Famine still spreading in Somalia
At the beginning of the week the African Union announced that it was organizing a donor conference to support Somalia. Originally timed for Tuesday next week in Addis Ababa, it has now been postponed until August 25th. The original announcement was made by AU Deputy Chairperson, Erastus Mwencha, on Sunday following a visit to Mogadishu in which he met President Sheikh Sharif and other government members and visited a camp for internally displaced persons near Mogadishu airport. Earlier this week the United Nations declared three other areas of southern Somalia had passed the threshold for famine – two districts of Middle Shebelle region, the Afgoye corridor where hundreds of thousands of people displaced by the fighting in Mogadishu now live, and the internally displaced people who have moved into the government controlled areas of Mogadishu itself. Southern Bakool and Lower Shebelle regions were declared famine areas last month, and aid agencies have been warning that many other areas across southern Somalia are reaching the same point.
International aid agencies are saying that governments and donors must act with much greater urgency in the face of what Oxfam has called a “deteriorating crisis and rising needs in East Africa”. Oxfam says the international community is failing to keep pace with a crisis that is spiralling out of control. The United Nations now estimates that the total number of people affected could rise to over 15 million if action is not taken urgently. According to new figures 564,000 are at risk of death without urgent intervention. A US congressional committee was told on Wednesday that more than 29,000 children under five had died in the last three months in southern Somalia. Famine conditions are likely to spread. With the current levels of malnutrition, the mortality rate, the limited humanitarian response in parts of southern Somalia because of violence and the combination of harsh dry seasons and the increases in food prices, “food security is expected to deteriorate in the coming months.” According to Oxfam, the next three to four months are set to worsen elsewhere as well, in Ethiopia and Kenya, and the situation will remain classified as an emergency until the end of the year. The UN uses a five stage Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC). Level one is generally food secure. Level two is moderately or borderline food insecure. At level three the situation has reached an acute food and livelihood crisis. Level four is classified as a humanitarian emergency, with a severe lack of access to food, deaths due to hunger, malnutrition and irreversible livestock losses. Level five is described as famine or humanitarian catastrophe with a complete lack of access to food and mass starvation, death and displacement.
The World Food program has begun an emergency airlift of specialized nutritional food for children into Mogadishu to supplement the more normal ship deliveries. The US government has eased the sanctions it imposed on Al-Shabaab in 2008 and has promised not to prosecute aid agencies that deal with Al-Shabaab. Previously, agencies risked prosecution if any US supplies fell into the hands of Al-Shabaab. Al-Shabaab, however, has yet shown no signs of allowing assistance from aid agencies that it has previously banned to be distributed. However, some agencies, including UNICEF, have been able to deliver aid to Baidoa. A Somali telecommunications company has also delivered food aid to Baidoa, with Al-Shabaab providing security. Given the scale of the crisis, which Al-Shabaab spokesmen have denied, clan elders are putting pressure on Al-Shabaab to change its policy and allow aid to be distributed irrespective of who is supplying it.
TFG and AMISOM forces pre-empt Al-Shabaab attacks
On Thursday last week, joint TFG and AMISOM forces launched an offensive towards the Mogadishu Stadium area which is still a center of Al-Shabaab operations. The aim was to pre-empt any Al-Shabaab attempt to launch a Ramadan offensive from there, and to take advantage of Al-Shabaab’s reduced strength in Mogadishu. The initial advance made considerable progress along several of the roads leading towards the Stadium, taking over the Sodonka road and the Ali Kamin intersection, one of the points which control roads leading to the Bakhara market as well as towards the Stadium. AMISOM lost a tank at that point though it was from a fire caused by an electrical fault, not from Al-Shabaab action. These advances gained control of the Hamarbile area around Ali-Kamin but it has yet to be fully secured. There were some AMISOM casualties after Al-Shabaab fighters, wearing military uniforms, infiltrated the population. AMISOM and TFG are considering whether to evacuate the whole area to avoid civilian casualties before advancing further.
TFG and Ahlu Sunna wal Jama’a forces have also launched some other pre-emptive operations outside Mogadishu. In Gedo over the weekend, TFG units advanced from El-wak thirty kilometers towards Busar, a small town to the west of Bardere, now Al-Shabaab’s main center in Gedo region. They are now digging in there, waiting to make a coordinated advance towards Bardere town together with forces from Garbaharey and Luq further north. Similar preparations for advance have been going on in two other areas, in Bakool region and in the Dhobley border area of Lower Juba region.
Elsewhere, it has been reported that Al-Shabaab has “vacated their base” in Hees locality of Hiiraan Region after local residents mobilized themselves against the extremist group. Local militias organized themselves to attack Al-Shabaab after it attempted to recruit students and other youths in the area. Al-Shabaab has now moved its vehicles and dozens of fighters towards Belet Weyne. It appears that after its recent defeats in Mogadishu, Al-Shabaab has also been rotating its local fighters out of the city and bringing foreign fighters into the city. The aim is apparently intended to strengthen the weakening resolve of Al-Shabaab fighters both in the regions and in the city.
Meanwhile there is still no agreement within the TFG as to where to hold the upcoming High Level Consultative Meeting to be sponsored by the UN. President Sheikh Sharif is under strong pressure from Hawiye elders, MPs hailing from southern Somalia and other concerned groups to hold the meeting in Mogadishu. This would have the advantage of demonstrating the progress made by TFG and AMISOM forces, and as the President has been telling regional leaders Mogadishu is still the most neutral place for all Somalia. However, others including Speaker Sharif Hassan and Prime Minister Abdiweli have supported Puntland President Abdirahman Farole’s suggestion of Puntland’s capital Garowe.
At the beginning of the week, the long anticipated Ahlu Sunna wal Jama’a conference started in the central town of Abudwaq. This is in accordance with the agreement reached in Addis Ababa between Ahlu Sunna’s Spiritual leader in central Somalia, Sheikh Ma’alim Mohamud, and the leader of Ahlu Sunna’s Abudwaq faction, Ibrahim Sheikh Hassan Gurey, over the holding of the meeting. Well over three hundred delegates have so far turned up and more are expected for the ten days of discussions. A steering committee of twelve is running the conference in anticipation of the election of a new Shura and executive Presidium. However, it is far from clear whether all Ahlu Sunna factions will be attending as there has been some controversy over the conference, and there is concern that it may even fuel the divisions within the movement. Ahlu Sunna groups from the Ayr/Hawiye and the Dir apparently see the conference as a Marehan meeting. Several groups have indicated they do not plan to attend, including Ahlu Sunna groups in Mogadishu and other southern regions which the Ahlu Sunna cluster of central Somalia see as being over close to the TFG. After the conclusion of the Addis Ababa meeting, Sheikh Ma’alim Mohamud went to Mogadishu for talks with President Sheikh Sharif, following which TFG ministerial positions went to his faction of Ahlu Sunna, suggesting that he now has TFG support.
There is widespread agreement on the need for Ahlu Sunna to resolve the differences between its factions and contain the differences between the dissident voices within the Sufi groups. Indeed, this is of critical importance if Ahlu Sunna is to continue to play the role of creating stability and weakening Al-Shabaab further. Ahlu Sunna wal Jama’a, of course, was the first Somali Sufi group to oppose Al-Shabaab, causing it significant defeats in numerous different areas. Ahlu Sunna, in fact, broke the illusion that Al-Shabaab was unbeatable and that its fighters could survive anything; its victories have had an important psychological impact among Somalis throughout southern and central Somalia.
Bilateral visits to Qatar and the Russian Federation
Last month, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ato Hailemariam made a number of working visits abroad, to New York where he addressed an informal interactive dialogue of the UN Security Council on Eritrea, to Qatar and to the Russian Federation.
In Qatar, Ato Hailemariam attended the signing of a peace accord, on July 14th in Doha, between the Government of Sudan and the Liberation and Justice Movement of Darfur. The agreement which provides for power-sharing, repatriation of displaced people and allocates funding for development in Darfur, was brokered by the Emir of Qatar, The signing was attended by the Presidents of Sudan, Burkina Faso, Chad, Eritrea and the Prime Minister of the Central African Republic, the Secretary General of the Arab League and representatives of the UN, the AU, the Organization of Islamic Conference and other bodies.
Ato Hailemariam, who delivered a message from Prime Minister Meles to the Emir, also had discussions on bilateral issues. This is the first high level meeting since Ethiopia, concerned by Qatar’s relationship with Eritrea and other issues, broke off relations over three years ago. The Emir emphasized that Qatar wanted to have good relations with Ethiopia and was committed to achieving this. Ethiopia, he said, could be a role model for Africa in many ways. He added that Qatar was ready to invest in Ethiopia and to do business with the country, even if they did not always agree on political issues.
The Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister briefed the Emir on the situation in Ethiopia and in the Horn of Africa. He reciprocated the Emir’s interest in improving bilateral relations. He emphasized that Ethiopia’s development efforts had resulted in double digit growth for the last eight years, and said that Qatari businessmen and investors would be most welcome in Ethiopia where they would find great opportunities available. Ato Hailemariam detailed Ethiopia’s efforts to solve the problem with Eritrea but he noted that the issue had now become regional. He explained Eritrea’s attempt to organize a terrorist attack on the last AU Summit in January, which, fortunately had failed. He noted Eritrea’s support for Al-Shabaab and for other armed opposition and terrorist groups in the region. This was why IGAD had requested the UN Security Council to tighten sanctions against the Eritrean government. Because Eritrea threatened the whole region, he said, the threat had to be addressed within a regional context.
The Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister also made a working visit to Russia at the end of last month, visiting Moscow from 28th to 29th July. Ato Hailemariam and his delegation met the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Mr. Mikhail Bogdanov, the Head of the Russian Railway Corporation, Mr. Alexander Sultanov and a number of representatives from the private sector. Discussion with Mr. Bogdanov focused on issues of bilateral and regional concern, with particular reference to the current situation in the Horn of Africa, and on Ethio-Russian bilateral cooperation in various areas. During the meeting with the Head of the Russian Railway Corporation, an understanding was reached for the corporation to become engaged in the building up of railway infrastructure in Ethiopia. The Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister also met with representatives of a number of companies which have shown interest in investing in various sectors in Ethiopia, including leather and leather products, shoe manufacturing and energy.
Agreement on border monitoring between Sudan and South Sudan
On Saturday last week, the Governments of Sudan and of South Sudan reached agreement on the Border Monitoring Support Mission during another round of their post independence talks. This was the first formal bilateral agreement between the two states, and the African Union High-level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) welcomed this as auguring well for future peaceful cooperation.
The agreement reaffirms the commitment of the two governments to the agreement signed at the end of June by the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement concerning the establishment of a Joint Political and Security Mechanism (JPSM) to oversee security along their common border. The Mission will support the control of small arms and light weapons across the borders; conduct institutional training for border police and border security mechanisms; receive, verify and resolve violations, disputes and complaints; assist, facilitate and help protect demarcation teams; and assist in building mutual trust, confidence and an environment which encourages long-term stability and economic development, among other functions.
In a subsequent statement the AUHIP said that providing security along the border was a matter of particular importance and urgency. AUHIP said it was confident that the mechanisms provided in the agreement, including third party monitoring and verification, would contribute to the construction of peaceful relations between the two states. The first meeting of the JPSM is to be convened in Khartoum on August 17th. The AUHIP added that it would continue to support the parties in implementing the agreement and in their efforts to complete negotiations on a range of other issues that still remain undecided. These include citizenship, border demarcation, currency and oil-revenue sharing.
Ethiopian troops which are providing the forces for the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) began to deploy last week and over 1,500 have now arrived in the region. Unfortunately, there have already been some casualties, four soldiers were killed in a landmine explosion on Tuesday this week and several others wounded when on patrol to the south-east of Abyei town. The UN Secretary-General, Ban ki-Moon, extended his condolences to the families of those killed and to the Ethiopian government. Both the Government of Sudan and the Government of South Sudan have agreed to withdraw their forces from Abyei under the deal which led to the setting up of UNISFA.
Meanwhile, the Government of South Sudan at the end of last week debated and adopted its first foreign policy, according to a government spokesperson. This transforms the former Ministry of Regional Cooperation into a new Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. In the preamble it noted that it was resolute in establishing a democratic secular transparent system of government, reflective of the rule of law and of human rights. The document says policy will be guided by the principles and norms of good neighbourly relations and peaceful coexistence, respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of other states and preservation of national interest and security as well as non-interference in the internal affairs of other states. It will adhere to the charters of the UN, the AU and other regional and international conventions and treaties. In the last few years South Sudan opened 23 missions around the world. Some of these will now be upgraded to embassies, and according to the government spokesman, over sixty new embassies missions and consulates will be established in the next few years. The spokesperson said last week that South Sudan had already officially established full diplomatic relations with Israel.
Eritrea and regional destabilization
As we noted last week the Report of the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea, made public last week, provides the real and substantial evidence for the claims of IGAD member states that Eritrea has been making persistent efforts to destabilize the countries of the region. The Report is quite specific about Eritrea’s multiple violations of Security Council Resolution 1844 (2008) and 1907 (2009), and goes into great detail of the activities of Eritrea throughout the region. Not surprisingly, much of the comment on the report has centered on the details of the way that: “In January 2011, the Eritrean government conceived, planned, organized and directed a failed plot to disrupt the AU Summit in Addis Ababa by bombing a variety of civilian and governmental targets”. The Report devotes seven pages to the interviews it carried out with the detained members of the OLF involved in the operation and to the evidence of arms, telephone intercepts and financial records. It concluded that the only member of the OLF leadership that was aware of the operation was the Chairman, Daud Ibsa, and that “this operation was effectively an Eritrean intelligence activity falsely flagged as an OLF initiative.”
The intent was to “make Addis Ababa like Baghdad” by setting off car bombs, outside the AU headquarters, in the Merkato, the largest open air market in Africa, and the Sheraton Hotel in which most Heads of State stayed. Sniper rifles suggested that assassinations were also part of the plan. Given the aims of the operation, it is hardly surprising that Ethiopia’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Berhane Gebrechristos, at a meeting with the Sanctions Committee, expressed the view that no sane people would do what the Eritrean leadership had done, making an specific attempt to carry out terrorist activities, deliberately aiming to kill civilians on a large scale to disrupt the African Union Summit.
Eritrean activities, however, as the Report makes very clear, were not confined to that episode in January, nor indeed to Ethiopia. Eritrea’s relations with its neighbors since independence in 1993 “have been turbulent”. Indeed, at various times Eritrea has gone to war with Ethiopia and Yemen, and clashed with Djibouti and Sudan. Further, as the Report emphasizes, the Monitoring Group has “obtained firm evidence of Eritrean support for armed opposition groups throughout the region, including Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia, and the Sudan. Support for these groups also involves Eritrean diplomats, intelligence and PFDJ-affiliated networks in Kenya, Uganda, the United Arab Emirates and elsewhere.” The evidence produced includes records of financial payments, interviews with eyewitnesses and data of maritime and aviation movements of arms and ammunition, including end user certificates, all indicating Eritrean continued support to armed groups involved in violence, destabilization or terrorism.
The report identified, and named, “a small but efficient group of officers…under the direct supervision of the President’s office” as responsible for the activities. They include Brigadier General Te’ame Goitom, head of Eritrea’s External Intelligence Operations in the Horn, Colonel Fitsum Yishak, his deputy and head of training for regional opposition groups, and Colonel Tewelde Habte Negash, reportedly an explosives expert. The report details the movements of Colonel Tewelde between 2006 and 2010 in Somalia, Kenya (from where he was twice deported), Uganda and South Sudan. Others involved include Tesfalidet Teklai Selassie, chief of staff in President Isaias’ Office, General Teklai Kifle ‘Manjus’, commander of border forces and the western military zone, and Admiral Humed Karekere, an Afar, and commander of the Navy who is specifically involved in providing support to the Djibouti armed opposition forces. Based on evidence from interviews with over a hundred former members of various groups, including Al-Shabaab, Hizbul Islam, the Ogaden National Liberation Front, the Oromo Liberation Front and the Front pour le Restauration de la Democratie (FRUD), the report gives details of the training and support provided. Among the camps mentioned are Kiloma, Een, Ghibdo and Anda’ali in the Assab area of Eritrea.
The report notes the formal ceasefire between Eritrea and Djibouti announced on June 9th 2010, under the auspices of Qatar, but adds that Eritrea “has continued to provide support for a splinter group of the Front pour le Restauration de la Democratie (FRUD), known as FRUD-Combattant, headed by Mohamed Kadd’ami.” It notes that the group is active in the Mabla mountains between Obock and Tadjourah. FRUD-C rejected the agreements between FRUD and the Djibouti government in 1994 and in 2000, but until 2008 it confined itself to anti-government statements. However, in 2008, following the clashes between Eritrean and Djibouti troops near Ras Doumeira, Eritrea began to provide assistance to FRUD-C. Its fighters were given use of an Eritrean military facility at Ghibdo and later at Anda’ali where they were given food, medicine and medical support. The Djibouti government has also recorded statements by a former FRUD-C commander describing arms, ammunition and equipment provided to FRUD-C by Eritrea. It seized 50 kilos of TNT explosives from a cave near the Eritrean border in February this year. The Report notes that the Qatari peace-keeping force on the border only supervises a short 50 km sector of the border near Ras Doumeira and it cannot observe any cross-border activity further south. The Report accepts that Eritrea’s support for FRUD-C has been small-scale and ineffective but suggests this still indicates “a lack of Eritrean commitment to the peace process, undermine(s) the prospect for successful resolution of the border dispute, and jeopardize(s) the normalization of relations between Djibouti and Eritrea.”
With reference to the South Sudan, the Report notes there have been signs of strained relations between Eritrea and the SPLM since 2009 with President Isaias openly alleging corruption within the SPLM leadership. SPLM officials believe this arises from Eritrean concern over South Sudan-Ethiopian cooperation, and the SPLM has been concerned that Eritrea may have been supporting dissident militias in South Sudan, and backing General George Athor Deng and General Peter Gadet. SPLM officials say General Athor visited Asmara at least three times in 2010 and 2011 and claim that Eritrean supplies have been captured from Athor and Gadet. The Report notes that this has been denied by an Eritrean official, and it was unable to confirm it from captured weaponry. However it did note that the make and serial numbers of some of the weapons it saw were identical to those supplied by Eritrea to the ONLF and captured in Somaliland in September last year.
We will look more closely at the Monitoring Group’s evidence of Eritrean support for extremist and terrorist groups in Ethiopia and Somalia next week.
Meanwhile, the Security Council which is now considering the report demonstrated its support for the Monitoring Group last Friday by extending its mandate for a further year. In addition to monitoring compliance with the embargoes on delivery of arms and military equipment to Somalia and Eritrea, the Monitoring Group has now been asked to investigate any seaport operations which could generate revenue for Al-Shabaab. It is also asked to investigate all activities, including financial and maritime operations, which might generate revenue that could then be used to break the embargoes on Eritrea and Somalia. It is also required to examine any means of transport in connection with violations, and compile a draft list of individuals and entities engaging in activities inside and outside Eritrea relating to the embargoes which could warrant further Security Council measures.
Ambassadorial training in Economic Diplomacy
A training course for Ethiopian ambassadors and heads of mission for Business, Trade and Economic Diplomacy began Monday, August 1st, at the Addis Ababa Hilton. The training was organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in collaboration with UNDP and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR). More than forty ambassadors and heads of Ethiopia’s missions abroad are attending the course which was opened by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ato Hailemariam Desalegn.
The minister welcomed the ambassadors and expressed his hope and expectation that the training would equip them with an additional arsenal for the discharging of their responsibilities in a professional and effective manner. Ato Hailemariam emphasized that the new global order in this complex and dynamic world obliged nations to engage in trade, investment and business. This necessitated the pursuit of economic diplomacy. He noted that the training would help ambassadors enhance their leadership skills in the area of economic diplomacy and allow them to better engage and apply themselves in the emerging competitive global economic order. He underlined that that this could help Ethiopia speed up its national development. Ato Hailemariam said economic diplomacy was, first and foremost, about technology transfer. Besides attracting foreign direct investment, economic diplomacy involved export promotion and two way trade, expanding the potential of tourism, securing finance for development and building the country’s image. These were key focus areas for Ethiopian diplomats. In the coming year particular efforts would be exerted to increase the country’s earnings from exports through adapting experiences gained from other countries. The minister urged the diplomats to be more interactive and to develop their skills in economic negotiation and communication basing themselves on Ethiopia’s diplomatic position in Africa and the world. The training would, he said, enable them to assess the real situation in Ethiopia and improve their capacity to undertake successful diplomatic activity.
UN Resident Coordinator, UNDP Resident Representative and UN Humanitarian Coordinator, Eugene Owusu, pointed out that Ethiopia had demonstrated its ability to nurture its own vision and aspirations for growth and development. Mr. Owusu said that: “In today’s complex global context, economic diplomacy must be the tactical and strategic tool, to ensure that the country succeeds in deriving maximum economic benefits from emerging global and regional development opportunities, and especially during the anticipated rebound in the global economy”. As Ethiopia is the diplomatic hub of Africa, he added, its success would have “a major effect on the continent as a whole.” Hence, ambassadors would have a major role to play in this transformation, particularly in the complex globalized world in which we live today. Economic diplomacy was a major vector for economic security, and “it is my cherished hope that the training will further equip ambassadors with the strategic skills they require to be successful”, he added.
The topics of the training which will last for several weeks will include Rethinking International Development and Convergence Economy, Economic and Trade Diplomacy, Communication Skills, Tourism and Diplomacy and Positivity Skills. There will also be a roundtable discussion with representatives of the private sector. The training is being given by researchers and professionals with detailed theoretical and practical experience in their various areas of expertise.
Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Ministry of Foreign Affairs