International coordination on Somalia continues to expand
On Tuesday and Wednesday this week, the African Union Commission organized a two day meeting of military and security experts and planners to discuss Somalia and how best to implement decisions of the recent IGAD Summit as endorsed by the AU Summit in Kampala. Ethiopia participated in the meeting in its capacity as current chair of IGAD, and Ambassador Kongit Sinegiorgis, Permanent Representative of Ethiopia to the AU, reminded the meeting of the decision to deploy 2000 peacekeepers under AMISOM immediately, emphasizing the growing threat to the TFG and AMISOM meant this should materialize without delay. The Ambassador informed the gathering that despite a deteriorating situation on the ground, the consultation held in Addis Ababa three weeks earlier between the TFG and Ahlu Suna wal Jama’a to evaluate the full implementation of their Agreement had proved very constructive. Both were determined to move forward in the struggle against terrorist groups in Somalia. It was, Ambassador Kongit said, commendable that the TFG was continuing to exert efforts to reach out to groups which are prepared to renounce violence and join the peace process. The Ambassador, however, stressed that the extremist groups had been preparing for more destruction in the country, and Al-Shabaab was making greater efforts to put pressure on the Government and AMISOM. It meant that there was an imperative necessity to take measures to strengthen the TFG and AMISOM concretely and quickly.
The meeting recognized the need to expand AMISOM’s presence into other areas of Somalia in collaboration with TFG, clan and Ahlu Suna wal Jama’a forces, to provide immediate peace dividends to benefit the population of areas outside Mogadishu. The need to focus on building up TFG security capacity also opened up opportunities to patriotic Somalis to contribute to the peace and restoration of the Somali state. Equally, the need to fully equip AMISOM forces on the ground was critical. IGAD was working in concrete terms to assist the TFG in the restructuring and reorganizing of the security forces and create a coordination mechanism among all stake holders. The need to dispatch the AU and UN assessment mission quickly was underlined. Similarly, there was agreement on the importance of underlining the fact that the TFG is unanimously regarded as the legitimate government of Somalia, and of enhancing the reconciliation process based on the Djibouti Process, as well as providing the necessary support and dividends to those groups that are ready to renounce violence and work for peace. The next meeting of the consultative group is expected in the second week of September to work out implementation details for the IGAD and AU decisions.
At the same time, following the appalling suicide attack at Muna Hotel on Tuesday last week, Somalia’s President Sheikh Sharif has called on the international community to do more to save Somalia. The President said that it was quite impractical to expect that Somalia alone could contain the effects of the Al Qaeda-Al-Shabaab alliance, as it was only just beginning to emerge from 20 years of destruction and political chaos. The Government was committed to re-establish law and order, but winning against Al-Shabaab required a comprehensive strategy and considerable patience. He reminded the international community that the Somali Government gets less support and has far less resources than other countries facing such challenges. Yet it had a similar if not more potent enemy. President Sharif had made a similar point during the AU Summit when he told the Assembly that “the TFG is appealing to the world to help Somalia restore peace and stability… we need powerful foreign troops who can defeat the Islamists fighting the Somali government”.
It is encouraging that the demarche to those who can contribute in terms of logistics and financially as well as in troop contributions to AMISOM and to the capacity building of the TFG, is taking effect. This week’s meeting is further confirmation of greater coordination between IGAD, the AU Commission and the United Nations, as well as other stakeholders. Participants emphasized the need to read from the same script regarding the challenges facing Somalia, the region and beyond. While the international community continues to reiterate its support for the Transitional Federal Charter, the Djibouti Peace Process, and the TFG as the legitimate government of Somalia, it was also encouraging to see the calls for deployment of the full complement of AMISOM, and for UN agencies to relocate to Mogadishu, to provide full support to the TFG.
Another welcome development was the visit by the UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Lynn Pascoe, to Mogadishu. Mr. Pascoe, who was accompanied by the UN Special Representative for Somalia, Ambassador Mahiga, met President Sheikh Sharif and Cabinet Ministers. Mr. Pascoe encouraged the leaders of the Transitional Federal Government to reach out to other groups and to focus on governing the country. It was crucial, he said, to show the long-suffering people of Somalia that the Government could deliver basic services. “The international community is very interested in supporting the TFG, but the Government itself needs to do more and learn to work as a cohesive team”. Mr. Pascoe and Mr. Mahiga also met the Force Commander and members of AMISOM and visited the AMISOM hospital which treats Somali civilians. The Under-Secretary-General praised the work of the African Union forces deployed in Somalia, and commended the UN for providing them with logistic support. At the same time he called for more troops as well as for continued financial and logistical support. There are now some indications that there might be a possibility of ‘re-hating’ AMISOM forces as UN troops sooner rather than later. It is hoped that the few on the UN Security Council who have been hesitating about this may change their minds shortly.
CEWARN’s mid-term review of its Five-Year Strategic plan
The Conflict Early Warning and Response Mechanism (CEWARN) of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) conducted a mid-term review of its five year strategic plan in Addis Ababa on Thursday and Friday last week, August 26th – 27th. Participants included representatives of development partners, NGOs and civil society as well as delegates from member states. IGAD decided to establish CEWARN in 2000, with a mandate to collect information concerning outbreaks and escalation of potentially violent conflict in the IGAD region, to analyze these, and to develop case scenarios and formulate options for responses from member states.
CEWARN became operational in 2002, and it has enabled member states to intervene early and prevent the outbreak or escalation of a number of violent conflicts in the sub-region. It has had a special focus on prevention and mitigation of cross-border pastoralist and related conflicts, and has built up an impressive and advanced data-based early warning system. It has also been successful in bringing together state and non-state actors to collaborate in peace and security matters, including aspects both of early warning and response. CEWARN now, in fact, provides a well-established model capable of emulation by other organizations and institutions in these areas.
The mid-term review meeting was officially opened by Ambassador Fisseha Yimer, Special Advisor to Ethiopia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs who underlined the need for CEWARN to work even harder to continue to establish its relevance as a key factor in fulfilling IGAD’s aims of promoting and maintaining peace, security and stability. He reiterated the commitment of the Ethiopian Government to support the activities of CEWARN and other peace and security initiatives under IGAD. Ethiopia, he underlined, has the firm belief that it is impossible to achieve the vision of an integrated sub-region with economic growth and prosperity without effective peace and security.
The aim of CEWARN’s mid-term review meeting was to make the mechanisms more effective and efficient. The meeting examined the extent to which CEWARN’s strategy had been implemented, the challenges CEWARN had encountered in the course of implementation, and the steps it was planning to take to ensure full implementation of the agreed strategy by 2011. The deliberations were held on the basis of an assessment study conducted by a consultant. Participants critically examined the study and provided detailed feedback to add to the document. It was agreed that a smaller group should meet to finalize the document before it was submitted to the policy organ of IGAD for further consideration and guidance.
IGAD’s Inter-Parliamentary Union Executive Council meets in Nairobi
On Tuesday last week, the Executive Council of the Inter-Parliamentary Union of IGAD (IPU-IGAD) held its 4th session in Nairobi. In the chair was IPU-IGAD’s Chairman, Ahmed Ibrahim Al Tahir, Speaker of Sudan’s National Assembly. Also present were IPU-IGAD Vice-chairman, Ambassador Teshome Toga, the Speaker of Ethiopia’s House of People’s Representatives; Kennith Martende, Speaker of the Kenyan Parliament; and Edward Ssekandi, Speaker of the Ugandan Parliament; the Deputy-Speakers of the Djibouti Assembly (Houssein Omar Kawalieh) and of the Kenyan Parliament (Farah Maalim) and the Secretary-General of IPU-IGAD, Mr. Bourhan Daoud Ahmed. The Secretary-General presented a report on the activities of the Union. Draft terms of reference for appointments to the Secretariat and rules of procedure for standing committees were reviewed and adopted. The meeting also adopted a proposal to form an IPU-IGAD network of women parliamentarians. It reiterated the need to strengthen the Union and recommended that each member country provide an item in their annual budgets for contributions to the IPU-IGAD, and that the IGAD protocol should be amended to allow for financial provision to the Union. It called for member states to supply human resources for the Union secretariat, and to nominate members to the Union’s Standing Committees as soon as possible.
The meeting also discussed the objectives of the IPU-IGAD including regional integration as a means to promoting prosperity and dealing with the problems arising from climate change and environmental degradation. The Executive Council congratulated the people and government of Kenya on the successful referendum last month and the adoption of a new constitution. It expressed the intention to participate in the upcoming referendum in the Sudan, and to send an IPU-IGAD delegation to assist. It condemned the violence in Mogadishu on August 24th and the death of more than ten members of the TFG parliament. It agreed to actively assist in interventions in Somalia to help find a permanent solution there and assist in the restoration of peace. In conclusion, the meeting approved the draft agenda of the 4th Session of the Speaker’s Conference, and decided that the 5th Executive Council of the IPU-IGAD should be held in Djibouti in December.
Eritrea’s obsession with the so-called ‘occupied sovereign territories’
Eritrea’s leaders seldom appear to have much use for the ordinary rules of international law governing state to state relations. The set of rules they appear to follow are ones that no other nation would find it comfortable to live by. Indeed, their penchant for producing a self-serving and selective interpretation is actually impressive. At no time in their relations with the rest of the world have Eritrea’s leaders ever admitted to being in the wrong, whatever the amount of evidence. Any invasion of neighboring states by Eritrean forces is invariably an act of self-defense. Support for extremists in Somalia is a display of moral high ground in support of Eritrea’s ‘historic’ support for the peoples of Somalia. The killing of civilians by terrorists is an act of defiance against external intervention. Eritrea must be the only nation which agrees to the resolution of a border dispute with its neighbor and denies the existence of that same dispute at one and the same time. And all the time Eritrea’s leaders repeatedly claim that Eritrea is a paragon of justice and a victim of the highhandedness of super-powers and the international community. The sanctions imposed by an almost unanimous vote of the Security Council merely prove that the US is out to get Eritrea because of its “principles”.
One thing that is consistent about Eritrea is the unwillingness of its leaders to admit to being in the wrong. It is always other entities or issues that have nothing to do with the problem at hand that are wrong. They make tenacious attempts to wiggle out of sanctions without any attempt to rectify their mistakes. They have played the victim in order to evade justice for so long that it has become second nature. Whenever they appear to display even a modicum of diplomatic flexibility, it is because they think they have caught a fleeting glimpse of possible victory. But it isn’t long before they return to their previous intransigence. It was no surprise that Lynn Pasco, UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, on his visit to Asmara this week was reportedly subject to a diatribe from President Isaias once again: the Security Council’s sanctions were “illegal, unjust and erroneous.” The view of Eritrea’s leaders of what is illegal and unjust is quite divergent from the rest of the international community. President Isaias’s views provided no support for the view that Eritrea’s acceptance of Qatar mediation in its dispute with Djibouti suggested any fundamental change of attitude by Eritrea.
Another issue we suspect was raised by President Isaias showed how detached he is from ordinary interpretations of international law. The UN Under-Secretary-General must have been lectured for hours on the injustice of the Security Council, and its failure to “take action against Ethiopia’s occupation of sovereign Eritrean territories [in the last] eight years.” The Eritrean leader has been repeating this nonsense for so long that he apparently believes there indeed are “sovereign Eritrean territories” under Ethiopian occupation. It is true that the decision of the Ethiopia-Eritrea Boundary Commission included territories currently administered by both countries should be given to the other side. Any Eritrean claim to sovereign title (or indeed any similar Ethiopian claim) remains fictitious in the absence of any actual demarcation in accordance with the Algiers agreement. The reason for this, of course, has been Eritrea’s prevarications. And this is why Ethiopia has persistently called on the Government of Eritrea to engage in dialogue in order to finally, and physically, demarcate the border between the two countries. Eritrea has adamantly refused to allow any such dialogue to demarcate in accordance with international practices. Rather, it has elevated the idea of ‘virtual demarcation’ to the status of a truth, despite the fact it has no legal standing except in the imaginations of Eritrea’s leaders. It is now an issue that only the two countries can, and should address, between themselves; and the means to this is to engage in dialogue not obsessive repetition of this alleged claim of so-called “occupied sovereign territories”.
In fact, as Eritrea’s leaders have made clear for several years, they are most unlikely to withdraw this almost obsessive mantra. The claim of “occupied Eritrean sovereign territories” has led to the suspension of all kinds of political freedoms in Eritrea. It is this that is supposed to justify the wholesale militarization of the Eritrean society, the continuation of forced conscription. Thousands of Eritreans have left and continue to leave the country every year. Thousands more are jailed or fined for criticizing or opposing conscription. Eritrean leaders even have the temerity to claim that it is this “occupation” that explains Eritrea’s continuing support for extremists not just within Ethiopia but also for terrorist organizations in Somalia. It is this perverse reasoning which ‘explains’ why Eritrea has been, and is, involved in one kind of conflict or another with all its neighbors.
It would, of course, be rather easier, and more honest, to refrain from all these efforts at destabilization, and try to mend fences with its neighbors. However, it would be naïve to expect a regime so enamored of its fictions to bring such activities to an end. As with so many other claims by the regime in Asmara this is a smokescreen, but it is a smokescreen which justifies its grip on Eritrea, and, indeed, its very survival.
It hardly needs to be emphasized that the international community needs to be aware of the driving force behind the views of Asmara’s leadership. Mr. Pascoe himself should be able to draw his own conclusions from his visit. It is not the first time that he has met with President Isaias and visited Eritrea. He is unlikely to have been surprised by President Isaias’ continued insistence that the UN, and everybody else, has got Somalia wrong, and that only Eritrea understood the situation there. In fact, if President Isaias’ views have been correctly reported, he may finally have begun to realize that Eritrea’s support for extremist elements needs to be moderated. However, his views of what constitutes ‘moderation’ are certainly not those of most others. His partners have always been the most radical elements in Al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam. In the past any such suggestion that Al-Shabaab might not include extremist elements has been accompanied by continued Eritrean support for the organization, and for its associated extremist group, Hizbul Islam, which has always continued to enjoy substantial Eritrean military and logistical backing. The TFG has consistently made it clear that it is prepared to talk to any and all groups that reject extremism and violence. There is no indication that Eritrea is yet prepared to call a halt to its active support for opposition to the recognized government of Somalia or the extremist elements responsible for so much of the violence and destruction there.
“Support for Democracy and Human Rights in Ethiopia”
Last week, US Senators Feingold and Leahy introduced a draft bill into the US Senate. It was entitled ‘Support for Democracy and Human Rights in Ethiopia, Act of 2010.’ Any bill that is introduced into the US Senate is, of course, a matter of US internal affairs. And we wouldn’t criticize Senators for anything they might wish to place before the Senate of the US, even if it does deal with the internal affairs of other countries. Indeed, we would entirely welcome support for democracy in Ethiopia. As we have frequently emphasized, democracy, together with good governance and respect for human rights, is a necessity for the survival of Ethiopia and for the achievement of the eradication of poverty, the main aim of government development strategy. This, indeed, is why we spend a great deal of time and energy ensuring the strengthening of democratic governance.
At the same time, this bill is something of a puzzle. Under the heading ‘findings’, it does contains sizeable factual errors and fails to notice numerous relevant details. Senators Feingold and Leahy really ought to know by now that Ethiopia, far from refusing to comply with the arbitration of the Ethiopian Eritrean Border Commission, fully accepted the Delimitations Decisions of the Commission nearly six years ago, in November 2004. Since then, Ethiopia has made repeated efforts to encourage demarcation of the border according to international practices, to enter into dialogue with the government of Eritrea and to normalize relations. These efforts have been repeatedly rebuffed by Eritrea. Eritrea has coupled this with the takeover of the Temporary Security Zone between the two countries and the arbitrary expulsion of the UN Mission, the guarantor of the integrity of the TSZ, and another of whose jobs was supposed to be oversight of the demarcation process. Eritrea has in fact to all intents and purposes nullified the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement of June 2000, the central plank of the peace agreement which ended the war started by Eritrea in May 1998. It is not Ethiopia which has made demarcation impossible.
The ‘finding’ on the Somali Regional State is similarly inaccurate, making no mention of, inter alia, such important developments as the peace deal signed between the government and the United Western Somali Liberation Front (UWSLF) in March, or the agreement currently being negotiated between the government and the major faction of the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) which will be signed next month. It makes no mention of recent major advances in the provision of health, education, infrastructure, IT and energy supplies in the Somali Regional State, nor of the significant administrative and financial devolution down to woreda, even kebele, level.
The source of any claim of “credible” reports of gross violations of human rights in the Somali Regional State is the Asmara-based ONLF fraction, refracted through Human Rights Watch, whose methodology and checking procedures have been shown to be seriously flawed. In its last report on the Ogaden region, over two years ago, HRW admitted relying solely upon external, often telephonic, contacts with refugees and ONLF sources, all outside Ethiopia. It made little or no effort to establish the accuracy of claims on the ground. Other reports, indeed, clearly demonstrated multiple errors in HRW’s claims.
The other difficulty with this bill is its failure to notice that a number of the demands it makes have actually been going on for years. We have, in ‘A Week in the Horn’ for example, listed details of the extensive and regular education provided for all levels of the Ethiopian Defense Forces in human rights and accountability. Any credible allegations of abuse are automatically investigated; appropriate punishment is given if proven. We would, however, admit that details of such procedures are not normally released to the US Senate. It is hardly the appropriate body to be kept informed of such internal disciplinary matters. There is a major program for strengthening the independence and capacity of the judiciary, supported by a number of international donors, which has been going on for several years. There are no political leaders who have been jailed for political reasons; any in custody have been arrested on civil or criminal charges. Humanitarian and development ‘entities’, including those of the UN, are welcome anywhere in Ethiopia and have complete access unless security preclude this, as for example close to the Eritrean border, or in areas of the Somali Regional State where the ONLF was carrying out terrorist attacks in 2007-2008.
It is, in fact, disconcerting that two such prominent Senators should spend so much time and energy on the internal affairs of a country with which the US has a close and, we believe, a valuable relationship. We would, in this context, have expected a real and particular effort to get the facts straight. Equally, however, at the end of the day, perhaps the biggest surprise is that Senators Feingold and Leahy should concentrate on Ethiopia when there are so many more serious concerns for the international community in our own region: the dangers posed by the situation in Somalia, by the possibility of expanding extremism and terrorism, the operations of Al-Shabaab and piracy, the risks to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in Sudan, and the destabilization activities of Eritrea throughout our region which have after all been recognized as a major problem by the international community. It is ironic that the two Senators even appear unaware of Security Council Resolution 1907. This is indeed emblematic of the flaws in their draft bill. All these are very real threats to international peace and security. It is hardly surprising that we find it difficult to understand why Senators Feingold and Leahy should focus on allegations, most unchecked and largely inaccurate, concerning Ethiopia.
Core Principles of Ethiopia’s Foreign Policy: Ethiopia-United States relations
Ethiopia and the US have had a long and valuable relationship going back to 1903 when the first US ambassador arrived in Addis Ababa to present his credentials to the Emperor Minelik, though at a people-to-people level relations were much older. There have of course been occasional hiccups and sometimes more. Certainly relations during the Derg’s military dictatorship between 1974 and 1991 were poor but this was an aberration. Ambassadorial relations were restored in 1992 and, indeed since the EPRDF took power, relations have been normal, and usually warm, for the last nineteen years. In fact, since the early 1990s, Ethiopia and the US have largely maintained more or less effective co-operation in matters of security though the relationship hasn’t been as close as some critics have tried to suggest. Ethiopia has never been a US “poodle”. It has always acted in accordance with its own national interests, interests which have not been inconsistent with US regional interests. They have sometimes differed. However, that the position of the US on the one hand and of Ethiopia and IGAD countries on Somalia, and on security in the Horn of Africa, for example, coincides was made very clear once again at the meeting on the sidelines of the Kampala Summit. Equally, Ethiopia’s commitment to the eradication of poverty with emphasis on sustainable development, good governance, democracy, and respect for human rights for both Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa are commitments that we certainly share with the United States.
At another extreme there have been claims suggesting there are continuous and serious problems between the two countries. This too is an exaggeration. The truth, as might be expected, lies somewhere between. Equally, there should be no complacency over the amount of activity that needs to be carried out to keep the relationship on an even keel. In other words, as with any mutually beneficial relationship, both parties will always need to work at the relationship. This is normal. There have been irritants on both sides and some will no doubt continue. One is the reporting of the Amharic Service of the Voice of America which has caused real concern to Ethiopia over several years. A number of detailed complaints have had little apparent effect. Similarly, ill-founded comments from legislators, sometimes linked to opposition groups, can cause concern. There have been times when some Congressmen have been outspoken critics of politics in Ethiopia despite displaying a significant lack of knowledge of events. As we mentioned above, the latest draft bill from Senators Feingold and Leahy is a surprising example of slapdash work, failing to note a number of recent developments, and we would suggest ignoring far more serious actual and potential dangers to international peace and security in the Horn of Africa. This is hardly something that assists the building of mutual confidence in a successful US-Ethiopia relationship. It is disappointing to find two such experienced and capable Senators responsible for such a performance.
Of course loose language, on either side, always poses the danger that it might undermine confidence or weaken the trust of both parties in sustainable links. There have been statements by US authorities which might, or indeed have, created misunderstandings. As Prime Minister Meles noted last month “There are issues on which officials in the US feel strongly and differently and there are issues on which we feel strongly and differently from those of the United States”. Referring to what he called “the rather difficult stretch we have had in the past six or seven months [being] by and large behind us”, he added “We will agree to disagree on those issues we do not agree on, and we agree to work together on issues of common interest.” There is, in fact, always a need for both sides to treat their relationship with care. Certainly, it is something to which Ethiopia is unfailingly committed because it significantly values the association.
Naturally, no relationship is static, nor should it be. It can be expected that in the next few years, economic links and development issues are going to become even more important than they are today in connections between the two countries. One of the central elements of Ethiopia’s foreign policy today is working towards the successful achievement of the country’s objectives in the economic sphere. The US has been extremely generous in the provision of its valuable humanitarian and social sector assistance. Ethiopia is, and will remain, deeply grateful for all its aid and assistance. But while assistance to Ethiopia in these critical areas has been admirable, the US has stayed aloof from assistance in structural projects in development in the last decades. Its role in infrastructure, for example, has been limited. These are areas which are going to be among the most important in shaping the country’s future over the next decades. We believe it is indisputable that laying the foundation of strong ties between our two countries over the next decades will also be in the interest of the US.
Ethiopia is changing and changing fast. Its role in the Inter-Governmental Authority for Development (IGAD), as in the region of the Horn of Africa, in Eastern Africa and in Africa in general is continuing to grow. This is not self-congratulatory, but realistic. It is something that is becoming apparent in the pro-active role that Ethiopia has been playing in the AU on a number of issues including climate change. All this is commensurate with Ethiopia’s steady progress in the economic area and in development. Following seven years of double digit growth, Ethiopia has realistic hopes to become a middle income country in the next decade or so. It will achieve many, if not all, of the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.
The relationship between the US and Ethiopia is based on mutual benefit and, we believe it should also be based on mutual respect. Given its value, we would also emphasize that a realistic and accurate evaluation of progress in Ethiopia is in the interests of both countries. Despite the apparent views of Senator Feingold and Senator Leahy, Ethiopia, we should emphasize once again, is a stable and democratic country. It is involved in a series of major political and economic changes in developing its nine-state federal democracy. Certainly, this may still be a work in progress, and many developments have yet to fulfill their potential but that potential is clearly there. We believe that this needs to be taken into consideration in any evaluation of the relationship between the US and Ethiopia. Indeed, how Ethiopia is developing and how this should be evaluated is surely relevant to US national interests in this region of Africa and more widely. It is this that must underpin any relationship that is based on the twin pillars of mutual respect and mutual benefit.
Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Ministry of Foreign Affairs