Ethio-Kenya Joint Ministerial Commission finally convenes again
The 33rd Ethiopia Kenya Joint Ministerial Commission (JMC) meeting was held in Addis Ababa, on June 2nd this week. It was preceded by a meeting of senior officials on May 30th and 31st. Since it was seven years since the last JMC, the meeting began by reviewing the status of bilateral cooperation and considering new areas to enhance cooperation. Ato Hailemariam Desalegn, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs led the Ethiopia delegation which included six ministers and other senior officials. Professor George Saitoti, Kenya’s Minister for Internal Security and Provincial Administration and Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs led the Kenyan delegation which included eight ministers and other senior officials. The two heads of delegation co-chaired the working session.
In his opening remarks, Ato Hailemariam Desalegn, welcomed the Kenyan delegation to Addis Ababa and expressed hope that the meeting would revitalize their long-standing bilateral relationship and enhance the historic contacts existing between the two countries. He noted that the Ethiopia Kenya Joint Ministerial Commission created excellent opportunities to cement the links between the two countries. He also observed that despite the seven years gap since the last meeting, ties between Kenya and Ethiopia had continued to flourish. He cited the example of the successful joint efforts within the CEWARN mechanism to address the problems of pastoral communities in the Somali and Karamoja clusters along the border areas. He expressed his confidence that the recent meeting of the Joint Border Administrators and Commissioners held in Nairobi had successfully addressed the recent insecurity along the common border.
Ato Hailemariam reiterated that Ethiopia and Kenya were tied together by a long border, shared trans-boundary resources and challenges, as well as by ethnic groups that straddled the common boundary. He noted that both countries have taken steps to strengthen their ties. He praised the leaders of both countries for using every opportunity to deepen relations for the mutual benefits of the two peoples. He also noted, with reference to Sudan and Somalia, that Kenya and Ethiopia had successfully worked together within the IGAD framework to bring progress and stability. They had also worked together within IGAD to tackle terrorism and piracy. Equally, there was room for further collaboration to deal with other challenges through IGAD and through the East African Community.
Ato Hailemariam expressed the hope that the JMC would become a functional mechanism to unlock the untapped potential in economic development, specifically in issues of infrastructure, microwave links, power interconnections and road construction. He appreciated the suggested areas for concrete cooperation that had been proposed by the Senior Officials in their meeting earlier in the week. He emphasized Ethiopia’s commitment to increased and long-lasting cooperation with Kenya and reiterated that no effort would be spared to raise the relationship to a higher level as the basis for greater integration.
On his part Professor George Saitoti expressed Kenya’s appreciation for the special relationship that existed between the two countries. He noted this was underpinned by special bonds of friendship based on historical, cultural and political factors as well as shared values, including the pursuit for peace, respect for national sovereignty and territorial integrity, non interference in internal affairs of other countries, the rule of law and the search for a just and international democratic system. He also underlined that despite the seven year hiatus in JMC meetings the relationship between the two countries had continued to grow. The minister noted that this 33rd Session offered a special opportunity to reflect on the bilateral relations, consolidate areas of cooperation, and identify new areas to strengthen that cooperation. He underscored the need to focus attention on issues relating to regional peace and security, on strategies to entrench bilateral trade links, and on developing a joint infrastructure that would open up links between the two countries and their peoples as well as on working out joint policies for the sustainable use and management of shared resources, particularly water, wildlife and the environment.
The Minister underlined Kenya’s commitment to work closely with Ethiopia in implementing joint measures to deal with trans-boundary resources. He noted this was particularly critical in the light of the fragile ecological zone shared by both our peoples and the persistent challenges relating to competition for limited resources. He emphasized the urgency in implementing the outcome of the Joint Border Committee meeting held in Nairobi on May 27th to boost cross border security. He drew attention to the range of proposals and recommendations made by the joint Senior Officials and urged the rest of the colleagues to offer political guidance on their full implementation. Minister Saitoti reaffirmed Kenya’s determination to work closely with Ethiopia towards the full implementation of the Nile Basin Cooperative Framework agreement (CFA) and the strengthening of partnership in the search for durable peace in Somalia and encourage coherence and harmony within the TFIs there. He expressed his serious concern over the deteriorating situation in Sudan and noted that as joint guarantors of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, Kenya and Ethiopia needed to reflect urgently on strategies to bring both parties to negotiation ahead of South Sudan’s July 9th declaration of independence and ensure finalisation of post referendum arrangements.
The Minister also emphasized the need to finalize the Bilateral Trade Agreement and measures for Avoidance of Double Taxation; to promote and protect investments and to enhance cooperation between the two Customs Authorities to support renewed efforts to promote bilateral trade and investment. He underscored the importance of strengthening bilateral relations in areas such as higher education, cooperative development, infrastructure, energy, investment, wildlife and culture. Professor Saitoti also noted the need to endorse the recommendation to hold bi-annual sessions to review progress across all areas of cooperation. Such a mechanism would guarantee that the two sides remained in close touch in all areas of mutual cooperation.
The co-chairs presented a consensus document reached by both sides after consideration of a wide range of issues. The Senior Officials had organized its work around three clusters: Political, Security and Foreign Affairs; Economic Affairs; and Social Affairs. The main elements of each were elaborated and action points identified. They recommended follow-up review sessions by officials from Ministry of Foreign Affairs of both countries to take place every 6 months.
The Ministers concurred with the consensus and recommendations on defence and security matters. The JMC noted the need to reflect the commitment of both countries to safeguard the lives and property of peoples, and Ato Hailemariam emphasized that protection of people’s lives and property was a basic principle of democratic governance. There was agreement on the elements of the MOU signed by the Joint Border Commissioners and Administrators meeting earlier, in particular on the decision to relocate the populations which kept moving to and fro across the border. Both sides agreed on the need to produce projects in collaboration with CEWARN that would benefit the pastoral communities and address some of their challenges as a matter of urgency.
The JMC deliberated extensively on energy and shared water resources. Kenya expressed its appreciation with the progress made in relation to the agreement on power interconnectivity and the agreement over purchase of power. It also discussed in detail the issue of trans-boundary resources and in particular water as it relates to the Lake Turkana catchment and Omo basin. They agreed that the basin impacted on both countries and peoples and required a comprehensive approach. They underscored the impact of climate change, the need to base policy options on actual knowledge of conditions in the basin, the need for information sharing. It was necessary to deal with the matter expeditiously. Both sides agreed to undertake a comprehensive study of the basin to provide the basis for full and informed discussion. Ethiopia stressed the seriousness of the issue and reaffirmed its commitment to the development of a legal framework as well as to policies that would transform the basin into a sustainable development area. Equally, in the words of Ato Hailemariam, the common agenda needs to be grounded in sound technical analysis to provide substantive information so both countries can move forward. He also assured the Kenyans that Ethiopia is taking all necessary precautions even in advance of any agreement, to ensure that no significant harm might be caused to Kenya. The people across the border are, after all, to be considered as being members of the same family. In his closing statement, Professor Saitoti reiterated his gratitude for the hospitality the delegation had received and thanked the Senior Officials for their preparatory work. He extended an invitation to the Ethiopian side for the 34th session of the JMC in 2012 in Kenya. Ato Hailemariam Desalegn accepted the invitation, and expressed his strong belief that fostering a special relationship between Kenya and Ethiopia was the way towards successful realization of their deliberations, and urged action to take further the decisions that had been reached.
The meeting also endorsed various recommendations in different social sectors, in education, and health. To ensure a follow-up on its decisions, the JMC endorsed the recommendation to hold a review session on implementation in six months time at senior foreign affairs level. The JMC officially adopted the report of the Senior Officers and following the adoption of the report the ministers signed three agreements on Cooperation in fields of Trade, Development of Cooperatives, and Agriculture. A Joint Communiqué was issued at the conclusion of the meeting, and the delegates subsequently visited the Gilgel Gibe III Dam on the Omo River.
The 5th AU/EU Commissions’ Meeting in Brussels
This week, on Tuesday and Wednesday, the African Union Commission and the European Union Commission convened in Brussels for their fifth annual College-to-College meeting in the context of the Joint AU-EU Strategic Partnership. The respective delegations were led by EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and AU Commission Chairperson, Dr. Jean Ping. The main theme of the discussions was on the consolidation of democracy, including developments in North Africa, and consolidating growth as the world emerges from the global economic crisis. A series of thematic sessions allowed for exchanges of views on a variety of political, social, environmental and economic issues.
The AU-EU Joint strategy was adopted at Lisbon in December 2007 when the two parties agreed to pursue common interests and strategic objectives together and move beyond the traditional donor-recipient focus to start cooperating as equal partners in eight specific areas: peace and security; democratic governance and human rights; trade, regional integration and infrastructure; the Millennium Development Goals; energy; climate change; migration, mobility and employment; and science, information society and space. Last November the 3rd Africa-EU Summit, in Tripoli, emphasized the link between stronger economic cooperation and regional integration, and highlighted the importance of increased private sector engagement, aiming to take cooperation to new levels. It adopted a “Political Declaration” renewing commitments towards the strategic aims, notably, economic development, peace and security and the attainment of the MDGs in Africa by 2015. A joint Action Plan 2011-2013 was adopted to build on the strategic themes and on the progress since 2007. The EU is the biggest trading partner for the African continent and in 2009 36% of the total imports to Africa originated in Europe, and the European Commission has committed a total of 24.4 billion Euros for the period 2007 to 2013 in support of the Joint Strategy and its thematic partnerships. Last year, the Commission disbursed 4.1 billion Euros in Africa .
The AU and EU Commissioners, together with the Chief Executives of African Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and others senior officials discussed concrete ways to enhance cooperation with reference both to short-term challenges and long-term structural changes including regional integration and sustainable, inclusive, green growth and the equitable transformation of the world economy.
In the Joint Declaration issued at the end of the Meeting, the European and African Union Commissions agreed to pursue and deepen cooperation in support of peace, security and democratic governance in Africa, to further build on their intense and successful political dialogue in recent months, to promote national reconciliation and economic recovery in Ivory Coast, and work jointly to foster good-neighbourly relations between North and South Sudan. They agreed to pursue the consolidation of the African Governance Architecture and the full operation of the African Peace and Security Architecture, and collaborate to address transnational threats such as terrorism, drug trafficking and maritime piracy, and to strengthen efforts to fight human trafficking. Supporting broad-based national dialogues and civil society organizations, they recognized the need for a comprehensive policy to address legal migration, and the importance of promoting employment and decent work for all, welcoming the forthcoming AU Summit on Accelerating Youth Empowerment for Sustainable Development in Africa. They re-affirmed their strong commitment to regional and continental integration and advocated an increased pace for negotiations for Economic Partnership Agreements. They agreed to bilateral fisheries agreements, to make joint efforts to promote cooperation on customs matters, and to enhance collaboration in improving the business climate through the regular EU-Africa Business Forum, and the implementation of the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa.
The Declaration recognized the need to keep development in Africa as one of the priorities of the G20 agenda, and to strengthen cooperation on raw materials under the Joint Africa-EU Strategy Action Plan 2011-2013. They agreed on the need for increased integrity and transparency of commodity derivatives markets, and remained firmly committed to achieving the MDGs as a matter of priority. Recognizing that access to energy constitutes a pre-requisite to meet most MDGs and is a motor for growth, they reaffirmed their commitment to the EU-Africa Energy Partnership and the Africa-EU Renewable Energy Cooperation Programme.
The Declaration supported efforts aimed to finalize a joint Africa-EU declaration on Climate Change initiated last year, urging parties to increase their emission reduction targets. Special focus needed to be paid to the implementation of the Adaptation Framework, the establishment of the Adaptation Committee and further progress on the work programme on loss and damage. They welcomed progress on the Green Development Fund, and saw the Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio next year as an opportunity to advance commitments to sustainable development. It agreed on the importance of financing for agricultural research for development and reaffirmed commitment to the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) and Africa initiative. They supported the issue of securing adequate and predictable resources for the effective implementation of the Joint Africa-EU Strategy (JAES) and its successive Action Plans. The Declaration noted that the political and operational impetus provided by the two Commissions was instrumental for the success of the Africa-EU Partnership, but the Commissions could not deliver by themselves. All other stakeholders, Member States, RECs, Parliaments, private sector, civil society, local authorities and media were therefore invited to join in their efforts to foster the implementation of the Action Plan 2011-13 of the Joint Strategy and to deliver visible results.
Further progress in Mogadishu but political challenges unresolved
This week has seen further heavy fighting in Mogadishu as government forces allied with AMISOM have continued to advance around the Bakaraha market area gaining more territory from Al-Shabaab. Al-Furqan radio station which has been broadcasting Al-Shabaab propaganda for several years from inside the market was forced to move out. Al-Furqan has consistently supported Al-Shabaab actions and praised the activities of its militia in the city. There has also been heavy fighting in the districts of Hodan, Howlwadaag and Wardhigley in the central area of the city with heavy casualties on both sides. More than 30 deaths have been reported and dozens of injured including militia officers and civilians. Al-Shabaab, which is suffering from lack of ammunition and increasing defections, is said to have lost several senior people including two foreign fighters and Sheik Fu’ad Shongole. Sheikh Fu’ad was apparently wounded in fighting at African Village in Hodan district when he tried to recover the dead body of one of the foreign fighters and reportedly died later. He has, however, been erroneously reported dead on more than one occasion previously.
Al-Shabaab has now threatened to launch “coordinated suicide attacks” against bases of Transitional Federal Government forces and of AMISOM in Mogadishu. Al-Shabaab spokesman, Sheikh Ali Muhamud Rage “Ali Dheere”, told Al-Shabaab radio stations in Mogadishu that fighters have been “mobilized to launch suicide coordinated attacks against government bases and AU peacekeepers in Mogadishu”. This is described as a change in fighting tactics and Sheikh Ali Dheere added that Al-Shabaab was going to “step up fighting” and did not despair of recapturing areas from government forces. Al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for yesterday’s land mine explosion against an army base in Mogadishu’s Dharkenleey District in which six soldiers were wounded.
On the political front, an Islamic Court Party has been established in Mogadishu after several days of discussions in Mogadishu. It has a central committee of 21 members with Abukar Hassan Farah as Chairman of the Party, and Abdirahman Isse Adow as his Deputy. In another development, the former TFG Minister of Defence, Sheikh Yusuf Indha-Adde has held a press conference in Mogadishu and indicated that he will appoint himself as Somali President if the Somali Parliament fails to hold a session in Mogadishu before August to elect a new President. Sheikh Indha-Adde said that he would be very happy if elections were held, but he insisted that there would be chaos if the Parliament failed to hold elections for a new Somalia authority. The International Contact Group on Somalia met in Kampala yesterday and today. Both President Sheikh Sharif and Speaker Sherif Hassan are attending the meeting as well as the President of Puntland. Opening the meeting yesterday, President Museveni proposed that the mandate of the Transitional Federal Government should be extended by a year in order to consolidate the gains made on the ground by AMISOM and TFG forces. This, he said, would be preferable to acrimonious presidential elections or the expiry of all the TFIs.
Meanwhile, reports from Kismayo in the south indicate growing tension in the port city. A large number of well armed Al-Shabaab militia plus “technicals” and a group of foreign have left the town moving towards the western border with Kenya, towards the towns of Dhoblai and Afmadow. Al-Shabaab has also launched an attack against a military base belonging to the Ras Kamboni group in Kulbiyow area of Lower Jubba Region, situated near the border with Kenya. Reports from there say the two groups clashed after Al-Shabaab fighters attacked Ras Kamboni bases with both sides using heavy weapons. At least four fighters died and many others were wounded. There were unconfirmed reports of civilian casualties. The locality is now under the control of Al-Shabaab and the Ras Kamboni fighters are said to have retreated across the Kenyan border. Tension remains high in the Kulbiyow area as Al-Shabaab fighters have continued to conduct military movements around the area. There has also been a series of clashes in other parts of Juba and Gedo regions involving government forces, Ahlu Sunna wal Jama’a and Ras Kamboni fighters on the one side and Al-Shabaab forces on the other.
“Poverty will soon be history”: Prime Minister Meles
Millions of Ethiopians celebrated the 20th anniversary of the fall of the tyrannical Derg regime with demonstrations and mass rallies throughout the country. In addition to the anniversary the major theme of the celebrations was the recently launched Renaissance Dam. The day was colourfully celebrated in the capital Addis Ababa with estimates of more than a million people gathered in and around Meskal Square. Senior government officials, religious leaders, and members of the diplomatic community were among the dignitaries who attended the rally which was addressed by Prime Minister Meles.
In his address to the demonstrators, Prime Minister Meles expressed his own elation at the enthusiasm and excitement displayed by the peoples of Ethiopia. He was particularly delighted by the response to the Renaissance Dam. Speaking of the Dam, the prime Minister underlined its enormous importance in dispelling the illusions of some people that Ethiopians would never be able to pull themselves out of poverty or be able to undertake such a huge project on their own. The Renaissance Dam was a particularly important milestone because it showed the world that Ethiopians had finally managed to break through the veneer of hopelessness that poverty had imposed on them for centuries. It showed the world that the government and peoples of Ethiopia were too far sighted to be driven by vengeance or revenge against those who had for decades campaigned to deny them any opportunity to take advantage of their own resources. He emphasized that it was this shrewd discernment that had prompted the government of Ethiopia to call on the lower riparian states to cooperate on the project and take advantage of the benefits that the dam would bring.
The dam also provided a vivid demonstration for the entire world of the resolve and dedication of Ethiopians to fight strenuously against poverty even if it meant having to compromise on the number of meals a day. Prime Minister Meles stressed that the Renaissance Dam was not just a huge hydro-electric generating project. Now that Ethiopians have put in place a democratic system reflecting the diversity of the peoples of Ethiopia, the dam was to be seen as a monument to the dedication and commitment of Ethiopians to reclaim the glorious past of their forbears by eradicating poverty once and for all. The dam, Prime Minister Meles added, was a monument to the resolve of all never to sit idly by or allow people to starve when resources could be used to the advantage of everybody.
The Prime Minister noted that millions had already contributed their money, their effort and their time for the cause. The project would be totally owned, financed and built by Ethiopians. As such, the Dam was a title deed for all Ethiopians, representing their ownership of the journey to renaissance of the nation. The Dam, the Prime Minister added, was quite simply a living monument to the success of the efforts of the peoples of Ethiopia.
Prime Minister Meles expressed the readiness of the government and the ruling party, the Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front, to redouble their efforts to complete the building of the Dam earlier than scheduled and at a cost far less than originally calculated. He reiterated that the Renaissance Dam was by no means the first or the last grand project in Ethiopia’s efforts to rid the nation of poverty. In fact, the real significance of the Dam lay more in its symbolism as the country would also be embarking on even bigger projects in the years to come. He emphasized that the attention that the nation and the government gave to the project would not detract from the measure of dedication and commitment that were owed to other development activities currently underway. The Prime Minister was reassuring: none of these efforts would either be delayed or scrapped on account of the Renaissance Dam. The future was indeed bright. Given the kind of commitment that the peoples of Ethiopia were displaying, the Prime Minister concluded by reassuring his vast audience that “poverty will soon be history.”
Accurate prophecy needs to build on facts and reality
There are still too many commentators from the west who appear to enjoy getting it wrong on Ethiopia. Rene Lefort once wrote a book on Ethiopia entitled “Ethiopia: an Heretical Revolution” but that was thirty years ago. A week or two ago he appeared to be poised to write about another revolution in Ethiopia, but this time his supposed new ‘revolution’ is more of a pipedream than the stuff of a bestseller. In a recent article he wrote of a possible ‘day of rage” likely to erupt in Ethiopia on May 28th, prophesying a Tunisian-style revolution to sweep EPRDF out of power. His sources were not verifiable facts on the ground; Mr. Lefort was counting on the counted on an apparent Addis Ababa grapevine and make-believe stories of bankrupt Diaspora politicians in Paris or on US-based websites.
According to Mr. Lefort, the ruling Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front PRDF was in a panic because it feared a North-African style revolution was about to take place. His language makes clear his dependence upon the gossip peddled by rejectionist elements in the Diaspora. In his opinion piece on a website “Open Democracy”, Mr. Lefort indulged in an exercise in fortunetelling about a near certain “day of rage” on May 28. His piece, entitled “Beka: Will Ethiopia be next?” suggested the ruling party would be swept out of power. Beka “enough’ was the word used by alleged proponents of such a policy. Mr. Lefort produced no arguments of his own why he thought this would be the case, but he swallowed everything the bankrupt Diaspora politicians in Paris and Washington had to say. He made a series of assumptions and then uses these as the basis of incontrovertible evidence that the ‘day of Rage’ would surely happen, something that he appears to welcome. Mr. Lefort is another case of a foreigner trying to play the know-it-all expert with a message for the natives to take to the streets for a cause about which he himself has little or no understanding.
His arguments for thinking a ‘day of rage’ was imminent do not arise from any sound analysis of facts on the ground. He has the curious habit of making assumptions and then turning them into facts a line or two later. One of his stranger remarks appears based on a fundamental misreading of developments. According to Mr. Lefort, part of the evidence for his thesis lies in the timing of the announcement about the Renaissance Dam: “This project suddenly appeared from nowhere, as it is not mentioned in the recently adopted five-year plan.” Its true there is no mention of the Dam by name in the Growth and Transformation Plan, it was kept secret under a code name, but the figures detailing plans for generating 8 to 10 thousand MW of power in the next five years were a giveaway. Anyone following the Prime Minister’s interview with an Arab TV Network, aired in Egypt, might have realized Ethiopia had significant plans for development along the Nile. Equally, planning such a major project takes years, and it’s difficult to see how anyone interested could have missed the preliminary site survey, feasibility study, impact assessment and designing process, all necessarily predating the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt by some years.
Mr. Lefort also tells us the price caps imposed by the Ethiopian government last January were meant to avoid a backlash against the government. He calls this “unprecedented intervention of the state” in the free market. Strangely, Mr. Lefort also happens to be one of those critics who are adamant that the government has always harbored Marxist tendencies.
The irony is that half way into his article, Mr. Lefort himself seems to have doubts about his own predictions. After several odd remarks about Tigrean economic oligarchy, fear of ethnic carnage, or docile Abyssinian psychology, he does however produce one very real fact which he agrees might militate against an Arab style revolution: “…. the average Ethiopian is not running into a wall whenever he tries to move on. The beginning of a middle class has emerged in the wake of the political and economical elite, because the economic realm is still relatively open… a fringe of Ethiopians, among the most educated and the most enterprising, continues to get glimpses of a way out, an opportunity that it can still grasp, by jumping onto the economic elevator. In urban areas, this means joining the circle of businessmen or, if that is not possible, the ever swelling ranks of civil servants. In rural areas, for those who can connect to commercial networks, it means joining the new peasant elite.”
Mr. Lefort, however grudgingly, has got that right. Under conditions where the youth can see a bright future, where there are very real possibilities for upward social mobility, it is highly unlikely there would be an Egypt, Tunisia, or even Libyan style revolution. May 28th was a week ago and none of the rage Mr. Lefort wanted to see appeared. A million or more people packed Meskal Square, and indeed they were expressing their anger, but it wasn’t directed against the government but against poverty, the main enemy of the government and of the people of Ethiopia.
Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Ministry of Foreign Affairs