The 16th Assembly of the African Union in Addis Ababa
The African Union held the 16th Assembly of the Heads of State and Government under the theme: “Towards Greater Unity and Integration through Shared Values”, in Addis Ababa, on Sunday and Monday this week, January 30th and 31st. The Summit elected Mr. Theodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, President of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea as Chairperson of the African Union for 2011. French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, and UN General Assembly President, Joseph Deiss, were among the guests of honor at the Summit. Preceded and accompanied by a series of associated meetings, including Summits of NEPAD and of the African Peer Review Mechanism, the African Union Summit considered issues ranging from the peace and security situation of the continent to Africa’s partnerships with the rest of the international community and its participation in international fora, including the United Nations, the G8 and the G20. It concluded its successful two days of discussions and debate by adopting a number of decisions and declarations.
President John Atta-Mills of Ghana presented the overall theme of the Summit, while representatives of the five regional areas of the continent complemented his presentation. During the consultation on the challenges and obstacles on the Shared Values of the African Union, the Heads of State and Government deliberated on how governance and democracy could further accelerate integration and provide a solid foundation for building a prosperous Africa. Following their discussion the Heads of State adopted a declaration committing them to enhance their ownership of Shared Values and requesting the African Union Commission to strengthen the African Governance Architecture to facilitate the harmonization of instruments and coordination of initiatives in governance and democracy.
The discussion on Peace and Security issues revolved around the activity report presented by the Chairperson of the Commission, Dr. Jean Ping. His presentation briefed the Council on the Commission’s activity on conflict situations in Africa including Cote d’Ivoire, Somalia, Sudan, the impasse between Ethiopia and Eritrea and the conflict situation between Djibouti and Eritrea. The Eritrean Ambassador in what appeared to be a carefully prepared text made almost identical statements to the PRC, to the Council and to the Summit, on Eritrea’s policies towards Somalia, Djibouti and on how Eritrea saw the current situation between Ethiopia and Eritrea as improving slightly. As some of his comments were in contradiction with the Constitutive Act, the Commission was obliged to provide some corrections. In addition, the Eritrean Ambassador was also requested to respect the views of others if he wanted his own to be respected. Eritrea, of course, has only returned this year to the AU after a long self-imposed refusal to participate in the organization after the AU refused to accept its particular views on Somalia.
The Ethiopian delegation responded to the misrepresentations of the Eritrean ambassador at the PRC, Council and Summit level, detailing errors in the Eritrean statement, and emphasizing that Eritrea hadn’t ceased its efforts to disrupt the region, continuing the training and infiltration of terrorists into Ethiopian territory. It did, however, note that if indeed Eritrea wanted to be part of the development of the region as the Eritrean Ambassador had claimed, then the move would be welcomed by Ethiopia as long as Eritrea was willing to address its attitudinal problem and started to think “outside the box” of its current preoccupations.
The 24th session of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Heads of State and Orientation Committee was convened on January 29th on the eve of the African Union Summit, to consider the bi-annual Activity Report of NEPAD’s Planning and Coordination Agency (NCPA) for July-December 2010 and the outlook for 2011, the progress report of the High-Level Sub-Committee on the Presidential Infrastructure Champion Initiative, Africa’s partnership engagements and the governance structure of NEPAD. The Committee endorsed the activities and priorities outlined in the NCPA Activity Report. It took particular note of the efforts at results-based performance and progress in strategic planning, knowledge management, policy alignment, program implementation and coordination, partnerships, resource mobilization, increased Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program Compact signing, and access to agricultural funding. The Committee commended the work done and the progress so far recorded by the High-Level Sub- Committee of eight countries on the Presidential Infrastructure Champion Initiative with South Africa as chair. It endorsed the criteria and prioritized projects and champions selected for implementation covering the AU’s five regions. The selection of the priority projects is based, among others, on the criteria of high impact and effectiveness, capacity to unlock economic potential of a particular region and country, support for long-term development and integration of the continent.
The Committee underscored the essential need for Africa to consolidate its partnership engagements with the G8 and G20. It welcomed the outcome of the November 2010 G20 Summit in South Korea and the concrete steps taken by the G20 Working Group on Development co-chaired by South Africa and South Korea. It noted the G20 Seoul Development Consensus on Shared Growth as consistent with NEPAD priority objectives, and its Multi-year Action Plan on Development including the G20 High-Level Panel for Infrastructure Investments. The Seoul Consensus constitutes a major departure in the development thinking as it considers Africa as part of the global agenda and not merely peripheral. Indeed, it puts Africa at the center of global debate and views Africa as part of a global solution to current problems. It was emphasized that regional and multilateral development banks need to align their policy and operational interventions to the Seoul Consensus. Africa needs to constructively interact with the G20 Panel towards utilizing global excess savings for investment in Africa’s infrastructure sector. The African Union Commission and the NCPA have been requested to galvanize African efforts to this end.
Another meeting the same day was the 14th Summit of the Committee of Participating Heads of State and Government of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APR Forum) held on January 29th in Addis Ababa. Its agenda included: the conduct of the Peer Review of Ethiopia and the conduct of the Peer Review of Progress Reports of the Implementation of the National Program of Action of Reviewed Countries (South Africa, Nigeria and Lesotho). During the Peer Review of Ethiopia it was indicated that the report suffered from both factual errors and a faulty approach. While noting that some of the factual errors had been corrected, Ethiopia nonetheless suggested that the report’s comments on political and economic developments in Ethiopia appeared to have been made on the basis of a narrow ideological orientation to which the country itself did not subscribe. Ethiopia said there had always been an understanding, indeed a decision on the part of former chairman of the Panel of Eminent Persons, Adebaye Adedeje, that the reviews should be based on the ideology followed by the country under review. Ethiopia said that this determination had not been heeded. Similar mistakes had been made in the reports on Rwanda and South Africa. The points were taken note of by the new Chairperson of the Panel of Eminent Persons who agreed that the council should look into the need for the indigenization of the review reports.
Meanwhile, the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) will fall in May 2013. Ethiopia proposed that the anniversary should be celebrated in Addis Ababa as the site of the original OAU conference. The Summit decided that the anniversary should be celebrated appropriately in Addis Ababa on 25 May 2013 and it requested the African Union Commission to make the necessary arrangements for the celebration, in close collaboration with the host country, Ethiopia and all Member States, and to submit progress reports to the Assembly on a regular basis.
IGAD holds Extraordinary Summit on Somalia, Sudan and Kenya
During the African Union Assembly, IGAD’s Assembly of Heads of State and Government held its own 17th Extraordinary Summit in Addis Ababa, on 30 January. Prime Minister Meles chaired the meeting attended by President Omar Al Bashir of Sudan, President Ismael Omar Guelleh of Djibouti, President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya, President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed of Somalia, Gilbert B. Bukenya, Vice-President of Uganda and Engineer Mahboub M. Maalim, the Executive Secretary of IGAD. Also present were Jerry Rawlings, the Africa Union High Representative for Somalia (AUHLR), and former Presidents Thabo Mbeki and Pierre Buyoya of the African Union High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP). The agenda covered current developments in Somalia, the Sudan and Kenya, and a communiqué was issued at the end of the meeting.
On Somalia discussions centered on the end of the transition period, on 20 August 2011, and on possible measures that could be taken to extend the current transitional institutions. Under the Transitional Federal Charter, the existing Parliament would continue as a caretaker administration if it did not amend the Charter and create a mechanism to expand its term of office. IGAD leaders agreed, given the limited time available, that the most plausible course of action was for the current Transitional Federal Parliament to extend its term for a limited time, and that the remaining political dispensation should be handled by the people of Somalia. The Assembly welcomed the appointment of the new Prime Minister, Abdillahi Mohamed Abdillahi. It urged the new cabinet to embark expeditiously on the remaining transitional tasks including the drafting and approval of the Constitution as well as expanding the authority of the state, promoting the reconciliation process and improving the livelihood of the population by providing essential services until the end of its term of office. The leaders discussed the problem of drought, the blockade of humanitarian assistance to the needy by extremist forces and their blatant human rights abuses. In the face of these problems, the Assembly decided to open corridors for humanitarian access and agreed that IGAD member states would provide concrete assistance to the Somali people. The assembly warned all parties not to abuse any humanitarian support.
The Assembly also noted the challenges the TFG faced in reorganizing those of its security forces which were being trained outside Somalia. It underscored the need to train Somali security forces inside Somalia. Given the current weakness and divisions within Al-Shabaab, the TFG was encouraged to exert all its effort to use this opportunity to make real gains on the ground. President Sharif himself underlined that more emphasis needed to be given to the security situation. He also stressed that the remaining issues of the transition period should be left to the Somalis to sort out. He detailed the plans of the new cabinet, most of whom are intellectuals from the Diaspora, to implement the recently announced Hundred Days’ Plan. The IGAD Summit expressed solidarity with the new cabinet. It condemned the barbaric acts and human rights abuses committed by Al-Shabaab against the civilian population, including extra-judicial executions, death by stoning or decapitation, torture, public amputations and flogging. The Assembly said the leaders of the terrorist groups would be held responsible for all the criminal acts committed by their militias.
On the Sudan, the Summit received extensive briefings from President Omar Al-Bashir and by former South African President Thabo Mbeki on behalf of the AUHIP. In his capacity as chairperson, Prime Minister Meles noted the Sudan’s extraordinary diversity and called on the Summit to give unqualified support to the people and the leadership of the Sudan. Indeed, the IGAD Assembly congratulated President Al-Bashir, and the 1st Vice-President of the Sudan and President of South Sudan, Salva Kiir Mayardit, for their exemplary, courageous and wise leadership in this difficult time. The Assembly welcomed the peaceful, orderly and democratic conduct of the referendum by the people of South Sudan. It appreciated the recent momentous developments and expressed its full support to both parties. It encouraged the leaders of both North and South Sudan to work for greater unity and integration and use the high spirit and great civility shown by all the Sudanese people to respond to the challenges ahead. The Summit encouraged both parties to work towards ensuring the existence of two viable states living side by side, and to move forward to address the outstanding issues, including Abyei, borders, citizenship, security and other post referendum matters, in good faith. The Summit emphasized that both parties needed to work to ensure that the two states should be viable. The North would be challenged if there was trouble in the South, and the South would have little chance of success if the North was not at peace. The Summit also called on the international community to deliver on its promises for the Sudan. These included debt relief, the removal of the Sudan from the list of states sponsoring terrorism, the lifting of sanctions and a deferral by the Security Council of the ICC indictment of President Al-Bashir to allow the peace process to move forward smoothly. These would have the effect of bringing an end to the international community’s impediments to peace in the Sudan.
The Assembly also considered the prospects and challenges currently facing Kenya. President Kibaki briefed the Summit on developments in Kenya since its post-election violence and the efforts of the government to deal with those who had been involved. He pointed out that with the endorsement and promulgation of the new Kenyan Constitution, the country’s judicial structures were being restructured and the necessary staff being organized. He provided an update of the progress made in investigating the perpetrators of the violence, to arrange for due process in Kenyan courts and fight against impunity. He noted the serious challenge posed by the ICC initiated process, which threatened the success of Kenya’s transition. Kenya therefore was requesting the deferral of the International Criminal Court indictment in accordance with article 16 of the Rome Statute. The IGAD Assembly was concerned that the ICC process in Kenya threatened the on-going national efforts in peace building, national reconciliation and political transition. Members felt it was hardly appropriate for nations to have to ask for permission to handle their own affairs internally, but with a view to keeping up the momentum created by Kenya’s new constitutional dispensation, the Assembly supported Kenya’s request for the deferral of the ICC investigations and prosecutions in line with Article 16 of the Rome Statute to enable the affirmation of the principle of complimentarity.
Mini-Summits on Cote d’Ivoire, Sudan and Somalia
In addition to the IGAD Extraordinary Summit on Somalia and Sudan, other mini-Summits of interested Heads of State and Government were held on the margins of the 16th AU Assembly, on issues of particular concern: Cote d‘Ivoire, Somalia and the Sudan. Consultations on Côte d’Ivoire focused on current developments related to the election results and subsequent events. Chaired by the President of Nigeria, the current ECOWAS Chairperson, a number of Heads of State and Government attended the meeting as did the UN Secretary General, Ban ki-Moon, and African Union Commission Chairperson, Dr. Jean Ping, the organizers of the meeting. No agreement was reached on the best way to deal with the situation that had developed. Some leaders were of the view that the incumbent should be forced to hand over power; others believed the situation should be handled with care.
Similar mini-Summit consultations were also held on Sudan and Somalia under the Chairmanship of Prime Minister Meles as current Chairperson of IGAD. The UN Secretary-General and the AU Commission Chairperson again attended. Prime Minister Meles articulated IGAD’s views on current developments in the Sudan and the consensus arrived at for the transition in Somalia. On the Sudan he said that the seemingly impossible had happened and he praised the efforts and dedication of President Al-Bashir and First Vice President Salva Kiir Mayardit. President Al-Bashir’s role was exemplified by his last minute visit to Juba to encourage the people of Southern Sudan to vote freely, underlining his readiness to join them in their celebration even if they decided for separation. The Prime Minister expressed the gratitude of IGAD for the job done by the AUHIP, who had camped for nearly two years in the Sudan to assist both parties to move forward in the implementation of their commitments under the CPA and the post referendum negotiations. Post referendum arrangements still remain difficult if only because of external circumstances including Sudan’s huge debt burden which needs to be addressed to allow North and South to start from the right point. The IGAD Summit has already called on the international community to assist the Sudan on its debt burden, over economic sanctions, the state sponsors of terrorism list, and a deferral on the ICC indictment of President Al-Bashir. IGAD’s communiqué had been endorsed by the full AU Summit. Darfur remained an issue, and Prime Minister Meles emphasized the need to call a spade a spade and pinpoint who is responsible for impeding the peace process. There was, he said, a need to put pressure on the rebels to conclude the Doha process and move forward with the Darfur talks under a peace plan put forward by the AUHIP.
United Nations Secretary-General, Ban ki-Moon underlined the need for sustainable solutions for the Sudan. This must involve the full implementation of the CPA as well as allowing the basic rights of freedom of movement and support for UNAMID. He expressed his concern over the developments in Abyei last month. Sudan, he said, had reached a turning point. The conduct of the peaceful referendum had been very encouraging, he said, but there should be benchmarks for progress over border demarcation, oil revenue sharing and other post referendum issues to help the two parties to move forward. The AU Commission Chairperson, Dr. Jean Ping, made similar points.
The mini-Summit was also addressed by President Al-Bashir and First Vice-President Salva Kiir. President Al-Bashir reaffirmed his government’s position that it would be the first to recognize the new state of South Sudan. It would provide all necessary support to allow the new state stand on its own feet. He said the CPA was a Sudanese achievement, and it could certainly be sustainable if the international community implemented promises to write off debts, allow the Sudan access support through the HIIPC initiative, open up all venues of cooperation, remove Sudan from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, and defer the ICC indictment. He reaffirmed his commitment to address all the remaining issues with his partner in the South. First Vice-President Salva Kiir thanked the international community for its support to the efforts of South Sudan. He said that the preliminary results in the South indicated that the overwhelming majority of the people of South Sudan had voted for separation. He acknowledged the role played by President Al-Bashir and thanked him for his support for the process. He expressed his commitment to move forward in resolving any remaining outstanding issues. Former President Thabo Mbeki and the representatives of the Qatari and the US governments also made statements.
On Somalia, the mini-Summit which was addressed by President Sheikh Sharif, the UN Secretary-General and Dr. Jean Ping, underscored the need to expand dialogue within Somalia. Equally, for this to move forward effectively, the TFG should ensure effective implementation of agreements made previously with, for example, Ahlu Sunna wal Jama’a, and Puntland. The TFG needed to do more in creating cohesion among its leadership in order to push the peace process forward and use the opportunities created by the divisions within Al-Shabaab. The need to train Somali security forces inside Somalia was also emphasized.
Somalia’s Parliament endorses an extension to its term of office
On Monday this week the Somalia Transitional Federal Parliament met and amended the provisions of the Federal Transitional Charter to extend its term of office for a further three years. 421 MPs voted for the motion, 11 against and 3 abstained. The decision was taken in accordance with the consensus reached at the IGAD Summit last week that to ensure continuity in Somalia there was a need to extend the term of the Transitional Federal Parliament while leaving the remaining details of political dispensation to be determined by the people of Somalia themselves. Under the Charter a number of transitional tasks should have been undertaken to prepare for a democratically elected government in Somalia after the end of the transition period in August. Most of the transitional tasks have yet to be completed, and the security situation in Somalia needs to be significantly improved before such transitional tasks can be carried out.
IGAD member states made it clear that although the activities of the TFP left much to be desired, there was no alternative to extending the term of Parliament since the remaining time available for the Parliament to accomplish the transitional tasks and enact legislation actually ends on February 20th six months before the end of the transition. This will allow other issues related to reform and additional matters to unfold gradually during the next few months in line with this decision.
Ethiopia and Togo sign a Cooperation Agreement
Another of the significant bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the 16th ordinary session of the African Union was between Ethiopia and the Togolese Republic which signed a Cooperation Agreement on Tuesday this week. The agreement was signed by Ato Hailemariam Desalegn, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia and Mr. Elliott Ohin, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of the Togolese Republic. Speaking at the signing ceremony Ato Hailemariam said that both countries had much in common as developing African Countries with similar potentials as well as common challenges. Ethiopia, he said, attaches particular significance to cooperation with other African states, and he expressed his hope that both parties would be able to use the agreement to improve their socio-economic development potential. He adduced the example of cooperation over aviation, pointing out that the agreement to allow Ethiopian Airlines, the national flag carrier, to fly to Lome had contributed tremendously to the close relations between the two governments and between two friendly peoples. It was witness to the fact that cooperation between the two countries could easily be expanded if they moved to take concrete action in particular areas. Ato Hailemariam emphasized that the commitment to consolidate bilateral relations in political, economic and social sectors should now be transformed into implementing specific sectoral cooperation. He stressed that the Cooperation Agreement now signed will create a proper framework for the provision of concrete proposals to realize the expansion of Ethio-Togo cooperation.
The Togolese Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, who stressed the importance of Ethiopia’s continued role in the maintenance of peace and security in Africa and the Horn of Africa in particular, noted that the Agreement would play its part in further strengthening and consolidating already close bilateral relations. Mr. Ohin said the Cooperation Agreement between the two sisterly countries would provide a framework allowing both countries to benefit and share experiences. It would establish solid political and economic cooperation within the concept of south-south cooperation and create opportunities to work jointly for the benefit of Africa.
The Cooperation Agreement provides that a Joint Technical Committee should be set up. This will be drawn from members of the competent authorities of both countries, and will meet as necessary, in Ethiopia and in the Togolese Republic alternatively. The Technical Committee will have a mandate to monitor implementation of the Cooperation Agreement and to identify future areas of cooperation in political, economic and social sectors.
The dedication ceremony of the new US Embassy in Addis Ababa
On Monday this week, the US formally opened its new embassy building in Addis Ababa. Present for the dedication ceremony of the largest US embassy in sub-Saharan Africa was visiting US Deputy Secretary of State, James Steinberg as well as other American, Ethiopian and African Union officials. The new building will house the US Mission to the African Union as well as the US Embassy to Ethiopia, and bring all US agencies in Addis Ababa under one roof. The building took two and a half years to build, and the design draws on Ethiopian historical styles; it also uses the latest “green technology”. Speaking on the occasion, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Ato Hailemariam Desalegn, noted that the dedication of the building underlined the historic links of the US with Ethiopia as well as the enduring strength of the Ethiopia/US relationship. The United States had been, and remains, an inspiring influence in the advancement of science and technology, democracy and good governance. Americans had provided strong support to Ethiopia’s struggle against fascism. Ethiopia, in turn, provided powerful motivation for the struggle of civil liberty and equality for the American people as demonstrated by Du Bois and Dr. Martin Luther King. Ato Hailemariam thanked the United States Government and its people for their support of Ethiopia over the years. He underlined the importance of remembering those who had worked so hard to build this relationship in the spirit of the late Congressman, Mickey Leland, on the basis of dignity, faith and hope. He stressed that now was a time for the affinity and the closeness between Ethiopia and the United States to express itself at a new level of vitality. Ethiopia, he said, would like to inject the relationship with a new impetus and commitment, to explore fresh opportunities and build a network of activities to strengthen the bilateral relationship, on the basis of Ethiopian and American ingenuity and creativity, and on their mutual trust and respect.
Eritrea’s Leaders still far from ready for normal diplomatic behavior
The Eritrean regime has always enjoyed its notoriety, taking pride in ‘being unique’ even when this ‘uniqueness’ consists of doing all the wrong things in international politics. Normality and sense are words that are conspicuously missing in the regime’s political lexicon. Whenever the rest of the world calls for an action, or the withdrawal of some action, Eritrean leaders always make sure their position stands in stark contrast to the most widely held view whatever that might be. The unwritten law guiding the regime’s behavior seems to suggest that greatness is all about opposition, whatever the subject. Eritrea’s leaders even take positions on issues as far apart from Horn of Africa politics as Australian floods, and these positions invariably differ from any widely held views. Uniqueness, it seems, is an end in itself.
This aberrant behavior has often frustrated even the most chronic optimists who persistently try to give the regime in Asmara the benefit of the doubt. When some naïve players thought that the Qatari-mediated peace agreement with Djibouti meant a change of heart, President Isaias quickly made sure to contradict the Qatari leader in public and in Arabic so the message would not be lost. When hostilities began with Ethiopia, Eritrea’s leaders scoffed at the idea of negotiating over Badme, disappointing well-meaning people who thought their mediation could provide a way out of the crisis. This didn’t prevent the Eritrean government from declaring its ‘acceptance’ of the very terms they had turned down earlier, once the Eritrean army had been beaten. Shame has never had a place in Eritrea’s policies under President Isaias. And even after all these years of willful rows with the international community, counter-productive posturing and disastrous brinkmanship, Eritrean leaders still seem poised to continue on the same path that has landed them in trouble after trouble. Certainly, that is just what the behavior of Eritrea’s newly appointed ambassador to the AU demonstrated last week.
In what is now a quintessential Eritrean way, the ambassador in Eritrea’s reappearance at the AU managed to make remarks that were both farcical and dangerously confrontational. During the meeting of the Executive Council of the AU, he intervened to correct the Commissioner’s report alluding to the current ‘deadlock’ between Eritrea and Ethiopia and the need for dialogue to normalize relations between the two countries. The ambassador said that the word deadlock seemed to suggest that there still was an unresolved border issue between the two countries. Using the stock-in-trade argument of Eritrean officials on this subject, and their usual repetition of fiction to convince themselves of its truth, the ambassador insisted the border had already been ‘virtually’ demarcated. As Prime Minister Meles has said this is no more than a legal oxymoron with no practical meaning. The ambassador’s remark in fact represented no more than his government’s willingness to find any excuse to avoid acting normally.
An even more interesting remark was made by the Eritrean ambassador when stating his government’s position on Somalia. He reiterated once again that his government did not believe in the legitimacy of the TFG and repeated its demand that ‘foreign troops’ should leave Somalia. The reference was of course to the AU and UN mandated AMISOM forces, and Eritrea’s position is clearly contradictory to that taken by literally the entire rest of the world. His remarks led a rather incredulous AU Commissioner to ask if by foreign troops the Eritrean ambassador had meant to refer to Al-Shabaab affiliated terrorist from Pakistan and Afghanistan. This position, the ambassador claimed, was a case of Eritrea ‘thinking outside the box’. In a subsequent forum, Prime Minister Meles suggested this might amount to act well outside all applicable international norms.
The truth is that when Eritrean leaders think ‘out of the box’ they almost always come up with something they most certainly expect the rest of the world will feel uncomfortable with. They appear against peace in Somalia if only because that is what the rest of the world seems to be trying to bring about. The apparent renewed interest to resume participation in the AU is no more than a somewhat amateurish effort to embarrass those they believe are their detractors and an attempt to spoil any forum that might stand in the way of their unwholesome adventurism. Respect for AU, or any similar organization for that matter, has never been something that has appealed to the Eritrean regime. As Prime Minister Meles reiterated during the Summit, there is a significant attitudinal problem on the part of the regime in Asmara that leaves much to be desired. As the continuous flow of infiltrators it sends to Ethiopia attest, this is a government which is still incapable of behaving normally. To those who still naïvely believe such a regime can be rehabilitated through mere appeasement, these destabilizing activities of which it seems so proud, remain a reminder of how pernicious is their optimism. Quite frankly, it would seem that only concerted action could have any effect, and even that would take a seriousness that only a few yet appear prepared to demonstrate.
The Core Principles of Ethiopia’s Foreign Policy: the distance so far traveled
For the last few weeks we have been covering Ethiopia’s foreign policy in a segment we entitled “The Core Principles of Ethiopian Foreign Policy”. The aim was not to give exhaustive treatment of all Ethiopia’s bilateral relationships around the world. Indeed, given the sheer number of countries with which Ethiopia maintains active diplomatic relations, that would be a decidedly tall order. Rather the intent has been to give a brief overview of the impact of Ethiopia’s foreign policy as evidenced by the largely beneficial nature of the country’s diplomatic relations highlighting cases among a select group of countries. This is not however meant to downplay Ethiopia’s relations with the dozens of countries we haven’t so far covered. Far from it, and indeed Ethiopia enjoys friendly and cordial relations with countries all over the world.
What we would like to underline in connection with the success that Ethiopia has had in the diplomatic arena over the last two decades is the extent to which the core principles of Ethiopia’s foreign policy have proved their strength and mettle in anchoring the country’s stature within the international community on an ever more solid foundation. It is therefore useful to look once again at the fundamentals of Ethiopia’s Foreign and National Security Policy to emphasize just how these have enabled the country to achieve so much in so short a time. This will also help shed light on some of the more serious challenges we still face today in terms of our relations, both bilateral and multilateral, so that we can position ourselves better to capitalize on our gains and work on our weaknesses.
As we have mentioned time and again in A Week in the Horn, the Foreign Policy and National Security Strategy identifies the major threats to Ethiopia and indeed to its survival: economic backwardness and the poverty under which so many people exist, together with full understanding of the need for democracy and good governance and for the establishment of a democratic structure and government at all levels throughout the country. Without these, Ethiopia will be unable to survive as a country and its very existence will be in doubt. Whatever relations Ethiopia forges with countries or organizations should therefore serve its economic agenda, of providing rapid economic development together with the objective of advancing democracy. Both goals are an imperative necessity to maintain Ethiopia’s very viability. While rapid economic development helps provide all members of society with benefits, democratization helps ensure the fullest possible participation of people in administering their own affairs. First and foremost, this requires that more attention and resources be dedicated to address domestic issues, and it is these which are the major source of any vulnerabilities.
Ethiopia’s strong desire to ensure peace and security in all its neighbors as well as in the whole region and beyond is in turn the function of its equally strong desire to ensure both rapid economic development and the building of good governance for the benefits of its people. Peaceful neighbors are good trade partners. Regional stability enables a country to focus all of its resources on addressing poverty and deal with any lack of good governance. Ethiopia’s relations with developed countries or emerging economies alike are informed by the twin pillars of our policy. Fostering of trade, securing of development cooperation and foreign direct investment or learning from the experiences of advanced democracies are all activities that have been a prime focus of Ethiopia’s diplomatic efforts over the years. Despite the challenges faced both in terms of unruly neighbors or overly ideological crusaders of all varieties, Ethiopia today enjoys largely cordial, indeed beneficial, relations with dozens of partners around the world.
Even when some elements have resorted to arm-flexing or high-handed tactics, Ethiopia has all too often preferred weathering whatever storm transpired with the clear realization that only more progress on the home front in both poverty reduction and good governance can create real disincentives against such spoilers. The Eritrean government and Human Rights Watch are cases in point. Despite obvious differences in their choice of means, both are classic examples of how entities determined to derail progress or force submission to their views can eventually wear themselves out in the face of continuing economic and political success. The regime in Asmara, faced by an Ethiopian state which now finds itself in an increasingly stronger position economically, politically and militarily, is unable to risk any direct confrontation. It has become resigned to sending all kinds of errand boys to do the job of trying to destabilize Ethiopia. Now, however, the pool of recruits that the regime in Asmara has depended upon is fast drying up thanks to the progress that Ethiopia’s policies have made.
Similarly, HRW’s attempts to remotely control political processes in Ethiopia have largely failed in the face of economic and political achievements which negate the organization’s specious allegations. Its campaign to derail the political and economic development in Ethiopia has lately been reaching near hysterical levels with repeated calls for the stoppage of aid to Ethiopia. In fact, the visibly and successful use of aid in enhancing Ethiopia’s overall economic efforts, coupled with the growing millions of citizens benefiting from these endeavors, means that HRW’s accusations ring very hollow.
It all underlines the efficacy of the country’s policies, and in particular the Foreign and National Security strategy which has clearly proved rewarding. This is not to discount the challenges ahead. Poverty still poses a daunting problem. Spoilers in the region, state and non-state alike, will continue to stop at nothing to try to halt our progress. Ideological attacks on our political and economic policy choices will certainly continue, even if to a lesser extent or in a more nuanced way. Nevertheless, one thing is certain: Ethiopia has traveled far enough on the road to development and progress to be confident that there will be no going back. The newly adopted Growth and Transformation Plan emphasizes the importance of diplomacy. It remains imperative that we build on our successes and improve on areas in which we fall short. This is as valid for bilateral relations as for regional or global multilateral links. We will therefore be taking a brief overview of Ethiopia’s relations with selected regional, continental and global organizations over the next few weeks to conclude this appreciation of Ethiopia’s foreign policy imperatives, aims and principles.
Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Ministry of Foreign Affairs