IGAD Convenes Its 15th Extra-Ordinary Summit on Somalia
The 15th Extraordinary IGAD Assembly of Heads of State and Government was held in Addis Ababa, on 5th July 2010, under the Chairmanship of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. The Summit considered the political and security situation in Somalia. The Assembly was attended by all the leaders of IGAD member states except Eritrea. Prior to the Summit meeting the Council held consultations on the 4th of July 2010 on developments since its last session on 15th June 2010.
In his opening remark PM Meles underscored the gravity of the situation in Somalia. He underlined that the status quo in Somalia must not be allowed to continue. In this regard he said, “As we take stock of the prevailing situations, the way we have been trying to deal with the challenge has fallen far short of bringing the desired result. Hence, in the light of the prevailing political and security situation in Somalia, the status must be changed. Recent security in the country does not augur well. This coupled with the approaching end of the transition period, calls for serious work within the remaining time frame. In this regard, the Somalis, IGAD, AU and other stakeholders have to chart out specific actions and play their respective role in a more proactive manner.”
The Ethiopian Prime Minister further stated that, the Somalis, as owners of their own destiny had to be at the forefront of the struggle for peace and stability in Somalia and that their role could not be replaced. According to PM Meles, IGAD and others could only support the endeavour of the people of Somalia. While pointing out that the tasks to be accomplished during the transition period were enormous, he reminded the Somali leaders that a lot was expected from the TFG and expressed hope they would live up to expectation in meeting the challenge. With regard to IGAD, he underscored that it needed to be more proactive in dealing with the situation and to enhance its support to the IGAD process, which he said was the only framework and the best option to deal with the challenges faced by Somalia. He emphasised that the extremists must not be allowed, at any cost, to spoil the transition process and pointed out that the gravity of the problem required a concerted effort on the part of Somalis, IGAD, Africa Union and the international community at large. However, Prime Minister Meles regretted that Somalia so far had not received the necessary attention it deserved while at the same time expressing his gratitude to the international community for giving assistance and support to the people of Somalia, however, meagre it was. But he once again reiterated that the support and assistance offered to Somalia was not commensurate with the enormity of the challenges the Country continued to face. While underscoring the need for IGAD members to reaffirm their commitment to the peace and stability of Somalia, he at the same time called upon the international community to play its role. He pointed out that there was no reason why a UN peace keeping force could not be deployed in areas where African peace keepers were doing what ever they can to assist the people and Government of Somalia. He concluded by calling upon the UN to deploy a peace keeping force to replace AMISOM.
Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, the President of the TFG, on his part underlined in a briefing to the Summit that the meeting was timely and should come up with concrete measures to address the challenges posed by extremists with foreign agenda. He expressed the full readiness of the people of Somalia to fight the scourge of terrorism but said they needed the support of the IGAD region as a whole in their day to day struggle.
Meanwhile, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia and Chairperson of the IGAD Council of Ministers Seyoum Mesfin also briefed the Assembly on the decisions reached by the 36th IGAD Council of Ministers held on 15 June 2010 as well as the consultations held on the 4th of July 2010. Minister Seyoum told the Summit that the Council had conducted an in depth discussion, which had been frank and constructive. The Council in its Communiqué had identified measures that should be undertaken by the TFG, and IGAD as a region. He underlined that the decisions contained in the Communiqué had identified crucial steps that needed to be taken to ensure that the TFG would become more credible as a Government. In particular, the Council of Ministers focused greater attention on the security situation in Somalia and it was in light of the gravity of the situation in Somalia that the Council did propose the holding of the Extraordinary Summit.
Minister Seyoum emphasized that Council had underscored the need to bring about fundamental changes in the security sector to effectively address the security challenges in Somalia. In this regard, the Council did call upon the TFG to reorganize the structure of its security forces with the view to unifying all its regional units under a central command. The Council also emphasized that the troops being trained to serve in the security forces of the TFG had to be logistically supported and remunerated. It was in this context that a Mission composed of military officers of IGAD Member States was dispatched to Mogadishu from 21 to 26 June 2010. The team, having held extensive discussions with the TFG officials and AMISOM commanders as well as other stakeholders, had assessed the situation on the ground. The Summit was briefed on the outcome of the Mission’s assessment whereupon it reached agreement that the Report of the Mission did in fact highlight the major problems in the security area and acknowledged that the proposed recommendations were sound and realistic.
On a positive note, the Council also took note of the encouraging steps the TFG had taken to ensure the broadening of its base of support. In this regard, the Council commended the Agreement that was signed between the TFG and Ahlu Sunna Wal Jamaa on 15 March 2010. The recent reshuffle of the Government was in fact partly designed to ensure the implementation of this important agreement. This was a significant step towards proving wrong those who are currently doing everything to undermine the Djibouti process, underlined Minister Seyoum.
Minister Seyoum further informed the Summit that the Council had agreed that there was a critical need for harmonization of the activities of all parties active in Somalia. The Council therefore, suggested that the Summit should call upon AMISOM, UNPOS and IGAD to establish an operational level coordination mechanism in Mogadishu in order to strengthen and harmonize their support. According to Foreign Minister Seyoum, this coordination required an immediate relocation of the police and civilian components of AMISOM to Mogadishu. Cognizant of the need for mobilizing greater support for the people of Somalia, the Council felt that there was a need for designating a prominent figure of high stature as AU High Representative for Somalia, a recommendation Minister Seyoum submitted to the Summit for its decision. Accordingly, the Summit issued decisions on both issues calling on AMISOM, IGAD and UNPOS to set up a coordination mechanism and called on the AU Commission Chairperson to nominate an eminent personality for Somalia, while further calling for an immediate relocation of the police and civilian component of AMISOM to Somalia.
The Summit was held against the backdrop of the worsening security situation in Mogadishu which already added greater urgency to many of the recommendations submitted by the Military Mission which had earlier visited Mogadishu. The Summit held extensive discussion on the current developments and unanimously concluded that what was going on in Somalia was a fighting between the people of Somalia and international terrorists and extremist groups further underlining that the threat posed by these groups was not only a threat to Somalia, but a threat to the peace of the region and the world at large. But it recognized with regret that the Security Council had failed to fully carry out its obligation in Somalia. It was therefore with this in mind that the Summit reiterated its call on the United Nations to discharge its responsibility to the people of Somalia and do so as speedily as possible by deploying a peacekeeping force to the country.
IGAD Facilitator for Somalia Kipruto Arap Kirwa also briefed the Assembly on the IGAD military experts’ mission to Mogadishu that was undertaken pursuant to the decision by the 36th Session of the IGAD Council of Ministers, detailing the military situation, the relations between the various stakeholders and challenges faced by the people and government of Somalia. The Summit endorsed the recommendations of the military mission to Somalia as amended; and directed the Chiefs of Defense Staff of IGAD Member States to convene an urgent meeting and submit to the AU Commission an action plan to deploy 2000 peace keepers to Somalia to enable AMISOM to reach the authorized level of strength of 8100 personnel, and to review and implement, as appropriate, the recommendations made by the IGAD Military Mission to Somalia. This meeting of the Chiefs of Defense Staff is expected to convene in the middle of this month.
Finally, the Summit cautioned against and rejected the proliferation of initiatives that could undermine the Djibouti Peace Process as the only credible arrangement on which to build. The Summit concluded by urging the TFG to continue the efforts it had been making to broaden its base while ensuring that the process was protected from the threat posed by extremists who are bent on seeing the Djibouti process dismantled.
A National Budget Focusing on Poverty Reduction Approved by the Ethiopian Parliament
The outgoing parliament, in its 36th regular session recently approved the budgetary bill for the 2010/11 fiscal year amounting to 77.2 billion Birr which is the biggest ever in the country’s history. The bill allocates more than 70 percent of its budget for addressing poverty reduction projects underlining the government’s resolve to further enhance its poverty eradication endeavors.
The pledge against poverty eradication is in keeping with Ethiopia’s commitment to achieving the Millennium Development Goals of reducing poverty by half by the year 2015. The current budget allocates the lion’s share of the resources for provision of services like education, health, rural electrification, roads and telecommunications – sectors that are critical to alleviating poverty and hence paving the road towards achieving the MDGs. It is to be recalled that UN sources indicated Ethiopia to be one of the 20 developing countries in the world that are slated to meet the MDGs.
What is more, out of the total budget, about 46.5 percent is allocated for capital expenditure while regional subsidy and recurrent expenditure receive about 31 percent and 22 percent of the budget respectively.
The bill allocates about 4.4 billion Birr to national defense amounting to 0.91 percent of the Gross Domestic Product of the country that is less than the 2009/10 fiscal year’s 0.98 percent. In terms of financing the expenditures, over three quarter of the revenues is from domestic sources while about 20.1 billion Birr is expected to come as grants and loans from external sources although, according to the Prime Minister, actual pledges exceed the conservative calculation.
Egyptian Ministers Visit Ethiopia
Mr. Ahmed Abul-Gheit, the Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Minister of International Cooperation, Mrs. Fayza Abulnaga, were in Addis Ababa for a one day working visit. The officials had discussions with their counterparts Ato Seyoum Mesfin, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Ato Girma Biru, Minister of Trade and Industry. The Egyptian officials were also given audience by the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Ato Meles Zenawi.
The holding of a meeting at such a high political level was welcomed. Very serious and frank discussion was conducted and both sides agreed that the multifaceted relations between the two countries should be promoted and further enhanced. It was emphasized that the close bond that exists between Ethiopia and Egypt cannot, for obvious reasons, be broken.
As regards the Cooperative Framework Agreement under the umbrella of the Nile Basin Initiative, understanding was reached to try and narrow the gap by negotiating in good faith notwithstanding the differences that might exist with all due respect to the principles of equitable and reasonable utilization and not causing significant harm to other Basin states. It was emphasized that there was no reason why the issue between upper and lower riparian countries could not be handled and resolved in such a way as would promote and protect the interest of both sides. What is required is, on the part of both, to handle matters relating to the Nile waters with realism and without the need for undue suspiciousness. Ethiopian officials were very forthcoming in assuring the Egyptian delegation that none of the upper riparian countries was interested in pursuing objectives that are based on zero-sum calculations. But, of course, there is a need on the part of the lower riparian countries to be serious about subscribing to the principle of equitable and reasonable utilization which is only fair and a principle universally upheld.
Foreign Minister Seyoum Visits the People’s Republic of China
A delegation led by Ato Seyoum Mesfin, Foreign Minister of the FDRE paid an official working visit to the People’s Republic of China from June 28-30, 2010. The Foreign Minister, during his stay in China, met with his counter part Mr. Yang Jiechi, the Foreign Minister of the People’s Republic of China and held discussions and exchanged views on bilateral, regional and International issues of common concern. Minister Seyoum expressed his gratitude for the People and government of the People’s Republic of China for the firm support to, and active participation in, the development endeavours of Ethiopia in all areas. He also requested the government of the People’s Republic of China to continue its support to Ethiopia. Mr. Yang Jiechi, on his part, expressed his appreciation for the steady economic and social growth of Ethiopia and pledged to continue his country’s support. The two sides also exchanged views on the situation in the Sudan and reached a common understanding with regard to the need for peace and stability in the Sudan.
Minister Seyoum also met and discussed with other high officials from the public sector as well as with several private companies doing or planning to do business in Ethiopia.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas visits Ethiopia
A Palestinian delegation led by Dr. Mahmoud Abbas, President of Palestinian National Authority, paid a three day official visit to Ethiopia earlier this week. While here, President Mahmoud Abbas and his delegation met with Ato Girma Wolde Giorgis, the President of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia., Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, and with Ethiopian religious leaders.
His meeting with President Girma Wolde Giorgis dwelt on bilateral issues and issues related to the Middle East peace process.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and President Mahmoud Abbas discussed and exchanged views on bilateral and regional issues as well as on the Israeli-Palestine peace process. The two sides reiterated the need to further enhance the existing bilateral relations and to see the implementation of the agreements signed between the two sides last year. Dr. Mahmoud briefed Prime Minister Meles on the peace process in detail and expressed his sincere wish to resume the direct talks with Israel once the Israeli side showed some flexibility. He also emphasized the readiness of the Palestinian National Authority to resolve all outstanding issues amicably.
He also expressed his deep concern on the situation in Somalia and the presence of international terrorists in the region and the need for the international community to assist the TFG in its efforts to address the serious security challenges it continued to face.
President Mahmoud Abbas also expressed his gratitude for the plot of land the government of Ethiopia provided for the construction of a chancery and residence for the Ambassador. He also extended his invitation to Prime Minister Meles to officially pay a visit to Palestine.
Prime Minister Meles on his part thanked the President for the briefings and expressed his commitment to strengthening the bilateral relations of the two countries. He also reiterated Ethiopia’s commitment to helping the Israeli Palestinian sides resolve their differences peacefully. He also thanked the President of the Palestinian Authority for the invitation extended to visit Palestine. Moreover, both leaders addressed questions raised by journalists and proceeded to the residence of the Embassy of Palestine to jointly lay the foundation for the construction of new embassy on the plot of land provided by the Ethiopian government.
President Mahmoud Abbas also met and held discussion with Ethiopian religious leaders on the Israeli Palestine process before he left Addis.
Eritrea Contradicts the UN Secretary General’s interpretation of its position on Somalia
We have for a few weeks now been commenting that Eritrea’s so-called renewed good faith should be taken with a pinch of salt coming—needless to say—as it does from a leadership that has an almost visceral aversion to normal behavior such as peaceful coexistence with its neighbors. The peace agreement with Djibouti—while a very welcome development—was shrouded with mystery especially as there has been literally no indication on the part of Eritrea’s leaders that there indeed was such an agreement signed and/or if indeed that amounted to an acknowledgement of at least the existence of a crisis between the two countries. The international community’s response to the agreement was one of optimism which made it all the more curious if indeed there was reason enough to warrant the level of enthusiasm it displayed.
In this regard, the United Nations’ Secretary General’s rather optimistic remarks about change of behavior on the part of the leadership in Asmara were particularly interesting in more ways than one. For one thing, despite the Secretary General’s optimism towards the agreement, Eritrea’s leaders has yet to formally acknowledge there indeed was an agreement which they signed. After all, this agreement pertained to an issue his organization and more particularly the UNSC have been seized with for quite sometime and on which two resolutions had already been passed by the Council. It was an open secret—and still is—that the regime in Asmara was denying that there was such a conflict in the first place, much less meet the demands set forth in Resolution 1907. But more importantly, the agreement would still fall short of meeting the other two demands that were clearly specified in the Resolution—namely, refraining from supporting terrorists in Somalia and desisting from its destabilizing activities in the region.
As indicated in previous issues of Week in the Horn, it would not be altogether surprising for the UN Secretary General—or any member of the international Community for that matter—to welcome any signs of improving behavior from a repeat offender such as the regime in Asmara has always been with a modicum of optimism even if the details are far from clear. But as we also indicated a couple of times before, such developments should be looked at with a healthy amount of skepticism. The behavior of the leaders of Eritrea is not all that reassuring. Let’s take for instance what UN Secretary General had to say with regard to what he apparently believed was an encouraging change of behavior on the part of Eritrea’s leaders with regard to their position on Somalia. He remarked in his recent report that the participation of Eritrean officials in the Istanbul conference and some of the overtures they displayed there amounted to their willingness, among other things, to recognize, and work with, the TFG as the only legitimate authority in Somalia. Whatever may have led him to such overly optimistic conclusion was not the least shared by the regime in Asmara. As the UN representative for Eritrea made it clear in his recent letter to the UNSC, the Secretary General’s interpretation was never what Eritrea’s leaders intended to convey in Istanbul. In a letter dated June 30, 2010 and addressed to the president of the Security Council, while acknowledging that Eritrea “participated in the Istanbul conference with the gracious invitation extended to it by the Government of Turkey and the United Nations” the Eritrean Ambassador, however, stated that “it would not be appropriate to attribute other interpretations to Eritrea’s participation.”
Clearly, Eritrea did not take the Secretary General’s all too optimistic interpretation all too well. This may sound a bit overstated; but Eritrean officials’ very recent behavior has gone even further. In fact, Eritrea has once again submitted what it had earlier submitted in Istanbul to the Security Council by way—as it were—of clarification that it has not in fact changed its position on Somalia. In its submission, it regurgitates its usual diatribe against the rest of the world for what it claims is an egregious failure of responsibility on Somalia. It once again makes a litany of allegations against the US, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya and even the United Nations for causing or exacerbating the crisis in Somalia. Of course, Eritrea is nowhere listed among the nations which are alleged to have played a negative role in creating havoc in Somalia one way or another. It would be all too naïve to expect Eritrean leaders to admit that they were indeed a significant part of the problem. But what Eritrea’s in-your face attitude shows is that no amount of coddling by the international community is going to soften its heart once it has made up its mind about one thing. What this also tells us is that whatever declarations might be made by third parties regarding Eritrea’s alleged good faith; reason would demand that words be matched by deeds. But doing this has never been Eritrea’s leaders’ strong point. It would therefore be foolhardy for any serious-minded people to fall for Eritrea’s leaders’ cheap tricks.
Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Ministry of Foreign Affairs