Senegal’s Foreign Minister visits Ethiopia
Following the invitation extended by Ato Seyoum Mesfin, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, a high level delegation led by Mr. Madicke NIANG, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic Senegal, paid an official visit to Ethiopia from 10-12 July 2010.
The visit created an opportunity to revitalize the cooperation and bolster the amicable and fraternal relations existing between the peoples of Ethiopia and Senegal.
During his visit, Minister Madicke NIANG was received by Ato Girma W/Giorgis, President of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. The Minister presented a message of friendship from Mr Maitre Abdoulaye WADE, President of the Republic of Senegal.
The two Ministers held extensive discussion on the existing bilateral relations between the two countries in an amicable and fraternal atmosphere. They focussed on how best to develop the relations between the two countries, whose first bilateral agreements were signed in 1962.
The Ministers reviewed the implementation of the Agreement on Friendship and Cooperation as well as the Agreement establishing a Joint Commission between the two countries both signed in 2006.
In order to enhance the relationship between the two countries the Ministers agreed on the need expand their cooperation on Culture, Trade, Investment, Tourism and Education (training, research, exchange of students and experience sharing). The Ministers also agreed to hold regular consultations between the two Ministries of Foreign Affairs on the issues of common interest. The Ministers explored possibilities during their discussion of abolishing visa for holders of diplomatic and service passports. Both sides agreed to review the existing air service agreement with a view to making it consistent with the Yamoussoukro Agreement. They agreed to hold the first Joint Commission meeting in mid 2011.
During the course of the meeting, both Ministers condemned the cowardly terrorist attacks committed on 11 July, 2010 in Kampala. They stressed that this was an act of terrorism aimed at Africa as a whole. They expressed their willingness to cooperate in the fight against terrorism with all peace loving nations.
At the end of the visit Minister Madicke NIANG, congratulated the government and people of Ethiopia for conducting a peaceful and democratic election. He also thanked Minister Seyoum Mesfin, and the people and Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, for the warm welcome and generous hospitality accorded to him and his delegation during their stay in Ethiopia.
The upcoming IGAD Chiefs of Defense Staff meeting
In accordance with the decision of the 15th IGAD Extraordinary Summit Senior Experts and Chiefs of Defense Staff meetings are planned to be held from 19 to 21 July 2010 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. All the member states have confirmed their attendance as the issue at hand is critical to Somalia, the region and beyond.
The meeting of the senior experts and the Chiefs of Defense Staff is expected to conduct an extensive discussion on the current situation in Somalia and the challenges faced by the TFG.
It is to be recalled that the IGAD summit in its communiqué had clearly articulated that the conflict in Somalia is not a conflict among the Somalis but a war between the people of Somalia and international terrorist groups. Accordingly the summit decided to deploy 2000 more Peace Keepers under AMISOM and to work with all parties including AMISOM and the UN Security Council to raise 20,000 troops to be deployed throughout the country.
The meeting of the Senior Experts and Chiefs of Defense Staff will consider in detail the report and recommendations of the military mission which recently visited Mogadishu and is expected to come up with concrete plan of action for its implementation. The meeting would also look into how best the TFG forces can be strengthened and their capacity enhanced. The Chiefs are also expected to submit a plan on the deployment of the 2000 forces that IGAD committed itself to deploy. The deployment of this contingent is designed to help AMISOM reach the originally authorized troop level.
The Eritrean Leader’s newest Low
Eritrea’s leaders have hardly had any clearly spelt out idea of what national interest to promote. Often times, every one of their moves are determined on spurious grounds depending on the mood of the moment. But for far too long, what they perceive to be antagonistic to Ethiopia’s interests has informed most of their decisions whether their support for Ethiopian violent opposition or their support for Al Shabab. The ill-will the leaders of Asmara harbor towards Ethiopia has been so intense that they have far too often taken up positions against Ethiopia that are nonetheless in equal measure detrimental to the interest of their country. They have time and again gone down to really low depths to do things that—though costly to them—they believed would one way or another adversely affect Ethiopia’s interests. Eritrea’s leaders’ propensity to offer their services for hire to all those that appear to have scores to even with Ethiopia–real or imagined–has all too often defied any sense of shame that any self-respecting government would find all too basic.
But what the president of Eritrea has been doing since recently is particularly shameful, even by the low standards that one must use with respect to Asmara’s behaviour and practice. As we have indicated previously in the Week in the Horn, President Isaias’ recent utterances on the Nile are repugnant to all riparian countries without exception. This is so because no person with above average intelligence would miss the distinguishing feature of these utterances. Not only are they devoid of wisdom but they are patently self-serving in an egregiously short-sighted manner.
The Eritrean president has once again outdone his record of going low in his recent interview with the Egyptian Daily Al Ahram. In a manner quintessential of him, he castigated all the signatories of the recent agreement on the Comprehensive Framework Agreement as conflict mongers and as being intent on sabotaging the interest of Egypt. In this he out-shouts even the most vitriolic elements of the media in some of our countries. More particularly on Ethiopia, he fumes to the point of hysteria that even his interviewers would find it somewhat overstated and accuses it of threatening to use the issue of the Nile to dictate terms on the lower Riparian countries. Forget that the agreement would only make for a win-win outcome for all, Eritrea included. Forget that Ethiopia did not so much as try to gang up anyone against any country. What makes his overtures of servitude even more outrageous is the fact that even the very people his remarks are supposed to make feel good are not by any means all too cozy about his offer. Far too many Egyptian commentators have already expressed disgust at the un-statesmanlike overtures of the leader of Eritrea.
But this does not seem to bother the Eritrean leader all that much, for after all, his only political vocation now is a search for means of inflicting damage on Ethiopia and in Ethiopia’s relations and ties with other parties. The end justifies whatever means might be available. Only in Eritrea under this particular leader can such lowest depths of infamy pass for wisdom.
The Bombings in Kampala and `Constructive Disengagement`
The recent terrorist bombings in Kampala have once again highlighted the enormity of the challenge posed by terrorism not only in Somalia but also throughout the region. The nature of the attack as well as the sheer cruelty of the choice of targets clearly shows how far the perpetrators are ready to take their terrorist campaign. The reaction of the international community was largely one of shock and surprise for few would have thought the extremists in Somalia were inclined to carry out such a campaign outside of Somalia and with such cold-blooded savagery. It is rather saddening to realize that only heinous attacks such as these could bring the attention of the international community back into the harrowing experiences of the peoples of the region.
In fact, the countries of the region have always been warning the international community that enough was not being done to contain the scourge of terrorism that has long since become a threat not only to the peoples of Somalia and its neighbors but also to the international community at large with the ever great internationalization of Jihad in the country. There has been incontrovertible evidence that the war in Somalia was not a war among factions in Somalia but a war between the peoples of Somalia and international terrorists. Nor have these forces ever minced their words about promoting the destructive agenda of Al Qaeda in the region and even threatening to take their terrorist violence farther. It is an open secret that Al Shabab has been recruiting hundreds of terrorists from as far away as North America, Australia and West Europe in the name and as part of a global Jihad. Against this background however, the international community’s reaction against such a growing threat has been largely lukewarm at best. To the extent that there was any sustained interest on the part of the international community in the stability of the region, it is mostly expressed in terms of a surfeit of recommendations which have all too often fallen short of articulating much less addressing effectively the fundamental causes of the problem.
It does not require a genius to realize that the proliferation of terrorist groups in this part of Africa has largely to do with the fact that there is an acute lack of functioning state institutions in Somalia. Somalia today is a safe haven for the who-is-who of international terrorists simply because there is a security and governance vacuum that lends itself to the mushrooming of terrorist elements that pry on the sense of despondency of a population left to its own means. Any effort to rein in the growth of extremism in Somalia must therefore begin with addressing the deficit in a functioning central authority capable of exerting a meaningful control over a significant portion of the country. Today the Transitional Federal Government and institutions under it offer the only viable alternative to build on if the quest for bringing together a semblance of functioning governance is to be achieved. But it is doubtful whether the international community—or the key players within it—have a clear understanding of how critical a role the strengthening of the TFG and its institutions can play in addressing the plight of the people of Somalia and the contribution this would have in holding in check the proliferation of terrorist elements in this part of the world and beyond. As the bombings in Kampala made it abundantly clear, addressing what at first appears to be a localized crisis will also go a long way in preventing the kind of large-scale mayhem extremists are so keen to inflict on civilians by way of promoting their unwholesome agendas.
Another reason—also closely linked with the first—why the likes of Al Shabab are allowed a measure of impunity to wreak unmitigated terror on civilians both within Somalia and beyond is the presence of a number of actors—state and non-state alike—that are actively involved in arming, financing or otherwise supporting these terrorist elements in their effort to perpetrate acts of terror without running a significant risk of being held to account for it. Al Shabab today enjoys a great deal of support from both like-minded terrorist outfits such as Al Qaeda and irresponsible regimes hell bent on promoting belligerent agendas throughout the region.
This all underlines the centrality of effectively and immediately addressing both factors that have contributed to the growing threat of terrorism as excruciatingly exemplified by the heinous acts in Kampala. To begin with the second factor, there have been a couple of attempts—belated though they were—by the international community to take practical steps to address the role of both state and non-state actors actively involved in arming and financing the extremists in Somalia. More particularly, the United Nations Security Council has taken a few steps towards ensuring that such actors change their behaviors and stop their destructive roles both in Somalia and within the whole region. But there is no reason to believe that these efforts have been paying off. If anything, the fact that the whole process is punctuated by a number of false starts and duplicitous diplomatic overtures on the part of some of the actors has all but neutralized the possible efficacy of the measures taken thus far. It is therefore imperative that no such efforts be left to chance in order to make sure that the international community conveys an unequivocal message to all spoilers that are steadfastly standing in the way of peace and stability in the region.
But more importantly, the lack of meaningful engagement on the part of the international community at large—and the key players in it particularly—in extending a practical support to the elements of peace and stability in Somalia has yet to be fully addressed. As we have reiterated several times before, the Djibouti framework and the Transitional Federal Institutions established under its auspices are the best opportunity yet to seek a lasting solution to the conflict in Somalia which has far-reaching consequences for international peace and stability. This is not however to suggest that the TFG and its institutions have been playing their part as effectively as they ought to have. In fact, there is much to be desired in that regard. But one has also to realize that the political configuration obtaining in Somalia today is so chaotic that the TFG remains the best alternative to the decidedly zero-sum calculations of the coterie of extremist elements promoting a destructive agenda that knows no borders. In all fairness, it is not entirely correct to blame the TFG and its institutions for all that has gone wrong either. Despite a flurry of resolutions and series of promises, what the international community has thus far offered by way of practical support is a far cry from the kind of affirmative intervention that could have gone a long way towards sorting out the problem in Somalia.
As if the lack of such a practical support was not bad enough, however, there also are nonetheless other factors that are playing havoc with the effort to strengthen the elements of peace and stability in Somalia thereby—inadvertently perhaps—emboldening extremists and terrorists in their quest to wreak havoc in the entire region. As of late, a plethora of seemingly academic works have been appearing in various forums capable of informing policy decisions of some of the key players among the international community. Although they come in many forms and from different corners, the main thrust of these purportedly academic pieces is that what little support is being currently given to the TFG needs to be stopped because the latter has failed to deliver. This approach, deceptively referred to as ‘constructive disengagement’ by its advocates has been gaining some traction among a sizable section of policy-making circles in some key-players among the international community. Constructive disengagement, as a notion, is something of an oxymoron, but more worryingly, woefully bereft of any workable alternative, perhaps except offering—as it were—a thinly-veiled fig-leaf for shirking international responsibility. This is what the arch-sponsor of Al-Shabab in the region, the regime in Asmara, has all along been pushing.
Unfortunately, what Al Shabab did in Kampala was an anti-thesis of ‘constructive disengagement’—whatever its merits. It is a stark reminder of the cost at which reluctance to act against terrorists would often come. Even more so, because this is happening at the cost of innocent civilians. As Prime Minister Meles said after these attacks, what the international community has to do is not to negotiate, but defeat these forces. If there still are those who cling to the naïve notion that it is still possible to make peace with Al Shabab, Kampala has made it abundantly clear that this is a mere exercise in futility. Action, and more action, is what is needed; this would, first and foremost, require recognizing that much of the job can be done within Somalia and by the Somalis—with support from the international community even if this was a fraction of what is being done elsewhere. As for constructive disengagement, it only represents the height of irresponsibility, nothing more, and nothing less.
Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Ministry of Foreign Affairs