has apparently opened up the regional Al Qaeda cell to internal wrangles over future leadership. In fact, reliable sources indicate that the new Al-Qaeda leader, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, may have already named an Ivorian called Hassan Abdul-Aziz, to replace Fazul as head of Al Qaeda operations in East Africa. Hassan is said to have been educated in a western university. Equally, the biggest effect for both Al Qaeda and Al-Shabaab is likely to be in operational matters as Fazul’s extensive experience and contacts in the region will have been lost. It will take a long time to replace these and cultivate new contacts. His death will also affect the relationship between Al Qaeda and its regional affiliates, as Fazul was a central element in links between Al-Shabaab’s international elements and their external contacts. He was the medium through which Al-Shabaab received many of its resources and operational directions, and its moral support.
Fazul’s death also threatens to increase tension between Al-Shabaab’s local and foreign commanders, already exacerbated by their recent loss of strategic districts in Mogadishu and outside. There have been allegations that Abu-Zubeyr “Godane” may have been implicated in Fazul’s death as the latter was said to be going to remove him from the leadership. Nine of the 12 man executive committee of the Supreme Council of Al-Shabaab are foreign fighters, and they are said to be determined to enforce the will of Fazul. They have been pressuring “Godane” to resign and hand over power to others. “Godane”, however, is building up his support among local Al-Shabaab commanders who resent the way foreign, Al Qaeda supported individuals have continuously been trying to take control of their struggle.
Meanwhile, in another development, last week unknown aircraft attacked a boat which had docked at Qandal, a small port twenty five kilometers south of Kismayo. The boat was taking on board seventy-six Al-Shabaab fighters, both foreigners and locals, en route to Yemen when the attack came. Another airstrike was carried out on a major Al-Shabaab and Al Qaeda training centre in that area. It seems a number of important figures may have been killed in these air raids including some top Al Qaeda operatives assigned under Fazul’s command to Eastern Africa and the Horn of Africa. Another series of attacks by unknown aircraft, apparently including helicopters, also hit four places in the Qoqani area, in the south of the Lower Juba region close to the Kenyan border. The places targeted were all hideouts of Al-Shabaab’s foreign fighters. A total of twenty-two Al-Shabaab fighters were killed, including four foreigners. This apparent ability to successfully hit Al-Shabaab strongholds in Southern Somalia, in the area around Kismayo, introduces a new factor, putting more pressure on Al-Shabaab’s strength and future viability in an area where it has long been unchallenged. The attacks appear to be result of information gathered from the possessions of Fazul Abdalla Mohamed and the high level Kenyan member of Al Qaeda who died with him when they were killed in Mogadishu earlier this month.
A donation for victims of the March earthquake and tsunami in Japan
On Thursday last week, Ethiopia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Ato Hailemariam Desalegn handed over a donation for victims of Japan’s earthquake and tsunami last March. The donation, of more than 5.4 million birr, about 25 million yen, raised from public and private sectors was given to Ambassador Hiroyuki Kishino, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to Ethiopia, at a ceremony held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Ato Hailemariam noted the memory of March 11th with its huge effects was still fresh, and the people of Ethiopia remained deeply saddened by the disaster. Messages of sympathy had been sent earlier by President Girma and others and the President had signed the condolence book at the Japanese ambassador’s residence. Ato Hailemariam wished the Japanese people and Government a quick recovery from the tragedy.
Ethiopia and Japan have warm and friendly relations going back many years and Japan has been a strong supporter of Ethiopia’s development efforts. Relations date back to the 1930s but were resumed in 1955 and embassies set up in each other’s capitals in 1958. Ethiopians in particular remember the Tokyo Olympic Games where Africa’s first Olympic Gold Medallist, Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia, won the marathon for the second time in 1964. Relations between the two countries have been regularly strengthened by various visits made by VIPs and high government officials. These have included the visit of Prime Minister Koizumi to Ethiopia in 2006 and of Prime Minister Meles to Japan on several occasions, most recently in 2008 to attend the TICAD IV Forum and the G8 Hokkaido Summit. The respective parliaments have Japan-Ethiopia associations.
Japan has provided assistance in agriculture, water resources, health, education and infrastructure, and has provided a wide range of development support in the form of grants and technical cooperation. Since 1998, Japan has given grants amounting to 15 billion Japanese yen (2.25 billion Birr) for the rehabilitation of 223 kms of roads, and the construction of the Renaissance Bridge, built with Japanese cooperation over the Blue Nile in the Abay Gorge. Japan has supported social sector development, providing numerous scholarships in various fields and significant support through JICA, the Japanese Government Aid implementing body, for various kinds of capacity building programs and technical cooperation projects, with Japanese experts, study teams and volunteers active in Ethiopia. All these projects have been aimed at transferring technology and knowledge to serve the socio-economic development of Ethiopia, very much in line with Ethiopia’s current five-year Growth and Transformation Plan
Over the years, Japan has done much to encourage the international community to take African issues seriously, establishing in 1993 the Tokyo International Conference for African Development (TICAD). This was one of the first international fora to bring Africa and its partners together. It has contributed largely and positively throughout Africa in human-centred development, in the areas of infrastructure, trade and investment, capacity building, debt cancellation, non-project grants and last but not least the consolidation of peace.
President Isaias’ crusade – against the ‘forces of domination”
President Isaias Afewerki seems to have got back his appetite for media appearance with his latest interview with Al Ahram weekly. He gives his readers his advice on a range of issues, hurling accusation after accusation against the “forces of domination” and their conspiratorial activity. He goes to great lengths to flaunt his ‘unique’ views on the developments in the Middle East, and raises many “unanswered questions”, musing at length on world affairs, large and small. There’s hardly any part of the world he doesn’t touch on but most revealing are his views on the Arab revolutions, his relations with Ethiopia, his government’s vision for the Horn of Africa, and the future of democracy and economic development in Eritrea. The reporter for Al Ahram weekly identified “fear and anxiety, realism and optimism, love for Africa and passion in its defense” as “some of the sometimes conflicting emotions that surfaced” in the course of his interview. “Fear and anxiety” are common features in his interviews, but “love for Africa” or the “passion in its defence” that the reporter apparently discerned are far less usual. They are hardly apparent in the write up of the interview nor are they usually visible in President Isaias’ musings – but more on that later.
On revolutions in the Arab world, President Isaias prefers the term “explosions”, mere explosions, not revolutions. He agrees the Egyptian problem, for example, was “the culmination of decades of accumulated problems” and that “the dire economic straits generated…a revolutionary condition.” Nevertheless, he still refuses to call this a revolution: “there was no explicit manifesto or program, and there was no identifiable leadership.” His idea of a revolution, like most of his world views, is frozen in time, looking back to the 1990s or earlier. Theoretical confusion and semantic obfuscation aside, President Isaias’ reluctance to give revolutionary status to the movement in Egypt comes from his determination to bring the “the forces of domination” into the picture. These are primarily responsible for the “explosions” in the Arab world through “creative chaos.” He sees the “explosions” as “attempts to destroy Egypt” which had emerged as “a pivotal power in the region.” These attempts “did not just come from within”. The blame lies on “those regional and international powers that created the situation.”
He doesn’t identify which parties he is referring to but he seems to believe that the corruption in Egypt that fuelled popular discontent to the point of the January “explosions” was the creation of international powers whose role in precipitating the crisis carried “more weight than the internal problem.” It’s difficult to follow his arguments. Surely widespread corruption, unjust distribution of wealth and a minority control of the nation’s wealth driving millions to destitution, might be seen as sufficient grounds for a revolution as in January? Although he identifies the necessary conditions for a revolution, he is still not convinced this is a revolution. Rather, it is still part of an external campaign, by “international powers” intended to “destroy a powerful Egypt”, and these same forces are currently trying to “ignite sectarian strife to rearrange things to suit their purposes.” His disapproval of all that seems to have been happening seems clear; it amounts to telling Egyptians that they would have been better off continuing with the Mubarak era.
President Isaias apparently sees no active role for the people of Egypt to play. Indeed as he makes clear elsewhere in the interview, the idea that people have any significant role to play in political matters is hardly an issue that concerns or interests him. He bluntly describes the recent public diplomacy missions sent from Egypt to the Nile Basin countries as mere popular initiatives that cannot achieve much. President Isaias believes that it is only governments “that must represent and act on the issues that promote the welfare of their peoples and societies.” That explains why he himself takes no notice of his own colleagues, much less the people of Eritrea at large, when formulating policies that affect them a great deal. For President Isaias, he and he alone is the government of Eritrea.
There is no change in his overall vision for the region. On relations with Ethiopia, President Isaias once again denies that there is any problem. It is meddling by others that has created the semblance of problem – “all part of the game of fragmenting this region and fomenting strife between peoples and nations,” he muses. He dismisses the possibility of negotiation with Ethiopia, denying that there is any problem to discuss, much less assuming any responsibility for it, and underlining his intention to continue with his old ways of violence and destabilization.
On Sudan, he still insists the vote of the South to secede was a mistake, though now he refrains from predicting the “un-viability” of the Southern Sudan state which used to be his common assertion. On Somalia, he repeats that the solution must be to bring together representatives of “all shades of the political spectrum, including the most divergent.” Of course, the “most divergent” also happen to be the very terrorists who have been wreaking havoc in the region, mainly with the support of the regime of President Isaias himself. Sanctions are once again dismissed as the conspiracies of the “forces of domination” and their “servants” in the region. He has no plans to disengage the regime from its activities of destabilization. It is a depressing message for any who retain even a minimal hope that Eritrea might be able, or prepared, to change its ways. There’s not much of “his love for Africa and his passion in its defense” that can be seen here.
Finally, a few words on the future of Eritrea. President Isaias boasts of “the bright future” his country now has because, as he puts it, his government “has laid the foundations for sustainable economic development in agriculture, infrastructure and basic services, and the distribution of wealth and opportunity among our people.” If the people of Eritrea fail to notice these foundations, he implies, then that must be their fault. He promises newly “discovered resources” will change the lives of the people, but is very quick to dismiss any possibility of the people having a say in how government is run in Eritrea. He rejects the concept of political plurality in Eritrea, as “a product that is intended to keep societies apart.” Democracy is unacceptable because it will divide people as Muslims, Christians and so on. It is hardly surprising that some people fear the only way President Isaias will change his ways is through force, since he has, despite all the efforts of the “forces of domination” insulated Eritrea from any Egyptian style “explosions” by permanent postponement of democracy.
Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Ministry of Foreign Affairs