News and Views:
The UN Secretary-General briefs the Security Council on his visit to Somalia
In a meeting on Tuesday, the Security Council welcomed the visit to Mogadishu by the President of the General Assembly, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, and UN Secretary-General, Ban ki-Moon. After hearing Mr. Ban’s report, the Council pointed out in a press statement that the consequences of the problems in Somalia include terrorism, piracy and hostage-taking. The Security Council reiterated its full support of Mr. Ban’s efforts and those of Ambassador Mahiga, in collaboration with the African Union (AU) and others to address Somalia’s challenges. The Council welcomed the announcement that the United Nations Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) would relocate to Mogadishu. It called for faster implementation of the roadmap of key tasks and priorities while recognizing the need for international support to facilitate the process. Members of the Council said future support to the TFIs will be contingent on the completion of tasks stipulated in the roadmap. The Council commended the efforts of the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and Somali security forces. It also reiterated its grave concern over the food crisis in Somalia and welcomed the international response, urging Member States to contribute to the UN consolidated appeal for Somalia. It appealed to all parties and armed groups to ensure full and unhindered access for delivery of humanitarian assistance.
In his briefing to the Security Council, the Secretary-General said his visit was a sign of improved security and of the investment that the United Nations had made in supporting AMISOM. It was, he said, a crucial moment for the international community and “we must seize this moment for the people of Somalia and the stability of the region”. All Mogadishu city districts were now effectively under the control of the TFG with the support of AMISOM. The Secretary-General noted that UNPOS would relocate to Mogadishu in January next year, and said he had asked the United Nations country team to work more closely with UNPOS to support the Transitional Federal Government’s efforts in governance, recovery, development and capacity-building, the central elements of the Roadmap. The Secretary-General noted that despite progress important deadlines had been missed. He said he had made clear to the TFG leaders that the transition must end in August 2012, and he had, in particular, urged them to accelerate constitutional and parliamentary reforms, which did not require financial resources, but political will. He had stressed the importance of building trust by ensuring accountability and transparency.
The Secretary-General said that the Islamist insurgents in Somalia were retreating under mounting pressure from the government forces and their militia allies, backed by Kenyan and Ethiopian forces. This, he said, represented a unique opportunity to help stabilize the country at large. It was important to develop coherent military planning and ensure that military strategy is aligned with political objectives. On the military front, he said the UN should not exclude the incorporation of new forces and the expansion of AMISOM. A joint AU-UN assessment was being carried out and the results would be presented to the Council. In the meantime, he echoed the appeal of the African Union and AMISOM troop contributing countries in asking the Council to reconsider the financial and logistical arrangements for supporting AMISOM operations. He stressed the importance of AMISOM being able to deploy beyond Mogadishu and raising its force to its full 12,000 strength, and provided with the necessary equipment, including helicopters, and military engineering capabilities. He welcomed the planned high-level meeting on Somalia that the UK is organizing in London early next year.
There were few major military activities reported over the last week, but as the rains come to an end in southern Somalia, Kenyan troops and the TFG and allied militias are finally preparing to move against Al-Shabaab positions. Speaking to the nation on Kenya’s 48th Jamhuri Day (Republic Day), President Kibaki explained that Kenya, faced by security threats, had mandated its forces to pursue insurgents operating from Somalia. Operations were being undertaken jointly by Kenyan and TFG forces and, he said, it was important for the international community, and for Kenyans, to understand that Kenya was not at war with Somalia. He called on Kenyans to be extra vigilant to enhance security; and appealed to Somalis to seize this historic opportunity to stabilize their country. Prime Minister Odinga, in a televised address, paid tribute to the Kenyan forces and congratulated them on their efforts “in fighting the criminals known as Al-Shabaab.” Kenyan officials said at the weekend that Kenyan forces could start operating under the banner of AMISOM once the AU and the UN Security Council finally approved the plan. The AU Peace and Security Council has already asked Kenya formally to re-hat its forces, and Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon indicated his support. An official of the Kenyan Foreign Ministry indicated the process might take two weeks. It would give Kenya’s military involvement a regional dimension which would be of benefit to Somalia. It would also reduce the financial burden on Kenya.
Agreement for a deal at Durban but now comes the hard part
The Durban Climate Conference was supposed to end on Friday evening last week. In fact, it was early Sunday morning before the host, South Africa, was able to announce agreement on a new roadmap for climate protocol negotiations, after what reports referred to as “hundreds of hours of bickering”. Delegates finally agreed to an EU-led plan to extend the Kyoto Protocol and start on negotiations on a new climate deal under which developed and developing countries will both work on an agreement that will be legally binding on all parties, to be finalized by 2015 and come into force after 2020. An Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action is now being set up to start on the process. The deal was hailed by the UN and many as a breakthrough. Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon told the Security Council on Tuesday that the conference had agreed on a clear target and timeline for reaching a legally binding deal and a recommitment to the Kyoto Protocol as well as significant advances on technology and financing, including the Green Climate Fund. He added that it was now necessary to implement these decisions and keep what he called the Durban spirit of cooperation and progress alive.
This may not be too easy and it is certainly clear it will be highly complicated to get a legal agreement acceptable to both developed and developing countries, let alone one that will for the first time include China and India as well as Europe and America. The form of words settled upon at Durban is “an agreed outcome with legal force”. EU lawyers say this means a legally binding commitment but it has already been suggested it is vague enough for countries to dispute later on. At the same time most of the detail has yet to be agreed and there will be no teeth in the agreement until 2020: “the real challenge will be in agreeing the fine print,” as an NGO director put it.
Time remains critical. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change calculates that emissions must peak by 2020 at the latest and decline rapidly after that if any temperature rise is to have even a 50/50 chance of being kept below 2 degrees Celsius, the point at which it regards global warming as irreversible and catastrophic. This level will bring water stress in arid and semi-arid countries, more floods in low-lying coastal areas, coastal erosion in small island states, and the elimination of up to 30 percent of animal and plant species. The IPCC will produce its fifth assessment report in 2014 and most research suggests this is likely to show the situation is growing more serious.
The negotiations now will have to deal with such issues as the greater responsibility of the industrialized countries which have been producing emissions for far longer than others; the fact that some have tried harder to reduce emissions than others; different capabilities, and the question of taking large forest areas into account (forests absorb carbon). India, for example, made it clear it would insist on equity: that is to take into account capabilities of developing countries, populations that need to be lifted out of poverty, and the non-responsibility of the developing nations.
There is also the key question of funding. Developing countries have been promised $100 billion a year to 2020, to come from the rich nations and the private sector under the Green Climate Fund. This is to provide for the creation of a green economy and for adaptation and mitigation of the effects. The rich nations agreed at Copenhagen (2009) and Cancun (2010) that they would provide $30 billion 2010-2012, and $100 billion a year after that. So far, however, progress has been small although as Prime Minister Meles pointed out to the conference, the question of getting the Fund up and running is of paramount importance for Africans. For much of Africa, particularly for farmers, adaptation to climate change is a challenge for here and now.
The conference accepted a report recommending the Green Climate Fund to be established. It will be overseen by a body under the more independent UN Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC), as desired by developing countries, rather than the Global Environment Facility which the European Union and United States wanted. The Fund is to have 24 board members and a similar number of alternate members, representing developed and developing countries equally. Its assets will be managed by trustees, and the finance is to come from public and private sources. The conference, however, did not produce any concrete deal on the nature, the size or the sources of the Fund. At the end of the conference it was still not clear where and how the adaptation fund should be spent or on what projects. Nor is it clear how the developed countries will generate the funds in their own countries. Some NGOs have noted that there is actually no money on the table for action on climate change in Africa. There are only pledges and these are not legally binding. Some called the Green Climate Fund no more than an “empty shell” at the moment.
In fact, the UN High Level Advisory Group on Climate Finance, co-chaired by Prime Minister Meles and Prime Minister Stolenberg of Norway, has identified various possible sources including carbon pricing of international transportation, a financial transaction tax, carbon market flows and the auction of emission allowances. These could generate up to an estimated $60 billion a year by 2020, but more will be needed. Indeed, it remains unclear how far developed countries, struggling with economic recession, costly austerity measures and increasing budget deficits, will find these funds. African countries are already concerned that the “Green Fund” may not be made up of new contributions, but rather that money already allocated will be dispersed under a different label.
Equally, the links between the Green Climate Fund and the Adaptation Committee to oversee adaptation activities in developing countries, and the Technology Executive Committee to oversee technology development and transfer, have yet to be worked out. The conference did agree that a technology mechanism should be fully operational by 2012 to “promote and enhance the research, development, and deployment and diffusion of environmentally sound technologies for mitigation and adaptation in developing countries”. The search is now on for a host for the Climate Technology Centre and Network to promote technology transfer between developed and developing countries. This is to “identify climate-friendly technologies; facilitate their deployment and adaptation to developing country needs; build national and regional technology management capacity; and support the research, development and demonstration of new climate-friendly technologies”.
There are other worries. The Adaptation Committee, as an advisory body, has now been made operational, but it will not be reporting to countries at the highest level in climate change talks which would have increased its effectiveness. There are fears this may affect the status and vital importance of adaptation. The mechanism for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) provides incentives to developing countries to conserve and plant more forests but progress has been stalled by problems over financing, and the need to ensure that emission reductions achieved through forest conservation are measured and verified. A program was set up at Cancun to consider ways of addressing loss and damage associated with climate change in vulnerable countries. Its report delivered at Durban outlined the problems of trying to assess this, emphasizing the gaps in information. It has called for more research and for a study of the impact of slow moving climatic effects like droughts.
The concerns of the critics were given added point by the US Special Envoy for Climate Change, Todd Stern, who upset delegates by suggesting that far from preliminary talks starting immediately as the conference wanted, it would probably take a year or more of preparatory work before anything could realistically happen. On Monday this week Canada exercised its right to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol, the first country to do so. According to its Environment Minister, Canada will save up $13.6 billion by its withdrawal, avoiding potential penalties associated with failing to meet emission targets under the Kyoto Protocol. The figure was disputed and the decision was greeted with dismay by the opposition in Canada as well as by the international community, with France, China, the UK and Japan all quick to condemn the move.
The executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christiana Figueres, regretted the Canadian move but pointed out Canada still had a legal obligation under the Convention to reduce emissions as well as a moral obligation. She urged developed countries to meet their responsibilities under the UNFCCC, curb emissions and “provide the agreed adequate support to developing countries to build their own clean energy futures and adapt to climate change impacts they are already experiencing.”
The first Russia-Africa Business Forum meets in Addis Ababa
The first Russia-Africa Business Forum was opened here today in Addis Ababa in the presence of Prime Minister Meles and the Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation for Cooperation with African Countries, Mikhail Margelov, the co-chairmen of the Forum. It was attended by around two hundred businessmen, officials and others from Russia and the AU and Ethiopia as well as ministers from , Mali, Niger, Zimbabwe, and other African countries, African ambassadors in Addis Ababa and representatives of the largest Russian corporations.
In the opening session, Prime Minister Meles noted that Ethiopia and Russia had had a long and friendly relationship dating back to Russian medical help in support of Ethiopian troops at the battle of Adua when Italy’s colonial ambitions were defeated. This relationship, he said, had continued and indeed extended during the Soviet era, with economic, educational and security cooperation reaching a high level. Russia indeed had been an old and true friend of Ethiopia and of Africa. There had then been something of a hiatus in Russia-Africa cooperation as Russia had been engaged in a very difficult and complex transition, and Africa had also been struggling to cope with massive internal and externally induced challenges. Nevertheless, throughout this difficult period the spirit of friendship and partnership had been maintained. Now, the Prime Minister emphasized, cooperation between Africa and new and emerging partners was increasing significantly. He expressed the wish that similar arrangements might be established between Africa and the Russian Federation. Russia, he noted, was a huge and enticing market for African exports. It also produced much that Africa needed. Trade relations could be massively increased and enhanced through direct business contacts and government support. Russia has the capital and technology needed to develop Africa’s infrastructure, help exploit its natural resources and promote the industrialization of its economies. It needs and is open to major Russian investment.
The Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation for Cooperation with African Countries, Mr. Mikhail Margelov, noted that events like the Forum emphasized the interests of Russian and African business circles in enhancing practical links and interactions. He said the agenda of the Forum covered topical issues of trade as well as economic, scientific and technological, and investment cooperation. The focus would be on launching promising joint projects in such areas as energy, industrial production, high technology, transport and agriculture. Mr. Margelov said the bilateral trade turnover between Russia and African states had been steadily growing since Russian corporations had started to participate in African markets. These corporations were making major investments in the development of steel and mineral resource industries, computer technologies and satellite communications.
Mr. Margelov said there was already a good basis for fully developing the potential of mutually beneficial economic cooperation and turning this into a more organized and structured interaction with African countries. The productive work of the forum would be based on time-tested traditions of Russian-African friendship and partnership. He said Russian specialists had participated in the construction of numerous plants as well as energy and infrastructure facilities in Africa. He expressed his strong belief that the Forum would contribute to achieving the goal of enhanced cooperation and help establish closer contacts between the business communities of Russia and Africa as well as negotiate new commercial contacts.
The Alliance of Civilizations’ Forum in Doha
The United Nations Alliance of Civilizations opened its fourth annual forum on Sunday in Doha, Qatar. Hosted by the Emir of the State of Qatar, Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, some 2,500 delegates attended, including UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon and the High Representative for the UN Alliance of Civilizations, Jorge Sampaio, former President of Portugal. Among those present were a number of heads of state and ministers as well as representatives from the Arab League, the OIC, the AU, the European Parliament and various UN organizations and numerous scholars and academics. The Ethiopian delegation was led by Ato Berhane Gebrechristos, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs. This year’s forum is being held under the theme of “Intercultural Dialogue to Boost Development”, aimed to encourage intercultural dialogue as a key driver for sustainable development, security and for peace and for the Millennium Development Goals. The Alliance, an initiative proposed by Spanish Prime Minister, Jose Luis Rodrigues Zapatero and Turkish Premier, Tayyip Erdogan in 2005, encourages international action against extremism through the forging of international, intercultural and inter-religious dialogue and cooperation, with a particular emphasis on defusing tensions between the Western and Islamic worlds.
Addressing the opening session of the Forum, Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon stressed that “our differences are nothing compared to our shared humanity”. The core values of the Alliance, he said, lay in “speaking out against extremism, advancing tolerance, standing for justice, dignity and mutual understanding.” He spoke of the need to help nations in transition: “Reconciliation is essential for transformations to succeed” and stressed that there was “considerable scope for the Alliance to help these nations shape their future”. He called on the Alliance to engage with students, families, activists and their religious communities and ensure that any dialogue leads to action “real and concrete to make this world better for all people”.
In his address to the Forum, Ambassador Berhane noted that the world had done much to bring people together by improving communications and transportation networks, but internecine conflicts still continued to tear societies apart. Promoting dialogue between peoples of different faiths and cultures provided the best avenue to appreciate differences rather than treat them as a source of divisiveness, and tapping this reservoir of varied ideas could generate creative solutions to underdevelopment. Interaction between people of different countries and different religious persuasions could also help to tackle poverty. Investors were often unaware of socio-economic, cultural and security conditions and bringing people closer together allowed for more realistic appraisals.
Ambassador Berhane noted that the Alliance’s objectives resonated with Ethiopia’s most cherished values: respect for diversity and the fostering of intercultural dialogue. Ethiopia had been at a crossroads of civilizations for millennia, as a focal point for trade to and from Africa and Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Elements of Ethiopian culture had had a global impact, notably coffee. Ethiopia was home to 80 ethnic groups and rightly called a “mosaic of cultures.” Followers from three of the world’s major religions, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, had largely coexisted peacefully in the country. Politically, Ethiopia had now adopted a federal system devolving power to the grassroots. It had coupled this with encouragement of local customs, providing space for its array of ethnic groups. It had, in fact, contributed actively to the Alliance’s efforts to promote inter-faith and intercultural dialogue. It would continue to do so. The Alliance, he noted, advances inalienable core values to which Ethiopia was also committed: respect for cultural, ethno-linguistic, and religious differences; respect for the rights of women and minorities; and a fundamental respect for the dignity of the human person.
Now Asmara puts blame on Russians as well as Americans
Since the tightening of sanctions last week the regime in Asmara has unleashed a media campaign of its usual invective against the US for its “responsibility”. The US is alleged to be behind the sanctions and history is repeatedly called upon to explain that it has always been out to get Eritrea and the Eritreans. The regime claims that none of the so-called evidence leveled against Eritrea matters, and to the extent that Eritrea is found to be in the wrong by the United Nations Security Council, this is entirely US fabrication. In the same way, the fact that the Council voted sanctions with 13 in favor, none against, and two merely abstaining, is also dismissed. The regime simply ignores the possibility that the Security Council, and indeed the international community might be capable of judging it on the basis of the mountain of evidence now available.
Not for the first time, it appears that the regime in Asmara is obsessed with the idea that its enemies are really the great powers. It always chooses the larger possibility rather than the smaller. When its forces were routed by Ethiopia in 2000, President Isaias promptly chose to blame Eritrea’s defeat on the US and other powers rather than admit he had been out maneuvered by Ethiopian forces. Similarly, Eritrea, the regime would have us believe, is too big and important to be the subject of a sanctions draft from Gabon or Nigeria, or even IGAD.
These self-delusions are on full display in the regime’s current media campaign, coupled with the lengthening list of its enemies. The tone is becoming steadily more hysterical. One thing that is conspicuously missing, it might be noted, is even the slightest hint of any admission of responsibility. Indeed, far from this, the response has been more threatening. A recent statement from Eritrea’s foreign ministry claims that the tightening of sanctions on Eritrea will have disastrous consequences “for the people of Ethiopia”. The threat of extending its campaigns against the people of Ethiopia is very clear. We must hope that the regime is not yet ready for a terminal suicide campaign. Nevertheless, its statement may not be merely an idle threat. Fortunately, however, for those on this side of the Mereb River, security depends less on any Eritrean commitment to peace than on our vigilance against its adventurism.
As we have seen, at one level the reaction to tightened sanctions is to try to shift the blame to others, coupled with a shrill claim of being the victim of a concerted campaign led by the US. Not surprisingly, the regime is very silent on why the rest of the world went along with the US in this, though condescendingly it castigates the rest of the international community as America’s “pliant instruments”.
The Russians get blamed for the explanation of how the UN Monitoring Group can claim to have found weapons sold by Russia to Eritrea in the hands of Al-Shabaab fighters. It has to be said it is a particularly bizarre explanation. A government statement admits that the serial number of some weapons found indicated that they did indeed belong to Eritrea. The regime then investigated how these guns could have fallen into the hands of Al-Shabaab. The result, according to the investigation, was that the weapons were in fact still in the government’s hands.
So how was it possible that they could be found in the hands of Al-Shabaab? Well, the answer, according to the government statement, provides further proof of just how sinister the US regime is. Apparently, the former US Secretary of State, Collin Powell, agreed some years ago with his Russian counterpart to exchange information regarding the sales of each country’s weapons to third parties. This, the statement claims, explains how copies of the end user certificates of sales between Russia and Eritrea ended up in the hands of the US government. The US government, of course, handed this information over to the UN Monitoring Group as part of its efforts to defame the Government of Eritrea. The Russians, the statement tells us, were oblivious to this arrangement when the ‘so-called evidence’ was submitted to them by the UN Monitoring Group, but it was only when the Eritreans alerted them to the arrangement that Russia had with the US that they finally decided to abstain.
It is not entirely clear if this alleged drama is meant to be taken seriously by anyone, but the fact that the statement was made in Tigrigna, not in English, suggests it was meant for domestic consumption. This leads to the second level of the regime’s reaction towards the increased sanctions. The first reaction has been indignation at the “injustice visited upon the Eritrean people”. At a different level, however, the regime has been very keen to show that the sanctions are actually “toothless, watered down” and that they can easily be withstood by what the regime’s ministry of information rather curiously calls a “resolute rebuff” by Eritrean nationals. In other words, the intent is to reassure its supporters that, despite the campaign by the US and all its allies, sanctions will have no effect: certainly they will be incapable of bringing about any behavioral change by the regime.
That, of course, is the crux of the matter. Whatever the nature of the sanctions, strong or weak, just or unjust, there is no indication that the regime in Asmara is prepared to even begin to mend its ways. It appears quite determined to continue to lie, to prevaricate and keep trying to dodge the impact of whatever sanctions may be imposed. That is why implementation of the sanctions and of Resolution 2023 (2011) must be taken seriously and properly implemented.
News and Views
Ethiopian Airlines joins Star Alliance as a Boeing 787 starts its Africa tour
On Monday, Ethiopian Airlines (EAL) officially joined the Star Alliance, becoming the Alliance’s 28th member and third to join in Africa after South African Airways and Egyptair. Ato Tewolde Gebremariam, Ethiopian Airlines’ Chief Executive, said joining the most prestigious and longest serving air alliance in the world was a historic milestone. It would help Ethiopian Airlines offer its customers the benefits of being a member of a global airline alliance. It would provide worldwide reach via the extensive network, giving seamless travel and status recognition through frequent flyer programs among other benefits. As part of the Alliance’s Round the World fare it would also open the airline’s network to globe trotters. Star Alliance’s CEO, Mr. Jaan Albrecht, said having Ethiopian Airlines as a member of the Star Alliance was a large step forward in completing the Alliance’s Africa strategy of offering quality service to customers with widest choice of flights to, from and within Africa. It would offer Alliance customers substantial access to the growing markets across Africa. The Star Alliance network would now offer more than 750 daily flights to 110 destinations in 48 countries in Africa, and 21,000 daily flights to 1,290 destinations in 189 countries worldwide. Ethiopian Airlines official access to the Star Alliance came a day after Addis Ababa’s Bole International Airport saw a Boeing 787, with an Ethiopian captain at the controls, make the first landing in Africa of the new Dreamliner which is on a six-month worldwide tour to display the aircraft. Ethiopian Airlines has an order for ten Boeing 787 Dreamliners. The first, with a capacity for 270 passengers, is due to be delivered in the second quarter of 2012. Ethiopian Airlines will be the first African airline to receive the aircraft and plans to use the planes to expand flights to existing destinations as well as expand into more markets worldwide, including new destinations in the Far East. Ato Tewolde said the arrival of the new planes would boost EAL’s international competence and help provide a more efficient and modern service delivery to passengers.
Not the Time to Look Away from refugees in the Horn of Africa
This week the UN launched its consolidated appeal for Somalia for 2012, requesting UN agencies and their humanitarian partners to provide a $1.5 billion fund for the continuing humanitarian efforts needed in Somalia. Nearly four million people (almost half of the Somali population), 2.8 million of whom are in Al-Shabaab-controlled areas of South-Central Somalia, remain in need of emergency aid including food, water, shelter and health services. There is need of the adoption and implementation of more coordinated policy measures to facilitate effective delivery of aid, provide dependable aid-worker security, protection for displaced people and maximum solutions to displacement crises. The UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, Mark Bowden, at the launching of the appeal said although three areas had been upgraded from famine to emergency status overall the drought and famine situation in Somalia is expected to remain critical well into next year. He called for continued early and full funding: “the Somali crisis is everybody’s responsibility and Somalis need support now; we cannot afford to wait or we will let down the Somali people.” Tens of thousands of Somalis, he said, had died this year as a result of drought and famine, though within three months of the declaration of famine in July the numbers of people receiving food aid had tripled to 2.6 million and almost half a million children had received nutrition supplements. Reports have indicated that the health situation has grown more complicated as the onset of rains exacerbated the spread of disease in the camps of displaced people. Continued fighting within Somalia and destabilization efforts by Al-Shabaab also burden vulnerable populations already suffering from hunger. This month alone, Al-Shabaab has blocked two International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) convoys carrying emergency food aid for drought victims. One was stopped in Gedo region and forced to travel to the Al-Shabaab controlled town of Baidoa in Bay region. Last month it outlawed 16 relief agencies including the U.N.’s World Food Programme. UN reports indicated that roughly half of the people in need of food and other humanitarian assistance in Somalia reside outside the capital, often in areas largely under Al-Shabaab control. Al-Shabaab’s denial of access for the delivery of humanitarian aid and its repeated seizure of aid added further complications. The UN has estimated that over 250,000 people still continue to be at risk of imminent starvation in South-Central Somalia, and any reduction in the levels of their assistance could plunge these regions back in to a state of famine. In fact, food production in Somalia is unlikely to return to normal levels until the end of 2012 at the earliest. Refugees, numbering over 463,000 in Kenya and over 138,000 in Ethiopia, most of whom are Somali, as well as over 370,000 internally displaced people in and around Mogadishu and several million more civilians throughout South-Central Somalia are all in continued need of immediate food assistance. In addition, the effects of the recent drought are also expected to continue to have an impact on pastoralist communities in other countries of the region.
A “judgment in error” says Kenya’s Attorney-General
Kenya’s Attorney-General, Githu Muigai, has defended the Kenyan Government’s appeal against the High Court order issued for the arrest of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir should he set foot in Kenya. The order was issued by Justice Obija in response to a request by the local branch of the International Commission of Jurists to implement the International Criminal Court warrant against President al-Bashir. Attorney General Muigai said the Kenyan State Law Office had evaluated the High Court judge’s ruling and was of the opinion that it was “a judgment in error”. He said the State Law Office found the ruling to be “against international law, the Rome Statute that established the International Criminal Court, the Kenyan Statute domesticating the Treaty, and the Kenyan Constitution”. He said both Kenyan law and international law, including the Rome Treaty, recognized the exception that a sitting head of state enjoyed immunity. His office, he said, had already filed the notice of appeal and was waiting the appointment of judges to hear the matter. He added that the Kenyan Government was confident that the Court of Appeal would overturn the arrest warrant. The Attorney-General said the government had appealed not just because of this case but to ensure correct interpretations of Kenyan law for any future cases that might well face the country. Six Kenyan politicians are currently facing the possibility of ICC trials. Kenya is a signatory to the Rome treaty but also regards itself bound by the African Union’s decision demanding deferral of the ICC arrest warrant against President al-Bashir because it says enforcement would complicate the peace process in Darfur. The Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Dr. Jean Ping, has encouraged President Kibaki and President al-Bashir to seek ways to clear up any misunderstanding to ensure the warrant does not damage Kenya’s relations with the Sudan. Sudan delayed its response to the warrant, including expulsion of Kenya’s Ambassador to Sudan and put on hold a decision to bar all flights in and out of Kenya from Sudan airspace and all its trade relations with Kenya, for two weeks to allow the Kenyan government to resolve the matter. The Kenyan Ministry of Justice said the period was too short as resolution of an appeal process might take up to a year.
Eritrea’s National Congress for Democratic Change
A highly successful National Congress for Democratic Change in Eritrea convened between November 21st to November 30th in Hawassa in Ethiopia’s Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Regional State. The Congress was organized by Eritrea’s National Commission for Democratic Change, a body elected in August the previous year. It was attended by some 600 delegates from all around the world. The Congress elected a 127 member National Assembly as well as adopting a political charter, bylaws and a roadmap. A draft constitution was also entrusted to the assembly to be used as a reference for drafting a constitution in Eritrea after the downfall of the present regime. Following the Congress, the National Assembly held its first regular meeting on December 2nd and elected a speaker, two deputies and two secretaries. It then chose a 21 member executive committee, with Dr. Yusuf Berhanu of the Eritrean National Salvation Front, a member of the Eritrean Democratic Alliance (EDA), elected as chairman. Yohannes Asmelash (from a non-EDA organization) was elected deputy chair. The committee is made up of eight members of the Eritrean Democratic Alliance, five members of other political organizations and eight members from non-affiliated civil organizations. Overall, the formation of the National Assembly has significantly broadened and strengthened the organization of the opposition and resistance to the regime in Eritrea. With its charter and its roadmap, it also offers a serious approach to the creation of structures to deal with whatever happens inside Eritrea.
Is Eritrea reactivating Sudan’s Eastern Front rebels?
A report from IRIN, a media service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, last week suggested there was danger of a renewed rebellion in Eastern Sudan. It quoted a UN official working in Kassala on the Eritrean border that the region was “a volcano waiting to erupt”. The Government in Khartoum signed a peace accord with Eastern Front rebels in October 2006. The Eastern Front was made up of two organizations, the Beja Congress and the Rashaida Free Lions, two groups which had been armed and supported by Eritrea over the previous two or three years. Indeed, it was Eritrea which pushed the two organizations into a merger, setting up the Eastern Front. Subsequently, after its own relations with the Government of Sudan improved, it used its influence to persuade the Eastern Front into talks with the Sudanese authorities. After the agreement, some Beja leaders were given government positions, but development has not been as extensive or quick as the Eastern Front hoped. Last month, the Beja Congress joined the Sudan Revolutionary Front, an umbrella group of opposition forces set up a few days earlier and including the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) from Darfur, two wings of the Sudan Liberation Army and the SPLM – North, with the avowed aim of overthrowing the Government of President al-Bashir. In the past several of these groups have been given training and support in Eritrea, and the UN Monitoring Group has raised concerns that Eritrea is currently arming opposition groups in Darfur. Now there are reports that fighters from the Beja Congress are organizing in the Hamid Mountains inside Eritrea, and IRIN quoted a UN official that “unofficial sources have reported that they organized attacks in Sudanese territory three months ago.” Given the tight controls along the Eritrean-Sudan border to prevent people escaping conscription, it would be surprising if Eritrean officials were unaware of cross-border activity by Beja fighters.
Security in Abyei remains “fragile”
The Abyei Joint Oversight Commission (AJOC) held its second meeting on Wednesday this week in Abyei; and the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Dr. Jean Ping, has commended the spirit of partnership and cooperation with which the governments of Sudan and South Sudan addressed the “Temporary Arrangements for the Administration and Security of the Abyei Area” agreement. Dr. Ping said he was encouraged that the AJOC continued to engage in pertinent issues including the redeployment of forces and the establishment of the Abyei Administration and the Legislative Council. He urged the two governments to resolve their outstanding differences to facilitate the return of IDPs and the resumption of seasonal migration through Abyei. The AU Chairperson said he appreciated the continued role of the AU High Level Implementation Panel in convening this meeting. He also noted the important role of the United Nations Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA), commanded by Lieutenant-General Tadesse Werede, in stabilising the situation in the area. By the end of last week, UNISFA had deployed over 2,800 troops on the ground, and it is patrolling a number of towns in the region as well as carrying out demining operations. Full deployment, however, depends upon the creation of a functioning administration and the withdrawal of the armed forces of both parties. The Sudan Armed Forces continue to occupy parts of Abyei while the Sudan People’s Liberation Army is said to have fully withdrawn from the area, establishing a headquarters just south of Agok. The UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Herve Ladsous, has described the security situation in Abyei as “fragile”. Mr. Ladsous said the UNIFSA has been talking to leaders of the Misseriya to try to persuade them to slow down their annual migration into Abyei which has now started. Dr. Ping reiterated the commitment of the AU to support the AJOC, and urged it to make certain it convened again as agreed, on January 18th next year . The AJOC was established by the Abyei Area Agreement, signed in June in Addis Ababa. It has a mandate to exercise political and administrative oversight of the Abyei Executive Council, on behalf of the Presidents of Sudan and South Sudan, with particular focus on security matters. Elsewhere along the border, Sudan and South Sudan continue to trade accusations that they are supporting insurgents in each other’s territory; however, last week’s fighting at Jau in Unity State added another dimension as it directly involved their own armed forces.
An International Engagement Conference for South Sudan in Washington
A two day International Engagement Conference for South Sudan was held in Washington on Wednesday and Thursday this week, aimed to coordinate greater international and private sector economic assistance to the newly independent state. The conference was attended by U.S. Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, World Bank President Robert Zoellick and President Salva Kiir of South Sudan, as well as officials from the UK, Norway, Turkey, the European Union, the African Union and other bodies. Hilary Clinton urged governments and businesses to provide “intensive care” for South Sudan, and called for its government to abide by the international norms of “transparency and accountability” in managing its “oil sector responsibly”. She said the U.S. Agency for International Development, USAID, was working with South Sudan on reforms to create a business climate that would attract investors to South Sudan, adding that the US would be launching a new loan program for South Sudan’s farmers. She also called for the early resolution of the conflicts in Blue Nile and South Kordofan states. These have caused the displacement of more than 415,000 people. More than 80,000 have fled into neighboring areas of South Sudan and another 36,000 into Ethiopia. Last week the US Government modified its licensing policy to allow US investment in the South Sudanese oil sector. President Salva Kiir told the meeting that investment in banking, transportation, agriculture and information technology were among South Sudan’s priorities, and his government was committed to tackle corruption. He reiterated his government’s readiness to ensure good governance and its commitment to proper financial management.
Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Ministry of Foreign Affairs