Countdown to Sudan’s Referendum on Sunday
A Momentous Day for the Peoples of the Sudan
Somalia: Al-Shabaab plans another offensive; Constitution drafting makes progress
The launching of a Forum for National Economic Diplomacy in Ethiopia
An Ethiopian Delegation visits Iran
Core Principles of Ethiopia’s Foreign Policy: Ethio-Ghana relations
Countdown to Sudan’s Referendum on Sunday
The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed in 2005 to resolve the problem in the Sudan has been implemented gradually but steadily. The preparations to hold the Referendum for Southern Sudan, as clearly spelt out in the CPA, have been successfully completed, though the parallel referendum planned for Abyei region will not be held as planned but will be postponed. As the date approached there were also fears that the main referendum might not take place as scheduled: there were questions over the shortage of time, the lack of preparedness on the part of both the parties and delays in constituting the South Sudan Referendum Commission as well as issues related to the availability of the electoral materials and other matters raised to suggest a need to postpone the Referendum.
In fact, however, the signatories to the CPA have worked in unison to make sure the necessary preparations have now been finalized. The registration process has been successfully completed, the electoral materials have been distributed to all polling stations and all the referendum centers identified. All the foreign observers from the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the African Union, the European Union and others including the Carter Center and the Kofi Annan Center, have their representatives deployed on the ground. The UN Team, nominated by Ban Ki Moon, and led by former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa, have also taken their places in the field. Observers from IGAD have been posted in Juba, El-Fashir, Kadugli, Bor, Omdurman, Khartoum, Kusti, Waw, Rumbek, Malakal, and in other states and places where South Sudanese are expected to vote. UNMIS is providing logistical support to the deployment process.
All these activities have required significant resources and effort. The signatories to the CPA and the international community can congratulate themselves for an excellent job. Everyone has contributed something. People are now confident that the Referendum will happen. Voting in the Referendum begins on Sunday, January 9th and ends a week later on Saturday, January 15th. According to the Referendum Commission nearly four million people have been registered to vote.
On Tuesday this week, the President of the Sudan, Field Marshal Omer Hassan Al-Bashir, visited Juba, the capital of South Sudan. He took the opportunity to publicly reassure the people of South Sudan that unity was still an option, noting that “unity is a source of development prosperity and peace”. He also added that his government was more than prepared to respect the decision of the people. “I will celebrate your decision, even if you choose secession”. He said: “Whatever your decision, the people of the Sudan in the North and South have a lot that connects them, and this will continue to further enhance it”. President Al-Bashir recalled that when the two parties signed the CPA, those who against the Sudan and the region had expected that the people of the Sudan would fail and falter, but he emphasized “we proved them wrong, and we will prove them wrong by cementing peace.” He called on all parties to work for peace so that the outcome of the referendum would be the basis for all Sudanese to develop and prosper. He stressed that Khartoum would not only celebrate the decision of the people and their choice, but would also provide all the necessary support to the people of South Sudan in terms of capacity building and in whatever form they required. Earlier, when addressing the nation on the occasion of Sudan’s 55th anniversary of independence on December 31 he had pledged to accept the results of the referendum, and forge stronger ties with the South if it opted for full independence. He made clear that that he would “not renege or hesitate on” the commitment to accept the final result. The President’s message was well received in Juba where he also addressed the people of South Sudan in a public rally. During his stay in Juba, he also held talks with the leadership of SPLM and the South Sudan Government on major post referendum issues.
What remains now is the peaceful conduct of the Referendum and there everyone has their role to play. A peaceful and orderly Referendum will have a lot of meaning for the Sudan and for the IGAD region and indeed for Africa as a whole as everyone has underlined. South Sudan borders the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia; Sudan also has borders with Chad, Libya, Egypt and Eritrea. All have a close interest in the result of the voting. Ethiopia, of course, as a close friend of both parties, and as a consistent supporter of the CPA process, looks forward to a successful and peaceful vote. It will welcome the result of the vote whatever it may be, and the decision of the people of Southern Sudan.
A Momentous Day for the Peoples of the Sudan
The Southern Sudanese people are now set to hold their long-awaited referendum to make what will most certainly be one of the momentous decisions in the country’s history. It will be the culmination of a long-drawn out process that started with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement to end an equally long-drawn out civil war that claimed the lives of millions of people. The road thus far traveled has been a bumpy one and there has been ample reason for skepticism as to whether the whole process would turn out the way it has. The mutual distrust and suspicion of the parties to the agreement at times reached a point where it seemed any meaningful progress was out of the question. False starts and foot-dragging punctuated the process every step of the way. There were numerous predictions of one disaster or another. But when all is said and done, the two parties have indeed come a long way to resolve the major sticking points standing in the way of real progress. In light of what is at stake, a fragile peace that could still unravel, it is encouraging to see both parties get their act together to finally set the stage for this momentous achievement.
The commitment shown by the two parties to remain engaged despite all odds has been above all a testament to the unwavering support of the peoples of Sudan, both North and South, to the cause of peace. It is no exaggeration to say that if any people really deserve to live in peace it is the peoples of the Sudan. The Sudan has always straddled Africa, west and east, north and south. Its peoples have always been prepared to put their resources at the service of others from neighboring countries whenever these found themselves in peril during war or from natural calamities. The legendary hospitality of the peoples of Sudan has never been in short supply. Generations of Ethiopians have been among those who have benefited from the generosity of the peoples of the Sudan. It is indeed most fitting that the dividends of peace should go to these people after what they have been through for so long.
Whatever the peoples of the South decide, this will be just the beginning of a new chapter in the relations between the two sides. The spirit of cooperation displayed so far by both sides must continue to ensure that neither returns to hostility whatever the decision turns out to be. The peoples of the Sudan deserve to live in peace. As Prime Minister Meles Zenawi remarked at a recent IGAD meeting on Sudan, even in the event of a split both sides should strive to maintain “soft borders” to make sure people on both sides of the border could continue to interact in a manner that befits the quintessentially Sudanese virtue of generosity. The historic visit of President Al-Bashir to Juba this week and his solemn promise to respect whatever decision is taken by the peoples of Sudan is very encouraging. It is a gesture that needs to be reciprocated by the South.
Partners of the two sides should also remain seized of the matter for as long as necessary, to see that the CPA process successfully addresses all outstanding post-referendum issues including the yet to be agreed referendum date for Abyei. This must be complemented by the “constructive engagement” of the international community towards both sides in order to avoid any return to bickering over unresolved issues. The government of Ethiopia is keenly aware of the need for both sides to remain committed to the terms of the CPA. It attaches great importance to maintaining close relations with both sides. Ethiopia will continue to harmonize its efforts with those of IGAD, the AU and the international community at large, to contribute to the prevalence of peace in the Sudan as well as the entire region. It will do everything in its capacity to support both parties in producing a workable arrangement to address post-referendum issues. It is Ethiopia’s fervent hope, and expectation, that calm will prevail whatever the outcome of the referendum, and that the peoples of Sudan, north and south, will be able to thrive in prosperity and peace.
Al-Shabaab plans another offensive; Constitution drafting makes progress
Following the recently announced unification of Al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam, Al-Shabaab has made it clear it intends to intensify its war of attrition strategy in Mogadishu against the TFG and AMISOM. It has already been importing increased amounts of ordinance and explosives into Mogadishu. Three lorries loaded with explosives from its Lower Shebelle explosives factory have been shipped into the city, and some of these have already been used in two bomb explosions in Medina district. In addition, Al-Shabaab is carrying out a large-scale mobilization of its own forces and those previously fighting under Hizbul Islam in Central Somalia. The drought there has been forcing the militia forces of Al-Shabaab’s main opponent, Ahlu Sunna wal Jama’a to scatter and withdraw from some areas.
At the same time it is already clear that the unification of Al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam is causing some problems. It appears some Al-Shabaab leaders have taken revenge for previous activities by Hizbul Islam officials. The former Emir, Ahmed Abdi Godane ‘Abu-Zubeyr’ is reported to have eliminated ten middle-ranking Hizbul Islam commanders who were alleged to have been involved in ambushing and killing four Al-Shabaab officers three months earlier. Sources on the ground claim this action has not been received positively by other Al-Shabaab leaders including Sheikh Mukhtar Robow and the Al-Shabaab spokesperson, Sheikh Ali Dhere. In Kismayo, there have been reports that Sheikh Hassan Yaqub, a close relative of Sheikh Mukhtar Robow, has arrested two senior Al-Shabaab commanders who were close to Ahmed Abdi Godane.
In another development Ban Ki Moon’s Special Representative for Somalia, Ambassador Augustine Mahiga, visited Mogadishu on Tuesday, January 4th where he met with President Sheikh Sharif, and Prime Minister Mohammed Abdullahi Mohammed. Discussions concentrated on the implementation of the TFG’s ‘hundred day plan’ and on issues related to the controversial decision to allow the private security firm, Saracen International, to train a presidential guard and other security officers. Ambassador Mahiga was also briefed about the Transitional Federal Parliament’s endorsement of the budget, efforts to streamline the security forces and the national stabilization plan which is expected to be approved by the Cabinet and then endorsed by Parliament. Prime Minister Mohammed subsequently said Ambassador Mahiga also had a meeting with the President at which “beefing up security conditions, the reconciliation process, good governance and preparations to end the transition” were discussed. Prime Minister Mohammed indicated the government will focus on creating a national constitution as soon as possible, adding that his government is committed to uproot Al Shabaab terrorists from Somalia completely. Ambassador Mahiga told the press that he and Somalia’s top officials had discussed the implementation of government programs for the remaining months of the transitional period, including finalization of the constitution.
The Independent Constitution and Federalism Commission (ICFC) set up to oversee the drafting of the constitution has been working from Djibouti with technical and financial support from Nairobi-based international agencies. Despite lacking parliamentary confirmation as required by the Transitional Charter, the ICFC published a draft constitution last year, launching a public consultation process in July. The United Nations Political Office for Somalia, encouraged by UNDP, suggested the creation of a Constituent Assembly composed of current lawmakers plus other national stakeholders (including representatives from Puntland and Galmudug administrations, the Diaspora, civil society, and other groups) to enact the proposed constitution on behalf of the general population. This suggestion received the backing of Nairobi-based international community representatives for Somalia, and was supported by the former Prime Minister and the current Speaker of Parliament, but it also caused considerable controversy within the TFIs, and within the larger TFG. Indeed, the dispute between the idea of an ‘indirect ratification mechanism’ or a ‘public referendum’ eventually forced the resignation of the former Prime Minister. The plan wasn’t brought to Parliament for endorsement because of these disputes. However, the Transitional Federal Parliament has now endorsed the constitutional commission, and although some of the issues within the draft still need refinement, this opens the way for the committee to finalize the draft. The President said this week that the new constitution needs to be finalized within the next thirty days after which time it can be presented to parliament.
Ambassador Mahiga also visited Addis Ababa yesterday, meeting with Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Ato Hailemariam Desalegn, to discuss current developments in Somalia, the activities necessary before the end of the transition period in August, and the need for coordination among the international community in particular UNPOS, the AUC and IGAD. Ambassador Mahiga, who noted that Ethiopia had a major stake in peace and security in Somalia and the region, underlined that the Somali government’s major problem now was the short period remaining before the end of the transition period in August, a date entrenched in the Charter and the Djibouti peace process. He stressed the need to encourage the TFG leadership to reach out to clan and community leaders, religious figures and Somalis in the Diaspora. On the security front, Ambassador Mahiga expressed his hope that those countries which have pledged troops for AMISOM would come forward without further delay. He noted that the request for a no fly zone and a naval blockade was a challenge that needed to be addressed in order to have an effective military operation against piracy. He also underlined the need to support the TFG forces and enable them to have a proper military command to enhance their fighting capacity. Ato Hailemariam assured Ambassador Mahiga that Ethiopia would continue to play its role in working for peace and stability in Somalia and within the framework of IGAD. He agreed the TFG must be strengthened in order to enable it to carry out its mandate, and the importance of helping the TFG to make progress so that the necessary assistance would be forthcoming from the international community. He assured Dr. Mahiga that Ethiopia would continue to engage with partners to achieve these goals for Somalia. He stressed the importance for all parties to work jointly on ensuring a smooth transition in August in accordance with the charter and the Djibouti Peace Agreement. Ethiopia and other IGAD members, he said, have already agreed this is a priority over the next eight months. He emphasized the need to finalize the draft constitution which, he said, should be acceptable to all Somalis as well as the countries in the region.
The launching of a Forum for National Economic Diplomacy in Ethiopia
On Thursday last week, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs launched a Forum for National Economic Diplomacy to be drawn from all the government stakeholders who have an interest in economic diplomacy. Speaking on the occasion, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Ato Hailemariam Desalegn, said the Forum would be composed of representatives from various different ministries and relevant sectoral offices. Its aim would be to help realize the Growth and Transformation Plan through extensive use of economic diplomacy, and by identifying gaps in any sector which should be able to contribute to the plan. There was general appreciation of the importance of the Ministry’s initiative from those present at the meeting, and a commitment to the work of the Forum from the representatives of the relevant stakeholders, including government ministries and agencies which deal with areas involving economic diplomacy.
The Forum is envisaged as a means to provide solutions to problems arising from the lack of integration in planning in the areas of investment, development finance, trade and tourism, and to help the flow of data and information from and among the relevant bodies; in other words to coordinate the activities of these organizations in their involvement in Ethiopia’s economic diplomatic activities. The Forum will have one higher, ministerial level, organizing committee, and five sub-committees. The basic duties and responsibilities of the ministerial committee will be to look at issues of policy and at joint planning issues. It will meet once a month. The sub-committees that will be formed by the higher body are to cover the areas of infrastructure and technology transfer, foreign trade, tourist development, investment promotion and development finance. The sub-committees will be headed by directorate-generals from the respective ministries and sectoral bodies. They will meet on a fortnightly basis to identify any problems, gaps in information, bottlenecks in supply or distribution, or any other impediment in day to day activities. Any matters that need further discussion and decisions will be presented to the ministerial committee for immediate attention.
Economic diplomacy is the central element in Ethiopia’s foreign policy today, and the importance of the forum will be considerable. There is no doubt that any lack of integrated policies among those bodies and stakeholders involved in these areas of development, including trade, investment and loan assistance, technical support and remittances, will make achieving the aims and expectations of the five year Growth and Transformation Plan considerably harder. The main task of economic diplomacy is to facilitate the transfer of technology, to search for markets for export items, and to increase the flow of tourists and foreign investment. The mandates for these activities have, of course, been given to a number of different ministries and different sectoral offices. A major role of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is to facilitate the activities of these bodies overseas by mobilizing the efforts of Ethiopian missions abroad. To fulfill this responsibility, the Ministry needs the necessary data, information, promotion materials and other details from stakeholders. This is one central reason for the initiation of this Forum among government bodies. It will be followed by the formation of a similar forum involving the private sector.
An Ethiopian Delegation visits Iran
Last week, an Ethiopian delegation composed of Ambassador Fisseha Yimer, Special Advisor to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Ambassador Mahdi Ahmed, Director General for the Middle East, Asia and Oceania, paid a visit to the Islamic Republic of Iran, from December 27th to January 3rd. 2011. The objective of the visit was to enhance bilateral relation between the two countries, and during their stay in Tehran the delegation met and exchanged views with the Acting Foreign Minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, and the Deputy Minister for African Affairs as well as with the head of the Foreign Policy and National Security Commission of the Iranian Parliament as well as with representatives of some private companies that have shown interest to carry out business and invest in Ethiopia.
The meetings and exchange of views concentrated on the need to improve economic relations including trade and investment as well as technical cooperation and the transfer of technology which has been at a low level for some time. The Acting Minister, Mr. Salehi, reiterated his country’s strong interest and readiness to support Ethiopia’s five year Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) in all areas, but especially in the areas of infrastructure and capacity building. He also stated Iran’s willingness to provide soft loans and make credit facilities available for private sector activity and projects in Ethiopia. Mr. Salehi noted the respective strategic locations of Ethiopia and Iran in the Horn of Africa and the Middle East, and expressed the hope that relations be strengthened through exchanges of views and of visits. He suggested continued consultations and cooperation between Ethiopia and Iran would aid settlement of regional issues, and issued an invitation to his Ethiopian counterpart to visit Tehran. Ambassador Fisseha praised Ethiopia and Iran’s long standing relations and their close views over regional and international issues. He hoped the visit would prove to be a milestone to mark a new stage in the relationship between the Islamic Republic of Iran and Ethiopia.
In preparation for the sixth Joint Ministerial Commission meeting that will take place in Tehran sometime this year, an advance delegation from Iran will pay an official visit to Ethiopia as soon as possible to exchange views on all issues, but mainly on economic cooperation. Iran has shown keen interest to work with Ethiopia and other members of IGAD to achieve peace and stability in the Horn of Africa, specifically in Somalia. Iran has devoted considerable effort to promote ties with Africa and it has been given observer status at African Union Summits.
Core Principles of Ethiopia’s Foreign Policy: Ethio-Ghana relations
Ethiopia and Ghana have enjoyed long-standing relations for many years having established diplomatic relations through the opening of their respective embassies in 1959 immediately after Ghana became independent from the United Kingdom. Since then the two countries have developed and maintained close relations of cooperation in all areas of common interest.
In the 1960s, their relations were characterized by close and effective bilateral diplomatic activities with particular cooperation in African issues. Both Ethiopia and Ghana were strong advocates for the political independence of all African states. To realize their vision for the political independence of Africa, they both worked hard for the establishment of a strong and viable continental organization. Both worked hard to achieve their desire to bring peace and stability to Africa. The result was the establishment of the Organization of African Unity in 1963 whose first meeting was held in Addis Ababa. In addition to the high level of cooperation on the issues of decolonization in Africa, Ethiopia-Ghana bilateral relations were also strengthened by an exchange of visits by President Nkrumah and Emperor Haile Selassie in 1959 and 1960 respectively.
One example of this was the signing of an Air Service Agreement in 1960. Ethiopian Airlines has a daily flight to Accra which plays a major role in enhancing people-to-people contact. Developments in economic cooperation and investment can be seen in the activities of the Ashanti Gold Extract Company based in Accra. This has concluded a joint venture agreement with Ezana Gold Extract Company to access potential mining areas in Tigray region. Overall, however, trade relations between Ethiopia and Ghana are less active than might be hoped. They need to be further expanded to fully exploit the trade opportunities that do in fact exist in both countries. In light of this, Ethiopia believes it is important to establish a legal framework that can promote and facilitate bilateral trade relations. Already, in order to further encourage people-to-people contact, a Draft Memorandum of Understanding on culture and education is under consideration by both countries. In the meantime a number of highly qualified teachers from Ghana are already working in higher learning institutions in Ethiopia.
Both Ethiopia and Ghana have been significantly involved in UN peacekeeping operations in Africa. Both deployed peacekeeping troops in Congo during the civil war that erupted there in the early 1960s and contributed towards ensuring peace and stability in that country as well as in Africa as a whole. Ghana has also shown tremendous good will towards the efforts to achieve peace in Somalia, taking initiatives to support the Somalia peace process and support the TFG under the umbrella of the African Union. It has also pledged to contribute peacekeeping troops to AMISOM.
Both Ethiopia and Ghana have shown a strong desire to move forward and deepen their cooperation in all mutually advantageous fields, to bring the relationship between them to a new and higher level. This will serve to promote the interests of both countries and their shared aspirations for peace and prosperity in Africa.