The Ministerial Council of the Sana’a Forum meets in Sana’a
An extraordinary meeting of the Ministerial Council of the Sana’a Forum for Cooperation (SFC) was held in Sana’a on August 1st. under the chairmanship of Dr. Abubakar Al-Qirbi, foreign minister of the Republic of Yemen. Present were the Foreign Ministers of the Forum members: Djibouti (Mr. Mahmmud Ali Yusuf), Ethiopia (Mr. Seyoum Mesfin), Somalia (Mr. Yusuf Hassan Ibrahim), and the State Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sudan (Mr. Kamaladin Hassan Ali). The meeting was held in the context of strengthening ties and improving coordination to address the current challenges facing member states. The Ministers paid a courtesy call on President Ali Abdullah Saleh to brief him on the current status of the SFC. The President underlined the importance of the Forum and of the need for member states to reinforce and expand links among Forum member states.
The agenda of the meeting included strengthening the SFC secretariat, and reactivating economic, trade and investment co-operation among member states as well as speeding up the harmonization process of policies. The Ministers were briefed on the political situation as well as the status of peace and security in the SFC and discussed developments at regional level, including the situation in Somalia and in other member states, as well as the Forum’s role in ensuring security and stability and responding to extremism and terrorism in the region.
In a communiqué, the Ministers affirmed their solidarity with Somalia and the TFG’s fight against terrorism, calling on all concerned parties to work within the framework of the Djibouti Agreement. They also called on the international community to shoulder its responsibilities towards Somalia and to support efforts to build up the Transitional Federal Institutions and the security forces and the army. They welcomed the recent resolutions of IGAD and of the AU and called for these to be implemented urgently.
The Ministers congratulated Sudan on the results of its recent elections and the efforts to implement the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. They called on all concerned parties to work together to resolve problems through dialogue. They reiterated their rejection of the resolutions of the International Criminal Court, calling these a violation of Sudan’s sovereignty and threat to peace. The Ministerial Council praised the Federal and Regional elections in Ethiopia as a demonstration of the will of the people of Ethiopia. It appreciated the efforts of Ethiopia to contribute to peace in Sudan and Somalia, and stressed the importance of resolving the border dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea through dialogue. The Council welcomed last month’s agreement between the Government of Ethiopia and the United Western Somalia Liberation Front.
The Ministers welcomed the commitment of Djibouti to solve its border dispute with Eritrea through peaceful means. They called on the Djibouti Government to continue to assist in bringing peace in Somalia within the framework of the Djibouti Agreement, and in accordance with the resolutions of IGAD, the AU, the UN and the Arab League.
The Ministerial Council reaffirmed the adherence of Forum members to the unity, security and stability of Yemen. It condemned all acts of terrorism and sabotage carried out by extremists or radical elements under whatever name and for whatever excuse. It praised the repeated calls of President Saleh for peaceful dialogue as the only way to resolve the challenges facing Yemen. The Foreign Ministers expressed their hope that all parties would continue to demonstrate commitment to adhere to the Dialogue Agreement.
The Ministerial Council defined the commitment of the Foreign Ministers towards the revitalization of the Forum. It urged all relevant ministries and institutions in Forum member states to implement the resolutions of the 2008 summit covering economic, social, cultural, and security issues. It discussed the Charter for the Assembly of the Forum, and agreed to provide the Forum Secretariat with the necessary budget to enable it to function properly, and arrangements for the forthcoming Forum Summit at the end of the year or early in 2011.
A National Conference for Democratic Change in Eritrea
Hundreds of representatives of Eritrean opposition parties and civic associations this week are holding a conference in Addis Ababa: the National Conference for Democratic Change in Eritrea. It is aimed at charting a new course for the liberation of the peoples of Eritrea from the oppressive regime of President Isaias Afeworki. Organizers of the conference are hopeful that the weeklong deliberations will help narrow down the differences among various opposition parties and create an opportunity to bring more participants on board in the struggle for democracy in Eritrea.
It is indeed fitting that Eritrean opposition groups and civic associations should bring themselves together to harmonize their efforts in their campaign against tyranny. The composition of the participants clearly shows that the organizing committee has gone a long way to bring together a substantial diversity of views from among the broad political spectrum of Eritrea’s pro-democracy movement. It is hoped that those who felt unable to participate in this conference may now be encouraged to joint the process, and further enhance cooperation and mutual trust among Eritrean groups and civil society organizations. The organizers of the conference have already indicated they will extend their invitations for more groups to join in similar deliberations in the future. This conference has highlighted once again that the solution to Eritrea’s problems can only be sought within Eritrean circles. It has further underlined the need for transcending petty squabbles among the different groups in the interest of addressing the much more pressing problems that Eritreans face daily.
It is clear that this conference is indeed a wholly Eritrean affair. Only Eritreans can find the solutions for their own problems. The Ethiopian government has always reiterated that anything it might provide in support of the success of this conference, or other similar efforts, would be on the basis of whether or not this would be in the best interest of the peoples of Eritrea, and not of any particular group or other. At the end of the day, what Ethiopia would like to see is for two neighborly peoples with long and deep fraternal relations to live in harmony and peace under conditions of mutual respect and partnership. Those who may still be under the illusion that Ethiopia might have any other objective that goes beyond supporting the cause of the peoples of Eritrea couldn’t be more wrong. Ethiopia would still have continued to enjoy the excellent neighborly relations with the people of Eritrea after 1993 if it had not been for the belligerent moves of the regime in Asmara. The government of Ethiopia, and the EPRDF, was easily the most reliable friend in support of the peace and stability of Eritrea. There is no reason whatsoever to doubt that this continues to be the case today despite the current problems between the two countries.
The government of Ethiopia believes that the people of Eritrea know very well who their number one enemy is. It also firmly believes that changing or removing the regime in Asmara is a wholly Eritrean affair. To the extent that the government of Ethiopia looks forward to any result from this conference, it is the hope that this will help bring about a peaceful, democratic and independent Eritrea that is willing to live by the ordinary international rules that govern normal state-to-state relations. The Government of Ethiopia does not have any interest or design except to support the democratic aspirations of the people of Eritrea. As Foreign Minister Seyoum has reiterated, Ethiopia has no other agenda of its own than a sincere desire to see a normally behaving neighbor on the other side of the Mereb with which it can have a mutually advantageous partnership in all areas.
Maintaining TFG’s Cohesion and support is an absolute necessity
The recent activities and decisions by the African Union Summit in Kampala, and by IGAD, both at the Summit and at its Executive Council meeting at the beginning of July, have shown the commitment of the continent and the region to assist the endeavors of the government of Somalia to bring peace and reconciliation to the country. These efforts were reinforced by a US organized meeting on Somalia in Kampala, attended by the leaders of Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Tanzania, and Uganda, the UN and the AU Commission, and by representatives of the partner countries.
All the decisions taken by the AU, IGAD and others now need to be consolidated and reflected in a concrete way on the ground. As Prime Minister Meles clearly indicated during the meeting, organized by the US Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, Johnnie Carson, unless the TFG is assisted in a concrete and coordinated way, there can be no sustainable solution for Somalia. Donors have given millions of dollars to Somalia but much has gone through numerous NGOs and international organizations whose administrative and other costs consume up to 70% of the total amount provided. These beneficiaries of the Somalia crises should not be allowed to continue to use Somalia as an income generation scheme. The international community should assist Somalia directly with effective mechanisms put in place to provide for full accountability. Certainly, there is a need to design a mechanism for the government to account for every penny received from the international community. This would avoid the inefficiency of international agencies and NGOs and the improper consumption of funds intended for Somalia. There is certainly a need to provide support to the TFG itself.
IGAD’s decisions at the Summit level on how to assist the TFG have now been worked out in detail thorough the IGAD Chiefs of Defense Staffs who met in Addis Ababa just prior to the Kampala Summit. These plans will be implemented as soon as the AU and the international community can produce the necessary funds and logistics that are required for the deployment of another 2,000 troops, most probably from Uganda and other countries, to reinforce AMISOM.
One of the most crucial issues that the TFG leadership must now deal with is to throw off its lethargy, and get to work to start carrying out the provision of services to the people of Somalia in the areas they can reach. They must put an end to their disputes, quarrels and petty squabbles. The infighting has to stop, and the TFG needs to focus on defeating the real enemy, Al-Shabaab, by all means available to it, on gaining the assistance of the international community and on appealing to the people of Somalia to isolate Al-Shabaab. The TFG leadership now needs to be very determined to put its house in order. Time is running out, as even the TFG itself must realize. The TFG’s proper handling of itself is a necessary requirement for the support that comes from those who remain concerned and prepared to assist the people of Somalia to escape from the quagmire in which they find themselves today. The TFG needs to take these measures without delay if it is to get support from the international community. Cohesion among the leadership of the TFG is a critical and an absolute necessity; and its absence will put the existence of the country in jeopardy.
A changed situation in Somaliland needs continuity
On Tuesday last week, President Ahmed Mohamed ‘Silanyo’ was inaugurated as Somaliland’s fourth president, following his victory over President Dahir Riyale in the smooth and successful presidential election a month earlier. The transfer of power took place in an orderly and peaceful manner. The outgoing President welcomed his successor in a sincere and principled speech, congratulating the incoming President and handing over power in an exemplary manner. The new incumbent was equally gracious. The whole procedure demonstrated a high level of maturity that has had few antecedents in Africa. Several foreign delegations attended the ceremony, from Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya. Djibouti’s delegation was headed by the Minister of Information and Communications, Mr. Ali Abdi, who said Somaliland’s democracy provided an excellent example, well worth emulating. Ethiopia’s Minister of Culture and Tourism, Mr. Mohammed Dirir, who headed a delegation which included representatives from Ethiopia’s Somali Regional State, commended the peaceful transfer of power which he said would help peace in the Horn of Africa. The deputy speaker of the Kenyan Parliament, Mr. Farah Maalim, described the occasion as an historic opportunity that should be celebrated. Also visiting Hargeisa last month, were the French Ambassador to Djibouti and the Deputy Head of the UK’s Mission in Ethiopia.
The day following the inauguration, President Ahmed ‘Silanyo’ announced his new cabinet of 20 ministers and six vice-ministers. The new foreign minister, Dr. Muhammad Abdillahi Omar, has already stressed the need to sustain Somaliland’s democratic achievements and its locally owned peace and stability. This will need, he said, increased international support and investment in the areas of security, the economy and the public service sector.
Much is expected of the new government to ensure continuity both in terms of Somaliland’s domestic as well as its foreign policies and in providing a high standard of implementation and conduct. The challenges facing Somaliland and the region as a whole are tremendous. To meet this expectation the new government needs to command the respect and confidence of the neighboring countries through its readiness and its commitment to address these challenges. People are already following the activities of the new government with care, hoping that decisions will be taken in consideration of the problems that Somaliland and the region as a whole face. The new government will have to demonstrate its capacity in its conduct of domestic as well as foreign policies, to meet the expectations of all those who are partners in its efforts. It is critical in this connection that the government upholds the principles of good neighborliness, commitment to peace and moderation. Equally, Somaliland’s neighbors confidently expect it to continue to take the same uncompromising stand in the fight against terrorism and extremism as the previous governments. Any diminution in this area will seriously affect its credibility.
Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Ministry of Foreign Affairs