A Week in the Horn (15.01.2010)


  • The inauguration of Gilgel Gibe II, and Italy’s Foreign Minister in Ethiopia

Italian Foreign Minister, Mr. Franco Frattini made an official visit to Ethiopia this week. During his three day visit, January 12-14, Mr. Frattini met and held discussions with Prime Minister Meles on wide-ranging bilateral and regional matters of common interest. Ethiopia and Italy have longstanding relations which have been consolidated in recent years. The return of the Axum Obelisk in 2005 (erected for the Ethiopian Millennium in 2007/2008) marked the opening of a new chapter in bilateral relations. In addition to political and cultural relations, Ethiopia regards Italy as a strategic partner in the development of power resources for the fight against poverty. Italy’s provision of a 220 million euro soft loan for the Gilgel Gibe II hydro-power project is a clear manifestation of the level of commitment and understanding existing between the two governments.

Mr. Frattini attended the inauguration of Gilgel Gibe II by Prime Minister Meles on Wednesday. Italy was one of the main funders of the project, along with the European Development Bank and the Ethiopian Government. Gilgel Gibe II uses water from the reservoir from the Gilgel Gibe I project opened in 2004, and channels it through a 26 kilometer long tunnel, dropping 500 meters into the Omo River in the south west of the country. It can generate 420 mw of electricity. Speaking at the opening, Prime Minister Meles expressed his appreciation to the workers who had achieved the project, and said the Government was committed to doubling Ethiopia’s energy stock in the coming five years. Mr. Frattini said the Italian Government was proud to have been involved in such an impressive and important project. He expressed the Italian Government’s readiness to continue co-operation with Ethiopia in support of similar development projects. Among other planned hydro-power projects are Gibe III, which will have a 1,870 mw capacity and is about one third completed, and Gibe IV which is expected to have 1,900 mw capacity, for which a Memorandum of Understanding has been signed with China. At the Gilgel Gibe project site, Mr. Frattini signed a grant agreement of 3.61 million euro with Finance and Development Minister, Ato Sufian Ahmed, to be used for water supply and sanitation, and for increasing the economic productivity of traditional agricultural products in Oromia State.

During his visit, the Italian Foreign Minister also had a working breakfast with Foreign Minister Seyoum. The two foreign ministers exchanged views on regional matters with particular emphasis on the situation in Somalia. They agreed on the need for urgent assistance to the TFG to enable it to consolidate its security and governance structures. The need for quick action was underlined as international extremist and terrorist forces were strengthening their efforts to try to remove the TFG and implement the next stage of their global agenda.


  • China’s Minister of Commerce starts a five nation Africa tour in Ethiopia

On Monday, Prime Minister Meles met the Republic of China’s Minister of Commerce, Chen Deming who was heading a delegation to Ethiopia at the start of a five nation African tour. The Prime Minister expressed Ethiopia’s keen interest in scaling up economic cooperation with China, stressing in particular the transfer of knowledge and technology. He hoped Ethiopia could share China’s rich experience in infrastructural development, manufacturing industry and economic administration. Minister Deming who noted Ethiopia’s remarkable economic growth over the last six years emphasized China’s willingness to continue to support Ethiopia’s development endeavors and to assist Ethiopia’s business communities to promote their products in China.

Minister Deming, who also held talks with Finance and Economic Development Minister, Ato Sufian Ahmed, and Trade and Industry Minister, Ato Girma Birru, said China was ready to increase its assistance to promote cooperation in matters of transport, power and telecommunications and help Ethiopia improve “the hardware of economic development”. He said China planned to increase the volume of its trade with Ethiopia to US $3 billion by 2015. In the last eleven months China/Ethiopia trade reached a historic high level of nearly US$1.4 billion, twenty times more than a decade ago. Ethiopia’s exports to China had risen to over US$200 million in the same period. Minister Deming announced a major expansion of China’s quota-free access to benefit Ethiopia, and another 29 African countries. This will allow for the duty-free export of another 4,000 tariff lines in addition to the 400 currently in use. Sixty percent of these products will be able to benefit from preferential treatment immediately.

Minister Sufian noted that Ethiopia had gained major benefits from cooperation with China including extensive road building in rural areas. Although China was a relative newcomer to Foreign Direct Investment in Africa, Chinese firms are now increasingly moving into Ethiopia. Minister Sufian said that China’s FDI in Ethiopia had now reached some US$900 million in various areas including steel, paper, and glass manufacturing. Minister Deming pointed out that China and Ethiopia were both large farming countries with big populations and that they had had similar imbalances. They had much to share in developing agriculture and manufacturing, job creation and the promotion of balanced economic development. He said China was ready to increase the transfer of practical technologies through agricultural demonstration and the transfer of agriculture expertise. China would also encourage businesses to participate in Ethiopia’s agro-processing industries including sugar.

During his visit, Minister Deming signed a number of bilateral agreements on economic and technological cooperation, and a US$32.5 million aid and concessional loan framework agreement. The loan will go to finance a supply of equipment to be installed at customs import/export checkpoints. Minister Deming also held discussions with African Union officials and visited the site of the new AU headquarters and the ultra-modern conference facilities being built by China.


  • UN Secretary-General commends AMISOM and the TFG

The UN Secretary-General has now submitted his latest report on the situation in Somalia, dated December 31st 2009, to the Security Council. It covers developments since his reports of July and October last year, assessing the political, security, human rights and humanitarian situation in Somalia and the progress made in implementing the UN’s proposed three-phase incremental approach set out in April.

The Secretary-General notes that the TFG has continued to consolidate and expand its support basis on three fronts, despite its continued lack of adequate and regular resources. It has intensified its efforts to gain support among the main opposition groups in Mogadishu with an increasing number of elements from the armed opposition renouncing violence. This includes the defection of two senior Al-Shabaab operatives and some 550 fighters. The Government and Ahlu Sunna wal Jama’a are currently exploring their political and military cooperation, and the Government has been carrying out an in-depth review of its relationship with the Puntland authorities.

The Secretary-General draws attention to the TFG’s improved functionality in its budget estimates for 2010. Salaries for the security forces account for half of the $110.4 million expenditure. Eighty percent will be reliant upon external sources; revenue from Mogadishu port and airport will provide the rest. The lifting of the ban by Saudi Arabia on livestock imports from Somalia will contribute to increasing Government revenues. The TFG is working on a stabilization program based on the political, social and development priorities identified for implementation during the remainder of the transition period. There have been changes in the police and military leadership.

The Secretary-General welcomed the decision by the Government of Djibouti to reopen its embassy in Mogadishu on November 1st. He also noticed the meeting of the International Contact Group (ICG) on December 17th in Jeddah when the Government presented its strategy for this year. This reiterated the Djibouti process remained the framework within which all international efforts should be undertaken and called on the international community to assist in building up security institutions, including help for the payment of stipends to trained recruits. The Organization of Islamic Conference announced its intention to open an office in Mogadishu and provide $50 million for humanitarian and recovery activities. The International Contact Group (ICG) agreed to hold an international conference on recovery and reconstruction in the near future.

The Secretary-General noted that insecurity remained widespread and that with the end of the monsoon season, pirates have resumed their attacks. No hijacks had been successful in the Gulf of Aden since July but pirates were now attacking ships as far away as 1000 nautical miles from Somalia. The deployment of warships by numerous countries continued to have a positive effect. The Secretary-General also emphasized that the humanitarian situation in Somalia was “dire”. More than 3.6 million Somalis, nearly 50% of the population, will need assistance or livelihood support into 2010. He noted that the presence of “hard-line Al-Shabaab elements, hostile to humanitarian organizations” had resulted in a further shrinking of humanitarian space with threats against staff, rejection of “foreign food aid” and demands for “registration fees” all worsening. Despite the increase in need, there had been a significant drop in funding. The 2009 consolidated appeal for Somalia was only 60% funded at the end of November, leading to a curtailment of water, sanitation and health programs and to reduced or postponed rations.

The Secretary-General said the UN continued to pursue its incremental approach to Somalia, implemented through AMISOM and other partners. At the end of November there were some 775 national and 57 international UN staff deployed throughout Somalia in critical humanitarian and other UN programs. UN staff had made some 17 visits in the reporting period to Mogadishu to monitor operations and assist the TFG’s processes of policymaking and planning. This also enabled the UN Support office for AMISOM (UNSOA) to enhance AMISOM capabilities and help create a more favorable environment for the deployment of more troops. The UN is continuing to develop plans for the expansion of its presence in Mogadishu as part of the second phase of the incremental approach. On a visit to Mogadishu in October, the Under Secretary-General for Safety and Security, Gregory Starr, advised that there was scope to create the facilities there that would allow UN international staff to spend significantly more time there. Planning for a permanent UN presence is now being taken forward.

The High-level Committee was re-launched in October and expanded to include UNPOS, AMISOM and representatives of the troop-contributing countries and the international community. It is now expected to convene monthly. The Secretary-General noted the significant and commendable role played by AMISOM. He said the planned deployment of an additional battalion each from Uganda and Burundi, and 400 troops from Djibouti, had been delayed by logistics constraints, but UNSOA was continuing to provide a logistics support package, and was now going to support enhanced security measures as well as implement a communications strategy.

While continuing to work towards a national security strategy in accordance with resolution 1872 (2009), the UN is assisting the TFG in developing its security institutions. UNPOS and the US have just completed a security sector assessment mission, together with the EU, the AU and the TFG. This will assist in the development of programs implemented through the Joint Security Committee which held two meetings in October and December. The Secretary-General noted that 600 soldiers had been trained in Djibouti. Another 350 are being trained in Djibouti, 120 in Sudan, 750 soldiers and 30 officers in Uganda, while Yemen and Algeria have airlifted troops to and from training locations. Police training has been carried out at the Armo Police Academy in Puntland.

The Secretary-General makes it clear he believes the TFG is making progress in some critical areas, and the implementation of the Djibouti Agreement generally remains “on track”. The persistent attempts to overthrow the Government through violence, however, should remind the international community of the need for a coordinated effort to generate the necessary political and security conditions to successfully complete the transition by 2011. He urges continued commitment by the TFG to dialogue for reconciliation and to consolidating its authority, restoring the economy and delivering basic services, and calls for national and international support for the process, and for member states to urgently release their pledged contributions to the TFG. He invites the Security Council to renew its authorization for the deployment of AMISOM, and calls on the international community to actively support AMISOM and provide it with more reliable and timely resources. He says the three-phased incremental approach remains valid. Planning for UN ‘light footprint’ continues. He recommends a continuation of UNSOA support for AMISOM. He encourages all donors to closely coordinate with the Joint Security Committee and UNPOS to harmonize security training initiatives. The Secretary-General also expresses his deep concern over the decline on humanitarian funding, noting that the consolidated appeal for 2010 seeks $700 million, a 17% reduction on 2009. Without these funds the UN will be unable to meet the urgent needs of 3.6 million Somalis.

It is to be recalled that this report from the Secretary-General is coming out at the same time as a similar report from the Chairperson of the African Union. As we noted last week this was submitted to the AU’s Peace and Security Council on January 8th. Following the report, the Peace and Security Council reaffirmed its support to the TFG, reiterated its condemnation of continued acts of terror committed by extremists, and, inter alia, welcomed UN Security Council resolution 1907.

These developments can all be regarded as positive for Somalia at the level of the African Union, the United Nations and the International Contact Group. What now remains is to turn these repeated expressions of political and diplomatic support into concrete and meaningful assistance, to provide necessary and timely financial, logistical and military support for the TFG on the ground. This was the main burden of the message the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah gave the Security Council yesterday when he told the Council that the Somali Government had made significant progress and deserved greater commitment as well as material and financial assistance from the UN and international partners. The main challenges now, he said, were the absence of a concrete commitment and a determined international policy towards Somalia, and the failure to translate the massive consensus of support for the TFG into the necessary material support.

Mr. Ould-Abdallah therefore proposed four recommendations to the Security Council. The first was for the international community to depart from its past practices of uncoordinated actions and individual diplomatic efforts, and support a common policy objective, with the Djibouti Agreement as the means to achieve progress. Secondly, the Security Council should send a strong and clear signal to the extremists by strengthening the Government in a practical manner, with the international community providing more vigorous moral, diplomatic and financial assistance. “Assistance delayed is assistance denied” he said; “…sitting on the fence is no longer an option”. Thirdly, Mr. Ould-Abdallah said working more closely with IGAD, and with the AU, the League of Arab States and the OIC was now imperative. AMISOM as a matter of urgency needed support to increase its troop allowances, and their timely disbursement, as well as payment for equipment. The Council should also encourage or pressurize all spoilers, internal or external, to cease supporting violence. Lastly, Mr. Ould-Abdallah said, his recommendations could be more effectively implemented if the UN operated in an integrated and harmonized manner on Somalia. He said Resolution 1863 (January 2009) had addressed this issue, and he believed the Secretariat would be putting this into action in the next few weeks. At the same time, he added, the move of the UN and the international community to Mogadishu should be accelerated. Failure to intervene to restore stability in Somalia actively threatened the effectiveness of the international community in addition to costing enormous resources. Failure to act now in a decisive manner, he concluded, would only dramatically increase that cost.


  • An Al-Aharam columnist gets it wrong

The visit of the Egyptian Prime Minister to Ethiopia at the beginning of the year has been characterized as historic by both the Ethiopian and Egyptian media. Generally, the coverage of the visit was more or less balanced though, as usual, some reports were misguided. Several reporters misrepresented the facts of the visit and its implications for both countries. Commentators tried to make sense of the various reports of the visit. A few were unduly critical of the Ethiopian Government, some because they have a different agenda, others because they were simply ill-informed. Most of these critics actually started from the unfounded assumption that something was agreed between Ethiopia and Egypt about the use of the Nile River during the visit. Some of the news coverage of the visit also tried to give added credence to such reports by relaying inaccurate comments made by anonymous water experts. Disinformation about discussions over the Nile River is neither new nor particularly surprising. No doubt the visit by the Egyptian Prime Minister has contributed to a better understanding of bilateral relations in various areas, but there has been no change in Ethiopia’s position over the Nile.

It is in this context that a piece in Egypt’s Al-Aharam’s weekly online newspaper of 7th -13th January entitled “Eyeing Abyssinia: Egypt stakes out a special place in Ethiopia,” deserves particular mention. This makes several assertions that might well mislead Al-Aharam’s readers. The piece gives an account of the visit of the Egyptian Prime Minister, but in a number of places digresses wildly away from reporting and gives some highly inaccurate opinions. The most glaring error is the statement: “The Ethiopian compromise, publicly acknowledging Egypt’s right to its quota of Nile water, is an answer so obvious that one wonders why it was not on the table already. Now that it is, Ethiopia’s pragmatism may produce better results” This is quite wrong. If it is implied that Ethiopia has changed its position, this is a pure fabrication and a distortion of what actually transpired during the Egyptian Prime Minister’s visit.

Only the writer knows whether he is trying to force a reaction from Ethiopia to sustain controversy or to try to spoil the advances that were made in Ethiopia-Egypt relations during the visit in a number of other areas. In fact, the Egyptian Prime Minister’s visit did not include any negotiations over the Nile River. The Nile, as a concept, was raised merely to illustrate the symbolic importance of the river as a link between the two countries and to underline the fact that differences over the Nile should not detract from the pursuit of mutually advantageous, wide-ranging and closer bilateral relations. And the discussions exactly covered bilateral issues. Negotiations over the Nile have reached the final stage within the framework of the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI), which provides a unique forum for finding a durable solution about the Nile. Negotiations over the Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA) which have lasted for over ten years, involving nine countries, are now complete. The CFA to establish the Nile River Basin Commission is being readied for signature by the riparian countries.


  • Eritrea’s quarrels: not bilateral but regional

The Foreign Ministry of Eritrea recently issued a reckless statement accusing Ethiopian forces of attacking Eritrea on 1 January 2010. It was an apparent attempt to create a link between the Security Council’s targeted sanctions against the Eritrean leadership, and the border dispute with Ethiopia. Immediately after the Eritrean statement, however, two Eritrean opposition groups claimed responsibility for the attack, providing full details of their operations against Eritrean Government forces at the same time and place. It is hardly surprising that the regime in Asmara, far from acknowledging the real source of the attack, should blame Ethiopia. The Eritrean leadership has always adamantly denied the existence of any form of opposition. In addition, Eritrea’s leaders would have the world believe that the sanctions would provide the excuse for Ethiopia to launch an attack against Eritrea even though they know this to be absolute nonsense. Some of the media outlets in the Diaspora, sympathetic to the Eritrean leadership, have also suggested the sanctions would provide an incentive for Ethiopia to attack Eritrea.

All of this is no more than a futile exercise to suggest Eritrea is the victim of an unjust international diplomatic subterfuge when in fact what the Security Council did was to take appropriate, if long overdue, action against a government which has been wreaking havoc in the sub-region and beyond for years, openly and repeatedly showing its disdain for the rules that govern normal inter-state relations. This time, the government in Asmara has little chance to deflect the well-deserved sanctions imposed by the Security Council. Whatever the government in Asmara may claim, the object of the sanctions is clearly to force the Eritrean Government to change its behavior and to stop arming, financing and training of extremist and terrorist forces in Somalia and else where in the region, and to withdraw its forces from Djibouti. Nothing in the sanctions remotely suggests that Eritrea should change its system of governance, however abhorrent it may be.

Ethiopia has no incentive to initiate a conflict with Eritrea. This position has nothing to do with how strong or weak Eritrea may be. Rather, Ethiopia has a lot more important priorities than flexing its muscles against this or that country. The Foreign and National Security Policy of Ethiopia identifies poverty, not Eritrea, as the number one national security threat to the country. The primary focus of the Government of Ethiopia has consistently been to ensure sustainable economic development; and it has had considerable success with the economy registering double digit GDP growth over the last several years, and with the Economist Magazine recently projecting Ethiopia to achieve the fifth fastest growing economy in the world in 2010.

Ethiopia views its relations with all its neighbors, Eritrea included, in light of the need to ensure sustainable economic development in the region. Its desire is to forge neighborly relations based on mutual interest and respect. Ethiopia has always maintained that any difference or misunderstanding with any country must be resolved through negotiation. Its persistent offer to resolve any problems with Eritrea through dialogue at any level, at any place and without any preconditions, is a testament to its commitment to these principles. Ethiopia’s military spending stands at 1.7% of GDP well below the internationally accepted 2% threshold. That is why, despite the Eritrean Government’s arming and training of terrorist and armed opposition groups to try to undermine Ethiopia’s stability, Ethiopia has not reacted. Despite all the hostile activities and provocations, Ethiopia has remained firm: only an open invasion of sovereign Ethiopian territory would spark a military response, not mere provocations. Ethiopia sincerely believes war is incompatible with economic development.

It is this calculation which has always kept Ethiopia from being dragged into belligerent posturing against Eritrea, not the latter’s military might, real or imaginary. Despite the numerous efforts at destabilizing Ethiopia, it has been held back from any similar action by its conviction of the need for peace and its commitment towards its fight against poverty, not by the enormity of Eritrea’s war machine. That is the stuff of Eritrea’s ruling party’s mythology. No one can seriously assume the leadership in Asmara will become any more vulnerable to attack from Ethiopia as a result of the sanctions. To the extent that the regime may be under threat this will come from within, and no attempt to invent external threats will make that go away. The Eritrean Government has turned the country into an open prison. It continues to use the conflicts it imposes on its neighbors as a handy instrument to keep the people of Eritrea under continuous military mobilization. Like all dictatorships, the leadership of Eritrea continues to try to divert the attention of the people from internal problems by making enemies out of everyone else. These include all Eritrea’s neighbors, as well as IGAD, the AU, the UN, the USA and anybody else. But internal problems can not indefinitely be ignored. Eritrean youngsters continue to flee the country in droves every month despite President Issayas’ explanation of this as a plot by foreign intelligence agencies. Tens of thousands are thrown in prison as traitors or dissidents. That is the reality of Eritrea today. The attempt to link targeted Security Council sanctions against the Eritrean political and military leadership, imposed because of its association with terrorism, with a bilateral border problem with Ethiopia is simply an attempt to trivialize the danger that Eritrea’s acts of destabilization represent to the region.


  • Hidasse Mahiber and the Diaspora discuss Ethiopia’s Renaissance.

Ye Ethiopia Hidasse Mahiber (the Association for the Ethiopian Renaissance), in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, organized a day-long consultative forum for Ethiopians and foreign nationals of Ethiopian origin this week. Ye Ethiopia Hidasse Mahiber was set up to create a national consensus among Ethiopians inside and outside the country, disseminating information on current developments and the democratization efforts being undertaken in the country which also contribute to enhancing Ethiopia’s image. Tuesday’s meeting was an extension of these activities. Executives from a number of companies including Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation, Ethiopian Telecom, Ethiopian Airlines, the Addis Ababa Road Authority, the Ethiopia Electoral Board, the Office for Government Communication and other relevant government agencies briefed participants on their achievements, their future plans and the opportunities that exist for members of the Diaspora. In the first such conference, Waltainfo and Ethiopian Civility.com organized and directed video and Internet links allowing many to participate from around the world. In a key-note address, President Girma Wolde Giorigis noted that the Government has created an enabling environment for Ethiopians and foreign nationals of Ethiopian origin for engagement in the national development drive. He expressed his firm conviction that Ethiopians standing together could promote Ethiopia’s image in their bid to realize Ethiopia’s Renaissance. The State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Tekeda Alemu, told the meeting to be wary of destructive forces, and said it was necessary to bear in mind that the complex dynamics of the prevailing global situation could involve serious problems as much as enabling conditions for development. It was important to remember that there are those whose activities are aimed at tarnishing Ethiopia’s image and sowing discord among our ranks, with the aim of undermining the realization of Ethiopia’s potential. We need, he said, to encourage unity and respond to any undeserved and image-tarnishing campaigns. In his closing remarks at the Forum, Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin said the economic growth registered over the past few years signaled that Ethiopia was on its way to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, and the process of democratization was showing significant progress. Minister Seyoum told his listeners, in the Millennium Hall, and elsewhere in the world, that they should maximize their engagement in development endeavor in Ethiopia. Some 19,000 Ethiopians in the Diaspora have been issued with Yellow cards entitling them to take part in all investment activities. Projects implemented by members of the Diaspora are valued at about 17 billion birr, and when fully completed will create some 80,000 new jobs. This, the Minister said, was a major contribution to the national development drive. The Minister called on the Diaspora to intensify its engagement to promote Ethiopia’s image and maximize its engagement in investment.


  • Ensuring the Integrity of the Upcoming Elections: the wider implications of the Proclamation to provide for the Code of Conduct for Political Parties

The House of People’s Representatives has adopted the Proclamation to Provide for the Code of Conduct for the Political Parties. This is indeed a milestone in the democratization process in Ethiopia. For the first time in the history of Ethiopia, political parties negotiated, and agreed, a set of binding rules to govern their conduct, rules which are now codified as law of the land. It is a unique piece of legislation, and sets a far reaching precedent going well beyond the bounds of party politics in Ethiopia, and provides an example for the whole region. It is not just aimed at ensuring that the 2010 elections are free, fair, peaceful and credible. It also endows a legacy of a firmly and legally institutionalized system to govern all political parties in Ethiopia. It is particularly fitting that the ruling party and the three opposition parties, which jointly initiated, negotiated and agreed on the first draft of the Code of Conduct, have received much deserved accolades from Ethiopians from all walks of life and from members of the international community. To their credit, they strove to include all interested political parties to contribute to the further development of the code of conduct. They succeeded in attracting the support of over sixty political parties and it is fair to say that the final codification of the Code of Conduct by the legislature stamps it as one of the major pillars of democracy in Ethiopia. The inclusive processes of the adoption of the law, and its highly innovative contents, have far reaching implications for democracy in Ethiopia. It promises to be a standard bearer for democracy well beyond the borders of Ethiopia.

The process and content of the new law follows a model instrument prepared by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA). International IDEA’s concept allows for a code of conduct to be part of the electoral law, or to be provided for in legislation to prescribe the conduct of parties, or to be agreed to by political parties, as an outcome of negotiations either among themselves or, more commonly, as a result of negotiations moderated by a third party. It may be agreed to by the parties, and then embodied in law, or it could be determined by a third party, such as an election administration body. In Ethiopia’s case, the four parties chose to negotiate among themselves, and once they had agreed on the text, it was open to further improvement by other parties. It was this revised text, endorsed by almost all the remaining political parties, that was adopted into law by the national legislature.

Following this same International IDEA’s model, the Proclamation to Provide the Code of Conduct for the Political Parties provides clear guidance and an institutional set-up to govern the conduct of political parties. Importantly, it demonstrates that lessons were learnt from the 2005 elections and a determination not to repeat the mistakes committed then. In this regard, the law binds political parties, candidates, members and supporters of political parties to ensure that this and all subsequent elections are guided by ethical rules of conduct and that they are transparent, free, legitimate, fair, peaceful, democratic and acceptable to the people. A central point is that it demonstrates full respect to the people as a source of state authority. This, indeed, is a cardinal principle of any democratic process, and it is closely linked to another critical element of the Proclamation: human and democratic rights have to be fully respected to foster a culture of civilized and peaceful struggle. The Proclamation lays down the cornerstones of the rule of law: respect for constitutional organs such as the National Electoral Board, the mass media and the judiciary; their ability to function independently and impartially, free from any political party pressures; the enabling of the National Defense Forces to discharge its responsibilities based on the Constitution and outside the influence of any political party.

In a clear departure from the past traditions of mutual distrust, the law emphasizes the need to work together on matters of common interest and delimits a determination to abide by the process and outcome of a legally conducted election as an expression of the will of the people. It provides for the promotion of tolerance and the conduct of political campaigns free of hatred and suspicion. It makes it clear it rejects any attempt to stay in power against the will of the people and emphasizes that any activity aimed at taking political power, through any means other than those provided by the Constitution, is not acceptable.

The Proclamation recognizes the imperative for political parties to work jointly for its implementation and thereby contribute to the freedom of the press, human rights, democracy, the rule of law and the over-all development of the peoples of Ethiopia. The environment thus created will enable all parties to enjoy free and open competition. It is about sharing responsibility for the nurturing of democracy in the country, about the growth of a culture of democracy enhancing mutual respect and tolerance. The Proclamation recognizes the need to ensure fairness in terms of guaranteeing fair and impartial utilization by all parties of the resources, property and services of the organs of government for election purposes. It underlines the responsibility of the political parties to ensure that exercising the right of any Ethiopian to elect, or be elected, is not impeded by any influence or obstacle. The parties are also responsible for creating awareness of democratic processes and for the carrying out of education and training. The need to institute procedures to investigate and rectify grievances submitted by political parties on election matters is another critical aspect of the Proclamation, which has also established a Joint Council of Political Parties to ensure the implementation of the Proclamation.

There is no doubt that the Proclamation, and the process of its adoption, has broken the pattern of mistrust and acrimony that has characterized party politics in the past. Political parties are, of course, the essential linchpin of a multiparty democracy. They make an organized and functioning democracy possible. Political parties allow for different views and political options of governance to be channeled for debate for the electorate, empowering it to elect a government based on informed choice through peacefully conducted elections. And as political parties are central to a multiparty political system, it is imperative that their conduct is governed by a set of rules applicable to all. Such rules are designed to ensure a level playing field. The rules of conduct also comply with Ethiopia’s international obligations. It is worth noting that Ethiopia is one of the only three African Union member states to have so far ratified the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance. It did so on 30 January 2007. Some of the most relevant objectives of this Charter include the promotion and enhancement of adherence to the principle of the rule of law premised upon the respect for, and the supremacy of, the Constitution and constitutional order; promoting the holding of regular free and fair elections to institutionalize the legitimate authority of representative government as well as democratic change of government; and the prohibition, rejection and condemnation of unconstitutional change of government. The Proclamation to Provide the Code of Conduct for the Political Parties implements these and other objectives and stipulations of the Charter in the most relevant way.

In the long term, the proper implementation of the Proclamation in good faith will help guarantee stability. It will prevent street violence, incitement or recriminations. The new law is, in fact, another instrument for the further entrenchment of democracy in Ethiopia, providing necessary safeguards against undemocratic tendencies. Implementation of the Proclamation on the Code of Conduct for the Political Parties will ensure that the upcoming elections are free from intimidation, instigation of violence, corrupt practices, and inflammatory or defamatory speech. It will help preserve the elections at all levels, and the entire electoral process, as celebrations of democracy and establish the primacy of the electorate with the exclusive prerogative to decide on which party can be entrusted with the honor and responsibility of running the country for the next five years.


Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

Ministry of Foreign Affairs