Fresh concern that Eritrea is continuing to supply Al-Shabaab
The Kenyan military reported last week that three plane loads of weapons had landed at Baidoa to supply Al-Shabaab, and there were claims that the origin of the flights was Eritrea, an allegation the Eritrean government strongly denied. On Friday, the Kenyan Foreign Minister, Mr. Moses Wetangula summoned the Eritrean Ambassador in Nairobi, Mr. Beyene Russom and delivered a strongly worded protest, telling the Ambassador that Kenya would view any arming of Al-Shabaab very seriously. Mr. Wetangula said he had talked to the Ambassador about the allegations and about the intelligence Kenya had received about the flights. Mr. Wetangula subsequently told the press that the Ambassador had “denied everything as was expected.” He had also delivered letters from Eritrea’s Foreign Minister who has been expected to visit Nairobi this week. Mr. Wetangula said that Kenya needed satisfactory explanations and answers. If it failed to get them it would consider all options, including reviewing diplomatic relations. Rather surprisingly, Ambassador Russom was subsequently quoted as telling the press that the Eritrean government had no objection to Kenya’s incursion into Somalia.” We believe Kenya should have a peaceful neighbour and it has found it right to deal with the situation in this manner”!
A press statement from Asmara described Mr. Wetangula’s remarks as “extremely regrettable” though it emphasized that Eritrea had consistently maintained that there could be no military solution to the problem of Somalia. The statement which rather implausibly denied the Monitoring Group’s Report had shown any evidence to support claims of Eritrean financial backing to Al-Shabaab, went on to claim that the allegations of supplying arms to Al-Shabaab were “pure fabrications and outright lies”. The statement claimed they were part of a campaign orchestrated to undermine Eritrea and “frustrate its constructive regional and international engagement.” As usual, it claimed that Ethiopia was chief among the authors of this campaign.
Meanwhile, the Kenyan military commander, Major-General Ngondi, has now warned all aircraft not to land at Baidoa and said anyone violating this did so at their own peril. Equally, Kenya, virtually establishing a no-fly zone over large areas of the region, has warned any planes overflying Kenyan forces would be considered as a security violation. It has also warned against large concentrations of donkeys as Al-Shabaab is using them to carry arms and ammunition as the rain has made the roads difficult for wheeled vehicles. The Kenyan air force has carried out a number of airstrikes around Kismayo as part of its effort to cripple Al-Shabaab’s logistical and financial capacity but is reluctant to block all port operations as the port is also used by innocent residents.
In areas of Middle and Lower Juba regions, door-to-door security operations have been launched in the towns and other centers that have been captured by the Kenyan forces and the Transitional Federal Government forces and allied militias. The aim is to search for arms and to ensure that the towns and villages are clear of Al-Shabaab militia. With the Kenyan/TFG forces now close to Bardera, Afmadow and Kismayo, a large part of the area has been opened up to humanitarian access. Kenyan medical convoys have been moving from village to village and the Kenyan government has appealed for food and medicine. The leader of the Ras Kamboni militia, Sheikh Ahmed Mohamed ‘Madobe’ has endorsed the appeal pointing out that the areas freed from Al-Shabaab urgently require food aid and medicine. Sheikh ‘Madobe’ also emphasized that conditions were now safe for international agencies.
Al-Shabaab has lost a number of bases and training camps in Middle and Lower Juba regions as the Kenya forces have advanced, but its largest training camp remains at Jamama in Middle Juba region. It has been increasing its efforts to recruit new militia forces in a number of towns including Merca and other places in Lower and Middle Shebelle, and intensifying demands from the populations for money, food, fuel and for youngsters to fight. It is also targeting people it believes might be working with the TFG and those trying to leave the areas it controls. Those arrested included a number of clerics and elders in Kismayo, and there have been reports of the beheadings of businessmen accused of failing to support Al-Shabaab. Sheikh Hassan Dahir ‘Aweys’ has also been quoted as complaining that clan elders are refusing to allow youths to join Al-Shabaab. He specifically singled out the Majerteen, Abgal and Ogaden clans for their failure to join the war against the TFG.
Kenyan security forces have also been active in Kenya’s North East province. Over fifty suspected Al-Shabaab members were detained during security operations in North East. Over thirty suspects were seized in Mandera and others in Wajir, Garissa and other towns. Security has also been stepped up at strategic points and along the border. This follows several incidents including an attack on a Kenyan police post near the border town of El Wak and a grenade attack on a church in Garissa.
The G20 Summit in Cannes
Not unexpectedly, the Summit of the G20, the world’s 20 richest nations, at Cannes, in France, at the week-end, was dominated by the Eurozone crisis, but the world leaders did manage to find some time to discuss development issues including global food security and transparency. In its final communiqué the G20 Summit noted that global recovery had weakened since its last meeting, particularly in advanced countries, leaving unemployment at unacceptable levels. There were increasing tensions in the financial markets and signs of a slowing in growth in emerging markets. Commodity price swings and global imbalances persisted. The members of the Summit reaffirmed their commitment to work together and emphasized they had “taken decisions to reinvigorate economic growth, create jobs, ensure financial stability, promote social inclusion and make globalization serve the needs of the people.”
These decisions included a global strategy for growth and jobs, progress towards a more stable and resilient International Monetary System, reforms of the financial sector and enhancement of market integrity, intensifying the fight against corruption and to reform global governance for the 21st century as well as addressing areas of more specific interest to the developing world, including commodity price volatility and the promotion of agriculture, improving energy markets and pursuing the fight against Climate Change, avoiding protectionism, strengthening the multilateral trading system and addressing the challenges of development.
It is, in fact, clear that development is now firmly embedded in the G20 agenda. Bill Gates’ report on financing 21st century development, commissioned by President Sarkozy, demonstrated that it should be possible to win the fight against poverty. Its recommendations represent a bold challenge to world leaders and a shot in the arm for anti-poverty campaigners worldwide. Equally, there was a feeling that the G20 had failed to recognise that investing in Africa was a big part of the solution to the global economic crisis, though at the same time there were commitments to limit harmful speculation and invest more in agricultural productivity. The UN’s World Food Programme said it was pleased by the decision to exempt food aid from export restrictions and extra taxation. This would ensure food assistance continued to reach people affected by hunger as a result of high prices and humanitarian crises. During the 2008 food price crisis, export restrictions had threatened WFP’s ability to provide a lifeline of support to hundreds of thousands of people. In future it should have secure access to food from the G20 nations.
The Africa Progress Panel, chaired by Kofi Annan, the former UN secretary-general, welcomed President Sarkozy’s efforts to keep Africa on the agenda and welcomed the focus on new and innovative sources of funding. This would help to drive progress in Africa and future global prosperity. At the same time the Panel stressed the importance of traditional aid amid all the talk of innovative financing, noting that whatever new mechanisms emerged, ODA was still essential in establishing the basic elements to support Africa’s economic growth. The Panel, like most NGOs, supported the Gates’ proposals for a financial and maritime tax, emphasizing that mechanisms should be put in place to ensure that some revenues were allocated towards development in Africa.
Innovative financing does feature in the final communiqué but only to the effect of acknowledging that some states “have implemented or are prepared to explore some of [the] options.” The communiqué also noted that there were “initiatives in some of our countries to tax the financial sector for various purposes, including a financial transaction tax, inter alia to support development.” President Sarkozy said subsequently that France, the European Commission, Germany, Spain, Argentina, the African Union, Ethiopia, South Africa, the United Nations Secretary-General, and Brazil, all supported the principle of a financial transaction tax.
Tidjane Thiam, a member of the Africa Progress Panel and the Chair of the G20’s High Level Panel on Infrastructure had called for the G20 to find ways to unleash investment in infrastructure. If its recommendations on alternative sources of funding are followed there will be tremendous new opportunities for Africa. President Zuma made it clear South Africa wanted to see decisive action in addressing measures that spur growth and refocus attention on strengthening the financial sector and agreeing on measures to help African countries transition to a “greener” economy. Similar views were expressed by President Obiang of Equatorial Guinea and Prime Minister Meles in their respective capacities as Chairperson of the African Union and Chairperson of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). The other additional invitees to the Summit were Singapore, representing the “3G group” (Global Governance Group, with 27 member countries); Spain; and the United Arab Emirates, Chair of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC).
French Foreign Minister, Alain Juppe, said after the Summit that Africa’s broad participation in the Cannes Summit showed that it was now playing a full role within the G20, and this represented success for the continent. There had been progress on major African objectives including reform of the international monetary system, enhanced financial regulation, mitigation of the excessive volatility of commodity and agricultural prices and on development where the G20 Development Group had focused on promoting the use of innovative financing, and in particular the tax on financial transactions.
Africa will also play a full role in the new global environmental governance to which the AU officially gave its support in October, the first continent to have taken a strong position on the issue. The Rio + 20 conference in 2012 will be a milestone in the effort to set up a World Environment Organization. Similarly on climate change, the COP 17 conference in Durban will be an important milestone. M. Juppe emphasized that France expected it to make significant progress on setting common rules, on adaptation to climate change and on financing, notably through the creation of a ‘Green Fund’.
The challenges, of course, remain: there is the economic crisis in Europe; development and the need to redouble efforts to come close to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, by focusing on education, health, poverty reduction and on infrastructural deficiencies and the need to integrate markets to improve competitiveness and speed up Africa’s inclusion in the world economy; security, including piracy and terrorism; and the environment where water management and access to energy are still major issues.
African Commodity Exchange Conference
On Tuesday and Wednesday this week, Ethiopia hosted the first African Commodity Exchange Conference. Organized by the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), it brought together representatives of commodity exchange initiatives from over a dozen African states, as well as market regulators, policy makers, banks, technology companies, development institutions, investors and farmers’ associations. The aim was to look at innovative market instruments to bring efficiency and transparency to commodity markets. This was also a theme of the Cannes G20 Summit. The ultimate intent is to achieve a common African position between governments and business communities on how to achieve the full potential of commodity exchanges, and discussions covered a wide range of topics including Africa in the global context of commodity markets, commodity exchanges – the African way, and consideration of what is public and what is private. Other topics included the government perspective, financial sector stakes in the commodity arena and price volatility. In addition to the plenary session, there were three parallel sessions covering the specific challenges of transparency, human capacity and regulatory issues.
Welcome remarks were made by Mr. Eugene Owusu, resident representative, UNDP and Dr. Elleni Gabre-Medhin, Chief Executive Officer, Ethiopia Commodity Exchange (ECX). Both emphasized the importance of commodity markets for small-holder farmers in Africa, providing timely information and market access to give price incentives and get a much higher percentage of the final value of exports. Dr.Elleni also elaborated on the importance of commodity markets in ensuring food security and in creating efficient and effective markets using modern technology.
Addressing the conference, the guest of honour, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Ato Hailemariam Desalegn, detailed the importance of commodity markets in Africa to help ensure food security and speed up the transformation of the agricultural sector. He suggested that commodity exchange institutions should first be established in member states, but once established, institutionalized and fully functional it would be important, and beneficial, to have regional exchanges and finally a continental commodity exchange market. Ato Hailemariam said that the government of Ethiopia was fully committed to create an enabling environment for commodity markets and to work in partnership with the private sector.
An introduction to the working of the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange was delivered by Ambassador Addisalem Balema, Director General of the ECX Authority, and Ethopis Teferra, Director at the Securities and Exchange Commission in Washington, gave a keynote address: “In praise of the middle men: The Regulatory Divide in Emerging markets”. This emphasized that agriculture was civilization’s first great achievement, and that agricultural development remained a measure of economic progress around the world. Even in the United States, the most industrialized economy in the world, agriculture was the single most important export industry, even more important than exports of computer software, aircraft, or even Hollywood movies. It therefore made real sense for Africa to place such importance on developing its agricultural markets.
In her closing remark Dr. Elleni Gabre-Medhin further explained the achievements of Ethiopia’s Commodity Exchange (ECX) which has revolutionized Ethiopia’s traditionally bound agriculture through a new market place that would serve all market actors in the commodity chain, farmers, traders, processors, exporters and institutional buyers. The ECX was set up less than three years ago, but last month, its automated data server, providing real-time commodity prices, had received more than a million calls. The next step, Dr Elleni said, was to link up African exchanges to improve market efficiencies. This would provide Africa with a much stronger presence in international markets.
UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping meets Ato Hailemariam
Last weekend, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Ato Hailemariam met with the visiting Under-Secretary-General for the United Nations Department for Peacekeeping Operations, Mr. Herve Ladsous. Discussions covered a wide range of regional peace and security issues and in particular the situations in the Sudan, South Sudan and Somalia.
Ato Hailemariam explained Ethiopia’s position on the current situation in the Sudan, particularly in South Kordofan and Blue Nile regions to the Under-Secretary-General. He noted that Ethiopia was working closely with the government of the Sudan as well as of South Sudan, with IGAD and with the African Union to help bring a lasting solution to the current problems. If these were not peacefully resolved, they would have serious regional implications. Ato Hailemariam commended the leadership of both the Sudan and of South Sudan for the successful implementation of the South Sudan referendum, but he also noted the importance of settling the other issues of paramount significance agreed under the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). Given the complex and delicate situation in the Sudan, he stressed that the international community needed to act in a responsible manner, and without calling for regime change in Khartoum, if it really wanted to bring about sustainable peace and stability across the country.
The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs underlined Ethiopia’s firm commitment to peace and stability for the whole of Sudan as well as for the region. He expressed Ethiopia’s readiness to effectively discharge the peacekeeping responsibilities it now had in the disputed Abyei region. Here, he emphasized the importance that both the Sudan and South Sudan work together and cooperate with the United Nations peacekeeping mission in order to establish an interim administration and bring durable peace in Abyei. He reiterated his concern over the current situation in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan and said that it is the Ethiopian government’s belief that the issues should be resolved without the conflicting parties resorting to military solutions.
With regard to the situation in Somalia, Ato Hailemariam expressed the view that the Somalis need to enjoy whatever peace, stability and development other countries in the region had. He noted that the international community needed to enhance its efforts to stabilize the country by committing the extra resources required to reconstruct the nation. Specifically, he underlined the importance of utilizing the current opportunities now unfolding in Somalia as the growing weakness of Al-Shabaab became apparent and it lost control of large swathes of territory across various parts of southern Somalia. He said that Kenya had a legitimate right to defend itself and emphasized that Ethiopia and the IGAD member countries had expressed their support for the joint military operations that Kenyan and TFG forces were currently carrying out. During the meeting, the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister also briefed Mr. Herve Ladsous on the destabilizing role played by Eritrea in Somalia and across the region.
The Under-Secretary-General for his part said he appreciated the ongoing efforts that Ethiopia was making to help bring peace and stability in the region, and in particular the peacekeeping role it was playing in Abyei and Darfur. Sharing the views of the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, he said that the situation in Abyei must be handled properly in a responsible manner and that both the Sudan and South Sudan needed to get rid of the mistrust they had towards each other. He stressed the importance of closer cooperation and the building of mutual confidence by both parties. This was necessary to realize sustainable peace, not only in the Sudan but also in the region. Mr. Ladsous said he understood the seriousness of security problems in the Horn of Africa and the concern of the countries in the region particularly with regard to the situation in Somalia. He added that the efforts IGAD had been making to try to bring about peaceful solutions to the problems of the region were commendable and indeed welcome.
News and Views
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Parliamentary report
On Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hailemariam Desalegn presented the Ministry’s regular report on the activities of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Foreign, Defence and Security Affairs Standing Committee of the House of People’s Representatives. His presentation also included an outline of the Ministry’s current plan for the fiscal year. The committee said the plan was in line with the Government’s overall Growth and Transformation Plan and said it expected the performance of the Ministry in past year’s had laid down a basis for achieving better results this fiscal year. It commended the Ministry’s attention to technology transfer, foreign direct investment and national image building. It also welcomed the Ministry’s coordinated efforts with other relevant bodies to protect the rights of Ethiopian citizens living abroad. The Ministry has this year been involved in the repatriation of significant numbers of Ethiopian citizens from Libya and Yemen among other countries.
Senior Chinese CPC official in Addis Ababa
Mr. Liu Yunshan, a member of the Political Bureau of the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee, and head of its Publicity Department has been in Ethiopia this week. In talks with Prime Minister Meles, Mr. Yunshan hailed the development of China-Ethiopian relations, stressing that the establishment of the comprehensive cooperative partnership in 2003 had provided new momentum for the bilateral relationship. He hoped the two sides would continue to expand cooperation in areas of politics, trade, economy and culture as well as at people-to-people levels. Prime Minister Meles, who noted that relations had been evolving healthily, pillared by governmental, inter-party and people-to-people relations, said Ethiopia admired the development achievements of China and wanted to further enhance exchanges and cooperation with China. Mr. Yunshan also met with EPRDF party leaders including Ato Redwan Hussein, head of the EPRDF Secretariat and a member of the EPRDF Executive Committee. He said the EPRDF had been playing a significant role in promoting Chinese-Ethiopian relations through inter-party exchanges. Bilateral ties between the CPC and the EPRDF had been developing rapidly and the two organizations had explored new fields and channels of cooperation. The CPC attached great importance to its ties with the EPRDF and hoped to continue frequent high-level visits, to provide exchanges on the experience of running a state and enhancing capacity building efforts. Ato Redwan welcomed the unswerving and strong support the CPC had given to the ERPDF, and emphasized that the EPRDF hoped to continue to benefit from CPC expertise in training. It was committed to further promotion of inter-party ties and bilateral exchanges with the CPC.
Journalists’ Network for Peace and Security launched
On Friday last week, a Journalists Network for Peace and Security (NetPeace) was officially launched during a High Level media workshop on Africa’s Peace and Security Architecture. The workshop was organized by the AU’s Directorate of Information and Communication, and its Peace and Security Department together with the University of Montreal. Its theme was “Promoting a Culture of Peace through the Media”, and sixty participants attended from the 15 members of the AU Peace and Security Council as well as communication experts and representatives of Regional Economic Communities. In a declaration adopted at the end of the workshop, the participants reiterated their “commitment to work for the entrenchment of a culture of peace in Africa”. They welcomed the creation of NetPeace and committed themselves to promote the flow of information between the AU and the media. Ms. Uduak Amino from Kenya was elected President of NetPeace and two representatives were elected to represent the Northern, Western, Eastern, Central and Southern regions as well as two more for the Diaspora.
Survival International’s latest claims
Survival International has again issued another attack on the Ethiopian Government and its development activities. A report last week claimed that foreign investors and the government had actually trained a specially equipped force to intimidate, and even kill, people in the Omo valley. It alleged nearly 250 people had been imprisoned for opposing development projects in the valley and some 3,000 hectares of land had been arbitrarily expropriated. These allegations are pure fabrication. The government is fully committed to rural development to benefit the people and it is equally committed to the rights of all the nations, nationalities and peoples in the country, including those in the Omo River Basin. No single project is launched without proper consultation. Protection of the interests of the indigenous population is a major priority. The reality on the ground in the Omo Valley shows a totally different picture to that painted by Survival International. Following consultations, local people have confirmed agreement to the plantation projects, and to the proposed resettlement; the projects, designed for everybody’s benefit and well-being, are progressing smoothly.
The Crisis in Abyei and UNISFA deployment
Although Thabo Mbeki, the head of the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel currently mediating between Sudan and South Sudan in post-independence negotiations, remains upbeat about Abyei, progress on the ground remains slow. The 20th June Addis Ababa agreement, which committed both states to withdrawing their armies from Abyei, has still not been implemented. Despite pledges by both Sudan and South Sudan to withdraw their forces from Abyei by September 30th, this has not yet happened. Deployment of the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) has also been hampered by heavy rains and the lack of cooperation. The force is made up of an Ethiopian brigade of 4,200 troops and 2,780 have been deployed so far. Ethiopia is considered a credible partner by both parties. Under the Addis Ababa agreement, the Abyei Joint Oversight Committee (AJOC) is to take over responsibility for security and its membership has now been agreed, but there are still problems over the Abyei Area Administration. Sudan and South Sudan will jointly finance the budget of the region but only after the Abyei Area Executive Council has been constituted and approved by the Abyei Area Council. Resettling the displaced population of around 110,000, however, remains difficult in the absence of agreement over political institutions and full deployment of UNISFA. The presence of mines is also a threat though UNISFA has already begun to carry out some demining and the United Nations Mine Action Service will also be involved. Last Friday the UN Security Council urged both parties to implement the agreements on Abyei “in spirit and letter” and urged them to cooperate fully with UNISFA. It also encouraged UNISFA to increase its patrols and enhance its air mobility.
Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Ministry of Foreign Affairs