Ambassador Mahiga visits Mogadishu on Thursday
Ambassador Mahiga, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Somalia headed a delegation to visit President Sheikh Sharif of the TFG in Mogadishu on Thursday. He was accompanied by the IGAD Facilitator for Peace in Somalia and a representative of the AU. Ambassador Mahiga was delivering a message with the aim of helping to resolve some of the problems within the TFIs, and, hopefully, with the intent to address the issues in a comprehensive manner. There have been some activities in the last week or two among TFI members which can hardly be considered to be in conformity with the Djibouti Agreement. These were carried out without the knowledge of the TFG’s President.
It is becoming clearer and clearer that wittingly, or unwittingly, third parties can exacerbate misunderstandings among TFG officials which could otherwise be easily resolved. Letters, recently addressed to some UN officials and written without the President’s knowledge, make it clear this sort of activity has been going on. It is to be hoped that the delegation that visited Mogadishu on Thursday would have the opportunity to focus on this matter, and would provide the President with assurances that the UN, the AU and IGAD do not view any such activities as acceptable. Of course, the President of the TFG also has the related obligation to ensure that there is harmony and stability within the TFG and the TFIs. All the same, focusing on this aspect of the difficult situation in Mogadishu will not help much unless there is also an effort to address attempts to sideline the President. We would hope therefore that the delegation that visited Mogadishu yesterday did make a real effort to address the issues as comprehensively as possible.
Smoke and Mirrors: Eritrea, the UN and Somalia
We noted last week how important, indeed how necessary, it is for the international community to be fully aware of the aims and intentions of the leadership of Eritrea. In the visit last week to Eritrea by Mr. Lynn Pascoe, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, and by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Somalia, Ambassador Mahiga, who returned to Asmara again a few days later, President Isaias apparently insisted on his readiness to work together with the Special Representative on Somalia despite his continued insistence that the UN, and indeed everybody else, has got it all wrong on Somalia and that only Eritrea has any understanding of the reality of the situation there. His contention remains that all external involvement in Somalia, except of course Eritrea’s involvement including its support for extremist organizations, is unacceptable.
President Isaias told Ambassador Mahiga that it was the UN’s responsibility to create conducive grounds for Somalis to resolve their differences and to resolve the issue in an “apolitically inclusive manner”. But as he has repeatedly made clear in the past, President Isaias does not include the TFG in this. Eritrea has pointedly refused to recognize the TFG despite its international recognition, nor does President Isaias accept the Djibouti Agreements of 2008 which provide the basis for the present progress towards reconciliation in Somalia. President Isaias’ version of inclusivity rejects progress made towards reconciliation, and insists on the inclusion of organizations that have been identified as terrorist groups by the UN and the US – Al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam, and leaders such as Sheikh Hassan Dahir ‘Aweys’ who is on international terrorist lists. Sheikh ‘Aweys’ of course spent over two years as a pensioner of Asmara after he fled from Mogadishu when the TFG returned there in January 2007. Eritrea sent him back down to Mogadishu in April 2009, together with three plane loads of arms from Asmara, to try to seize power together with Al-Shabaab in Mogadishu, in what would have amounted to a military coup against the internationally recognized and supported Transitional Federal Government. The effort was defeated, largely due to the operations of AMISOM.
The attempt came after Sheikh ‘Aweys’, apparently angered by the accession of his former protégée, Sheikh Sharif to the presidency in Mogadishu, refused to accept the Djibouti Agreement, between the former TFG leaders and Sheikh Sharif in the first major advance in the reconciliation process. This process, we would note, has continued this year, for example, by the agreement between the TFG and the moderate Ahlu Suna wal Jama’a, signed in Addis Ababa, as well as the agreement between the TFG and the Government of Puntland. These are examples of progress towards a peaceful settlement in Somalia which President Isaias simply ignores in his apparent efforts to encourage extremist elements into power in Mogadishu.
In fact, there still appears to be a very considerable divergence between Eritrea’s current views as articulated to the UN Deputy-Secretary-General for Political Affairs and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, and its current actions. Equally, at the same time as President Isaias was talking to Mr. Pascoe and Ambassador Mahiga, there were reports of a plane load of weapons and medical supplies landing in Kismayo. Al-Shabaab militia sealed off all roads leading in and out of the airport while the weapons were being unloaded. About thirty wounded Al-Shabaab fighters, including five foreigners, were then loaded onto the plane and flown back to Asmara. Sources close to Al-Shabaab confirmed that the plane came from Eritrea. An Eritrean official who flew down from Asmara in the plane also traveled to Afgoye to meet with Sheikh ‘Aweys’. A couple of weeks ago, Al-Shabaab announced a “final” jihad against foreign forces in Mogadishu and, despite the fact that it is the month of Ramadan, it has launched a continuous series of attacks against AMISOM and TFG positions in the last ten days. The increase in activity would explain the need for new weapon supplies at this juncture, and the need for treatment for seriously wounded members of Al-Shabaab. The offensive did not yield any success though it has caused heavy casualties. AMISOM believes it has reduced Al-Shabaab’s capacity significantly.
The TFG has also provided plenty of evidence of continued Eritrean support for Al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam in recent months, and of Eritrea’s continued violations of the conditions of Security Council Resolution 1907, its refusal to stop assistance and support to the extremist opponents of the TFG, and its continued efforts to destabilize Ethiopia and others in the Horn of Africa. It was only a few months ago that there were once again allegations that Eritrea was still continuing to supply arms to some of the Darfur movements. It is still supporting anti-government terrorist organizations in Ethiopia and in Djibouti as well as in Somalia.
The issue, of course, is not whether Eritrea is right or wrong in its analysis of the situation in Somalia. There is no argument over suggestions that the TFG should pursue a process of peace and reconciliation as well as attempt to establish its authority and control in Mogadishu. It has in fact been consistently doing so since the Djibouti Agreement was signed two years ago. It has repeatedly made it very clear it is prepared to talk to any group which is prepared to reject extremism and violence. This is where many analysts like Bronwyn Bruton with the extraordinary and dangerously futile idea of ‘constructive disengagement’ appear to ignore most of what has happened in this period. The problem comes when the suggestion is made that the TFG should talk to even the most extreme terrorist elements in Al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam – the very elements which have been the protégées of Eritrea and which have deliberately and publicly chosen to associate with Al Qaeda. These elements have made it abundantly clear they have not the slightest interest in rejecting violence, nor is there any indication that the Government of Eritrea has any intention of persuading them to do so.
The issue here is what are Eritrea’s aims and as it has demonstrated clearly enough in the past its interest in Somalia revolves around its attempts to expand its conflict with Ethiopia and to try to use Somalia to extend its efforts at destabilization of Ethiopia, and of other states in the region, including Djibouti. Resolution 1907 imposed sanctions on Eritrea for its invasion of Djibouti, for its active support for extremist organizations trying to overthrow the Government of Somalia and for its repeated efforts to destabilize the Horn of Africa as a whole.
It is true that since last December, and rather obviously as the result of the imposition of sanctions, the Eritrean Government does appear to have been trying to persuade members of the Security Council that it has changed its policies. President Isaias has also tried to go on a media charm offensive to underline this. The major step has been for Eritrea to allow Qatar mediation in its dispute with Djibouti and withdrawn the troops that invaded Djibouti in June 2008. This, of course, is to be welcomed, but it is very clear that Eritrea has only agreed to withdraw as a public relations exercise. It still refuses to admit that it has had any dispute with Djibouti, or even that its troops ever crossed the Djibouti border despite their withdrawal.
President Isaias has made no other moves to indicate any change of policy. He has allowed himself the luxury of a number of interviews with members of the international media though not all appear to have been entirely to his liking. Equally, although he has refused to accept a visit from the US Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, he did agree that his Principal Deputy should visit Asmara. He then, however, pointedly refused to meet him. Despite refusal earlier to allow a UN fact-finding mission investigating Eritrea’s problem with Djibouti, he has now received the UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, and the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Somalia.
During these last visits, President Isaias apparently “offered” to play a role in trying to assist the more moderate extremists to reconcile with the TFG. Apart from the fact that this underlines Eritrea’s close involvement with Al-Shabaab and other extremists, the “offer” included no indication that he is prepared to make any change in Eritrea’s policy on the ground. There has been no move to withdraw Eritrea’s support for Al-Shabaab or Hizbul Islam (indeed as we noted above, quite the contrary), or to moderate Eritrea’s enmity towards the TFG, or to stop efforts at destabilization in Ethiopia or the Horn of Africa more generally. Indeed, all indications are that Eritrea, and President Isaias, is doing no more than play a game with the aim of trying to persuade the Security Council to moderate or withdraw sanctions. There is still every indication that he intends to continue all his past policies unchanged.
Meanwhile, IGAD has called for a consultative meeting of the IGAD Council of Ministers on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. The agenda will cover Horn of Africa issues and Somalia in particular as well as the role of Eritrea, and implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in Sudan. The UN Secretary-General has already made it clear that he will hold two summits on Somalia and the Sudan during the Assembly. It is expected that these meetings will expedite further support for the TFG and AMISOM in Somalia, consider the possibility of ‘re-hating’ AMISOM as a UN peacekeeping force, and backing for the full implementation of the CPA in Sudan in the months before the referendum next January .
Somaliland’s Foreign Minister in Addis Ababa
The new Somaliland Foreign Minister, Dr. Mohamed Abdullahi Omar, paid an official visit to Ethiopia this week. He met and held extensive discussions with State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Tekeda Alemu. During their meeting, the Foreign Minister thanked Dr. Tekeda for Ethiopia’s assistance in contributing to the successful conduct of the recent elections in Somaliland. Dr. Tekeda gave credit to the people of Somaliland, to President Silanyo, and to outgoing president Riyale, for the peaceful conduct of the elections and for the subsequent smooth transfer of power. The need to ensure continuity was emphasized and the two officials discussed in detail the challenges facing the new government in Hargeisa, both in terms of economic interests and from extremist radical groups bent on undermining the peace and stability of Somaliland. There was agreement on the need to strengthen existing collaboration to deal with these challenges, and Dr. Tekeda reiterated the readiness of the Ethiopian government to work together with the government of Somaliland to ensure peace and stability in Somaliland. He noted the long and intimate relationship that the new President, Mr. Ahmed Mohamed Mahmoud ‘Silanyo’ has had with Ethiopia during the struggle against Siad Barre, and during his time in opposition in Somaliland until he had achieved victory in the recent and successfully democratic election. He assured Minister Mohamed Abdullahi that this relationship would continue in the future. Dr. Tekeda wished the new minister and the Government of Somaliland every success in all their endeavors.
Meanwhile, Somaliland’s former president, Dahir Riyale Kahin, was also in Addis Ababa this week. He met with President Girma Woldegiorghis and Prime Minister Meles to thank them for Ethiopia’s support for Somaliland during his tenure as president.
A US Senator Visits Ethiopia
US Senator Mrs. Mary Landrieu (Democrat, Louisiana) visited Ethiopia from 1st to 4th September. During her stay in Ethiopia Senator Landrieu held discussions with President Girma Woldegiorgis, and with Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin. Senator Landrieu was accompanied by Ambassador Susan Jacobs, Special Advisor on Children’s Issues to Secretary of State Clinton, and by Gary Newton, from USAID and a Special Advisor for Orphans and Vulnerable Children, as well as a group of American business leaders, and representatives of Buckner International, a civil society organization. During her discussions with President Girma, Senator Landrieu commended the Ethiopian Government for its policies relating to expansion of social services including the provision of schools, child care and health facilities. She also expressed her appreciation to the President for his active role in civil society organizations involved in promotion of child rights and the protection of environment. It was her first visit to Ethiopia and Senator Landrieu said she had been impressed by the dedication of all those committed to assisting children. She also said that she was encouraged by the business and economic activities that she and her delegation had seen both in Addis Ababa and outside the city. Senator Landrieu visited a Bruckner Community Transformation Center and Child Assessment Center, and also a Bruckner Bright Hope school at Bantu, 60 kilometers west of Addis Ababa in the Oromiya Region. During her visit, the Senator met with representatives of some thirty organizations dealing with child services, visited a number of historical sites in Addis Ababa and attended a banquet hosted by President Girma. She also attended a dinner hosted by Foreign Minister Seyoum and exchanged views on bilateral and regional issues of common interest. In addition to her role and interests in children’s rights and welfare in the U.S Senate, Senator Mary Landrieu is the Chair of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, as well as a member of the Appropriations, the Homeland Security and Government, and the Energy and Natural Resources Committees.
Core Principles of Ethiopia’s Foreign Policy: Ethiopia-United Kingdom relations
One of the many results of the new Foreign Policy and National Security Strategy of Ethiopia is that it has created a predictably solid basis on which the country’s foreign relations are based. Clearly spelling out the main challenges that the country faces, the Policy indicates the major areas of focus for the diplomatic activities of the government of Ethiopia. These diplomatic priorities have been clearly redefined on the basis of fundamental principles. It has meant that even the most historic of relations with countries that Ethiopia had enjoyed for more than a century are now anchored on a more sustainable basis. Indeed, by clearly designating poverty as the country’s most formidable enemy and making the fight against it a priority, the policy has gone a long way in providing a much more solid foundation for Ethiopia’s relations with the rest of the world, whether bilaterally or multilaterally.
Ethiopia’s relationship with the United Kingdom is one that has seen both qualitative and quantitative improvement since the adoption of the country’s Foreign Policy and National Security Strategy. Ethiopia has had historic relations with the United Kingdom for centuries. The two countries have had rich diplomatic relations in the past covering a range of areas, including, but not limited to, trade, culture, education and development cooperation. In fact, Great Britain is among the first few countries to open an embassy in Addis Ababa well over a century ago. Ethiopians, of course, will never forget the role that British forces played in Ethiopia’s fight against fascism during the Second World War and the sacrifices they made in support of Ethiopia’s independence despite the major complications with respect to ensuring Ethiopia’s full and complete independence after 1941. Moreover, both countries went a long way towards putting differences behind them and working resolutely towards creating mutually rewarding diplomatic relations. This was strained after the fall of the last Emperor and faced a lot of challenges during the military regime, challenges that lasted until the coming to power of the EPRDF. Ethiopia’s relationship with the UK today is among the most dependable, mature and mutually beneficial of any that it has with other countries.
The two countries have a lot of issues of common concern, forming a sound basis for relations at bilateral, regional and global levels. At a regional level, both countries want to see a stable and secure environment in the Horn of Africa. Both are keenly aware of the importance of working together to ensure peace and stability in the region in general and in Somalia in particular. Their partnership for peace in Somaliland, formerly British Somaliland, and the political and economic development there have been particularly significant. Both countries see the significance of the example that Somaliland can provide for a democratic, stable and peaceful Somalia, and even more widely.
On the global level, both countries have found common interest in issues ranging from meeting Millennium Development Goals to the campaign to check the deleterious effects of climate change. The leaders of both countries have been active in various global forums dealing with these issues. This has been particularly true of their partnership and cooperation in such global forums as the G8 and G20. This has created more opportunities for cooperation among developed countries on one hand and developing nations, more particularly African states, on the other. There is every reason to believe that these relations will continue. We would certainly hope so.
Equally, and more importantly, on a bilateral level their partnership has led to effective development cooperation that has shown increased expansion over the last decade and half. Great Britain is one of the most dependable partners in Ethiopia’s fight against poverty as its expanding development support has clearly indicated. Ethiopia today is the second largest recipient of the UK’s development support next to India. And out of the total development aid that Ethiopia receives from the UK, nearly 80 per cent goes to the provision of social services such as education and healthcare and other direct development-related activities. This should indeed be used as an example by others.
Successive governments in the UK have demonstrated a conviction that their development cooperation must bring about clear transformation in the lives of beneficiaries. The UK Development Cooperation Ministry uses what it calls the “Value for Money” standard to determine whether such correlation exists between support provided and outcomes registered in the recipient country. Ethiopia’s pro-poor policies over the years have demonstrated that this is indeed the case. As a clear indication of the extent to which Ethiopia’s pro-poor policies are in fact paying dividends, the newly elected Conservative government has made it clear that it will continue to work with the Ethiopian government in the various areas in which its predecessors have been working.
As the visit last week by UK International Development Cooperation Minister, Andrew Mitchell, showed, bilateral cooperation between the UK and Ethiopia is producing encouraging progress. Further cooperation is set to continue on an even firmer basis. As the Minister himself indicated, the UK’s development cooperation with Ethiopia will continue to grow, despite the current financial crisis facing the UK, simply because Ethiopia’s pro-poor policies are proving that they work. This is a testament to the efficacy of the right mix of policies that the government of Ethiopia has put in place following its prioritization of poverty as the country’s number one enemy. Equally, on a more fundamental level, the relationship between Ethiopia and the UK is an excellent example of the level of maturity that any such relationship can attain if it is based on clearly spelt out and mutually beneficial principles. It isn’t likely to face the kind of turbulence that can characterize relationships after a change of government. It is, after all, based on verifiable grounds including Ethiopia’s proper utilization of UK development aid. Equally important, both countries share a common vision of the kind of well-ordered global society that can ensure social justice and eradicate poverty through the expansion of social services. This is exactly where relations between Ethiopia and the United Kingdom are paying off; and as Minister Mitchell indicated during his recent visit, there is every reason to believe that this will continue to be the case.
Best wishes for a peaceful and constructive New Year
A New Year, whether 2003 as here in Ethiopia tomorrow, on Saturday September 11th,(or for 2011 in four months time for others) provides an opportunity for individuals, organizations, administrations, even governments to make resolutions. It is appropriate that the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development has been sharing its discussion paper providing an overview of what has been achieved during the last five years in Ethiopia under the Plan for Accelerated and Sustained Development to End Poverty (PASDEP), and of the next five year plan to cover 2003-2007 (2010-2015), the National Growth and Transformation Plan. The NGTP has the target of doubling the economy in the next five years, of stabilizing Ethiopia’s macro-economic status, and giving industry a leading role in the economy. Agricultural production overall is to be doubled and the annual income generated from agricultural exports increased threefold. Last week’s devaluation of the birr will help achieve this. The main objective is to enhance the country’s competitiveness in international markets. It can also be expected to increase the capacity of local industries and the amount of remittances from abroad.
It is an ambitious plan, as the Prime Minister has admitted, but we believe with hard work and the help of our partners we will be able to achieve this, building on our continuing priority the eradication of poverty, on the basis of sustainable development, good governance, democracy and respect for human rights. In the last seven years Ethiopia has registered double-digit growth, in pursuit of the target to get rid of poverty once and for all. The bulk of annual expenditure goes on health, education, and infrastructure. It will continue to do so. Ethiopia is one of two countries in Africa that are currently on track to achieve 6 out of 7 Millennium Development Goals according to the Africa Economic Outlook 2010, issued by the OECD, ECA and ADB.
We would like to wish all the readers of ‘A Week in the Horn’ a peaceful, constructive and above all a successful New Year – Melkam Addis Amet.
Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Ministry of Foreign Affairs