Extension for the Somali Parliament: no alternative in the circumstances
The issue of extending the term of the Transitional Parliament has been a major element in Somali politics this week. The decision of the Transitional Federal Parliament (TFP) to extend its term for another three years starting from August 22nd has generated mixed reactions both inside and outside the country.
The TFG Council of Ministers, in a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed ‘Formajo’, discussed the decision, noting the view of Parliament that the decision was necessary and a means to avoid any political vacuum over the end of the transitional period. The Council emphasized its own efforts in looking for strategic options for the way forward. The Council said it took note of the international community’s critical reaction to the TFP’s decision as well as the other challenges facing the Transitional Federal Institutions. It called its concern reasonable as any unilateral decision on the TFP’s extension might further failure for the institutions or of the constitution. The statement of the Council of Ministers also welcomed dialogue with the international community and its advice. It reaffirmed, however, that the decision on the way forward belongs to the Somali people as represented by its government. The Council of Ministers emphasized its own leadership role. It said it would continue the wide consultations it has started with different government institutions, various segments of the Somali People and the international community to prevent a political vacuum or any disruption to the functioning of Somalia’s Constitutional Institutions.
It is clear that the Council of Ministers’ statement is very carefully drawn up. It balances between the decision of the Parliament, considered quite legitimate internally, and the criticisms of the Nairobi-based international community which claims it was not consulted on the matter. Indeed, representatives of the international community in Nairobi made sustained efforts to prevent parliament passing its decision, sending a number of messages to MPs to try and stop the decision. When this failed, other attempts were made to try to persuade the administration of Puntland and the leadership of Ahlu Suna wal Jama’a to reject the decision of the TFP without bothering to look at any of the details of the decision.
In fact, Parliament initiated the process for extension of its term according to the provisions of the Transitional Federal Charter, and the 1960 constitution. Its decision does of course also need the endorsement of the President. He can either assent to the decision or refuse, providing a memorandum to explain his refusal. If the President accepts the decision it effectively means the Parliament will continue for another three and a half years, starting this month. An exceptionally high number of members of parliament (429) voted in favour of the motion. This suggests the Parliament would have the option of overriding any attempts to block their decision if necessary. For the moment, the Parliament has decided in a very clear and transparent manner what will happen in August 2011 when the terms of the Transitional Federal Institutions come to an end. At that point, Parliament in accordance with the decision will carry out its constitutional mandate and elect a President, a Speaker and his Deputies, confirm the appointment of a new Prime Minister and subsequently endorse a cabinet formed by the new Prime Minister.
Surprisingly, immediate criticism of Parliament’s decision came from the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Italy and the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General, all apparently scornful, even hostile to what they saw as independent thinking by the TFP. For many in Somalia this reaction appeared to be contrary to the spirit of understanding visible during the recent AU Summit and in the sideline meetings held on Somalia. The IGAD Summit, convened on January 30th, considered the issue of Somalia, and expressed its opinion on the need that the TFP consider extending its term. The IGAD communiqué was endorsed by the full AU Summit. Similarly, the mini-Summit convened by the AU Commission and the UN Secretariat and chaired by Prime Minister Meles reached similar conclusions. Hardly surprisingly, those following developments in Somalia find it difficult to understand the reasons for the outcry from the Nairobi-based international community. Similar reservations were also raised in a brainstorming session, attended by Somali politicians, at Wilton Park in the UK this week.
The issue here is not to say whether the Transitional Federal Institutions have done all they could to have moved the Somali Peace Process forward, and this, of course, is the main aim of everybody. It must however be understood that the international community cannot replace Somalis in this endeavour. It is, therefore, Somalis who must be given all the support necessary to accomplish what must be done in the country. And the international community can do a lot in this direction rather than try to take decisions for the sovereign people of Somalia who are best placed to decide what is best for their country. Indeed, it is the belief of “A Week in the Horn” that all the efforts of the international community should be geared towards assisting the Transitional Federal Parliament to implement its decision properly, and to help the Transitional Federal Institutions accomplish the remaining transitional tasks as completely as possible.
This week, the IGAD Partners Forum also held a meeting. The current Chair of IGAD, the Executive Secretary of IGAD and the IGAD Facilitator for Somalia Peace and National Reconciliation briefed the Forum on the decisions of the recent IGAD Extraordinary Summit, on the discussions and decisions on Somalia, the Sudan and developments in Kenya. The decision of the Transitional Federal Parliament to extend its term of office was raised. It was emphasized that there was no alternative to assisting the implementation of the TFP decision to enable Somalia to move forward without causing any political vacuum.
South Sudan: the Referendum Result
The South Sudan Referendum Commission (SRRC) has now announced the final results of the Referendum conducted in accordance with the provisions of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed by the Sudanese parties in 2005 in Kenya. The result is clear testimony that the people of South Sudan want separation and the creation of their own state for South Sudan. On the assessment criteria detailed in the Southern Sudan Referendum Act, the referendum’s outcome clearly reflects the free will of the people of Southern Sudan and demonstrates that the process as a whole was free, fair and credible.
The decision to support a peaceful and timely conduct of the referendum in Southern Sudan, and to welcome its outcome, was taken individually by Sudan’s President Omar Al-Bashir. He personally took the historic responsibility to preside over the referendum and the separation because of his commitment to peace and to the overall interests of the Sudan. His personal commitment is equally important to the successful completion of the whole process of the CPA. In a statement issued on 3 February, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs here in Addis Ababa, acknowledged this fact. The statement said that the referendum would not have been possible without the wise and courageous decisions and leadership of President Omar Hassan Ahmed Al-Bashir and of First Vice President, Salva Kiir Mayardit. The Ministry congratulated both leaders and the peoples of the Sudan for their exemplary maturity.
President Bashir himself has also welcomed the overwhelming nature of the vote in Southern Sudan. Attending the Extraordinary IGAD Summit on January 30th on the sidelines of the AU Assembly, even before the announcement of the final results, he reaffirmed his readiness to recognize both the results and a new independent state of South Sudan. He immediately underlined this as soon as the final results were announced. His statements leave no room for ambiguity and provide no opportunity for challenges to the credibility of the whole exercise.This marks the beginning of a new process under which the two parties should further enhance their collaboration and trust. There is a real need to make every effort to resolve any outstanding issues before the end of the referendum period in July to ensure that the two viable, stable, secure, and prosperous states can live in peace with one another. These issues include the future of the contested border region of Abyei, renegotiation of the share of oil and of the use of the Nile water, citizenship, agreement over the overall border between the two, and Sudan’s debt, estimated at US$38 billion.
The international community must be forthcoming in keeping the promises that it has made in this regard. The IGAD Summit communiqué called on the international community to keep its commitments to support the people of the Sudan by granting debt relief, removing Sudan from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, lifting sanctions and deferring the ICC indictment against President Al-Bashir in accordance with article 16 of the Rome Statute. This request has also been endorsed by the AU Assembly which has asked African representatives in the United Nations Security Council to take the matter up urgently with the Security Council. There is general agreement that this is critical for peace and stability in the Sudan and for the region at large.
President Isaias: a love affair with explosives
The saying that old habits die hard rings nowhere more true than in the behaviour of what is still Africa’s youngest nation – Eritrea. From its first day of independence, Eritrea has displayed a precocious talent for trouble-making, wilfully engaging in unnecessary spats with its neighbours and with the international community at large. The oversized ambition of its leaders has had no equal throughout the region and even more widely. Their interpretations of policy have had no equals: contraband activity provides the basis of the economy; cross-border intimidation is the central element of diplomatic activity; and security activity and suppression of dissent make up the entire political spectrum.
Despite its youth, Eritrea has however managed to earn a number of firsts, though not in areas that most people would welcome and certainly for all the wrong reasons. Eritrea today is the only country in the world with the declared policy, and the actual practice, of sending all its high school students to one single military camp to matriculate under military discipline. Eritrea is, in fact, the most militarized nation on earth with close to 20 per cent of its productive population near-permanently consigned to military service.
Eritrea’s leaders’ penchant for rabble rousing has earned them the dubious honour of being the only government in Africa to have made enemies out of all its neighbours within less than a decade of independence. None of Eritrea’s neighbours has been spared from its unwholesome adventurism. Nor have Eritrea’s leaders confined their activity to immediate neighbours. Somalia is a case in point. Despite the international community’s repeated calls for normal behaviour from Eritrea, and even subsequent United Nations Security Council Sanctions, Eritrea still remains adamant in its open support of extremist elements and opposition to the legitimate and recognized government in Somalia.
Ethiopia, of course, remains the top choice of target for the destabilizing activities of Eritrean leaders. Having failed in its war of open aggression, the regime in Asmara has resigned itself to sponsoring destabilization through the proxy activities of a network of Ethiopian rejectionist opposition elements. Asmara has never lost any opportunity to try to sneak in operatives carrying explosives. Some of these have been detonated in public places with loss of life and property, but many more, fortunately, have failed. Despite this, the regime in Asmara has continued to send all sorts of people across the border to try to wreak havoc in Ethiopia on even the smallest scale. Even impeding Ethiopia’s progress by just a fraction appears to be a matter of delight for Asmara. Any semblance of instability in Ethiopia, however fleeting, is apparently sufficient reason for the regime to try and carry out yet another effort at destabilization, to go to any lengths to try to spite Ethiopia.
The latest attempt took the form of a well-orchestrated effort to sneak in dozens of terrorists with sufficient explosives to disrupt the AU Summit in Addis Ababa at the end of last month. Thanks to the vigilance of the security forces and the cooperation of citizens, everyone involved was seized before they could set off even a single explosive. The government of Ethiopia is now preparing to lay detailed evidence before the AU and the UN. It should remove any doubts about the regime in Asmara, which as Prime Minister Meles recently remarked is a regime which apparently feels nauseous without the sound of explosions. For a people and government that have been so often at the receiving end of President Isaias’ attempted bloody adventures, these latest efforts are no particular cause for alarm. They are, however, yet another reminder of the need for continued vigilance. The only surprising, indeed ironic, thing about this latest attempt is that it was carried out just when some naïve people have been expressing a sense of optimism about Eritrea’s actions following its decision to reinstate its mission to the AU. It is now clear that decision was made without any change in the regime’s negative attitude towards international diplomatic norms. The arrival of the mission to the AU is in striking contrast with the cold-blooded terrorist attempts that were foiled last month. It’s clear we haven’t seen the last of any such terrorist activities.
Nor are they likely to be confined to Ethiopia. There have already been indications that the Eritrean regime is making efforts to infiltrate similar groups into Djibouti to try to disrupt the elections due to be held there shortly. As we have already underlined, nothing has changed with regard to Eritrea’s position on Somalia. In fact, Eritrea’s leaders have made it their business to tell the international community it is wrong to work towards peace in Somalia, or even call for it, because as they put it in a matter-of-fact manner: “we [Eritreans] are entitled to our opinion” or “to thinking outside the box”!
Eritrea is a case study of a political experiment in leadership gone wrong. Despite the repeated evidence of this, the leadership in Asmara has been assisted, if inadvertently, by the continued reluctance of the international community to take a meaningful and serious position over Eritrea’s behaviour. It’s hardly a surprise that there appears to be no end in sight to the regime’s destabilizing role in the region. Ethiopia would certainly like to see the international community take a long hard look at what is missing in the sanctions imposed on the regime and aimed at the leadership in Asmara. It would like to see the international community do whatever is necessary to bring the regime in Asmara back to normal diplomatic activity before it is too late.
Prime Minister Meles has reiterated time and again that the international community is not Ethiopia’s last line of defence against Eritrea’s destabilizing activities. Ethiopia will, as always, continue to take measured responses to these attacks. At the same time, there wouldn’t be any harm in Eritrea’s leaders realizing that there is always a limit to patience.
Core Principles of Ethiopia’s Foreign Policy: Ethiopia and IGAD
Ethiopia’s Foreign Affairs and National Security Policy and Strategy clearly lays down that the country’s main security threats are of an internal nature, the danger being that widening poverty might lead to the collapse of the nation or that an absence of democracy and good governance might result in increased vulnerability to external threats. This explains the focus on rapid economic development and the building of democratic governance. The policy in fact argues that the country should pursue relations first of all on economic matters; relationships, whether hostile or friendly, should be on the basis of economic development. In maintaining that the economy should be at the centre of its national security strategy, the government is recognizing that it is rapid economic growth that will build the nation’s capacity to withstand internal and external security threats. Ethiopia’s bilateral relations over the last two decades have therefore been an exercise in pursuit of these goals. The result has been the registration of a measure of success which has seen the country capitalize on these relationships to achieve remarkable economic progress while also shielding itself from any major setbacks from rejectionist elements in the region, state and non-state alike.
As we indicated last week, what we have said about bilateral relationships is equally valid for Ethiopia’s role in regional as well as wider multilateral arrangements. It is, therefore, relevant to notice relations with selected regional, continental and global organizations. Ethiopia’s role in IGAD, for example, is one important indicator of Ethiopia’s policies and strategy at work. IGAD was first established in 1986 as the Inter-Governmental Authority for Drought and Development (IGADD), a sub-regional organization focusing on prevention of drought and desertification in the region. Its performance during its formative years was hardly impressive despite the existence of a number of efforts to address issues related to cooperation for early warning of drought and efforts to prevent desertification. One important development however was the bilateral talks initiated in 1987 by IGAD between Ethiopia and Somalia, providing for a face-to-face meeting between former President Mengistu Hailemariam of Ethiopia and the then Somali President, Siad Barre in Djibouti.
Another major milestone in the history of IGAD came in 1996 when member states finally decided to revitalize IGAD on more important and far-reaching aims than the original limited focus on drought and desertification. IGAD identified three priority areas on which to concentrate in future: peace and security, infrastructural development and food security and the environment. It might be noted that these priority areas tally perfectly with the main focus of Ethiopia’s Foreign Affairs and National Security Policy and Strategy. From the outset Ethiopia played an active role in initiating the priority areas and detailing what they meant in terms of meaningful trans-boundary cooperation among member states. As a result, in the last decade or more IGAD has been in the forefront of efforts to find peaceful resolution to conflicts throughout the region. It has been instrumental in creating forums for Somalis to try to work out sustainable arrangements for peace in Somalia. Ethiopia has indeed played a pivotal role in the series of peace initiatives that have been undertaken so far. It firmly believes that the involvement of regional actors in the quest for a solution in Somalia is a necessity for lasting peace and stability in the region.
IGAD’s role in the quest for sub-regional peace and stability is not confined to the efforts in Somalia. It also spearheaded the efforts that brought about the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed in 2005 between the National Congress Party and the SPLM which paved the way for the recently held referendum in Southern Sudan. Ethiopia’s role in the whole CPA process was significant, and it played a key part in the formulation of the Declaration of Principles which formed the basis for the CPA. Ethiopia’s involvement emanated from its strongly held view that peaceful and stable neighbours are potential trade and investment partners who might have a significant role in the country’s efforts to ensure rapid economic growth. This purely materialistic consideration was strongly supported by Ethiopia’s deep-rooted belief that the peoples of the Sudan deserved to live in peace and tranquility, free of the devastating consequences of their long civil wars. The developments now unfolding in the Sudan strengthen Ethiopia’s confidence that the peaceful resolution of differences will go a long way to provide for lasting peace and stability in the entire region. Unified or not, both sides in the Sudan, North and South alike, are bound to become key players in the region in general and be involved in efforts of Ethiopia and others for regional integration.
IGAD has also been actively involved in setting up institutional frameworks aimed at creating a conducive environment for close cross-border cooperation between member states. The CEWARN mechanism is a case in point. This provides an early warning system that enables countries to share information regarding potential or actual trans-boundary conflicts, helping to avoid cross-border conflicts sparked off by disputes over the use of resources. This is perfectly in line with the government of Ethiopia’s desire to hold potential conflicts in check by seeking win-win solutions to problems when and if they arise. A number of successes have been achieved in this regard and there has been a significant decline in the incidence of cross-border conflicts over resources. It is a testament to the efficacy of the approach. IGAD will certainly continue to play a key role in this regard and Ethiopia remains committed to the development of this and similar projects.
Despite these successes, IGAD has yet to make good on two other priority areas. IGAD’s efforts towards infrastructural development and ensuring food security and environmental protection remain modest. In fact, these are areas in which the organization lags far behind other sub-regional groupings in Africa. Ethiopia, of course, attaches great importance to both of these: food security indeed forms a central pillar of the country’s Foreign Affairs and National Security Strategy and Policy. It is the government’s firm belief that this area should be given even greater priority for IGAD member states to make the best out of the organization in their efforts to address the issues of food insecurity and environmental degradation.
Similarly, the organization has yet to make much progress in the promotion of infrastructural development between and among member states. People-to-people relations are a key factor in enhancing lasting cooperation and mutual benefit among member states, and the role of infrastructural development here cannot be overstated. This is an area to which Ethiopia attaches great importance. It has signed power transmission projects with Kenya, the Sudan and Djibouti. These are moving ahead in the right direction. Road and rail links connecting Ethiopia with neighbouring countries are either well underway or in the pipe line. Ethiopia’s use of ports, actual or potential, is another area that is becoming more important by the day as the country is finding greater and greater need for more outlets to meet import and export demands. These are all areas that Ethiopia believes can be worked out in the context both of bilateral relations with neighbouring countries and in the regional context of IGAD. This again tallies perfectly with Ethiopia’s priorities.
In conclusion, we would note that Ethiopia’s engagement in the context of IGAD has been entirely consistent with its policies of pursuing mutually beneficial relations with neighbours as part of its central aim of achieving sustainable economic development. It has managed to forge close and dependable relationships with all IGAD member states with the exception of Eritrea through no fault of its own. Eritrea has abandoned its membership in IGAD of its own free will. Unfortunately, it has been at odds with not only the organization of IGAD but with the international community at large. It seems the attitude of the leadership in Asmara is not well suited to the kind of mutual cooperation and trust that informs the relationship between IGAD member states. This is a challenge that IGAD has yet to address. Ethiopia strongly believes and hopes that IGAD should work to bring a responsible Eritrea back into IGAD.
Ethiopia also believes IGAD should redouble its efforts to enhance activities in the priority areas in which its performance has been less than impressive. It is the fervent hope and expectation of Ethiopia that IGAD will grow into one of the most effective building blocks for a future united Africa. This is no idle wish. It is detailed in the Foreign Affairs and National Security Strategy. And it is a goal towards which the government and peoples of Ethiopia are prepared to do everything they can.
Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Ministry of Foreign Affairs