Egypt’s Prime Minister in Ethiopia
A high-level delegation led by the Prime Minister of Egypt, Mr. Essam Sharaf, was visiting Ethiopia today and yesterday. The delegation was welcomed by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Ato Hailemariam Desalegn at the airport. It has met and held extensive discussions with Prime Minister Meles and other senior officials. The meeting with Prime Minister Meles covered various issues of common concern and was conducted in a spirit of transparency and mutual understanding. It spelt out the areas necessary to be addressed in order to ensure strong sustainable relations between the two peoples and the two governments. The major point was of course the Nile. Both sides underlined the need to open a new chapter in co-operation, with a comprehensive and integrated development plan to enhance the use of all resources in general, and the Nile waters in particular, in the spirit of a sustained win-win approach.
Both parties agreed on the need to revitalise the Joint Ministerial Commission and that a meeting should be held as soon as possible to consider a comprehensive relationship to involve political, economic and diplomatic relations at bilateral, regional and continental levels. The Commission should look at international issues of common interest. There was agreement that the Nile issue should be treated on a win-win basis and the package for a framework for cooperation must be based on mutual respect and benefit.
Ethiopia made it clear it was prepared to delay the ratification process for the Cooperative Framework Agreement until a permanent government had been established in Egypt, allowing it to look at the CFA comprehensively, and providing time for Egypt to join the process. Both sides also agreed that a joint technical committee of experts from Ethiopia, Egypt and the Sudan as well as other international specialists should consider the technicalities of the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Abbai River, the Blue Nile.
During his visit, Mr. Sharaf will also meet with President Girma Woldegiorghis, and attend the signing of a cooperation agreement between the Ethiopian and Egyptian Chambers of Commerce designed to increase trade and investment. Mr Sharaf, who has also visited Uganda, is accompanied by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Power, Planning and International Cooperation and the Head of Egypt’s General Authority for Investment.
A UN Security Council meeting on Somalia
The United Nations Security Council met on Wednesday this week, May 11th, to discuss current developments in Somalia. Augustine Mahiga, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Political Office in Somalia (UNPOS), Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed of Somalia, and Ethiopia as the chair of IGAD spoke at the session.
Ambassador Mahiga stressed the urgent need to reach consensus on the divisive issue of when and how to hold the elections and defuse the stalemate between the legislative and executive branches of the government. At the same, UNPOS was preparing a road map to suggest benchmarks, timelines and resource requirements for the next Government to implement the priority transitional tasks that its predecessor had failed to carry out. He noted that the process of political outreach and reconciliation by Transitional Federal Institutions had largely stalled since the signing of the 2008 Djibouti Agreement. The High-Level Committee to promote dialogue had not met since December 2009. The President and Speaker had not worked together since the beginning of February and Parliament’s unilateral decision to extend its term by three years and the government demand for the elections to be deferred for a year had further polarized relations between the two. Neither the President nor the Prime Minister had attended the April consultative meeting in Nairobi, but Ambassador Mahiga welcomed the TFG’s decision to hold a multi-stakeholder meeting in June to carry on the consultative process, and said UNPOS would fully support it.
Ambassador Mahiga emphasized AMISOM’s crucial role and noted that it would soon be getting another 3,000 additional troops from Burundi and Uganda, to bring its total authorized strength to 12,000. However, it still needed support in specialized areas, notably helicopters. Its effectiveness was impeded by critical resource gaps. Ambassador Mahiga said member States should fully support AMISOM with sustained troop and other contributions to carry out its mandate. He indicated that the port of Kismayo was increasingly becoming a commercial hub for Al-Shabaab activities. Stressing that the Council’s Sanctions Committee must consider action against violators of the United Nations arms embargo operating through Kismayo’s harbour and airport, he also noted the African Union’s call for the Council to take more robust action to prevent supplies from reaching the insurgents.
TFG Prime Minister, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed ‘Formajo’ told the Council that TFG and AMISOM forces had been reclaiming significant territory from extremists both in Mogadishu and in areas bordering Kenya and Ethiopia where they had recaptured key districts and towns in Gedo and Juba regions. However, he emphasized: “defeating extremists from Somalia requires the same level of commitment to that of Afghanistan and Iraq”. Calling on the international community to bolster logistical support to enable government troops and AMISOM to consolidate and sustain their gains, he thanked Burundi and Uganda for their efforts, adding: “We hope that the efforts of AMISOM forces in Somalia will show the world that African countries can solve their problems regionally.”
The Prime Minister criticized the Transitional Federal Parliament’s unilateral decision to extend its term for three years without first consulting the other Transitional Federal Institutions which would cease to exist as of August. He pointed out that a post-August legally elected legislature would be the legitimate authority to elect a President. He said the President had called on Parliament to reconsider its decision, but the Speaker had so far rejected that appeal. With current visible progress on the ground, he said, this was the worst possible time for these distractions, so he had asked Parliament and international partners to extend the mandate of the Transitional Federal Institutions for 12 months to allow time to create a chance for free and fair elections. He had appointed a ministerial committee and asked Parliament to meet with it and reach a consensus on the way forward. The TFG would hold a multi-stakeholder meeting in June to carry on the consultative process.
The Prime Minister said peoples’ support for the government was growing thanks to its steady efforts to deliver services and good governance. Civil society groups were beginning to mobilize. In the past two months, the Government had opened a new hospital, taken charge of operations at a school on the outskirts of Mogadishu, and set up two other schools for poor and orphaned children. Private investors were putting money into new construction projects. The first national television and newspaper, Dalka, had recently been re-launched. Overall, he said, the Transitional Federal Government’s five main priorities continued to be improving security, enhancing reconciliation, completing transitional tasks, addressing the humanitarian crisis and promoting good governance.
Ethiopia told the Security Council that recent progress in improving security could potentially change the country’s political landscape. These gains should be preserved and built upon. This was particularly vital as the transition was coming to an end before major tasks had been carried out, and the TFIs found very much wanting. While the concerns of the international community about this were legitimate, it was also obvious that allowing the transition to end without ensuring the preservation of the Djibouti Agreement would be potentially dangerous and, if inadvertently, offer a major reward to Al-Shabaab. This was why IGAD, and then the African Union, had proposed an extension to the mandate of the Transitional Parliament – to avoid a vacuum and allow remaining political dispensations to be addressed by the people of Somalia. Ethiopia emphasized that even if an election was unavoidable, it must be handled in such a way to avoid undermining progress in security. There was a need for serious consultation to make use of current progress in security to sort out Somalia’s political problems, but it must be done carefully brick by brick. Somali ownership of the process was the best and ultimately most rewarding approach. Ethiopia reassured the Council that IGAD was always ready to collaborate and remained committed to bringing peace and stability back to Somalia.
In a statement, the Security Council expressed concern over the disputes between the TFIs and the impact on Somalia’s political processes and the security situation. It noted with concern that many of the core transitional tasks set out in the 2008 Djibouti Peace Agreement and the Transitional Federal Charter were outstanding. It called on the TFIs to “ensure cohesion, unity and focus” on completing those tasks, notably reconciliation, the Constitution and ensuring basic service delivery, adding that without these there can be no extension.
The Council deeply regretted the failure of the TFG to participate in April’s High-Level Consultative Meeting on post-transitional arrangements. It urged the government to “engage fully, constructively and without further delay” in the consultative process to advance the peace process. It welcomed the planned consultative meeting scheduled for June in Mogadishu, urging all Somali stakeholders to participate.
It also called on the TFG to consolidate security and stability in Mogadishu by delivering basic services and integrating military objectives into a clear political strategy. It called for an increased United Nations presence in Mogadishu and other areas. The Security Council also called upon all states, particularly those in the region, to implement fully the Somalia and Eritrea arms embargoes.
Al-Shabaab on the defensive; threats of revenge for bin Ladin’s death
Following last week’s failure to recapture Garbaharey, Al-Shabaab has been speeding up the deployment of new militia forces, now in camps in Lower Shebelle and Bay regions, after cutting their training down to two months. Al-Shabaab officials have also been soliciting funds and arms from business groups in Mogadishu, Baidoa and in Lower Shebelle, demanding five hundred US dollars and an AK-47 gun per business premise before the training ends. Sources report that Al-Shabaab is currently suffering from a shortage of funds.
Similarly, it is no longer dominating south-central Somalia after its recurrent defeats in Mogadishu and other areas. In Mogadishu, Al-Shabaab foot soldiers are only defending isolated areas of North Mogadishu and the Gobta area of Daynile district. A large area of South Central Mogadishu is still controlled by Al-Shabaab but this is an area in which many of the former Hizbul Islam fighters have been placed. Their relationship with Al-Shabaab appears fragile and unlikely to last. Outside Mogadishu, in Hiiraan and Bakool regions, Al-Shabaab remains weak and troubled. Pro-government forces have been pushing it hard especially in Beletweyn town in Hiiraan this week. In Bay, despite the serious effect of the drought, Al-Shabaab has continued its much resented demands for support for its militia and for funds.
Senior Al-Shabaab leaders met in Afgoye town to discuss how to take revenge for the death of Al-Qaeda leader, Osama bin Ladin. Sheikh Mukhtar Roobow ‘Abu Mansuur’, said Osama had played a great role in supporting Al-Shabaab’s fight against the TFG and AMISOM. He had been well informed about events in Somalia and he had been valuable to Al-Shabaab. They would take revenge for his death. Sheikh Fu’ad Muhammad Khalaf and Sheikh Hassan Dahir ‘Aweys’ also said that Osama had played a significant role in the fighting in Somalia as well as the conflict between the West and Islam. Sheikh Mansuur Al Amriki criticized the role of the west and emphasized that the war would continue. Bin Ladin’s death would not affect Al-Shabaab’s fight against Westerners. “We have decided to continue with the war and take revenge for Osama bin Ladin”, said Amriki.
Meanwhile, Ahlu Sunna wal Jama’a has been holding a meeting in Addis Ababa to try to resolve a split within their ranks. This led to hundreds of fighters returning to their home base in the central region town of Abudwak. It followed a division among the clans supporting Ahlu Suna in this area. These clan alliances in support of Ahlu Suna are the key factor for holding back Al-Shabaab from the parts of Central Somalia populated by the three clans involved. They have also been instrumental in helping government forces gain ground in the border regions of Gedo. Al-Shabaab used the opportunity to briefly seize control of Dusa Mareb again, pillaging the town and extensively reporting its raid.
The meeting finished last night. Participants have agreed to hold a congress in Abudwak on July 1st, and an 11 member organizing committee is to be set up. It has also been agreed that to smooth the way for agreement, the entire leadership would resign on July 1st, and allow a new leadership to be elected. An interim arrangement with a defence committee will be responsible for activities until then. Participants called on the international community to support the plan. They also requested support for Ahlu Suna wal Jama’a in its struggle against Al-Khawariij and the web of international terrorists. The concluding joint declaration was to be signed by both Sheikh Ibrahim Sheikh Hassan and Sheikh Mahmoud Sheikh Hassan.
The Kenya Ethiopia border: a clash in the Karamoja cluster
A serious incident in the Karamoja cluster caused a number of deaths and disappearances last week. The numbers are still unclear. The original incidents happened at the Ethiopia Kenya border in an area inhabited by Turkana and Dassenech (or Merille). On May 1st a Turkana from Lourbay in Kenya agreed to trade a goat for a sack of sorghum with a Dassenech from Toltale in Ethiopia. Subsequently, the Turkana shot and killed the Dassenech. The following day another Dassenech was killed at Neswat, in Kenya when he had gone to collect a goat he had bought earlier, he was also from Toltale. The news of the deaths spread quickly among the people in Neswat at the time. Because of the drought in the area, there has been a lot of movement across the border with animals and foodstuff being bought and sold along the corridor between Todenyag and Nebremus. As a result there were a large number of Turkana and Dassenech present in the area. As the news of the incidents spread, fighting broke out. Nineteen Turkana, including women and children, were killed, and four Dassenech.
Local, regional and federal administration officials responded quickly to try and stop any escalation of the fighting. The next day, May 3rd Dassenech Woreda administration deployed the woreda militia and police in the area of Nebremus to protect any Turkana who had come to Ethiopia to purchase food from the Dassenech. The security forces escorted over 40 Turkana safely to the Turkana side of the border. At the moment there are still about 30 Dassenech who were on the Turkana side when the incident occurred and who are still unaccounted for.
The local administrations and security forces from both sides have been working hard to try and diffuse the problem. There have already been two meetings, the latest on Monday this week, to discuss joint strategies and exchange information. On the Ethiopian side, a team from the Regional Government and the South Omo Zone Administration travelled to the area on May 4th to investigate the incidents. Zonal and Dassenech Woreda security officials are currently holding consultations with Dassenech communities in all the kebeles neighboring Kenya on the west bank of the Omo River. Among issues being discussed are the exact numbers of Dassenech who have been stranded on the Kenyan side of the border, as well as the need to refrain from mounting any revenge attacks.
The danger of more retaliatory attacks should now have receded following interventions from both sides. Local Peace Committees, administration officials and the Atoweykisi-Ekisil Pastoralist Development Association, a local NGO, are currently developing an action plan to hold joint consultation/roundtable discussions between the two communities through the Rapid Response Fund peace building project in Dassenech. Equally, the Ethiopian and Kenyan Conflict Early Warning and Response Units (CEWERUs) will have to take the initiative to spearhead a peace process between the pastoralist communities involved.
There have been a number of incidents of cross-border raiding and livestock thefts that need to be addressed. And on Thursday, leaders of Ethiopia and Kenya who met in Kampala on the side lines of the swearing-in ceremony for President Musevini, agreed to work together to address the challenges people are facing in the cluster. The Joint Ministerial Commission meeting, due to be held at the end of May or early June, can now be expected to address the problem comprehensively. The continuous drought in the area has made already uncertain relationships in the area considerably more difficult. In the meantime, there is general agreement that local politicians and others should refrain from trying to capitalize on the incidents or inciting retaliatory measures that might escalate the conflict.
Kenya/Ethiopia CEWERUs discuss joint development programs in Moyale
Within the Conflict Early Warning and Response Mechanism (CEWARN) of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the Ethiopia and Kenya CEWERUs have been holding a two day consultation with local stakeholders in Moyale, Ethiopia. CEWERU heads and their representatives, local administration officials, Country Coordinators and Field monitors, representatives of the pastoral communities and civil society organizations were present. The meeting was called to discuss strategies to further progress towards peace in the area following development interventions that have improved the livelihood of pastoral communities along the border.
Since Ethiopia and Kenya have began to cooperate within the framework of CEWARN to address pastoral conflicts along the border of the Somali Cluster, a number of coordinated and sustained interventions have significantly reduced cross-border violence and improved communal relations. The two governments have facilitated communal peace processes resulting in a number of peace agreements allowing pastoralists to share in and have access to pasture and water located on both sides of the border. Peace structures on both sides of the border now liaise regularly in response to occasional disputes. Annual peace tournaments have been initiated to engage youth and women in the peace processes.
The Moyale consultation discussed appropriate future development interventions for the area. It reached a consensus on identifying the expansion and rehabilitation of water resources and the establishment of livestock markets as key interventions that would equally benefit the pastoral communities in both countries. Development partners who were present showed interest to support realization of these projects in the immediate future.
In order to provide systematic and continuous engagement to sustain the improved peace and security situation in the area, the two governments, in collaboration with CEWARN and other development partners, initiated the strategy of combining peace interventions with development support. This is designed to respond to one of the key motivations for conflict, competition for scarce resources. The new strategy aims at identifying ways to support alternative livelihood programs to address underlying causes of conflict and ensure sustainable peace building.
Ethiopia to host the next World Economic Forum on Africa
A high-level delegation led by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn attended the 21st World Economic Forum meeting in South Africa last week. The World Economic Forum is a prestigious international organization established some forty years ago by German-born Professor Klaus Schwab. It has come to seen as a major venue for business, political, academic and civil society leaders to deliberate on major global issues and brainstorm on solutions to address the challenges. Through its motto of “Committed to Improving the State of the World” the Forum has become instrumental in shaping global, regional and industry agendas at its annual meetings in Davos, Switzerland and other regions.
The 21st World Economic Forum in Cape Town, the third on Africa, focused on three thematic pillars: Africa’s role in the New Reality; Fostering Africa’s New Champions of Growth; and Building Partnerships for Inclusive Development. Closer to a thousand participants and eminent panellists deliberated on these issues. Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hailemariam was a panellist in the interactive session on “The future of China-Africa relations”. The discussion underlined the fact that China was now the biggest source of foreign direct investment in Africa and that 10 percent of its exports were now absorbed on the continent before focusing on whether strong relations with China would be a growth differentiator for African economies. Ato Hailemariam emphasized that China’s engagement with Africa was beneficial for both sides. He disagreed with the popular perception that China’s involvement with Africa was designed to extract resources. This was certainly not the case with Ethiopia where experience showed its fast growth was predicated on productive sectors and yet it still had excellent relations with China. The key issue, he stressed, was for Africans to focus on the transfer of technology and develop capacity building in their engagement with all partners including China.
A press conference given jointly by Robert Greenhill, Managing Director and Chief Business Officer of the Forum and by Ato Hailemariam announced that the 22nd meeting of the World Economic Forum, and the 4th on Africa would take place in Addis Ababa next year. Ethiopia had been selected as the venue as it is one of the fastest growing economies in the world and Africa’s second most populous country with a long culture and history. The Deputy Prime Minister said Ethiopia would be delighted to host the occasion in Addis Ababa, the diplomatic capital of Africa, and would do its best to make sure the meeting was a success. It would provide an opportunity to deepen the engagement of Africa with the rest of the world. The selection of Ethiopia as host is also an important testimony to the economic gains already made, and should provide an added impetus to the government in its efforts to make Ethiopia’s fast growing economy sustainable.
UNCTAD Investment Commission meeting on Ethiopia in Geneva
Earlier this month, on May 3rd, the Commission on Investment, Enterprise and Development of the United Nations Trade and Development (UNCTAD), considered a report on the Implementation of the Investment Policy Review of Ethiopia. The report was prepared by UNCTAD in consultation with the Ethiopian Investment Agency through the facilitation of Ethiopia’s Permanent Mission at Geneva. The session was opened by UNCTAD Secretary General Dr. Supachai Panitchpakdi who welcomed Ethiopia’s efforts to create a conducive legal framework for attracting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) which, he said was important to enhance productive capacities and achieve MDGs. Mr. James Zhan, Director of the Investment and Enterprise Division, UNCTAD, presented the Report which he said aimed to assess the progress made since the Investment Policy Review (IPR) of Ethiopia in 2002. He noted that investors had expressed satisfaction with measures taken by the government to improve the regulatory environment for foreign investment over the eight years since the review had been published. This was reflected in the figures. The annual FDI inflow had increased from an average of US $214 million dollars between 1998 and 2002, to an average of US $409 million between 2003 and 2007.
The report welcomed the commitment of the government in promoting both domestic and foreign direct investment to accelerate economic growth. It noted that the Investment Code had been revised to make it more transparent, attractive and competitive. This has had a positive impact on investment. The report suggested that the objectives of the Growth and Transformation Plan in sustaining a broad-based, rapid and equitable economic growth could further attract FDI. It looked in detail at the significant progresses achieved in implementing recommendations which had increased the attractiveness and viability of investment in the agriculture and leather sectors. Overall, investment in the agricultural sector is currently more attractive and profitable. The report suggested that more work was needed to further increase FDI inflows singling out areas of promotion and small and medium sized enterprise development.
Ambassador Minelik Alemu, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Ethiopia to the UN Office in Geneva, commenting on the Report, underlined the substantial investment opportunities available in Ethiopia. He reaffirmed the commitment of the Ethiopian Government to promote investment. He detailed the actions of the Ethiopian Investment Agency (EIA) which has approved proposals to bring together such services as approval of customs duties, registration of foreign capital and trade names, provisions of environmental clearance, residence permits, taxpayers identification numbers (TIN) and the provision of utilities. It also intends to extend the one-stop services of notarization of company establishment documents, commercial registration, business licenses, work permits by the addition of amendment, renewal, replacement, suspension and cancellation services. A National Coordinating Committee for investment was established earlier this year under the Chairmanship of the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs to facilitate investment promotion and alleviate problems. It includes the Ministry of Industry, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the Development Bank of Ethiopia and the Ethiopian Investment Agency. The Government is vigorously encouraging the Diaspora to participate in development of the country and is currently developing a comprehensive policy to streamline conditions for investment.
Ambassador Minelik emphasized that government was encouraging large-scale commercial farming and had made available large plots of land to foreign investors to supplement the productivity of small-scale farming. The highly successful horticultural sector was a source of attraction for both domestic and foreign investors. Ethiopia has the largest livestock population in Africa offering opportunities in leather and leather products, as well as meat processing. There were manufacturing opportunities in textile and garment, cement, metal products, agro-processing, and others areas. Ethiopia has impressive tourist potential with a unique historical and cultural heritage, and an admirable climate. Mineral resources offered untapped investment opportunities, and with its growing economy construction was booming. The government also offered a very attractive package of incentives for investors including tax exemptions, provision of land and availability of credit facilities, to add to a dynamic, young, trained and trainable workforce. Investors could also enjoy the availability of significant markets. Ethiopia is the second most populous country in sub-Saharan Africa and its membership in regional trading blocs provides preferential market access to a number of other countries.
Following the UNCTAD meeting a promotional event featured a traditional coffee ceremony. One-to-one meetings were held with members of the Swiss-Ethiopia Business Association and Swiss-Africa Business Circle. Mr. Abdulmenan Sheka, the President of the Swiss-Ethiopian Business Association, emphasized that his association was working to promote Ethiopian investment and attract FDI from Ethiopians living in Switzerland. Twenty four investors from the Ethiopian Diaspora and from Switzerland attended the function as well as members of the diplomatic community, representatives of international organizations and members of the Ethiopian Investment Agency.
Eritrea’s continuously futile attempts to externalize responsibility
Ethiopia has always taken the position that differences with neighbors should be resolved amicably. It is fully aware that the country benefits most from every day that passes peacefully. In the context of relations with neighbors, it has always pursued a principled position based on mutual interest and respect, and its track record has been consistent to a fault. It has repeatedly gone to great lengths to try to resolve differences peacefully even when this position has not been reciprocated. Ethiopia’s relations with Eritrea are a case in point.
It is very obvious that Ethiopia always wanted peaceful and rewarding relations with the peoples and government of Eritrea. Eritrea’s independence was never an issue as far as the government of Ethiopia was concerned, and Ethiopia, and its peoples, were far closer friends to the peoples of Eritrea than the regime in Asmara, indeed many pundits, Eritrean and non-Eritrean alike, have cared to admit. Even today, the government of Ethiopia still believes this could provide an opportunity that might be utilized in further enhancing people-to-people relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Of course, this would require an understanding based on reality rather than the selective and inaccurate reading of history and the outdated perceptions that fill the thinking of the regime in Asmara.
In fact, from its first day of independence, the Asmara government committed itself to regional destabilization as a central element of foreign policy. Faced by Eritrea’s oversized ambitions and its proclivities to try to punch above its weight, Ethiopia was forced to defend itself against uncalled for Eritrean aggression in 1998, the result of the PFDJ government’s persistent ambition to dictate terms to others by force. After it had successfully defended this aggression in 2000, Ethiopia actively sought to normalize relations and find amicable solutions to any differences that might exist between the two countries. It has continued to do so ever since.
The response of Eritrea’s leader has been quite consistent in its intransigence. He has refused to make any effort to normalize relations and exerted continuous and repeated efforts to sabotage Ethiopia’s development and its role in the region. He has then used the “unresolved border dispute” as an excuse to put on hold almost every national project once promised to the Eritrean people including elections and the implementation of the constitution. It has even gone to the farcical extent of trying to justify its destabilizing activities in the region as the result of the international community’s ‘failure’ to force Ethiopia’s to hand over so-called ‘sovereign’ Eritrean territory. This is an apparent reference to the so-called ‘virtual demarcation’ supposedly handed down by the now defunct Eritrea Ethiopian Boundary Commission following Eritrea’s refusal to engage in dialogue. Despite the serious difficulties, indeed illegalities displayed in ‘virtual demarcation’, Ethiopia has always made it clear it will abide by the EEBC decisions and by the final demarcation which can only be effected through comprehensive dialogue. This is precisely in line with the letter and spirit of the Algiers agreement. Despite this, the ‘sovereign Eritrean territory’ is now the regime’s enduring excuse for its causus belli for unleashing all kinds of terror throughout the region.
In fact, this is also used repeatedly by President Isaias as the trump card to prevent dissent at home as well as externally. Even some of those who otherwise take issue with Isaias’ dictatorial behaviour frequently seem to accept the idea of ‘the-unresolved-border issue” to explain his erratic behaviour. There are times when this false perception seems to permeate the thinking of even well-meaning partners from the international community. The regime in Asmara persistently tries to portray itself as a victim when in fact everybody is fully aware it was responsible for the injustices about which it now complains. Many appear to forget that there are territories that have been, as it were, ‘virtually’ designated as Ethiopia that are still in the hands of Eritrea. Whatever the final status of the demarcation, a settlement presupposes a dialogue to finally and physically demarcate the boundary between the two countries. But the only script Eritrea is prepared to read from is the legal nonsense of ‘virtual demarcation’.
In fact, the reason why the regime in Asmara isn’t willing to engage in dialogue is very clear. Among other things, dialogue would presuppose detailing any issues that might stand in the way of normalized relations with Ethiopia. That would remove all the excuses that the regime has for controlling the freedom of its citizens so tenaciously and for such tight control of security. Ethiopia provides an “enemy” against which an unhealthily militarized Eritrea, indeed the most militarized state in the world today, can claim to stand. Agreeing to normalize relations would open a floodgate of internal criticism against the regime. It would take a real change of heart to alter this scenario. Despite repeatedly trying to masquerade as a victim before the international community, this is one thing the regime in Asmara cannot come to terms with.
It is an open secret that since its independence was recognized the Eritrean government has committed itself to regional destabilization as a central element in its foreign policy. It has done everything possible to destabilize the entire region through any means at its disposal. It still is at odds with Djibouti; and adamant in its opposition to the TFG and support for Al Shabaab in Somalia. It has even gone so far as to train rebels in South Sudan, soon to become the youngest nation in Africa. Above all however Ethiopia remains the regime’s prime target. The Eritrean regime has always used any means at its disposal against Ethiopia and this long predates Eritrea’s invasion of Ethiopia in 1998 or the subsequent border issue. Eritrea appears to believe that only Ethiopia’s dismemberment would be able to bring closure to Eritrea’s continuing woes.
President Isaias and the PFDJ have always been prepared to look for alternative options to achieve this. The intensity of their efforts is particularly evident in the curious mix of participants it has tried to bring together to achieve this including some with mutually exclusive aims. Some even support the idea of taking part of Eritrea back to Ethiopia! Nothing seems to matter to the Eritrean government as long as they oppose the Ethiopian government. The only logic that holds such strange bedfellows together is a shared hatred towards the incumbent government in Ethiopia and determination to try to cause chaos here. It has failed to achieve any result. Now, facing mounting internal and external pressure, the regime is making a last-ditch effort to externalize responsibility for its crimes both at home and abroad, turning again to that unlikeliest of arenas: diplomacy. But by now the world should know far too much about Eritrea’s abnormalities to fall for any more cheap tricks.
Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Ministry of Foreign Affairs