A Week in the Horn (13.08.2010)


The need for the International Community to act and act decisively in Somalia

A paradigm shift in the Ethiopian Diaspora

Eritrea running out of options in its relations with Ethiopia?

Ethiopia’s foreign policy: the core aims and intentions




The need for the International Community to act and act decisively in Somalia

IGAD in its recent meetings, of the Council of Ministers in June, and the Heads of State and Government in July, underlined the need for concerted efforts from all its member states and from the international community to assist the TFG in its endeavors to ensure peace and stability in Somalia. Commendably, its efforts have produced some tangible results, one of which has been broadening the peace process to bring on board others who are prepared for peace and stability in Somalia.

The IGAD Summit, in the final communiqué from its Addis Ababa meeting, instructed the IGAD Chiefs of Defense Staffs to draw up an action plan, to cover an increase in the level of forces required to enable AMISOM to carry out its mandated peacekeeping activities and to restructure the TFG’s security institutions to become effective and manageable with proper command control structures. The Chiefs of Defense Staffs who met the week before the AU’s Kampala summit rapidly responded. Their plans are now being implemented with the member states preparing for the deployment of the required experts and drawing up the necessary logistics.

IGAD’s efforts have also begun to receive the needed attention from the international community. The US-moderated meeting on Somalia, chaired by Ambassador Carson, the US Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, and held on the sidelines of the AU Summit in Kampala has been instrumental in creating a framework for coordinating international support to the TFG and AMISOM. It is a framework which can certainly be expected to provide tangible results to the efforts of the TFG and AMISOM to fight the scourge of terrorism. The understandings reached at the sideline meeting have already led to encouraging follow-up steps, and a substantial joint demarche is being planned involving the African Union and a number of European and African countries and the United States. The demarche will call for specific backing for Somalia and to AMISOM, and can be hoped to bring about considerable and immediate financial and logistical support to the TFG and AMISOM in concrete terms, as well as further pledges of troop contributions for AMISOM.

The widely-condemned bombings by Al-Shabaab in Kampala clearly demonstrate the capacity and determination of terrorist groups to inflict damage anywhere in the sub-region and show a potential ability to extend their activity to any corner of the globe. Assisting the TFG and AMISOM will ensure the defeat of these groups on the ground and also help stabilize Somalia permanently. It will also go a long way to limiting terrorist activities in the region. It underlines the critical need to provide the financial and logistical support to enable AMISOM to reach its authorized level of 8100 troops.

Another important point raised during the sideline meeting on Somalia in Kampala was reiteration of the need to re-formulate AMISOM as a UN peacekeeping force. This is something that needs immediate attention from the international community and particularly by the UN Security Council. Certainly, the recent announcement by the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative for Somalia, Ambassador Augustine Mahiga, of plans to increase the presence of the UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) inside Somalia will help advance the peace process in the country. The move, which will involve the relocation of some UN staff and offices to Mogadishu and other places, is certainly long overdue. It will enable much greater coordination between the TFG, IGAD, AMISOM and all other stakeholders. AMISOM’s civilian component should also relocate to Mogadishu as soon as possible as well. This would reinforce the growing appreciation of TFG and AMISOM requirements for effective and concrete assistance.

Last weekend, the TFG’s Joint Security Committee met under the co-chairmanship of Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke and Ambassador Mahiga (UNSGSR) in Nairobi. Discussions were aimed at achieving an action-oriented framework to cover, inter alia, support for the security forces, police and the relevant ministries. The committee urged the government to move forward on development of the security sector, including the provision of financial accountability, and to build on the present momentum for international support. As a priority, it should adopt the National Security and Stabilization Plan and the Security Sector Assessment and put the recommendations into practice. The committee commended the efforts of the IGAD Council of Ministers and the IGAD Summit, as endorsed by the AU Assembly, to strengthen the TFG’s security sector and AMISOM; and the new initiative of the US in mobilizing resources in support of the TFG and AMISOM. It expressed its appreciation to all current donors and encouraged other partners to extend similar support. It welcomed AMISOM’s renewed commitment to take additional measures to ensure the protection of civilians, commended the Mission for continuing to extend essential basic services, such as medical assistance, to the civilian population, and expressed its appreciation of AMISOM’s efforts to establish a safe zone to encourage the gradual return of international community offices back to Mogadishu. The Committee also reaffirmed the need to provide protection to civilians against insurgent atrocities, to maintain law and order, and to avoid civilian casualties through the provision of appropriate training for security forces, information gathering, appropriate operational equipment and application of the relevant rules of engagement under international law.

These developments may be encouraging but they also underline how important it is that the TFG leadership demonstrates its commitment and readiness to continue to work together, to maintain its cohesion and implement the agreements concluded with Ahlu Suna wal Jama’a at all levels. The positive developments in democratization witnessed in Somaliland should be supported and encouraged. The recent fighting between Puntland security forces and the extremists led by the so-called Sheikh ‘Atom’ is a clear indication that the threat posed by Al-Shabaab is not confined to the southern areas of Somalia but extends into those areas that have established relative peace and stability. And these regions need concrete support to build up their capacity to fight terrorism. The efforts by the international community to support the TFG and AMISOM should include a comprehensive approach to all the areas of the former Somali state with the aim of maintaining whatever peace and stability has been created in their respective areas.



A paradigm shift in the Ethiopian Diaspora

A demonstration in support of peace and development in Ethiopia, involving hundreds of Ethiopians and Ethiopian Americans, took place last week in Washington. Demonstrations by Ethiopians in Washington are nothing new, but this was something of a watershed, underlining an important shift of politics within the Diaspora. This is not simply because of the unusually large number of those involved in the demonstration, nor the fact that Ethiopians and Ethiopian Americans had come out in droves to support Ethiopia’s determined effort in its quest to end poverty and bring about economic development. After all, the majority of the Ethiopian Diaspora, albeit all-too-often a silent majority, has always been supportive of their homeland. What is new is that the hitherto silent majority finally seems to have decided that enough is enough, and determined to stand up to the violent intimidation and name-calling of the few, if vocal opposition extremists, and to demonstrate its support for Ethiopia.

This raises an interesting, and important question: what has brought about this change. Certainly, it is not a secret that their country, Ethiopia, has during the last few years shown to all who have been prepared to see and observe that the country is on an unmistakable trajectory towards producing sustainable peace, democracy, and rapid economic development. This is the sort of progress that has, unfortunately, been lacking for several decades. In Ethiopia today, there is renewed hope and optimism, cemented by the proven record of the government and people of Ethiopia and underlined by their uncompromising commitment to bring about rapid economic development, and, indeed the transformation of the state. The trend in Ethiopia towards a national consensus on core issues of peace, democracy, and economic development is unmistakable as the recent election resoundingly demonstrated. In fact, it should be no surprise if this growing national consensus should also be reflected in the Diaspora.

Indeed, the statement issued by the organizers of the day of the demonstration unambiguously illustrates that fact. Among other things, the demonstrators expressed their support to Ethiopia’s right for a fair and equitable use of the Nile River; they expressed their full support to the unremitting efforts to eliminate poverty and to the economic growth that is being registered in the country year after year. They also expressed their rejection of those critics who, in the name of opposition, are trying to hold the country back from the path of development, constantly trying to destroy Ethiopia’s image by continuous smear campaigns and repeated distortions of fact.

Although the demonstration in Washington last week is only a beginning, it is clearly indicative of the apparent paradigm shift in the politics of the Diaspora. It is clear that the days when only a few disgruntled extremist Diaspora figures dominated the scene have gone. The Ethiopian Diaspora is now showing its determination to support its country’s efforts to make poverty history, and have decided to play an active part in this historic endeavor. Coincidentally, last week, after taking stock of the performance of the last five-year development plan and double-digit growth registered for the last seven consecutive years, Ethiopia has unveiled an ambitious Five Year plan, the Growth and Transformation Plan to target annual economic growth rates well beyond the 11% average of the last few years. This plan, as its name suggests is not an ordinary development plan. It envisages a level of economic growth that will irreversibly transform the Ethiopian economy. Achieving this vision over the next five years will undoubtedly require the efforts of everybody, in Ethiopia and in the Diaspora. This is why the timing of the demonstration last week was so welcome, as was the commitment of the demonstrators to support their homeland. It underlines the demand for all Ethiopians abroad to play an active part in the potentially historic transformation of development efforts in Ethiopia and its democratization.



Eritrea running out of options in its relations with Ethiopia?

The progress that Ethiopia has been making in a range of areas, political, social and economic has drawn considerable praise from many sources. The government’s policies in several sectors have proved their effect, impacting on the lives of millions. Despite long odds, the peoples of Ethiopia are now seeing for the first time that victory over poverty is within reach. Ethiopia has made significant headway into its campaign to get rid of poverty. Policies in various sectors are paying off, placing the country on the right trajectory to achieve its economic, social and political objectives within the foreseeable future. There is now light at the end of the tunnel and a sense of optimism among various segments of the population that poverty can after all be relegated to the backwater of history. The unveiling this week of the government’s five year Growth and Transformation Plan has made it clear that Ethiopia is poised to achieve even more effective results in the next few years. The efforts of the government to strengthen the institutions of good governance and self administration have clearly allowed the population at large to give full support to the ongoing development endeavors. As the elections demonstrated, Ethiopians are united in support of the campaign against poverty.

The levels of success that have been registered so far have had effects well beyond the attitudes and aspirations of the peoples of Ethiopia. Recent developments have indicated there is growing awareness on the part of elements that have rejected peaceful dialogue that now is the time to take a long, hard, serious look at their unhelpful, even destructive, positions. The decision by some Ethiopian groups that have been involved in armed opposition for nearly two decades to lay down their arms and accept the Constitution and join in legal political processes is a most welcome development indeed. The decision of the United Western Somali Liberation Front to sign a peace agreement with the government is an important milestone. It will enable the Somali Regional State to take full advantage of the various development initiatives in the country and to further enhance the development of infrastructure in the region for the benefit of the population. The fact that the larger faction of the ONLF is now also in the process of making similar arrangements with the government is another positive step in the right direction. These decisions by these two groups underlines a growing realization among even the most staunch opponents of the political system in Ethiopia, that there has indeed been impressive progress both politically and economically in the country. This obviates the need for engaging in activities that undermine the constitutional order and development and progress. It also demonstrates that the political system is more than adequate to accommodate any and all parties that are prepared to follow a peaceful approach to deal with their differences.

Another development that underlines these changes in attitude is the growing increase in the level of affirmative engagement by the Ethiopian Diaspora and the increasing marginalization of violence-prone opposition forces. As noted above, hundreds of Ethiopians as well as US and Canadian nationals of Ethiopian origin recently held a rally in Washington in support of the Government of Ethiopia’s promotion of the national interests of Ethiopia. It is encouraging to see such a generous outpouring of support at a time when a few rejectionist elements among the Ethiopian Diaspora are still making desperate efforts to drive a wedge between Ethiopia and its development partners, offering themselves out for hire to any party that has old scores against Ethiopia. This underlines the point that despite the shrill cacophony of rejectionist propaganda attempting to discredit the efforts of the government in economic development and good governance, the great majority of Ethiopians abroad are well aware of the progress now being registered. By coming out en masse to voice their support for such endeavors irrespective of any political differences they might have, the hundreds of demonstrators sent an unequivocal message that they will never again stand idly by as their country and its people dedicate themselves to make poverty history. This is a very encouraging development indeed, and represents a real shift in the level and nature of participation of the silent majority of the Diaspora in the affairs of their country. It is a clear repudiation of anti-constitutional violent groups and indicates a resolve to bring collective influence to work positively to help produce sustainable economic development and a truly participatory political order.

Not everyone will be happy with these developments notably the government in Asmara, committed as it has been to scuttling Ethiopia’s progress for a long time. Indeed that almost appears to be the main aim of the PFDJ leadership. It has made a number of efforts to wreak havoc in Ethiopia and even set the whole country ablaze. One attempt to carry out this out by open aggression was met by the resolute response of Ethiopia’s armed forces. Eritrea’s leaders rightly drew the unequivocal lesson that they couldn’t afford another round of direct confrontation. That hasn’t, however, stopped the regime in Asmara continuing to make a whole series of other efforts to undermine Ethiopia’s stability and economic progress through the use of elements such as the ONLF, the OLF or die-hard elements of Diaspora-based opposition groups.

Recent developments, however, as mentioned above, indicate that there hasn’t been too much going for the Eritrean government lately. Plot after plot against Ethiopia has repeatedly collapsed, underlining the difficulties of the task they have set themselves. Given the pattern of their behavior over a decade or more, it would be naïve to expect the leaders of Eritrea to come to terms with the waning of their influence, minimal though it might be, on some of the opposition elements in or out of Ethiopia and with the futility of their attempt to derail Ethiopia’s development. Anyone in their right mind would have called it quits long ago, and looked at an alternative of giving peaceful overtures a try. It might be a bitter pill but it would acknowledge the realities of the situation and of the progress Ethiopia is managing to achieve.



Ethiopia’s foreign policy: the core aims and intentions

Since 1991, Ethiopia’s national interests have been completely redefined, to focus on the country’s internal vulnerabilities and problems, political and economic. The result, systematically laid out in the Foreign Policy and National Security Strategy a few years ago, identified the major threats to Ethiopia and indeed to its survival: economic backwardness and the desperate poverty in which a large majority of the people exist, together with the understanding of the need for democracy and good governance and for the establishment of a democratic structure and government at all levels throughout the country. Without these, Ethiopia would be unable to survive as a country. Its very existence would be in doubt.

Indeed, the philosophy behind Ethiopia’s foreign policy is quite clear: that diplomatic activity should serve the country’s economic agenda, of providing rapid economic development together with the objective of advancing democracy. Both goals are an imperative necessity for maintaining the very viability of the country. Ethiopia’s foreign policy has to serve these twin objectives: rapid economic development which aims to provide all members of society with benefits, and democratization to ensure the most complete participation of people in administering their own affairs. The government has, over the last years, therefore centered diplomatic activities on the promotion of trade, encouraging investment and tourism.

It has in fact become very clear that Ethiopia’s national security is bound up inextricably with these factors. Indeed it is not too much to say that a commitment to democracy and the war on poverty are the two central elements in national security. Ethiopia is now dedicating all its capacities, and resources, to reversing the impact of poverty. It is similarly steadily extending the process of building up the institutions of democracy and good governance in a manner which takes into account the realities of Ethiopia, recognizing the vital principle of unity in diversity, the need for tolerance and accommodation in light of the diversity of languages, cultures and faiths.

Closely allied to this, and indeed growing out of it, is a parallel commitment to peace and security in the region. Ethiopia has demonstrated its search for this in the excellent relations it has achieved with all its neighbors – with the one exception of Eritrea, of course, but as we have emphasized many times that is not something of Ethiopia’s choosing. Since the end of the war foisted on Ethiopia by Eritrea’s invasion of Ethiopian administered territory in May 1998, Ethiopia has very carefully not responded to numerous, indeed almost continuous Eritrean provocations, among them what amounts to the tearing up of the Algiers Peace Agreement of December 2000. Rather, Ethiopia has made it clear repeatedly that it is totally committed to dialogue as the means to ensure demarcation and the normalization of relations. It is prepared for an open dialogue with the Eritrean government whenever and wherever.

In this context, it was only with the very greatest reluctance that Ethiopia took the decision to intervene in Somalia in December 2006 at the request of the Government of Somalia, the TFG, when it was faced by the violent intransigence of the Islamic Courts. It was, of course, true that the Islamic Courts also posed a threat to Ethiopia’s national security with their calls for a jihad and for a renewal of Somali irredentist claims against Ethiopia, and Kenya, and the links that Al-Shabaab already had with Al Qaeda. Nevertheless, Ethiopia spent most of 2006 demonstrating a commitment to peace in Somalia. It strongly supported the discussions between the ICU and the TFG, and encouraged the TFG to try to continue the talks long after the ICU had been taken over by hard line elements. It made numerous efforts to reach agreement with the ICU itself as well as mediate between the ICU and TFG, holding a series of meetings with ICU leaders over several months. In all, Ethiopian officials met eight times with ICU leaders before Ethiopia, very reluctantly, took the decision to respond to the TFG’s requests and moved troops into Somalia in reaction to the start of the ICU’s offensive against Baidoa. Indeed, the final meeting came only days before Ethiopian forces advanced to Baidoa and stopped the ICU taking over the city and driving out the TFG.

The central factor in Ethiopian policy in the Horn of Africa has been its aim to build and cement relations with all its neighbors on the basis that economic links are the bedrock of sustainable policies. This is what underlies Ethiopia’s involvement in, and commitment to, the Inter Governmental Authority for Development, and its continuous support for the regeneration and revitalization of the Authority in the last couple of years; and to the Sana’a Forum for Co-operation which also involves the Republic of Yemen. IGAD, of course, is one of the Regional Economic Communities for African integration.

Ethiopia’s approach to its neighbors is in fact designed to encourage the highest levels of economic cooperation as well as amicable political and security relations based on mutual trust and confidence. It is fully aware that without trust there can be no peace, and without peace, sustainable economic development is impossible. Indeed, Ethiopia now judges other countries on the basis of their preparedness to engage in a mutually advantageous partnership for economic cooperation, investment, trade and development, as well as for peace and security. This underlines the relationship with neighbors as well as others, in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and the Americas. Ethiopia has established cooperation links with over twenty major donor countries and nine international organizations. These are involved in numerous development projects through grants, technical assistance and program and project support as part of the Plan for Accelerated and Sustained Development to End Poverty (PASDEP). This lays out the directions of the country’s economic development and for achieving the Millennium Development Goals, and Ethiopia is now hopeful of achieving most, if not all, of the MDGs by 2015.

In other words, a central and basic element of Ethiopia’s foreign relations today is economic diplomacy. This focus has led to a number of changes within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, including the creation of new departments, among them the Directorate-General of Business and Economy. This has the responsibility of encouraging investment in Ethiopia as well as promoting Ethiopia’s exports and finding new markets using the expertise of the country’s embassies. Tourism is another area of major interest carried out of course in co-operation with the relevant ministries and institutions which also have responsibilities in this area. A related development has been the recent and extensive growth of infrastructural links with neighbors. These include new roads, telecommunication lines and hydro-electric power lines and a number of multi-sectoral agreements have been signed with Djibouti, Kenya and the Sudan to implement these projects.

A related factor has been the government’s policy measures to simplify or remove the rules and regulations that have made it difficult in the past for members of the Diaspora to participate in business and development in Ethiopia. These have included tax holidays for the import of machinery and equipment for investment projects, access to land, and the easing of banking and money controls. The result has been a steady growth in Diaspora involvement with hundreds of professionals from the Diaspora now facilitating transfers of technology and know-how and providing support in institutions of higher learning. A federal level Diaspora Forum coordinates the activities of a number of government offices for Diaspora issues, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is actively involved in designing additional policy measures to smooth Diaspora involvement in development and in the transformation of Ethiopian society.

Ethiopia, in the last few years, has laid the basis for the essential economic structure it needs for future growth, to become a middle-income country and to win the war against poverty. It has laid the foundations for real democracy, building democratic institutions from the grass roots, and providing the necessary political space for a responsible democratization process. Of course, it all remains very much a work in progress and Ethiopia is very appreciative of all the assistance it has received. It is equally conscious of the need for continuing strong and sustainable partnerships with others. Without this, victory over poverty and the establishment of democracy and good governance will remain all too distance a dream.

Ethiopia will therefore continue to pursue diplomatic activities that will help make sure that its economic ties and its co-operation with traditional partners can be further expanded and deepened while making every effort to make sure that ties with new partners grow as rapidly and as practically as possible. Those parties whose partnership facilitates the achievement of rapid economic development are the friends whose relationship has the greatest significance for Ethiopia’s viability as a nation. Ethiopia is very aware of their value, but it also believes that this cooperation and partnership must be based on the principles of mutual respect and the promotion of mutual interest. Ethiopia certainly believes it has a lot to learn from the experiences of its partners. It doesn’t however want outsiders to entertain the idea that they can play a central role, be it political or economic. That will always be an illusion, as the operation of Ethiopia’s foreign policy underlines.

In fact, The Week in the Horn, starting from next week, will begin a series of articles looking closely at Ethiopia’s relations with other selected countries, as well as at the regional, continental and global organizations to which Ethiopia belongs.



Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

Ministry of Foreign Affairs