A Week in the Horn (05.03.2010)


  • An IGAD Ministerial Mission in Khartoum and Juba

    A high level IGAD Ministerial Mission, led by Ethiopia’s Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin, accompanied by Kenya’s Foreign Minister, Moses Watangula, IGAD Executive Secretary, Engineer Mahboub Maalim and other officials from Ethiopia and Kenya as well as IGAD’s Assessment and Evaluation Commission, visited Khartoum and Juba on the 3rd and 4th of March. The delegation met and held extensive discussions with President Omar Ahmed Hassan Al-Bashir and Sudan’s Foreign Minister, Dr. Deng Alor, on Wednesday in Khartoum; and on Thursday in Juba had talks with President Salva Kiir of South Sudan, first vice president of the Sudan. The delegation’s visit was arranged following the decisions of the 33rd ordinary IGAD Ministerial Council meeting in Djibouti last December, and of the 34th Extra-ordinary Council held on the sidelines of the AU Summit in January.

    In discussions with Sudan’s Foreign Minister, the delegation noted that as IGAD had started the process of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in Kenya 5 years ago, and could be considered an initiator of the principles underlying the CPA, it needed to consult with the leaders of the signatory parties. Sudan is at a critical juncture in its history, and the delegation emphasized the interest of IGAD member states to be engaged at the highest level. Kenyan President, Muwai Kibaki, has called for an Extra-ordinary IGAD Summit, to be dedicated to evaluation of the implementation of the CPA, at the beginning of next week. Implementation of the CPA involves a series of benchmarks, and these need serious follow up and full support.

    Minister Deng Alor made it clear Sudan appreciated this timely visit when it was facing a critical, complex and challenging situation. The CPA had passed through a number of difficult phases, and had now reached the final stage. The issues remaining were few, but critical and since the remaining time for implementation was so short, the two parties had agreed to limit the issues selectively. There had been times, Minister Deng said, when the signatories had found it difficult to move forward as they had not even been talking to each other. Recently, however, the parties had broken the ice again and had managed to look at some significant issues once more, including the representation of the South in the National Assembly; the demarcation of the border between the north and the south, as well as borders shared with other nations from Ethiopia down to the Central African Republic; and the Referendum Commission of South Sudan.

    Implementation of the CPA remains challenging, and the signatories must be committed to resolution through dialogue and negotiation. The process is bound to remain uneven and difficult. The most important point is the parties must not withdraw however difficult the process. The CPA brought an end to a protracted, decades-long, war in a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural state. However, the two parties have not been able to create the necessary levels of trust to carry out all the provisions of the agreement as effectively as hoped. This trust needs to be rebuilt. The two parties are now on the right track. No matter what the end result, the parties will be held accountable to keep their commitments. It is a test of leadership. The parties still need to redouble their efforts and enhance their political will as well as demonstrate their commitment to take the process to its logical conclusion. IGAD must exert all necessary efforts to assist the parties to move forward. The process is part and parcel of the peace and stability of the whole region. The international community also needs to assist in the efforts of the two parties in a concerted manner.

    The IGAD delegation also held candid and informative discussions with both leaders. These discussions will continue, and lead up to the planned IGAD Summit in Nairobi to be dedicated to implementation of the CPA.


  • Minister Seyoum inaugurates Ethiopia’s new diplomatic premises in Khartoum.

    Foreign Minister Seyoum officially inaugurated Ethiopia’s new diplomatic premises, the chancery and ambassador’s residence, in Khartoum on Wednesday. The ceremony was attended by Mr. Deng Alor, Foreign Minister of the Republic of the Sudan, Mr. Moses Watangula, Foreign Minister of Kenya, senior Sudanese government officials, Ambassadors and other invited dignitaries. The new premises should be considered as a sign that a bright future lies ahead in Sudanese/Ethiopian relations, underlining their deep rooted bilateral links. Ethiopia and Sudan currently enjoy mutually beneficial cooperation in important areas of common interest, covering political, security, economic, social and cultural issues. Strategic co-operation in the field of infrastructural development, with on-going projects in fiber-optics and in power grid connections, are one example of mutual benefit. Other recent examples of close co-operation can be seen in the growing increase in cross-border movement of goods and services following the completion of the Matama-Gonder corridor and the simplification of procedures on the transit routes. The construction of the new diplomatic premises will symbolize and express Ethiopia’s commitment to further revitalization of the longstanding ties between the Sudan and Ethiopia.



  • The UN Monitoring Group report goes to the Sanctions Committee

    The UN Monitoring Group has this week submitted its latest draft report on Somalia to the UN Sanctions Committee. The report will be considered by the Committee on Wednesday next week, to discuss its recommendations and the formal presentation to the UN Security Council. The report is expected to include detail of activities that have affected the TFG, AMISOM and the peace process, including attacks on the TFG, Eritrea’s support for extremists in Somalia, and their Diaspora support network as well as the activities of armed criminal groups that threaten Somalia’s peace and security. It is also likely to look at the substantive violations of the arms embargo, as well as support for the TFG, which previous reports have classified as technical violations of the embargo. For example, earlier reports identified Ethiopia’s response to the TFG’s request for aid in December 2006 as a technical infringement. With the continued threat posed by Al-Shabaab, Ethiopia of course still has troops stationed along its border with Somalia, and has continued to provide training for TFG security forces and for civil servants as have a number of other neighbors and international partners of the Somali Government.

    It was on December 23rd last year that the Security Council adopted SC Resolution 1907 (2009) imposing sanctions against Eritrea for providing military and other assistance to Al-Shabaab, Hizbul Islam and other armed extremists and insurgents in Somalia and for its continued refusal to admit its invasion of Djibouti and its failure to respond to previous Security Council demands to withdraw from Djibouti territory. Indeed, despite the imposition of sanctions, and despite the detailed evidence on the ground from Djibouti, Eritrea still continues to try to deny its occupation of Djibouti territory and its attacks on Djibouti. Last week, the Eritrean Government organized demonstrations in a number of European and American cities to protest the sanctions. Now it is apparently seeking help from Nigeria which took up its seat in the Security Council in January. Eritrea’s ambassador to Nigeria. Mohamed Ali Omaro, said yesterday that Eritrea wanted Nigeria to play the role of an “uninfluenced arbiter” in what he called the “gang-up against another progressive African country by certain powers”, adding that Eritrea believed this was the time to say “no to neo-colonialism”. Eritrea, the ambassador added, had always supported Nigeria in elections in international organizations; so naturally, when it felt victimized “we cry to the big brother.” This attempt to flatter Nigeria ignores the fact that Nigeria is a responsible country fully aware of its obligations to the unanimous decisions of the AU and to the Security Council’s resolutions.

    The Security Council sanctions were also, of course, imposed on the basis of detailed and credible information about Eritrea’s active support for Al-Shabaab and other extremist groups, politically, diplomatically and financially and through military assistance, direct and indirect, as detailed in earlier Monitoring Group reports. The Chairman of Hizbul Islam, for example, was resident in Asmara for over two years before being flown down to Somalia with two plane loads of arms in an attempt, in collaboration with Al-Shabaab, to drive the TFG out of Mogadishu in May last year.

    Equally implausibly, Eritrea has also continued to deny support to Al-Shabaab and anti-TFG extremists. In the last few weeks, the Somali Government has made clear that there has been no overall reduction in Eritrean backing for anti-TFG extremists, and there have been no indications that the Eritrean Government has scaled back its direct military support to Al-Shabaab since the imposition of sanctions. Indeed, it seems to have increased its direct assistance including financial support. Last week, the AU Peace and Security Council, at its 217th meeting, felt it necessary to renew its call to the UN Security Council to act speedily on its earlier call for the imposition of a no-fly zone and the blockade of sea ports to prevent the entry of foreign elements into Somalia and the supply of logistical and other support to the extremist opponents of Somalia’s TFG.



  • Continuing bilateral consultations between Ethiopia and the United States

    A delegation led by US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Mr. Karl Wycoff, held a bilateral consultative meeting with an Ethiopian delegation led by State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Tekeda Alemu, in Addis Ababa on Thursday, March 4. The US delegation included officials from the State Department, USAID, and the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, while officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, the Ministry of Trade and Industry, and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development represented Ethiopia. This bilateral inter-agency consultation meeting, focusing on a wide range of areas of common interest, was a follow-up to the earlier bilateral dialogue in Washington, in November last year. The delegation at that meeting was led by Foreign Minister Seyoum who held extensive discussions with various high level U.S. Government officials, including U.S Secretary of State, Mrs. Hillary Clinton.

    In their opening statements, the heads of the two delegations emphasized the importance of having such dialogue on a regular basis to help strengthen further the existing partnership between the two countries. Dr. Tekeda noted that the consultation mechanism was a turning point in the century-old diplomatic relationship between the two countries. The timing of this broad-based consultation, he added, was most opportune as the current bilateral development cooperation program between the two countries comes to an end in September. Elements for new programs are currently being considered; Ethiopia is also formulating its next five year PASDEP.

    The two sides discussed economic cooperation, governance and food security as well as regional issues. They noted the value of a more comprehensive engagement in economic co-operation. In this regard, the U.S. side appreciated Ethiopia’s signing of the compact on the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Program (CADEP) which the U.S. plans to support at the continental level. The Ethiopian side welcomed the US interest in deepening economic engagement with Ethiopia and agreed that strengthening economic cooperation should be given top priority. It noted that, although trade between the two countries had shown encouraging growth rates, in terms of the overall volume, it still leaves a lot to be desired.

    On issues related to governance, the two sides had an extensive and frank exchange of views on human rights and the overall democratization process in the country. There were differences on these issues with the US side expressing its usual concerns while the Ethiopian delegation underlined the necessity for the US to avoid taking unfounded allegations seriously. This has essentially been the character of previous US State Department reports on human rights in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian side expressed the hope that future reports would be based on facts rather than on unverified claims. In this context the Ethiopian delegations also provided a full briefing on the preparations being undertaken to make the upcoming election free, fair and peaceful as well as credible in the eyes of the Ethiopian electorate.

    The two sides also discussed regional issues, with particular focus on Somalia and on the peace process in Sudan. Both agreed that the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) should be supported and that the international community should provide real and tangible assistance and in a timely manner. The meeting was conducted in a spirit of mutual understanding. Both sides expressed their desire to continue to build on a tradition of candid and open discussions and the need to continue such consultative meetings on a regular basis. During the US delegation visit, the US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, also held discussions with Prime Minister Meles on the current crisis in Somalia, on Darfur and other issues of common interest, including Ethiopian-US co-operation. Prime Minister Meles reaffirmed Ethiopia’s continuing efforts to ensure peace and stability in Somalia and in Darfur, and underlined Ethiopia’s efforts to ensure the May elections would be free and fair.



  • A European Business Mission in Ethiopia

    A trade and investment mission organized by the Eastern African Association (EAA) made a four day visit to Ethiopia last week. The East African Association is a UK based organization but its activities include companies from other European countries. While a majority of the 48 members of the mission were representatives of British companies, there were ten from Germany, two from Switzerland, two from Greece and even one from the United States. The group was welcomed at the Intercontinental Hotel by Ato Tadesse Haile, the State Minister for Trade and Industry who encouraged them to invest in Ethiopia. He singled out Pittard’s, a British leather company which has recently bought the largest leather processing company in Ethiopia, as an example, and called on other British businesses to follow this example. Presentations were also made by Ato Abi Woldemeskel, Director General of the Ethiopian Investment Agency, and representatives of the Ministry of Mines and Energy as well as the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. Meetings were organized for the members of the mission with their Ethiopian counterparts to provide opportunities for networking as well as a series of private meetings with government officials and officials from private and state-owned companies. Visits were also arranged to the Addis Chamber International Trade Fair in Addis Ababa and to a flower farm. The mission, which was organized by the Eastern African Association in collaboration with the British Embassy in Addis Ababa, and the Ethiopian Embassy in the UK, with the assistance of the Addis Ababa and Ethiopian Chambers of Commerce, also included a meeting with Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.

    The Prime Minister thanked the members of the mission for their interest in Ethiopia and expressed his hope that it would be successful in attracting investment and business opportunities. He gave participants an overview of the policies the government has been pursuing to achieve rapid and sustainable economic development. The main basis of growth remained agriculture and this, he said, was going to be the case for some time to come. The government was making sure that an adequate supply of suitable land was available for development, identifying large and vacant swathes of land and incorporating them into what he called a land bank. The result was that countries like Saudi Arabia were showing serious interest to invest in agriculture in Ethiopia. It indicated that over the next few years significant growth would be achieved in large-scale farming as well as small-scale farming. He suggested that fertilizer production was a promising venture of import substitution that might be attractive to foreign investors. The Prime Minister told his audience that government policy favored the development of labor intensive sectors, including leather and textiles, because the availability of inexpensive labor gave the country a better chance of competing in international markets. Ethiopia, he said, benefited from various tax-free and quota-free facilities including AGOA, EBA and other bilateral forms of preferential market access arrangements. Exports in general had been growing at a rate of more than 20%.

    The Prime Minster noted that the government was working hard to expand telecommunications services, including broadband internet access, across the country. He predicted that over the coming year land line and mobile telecommunication services will see exponential growth in Ethiopia. He also revealed that Indian professionals are preparing to establish an information technology (IT) park in Ethiopia. He touched upon the government’s intention to build a rail network covering some 5000 Kilometers to facilitate transportation of commodities from one part of the country to another, as well as to the ports that Ethiopia uses. He emphasized the government’s commitment to the production of green energy, and suggested that, with its ongoing growth in hydropower generation capacity, Ethiopia should be able to produce electricity at a price of 2-3 cents per kilowatt. At the conclusion of his opening statement, Prime Minister Meles encouraged the participants to invest in Ethiopia.

    Responding to questions, the Prime Minister said that the elections in May would be markedly different from those in 2005. The electoral Code of Conduct, signed by 65 political parties, was a major step to ensure the elections were peaceful, free and democratic. The Government, he said, would not be caught unaware by violence this time round; a well-trained police force would be deployed to ensure law and order during the election process. In answer to questions from banking and insurance company representatives, the Prime Minister said privatization of the financial sector was not under consideration at this stage but foreign participation in the re-insurance business was welcome. The government would, however, continue efforts to build up the capacity of local companies in the financial sector so they would be able to compete with international companies. He cited the involvement of the Royal Bank of Scotland a few years earlier to upgrade technology and service delivery standards.

    The Prime Minister said the expansion of telecoms services was in line with the country’s rural development strategy, and the intent was to expand all types of telecommunications services including landline, mobile and broadband internet access, across the country. This required a huge investment. Private operators, unfortunately, were only interested in the expansion of mobile services. On health care, the Prime Minister said the government’s priority was promotion of primary health care as most diseases could be prevented by providing services at that level. Intra-African trade, he said, was a high-priority matter for Ethiopia especially with regard to neighboring countries as a division of labor based on their comparative advantages would benefit all the states in the region. Ethiopia’s commitment to intra-African trade was demonstrated by the infrastructural projects currently under way which would link Ethiopia and its neighbors. These were taking into account the need to link production and distribution centers with urban centers and ports; the demands of Ethiopia’s growing economy were a major factor in planning and executing infrastructural developments.



  • Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) meetings deliberate on establishing the Nile River Basin Commission

    Two workshops were held last week in Kampala. A workshop on Institutional Design Study took place on February 24th and it was followed the next day by a workshop on Institutional Arrangements. The first meeting was attended by Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) Technical Advisory Committee (Nile-TAC), the NBI Secretariat and by development partners. The second workshop expanded the participants to include the Negotiation Committee members. The discussions in the first workshop focused on the Inception Report prepared by the consultant on the Institutional Design Study, one of the components of the Institutional Strengthening Program (ISP) of the NBI. This program was approved by the Nile Council of Ministers for Waters Resources to help the NBI transform itself into a permanent river basin organization. The Institutional Design Study included an analysis of the institutional strength of the NBI, the integration and harmonization of policies and procedures, the need to strengthen coordination and linkages with other regional institutions, and the need to prepare the members of the NBI for the outcome of the negotiations on the Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA). The Cooperative Framework Agreement lays the legal foundation and the institutional framework for the establishment of the Nile River Basin Commission to replace the NBI, the transitional institutional arrangement.

    The first phase of the Institutional Design Study will take14 months. It will help identify the strengths and weaknesses that have been associated with the NBI and the future needs of a permanent institution. The second phase will take around 6 months and will set the stage for robust engagement by stakeholders and decision makers to be followed by a formal endorsement. During the discussion it was emphasized that examples of similar organizations will be used as design models, providing possible different options with costs and sustainability strategies. During the workshop, the critical importance of underlining equitable and reasonable utilization was emphasized as the central and defining element for cooperation on the Nile River. The need to build on the achievements of the NBI was stressed as was the necessity of enhancing ownership by the river basin countries. They will have to assume more responsibility for financing while keeping alive the possibility of obtaining more resources from partners creatively. Another important aspect stressed by the meeting was that the principle of subsidiarity must be enhanced through the study. A more detailed discussion will be held with the consultant when the complete inception report is submitted shortly.

    The second day was allotted for discussion on the transitional arrangements to progress from the NBI to the Nile River Basin Commission. The consultant proposed some initial ideas to be included in the report for the transitional arrangements to help prepare the ground for an orderly transfer of the assets and liabilities of the NBI to the permanent body. These included a number of different scenarios according to whether all countries ratified the transfer or merely the requisite number of countries. This study is being conducted according to the decision of the 17th Nile Council of Ministers meeting held in Alexandria last July. The report of the study will be part of the elements for consideration by the next Nile Council of Ministers Extraordinary Meeting. This was originally scheduled to be held in Egypt last month, but will now take place in mid-April, in Egypt. The meeting will deliberate on the report of the Joint Meetings of Nile Technical Advisory Committee and Negotiation Committee on the modalities for the signing of the Cooperative Framework Agreement. It will also consider how the transition from the transitional NBI to the permanent Nile River Basin Commission will be achieved while also building on the achievements of the Nile Basin Initiative.



  • Ensuring the integrity of the upcoming elections: the dangers of the politics of ‘incessant allegation’

    The momentum of the elections is steadily building up. Political parties are fiercely engaged in televised debates, publishing their political agendas and elections manifestoes in the country’s various newspapers. They are doing all this according to the standards and criteria they have agreed to among themselves. This has included allocation of time slots for the debates. Even though some complaints on the fairness of the allocations have been raised in the debates themselves, both political parties and media organizations have been implementing their agreement to the letter. It has all been most encouraging.

    One issue, however, still appears to require further consideration, and possible rectification or moderation. This is the concept of the politics of allegation, which has become almost ceaseless. Indeed, some of the opposition groups have for a long time adopted the idea of making allegations almost as a political platform in itself. They appear to consider that allegations against the Government can be seen as an end in itself, even as an acceptable political tool. That is hardly the case.

    The electoral Code of Conduct for Political Parties Proclamation No. 662/2009 was aimed, among other things, to provide for procedures and a mechanism to investigate and rectify the grievances of any political party in the electoral process at all levels, through a Joint Council of Political Parties. Political parties now have the choice of presenting their grievances either to this complaint-handling and dispute-resolution system under the electoral Code of Conduct for Political Parties or turning to election officials and the courts according to the Electoral Law of Ethiopia Amendment Proclamation No.532/2007. Under the Electoral Law the National Electoral Board has the responsibility to investigate or cancel election results, order a re-election or bring perpetrators of an offence before a court of law if it has received information about violations of the election process, or other offences. It can give administrative decisions over disputes that occur in the election process, rectify electoral irregularities and decide on complaints submitted to it. The Proclamation also defines other mechanisms to resolve disputes including grievance hearing committees in each constituency and a system of complaints and disputes arising from the electoral process and allowing appeal to the courts. These due processes of law have been fully detailed and entrenched through a variety of mechanisms and directives.

    Some opposition parties use this system as required and present their cases in an appropriate fashion. Others, however, have intensified the pattern of their allegations against the Government, other parties and the entire electoral process. As we have emphasized before, ensuring that the upcoming elections are credible, peaceful, free and fair requires that all parties discharge their respective duties properly. Government bodies have to continue to deliver impartial and objective service to all those involved in the electoral process. Equally, opposition parties have the responsibility to respect the constitutional organs of the country and ensure that their members and followers fully respect these. It has to be said that this heavy responsibility does not always appear to be fully appreciated by some opposition parties. They appear bent on creating doubts and confusion in the process by their continuous litany of unsubstantiated, even fabricated, allegations against the Government and the political process.

    Disappointingly, some third parties have even directly contributed to this dispiriting habit of opposition groups by giving them false hope and encouragement. In some cases this is done in full knowledge of the intent of the allegations. Others are perhaps gullible observers aiming to contribute to the democratic process. It would not be fair to question their intentions but they do bear some responsibility if they encourage the repetition of fallacious allegations without corroboration. They become complicit in the efforts of those who make no secret of the fact that they are bent on undermining Ethiopia’s process of democratization. One example of this was the investigations of irregularities alleged by one of the opposition parties. The recent announcement by the National Electoral Board and the Joint Council, on which the ruling party and the opposition party with the complaint were represented, clearly demonstrated that most of the allegations were unsubstantiated and, indeed, mere inventions. This sort of allegation, deliberate perversion of fact, is simply irresponsible. The attempt to use the recent, and regretted, death of an opposition candidate, apparently in a bar brawl, as an example of deliberate intimidation efforts, is similarly misguided and injudicious.

    Unfounded allegations by different actors are not new to Ethiopia. One can, no doubt, expect more such distortions to be produced. This, after all, has been the modus operandi of some groups: publishing reports compiling or listing allegations with an accompaniment of a carefully worded disclaimer that the allegations, or any Government response, cannot be independently confirmed. Even without this the allegations are produced and widely circulated as if they contain incontrovertible facts, and the qualifications are ignored or minimized. It is even a common technique to publish the allegations that a journalist knows to be wrong, and then add a denial, a method which allows the allegation to be repeated. Even the most prestigious of media organizations frequently use this approach, as the BBC demonstrated this week in raking up unfounded, and un-provable, allegations over 25 years old. Such an approach to reporting seems to have convinced some opposition groups that whatever they say about the government will get published by someone somewhere, at least as a claim.

    Their objective is depressingly short-sighted. They are engaged in this nihilistic strategy despite the possibly far-reaching repercussions on the prospects for the long-term democratization process in the country. We should all be aware that this process requires building up confidence in our democratic institutions, and this can be achieved only with active involvement of the opposition parties. Whether reliance on this sort of allegation to produce support from other parties even in the short-term is plausible or not, it is likely to have a corrosive effect on confidence-building efforts among the political parties. Unsubstantiated allegations may briefly attract the attention of some naïve and unsuspecting elements, among politicians or among the media as well as observers. In the long run, however, they eventually expose the perpetrators as people attempting to discredit the whole election process in case they lose the election.

    By any standards, this is an entirely negative approach. It is high time for any such trend to be reversed and replaced by a proper utilization of existing procedures. It is only by using the legal system to its fullest extent that institutional capacity-building is assured. The politics of ‘incessant allegation’ must be replaced by the sort of mature and informed debate on policy options that all the parties should be capable of, to allow for a full choice to be available for the electorate. All relevant actors, including any third parties, have important roles in ensuring the integrity of the electoral process and of the election itself. Cutting out the cancer of incessant and baseless allegation as a political tool is surely one of the more important pre-requisites for a success.


Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

Ministry of Foreign Affairs