Ethiopia’s Foreign Minister in Kuwait
Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin paid an official working visit to the State of Kuwait on Sunday and Monday (4th-5th April) this week. During his stay in Kuwait, he made courtesy calls on His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, the Emir of Kuwait, and on Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Al-Mohammed Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah, delivering messages from Prime Minister Meles, and exchanging views on matters of common interest. Minister Seyoum also held bilateral talks with Sheikh Dr. Mohammed Sabah Al-Salem Al-Sabah, Kuwait’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs. They exchanged views on bilateral and regional issues of common concern and agreed to work closely to further enhance the relations and cooperation between the two countries. It was also agreed that the two sides should hold regular consultations on regional and international issues. The meeting was cordial and conducted in a spirit of friendship.
During his visit, Minister Seyoum also held discussions with senior officials of the Kuwait Fund, the Kuwait Investment Authority, the Kuwait Petroleum Corporation and board members of the Kuwait Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The talks centered on ways and means of further enhancing the economic, investment and trade cooperation existing between the two countries. Minister Seyoum encouraged the Kuwait private sector and business organizations to exploit the substantial investment and business opportunities that are now available in Ethiopia. The Minister also met with the Kuwait press and gave a number of interviews in the course of his visit which he described as very fruitful.
On leaving Kuwait, Minister Seyoum is visiting Scandinavia, making official visits to Finland and Norway, before visiting Italy on his way back to Ethiopia at the weekend.
Sudan elections: IGAD sends an Observer Mission; the ICG rejects the process
IGAD member states have sent an Observer Mission to the Sudan to observe the Sudanese elections being held this weekend. IGAD member states were each asked to nominate five representatives to be part of the observers provided under the umbrella of the African Union. IGAD organized training for the mission in Mombassa last month. The IGAD Observer Mission is led by the Hon. Wondimu Gezahegn, a member of Ethiopia’s House of Representatives. In addition to observer missions from the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the African Union (AU), the European Union (EU) and others are also sending missions to the Sudan to observe the elections for the Presidency and the National Assembly. In fact, the mission from the EU involves the largest number of observers in its history of engagement with election observance in Africa. The African Union Observer Mission is being led by the former President of Ghana, Mr. John Kufor. There is considerable interest and anticipation of the results.
Equally, there are some who have already made up their mind about the results even though the vote has yet to take place, and at least one organization has even gone so far as to suggest what the international community should do in response to these “results”, despite the highly dangerous implications for the Sudan and for IGAD as a region in making such suggestions in advance of the vote. The International Crisis Group (ICG) released its latest policy briefing at the end of March, looking at the election in the Sudan. The briefing makes its view of the elections quite clear in the title: “Rigged elections in Darfur and the consequences of a probable NCP victory in Sudan”. This concentrates on the implications for and the participation of Darfur in the election, but it is easy to see from the most superficial reading that the ICG has produced a highly critical report, aimed at dismissing the results of the elections in advance. Indeed, in its dismissal of the electoral process, it actually appears to have the objective of inciting a return to violence and war in the Sudan in general and Darfur in particular.
Inevitably, this raises the question as to why the ICG should issue such a report just at this time and so shortly before the elections are due to be held. Its recommendations to the United Nations Security Council and to the African Union’s Peace and Security Council call on these bodies to take up positions that can only be described as unhelpful to the Sudan and indeed to peace and stability in the IGAD region in general. The ICG suggests that the electoral observation missions in Sudan take note of what it calls a “severely flawed process” and even goes so far as to suggest that “governments and international organizations, especially the UN Security Council and AU Peace and Security Council, state that whoever wins will lack a genuinely democratic mandate to govern”. The ICG apparently reached this highly negative conclusion about elections in Sudan as a whole on the basis of what it believes has been happening in Darfur.
The fundamental contradictions in this ICG position are seriously disturbing, as are the implausibility of its suggestions. The report, of course, is issued just as the elections are due to take place, and must be seen as a very deliberate attempt to try to influence the results and the actual conduct of the vote. By contrast, the IGAD mission, the AU, and the EU, will certainly want to wait for the election results to be known before reaching any conclusions. As IGAD ministers underlined at the Nairobi summit, IGAD is committed to do all it can to support the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in Sudan, an integral part of which is the election this month and the referendum next January.
The ICG has been involved in issuing reports and policy briefings on the Horn of Africa over a number of years. Without exception, its reports are all almost exclusively negative, making no contribution towards the possibility of any positive assistance, for example, in building peace and stability in Somalia, resolving problems between Ethiopia and Eritrea or in the Sudan. One only has to look at the ICG’s reports on Somalia since 2005 and at the negatively titled “Ethiopia: Ethnic Federation and its discontents” to see just how deliberately destructive the ICG’s view for the region actually is. This latest report on Darfur and the Sudanese elections fits precisely into this sequence. It concludes “…the result is an almost certain victory for the NCP. And the consequences for Darfur are catastrophic. Disenfranchising large numbers of people will only further marginalize them. Since the vote will impose illegitimate officials through rigged polls, they will be left with little or no hope of a peaceful change in the status quo, and many can be expected to look to rebel groups to fight and win back their lost rights and lands.” This is frankly little more than a call to re-igniting war and nullifying all recent efforts to encourage negotiations to produce a settlement in Darfur.
While it is difficult to see what benefit the ICG can get in trying to exacerbate war and mayhem in the IGAD region, the fact is that the ICG has been prominent in opposing IGAD efforts to encourage peace and stability in the sub-region, not just in Sudan. It might be recalled that IGAD’s efforts to send a peace, support and protection mission for the TFG in Somalia after it had been established in Mbagathi in Kenya in December 2004, were thwarted by the ICG’s calling on the international community not to support the mission. The ICG sent letters to all IGAD leaders criticizing the attempt. The IGAD Council of Ministers, in its March 2005 meeting, felt obliged to issue a communiqué attacking the ICG moves. If it had not been for the action of the ICG, there is little doubt IGASOM would have been a reality; subsequent events in Somalia might well have been very different.
In September last year, we commented on the report-cum-propaganda piece that the ICG had issued on Ethiopia. It contained a significant number of extremely serious errors and it was disturbing, disappointing and even dangerous because of the entirely negative tone it took towards government policies. We don’t want to return to that discussion, but it is important to understand the direction from which the ICG is coming and why it wants to conclude that a process is ‘illegitimate’ even before it takes place. The approach fits into the continuous media propaganda in the international press that all elections in Africa are rigged, that Africans are incapable of holding genuine elections, and hence all elections should be considered illegitimate. This is apparently the case wherever they are being held, north, south, east or west Africa. The reality, of course, is very different. Electoral processes may often have difficulties. Florida in the US in 2000, and Ohio in 2004 are examples. But the sort of blanket denial of electoral processes in Africa that the ICG puts forward, should be rejected by all those who support Africa’s attempts to establish the foundations of democracy and good governance.
Security Council Resolution 1907: the need for full and urgent implementation
It has been now more than 3 months since the Security Council of the United Nations passed resolution 1907/2009 on 23 December 2009, imposing an arms embargo, travel restrictions and a freeze on the assets of Eritrea’s political and military leaders, and entities affiliated to them. The resolution was passed because the Security Council had come to a (long-overdue) conclusion that: “Eritrea’s actions undermining peace and reconciliation in Somalia as well as the dispute between Djibouti and Eritrea constitute a threat to international peace and security.” The Security Council adopted that resolution by a vote of 13 in favor, with 1 against and with 1 principled abstention, reiterating its demand that Eritrea withdraw its forces to the positions of status quo ante in the area where its conflict with Djibouti had occurred, acknowledge its border dispute and cooperate fully with the Secretary General’s good offices. It further demanded that Eritrea cease all efforts to destabilize or overthrow, directly or indirectly, the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia. The Council reaffirmed that the Djibouti Peace Agreement and the Peace Process represent the basis for a resolution of the conflict in Somalia. It reiterated its commitment to a comprehensive and lasting settlement of the situation in Somalia based on the Transitional Federal Charter, and for the urgent need for all Somali leaders to take tangible steps to continue political dialogue.
It is in this light that the recent agreement signed between the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and Ahlu Sunna wal Jama’a (ASWJ) allowing for the integration of their administrations and security forces on the basis of the Transitional Federal Charter and the Djibouti Agreement, should be seen, as an impressive and satisfactory response to the call of the Security Council “for all Somali leaders to take tangible steps to continue political dialogue”. The official signing of this agreement is obviously the most significant achievement since the Djibouti Agreement of August 2008 which paved the way for the creation of the present TFG. It is to be hoped that it will also provide a basis for other Somali forces to further broaden the TFG.
It would of course be an understatement to emphasize here that prompt and meaningful support from the international community is necessary to provide the required resources. Indeed, without them the agreement might be faced with real obstacles from its detractors. The international community must encourage this important development, providing assistance politically and in terms of resources to put the TFG into a position to defeat extremism, fanaticism and the external agenda extremists are attempting to impose on the people of Somalia.
Both Security Council’s resolution 1907/2009 and the agreement between the TFG and ASWJ demonstrate the fact things are changing in Somalia, and that the international community has at last realized the need to curtail the destabilizing actions of Eritrea in the region by the imposition of sanctions. Now, the next important step is to see that there is full compliance and implementation of the resolution by member states of the UN. Resolution 1907 details the major elements of the sanctions and the required obligation of all states to comply fully with the measures imposed by Resolution 733 (1992) as elaborated and amended by subsequent relevant resolutions, including Resolution 1844 (2008) and Resolution 1907 (2009).
It is understandable that some member States might find it a little difficult to immediately put into effect those parts of the sanctions dealing with travel restrictions and a freeze on the assets of Eritrean political and military leaders, governmental and parastatal entities, and entities privately owned by Eritrean nationals living within or outside of Eritrean territory, as these have yet to be designated by the sanctions committee. But what is called for in Resolution 1907 (2009), particularly paragraphs 5, 6,7,8,9 and 12, are not all issues that reflect such difficulties. They can be acted upon immediately to implement an arms embargo and freeze assets and put a stop to travel. Indeed, some states have already begun to operate an arms embargo. Switzerland, Australia, Brazil, the EU and Japan, for example, have taken the lead in demonstrating their seriousness to comply with Resolution 1907, by initiating certain preliminary measures to implement an embargo on arms supplies to Eritrea.
This is to be applauded, but it isn’t enough. The Security Council, which established the Monitoring Group, has now, with Resolution 1916 (2010) of March 19th, added another three more experts to the Group, in order to fulfill the Group’s expanded mandate. It is the Monitoring Group which is responsible for producing the details which will allow the UN Sanctions Committee to designate the names of political and military leaders and others who should be subject to travel restrictions and a freeze of assets. The Monitoring Group submitted its first report (S/2010/91) on March 12th with observations and recommendations on how to implement Resolution 1907 fully. It is expected to produce monthly reports as well as a mid-term report in six months. This makes it clear that progress is being made at Security Council level, and it can be expected the activities at the Council level will continue to be strengthened further.
Equally, it is the actions requested of member states to comply with, and implement fully Resolution 1907 that need to be most closely monitored and encouraged. This indeed, is something at which both IGAD and the AU should be at the forefront – in producing the necessary information specifically requested by the resolution, that is the list of individuals and entities to meet the criteria set out in paragraph 8 of Resolution 1844 (2008) and in Resolution1907 (2010) as well as entities owned or controlled, directly or indirectly, or acting on behalf of or at the direction of such entities.
All members of the United Nations are required to see to it that both Resolution 1844 (2008) and Resolution 1907 (2009), are duly implemented, and to report the steps they have taken to implement the measures outlined in Resolution 1907. This is all the more critical given the danger of losing momentum and focus in the collective effort to comply fully with these resolutions. Any failure, in fact, would ultimately involve the danger of having a Security Council resolution withering away without implementation. Given the dangers to peace and security in Somalia, and in the Horn of Africa, neither the region, nor Africa as a whole, or even the world, can afford the failure of this resolution.
Ensuring the integrity of the upcoming elections: the regional context revisited
It has been quite some time since the ideals of multi-party democracy, good governance and human rights spread around the world. Today, there’s a growing consensus that democracy, far from being a matter of choice, is indeed the most effective form of government better-suited to create a well-ordered, just and stable society, ensuring the fullest possible representation and the protection of interests of the disparate sectors of society. The indispensability of these ideals for a region bedeviled by recurrent conflicts between and among various diverse peoples and groups, the result of a lack of good governance, cannot be overstated. Our sub-region is certainly no exception to the increasing realization of the necessary role of good governance and democracy, but the level of progress achieved so far has been modest. There are numerous challenges that have played havoc with the democratization processes of particular countries. There are also clear fault lines among the major players, state or non-state alike, regarding the relevance of, and the commitment to, ideals of democracy and good governance. Indeed, two major competing trends can be seen in the region, and their interplay has significance far beyond the sub-region and indeed Africa.
Despite the growing consensus among the international community for the need to embrace the ideals of democracy and good governance, there are still some who continue to hold to time-honored practices of governing that fly full in the face of these imperatives. It is a view that often finds expression in the form of a stubborn refusal to abide by the notions of democracy and toleration, open disdain for the rule of law in both domestic and international contexts, and by an unbridled insistence on belligerency as a means of settling differences. According to proponents of this rejectionist approach, democracy is no more than a mere cliché, elections are a sham, political opposition intolerable, good neighborly relations anachronistic, and the rule of law no more than an irritant to be dispensed with. Instead, citizens are subject to appalling treatment, dissenting voices suppressed, constitutions suspended or not implemented, elections deferred or totally dispensed with, and the rule of law scorned. Even more, the international rules and norms governing inter-state relations are sacrificed on the altar of expediency and deliberately generated crises are exported throughout the region. Many of the region’s conflicts result from these attitudes, and there appears to be no immediate end in sight to this trend, personified as it is by the Government of Eritrea. Eritrea may be the most vigorous of rejectionist of state actors in this context, but it is hardly alone. The region has more than its fair share of elements, both state and non-state which thrive on fratricidal conflict or terrorist atrocities, or even the sort of open aggression carried out by Eritrea against its neighbors.
At the same time, there are developments that stand in marked contrast to these dangerous trends. There is a growing realization by many in the region that democratic ideals are a matter of survival and must therefore be encouraged wholeheartedly whatever the odds. Nurturing multi-party democracy, the promotion of good governance and the protection of human rights are choices that are not only unavoidable but vital in ensuring that the interests of the peoples, of individual countries or of the whole region, are better served in a political environment of democratic governance. Followers of this trend put a high premium on respect for international law and on the promotion of good neighborly relations as well as meaningful regional cooperation and dialogue. These are the best mechanisms of protecting peoples’ interests on the basis of mutual respect and benefit. A lot of energy and political goodwill has already been expended to stem the tide of pessimism, to ensure this path will triumph over the insanity and nihilism of rejectionism.
In this respect we can confidently assert that Ethiopia has been steadily leading this campaign for good governance through the number of measures it has taken both in the domestic political sphere as well as in the context of activities to strengthen cooperation among the countries of the region in the pursuit of peace and stability. In this context, Ethiopia has taken a highly significant and affirmative role in seeking peaceful solutions to the regional conflicts. It has frequently gone that extra mile to resolve its differences with others in a civilized and constructive manner. Its role, as part of the efforts of IGAD and the AU to find solutions for conflicts throughout Africa, has been commendable. It remains the most significant partner of the Somalis and the Sudanese in their efforts to resolve their conflicts amicably. It has time and time again displayed its full support for peace. Its participation in peace-keeping operations in various problem areas has been widely welcomed.
In the domestic sphere, the various political, economic and social policies that have been implemented by the government have provided growing empowerment of the peoples of Ethiopia, in political and economic growth, affecting millions. Ethiopia is currently growing at an impressive speed largely due to the full participation of people in the political process made possible by the political reform undertaken nearly two decades ago. The protection of human rights, the building of democratic institutions and a multi-party system, the provision of public services and the strengthening of unity as well as the building of peace and stability have been gathering momentum year by year. Despite some setbacks, unavoidable given the original lack of democratic culture, and the efforts of the competing trend of rejection, there’s been very significant progress. There can be more. With the right support from partners, the political stability and economic development that the government has produced in Ethiopia could go a long way to strengthen those in the region and throughout the continent who believe in the efficacy of democratic institutions in resolving conflicts between and among peoples. Ethiopia’s role in regional efforts to seek peaceful solutions to conflicts reinforces optimism and provides an excellent example.
It isn’t yet possible today to say with mathematical certainty which of these trends will finally dominate, but the result will determine whether democracy is indeed viable in a conflict-ridden region such as ours still is. It will, of course, largely depend upon the determination of regional actors themselves, for which there is no substitute. Equally, there are those who consider it their business to lend support to the cause of democracy and good governance. These may be development partners or other international actors who claim to have a stake in the development of democratic institutions in the region, but whose contributions can sometimes demonstrate an entrenched bias that seems to reinforce, perhaps inadvertently, the continuation of rejection. The contribution of these partners and self-professed promoters of democratic ideals do not always appear to provide the right incentive for the right cause. The ambivalence, even open antagonism, of some actors towards positive developments in the region and an almost messianic resolve to impose their own orthodoxy root and branch, have all-too-often vindicated the claims of rejectionists and spoilers in the region. The experiences have been sobering indeed.
Much of the support Ethiopia has received from such actors for its democratization efforts and for its role in the region has been lukewarm at best. Relations with self-appointed ‘democracy promoters’ have often been punctuated by acrimonious allegations. Most of these criticisms come from elements which, constrained by their own prejudices and misguided assumptions, are unwilling to accept that the basis of democracy might be local rather than foreign. By trying to insist on a political orthodoxy far removed from the reality on the ground, they distract attention from questions that really matter, and in the process dilute the significance that such positive developments could have on others making similar efforts in the region. Ethiopia’s encouraging advances in the process of democratization, despite the efforts of rejectionist forces, go unnoticed. As we saw during and after the May 2005 elections, a smear campaign denigrating the election and its results, emboldened rejectionist elements in the region and within Ethiopia. These were led by Eritrea, the least democratic state in the region, if not Africa, in a campaign to try to bring about the collapse of Ethiopia’s democratization process. What might have been a real watershed, promoting the ideals of democracy and good governance in the region and throughout the continent, was nearly swallowed up by a cacophony of accusations that came close to seriously compromising the gains Ethiopia has made in development, peace, stability and democracy. It was an opportunity lost to those who might have drawn a lesson from the experience.
This time around, we can expect the election will rekindle such possibilities. There is every reason to believe, given Ethiopia’s regional and wider involvement, that the election will provide a highly successful impetus for the region and the continent. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that the forces that did everything they could to tarnish Ethiopia’s image five years ago, won’t try it again this time. Indeed, some have already begun to do so; more can be expected. The failure to appreciate the significance of such positive developments, reinforcing the faith of the peoples of the region in democratic ideals, can only assist elements of rejectionism and extremism. The success of the electoral process will not only benefit the peoples of Ethiopia but will represent a major step forward for democracy in the Horn of Africa and in Africa.
Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Ministry of Foreign Affairs