Another round of TFG and ASWJ talks in Mogadishu
This week the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia and Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama’a (ASWJ) concluded their second round of talks in Mogadishu with the discussions covering security, administrative and political issues. TFG Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke and ASWJ Chairman, Sheikh Mohammed ‘Heefow’ participated, and both leaders openly declared they had formally concluded the second phase of the agreement between the two sides. Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid said that they had agreed to collaborate on policy issues and on uniting the troops of the TFG and of ASWJ. He added that the government was committed to fully implement the agreement. Sheikh Mohammed emphasized that the meeting has been long awaited. He noted that both sides had now agreed to sign additional articles which would help the practical implementation of the agreement the two sides had signed last month in Addis Ababa. They have now appointed three committees to finalize the deals reached. Both delegations met with President Sheikh Sharif to discuss further consolidation of the understandings reached between the two sides. The president has now announced the appointment of General Abdulkarim Yusuf, a senior and experienced ASWJ commander, as the new deputy commander of TFG forces. On Monday, TFG and ASWJ forces were involved in fighting in Hodan and Hawl-Wadag districts in Mogadishu as ASWJ began to participate in government efforts to expand its areas of control in the city.
Meanwhile, there has been universal condemnation of the twin explosions at the Abdalle Shidaye mosque in Mogadishu’s Bakaraha market last Saturday. The blasts killed nearly fifty people and wounded dozens more. The TFG Information Minister, Dahir Mohamud Gelle, called the attack barbaric, and said it showed a total lack of wisdom and a disrespect of holy places. Ambassador Boubacar Gasoussou Diarra, the special representative of the AU Commission chairman, on behalf of the AU said “indiscriminate attacks on public places could not be condoned.” He called on all warring parties to stop such “barbaric attacks on innocent civilian population.” Local journalists said two high ranking Al-Shabaab officials died. Sheikh Fu’ad Muhamad ‘Shongolo’, Al-Shabaab’s head of mobilization, who often preaches at the mosque was among those wounded. He was quoted as calling for serious retaliation for the attack. “The Muslim people must fight the African Union troops of the occupying force using all means at their disposal including suicide attacks.” He urged people to “go to their compounds and make all the necessary sacrifices”.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks, and Sheikh Hassan Dahir ‘Aweys’ head of Hizbul Islam denied his organization had carried out the bombings. The Somali Government Minister of State for Defense, Sheikh Yusuf Muhammad Siyad ‘Indha Adde’, however suggested that the explosions were the result of a rift among high-ranking officials of Al-Shabaab. Sheikh Yusuf said that differences among senior officials of Al-Shabaab had resulted in the mosque bombings. He said that the government knew that members of Al-Shabaab had carried out the explosion though he gave no details of the nature of the rift within the group or what had led to the bombings. There have been two other attacks on Al-Shabaab controlled mosques recently. A landmine exploded outside the Aby Hureya mosque in the Bakaraha market on Tuesday last week, and on Sunday May 2nd a mosque in Kismayo was bombed.
Foreign Minister Seyoum accepts an honorary degree from Kisumu
On Monday this week, Foreign Minister Seyoum was awarded an Honorary Doctorate Degree of Letters by the Great Lakes University of Kisumu, in Kenya. Another being honored at the same time was Mama Sarah Obama. In his speech of acceptance Minister Seyoum thanked the Senate and University Council for this recognition and underlined that he saw it as an honor not just for himself but for Ethiopia, as a source of encouragement for the IGAD region and as an acknowledgement of the collective effort that IGAD, and the peoples of the region, had been making in the search for peace and stability. Minister Seyoum emphasized just how pro-active IGAD had been, to the point where, ironically, the United Nations was still waiting for IGAD to create peace in Somalia so it could then deploy a peace support mission to protect that peace.
The Minister said that Africa and the sub-region were at a very critical point. In the last few years, it had become clear that Africa, though not completely out of the woods economically, could no longer be seen as of only marginal importance. Africa now mattered. Its future was far from bleak even if it had not yet made full use of available opportunities. The major critical impediment to the achievement of its economic objectives was related to the failure to establish durable and sustainable peace, security and stability, in Africa and in IGAD. This was always precarious in a situation of poverty, but it was quite possible to have a sufficient level of peace and stability for economic development even when fighting poverty. The Minister pointed out that it was on this basis that Ethiopia, together with its partners in the IGAD region, had been doing its level best for peace in Somalia and the Sudan. He noted Ethiopia’s activity hadn’t been limited to the Horn of Africa. Peacekeepers had been sent to Rwanda in the time of great tragedy there in 1994, and subsequently deployed in Burundi, Liberia and Sudan. These commitments were the expression of a vision which attached critical importance to peace as a condition for the restoration of African dignity and for development.
The Minister said that the most difficult conflict in the sub-region was in Somalia, but by the same token, although its intractability was a subject of much talk, it was one of the most neglected by the international community; indeed the one to which the UN had given the least priority. Equally, given the role of external extremist forces and their supporters, it was no longer a crisis to be viewed as a conflict among Somalis alone. Indeed, the international community had acknowledged this when the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1907 imposing sanctions on Eritrea for its role as a direct actor and as a conduit for external forces who wanted to add fuel to the fire. IGAD, with the AU, the Minister noted, had done what it could for peace in Somalia, but it wasn’t sufficient to help Somalia out of its nightmare. One reason was because there was greater coordination among the external forces assisting extremism than there was among the international community despite its professed support for the internationally recognized Transitional Government of Somalia. It was therefore becoming harder and harder to see a light at the end of the tunnel. That didn’t mean giving up hope in Somalia so far as prospects of peace and national reconciliation were concerned. The alternative would amount to allowing extremists, most particularly foreign elements, to prevail. What it did mean, however, was that Somalia was likely to be an exception to the AU’s promise to make this year, 2010, a Year of Peace in Africa. This, he added, was no fault of the AU, which was the only organization prepared to deploy a peace support mission in Somalia; the Minister took the opportunity to pay tribute to Uganda and Burundi for carrying the burden of AMISOM in Mogadishu.
The other regional area of major concern was the situation in Sudan and more particularly the relationship between the South and the North in the context of the Referendum scheduled for January 2011. This was critical both for the future of Sudan and for peace and stability in the sub-region, and indeed for Central Africa and the Great Lakes Region. Any failure of the peace process would have the gravest implications. There was no alternative to encouraging the two parties to proceed in good faith toward the full implementation of the CPA. The two parties held the key to sustainable peace and stability in Sudan, and the Minister emphasized their capacity to ensure the realization of those goals. The recent elections, and the results achieved, had created a much stronger basis for the co-operation of the two parties as they approached the Referendum. IGAD, he said, had a clear perspective on what it needed to do to help the two parties overcome the immense challenges they were now facing. It was determined to assist the efforts of the Implementation Panel, led by former South African President, Thabo Mbeki, charged by the AU to lead the African effort for the effective implementation of the CPA. The Minister accepted that IGAD could have been even more proactive to help expedite the implementation of the CPA, but he emphasized that the basis of the CPA was initially outlined by IGAD in the Declaration of Principles. In addition, the fact that the CPA was signed in Kenya highlighted the key role that Kenya had played for peace in Sudan.
The Minister repeated that peace and stability were critical for the major economic challenges IGAD faced. It was a prospect others were finally beginning to notice. He could say with full confidence that Africa was no longer ignored, no longer treated as of only marginal importance in the world. There was therefore no basis for pessimism about Africa’s future. There was still along way to go, but the continent indeed had a bright future. But to realize this required individual and collective effort. The Minister noted the decisions to embark on some major projects to bring the countries of the sub-region together. It would not be long before Ethiopia would be connected by rail with Sudan and Kenya; before these three countries and Djibouti would be linked by a hydropower grid; and road links enhanced and upgraded. This was a strategy to which Ethiopia accorded the highest priority. The Minister emphasized that these developments needed partners prepared to engage on the basis of commitment to mutual advantage. But, he added, the region had to be taken seriously by potential partners, and this could only happen when the sub-region managed have an acceptable level of peace and stability, and governance which was truly representative, democratic and inclusive. This, he said, was why the democratic process as a matter of first priority for Ethiopia; and he had no doubt this would be strengthened further by the election taking place later in the month.
The 30th Meeting of the Nile Technical Advisory Committee (TAC)
The 30th meeting of the Nile Technical Advisory Committee was held in Entebbe, Uganda on 26th April. Members from all nine Nile Basin countries participated. The next day, the Nile-TAC also held an informal Strategic Dialogue meeting with the Development Partners of the Nile Basin Initiative. The Nile-TAC meeting was preceded by a session of the Nile-TAC Technical Sub-Committee which discussed, among other things, the Nile Basin Sustainability Framework, development of the Nile Secretariat Strategic Planning and NBI Strategic Plan of 2011-2015, a Climate Change Strategy and Proposal and the Memorandum of Collaboration with Ramsar Convention Secretariat. The Technical Sub-committee produced a report for the Nile-TAC which was then adopted.
The Nile-TAC also discussed and evaluated reports from the organs of the NBI, the Eastern Nile Subsidiary Action Program (ENSAP) and Nile Equatorial Lakes Region Subsidiary Action Program, on implementation of investment projects. The meeting, taking into account the national elections in Burundi and Democratic Republic of Congo, proposed the next meeting of the Nile Council of Ministers should be held before 25 June in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The Nile-TAC members also discussed the topics proposed by the Development Partners for strategic dialogue. A number of draft agenda items were proposed: the Institutional Design Study; Financing Nile Cooperation post-2012; Managing for Results; and Addressing Climate Change in the context of the Nile.
The Nile-TAC held its 4th informal strategic dialogue meeting with Development Partners on April 27th. The Nile-TAC and Development Partners Strategic Dialogue is a practical mechanism of engagement between the Nile Basin countries and the Development Partners. The objective has been for Development Partners and the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) to engage in a relaxed dialogue relating to critical NBI issues and to provide guidance and strategic direction for the Nile Basin cooperative process. The dialogue reached a common understanding on the expected outcome of the Institutional Design Study and the sources of funding for the continuation of Nile cooperation after the closure of the Nile Trust Fund in 2012, the share and role of the Nile Basin countries and the Development Partners, as well as other measures to be taken in this connection. The meeting also emphasized that water resource development projects for the Nile Basin cooperative process should take into account concerns over climate change.
In the Strategic Dialogue meeting, Egypt and Sudan repeatedly raised concerns regarding the Nile Council of Ministers’ recent decision at Sharm el Sheikh to sign the Comprehensive Framework Agreement (CFA) of the Nile on May 14th in Uganda. They asked the Development Partners to intervene and exert pressure on the upper riparian states which have decided to sign the CFA next week. Egypt and Sudan indicated that if the upper riparian countries sign the CFA they will withdraw from the NBI. The meeting, however, remained focused on its agenda, indicating that the issues of negotiation and signature of the CFA were outside the agenda and the mandate of the Nile-TAC and Development Partners Strategic Dialogue.
Eritrea’s continuing diplomatic offensive but no policy changes
As we noted last week, President Isaias has been working hard to try and minimize the effects of the sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council last December (UNSC Resolution 1907 (2009)). He has coupled an extensive, if largely unconvincing media blitz, with trying to suggest Eritrea might now be willing to give diplomacy a chance if only the world would listen to him, hinting that Eritrea might finally be prepared to show good faith towards the international community. Indeed, the attitude the Eritrean government is apparently trying to portray is that it is now prepared to co-operate with the international community, though it has given no indication that it is actually prepared to take any specific or practical steps in this direction. There have been no indications that it is prepared to withdraw its troops from Djibouti territory, stop its support for extremist elements in Somalia and halt its destabilization efforts in Ethiopia. Equally, there has also been one very clear exception to this alleged change of heart towards the international community: the exception is the United States, towards which Eritrea has made no effort to minimize its continued and raucous criticisms.
This ‘diplomatic’ approach is one element of a two pronged policy of which the other element has been rather less publicized by the Eritrean Government. This is its deliberate continuation of all previous regional destabilization efforts, and indeed, an intensification of these aggressive efforts. Two groups, originating in Eritrea, were intercepted by security forces trying to cross into Ethiopia only this week. Eritrea, in fact, has been ratcheting up its activities especially with respect to Ethiopia where the election is now only two weeks away, and in Somalia. Its regional activities have shown no sign of any diminution of support for terrorist and extremist elements. Nor has the Eritrean Government made any effort to change its regional policies, or join in the regional efforts of IGAD and others to encourage peace in Somalia and elsewhere. Its regional policies have remained entirely unchanged and there is every indication that this will continue.
This is what the international community apparently fails to understand. There are, in fact, no indications of any kind that the Government of Eritrea and its leadership have seriously, or even minimally, considered changing any of their policies within the region of the Horn of Africa. There should, therefore, be no thought within the international community of considering any change of policy towards Eritrea. The sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council (resolution 1907, 2009) have already had some impact. Eritrea’s sudden flurry of media and diplomatic efforts make clear just how worried the Eritrean leadership has been becoming. The Security Council’s policy has been beginning to bear fruit. What is needed now is the firm implementation of the sanctions policy, the need to exert more pressure on Eritrea. Now is the time to make sure Eritrea’s efforts to hoodwink the international community are nullified, to demonstrate that the international community is not impressed by Eritrea’s efforts; it is not fooled by Eritrea’s attempt to be too smarter by half.
Ensuring the Integrity of the upcoming elections: a constructive role for the Diaspora
With only two weeks to go before polling day, election day, 2010, promises to be historic in more ways than one. The campaign of the contending parties is getting warmer by the day, and there are clear indications that the momentum will continue. Citizens are gearing up for polling day to cast their ballots for favored candidates. Observer missions, both from abroad and within, are either fully deployed or in the process of being deployed to various parts of the country. The preparations made so far and the feeling in the air seems to suggest that this is indeed going to be an election to remember. In contrast to the last national election, the conduct of most of the contending parties is encouraging. The role of other stakeholders is equally promising. The Electoral Board appears to be a lot more organized in terms of human resource and logistics than previously.
This positive assessment of the electoral process is not shared by everyone. In what has become an almost obsessive campaign to sabotage the elections, the Eritrean government has more than doubled its subversive activities by deploying terrorists to try to scuttle the process by any means. The who’s who of ‘Ethiopian’ terrorist groups have been busy trying to carry out Asmara’s cross-border attacks. The rejectionist elements among the Ethiopian Diaspora have also been trying to rally behind the Government of Eritrea as part of the effort to undermine the credibility of the election. They seem prepared to stop at nothing to create a semblance of chaos in the country. They won’t succeed. The vigilance of the people and the security forces have already nipped many of these plots in the bud. There is even less likelihood that the noisy campaign by the rejectionist elements of the Diaspora-based opposition will have any impact. These particular elements have been in even more disarray than ever. In fact, it appears, at long last, that the silent majority in the Diaspora has begun to prevail over the prophets of doom who have so long dominated opposition Diaspora politics.
We have again and again reiterated that the building of democracy is a domestic affair, the success or failure of which largely depends upon the commitment of the peoples of the country and the extent to which they take the process seriously. The democratization process in Ethiopia is no exception. This doesn’t mean that others cannot play a role. Ethiopians in the Diaspora and foreign nationals of Ethiopian origin are among those who can, and should, be involved. Under normal circumstances, the participation of any Diaspora-based groups will be largely economic, whether in the form of investing in their home country or helping to create networks that facilitate trade between their host country and their country of origin. Ethiopia’s experience in this regard has been somewhat mixed. On the positive side, the number of Ethiopians residing abroad who have been willing to play a constructive role in the economic endeavors of the country has been steadily increasing. Equally, a lot more remains to be done both by the Government and by Ethiopians in the Diaspora. All-too-often for the wrong reasons, the political activities of a minority have proved more prominent than the economic role of Ethiopians in the Diaspora. The last eighteen years have seen an unhealthy plethora of Diaspora-based opposition groups with undemocratic proclivities which have steadily tried to undermine the democratization process in the country. These groups have been characterized largely by a rejectionist tendency long on rhetoric and short on substance. They have done everything they can to nip the democratization process in the bud. Campaigns have been waged to lobby development partners to deny development aid to Ethiopia. Demonstrations have been staged to demand cuts in humanitarian aid for the needy or even the starving in Ethiopia. Western politicians and parliamentarians have been lobbied to enact bills that aim to punish the Government and peoples of Ethiopia for not submitting to the irrational demands of rejectionists and their benefactors and supporters. Even worse, these groups have often sought support and partnership with sworn enemies of the country, to synchronize their destructive campaigns against democratization in Ethiopia. The numerous alliances and fronts concocted together with the Government of Eritrea, and the terrorist campaigns they have financed, indicate just how sinister these elements have become.
Apart from these directly subversive activities, rejectionist elements in the Diaspora have also contributed to stirring up politics in a number of more insidious ways. They frequently prey on financial needs of domestic opposition elements trying to use legally registered groups as Trojan horses. Far from recognizing the independence of such organizations, they insist on dictating terms as to what they should do or not do in respect of domestic political activities. The role that these groups played during the last election vividly illustrated the extent to which such deals between Diaspora-based rejectionists and their internal contacts could threaten the political foundations. Unable to carry out their mission last time round, these groups have continued to dream up scheme after scheme to try and discredit the Government of Ethiopia by any means. They have become even more determined now the election is just around the corner, but there is little they can do to derail the process now. The failure of recent efforts to drum up support for their cause clearly shows that the previously silent majority in the Diaspora has said enough is enough. The turn-out for their latest series of meetings has been so low as to suggest that even their once hardcore supporters have given up. Their dalliance with the Eritrean government can hardly go further. Opposition calls to previously generous supporters for financial support has been falling on deaf ears.
By contrast, the level of participation by Ethiopians in the Diaspora in meetings with government officials in recent weeks has demonstrated that the great majority are not interested in the kind of violence preached by rejectionists and are even less inclined to offer to bank-roll their destructive activities. There is a growing readiness on the part of many Ethiopians abroad to organize themselves and work in cooperation with the government on projects covering various areas. There’s a real understanding that greater dialogue and more constructive engagement is the way that Ethiopians in the Diaspora can play a meaningful role in the ongoing democratization process and growing economic development in the country. It all suggests that the upcoming election is indeed going to see the triumph of reason and moderation over that of rejection and violence, and that it will indeed provide a demonstration that the ‘silent majority’ have prevailed over the ‘rowdy elements’.
Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Ministry of Foreign Affairs