The Africa-China Poverty Reduction and Development Conference
The Africa-China Poverty Reduction and Development Conference took place on Monday and Tuesday this week in Addis Ababa. Co-hosted by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the International Poverty Reduction Center in China (IPRCC) and the Government of Ethiopia, the conference brought together delegates from African countries, China and emerging economies like Vietnam to explore poverty reduction and development experiences, and to consider ‘development as transformation’ approaches to the reduction of poverty, accelerating growth and achieving the MDGs. The key objectives of the meeting included contributing new elements and approaches towards finding breakthrough strategies for poverty alleviation and accelerating growth in Africa. The themes included: Development as Transformation, Towards a High Growth Africa; Transformational Lessons, The Chinese Experience in Reducing Poverty; A Food Secure Continent? Africa as the Next Agricultural Power?; Enhancing Societal Capabilities and Social Cohesion; and Emerging Economies, New Development Partnerships in A Globalizing World.
Opening speeches were given by Helen Clark, the UNDP Administrator, and Zheng Wenkai, Vice-Minister, the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development, the head of the Chinese delegation. Zheng Wenkai said China was keen to support the efforts of Africa to alleviate poverty and the sharing of China’s experiences could provide a useful and additional window in China’s growing co-operation with Africa. Helen Clark said developing countries needed to put in place appropriate development policies to alleviate poverty. They could draw valuable lessons from China on how to beat poverty and achieve the MDGs.
Prime Minister Meles gave a keynote address in the opening session, emphasizing that Ethiopia had put in place a successful strategy to enable the public to fight against poverty. He said there were two development alternatives. The first was increasing productivity and making those who benefited pay higher taxes and so distribute the benefits. The other was to make development fair overall, and this was where Ethiopia was registering the results. Africa, he said, could draw experiences from other areas, but the key to its development must be based on its own policies. The continent had no greater enemy than poverty. The biggest killer disease in Africa was not malaria or AIDS, it was poverty. “It kills and maims millions both directly and through its facilitative role for other killer diseases.” The Prime Minister said Africans needed to learn more from those who had succeeded in fighting poverty as China had, particularly over the last three decades. According to the World Bank well over 400 million people have been lifted out of poverty, and of these three quarters are in China. It was therefore natural to try to learn how the Chinese did it “with a view to refining our own strategies to combat poverty” said the Prime Minister.
There was no disagreement among speakers or participants that poverty reduction was long overdue. Many took the view that China’s advances in this respect deserved recognition and should provide useful lessons for Africa’s still fledging efforts. There was also considerable agreement that there could be no single orthodox solution to the problem. Africa should lean neither to the Washington nor the Beijing consensus. Africa should learn from not copy the approaches of others, but academic sand policy practitioners alike commended the South-South dialogue and cooperation.
Deputy Prime Minister Hailemariam meets UNDP Administrator Helen Clark
On Monday, Ato Hailemariam Desalegn, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, met Ms. Helen Clark, the Chief Administrator of UNDP, exchanging views on global, regional and sub-regional issues, and in particular the current situation in the Horn of Africa. Ms. Clark applauded the fast economic progress Ethiopia has been making in recent years and emphasized the importance of linking this to poverty reduction. She appreciated the achievements of the government in expanding education and health services. Indicating that the country was well in line to meet most of the global MDG targets, she promised that UNDP will closely work with the government of Ethiopia towards the realization of the targets in the new Growth and Transformation Plan. On sub-regional issues, Ms Clark recognized the pivotal role Ethiopia is playing to help ensure peace and security in the Horn of Africa. She noted that the restoration of peace in Somalia must be pursued in line with the Djibouti Peace Process and the 4.5 Formula. On Sudan, she commended Ethiopia’s efforts to bring the two parties together to ensure the peaceful conduct of the January Referendum. She said the issue of Abyie was becoming increasingly contentious and further stressed that this must be resolved peacefully on the basis of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the rulings of the International Court of Justice.
Recognizing the long standing development cooperation between UNDP and the Government of Ethiopia, Ato Hailemariam extended thanks for UNDP’s support in the fight against poverty. He stressed that the Government of Ethiopia was striving to ensure not only fast growth, but also to make certain the benefits of this growth were shared by all. He thanked UNDP for co-organizing the Africa-China Poverty Reduction and Development Conference held this week. Ato Hailemariam emphasized that Ethiopia was currently active in the efforts to free Africa from poverty and destitution. He noted that the continent needed policy independence and a legitimate share of global resources. Ethiopia, he said, is working for the realization of these through NEPAD and the global negotiations on climate. He stressed that the absence of peace and security in Somalia destabilized not only the sub-region, but had a much wider impact through terrorism and piracy. There was still a very real need to strengthen the TFG and the role of the UN in this regard was particularly important. The Deputy Prime Minister noted that Ethiopia had the longest boundary with Sudan and the issues of peace and security there would have the greatest impact on Ethiopia. He said Ethiopia had been careful to remain balanced and had the trust of both parties, North and South. It would continue its efforts to ensure the peaceful and successful conduct of the January Referendum.
A new Prime Minister to provide continuity for Somalia’s transition period
The Somali transitional parliament has finally given a vote of confidence to the new Prime Minister of the TFG, Mr. Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed. 297 MPs voted for him, 92 against. The AU Commission Chairperson, Dr. Jean Ping, welcomed the endorsement of the Prime Minister, and said that he hoped an efficient and representative cabinet would be appointed very soon, allowing the Transitional Federal Institutions to focus on the transitional tasks ahead. The election of the new Prime Minister came after long debate ostensibly over the procedural issue of whether the vote should done openly or through a secret ballot, with the President supporting the former, and the Speaker of the Parliament demanding the latter. The Prime Minister will now have to establish his credibility to govern and resolve the divisions within the TFG and the TFIs, providing it with policies that bring its disparate elements together within the framework of the Djibouti peace process, which IGAD and the international community have endorsed as the fundamental basis for progress in Somalia.
The first major task facing the new Prime Minister is the formation of the new cabinet required by the constitution. It is expected that the composition, as well as the effectiveness of the new cabinet, should reflect popular support as well as be in line with the Transitional Federal Charter. The new government needs to win the confidence of the Transitional Federal Parliament and of the international community in order to solicit support and to garner diplomatic as well as the political support necessary to ensure the stability of Somalia. The Prime Minister faces a daunting task to create a functioning administration which will have to be carefully balanced. The Prime Minister, who comes from Gedo region, has been in the United States for the last thirty years.
At his swearing-in the Prime Minister asked for support and assistance in his heavy duties, promising to protect the laws of the country and pursue the common interest of the people and the nation. President Sheikh Sharif said the Prime Minister was expected to appoint a cabinet based on merit to complete the formidable tasks ahead “in the short period left”. The end of the transitional period comes in August next year. The President called on MPs to support and work with the Prime Minister to help restore security, improve humanitarian access, retake regions currently under extremist control, strengthen and build on the federal system and the constitution, and seek reconciliation. Perhaps an even more major problem that certainly needs to be tackled urgently is corruption which has become widespread. Similarly, resources need to be directed to the right places, one of which is ensuring that security forces get their pay. The provision of adequate funds for the maintenance of the security forces remains a serious problem as does their need for pay, medical and other expenses.
Prime Minister Mohamed is expected to move delicately in his efforts to encourage reconciliation among Somali political forces. Reconciliation is central to the Djibouti peace process, but national reconciliation cannot be seen as a method by which terrorist groups seek political pardon. It is rather a forum in which the agreements concluded with the parties that are prepared for peace, such as Ahlu Sunna wal Jama’a, are encouraged and nurtured. National reconciliation remains necessary to secure the political survival of the Somali state and to forge harmony among the different political forces that have been waging self-perpetuating conflict. It is only this which can bring about some consensus in Somali politics. The Prime Minister’s appointment was welcomed by Ahlu Sunna wal Jama’a which signed an agreement to work with the TFG in March, but recently withdrew co-operation claiming the TFG had failed to implement the agreement fully.
Meanwhile, according to a Ugandan military spokesman, a thousand Somali troops who have been undergoing military training in Uganda under European Union and Ugandan instruction, will finish their training next month. They will be returning to Mogadishu. They will be replaced by another thousand recruits for the Somali forces who will be arriving for training shortly. According to the Ugandan spokesman, by next month a total of at least three thousand Somali troops will have been trained in Uganda and will have returned to Mogadishu. In addition, Djibouti is currently training 600 Somali police officers, and another 200 are going to be given training in Kenya. Others will be trained in Rwanda and South Africa starting in January. Trained police officers will take over the increasing areas in which AMISOM and TFG forces have re-established security in Mogadishu.
President Isaias contradicts the Emir of Qatar on the Eritrea/Djibouti agreement
President Isaias Afeworki has once again provided one of his interview lectures, this time to a Qatari journalist. As usual, it offers a perspective on President Isaias’ thinking on regional and international issues, but the main focus of the interview revolves around Eritrea’s relations with Djibouti and with his government’s role in the conflict in Somalia. At times, he appears to be making a considerable effort to be circumspect, though as usual somewhat mendacious, in his views, elsewhere his position appears to be distinctly at odds with others.
His position regarding the Qatari-mediated peace agreement between Eritrea and Djibouti, for example, is far removed from those of all the other parties in the deal including the Qatari mediators. Not only does he deny the existence of any conflict between the two countries, he also contradicts what the mediators believed was his agreement to withdraw his forces from disputed territories. For President Isaias the Djibouti conflict is a mere fabrication having nothing to do with either Djibouti or Eritrea. The ‘misunderstanding’ was cooked up by others and the Djiboutian government simply took the bait. “I have no forces to withdraw from Djibouti”, the President claimed, and even suggested the question should be rather directed towards the Qatari Prime Minister for having insinuated that Eritrea had agreed to withdraw its forces when in fact, according to President Isaias, it had never sent any troops into Djibouti. According President Isaias: “HH the Prince knows there is no withdrawal from the disputed area…there is no disputed area.” Asked why in that case he agreed to Qatari mediation if in fact there was no such dispute in the first place, the President responded that he did it out of respect for the bold gesture of the Qatari Emir, “a brother and a partner for us” who was “the first human being, since the manufacturing of this misunderstanding” to initiate a dialogue “with seriousness and credibility to find a solution to the misunderstanding.” It does not appear to him that by contradicting the terms of the very agreement the Emir managed to get the two parties to sign, President Isaias is making a direct criticism of the “credibility and seriousness” of the whole mediation. Who fabricated this misunderstanding, this problem? The president is more circumspect than usual on this question, claiming that the ‘misunderstanding’ was blown out of proportion only after the US State Department made a statement about it. He said he hadn’t even been aware of the existence of such a conflict until the Emir of Qatar had called him and broken the news to him. It was a surprise, President Isaias lamented.
On Somalia, as usual, it is the whole world, not his government, which is in the wrong. He does not recognize the TFG because it is the puppet of external forces. He denies supporting extremists in Somalia because, according to him, there are no extremists in Somalia, only people who are fighting external intervention. No one is spared from his scathing criticisms, not even the UN, which President Isaias accuses of allowing itself to be used by the great powers to promote their own agenda. None of the efforts to bring about peace in Somalia are going to work President Isaias tells us. The only solution, he emphatically tells his interviewer, is for the world to leave Somalis alone. He does not, however, indicate if he is also willing to leave them alone. On past record, probably not; but then as he has made very clear, the ways of the world do not apply to Eritrea or its leaders.
During the interview, the journalist complains that Information Minister Ali Abdu kept signaling to him to wind up his interview whenever the President appeared irritated or obviously upset about his questions. At the end, President Isaias even apologized for “the discomfort created by these intervention signals” which the journalist referred to as “an embodiment of foreign intervention”.
Ethiopia presents its initial report to the Committee Against Torture
This week, Ethiopia presented its initial report under the International Convention against Torture to which it is a party. The report was presented during the ongoing 45th Session of the Committee against Torture in Geneva, Switzerland. The Committee, composed of ten independent experts, was established in order to examine the initial and periodic reports of member states on measures taken with the view to implementing the provisions of the Convention. Ethiopia’s delegation included representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Justice, the Federal Police Commission, the Federal Prison Administration and the Permanent Mission of Ethiopia to the United Nations in Geneva. The delegation was led by Ambassador Fisseha Yimer, the Special Advisor to the Foreign Minster. He also introduced Ethiopia’s report for the committee’s consideration.
Ambassador Fisseha explained the background for the preparation of the report in which stakeholders at federal and regional level had vigorously participated. He noted the support and assistance of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. He explained the constitutional and political framework for the implementation of human rights. Ethiopia has emerged from a past in which the state and its institutions were used to terrorize innocent citizens, so the achievement of the objectives of the Convention is an urgent task. This was why the government had carried out a comprehensive trial and accountability process bringing to justice high officials of the former government. Ambassador Fisseha’s introductory statement also provided information about some of the specific legislative and administrative measures the country has taken to give full effect to the protection the Convention guarantees.
Members of the Committee acknowledged the measures taken at national level to implement the convention. Questions were raised with respect to the treatment of prisoners in custody, the situation of human rights in certain regions, and the protection of women and children from harmful traditional practices as well as Ethiopia’s relationship with UN Special Procedures, the role and competence of the national human rights commission, the enactment of protection from torture in national legislation, and the accountability of police and military for human rights violations. Members of the delegation provided information on the various laws passed to provide protection, particularly those designed to keep women and children from harmful practices. The criminal law and criminal procedure codes guarantee due process for people under detention and on trial. The respective proclamations regulating federal institutions such as the military, the police and prison administration also provide norms and standards on treatment of individuals by these institutions and their members. These institutions also work with international organizations and NGOs in order to improve conditions in police custody and detention centers. A few specific questions required additional reflection and information, and the delegation stressed its readiness to provide the necessary information to the Committee in due course in writing. The Committee expressed its satisfaction with Ethiopia’s engagement and its willingness to consider Ethiopia’s further submissions. The Committee’s concluding observations can be expected to be issued shortly.
The BBC apologizes to Sir Bob Geldof and Live Aid
The BBC yesterday issued an “unreserved” apology for broadcasting a series of reports earlier this year, implying that millions of pounds of aid funds raised by Band Aid and Live Aid in the 1980s to fight famine in Ethiopia had been diverted to arms purchases by opponents of the then military government. The allegations in particular had claimed that aid had been diverted by the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front to buy guns. The TPLF subsequently became part of the Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front which overthrew the military regime in 1991 to take power in Ethiopia. The original story was followed up by other BBC programs naming Sir Bob Geldof’s Live Aid and Band Aid charities as the source of diverted funds. An internal BBC investigation has now found that the story and subsequent summaries of the claims were unfair, and that these false accusations had been repeated, and exaggerated, by other reports around the world. Indeed, the London Times reported the next day that a BBC program had alleged that “95 per cent of aid money donated to help victims of the 1985 Ethiopian famine were siphoned off.”
Sir Bob Geldof, the founder of Live Aid, said the whole episode had been an unusual lapse in standards by the BBC. The program had failed to inform listeners of the unreliability of the witness who made the most dramatic claims, that 95% of aid was misappropriated. “He was a man of no credibility” said Sir Bob “but his claim, thanks to the BBC, was picked up all over the world as evidence that aid doesn’t work.” But, of course, it does, and, as he pointed out, thousands of lives are saved from AIDS, TB and malaria every day, the numbers of children dying from measles has fallen by 90%, and more than two million children a year now survive their firth birthday, and all because of aid. Sir Bob Geldof added: “The BBC’s misleading and unfair coverage on this story has done unknown damage to ordinary people’s willingness to donate their hard-earned cash…”. He said the public needed to be “confident that the money it donates in good faith gets to the people it is intended for….”. He therefore hoped the BBC’s apologies would “begin to repair some of the appalling damage done.”
Sir Bob Geldof deserved his apology, but as a number of commentators immediately pointed out the BBC made no effort to apologize to others affected by the BBC’s original report. It isn’t just Band Aid that is owed an apology but the British Government, other donors, many other charities, and the international public, and, we might add, Ethiopia and the Ethiopian Government. The main criticism of the program, apart from the slur on Sir Bob Geldof, is that it gave almost everyone who heard it the strong impression that it was reporting credible allegations that up to 95% of the amounts of famine relief and aid given to Ethiopia in the 1980s was diverted to buy guns. Yet, as a former UK Ambassador to Ethiopia, Sir Brian Barder, noted the efforts of governments, NGOs, Ethiopians and other relief workers, supported by the generosity of private individuals around the world “was outstandingly successful” in saving millions of Ethiopians. “It was one of the most effective and uncorrupt operations in the annals of disaster relief.”
The original allegations, predictably perhaps, were also picked up by Ethiopian opposition groups, trying to equate the BBC allegations with recent Human Rights Watch’s claims of diversion of humanitarian aid for political purposes in Ethiopia, the alleged link being the fact that Prime Minister Meles was, of course, a leading member of the TPLF in the 1980s. In fact, as we have noted previously, Human Rights Watch allegations, like those of the BBC, have been convincingly repudiated. HRW first made these claims in March 2010 “A hundred ways of putting pressure”, apparently intending to try and influence the election in May. Then, following the EPRDF’s convincing win, in another report last month HRW claimed large-scale diversion of humanitarian aid for political aims. Even prior to this, the Donor Assistance Group (DAG), which issued a response disagreeing with the report’s conclusions, had carried out an independent investigation which found no evidence of widespread or systematic distortion of aid delivery in Ethiopia. Similarly, a US fact-finding mission late last year in southern Ethiopia found “no evidence that food aid is being denied to supporters of the opposition.” USAID’s Country Director, Thomas Staal, was quoted by VOA as saying that “to us, the important thing is to make sure the programs are well managed, closely monitored with strict accountability systems, and you’re building institutions that can make sure programs are meeting the goals, targets and beneficiaries intended.” A World Bank team analyzed data on aid distortion from the PSN Progam and found no widespread pattern of distortion. A number of embassies and other NGOs in Ethiopia have also responded dismissively to HRW’s claims.
HRW’s responses to these and criticisms of its methodology, its aims and intentions, continues to be highly disingenuous. It has, as usual, dismissed all criticisms, merely claiming, without producing any evidence, that “privately” some members of NGOs or diplomats in Addis Ababa support its allegations. Underlining her own political thinking, HRW’s Senior Researcher on the Horn of Africa in Washington, Leslie Lefkow, said that as the EPRDF had increased its membership to between four and five million people between 2005 and 2010, she did not think “it is an exaggeration to say the party has essentially infiltrated every layer of Ethiopian society.” The use of the word “infiltrate” rather than say “is represented in” is something of a give-away, suggesting a political agenda rather than a genuine commitment to human rights. HRW, having failed to influence the results of the election in May, now appears to be trying to limit, even bring an end to humanitarian aid to Ethiopia.
We might, in conclusion, emphasize that the Government of Ethiopia has repeatedly made it clear that it has always investigated and responded appropriately to any credible reports of abuse brought to its attention by HRW or any other organization, including donor agencies. It will continue to do so. However, HRW clearly needs to be reminded that allegations need to be specific and detailed as well as credible, and to be based upon identifiable, reliable and accurate sources. All too often, HRW’s allegations, as we have pointed out before, are simply too vague and wild to investigate. Unfortunately, as US author, Mark Twain noted “a lie will fly around the whole world while the truth is getting its boots on”. Not for the first time, these regrettable efforts by the BBC and HRW unfortunately threaten to prove the point.
Core Principles of Ethiopia’s Foreign Policy: Ethio-German relations
Ethiopia and Germany have a history of longstanding diplomatic relations which can be traced back to 1905. Both countries signed a treaty of friendship in March 1905 intended to enhance bilateral relations in the diplomatic and economic fields. This was followed by the Emperor Menilik’s grant of land for a German Diplomatic Mission in Addis Ababa in 1907. The embassy is still located there. The same year Ethiopia was provided Embassy premises in Berlin. The centenary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries was celebrated in 2005. Indeed, more than a hundred years of modern diplomatic contact cannot be considered brief, but even so people-to-people contacts between the two countries go back rather further, more than 500 years in fact to a time when a German prelate, Johannes Potkens, and an Ethiopian monk, Thomas Woldesamuel, met. The famous German scholar, Hibo Ludolf, and an Ethiopian monk, Abba Gregorious, also cooperated to produce the first grammar and dictionary of the Amharic language in the seventeenth century.
Ethio-German relations have remained excellent to this day. There have been a number of exchanges of high-level visits on various occasions. Emperor Haile Selassie made a state visit to Germany in 1954, and also visited the country in 1966 and 1967. German Federal President Luebke paid a state visit to Ethiopia in 1964. Other Ethiopian visits to Germany have included Prime Minister Meles, most recently in 2007; Foreign Minister Seyoum on three occasions, 2003, 2005 and 2009, and President Girma Woldegiorgis two years ago. Chancellor Schroeder, President Kohler, and Chancellor Angela Merkel, in 2007, have also visited Ethiopia in recent year. These visits are a clear manifestation of the mutual understanding and strong bonds of friendship that have existed between the two countries for the last century and more.
Germany has made it clear it views Ethiopia as one of the more important priority partners for economic cooperation. The 1964 economic partnership agreement laid a solid foundation for the development cooperation that currently exists between Ethiopia and Germany. In line with these commitments, the Government of Germany has made available a sum of 115 million Euros for the on-going 2008-2011 development program in Ethiopia. This involves wide ranging areas of cooperation, but the Ethiopian Government has given a special degree of priority to the Engineering Capacity Building Program (ECBP) which is funded by the German government and spearheaded by German experts. This program is now fully operative with full support from the Ethiopian Government and extensive participation of the private sector. For the future, Ethiopia looks forward to even more dynamic and active economic engagement with Germany in tune with the government’s new five year Growth and Transformation Plan.
In the field of trade Germany has long remained the biggest market for Ethiopian coffee with 30% of Ethiopia’s coffee destined for German markets. Total trade reached 3.6 billion birr last year, significantly up from the level of 2.29 billion birr five years earlier. The balance remains in Germany’s favor with Ethiopian exports amounting to 1.45 billion birr last year and imports from Germany reaching 2.17 billion birr. Ethiopia has begun to diversify its export items to try and sell more non-traditional Ethiopian products. Another dynamic and promising area of cooperation is the investment sector. Currently, there are some 160 investment projects in Ethiopia of interest to German investors with a total value of close to 11 billion Birr. Of these, 33 projects are operational while the others are at various implementation and pre-implementation stages.
Ethiopia, of course, attaches great importance in its foreign policy to the Horn of Africa, and Ethiopia and Germany share common desires for the peace and security of the region. As a central and active member of the European Union, and a current non-permanent member of the Security Council, Germany’s active engagement in the region, including its support for the training of Somali police officers in Ethiopia, gives a welcome and added impetus to the ongoing efforts by IGAD and other stake holders to bring about peace and security in Somalia and the Sudan.
Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Ministry of Foreign Affairs