Further progress against Al-Shabaab
This week, TFG forces and their allies, Ahlu Suna wal Jama’a, made significant progress in dislodging Al-Shabaab terrorists in a number of areas. Operations in Mogadishu and in the regions have been progressing with previously unprecedented momentum with significant headway in the last few days. After Al-Shabaab suffered a heavy defeat at Belet-Hawa near Mandera last week, TFG forces have advanced from there and from Dolo towards Yugut, a village sixty five kilometres west of Baidoa, the former seat of the TFP and the capital of Bakool region, where heavy fighting has been taking place. The stakes are high as Yugut is the last defensive point before Baidoa. Al-Shabaab has now lost control of three districts, Yet, Aata and El-Barde in Bakool region, and three other districts in Gedo region, Belet-Hawa, Luq and El-wak districts.
One effect of these successes against Al-Shabaab is that it now allows the international community to take the opportunity to deliver much needed humanitarian assistance through the new corridors that have been opened up. Al-Shabaab has regularly denied all access to the international agencies for delivery of humanitarian aid and assistance to those in need of which the numbers are growing.
In Mogadishu, on Wednesday, TFG forces managed to push Al-Shabaab forces out of several blocks in Hawl-wadag and Hodan districts, approaching the main Bakaraha market. They have also managed to join together forces operating in different districts to open a new front. Following this, and other recent successes, President Sharif visited a number of zones this week, walking in the streets to boost the morale of Somali forces in the frontline. He urged the troops “to move ahead until the enemy is forced out from Mogadishu city”.
It appears that Al-Shabaab has been shaken by the loss of important positions in Mogadishu and the cutting of its strategic corridor to Gedo and the threat to Bakool region. It has also been affected by the defiance and dislike now being manifested more and more frequently by communities in South-Central Somalia. It now appears highly unlikely that Al-Shabaab could generate much support in these areas: the forceful conscription of underage youths, the uneasy relationship between the leadership of Al-Shabaab, and the dismay demonstrated by the business community over Al-Shabaab activities and the criticism of prominent Somali elders in a number of regions even some still under Al-Shabaab control, are clear indications of its growing repudiation and an indication that it is weakening.
In another development, President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed relieved all his security force commanders of their responsibilities. The decree followed a proposal from ministers who had security responsibilities and Prime Minister Mohamed Abdulahi Farmajo. The President, after considering the ministerial suggestions and evaluating the country’s current security needs and the need for improving the national security sector, on Monday dismissed a number of senior officers. They included the Commander of the Military Forces of Somalia General Ahmed Jimaale Geedi; the Commander of the National Security Service, General Mohamed Sheikh Hassan Haamud; the Commander of Prison Administration, General Abdullahi Ma’alin Ali and the Commander of Police Force, General Ali Mohamed Hassan Looyan. Coming at a time when government forces were involved in a series of successful military operations against Al-Shabaab, some observers saw the dismissals as unhelpful, allowing the opposition to use it as propaganda against the gains of the TFG on the ground. Others viewed them as an indication of the continuing divisions within the Transitional Federal Institutions.
North and South Sudan continue talks on post referendum issues
The CPA signatories, the SPLM and the NCP, held several days of talks last week in Ethiopia on various post-referendum issues concerning finance, economic issues and natural resources. Delegations were led by the SPLM’s Secretary General and by a Minister in President Al-Bashir’s office, and the talks were moderated by the African High Level Implementation Panel on Sudan (AUHIP) led by former South African President Mbeki.
The negotiations, March 2nd to 5th, covered macro-economic issues including Sudan’s debt, assets and liabilities, wealth sharing, currency and banking, trade and related payment arrangements. At a subsequent press conference last Sunday, Mr. Mbeki said the fundamental principle that informed the discussions was the intent to make the two states, of North and South Sudan, viable. Both Parties had committed themselves to cooperate. They have agreed that the destiny of their peoples are intertwined and that they should work towards ensuring a collaborative framework to address all outstanding issues before July 9th when South Sudan becomes an independent state. The two parties are negotiating on a number of post-referendum issues, the most important of which are the disputed area of Abyei, currency, oil, Nile water, citizenship, international agreements and Sudan’s debt liabilities. Mr. Mbeki said the parties had made significant progress in the negotiations and had identified the issues on which decisions will be necessary. The two parties will continue their post-referendum talks in Sudan before returning to Ethiopia at the beginning of April for another round of negotiations.
The parties recognized the importance of reaching consensus on handling Sudan’s oil and petroleum infrastructure, considering the future of the state owned Sudapet and Nilepet petroleum companies, pipelines and the existing exploration and production sharing agreements. They agreed that by the end of negotiations they would conclude a treaty to deal with oil matters in the future. Agreement was also reached on establishing a joint committee to consider ways to facilitate trade and trade-related payment arrangements. The committee is to report to the parties by the end of May. A separate ad hoc committee on border demarcation has reached agreement of 80% of the border, though the remaining 20% will be hardest to agree on. On currency issues the parties discussed the modalities of currency arrangements, harmonization of monetary and fiscal policies, and the institutional mechanisms that should be put in place after July 9th.
The parties also looked at issues of assets and debt which the Sudan owes to creditors to the tune of 38 billion US dollars. Both recognized that this debt is unsustainable and they agreed in the interests of economic stability for both North and South Sudan, that the two parties should make a joint effort to obtain debt relief from Sudan’s international creditors. They agreed to send a joint team to the forthcoming meetings of the World Bank and the IMF to campaign for debt relief. Sudan reduced debt repayments last year and requested rescheduling of its debt from its main creditors. These include the IMF, the World Bank, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Austria and the United States. The SPLM’s Secretary-General, Pagan Amum, said that the south was ready to join in efforts to achieve debt relief but this was conditional on northern cooperation in other areas including Abyei and the redemption of the Sudanese currency when the south changes its currency after July.
At the press conference, Mr. Mbeki noted that the matter of Abyei had to be taken up at the highest level. He said that the AUHIP would be having a meeting with President Omar al-Bashir and First Vice-President, Salva Kirr, the President of the Government of South Sudan, next week. There will also be a meeting of Ministers of Defense to discuss post-referendum security arrangements which should confirm a number of already agreed security issues. The latest violence in Abyei underlines the point that the matter must be resolved, said Mr. Mbeki.
Overall, Mr. Mbeki said, there had been movement on all outstanding issues, and he expressed the confidence of the AUHIP that all could be settled before the July 9th date for South Sudan independence. The manner of the parties, he said, indicated a determination and a positive intent to bring the negotiations to a successful end; and they had the capacity to do so. Mr. Mbeki emphasized that there was “a shared commitment to resolve outstanding issues and to make sure there is no return to war.”
A Turkish business delegation in Ethiopia
A high level Turkish business delegation led by Mr. Zafer Caglayan, State Minister for Foreign Trade of the Republic of Turkey, visited Ethiopia between 8th and 10th March. It included representatives of more than a hundred Turkish companies and members included Mr. Rıza Nur Meral, Chairman of the Turkish Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists (TUSKON) and Mr. Mehmet Büyükekşi, Chairman of the Turkish Exporters Assembly (TİM), two giant private sector associations. Also present in the delegation were the Honorary Consuls General of Ethiopia in Turkey, representatives of the Turkish-African Business Council, the respective Chambers of Commerce, and various export promotion councils. Companies represented came from an array of different sectors: textile manufacturing, the construction industry, electrics and electronics, foodstuff manufacturing, automotive assembly, the chemical and petroleum industries, machinery companies, agricultural industry and others.
During the delegation’s two day visit it participated in a high profile trade and investment forum (which attracted over 500 people), bilateral talks between government officials and business to business meetings between different companies. The State Minister paid courtesy calls on President Girma Woldegiorgis and Prime Minister Meles and discussed various important bilateral issues. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the two countries, granting a US 100 million dollar credit line for the financing of exports from Turkey to Ethiopia, by the EXIM Bank of Turkey which provides credit to Turkish investors. Ethiopia itself needs to exert more effort to increase its own exports to Turkey from the current level of no more than US $10 million. Turkey exports over US$150 million worth of goods to Ethiopia. Both sides noted that the trade deficit should be narrowed.
In bilateral talks, Ato Sufian Ahmed, Ethiopia’s Minister of Finance and Economic Development held fruitful discussions with his Turkish counterpart, covering virtually all matters related to economic cooperation between the two countries. From the Ethiopian side those present included the Ministers of Industry, Agriculture, Urban Development and Construction, Federal Affairs, Trade, and Transport, as well as the Presidents of the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia and the Development Bank of Ethiopia. The meeting arrived at a consensus on all issues pertaining to deepening and expanding trade and investment cooperation, undertaken primarily by the private sector; and Ethiopia has pledged to resolve problems related to Turkish investors in the country. Turkey has made an all-out-effort to register a solid growth record, and Ethiopia can learn from the policies implemented and the way challenges to the private sector have been addressed. The discussions took note of the fact that the number of projects now under implementation by investors from Turkey in Ethiopia had reached 149 with a total amount of US$819 million invested. Turkey is now one of Ethiopia’s five major investment partners and there is considerable potential for increasing this. It has generously offered short-term training for 25 Ethiopian public servants, to provide experience sharing in such areas as small and medium enterprises, export development, attracting Foreign Direct Investment, and the agriculture and energy sectors in which Turkey has accumulated rich experience.
Ethio-Turkish relations have a long history, establishing official diplomatic relations in 1925. Turkey opened its mission in Addis Ababa ten years later, while Ethiopia opened its Embassy in Ankara during the time of Emperor Haile Selassie. It was closed in 1976 during the military regime and Ethiopia reopened its diplomatic mission in Ankara in 2006. It has subsequently appointed a number of Honorary Consuls General in various parts of Turkey. Relations between Ethiopia and Turkey can be described as excellent and rapidly growing. This is particularly the case over the last five years which have included several high level visits including two visits by the Prime Minister of Turkey to Ethiopia and by Prime Minister Meles to Turkey in 2007. Joint commission meetings started in 2000 and have been held on five occasions.
The visit of this high level delegation this week has great significance for Ethiopia and its development aspirations. It has come just as the country has started implementation of its new Growth and Transformation Plan, a plan that demands substantial foreign direct investment and the transfer of appropriate technology from partner countries, including Turkey. There is no doubt Turkish investors offer real possibilities of contributing significantly to Ethiopia’s planned yearly export target (of US$10 billion) by the end of the plan period in 2015.
Al Ahram hysteria
It hasn’t been uncommon for articles to appear in the Egyptian press attacking Ethiopia over the issue of the Nile, but a recent article in Arabic in Al Ahram displays what can only be called an extraordinary level of hysteria. The article quotes an anonymous ‘Official responsible for Nile issues’, to suggest Egypt has to take a series of ‘strategic political and economic measures’ before ‘embarking on military measures’ against ‘some upper basin countries.’ These include preposterous suggestions that Egypt should leverage its status as a country contributing 15 per cent of the African Union’s budget to pressure the AU to relocate from Addis Ababa. Failing that there is the equally bizarre suggestion it should try to persuade Arab members of the AU to leave the organization. It should also lobby against companies involved in hydro-electric dam construction projects in Ethiopia; as well as to prevent the passage through the Suez Canal of building materials and equipment to Ethiopia. These are suggested as possible options before resorting to military action!
All these ‘strategic measures’ are directed against Ethiopia. Egypt believes Ethiopia to be the main force behind the CFA though the fact of the matter is that the CFA is the result of the collective action of all nine riparian countries. This is a regrettably typical example of the view some Egyptian politicians have towards Sub-Saharan Africa, believing for example that countries cannot act on the basis of their own interest. The comment suggests there still is a strong feeling among some Egyptian officials that the way to maintain their monopoly over Nile waters is to use underhand tactics rather than engage positively and constructively on the basis of mutual interest which the CFA will do. Perhaps most importantly, what the comment in Al Ahram demonstrates is the arrogance of the view that Egypt can stop countries like Ethiopia from developing its resources to feed its people. This may have been the case years ago when Egypt was able to flex its muscles to stop others from using their own resources. It is no longer the case.
A Week in the Horn certainly hopes that this comment does not represent the official position of the Egyptian government despite the semi-official position of the newspaper itself. It isn’t entirely clear if any such official did say whatever was attributed to him/her in earnest. The government of Ethiopia knows there are some in the Egyptian bureaucracy who have a penchant for sabre-rattling even when this is inadvisable or impractical. There are many others who rightly believe in dialogue and constructive engagement. However, whether in earnest or in jest, the appearance of such a comment in a newspaper not known for jokes does suggest there are those who still have the illusion that they can turn the clock back on the development of countries like Ethiopia. The unrealistic suggestions make it clear some have yet to learn to live with changing realities in the region.
We believe that Ethiopia and Egypt have many things in common and legitimate interests in deepening their relations. The Nile itself should be the basis for the establishment of very strong and mutually beneficial relations. There are other areas including trade, investment and development that both countries could and should capitalize on in furtherance of their national interests. It is in this light that the government of Ethiopia has consistently urged Egypt and Sudan to join the CFA. Ethiopia is not interested in harming Egypt in any way, nor are the other upper riparian countries all of which still expect Egypt and Sudan to be part of the process. This position is of course a matter of principle, it was not a cowed response to sabre-rattling by ill-advised, anonymous Egyptian officials. Ethiopia can no longer be arm-twisted into submission. As Prime Minister Meles remarked recently: “Ethiopia has changed, and changed forever.”
IGAD’s new directors take up their posts
IGAD’s new directors for its departments of Peace and Security, Administration and Finance, and Agriculture and Economic Affairs took up their posts at the beginning of this month, on March 1st. This week, IGAD’s Executive Secretary, Engineer Maalim introduced the new appointees to Ethiopia’s State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Berhane Gebrechristos, and to the IGAD Partners’ Forum. Ethiopia is the current chair of IGAD.
The new appointments have been made at a time when IGAD is taking issues of peace and security and regional integration very seriously. The IGAD experts committee has already endorsed the Minimum Integration Plan and the Peace and Security Strategy that are shortly going to be submitted for consideration by the IGAD Council. At the meeting with Ambassador Berhane, IGAD’s Executive Secretary elaborated on the work of the secretariat to make the organization more effective since he took office, including the activities of the secretariat in creating structures within IGAD to deal with livestock, one of the main contributions to regional economies.
The State Minister welcomed the Executive Secretary and the new Directors and expressed the readiness of the Ethiopian Government to assist them in the discharge of their responsibilities. He congratulated IGAD for its achievements in peace and security, in particular in its role in the Somali peace process and the Comprehensive Peace Agreement for the Sudan. He emphasized that IGAD should not lose focus on its priorities and on its own agenda to make the commitment of member states much stronger. Ambassador Berhane noted that the transformation of the economies of the region had moved beyond what IGAD had previously envisaged and there was a need for IGAD to adjust itself to the changes and to move forward looking selectively at certain aspects of regional integration. He underlined the huge infrastructural projects now underway that will bring the regional states closer to each other. He cited the power connections, the planned railway and road links, telecommunications and other developments that will provide the basis for faster integration in the region. This needs further harmonization of regional policies, and IGAD should take the lead in this. He also emphasized that IGAD should work to ensure food security at regional level and address the issues of pastoralists within the existing regional framework. Ambassador Berhane also underlined the importance of IGAD playing a leading role in creating a minimum platform for collaboration with the East African Community.
The IGAD Partners met the new directors at a meeting held at the Italian Embassy where they were welcomed. The Partners Forum also exchanged views on current developments in the region and heard a brief report on the recent visit of the IGAD Partners’ Forum to Hargeisa. Members exchanged views on how best the IPF could strengthen its relations with Somaliland within the IGAD context. A suggestion was made that the IPF should make a similar visit to Puntland. The meeting welcomed the progress achieved in Somalia and called on the humanitarian agencies to provide support to those needing it through the corridors now available for the provision of assistance.
A review of Peace Agreements in the Horn
A regional conference organized by the Inter-Africa Group to review Peace Agreements in the Horn of Africa was held in Addis Ababa, March 3rd and 4th. The meeting, which brought together experts, academics, policy makers, representatives of the diplomatic community and other stakeholders, looked critically at the different peace initiatives and/or agreements to be found in the Horn of Africa in order to draw relevant lessons for policy considerations.
A number of papers ranging from appraisals of the emerging literature on peace agreements and negotiations to case studies drawn from the Horn of Africa Region (and covering Somalia, Somaliland, Kenya, and the Sudan) were presented. These provided the themes for discussion and highlighted a number of strengths and weaknesses in the making and implementation of peace agreements in the Horn. The need for a holistic and comprehensive approach to peace processes, taking into consideration the relevant interests and concerns of multiple actors and stakeholders, was emphasized. It was noted that external involvement by the international community or international organizations and agencies in peace processes might be more successful if it took the form of providing support for peace processes initiated and facilitated under the umbrella of a regional organization. This would avoid any external imposition and also foster local initiatives.
An excellent example of this was the case of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in Sudan where the involvement of regional actors, including Ethiopia, under the auspices of the regional organization, IGAD, played a key part in bringing the two parties to negotiate their peace agreement successfully. The value of negotiating entirely different subjects separately but incrementally within the limits of an overarching framework was identified as an important variable underlying the success of the CPA process. Others included the distribution of negotiations over an adequate period of time avoiding any suggestion of deadline diplomacy, an aspect which also facilitated the creation of a holistic framework for the agreement. In addition, the detailed stipulation of the implementation process provided safeguards for the execution of the agreement.
By contrast, a number of weaknesses in peace agreement processes were related to lack of political accountability, manipulation of ethnic grievances, institutionalization of corruption, inability to address historical grievances, and an overriding focus on power-sharing as opposed to negotiating peace deals to lead to a sustainable peace and to stability. Other weaknesses of peace agreements which were underlined during the conference included the low level of international support and commitment to the implementation of agreements or the holding of parties to account; weak oversight and minimal support for modalities of verification; lack of readiness to address the real issues underlying conflicts; the frequent elite domination of the peace processes with limited grassroots input and ownership; and the inability to institutionalize effective structures for the transformation of the post conflict environment.
Participants ended their two days of extensive discussion advancing a number of recommendations. These included the need to embed modalities of implementation and verification in peace processes; nurturing political good will and commitment to implement any processes; encouraging an enhanced role for regional organizations like IGAD or for the African Union in the brokering and implementation phases of peace agreements; the imperative need to build a large constituency in support of peace agreements in order to attain sustainability; and the need to have a credible and experienced pool of mediators available within the IGAD region to provide high quality mediation when required.
Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Ministry of Foreign Affairs