Egypt’s Public Diplomacy Delegation concludes its visit
As we noted in last week’s edition of a Week in the Horn, a high level Egyptian Public Diplomacy Delegation arrived in Ethiopia on April 29th. Their visit ended on Monday, May 2nd after what appeared to have been a most useful, valuable and rewarding visit with the delegation meeting numerous senior officials and holding an extensive exchange of views with Prime Minister Meles.
On arrival at Bole International Airport, members of delegation were welcomed by Ato Daoud Mohammed, State Minister of Culture and Tourism, accompanied by an Ethiopian traditional music group. The Egyptian delegation, led by Mr. Mustafa Al-Gendi, consist three presidential candidates, members of parliament, and intellectuals from universities, members of different political parties and of the revolutionary youth movement of January 25th. The next day they were received by the Speakers of House of People‘s Representatives and the House of Federation. The Speakers underscored the benefits of people-to-people diplomacy for Egypt and for Ethiopia, and briefed the delegation on Ethiopia’s progress in general and recent achievements in the economic sector. These, of course, require massive amounts of electricity to sustain them as does the Growth and Transformation Plan. The Speakers both underlined that the building of the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam would not cause problems to either Sudan and Egypt but would rather bring a number of benefits to the lower riparian states. It would protect the Sudan from catastrophic floods and ensure a continuous and sustainable flow of water. The aim of the project was not to cause any harm but to enhance the welfare and prosperity for all the Nile Basin countries.
The Egyptian delegation expressed its relief to see that the project would not cut the flow to downstream countries or affect Egyptian farmers. They noted that they did not agree with the agreements of 1929 and 1959 and advocated the need for a new chapter to be opened among the Nile Riparian States. They said they were confident that the Ethiopian Government would not try to improve the welfare of the people of Ethiopia at the expense of the people of Egypt.
The delegation also met with his Holiness, Abune Paulos, Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church while Ethiopian Christians were celebrating the festival of Dagmawi Tensaè. In his address to the congregation, His Holiness elaborated the historical and cultural ties between Ethiopia and Egypt. Members of the delegation, including both Muslim and Christian representatives, delivered speeches on the links between the two countries. The delegation and the congregation prayed together for both Ethiopia and Egypt. Subsequently, the delegation also met with intellectual community of the Addis Ababa University. They exchanged views on the issue of the Nile Waters. They also agreed for exchange programs and scholarships for their students and lecturers.
President Girma Woldegiorgis hosted a dinner for the delegation on Sunday. In a statement, the President expressed his confidence that the visit would consolidate and enhance relations between two countries that were, after all, indissolubly linked by the Nile River, the gift of God, of Allah, to all the communities of the Nile Basin. He said the Nile was a vital resource for survival, for development and for security with the potential to reduce poverty and realize peace among all riparian states. Past failure to co-operate meant its resources had not been developed as they might have been. Now the Comprehensive Cooperative Framework Agreement based on principles of an equitable and reasonable utilization of the water and, above all, the obligation not to cause harm to other riparian states, had been drawn up. He hoped all the riparian states would sign it. The President underlined Ethiopia’s efforts to eradicate poverty, and address the impacts of climate change, recurrent drought, environmental degradation and famine. It would be a lengthy process, and that was why the “Ethiopian Renaissance Dam”, a major element in the Growth and Transformation Plan was so important. The Dam would provide cheap and sustainable power to allow the full mobilization of resources and unlock economic development on a much wider level, allowing for the export of “green” power to neighbors and other states in the Nile Basin. Other benefits would include resolving problems of siltation, ensuring a continuous and sustainable flow of water and increasing the amount of water available by lowering the rate of evaporation significantly. The President emphasized that it was in the interest of all to build a solid foundation for social and economic cooperation and development. “Tied together by our river, our destinies must lie alongside each other. We must not let the past govern our actions today. Water is not a commodity to be divided but a benefit to be shared”.
The President hoped the meetings the delegation had with senior government officials and others would give them a real understanding of Ethiopia’s struggle to address the challenges of poverty and underdevelopment, and the need for a spirit of cooperation and understanding. Genuine negotiations and collective bilateral actions could pave the way for much needed closer environmental, economic and cultural developments. The President took the opportunity to congratulate the delegation and the people of Egypt for their success in dealing with recent challenges. He expressed his confidence that their efforts would be crowned with sustainable peace, development and democracy.
The Egyptian delegation’s final round of talks was an extensive discussion with Prime Minister Meles who welcomed the delegation warmly. The delegation told the Prime Minister that Egypt was going back to its African roots which had been forgotten by the previous regime whose policies had resulted in injustice and the isolation of the Egyptian people. Members elaborated the objectives of the recent revolution in Egypt including equality, dignity and respect for the rights of people. They expressed their fervent hope that the new dispensation would usher in a new era in relations between Egypt and Africa in general and the Nile Basin countries in particular. They noted that Ethiopia had the right to use the Nile waters to develop, and expressed their hope that this effort would also consider fully the rights of the Egyptian people. The delegation expressed its belief that previous policies did not create conducive atmosphere in the Nile Basin and this should now change for the better.
After congratulating the delegation and the Egyptian people for their recent success in addressing the challenges the country had faced peacefully, the Prime Minister emphasized that the visit would open a new era in Ethiopia/Egypt relations. He noted that all Ethiopian patriarchs had been appointed from Egypt until the 1950s, and that this had sometimes created constitutional crises when delays occurred preventing the anointing of an emperor. This had even provoked empty threats of blocking the Nile. He mentioned the iniquities of the agreements of 1929 and 1959. The 1929 agreement, signed between the British and its colonies, for the sole benefit of the cotton farms of Egypt; the 1959 agreement, the Agreement between Egypt and the Sudan, was for full utilization of the Nile Waters without taking into consideration the interests of any other stakeholders. Ethiopia was not a party to either, and its leaders had rejected both as unjust.
The Prime Minister detailed Ethiopia’s efforts to change its relations with its neighbors including Egypt immediately after the fall of the military regime in 1991. He recalled the first bilateral agreement signed between Ethiopia and Egypt in 1902. That had included the commitment of the Emperor Minelik not to block the flow of the Nile River at Lake Tana. The more recent bilateral agreement in 1994 had stipulated the issue of equitable utilization and Ethiopia’s agreement not to cause significant harm to others in any utilization of the waters of the Nile. Unfortunately it had not proved possible to implement this.
The Prime Minister also detailed the process of negotiations for the Comprehensive Framework Agreement that has so far been signed by all but three members of the Nile Basin Initiative. He mentioned the challenges and intimidation that some of the members had faced from the previous Egyptian government. He stressed that the CFA was the best agreement to usher in a new era for the utilization of the Nile waters for the common good. No Egyptian government, he said, should have a problem to sign it. As the delegation suggested giving the process more time to allow for Egypt to elect a new government and vote for a new constitution, Prime Minister Meles said the Ethiopian government was ready to delay the legislative process of the CFA. This would not be for any renegotiation, but to allow ample time for the new reality in Egypt to look thoroughly at the Comprehensive Agreement.
The Prime Minister emphasized that Ethiopia had done all the necessary studies to make that building the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Nile just 40kms from Sudan would not harm the interests of the lower riparian states but brings benefits to both Sudan and Egypt as well as Ethiopia. The Dam would only generate electricity, and would replace the evaporation lost from dams in the lower riparian states. He told the delegation that Egypt, in collaboration with other interested parties, could send experts to look jointly at the reality with Ethiopian experts, and confirm that the project would not harm the Egyptian people. This could close that chapter and move on. He said the Nile River should be looked at as a network within the Nile Basin that could benefit all stakeholders equitably. The new revolution in Egypt was for justice and the dignity of the Egyptian people and he hoped this would be replicated in the utilization of the Nile waters. He reassured the delegation that Ethiopia would endeavour to ensure that the Nile waters were used equitably among all riparian states; he expected all riparian states to show reciprocal policies and attitudes.
Budding Regional Cooperation in the Eastern Nile area?
The Grand Renaissance Dam has mobilized Ethiopians from all corners of the world in the manner of no other cause in recent history. It has proved a stronger bond than ethnic, religious, political or any other affiliation. It is no exaggeration to say that it is in fact further cementing the unity of Ethiopians in a manner to help ensure Ethiopia’s Renaissance in the shortest possible time. At the same time, developments in the last couple of weeks have also shown there is more to the Dam’s significance than the sense of unity and camaraderie it has aroused among Ethiopians of all persuasions. It also provided a source of cooperation among riparian states, and more particularly the two downstream countries that were previously impervious to the idea of cooperation over the Nile. The Grand Renaissance Dam appears to be giving a strong impetus to something that decades of negotiations have failed to do.
The attitude of many politicians in Sudan, and perhaps also the government, seems to be one of positive expectation towards the Dam. There appears to be a realization that the Dam will give many benefits to the Sudan, not just cheap power, but also irrigation as well as the prevention of flooding and siltation that have caused so much havoc. There also appears to be political will on the part of the government to give dialogue a chance on matters of mutual interest covering the Nile and other issues. This should go a long way to allay the fears and concerns of those who view any such developments with suspicion, even malice. The government of Ethiopia has also been doing its level best to avoid any misunderstandings. It has expressed its good will both by engaging Sudan on issues of cooperation and also going out of its way to explain the project in detail. This seems to be working, dialogue has been opened and both sides appear to be willing to give it a chance.
With regard to Egypt, there have been equally encouraging signs. The recent visit by an Egyptian Public Diplomacy Group (see above) has raised a number of interesting debates over the past suspicions and distrust. While not strictly a governmental delegation, it was composed of presidential candidates, representatives of many grass roots movements and political parties, intellectuals and representatives of religious groups. The level of enthusiasm they showed and the candid discussions with Ethiopian officials created a high level of pleasant surprise here in Ethiopia. We do not know how far the euphoric reaction of delegation may be shared by the Egyptian political establishment, not is it clear to what extent the delegation can influence the government’s position, but their visit certainly lays down the possibilities for a furtherance of dialogue between two peoples governments. What is important is the fact that a dialogue is opening up and there are some in Egypt who have had the audacity to challenge received wisdom when it comes to relations between our two countries. Equally important, there are now movements in Egypt that are amenable to dialogue when it comes to addressing issues of common interest such as the Nile.
At the same time, there are pitfalls to guard against. Much of the coverage of the visit by the Egyptian media was positive and accurate, but some tried to read too much into Prime Minister Meles’ assurance that Ethiopia would not ratify the CFA before Egyptians have an elected government, or before experts from both countries to come to see just how advantageous the project would be to downstream countries. There were suggestions that Ethiopia had agreed to freeze the project or to pull out of the Comprehensive Framework Agreement. This is absolutely erroneous. Ethiopia was making a goodwill gesture, involving no formal overture to the Egyptian government. Nor is it clear this involves any change in policy. It certainly doesn’t mean Ethiopia is giving up on the Dam project. Ethiopia believes that a clear understanding of the benefits of the Dam will further facilitate cooperation between the two countries. That’s why it has expressed its willingness to allow a team of experts to study the benefits of the project. Nor is it pulling out of the CFA. It is in fact urging both Egypt and Sudan to join. What it has done is to suspend the ratification of the CFA until Egyptians have an elected government.
Whether such suggestions come from misunderstandings or are deliberately is irrelevant. The important thing is that there is now a platform of dialogue in place. The Egyptian government can now show the political will to use this platform in a genuine spirit of cooperation. The scheduled visit of the Egyptian Prime Minister next week will hopefully pave the way for such an understanding. This will allow for the pursuit of genuine cooperation in the best interests of the peoples of the three countries straddled by the Abbai River, the Blue Nile.
The UN Secretary-General’s latest report on Somalia
United Nations Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon released his latest report on Somalia on April 28th. It covers political developments, the security situation, the rift within the TFIs over the decisions taken over the end of the transition period and the humanitarian situation.
The report highlighted the military gains made against Al-Shabaab by the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and its allies, with the support of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), in recent months. It noted that the TFG had undertaken efforts to expand its area of control in Mogadishu to enhance security there. It detailed the TFG’s major military offensive against Al-Shabaab that began on 19 February in Mogadishu. Since then, Transitional Federal Government forces, supported by AMISOM, have made and continued to hold significant territorial gains, despite repeated counterattacks. They destroyed a network of tunnels and trenches used by Al-Shabaab with significant casualties reported on both sides.
Progress has also been made elsewhere with control being taken of a number of major towns. An offensive by the Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama’a and other groups allied with the Transitional Federal Government against Al-Shabaab in southern central Somalia focused on the Ethiopia-Kenya-Somalia border, and in the Gedo, Bay and Bakool regions, with most fighting around Bula Hawa and, to a lesser extent, in the vicinity of Dolo. The Secretary-General noted that troops allied with the Transitional Federal Government also took control of the town of Dhobley, close to the Kenyan border, on April 3rd. Subsequently, Al-Shabaab was reportedly to have moved most of its forces from the Kenya-Somalia border areas to strengthen the defense of the port of Kismayo. The report suggested that reports of heavy casualties and intensified recruitment efforts by Al-Shabaab indicated that the group’s capabilities might have been reduced through attrition. At the same time the report underlined that Al-Shabaab continued to receive arms and ammunition through southern Somali ports and to acquire financial resources from extortion, illegal exports and taxation.
There was also fighting around Belet Weyne during this period, and the report noted that clashes were expected in other key strategic towns in the central region of Hiraan. Ahlu Sunna wal Jama’a continued to adopt a defensive posture in Dhusa Mareb, while also continuing to provide security assurances to the United Nations and its humanitarian partners for access to those areas under its control.
The report underlined the fact that despite the gains recently achieved by Somalia’s interim government, the country urgently needed more help from its international partners to tackle a host of challenges and achieve greater stability and peace. The Secretary General suggested that it was difficult to defeat insurgents who were continually supplied with arms, ammunition and goods from outside Somalia, in violation of the arms embargo. He encouraged members of the Security Council to take further measures to disrupt Al-Shabaab’s supply lines. He mentioned that the African Union had put forward proposals in this regard, including the option of an indication of vessels supplying Al-Shabaab through the port of Kismayo.
Overall, the Secretary General emphasized that while there had been progress on the security track, the TFG, with the support of its partners, must also deliver on the political and development tracks to sustain and consolidate these hard-won gains. The report noted: “If we reinforce the military gains, provide humanitarian relief and achieve political progress, we can set Somalia on course to greater stability and peace”. Equally the reported noted that if this failed: “we risk a growing humanitarian crisis, a deteriorating security situation and a worsening threat to regional peace and stability”. The number of people in Somalia needing humanitarian assistance and livelihood support has reached 2.4 million, an increase of 20 per cent over the previous six months. Drought and conflict were the main reasons for new displacements, the report sais, with nearly 55,000 people displaced by drought since December, and almost 16,000 people fleeing from heavy fighting in Mogadishu in the first two months of the year.
Mr. Ban ki-Moon referred to the current disagreement among the Transitional Federal Institutions over the extension of the transitional period. This, he said, distracted from the urgency of the numerous tasks facing the TFG and the TFIs, including the provision of basic services, recovery and reconstruction, and humanitarian aid. He cited the need for effective leadership to complete priority transitional tasks, chief of which was the constitution-making process. Other tasks to be completed included political reconciliation and the building up of civilian and security institutions. The development of Somali security sector institutions was crucial, as was speeding up the deployment of additional troops for AMISOM: “a stronger AMISOM would help the Transitional Federal Government to bring and sustain more territory under its control and to begin delivering services to the Somali people.”
The report elaborated the worsening relations between the Transitional Federal Government with the administration of “Puntland” after the latter severed relations with the TFG on January 16th, and barred the TFG political leadership or its civil servants from entering “Puntland” territory on January 23rd. “Puntland” accused the TFG of failing to consult it properly and of obstructing its participation at a meeting called by the United Nations Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) in Djibouti. “Puntland” further accused the TFG of failing to honor the August 2009 Galkacyo Agreement, between the TFG and “Puntland” and refusing to allocate the “Puntland” administration with its share of development funds. The Secretary-General’s report mentioned the continued consolidation of both “Puntland” and Somaliland in the delivery of services to their respective populations. It also referred to the tension between the two regions that had developed as a result of fighting between “Somaliland” forces and militias belonging to “Sool-Sanaag-Cayn”, which were reportedly backed by neighboring “Puntland”.
Al-Shabaab suffers further defeats
Meanwhile, on the ground in Somalia this week, Al-Shabaab fighters have been defeated and withdrawn from Garbaharey in Gedo region, and Bardale in Bay region. Bardale is on the road to Baidoa. During the past week there had been fierce fighting for control of two outlying villages thirty kms west of Garbaharey. Government and Ahlu Sunna forces routed Al-Shabaab militias, forcing them to pull back to Garbaharey town and then beyond. As government and Ahlu Sunna forces advanced to take control of Garbaharey, Al-Shabaab fighters mounted constant guerrilla attacks. These included a ferocious encounter this week that left behind more than eighty Al-Shabaab fighters dead and close to sixty injured. Six senior Al-Shabaab commanders, including Mohamed Bishar, Al-Shabaab Shura leader in Bay, Bakol and Gedo regions, Bare Qoje, Al-Shabaab’s operational commander in Gedo region, and other senior figures remain unaccounted for. A cache of arms including three BKM and three RPG guns were captured, together with forty-five Al-Shabaab fighters captured after the attack on government military bases in the town. This victory reflects the experience the government and Ahlu Sunna forces gained in the heavy fighting at Bulo Hawa two months earlier. It now allows for the possibility of a government advance in Bay region and a move on Bardale is expected soon. Senior Al-Shabaab commanders, both foreigners and Somalis are currently attending a meeting in the port of Brava near Mogadishu to discuss the current situation.
Sheikh Hasan Dahir ‘Aweys’, the former leader of Hizbul Islam, and previously of Al-Itihaad al Islamiya, who joined Al-Shabaab last year, has issued a statement saying the death of Sheikh Osama Bin Ladin will not affect the Jihad of Al-Qaeda and Al-Shabaab. He described Sheikh Osama Bin laden as a brave Muslim leader martyred while fighting against the West and infidels. He called on Al-Shabaab and Al-Qaeda not be disappointed by this death and to step up their attacks. The statement of Sheikh ‘Aweys’ underlines Al-Shabaab’s links to Al-Qaeda, and emphasizes that those who have been trying to persuade ‘Aweys’ and his followers to join the reconciliation efforts have been wasting their time.
Elsewhere, the TFG’s Deputy Defence Minister, Abdirashid Hidig, is currently on visit to the southern town of Dhobley which, as Mr. Ban ki-Moon’s report noted, was recently recaptured from Al-Shabaab. He is visiting to encourage the morale of government forces morale. There are plans to open new fronts against Al-Shabaab in the areas around Badhadhe district close to the Kenyan boarder, south of Dhobley town and west of Kismayo. This will expand the struggle against Al-Shabaab into the areas of the Absame clan.
These current military successes unfortunately are still not being supported politically in the TFG. The wrangles among the TFG leadership have again being growing, and are now extending into relations with outside administrations such as Puntland and Galmudug, and to TFG relations with Ahlu Sunna. There is an ongoing tendency for the TFIs to divide into different groups operating on different political wavelengths. The problems within the TFIs have been further increased by the conflicting positions of the international community. The East African Community communiqué issued in Dar Salam Tanzania on April 19th supported the recent decision of the TFG Council of Ministers to extend its term for one more year. Opposed to this has been a strong EU statement threatening to cut-off all financial support from both TFG and AMISOM if the Transitional Federal Government leaders refuse to relinquish power when their term comes to an end in August.
These different positions are complicating the relations between the TFIs and the TFG leadership. An urgent meeting was held yesterday between the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Somalia, the AU Commission’s Special Envoy on Somalia, and the IGAD Facilitator for Somalia Peace and National Reconciliation. They held extensive discussions on the current political and security situation to come up with suggestions on the way forward. IGAD is expected to deliberate on the proposals in an extraordinary session in mid-May.
President Isaias advises the world
After an unusually long absence from the media, amid speculations about his deteriorating health, President Isaias Afeworki of Eritrea has given another interview to Eritrea’s official media, the only media operating in Eritrea. As usual his interview is more in the form of a lecture, focusing on a range of issues, and his “extensive briefing’, as his media often dubs his long-winded lectures, was more personal musings with no particular relevance to understanding Eritrea’s domestic political challenges. His explanations covered much of the world but one can categorize the issues on which he focused into three major areas.
On Eritrean domestic politics President Isaias had little to say beyond his thoughts on what he regards as Eritrea’s unique advantage over other countries in the region and beyond, that is its success in steering clear of the kind of chaos and breakdown in governance that he believes is pervasive in the region. He repeatedly referred to the nation’s ‘compass’ that guides its behavior both in domestic affairs and in relations with the rest of the world. This ‘compass’ comprises of three major elements: absence of vertical segmentation along tribe, region or religion; ensuring the equitable distribution of resources among the people; and guarding sovereignty jealously, not allowing any form of external interference. The most striking part of this thesis is that all three of these features are essentially and conspicuously missing in President Isaias’ Eritrea. The population is as diverse and as segmented as any in the region. The few public resources in Eritrea belong almost exclusively to a small elite group of politicians and top military officers, with the bulk of the population wallowing in misery. The way President Isaias tells it, it is as though he lives in a far distant world from the brutal realities of Eritrea. Equally, his old habits die hard. Eritrea has all-too-often made efforts to hire out its support or service to virtually anyone who might appear to want it, including the US, Egypt, Libya, Qatar and others at various times. It also makes every effort to interfere in the sovereignty of almost everybody else in the region, currently including Djibouti, South Sudan, Uganda, Kenya and Somalia as well as Ethiopia.
Another area of focus was the risings in North Africa, which in all seriousness one journalist suggested President Isaias had predicted. President Isaias tangentially raised the issue of popular discontent with the leadership, but concentrated on other reasons, namely the creative chaos concocted by external forces whose hegemonic and uni-polar ambitions have wrought havoc in various parts of the world. He expresses doubt whether the so-called changes in the Middle East will last or the peoples benefit. He is almost a hundred per cent convinced that the leaders of the uni-polar New World Order will make sure the peoples of these countries are once again robbed of their resources and their political rights stifled. The powers of domination, President Isaias assures us, will stop at nothing to exploit the resources of these countries and to remove those governments that appear to be at odds with their agenda of domination. In this he makes sure we should understand that the source of the challenges his government faces today both domestically and in external relations is his regime’s principles of “self-reliance” and open resistance to these uni-polar forces.
Although President Isaias falls short of expressing solidarity with the Libyan government, he nonetheless castigates all those who have recognized the Benghazi group as being on “the wrong side of history:” He complains of the West’s double standard when it comes to its reaction in Libya and elsewhere in the Middle East. This appears to be a reference to the lack of any similar hard-line position against the leaders of Bahrain and Yemen. The point being underlined is Libya is facing attacks from NATO because of its resistance to ‘forces of domination’. Whatever the merits of his argument, what makes his assertions interesting is the extent to which he is willing to see serious conspiracies everywhere in the world and his own cynicism towards the prospect of popular uprisings. Everything that goes wrong, President Isaias seems to believe, relates to the conspiracy of the ‘forces of domination.’ Intriguingly, despite his musings about ‘creative chaos’ or ‘forces of domination’, he still seems to believe that his regime’s ‘compass’ will insulate it from the kind of uprisings now engulfing the entire Middle East and North Africa, despite its similarity with some of those governments.
Another area of his focus was, of course, the Horn of Africa. As usual, he admonishes literally all countries in the Horn for being the foot soldiers and instruments of the ‘forces of domination’. No country is spared from his accusations, not even South Sudan. Ethiopia is bound to fail in everything; its governance will be in crisis because it fails to meet the three components of his regime’s ‘compass’. Sudan is no exception although he tries to make some, unspecified, allowance for it. Djibouti is another nation serving the agenda of the West. As for Somalia, President Isaias appears to have fond memories of Siad Barre’s days during which tribalism was supposed to have been buried. His attitude towards what the soon-to-be youngest nation in the world, South Sudan, is even more cynical. Expressing preference for a united Sudan, he nonetheless recognizes the referendum as a fait accompli but then forecasts the future for South Sudan doesn’t bode well unless, of course, it adopts Eritrea’s ‘compass’ for setting its priorities. He also appears certain this is unlikely to happen since there are so many armed factions already fighting the SPLM. That some of these are receiving training in Eritrea’s military conscription training center at Sawa, he doesn’t bother to mention.
At the end of the day, President Isaias remains ever more convinced of the uniqueness of his leadership and the justice of his cause, to the point where he expects the rest of the world to change, not Eritrea. He expects the ‘forces of domination’ to mend their ways, to learn to live with proudly ‘independent’ regimes such as his own. On such issues as the global financial crisis, President Isaias knows the world hasn’t seen the last of it. Unlike himself, even the most distinguished Nobel Laureates in economics haven’t fully grasped the full extent of the crisis. He has answers for everything, from the Middle East conflict to the global financial crisis, though he refrains from spelling them out. The only way the world can get its act together, so President Isaias appears to believe, is by heeding his own wise counsel on every matter, big and small. In a word, he is once more telling the world, the UN, the AU, the IGAD, and most importantly Eritrea, that he will never change. It is a daunting, and depressing, message for the peoples of Eritrea.
Ethiopia’s CEWERU holds a Consultative Meeting
Ethiopia’s Conflict Early Warning and Response Unit (CEWERU) held a two day consultative meeting in the town of Adama, south of Addis Ababa at the end of last week. The meeting was called to discuss a consultancy report on linking the Ethiopian CEWERU to National and Regional Conflict Prevention Management and Resolution (CPMR) structures, to enhance effectiveness in the implementation of CPMR activities.
The consultant’s report highlighted some major achievements and a number of the challenges that have faced Ethiopia’s CEWERU since its establishment in 2003. On the positive side, there has been a significant reduction in violent conflicts on the Ethiopian side of the Somali Cluster, arising from the timely sharing of early warning information and the consequent ability to initiate prompt responses. Operational Guidelines have been developed for CEWERU, and considerable progress made in securing funds for various projects. In addition, Ethiopia’s CEWERU lobbied successfully to increase Ethiopia’s contribution to the Core Fund of IGAD’s Conflict Early Warning and Response Mechanism (CEWARN). This depends upon contributions of member states.
The consultant’s report also identified some problems. The report drew attention to some major problems, including inadequate institutionalization, the lack of a standing secretariat and absence of representation of the Regional States within the National Steering Committee. The consultant assessed the overall functionality of the CEWERU and came up with recommendations on how to strengthen CEWERU by linking it to the national and regional CPMR structures. The importance of such links was emphasized to help Ethiopia to discharge effectively the commitments it has made under CEWARN Protocol.
The meeting was presented with findings and recommendations on the best way forward to establish proper linkages to enhance coordination in CPMR activities nationally and regionally. Participants held extensive discussions and made concrete proposals on how to connect CEWERU structures to the national CPMR operations. The meeting agreed to establish a secretariat to coordinate the process of linking the CEWERU to the national and regional organization. The meeting was attended by members of the CEWERU steering committee, heads of Regional Security and Administration Bureaux, and Country Coordinators.
“I for Afrika” – a business forum in Mumbai.
The Indo-Africa Chamber of Commerce and Industries organized a forum with the motto “I for Afrika” from March 28th to 30th in Mumbai. Businessmen and women from sixteen African countries, including Ethiopia, and more than 300 businesses based in Mumbai and nearby cities in western India, as well as foreign companies participated. The Vice President of Kenya, Mr. Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka, was guest of honor, and Ministers and Vice-Ministers from DRC, South Africa, Botswana, Senegal, Zimbabwe and Mozambique were also present and spoke at the official inauguration. Ethiopia was represented by Ambassador Genet Zewde, Ambassador Plenipotentiary to India as well as diplomats from the Consulate General’s office in Mumbai; and Ato Tadesse Haile, Minister of State for Industry also attended the meeting. The Ethiopian delegation consisted of eighteen people including the Secretary General of the Ethiopian Chamber of Commerce and Sectoral Association, other board members and representatives of businesses dealing with agro-processing, manufacturing, information technology, health, construction, textiles, electro-mechanical, agro-equipment, mining, and import-exports.
The agenda of the forum covered such areas as the levels of Indian investment in Africa, the numbers of Indian tourists visiting Africa and of African tourists in India, and the effects of the struggle for independence in both India and by African countries. The forum also offered the opportunity to promote investment opportunities. It encouraged Indian investors to explore business opportunities in Ethiopia, introduced Ethiopian export products to Indian businessmen, identified possible imports for Ethiopia and allowed businessmen participating to share their experiences. The members of the Ethiopian business delegation concluded a number of deals and trade agreements with their Indian counterparts. There were also some discussions on possible joint investment in areas of health, mining and agro-processing. Overall, participants saw this first “I for Afrika” forum, initiated by the Indo-Africa Chamber of Commerce and Industry, as a good opportunity to meet different Indian investors and business establishments operating in a number of different sectors.
Later this month, May 20th to 27th the second India-African Summit will be taking place in Addis Ababa. The first Summit was held in New Delhi in April 2008 when an action plan was launched to promote Indian engagement with Africa, and India announced a US 5.4 billion dollar line of credit for Africa over a five year period. Indian trade with Africa reached $US 45 billion last year. Sixteen heads of state and government are expected to participate in the Summit, among them Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, as well as senior officials and representatives from the rest of the continent.
Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Ministry of Foreign Affairs