The AU convenes a Consultative Meeting on Sudan
On Saturday last week, the AU convened a Consultative Meeting on Sudan. It was a follow-up to the decision adopted by the 207th meeting of the African Union Peace and Security Council meeting at the Level of Heads of State and Government in October last year. The Consultative Meeting, in Addis Ababa, was unprecedented in terms of participants and of outcome. It was chaired by Dr. Jean Ping, the Chairperson of the African Union and attended by members of the African Union High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) including former presidents, Thabo Mbeki and Pierre Buyoya, the Commissioner for Peace and Security of the AU, and a number of UN officials, including the AU-UN joint Chief Mediator, the Joint Special Representative for UNAMID and the Special Representative of the Secretary General for the United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS). Also there were representatives of IGAD (Ethiopia as the current Chair, and the Secretariat), the League of Arab States, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the European Union, neighbouring states, Special Envoys of the Permanent members of the UN Security Council, representatives of Finland, Japan, Norway, Sweden, Qatar and Italy (the chair of the IGAD Partners Forum), of the Assessment and Evaluation Commission (AEC), Burundi (current Chair of the AU’s PSC for May) and Malawi, as Chair of the AU.
The Consultative Meeting was preceded by a High Level Strategic Review which assessed the political situation in Sudan in the aftermath of the election and in anticipation of the final year of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) including the holding of the referenda in Southern Sudan and in Abyei. The review agreed on the need to do everything possible to assist the Sudanese parties to fulfil their commitments under the CPA, to create the necessary conditions, including technical matters, for the referenda, support capacity building and conflict mitigation in Southern Sudan and strengthen co-ordination between AUHIP and UNMIS and other international partners.
The objectives of the Consultative Meeting itself were: to facilitate the ongoing process of democratic transformation of Sudan in line with the CPA, support its implementation and the resolution of issues related to post-referendum arrangements, to reach an agreement on the way forward for the main international organizations and ensure a coordinated approach and action especially in Darfur. The meeting assessed the situation in the Sudan in the aftermath of the April 2010 election and in light of the progress made and challenges encountered in the implementation of the CPA and in the search for peace, security, justice and reconciliation in Darfur. It underscored the emergence of a new reality in the country with the holding of a peaceful election resulting in elected representatives at all levels. It underlined the need to learn the lessons for the conduct of the 2011 referendum and to continue to expand the democratic space which will help to resolve problems. The meeting underlined the importance of the partnership between the National Congress Party (NCP) and Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement (SPLM) as an essential pre-requisite to steer Sudan through the challenges that lie ahead. It expressed the confidence that with the right sprit of mutual trust, the two parties could jointly succeed in completing the implementation of the CPA in accordance with the time line set in the CPA. On Darfur, the meeting emphasized that every effort should be made to ensure a political agreement to the crisis in Darfur is reached before the January 2011 referendum. It also underlined the need for the Darfur political process to be inclusive to address all issues of concern to the people of Darfur, including peace and security, social issues and reconciliation, taking into account the African Union Panel on Darfur (AUPD) recommendations and building on the progress made in the Doha process.
The meeting recognized the critical importance of the developments in Sudan to the region and to the African continent, as well as to the rest of the international community. It welcomed the decision of the AU to begin the operation of the Consultative Forum established according to the decision of the PSC in October 2009. The Forum will be co-chaired by the AU and the United Nations, and will bring together the neighbouring countries of Sudan, IGAD, the League of the Arab States and AU partners. It will serve as a coordinating mechanism for the CPA negotiations on post-referendum arrangements and for the achievement of an inclusive political settlement in Darfur in the context of an holistic approach to the challenges facing the Government of Sudan. The participants also pledged to do everything possible to enhance their support to the Sudanese parties, bearing in mind that the achievement of lasting peace, justice and reconciliation in Sudan requires ownership by the Sudanese.
Eritrea is not a factor for peace in Sudan or anywhere else in the region”>
This week, Eritrea’s Foreign Minister, Osman Salih, headed an Eritrean delegation to Sudan. The delegation was taking congratulations from President Isaias to President al-Bashir on his re-election as President of Sudan last month, and to the National Congress for its victory. Mr. Osman had discussions with Mr. Ali Ahmed Karti, State Minister at Sudan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday, as well as with other officials in Khartoum and in Juba. One member of the delegation, Yemane Ghebremeskel, the director of President Isaias’ office, noted that Eritrea hoped that the upcoming referendum would lead to a comprehensive unity for the Sudan. These comments by the Eritrean delegation must have come as something of a surprise to Sudanese officials. Only a few weeks ago, President Isaias was calling for a postponement of the elections in the Sudan and of the referendum due in January next year. The election was, of course, successfully concluded two weeks ago and will certainly contribute to the climate of co-operation between north and south in the Sudan which is so important for the full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). Publicly encouraging a postponement of either the election or the referendum, as Eritrea did, suggests an intent to interfere in the implementation of the CPA. And the CPA is central to the future of the Sudan as well as fundamental to peace and security of the region. The CPA, an international agreement, is after all the foundation of the peace process in the Sudan. Eritrea’s comments were clearly not intended to assist the process. Indeed, as usual, Eritrea was demonstrating its own narrow short-sighted agenda, an agenda devoted solely to Eritrea itself. Any call to interfere with the CPA must be seen for what it really is, as a highly dangerous action. It underlined the very basic point that Eritrea remains a serious danger to peace and stability in the region. It is not a factor for peace.
As we noted last week, the Government of Eritrea appears to be making efforts to try and minimize the effects of the sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council last December (UNSC Resolution 1907 (2009)). President Isaias has been talking widely to the media, and dropping hints that Eritrea might finally be prepared to co-operate with the international community. In fact, as usual there is little, if any, correlation between the words of the President and his actions. He has given no indication at all that Eritrea is prepared to withdraw its troops from Djibouti, that it will end support for extremist and terrorist opposition to the Government of Somalia or bring an end to its determined and continuous efforts to try and scuttle the election in Ethiopia. Indeed far from stopping its efforts at destabilization in Ethiopia, Eritrea has actually been intensifying them with the election only just over a week away. Nothing suggests the Eritrean Government is interested in changing its regional policies.
Indeed, its regional activities have continued to show repeated support for terrorist and extremist elements, and it has made no effort to change activities on the ground. On April 25th a restaurant in Adi Daro near the Ethiopian Eritrean border was bombed leaving five people dead and twenty injured, all civilians. The Tigrai Regional Government identified those responsible as members of the Tigrai Peoples Democratic Movement, an opposition movement based in Eritrea where its members have been trained in terrorist operations; some have even been identified on Eritrean television in military training sessions. There have been a number of other bombings and attempts to carry out terrorist operations in Tigrai Region in and around Humera, near the border with both Eritrea and Sudan, in recent months. A group of ten Eritrean-trained terrorists were picked up at the beginning of the month at the border trying to cross into the Somali Regional State from Somalia.
In these circumstances, the international community should be extremely cautious in considering any change of policy towards Eritrea. The sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council (resolution 1907, 2009) have already had a significant impact. Eritrea’s sudden flurry of media and diplomatic efforts make clear just how worried the Eritrean leadership has become. The Security Council’s policy has, in fact, been beginning to bear fruit. What is needed now is the firm implementation of the sanctions policy, the need to exert more pressure on Eritrea, not less. Now is the time to demonstrate that the international community has not been fooled by the efforts of President Isaias or Eritrea to appear to have moderated policies.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Meles, last weekend, warned Eritrea that it shouldn’t draw any false conclusions about Ethiopia’s patience and tolerance. Aggressors, especially the Eritrean Government, he said, should realize that Ethiopia’s patience had limits. He said that the Government of Ethiopia and the defence forces had refrained from retaliating for what he called “Eritrea’s repeated aggressions”. This was because Ethiopia abided by international laws. Indeed, the army was an army of peace, and had, of course, been involved in many peace-keeping missions in Africa. Prime Minister Meles, who is also Commander in Chief of the National Defence Forces, was speaking at the graduation of the third batch of 55 senior military officers at the Ethiopian Defence and Command Staff College. 18 of the graduates were from abroad, and the Prime Minister handed out degrees and certificates as well as awards.
Somalia: the challenges continue
The difference within the TFG leadership of Somalia is still going on as some of the parliament members are still insisting there need to be changes in the leadership of the institution. The bickering has affected the people of Somalia in general and the leadership of the TFG in particular, diverting attention from concentrating on the more important issues facing the government. It is all-too-obvious that some parliamentarians are engaged in activities which are far from helpful in the present situation.
This internal fight within the TF institutions is unfortunate. Somalis expect their parliament to engage in formulating laws and proclamations that will move the peace process forward and help in institution building. This saga needs to be resolved quickly to allow the TFG to engage in the activities that need to be accomplished before the transitional period ends. This is crucial. And it is imperative to address the matter through legal means. The TFG leadership has to deal with the issue in a manner that is acceptable legally and in line with the charter and in the context of the Djibouti Agreement.
In the meantime, a pledging conference for Somalia’s reconstruction is expected to be held in Istanbul, Turkey at the end of next week, from 21st to 23rd May. Senior government officials and head of international organizations including the UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon are expected in Istanbul to attend the conference. A lot is expected from this meeting both in terms of cementing the Djibouti agreement and to help the TFG in a concrete way. The meeting will also be considering piracy and a number of other issues. It might be recalled that disbursements pledged for the TFG and AMISOM following the Brussels pledging conference in April last year have been very slow. The TFG did not get the full and necessary support that it had expected.
In the March meeting of the UN Security Council Sanctions Committee to consider the arms embargo, it was emphasized that the TFG lacked the necessary resources. It was stressed it was the responsibility of the Security Council to strengthen its capacity, and that this was particularly important. The conference in Istanbul will hopefully provide the framework to emphasize this reality further, as well as remind partners to fulfill their promises, realize the funds which they committed and pledge further support to the people of Somalia.
The UN Secretary-General’s latest report on Somalia
This week the Secretary-General released his latest report to the Security Council on the situation in Somalia. It covered events since the previous report at the end of December last year. The Secretary-General noted that the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) has continued its attempts to rebuild and rehabilitate Somalia’s institutions and its efforts to become more representative, credible, accountable and functional. He welcomes what he called the “significant breakthrough” of the accord between the TFG and Ahlu Sunna wal Jama’a (ASWJ) and the establishment of a body to monitor the agreement, comprising UNPOS, the AU and IGAD. He referred to President Sheikh Sharif’s attendance at the AU summit in February and his participation in the March conference of Muslim scholars in UAE at which strong support was expressed for the TFG, and all acts of terrorism in Somalia were condemned. The Secretary-General noted the meeting of the International Contact Group on April 21-22 in Cairo, and, in February, the AU Peace and Security Council’s call for greater support for the TFG. It had also reiterated its call to the UN for a no-fly zone over Somalia, a blockade of seaports and the deployment of UN operations to help stabilize the country and support reconstruction.
The Secretary-General felt the overall security situation in Somalia remained highly volatile and unpredictable with continued attacks against TFG and AMISOM forces in Mogadishu. Mogadishu remained a particularly hostile environment. He noted the continued fighting between Al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam in Lower Juba and Lower Shabelle, and between Al-Shabaab and ASWJ in central regions. There were direct threats to United Nations operations especially where Al-Shabaab was in control. Al-Shabaab had called for the termination of WFP operations in Somalia at the end of February and had occupied WFP compounds at the beginning of March and early April. He detailed continuing attacks on civilians by Al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam and the threats against journalists, with Al-Shabaab ordering the BBC off the air in April. He underlined his concern of the effect of the conflict on civilians, and condemned the launching of attacks by extremists from populated areas. The Independent Expert at the 13th session of the Human Rights Council in March had described the situation in Somalia as extremely serious. There was particular concern over the reports of Al-Shabaab’s summary executions and mutilations, indiscriminate shelling, gender-based violence, conscription of children into conflict, and blocked humanitarian aid. It could all amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Piracy incidents had declined in the first quarter of the year, 17 compared to 41 in the same period last year. This was attributed to the international naval presence in the Gulf of Aden and the adoption of more robust anti-piracy measures by merchant vessels. He will be presenting a report to the Security Council within three months on possible options for the prosecution and incarceration of pirates. The report also detailed the continued widespread humanitarian crisis in Somalia, despite good rains and an above-normal harvest, with 3.2 million people (43% of the population) needing assistance and livelihood support; 1.4 million of these are internally displaced. The UN Country team in Somalia had launched a full investigation into the Monitoring Group’s allegations of misuse of humanitarian assistance.
On AMISOM, the Secretary-General noted that it had now reached a figure of 6,120, with the deployment of a 4th Uganda battalion; a Burundi battalion had been rotated in mid-April. 40, out of 270 authorised AMISOM police officers (from Burundi, Ghana, Nigeria, Sierre Leone, Uganda and Zambia), had been deployed in Mogadishu. The TFG has drafted a National Security and Stabilization Plan, though this has yet to be formally adopted. It now has 2,800 troops formed into 7 mixed clan battalions under the command of the Army Chief of Staff, General Gelle. The EU will be training another 2,000 troops in Uganda during the next year. Somali Police Force numbers are expected to reach 8,000 by the end of the year, though equipment and funding remains a problem. The Secretary-General noted that dealing with defectors had become a major challenge for the TFG as these are not addressed through disarmament or demobilization activities. The TFG has set up an interim inter-ministerial committee and UNPOS is helping to look for funding. The Secretary-General noted that 75% of the pledges made at Brussels in April 2009 had now been disbursed, but he appealed urgently to Member States to release pledged contributions to the TFG. He remained concerned by the lack of sustainable funding for troop-contributing countries for AMISOM. While acknowledging the efforts of AMISOM, he reiterated his call to the international community to urgently extend to the AU, AMISOM and IGAD the necessary support to discharge their mandates.
Overall, the Secretary-General felt the TFG had been making strong efforts to improve security and stability, beginning to raise domestic revenues. It has established itself as a serious representative of the interests of Somalis. August 2011 marks the end of the transitional period, and a number of critical tasks, including the drafting of a constitution, had yet to be completed. He said he was encouraged by the TFG’s commitment to an inclusive administration and urged the TFG to keep the door open in the search for inclusivity. He remained concerned by the TFG’s lack of capacity and its dependence upon external financial assistance. He urged Somali leaders to maintain cohesion and dialogue within the Transitional Federal Institutions. He urged all Member States to undertake measures to implement the sanctions regime, including resolution 1907, which imposed targeted sanctions on those jeopardizing the peace process.
The Secretary-General said he would be reviewing the implementation of the UN strategy for Somalia with reference to the need to integrate UN operations, and would be submitting his findings and options to the Security Council. He said he was keeping the three-phased implementation approach under review, noting that progress was being made in establishing a “light footprint” in Mogadishu, the second stage of the UN’s strategy.
Ensuring the integrity of the upcoming election: the case for continuing vigilance
Election Day is only a week away and electoral campaigns of the parties are already drawing to a close. The electoral process has generated a level of enthusiasm among various stakeholders and the process so far has proved its versatility and a level of maturity that has become a source of confidence for the people. The experience has for the most part been a rewarding one. Even some parties that were recently involved in the zero-sum politics of violence now appear to have come to terms with the changing times. The decision by the UWSLF to lay down its arms and join the peaceful democratic process at this time is a case in point and very welcome news, testifying to the growing level of confidence among parties that were previously opposed to the political system. There are clear indications that the politics of rejectionism are waning, giving way to tolerance and moderation.
However, there still remain lingering issues of concern. There have recently been several reports of incidents of electoral malpractice, and actual as well as attempted terrorist activities in different parts of the country. In addition to a fatal bomb attack in the northern area of the country, a number of terrorist plots orchestrated by the agents of the government of Eritrea have also been foiled by the Ethiopian security forces, largely thanks to the people’s vigilance. Some sections of the legally registered opposition also seem to have been engaged in an apparent campaign to discredit the legitimacy of the elections by way of incessantly making unverifiable allegations, in a manner reminiscent of the deplorable developments of 2005. In another more alarming development, security officials have recently reported a bombing incident involving members of one opposition party targeting members of another party. The result was the death of a few civilians and one police officer. The brazenness of these attacks has left little doubt as to how murky the electoral process can get and the extent to which undemocratic proclivities of the past can materialize even when least expected.
It all demonstrates that however widespread the sense of optimism may be, the successful completion of the election can never be taken for granted. There are a host of reasons that make holding elections in this part of the world a very tricky business. Certainly, the regional context has hardly been amenable to the successful and smooth holding of elections. The existence of actors in the region, state and non-state alike, who are disinclined to embrace the ideals of democracy or the peaceful settlement of differences, has all too often proved problematic in the face of attempts to build viable democratic culture and effective good governance. The government of Eritrea may be a text book personification of this trend, and it’s certainly the most vigorous of such actors, but it is hardly alone. The region does actually have more than its fair share of rejectionist elements. Equally, despite these long odds, Ethiopia has managed to register impressive results even though it has continued to be taunted by rejectionist forces. The results often go unnoticed or are even denigrated. This emboldens these elements led by the Eritrean regime in its campaign to try to bring about the collapse of Ethiopia’s democratization process.
This brings us to the other challenge that continues to be posed against the successful completion of the electoral process, and against the democratization process and development endeavours. Ethiopia has, in fact, achieved numerous positive developments fostering confidence in the democratic process. The government has been doing a lot to bolster institutions entrusted with promoting and developing democratic culture. There are, however, those to whom no amount of goodwill is likely to persuade giving the ruling party the benefit of the doubt. Leaders of some opposition parties have left little doubt as to how small is the regard they have for the rules of the game. The pattern of behaviour of these parties has been consistent to a fault. They have flaunted in public their contempt for the constitution and institutions established under it, particularly the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia. They have repeatedly shunned the overtures of the ruling and other opposition parties for negotiation and constructive engagement. They leave no doubt they have little use for the precepts of civilized discourse. They have made no secret of their disdain for the electoral process. They have repeatedly used whatever media access they have been given, courtesy of the law, to pile up allegation after allegation against the very institutions that made the process possible. They are all but certain the ruling party will rig the next elections; they claim the ruling party has never been genuine about anything related to democracy or elections. They have even openly declared their opposition to the deployment of AU observers and their distrust of the efficacy of the EU’s observer mission.
It all indicates that rejectionism, despite its growing marginalization by the peoples of Ethiopia, is still near enough to rear its head whenever an opportunity presents itself. This becomes even more dangerous in the context of the feverish efforts of the government of Eritrea to unleash every kind of violence to try to scuttle the process by whatever means. These are challenges that need close attention and vigilance by the public.
The bottom line is that the success or otherwise of the democratic process depends upon the commitment of the peoples of Ethiopia. Developments so far have shown unequivocally that the process is indeed taking deeper root by the day. No amount of cynicism is going to set the clock back. Equally, with only a week to go before polling day, none of the negative developments of the past few weeks should be allowed to stand in the way of the success of the elections. People should continue to remain vigilant against destructive tendencies whether within Ethiopia or from threats from outside. As Prime Minister Meles emphatically stated last weekend, Ethiopia’s patience towards regional spoilers has its limits. It is good to remind the likes of Eritrea not to be oblivious to this. More importantly, it is incumbent upon the peoples and government of Ethiopia to redouble their efforts to see that the country’s progress along the path of democratization and rapid economic development are unhindered by the duplicitous campaigns of the sworn enemies of the process. Doing this will help to ensure that Election Day will successfully frustrate the forces of rejection and usher in the next chapter of Ethiopia’s Renaissance.
Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Ministry of Foreign Affairs