Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hailemariam visits Saudi Arabia
Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hailemariam Desalegn paid an official visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia last weekend, June 11th – 12th where he met and held “fruitful discussions” with the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah Bin-Abd-al-Aziz Al Sa’ud, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Prince Saud Al-Faisal, and other senior officials. The meetings focused on the bilateral relationship of Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia as well as on Saudi investments in Ethiopia and the possibility of securing Saudi financial assistance for development in Ethiopia and ways to enhance ties. The talks also covered regional and international issues of mutual interest. The Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister said that three agreements would be signed covering “the promotion of livestock and agriculture, the promotion and protection of investments and avoidance of double taxation”. Later this year, Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia are scheduled to hold the second meeting of their Joint Economic Commission in Addis Ababa. The first meeting of the Commission took place in Riyadh two years ago.
In a subsequent press conference, Ato Hailemariam who was heading a nine member delegation said Ethiopia looked forward to cementing its historical bilateral ties with Saudi Arabia. He said that Saudi Arabia was looking to Ethiopia for workers and had indicated it would be able to employ around 30,000 people in various capacities. The Deputy Prime Minister emphasized that Ethiopia would make sure that any who went to work in Saudi Arabia would be properly trained and a number of training centers were being set up to make sure this would be the case.
Ato Hailemariam noted that Saudi businessmen were among the top investors in Ethiopia, with some 2 billion Saudi riyals invested in agriculture, but this did not, he said, reflect the actual potential available. He called on Saudi businessmen to visit Ethiopia and explore the investment opportunities available in agriculture, agro-processing, energy, infrastructure, mining, construction, real estate and tourism. The numbers of Saudi tourists in Ethiopia has been steadily increasing in recent years. Ethiopia continued to create an advantageous investment environment and he hoped Saudi investors would take advantage of the possibilities for investment and joint ventures.
Ato Hailemariam noted that Ethiopia had already initiated steps that could benefit the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in its ongoing program to provide food security for its increasing population. He pointed out that Ethiopia had “the best environment for investments and tourism because of a good climate, rich flora and fauna, attractive historic sites and sound infrastructure.” He also emphasized that Ethiopia had a foreign policy focused squarely on tackling economic backwardness, poverty, lack of good governance and democracy, and this was why economic diplomacy was at the centre of its foreign policy.
US Secretary of State, Mrs. Hillary Clinton, in Ethiopia
The United States Secretary of State, Mrs. Hillary Clinton visited Ethiopia on Monday this week, June 13th. During her visit she met with Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and held extensive discussions on subjects ranging from bilateral and regional to global affairs. On bilateral issues, the Prime Minister and Secretary Clinton noted the growing and deepening relations between Ethiopia and the United States, and referred to longstanding and historical relations between the two countries, relations that have endured the test of time. They referred to the Bilateral Dialogue Mechanism that the two governments put in place to institutionalize their engagement. Ethiopia and the United States established the Bilateral Dialogue Mechanism in November 2009 with a view to raising any and all issues and being able to discuss these openly and frankly. Since then the Dialogue Mechanism has been serving as an effective vehicle for the two governments to engage in discussions in three areas: Economic and Business, Peace and Security, and Democracy. Prime Minister Meles and Secretary Clinton expressed their satisfaction with the way the mechanism is working; and Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hailemariam noted that “the dialogues were going well and we want to continue to build on it”.
On regional matters, Secretary Clinton sought the views of the Prime Minister on issues relating to the current situation in Sudan. He provided her with a detailed briefing, including the sticking points at the ongoing negotiations between the parties to the conflict. They expressed concern that if the situation in Sudan was not carefully handled, it could get out of hand. Secretary Clinton commended the Ethiopian Government for its offer of peacekeeping forces that could be deployed to defuse the increasingly complicated situation in Abyei.
On Somalia, the Prime Minister also briefed the Secretary of State on recent developments taking place there. He emphasized that at a time when Al-Shabaab was militarily on the defensive, and was losing the political support of the people, the international community could use the opportunity to provide real and effective assistance to the people of Somalia. There was agreement that the military gains registered against Al-Shabaab should be translated into sustainable peace and security. Both the Prime Minister and Secretary Clinton were of the view that the situation in Somalia was now conducive for the UN agencies operating out of Nairobi to support Somalia to move into Somalia and operate from peaceful locations within the country. They agreed on the need to continue collaboration in the fight against Al Qaeda and Al-Shabaab in the Horn of Africa. Views were also exchanged on the continued destabilizing role of Eritrea in the Horn of Africa. .
Secretary Clinton expressed her thanks to the Prime Minister and to Ethiopia for shouldering so much responsibility in the conflict-ridden Horn of Africa. Recalling her discussions with the Prime Minister in Copenhagen during the UN Climate Change talks, the Secretary of State also commended the Prime Minister for his leadership and his constructive role in the Climate Change negotiations. The Prime Minister expressed his appreciation of Secretary Clinton’s visionary role in promoting such issues as US-Africa trade relations, the empowerment of women and environmental protection.
Earlier in the day, the Secretary of State made a speech to the diplomatic community at the African Union. She concentrated on three specific topics: democracy, economic development and peace and security. She urged African leaders to create a future that the young people would believe in, defend and help to build. Nearly two thirds of the continent is under 30, she noted. The impact of social media meant there were no more secrets. It was time for leaders to lead with accountability, treat people with dignity, respect rights and deliver economic opportunity. She urged economic diversity, and welcomed the push for political and economic reforms that had inspired the ‘Arab Spring’. The US, she emphasized, deeply believed in the promise of pluralist democracies and free markets, and stands ready to support governments that undertake reforms. In this context she urged the African Union to end its relations with Libya’s leader, Colonel Qaddafi, and call for a genuine ceasefire and for his departure.
The Secretary of State’s visit to Ethiopia was originally scheduled to last for two days. However, it had to be cut short due to the risk of getting stranded indefinitely as an ash cloud from a volcanic eruption in southern Eritrea headed into Ethiopian airspace.
CPA signatories hold a mini-summit in Addis Ababa: more progress needed
A mini-summit to address the problems of implementation of the CPA and developments in Abyei was held in Addis Ababa, June 12th and June 13th. The summit was organized by the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) and attended by President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir, by Salva Kiir (First Vice-President of the Sudan and President of South Sudan), the former Presidents Thabo Mbeki (South Africa), General Abdulsalami Abubakar (Nigeria) and Paul Buyoya (Burundi) of AUHIP, and Prime Minister Meles in his capacity as Chairperson of IGAD. The agenda for the discussions included inter alia: security and administrative arrangements for Abyei, security in Blue Nile and South Kordofan regions and the possibility for continuation of popular consultations there, security arrangements along the common border and mechanisms for the continuation of negotiations on the Post-Referendum Arrangements.
This meeting was arranged following extensive discussions between the AUHIP, the UN and IGAD on the recent developments and the implications for the peace process and for full implementation of the CPA. In advance of the meeting, former President Mbeki went to Khartoum and Juba to get the agreement of both leaders to attend. Ethiopia agreed to host the meeting, provide security and other necessary facilities. The meeting was held in a closed session, and the discussions allowed both leaders to air their frustrations on developments along the common border and define how they saw their respective efforts. President Al-Bashir detailed how the NCP had given its full commitment to the process. It had signed up to the CPA, and agreed to support the referendum conducted for the separation of South Sudan and the eventual establishment of the Republic of South Sudan. He insisted that the SPLM had to act as a partner in this endeavour, and that the SPLM, as a partner in the CPA, should commit itself to live side by side with the government in Khartoum.
The SPLM leadership had only agreed to attend the meeting after it had tabled an agenda for the Council of Ministers, and Salva Kiir expressed the frustrations of the SPLM over the speed of implementation of all the decisions incorporated in the CPA and of the post-referendum arrangements. The discussions were intensive and the environment of the meeting was tense, but the discussions at the Heads of State level were able to achieve significant progress on the need to de-escalate the situation. To finalize their deliberations, the two leaders appointed senior officials to carry on the remaining negotiations over the next few days.
Overall, the parties did make some significant progress on Abyei. They reached an understanding to sign an agreement on Abyei entitled Temporary Arrangements for the Administration and Security of Abyei. Under this, the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) will withdraw forces from Abyei as soon as possible and the vacuum will be filled by a fully equipped battalion from Ethiopia. The mandate of this “Interim Security Force for Abyei (ISFA)” will be agreed between Ethiopia, the SPLM and the NCP and it will have to be endorsed by the United Nations Security Council. There was a clear understanding that the mandate for the ISFA would not be negotiated in any other forum or by any other body. Ethiopia reassured both parties that Ethiopia’s only agenda was peace and stability in the region. It would only take up issues that could add value to peace and stability in the Sudan. It would withdraw if any other agenda was imposed by any other body. It was also agreed that a joint administrative arrangement for Abyei should be put in place. This would report directly to both Salva Kiir and Al-Bashir.
Following the meeting in Addis Ababa, President Mbeki travelled to Kadugli in South Kordofan to speak to the SPLM leader there, Abdul Aziz Adam al-Hilu, on how best to agree on cessation of hostilities there. Yesterday, President Mbeki announced that he had had a positive reaction from Abdul Aziz and the two sides have agreed to cease hostilities and enter into negotiations. The agreement has been confirmed by other high ranking SPLM officials including the Governor of Blue Nile State, Malik Aggar, and the Secretary-General of the SPLM’s northern sector, Yasir Arman. The details of the political and security arrangements will be worked out in the discussions, and Yasir Arman said a delegation of the SPLM’s northern sector would immediately start to enforce a cessation of hostilities and the attached political arrangements. There is still a need to encourage the two parties to refrain from escalating the situation and resolve the problems through discussions and negotiation.
During her visit in Addis Ababa over the weekend, the US Secretary of State, Mrs. Hillary Clinton, also met and held discussions separately with the two parties. She made it clear that the US fully supports the ongoing efforts to resolve the current crisis in Abyei and South Kordofan. The Secretary first met with Prime Minister Meles and had a briefing from him on the progress of the talks and the issues involved. She then met with the special advisor to President Al-Bashir, Nafie Ali Nafie and urged him very strongly to reach agreement on the security arrangements that would permit a withdrawal of Sudanese forces from Abyei. She said the U.S. would support the right kind of an agreement and she urged the NCP not to get hung up on the administration issue. She then met with Salva Kiir, the first Vice-President of the Government of National Unity and President of the Government of South Sudan. He was accompanied by Deng Alor, the Minister of Regional Cooperation and other members of the southern delegation. Mrs. Clinton again made strong representations on the need to reach agreement on security arrangements for Abyei and on cessation of hostilities in South Kordofan.
While some progress has been made in the talks, and the overall situation of the negotiations appears to have improved, there is still a very considerable need on both sides to exert all their efforts to move forward to address the few, but critical, remaining issues. These must be achieved to ensure the establishment of two viable states after July 9th when South Sudan will become a separate state.
Ethiopia supports the ‘Kampala Accord’
Ethiopia has expressed its support for the Accord signed by the President of the Transitional Government of Somalia, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, and the Speaker of the Transitional Federal Parliament, Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan, on June 9th in Kampala, and commended the efforts of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and of the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Somalia, Ambassador Augustine Mahiga. In a statement issued on Tuesday this week, Ethiopia said the ‘Kampala Accord’ provided a basis on which to move forward on the issue of transition in Somalia and create a framework to consolidate recent gains in security in Mogadishu and elsewhere in the country. It called on both parties and other stakeholders to work towards full implementation of the Accord. The statement added that “Ethiopia strongly supports the holding of the planned meeting of stakeholders in Mogadishu as an immediate follow-up to the Accord. It believes all parties should be prepared to participate constructively. Ethiopia is prepared to make every effort to contribute to its success”.
The statement commended the forces of the TFG and of its allies, and those of AMISOM, for the substantial and encouraging advances made against Al-Shabaab bringing Al-Shabaab to the weakest it has been. “The death of Fazul Abdullah Mohammed who organized the terrorist bombings of the US Embassies in Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam in 1998, as well as numerous other terrorist activities in Somalia and the region, is a testimony to this”, the statement said. It suggested that developments on the ground now allowed international organizations and international bodies accredited to Somalia to increase their assistance and support in Somalia. “There is now a growing opportunity for those responsible for assisting the TFG and the people of Somalia to move to Mogadishu and raise the level of their assistance significantly, to demonstrate their support in a concrete and substantial manner”.
There is a clear need for institutions of the TFG to exert all necessary effort to implement the agreement signed in Kampala which was aimed to end six months of political stalemate and bickering between the TFIs. The Accord requires among other things the postponement of elections to August 2012 and the resignation of Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo within thirty days to allow for the nomination of a new Prime Minister. Unexpectedly, the signing of the Accord was immediately followed by a series of demonstrations in the government controlled districts in Mogadishu. These were organized by the Governor of the Benadir Regional Administration, Mohamud Ahmed Nor Tarzan and a group in the Council of Ministers who support Prime Minister Farmajo. The demonstrators, largely consisting of women and students but including a number of TFG forces, opposed the ‘Kampala Accord’ demand for the prime minister’s resignation. They blocked the main streets of the capital, burning and pillaging hotels in which MPs resided. Similar demonstrations were also staged in the Central Somalia region of Galgadud which is controlled by Ahlu Sunna wal Jama’a, in Gedo region and in a number of cities around the world. The demonstrations were aimed to weaken the support of the international community and of Somalis for the ‘Kampala Accord’.
The organizers of these demonstrations include two former allies of President Sheikh Sharif, Hassan Ma’alim and Yusuf Aynte, both MPs, who appear to feel aggrieved at being sidelined over the ‘Kampala Accord’. The demonstrations also appear to have the support of Al-Islah Al-Islamiya, the Somali wing of the Islamic Brotherhood. This runs the largest network of educational institutions in Somalia, including FPENS, the Formal Private Education Network of Somalia, which has over 120 schools and madrass in Mogadishu areas alone. Al-Islah also controls various local NGO consortia, including the 29 member Peace and Human Rights Network established in 1997; it runs Mogadishu University, the oldest and largest in the country and has established the only network of Legal and Medical Professionals.
On Sunday, the Council of Ministers discussed the ‘Kampala Accord’. The meeting was chaired by Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo. The Council of Ministers then issued a press statement saying that the resignation of the Prime Minister must be approved by the Parliament. Following this, President Sheikh Sharif said that the Kampala Accord should be implemented fully and that the Prime Minister had agreed in Kampala to resign and there should be no prevarication. The President said government funding should be used to improve peoples’ lives not to incite chaos. He said the Council of Ministers and the Benadir Regional Administration should not use government money to cause chaos in Mogadishu as they had the previous week. He insisted it was time to end the violence. This would add fuel to the insurgency. Following his statement, the demonstrations have now subsided, and calm has largely returned to the city. Legally, the ‘Kampala Accord’ does not need to be tabled in Parliament. Parliament is required to ratify international agreements and treaties to which the TFG is a party, but it is not required to consider agreements between the TFI leaders.
Meanwhile, it seems Al-Shabaab was unable to take advantage of the demonstrations to try to reclaim any of the territory it has lost in recent weeks in Mogadishu, suggesting its forces there remain significantly disorganized. Elsewhere, the TFG Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, Abdihakim Haji Mohamud Faqi, attended the closing ceremony for a 500 strong force of graduating TFG troops at Dolo, in Gedo region. Another three hundred are being trained in El-wak, four hundred more in Dhoblai and six hundred in the Kolbiyo area. The Minister is expected to attend the closing ceremonies in all three places. It is expected that these new troops will have a substantial impact in fighting against Al-Shabaab in the Bakool, Bay and Juba regions.
It seems the death of Fazul Abdullah Mohamed, the top Al-Qaeda operative in East Africa, killed at an Afgoye checkpoint just outside Mogadishu last week along with a Somali Kenyan, Musa Hussein, has created a state of upheaval and confusion within Al-Shabaab, increasing mistrust and suspicions among its top commanders. The impact of Fazul’s death is expected to put further strain on Al-Shabaab’s capacity for short term operations and its overall resilience if the momentum of the current AMISOM and TFG offensive is maintained. The speed and sophistication employed in the assassination of the TFG Interior and Security Minister, Abdishakur Sheikh Hassan, within three days of Fazul’s death, suggested that the killing was the work of Al-Qaeda rather than of Al-Shabaab. Fazul’s death was the third among those wanted for the bombings of the American Embassies in Kenya and in Tanzania in 1998. The first was Abdalla ‘Sudani’, killed in fighting between Ethiopian National Defense Forces and Al-Shabaab in Bay region in 2008; and the second was Salah Ali Salah Nabhan, killed in a US helicopter attack in September 2009 while he was travelling from Kismayo to Mogadishu.
Continuing tension among Ethiopia Kenya border communities
A delegation from the Ethiopian Conflict Early Warning and Response Unit (CEWERU), representatives of the SNNPR Regional Government and of the Conflict Early Warning Response Mechanism (CEWARN) Office paid a visit to the Ethiopian side of the border in the Karamoja cluster at the weekend, June 11th – 13th to assess implementation of the decisions of the Ethio-Kenya Joint Border Commissioners and Administrators meeting held in Nairobi two weeks earlier on May 27th. The Border Commissioners meeting had been convened following incidents that had left 23 people dead on both sides along the border areas. Several other meetings have also been held between Ethiopia and Kenya administrators at the local level following the confrontations. Two more meetings are planned at the local level; one is supposed to be held this week, on Thursday June 16th, and another on Saturday next week, June 25th, in Omorate in Ethiopia and at Todonyang in Kenya respectively.
According to the Joint Communiqué issued by the Border Commissioners meeting at the end of May, and the subsequent agreements reached during local level meetings, the two sides have accepted to relocate settlements that been made on the wrong sides of the international border. They have also agreed to apprehend suspected criminals, to recover and exchange livestock seized in cross-border raids, and to facilitate communal dialogue. The delegation that visited the area at the weekend was able to see that concrete measures are starting to be taken on the Ethiopian side of the border. Around 1500 members of the Dassenech (Merille) community have been relocated from Seyes village in Kenya and resettled inside Ethiopia, some 800 meters away from the border. Around 20 Dassenech who are alleged to have been involved in the May 2nd fighting have been arrested and are now in police custody. Local administration officials are in the process of holding on-going consultations with the Dassenech community to mobilize them in support of communal dialogue and peaceful co-existence. A team, drawn from local administration officials and Dassenech elders, is going to inspect the boundary beacons erected along the Ethio-Kenya border.
Whilst considerable progress has been made on the Ethiopian side of the border, local officials have been concerned that there has been much less done on the Kenyan side. The Kenyan authorities have yet to detain any of the Turkana individuals involved in the incidents. In addition, it appears that a large number of Turkana have moved into the Nyangatom areas since May 29th. They are reportedly armed and have stated their intent to attack. Turkana groups have been sighted in the various Nyangatom areas, and some Turkana have burnt down abandoned houses in Natikar. A number of Nyangatom communities have abandoned their homes fearing further attacks. The delegation was able to verify these reports during its site visitations along the border.
The arson attacks in Natikar are reminiscent of similar attacks that took place in 2008, when 1500 households were forced to relocate following continuous threats from the Turkana, abandoning the area around Kibish. The current movement of Turkana into Nyangatom areas is seen as confrontational because neither the Turkana community nor their elders have informed or consulted Nyangatom elders before travelling into the area. There have also been reports of shots aimed at some Nyangatom individuals and around police posts. Police in the area have been told by the Turkana that they are prepared to attack if the Nyangatom threaten them. Special forces have been posted in the area in an attempt to control the situation; however their capacity to control any serious escalation of violence between the Nyangatom and Turkana seems limited.
In addition to these tensions, there are a number of unresolved historical grievances between the two peoples. In August 2009, Turkana raiders seized 13000 head of livestock from the Nyangatom. There are fears that the latter may try to launch revenge attacks, taking advantage of the current close proximity of Turkana livestock. The continued after-effects of a severe drought in the area which has depleted grazing and water adds to the probability of such a confrontation. The Turkana presence may limit Nyangatom access to resources in areas located in Ethiopian territory. There are also reports of a Toposa-Nyangatom alliance aimed at the Turkana. In these tense circumstances a minor altercation can easily lead to large scale clashes and numerous deaths or loss of property.
The Ethiopian CEWERU has alerted its Kenyan counterpart through the CEWARN mechanism, and it seems the Kenyan CEWERU is aware of the situation. It issued an alert on the situation on Tuesday. The CEWARN office also has told the CEWERU offices to use the Rapid Response Fund to take measures to curtail any further violence. Emergency meetings between the CEWERU offices are now of critical importance in order to activate real communal dialogue. Any meetings need to focus on implementation of the decisions of the Joint Border Commissioners and of the various local meetings. Any meeting also needs to look at any remaining challenges in addressing cross-border conflict. It should put forward a road map and specific action plans for communal dialogue to tackle cross-border conflict among pastoral groups in the Karamoja cluster. Similarly, the Rift Valley Provincial Administration and North Turkana District in Kenya need to exert their influence on the Turkana groups to return to the Kenyan side of the border. They must persuade these Turkana to refrain from further crossings into Nyangatom territory until an agreement is reached between the two communities. The recent Ethiopia Kenya Joint Ministerial Commission meeting in Addis Ababa also called on the administrators on both sides of the border to act on this as a matter of urgency.
Ethiopia to Host the 12th AGOA Forum in 2013
The African Ministerial Consultative Group meeting held in Lusaka on June 8th has accepted Ethiopia’s offer to host the 12th Africa Growth and Opportunity Act Forum (AGOA) to be held in 2013. AGOA Forum meetings which bring together government officials, civil society representatives and business leaders from both the United States and Africa are held alternately in the United States and in one of the AGOA eligible countries in Africa. This year’s AGOA meeting was held in Zambia, and AGOA 2012 will be held in the USA.
AGOA represents U.S. trade and investment policy towards Africa. It was set up with the specific objective of increasing and diversifying African exports to the US market and increasing US investment in Africa. It provides trade preferences to 37 Sub-Saharan African countries, offering duty free access to the US market for around 1,600 product tariff lines. The items include clothing, footwear, wine, certain motor vehicle components, a variety of agricultural products, chemicals and steel. AGOA was signed into law in May 2000 by the then president Bill Clinton. The Act originally covered an eight year period up to September 2008, but an extension was signed by President George Bush in July 2004 for AGOA to extend to 2015.
The agenda at this year’s Lusaka meeting and the Africa’s Ministerial Consultative Group’s discussions were overwhelmingly dominated by the uncertainty surrounding the fate of AGOA after 2015. Almost every African minster and delegation member made clear that they would like to see AGOA extended after 2015 for at least another 10 years. The African Ministerial Consultative Group meeting in its final communiqué agreed on a statement on “the need for extension of AGOA beyond 2015” as the basis of its engagement with the USA.
Another subject of major importance at Lusaka was the question of the third country multi-fiber provision. This is due to expire in 2012. The rules of origin for fabric under AGOA provide for one of the most important incentives to invest in textile production in AGOA eligible countries. The provision allows textile producers in AGOA countries to source their raw materials from other countries and still maintain their preferred access to the U.S market. Here, too, African ministers requested the U.S to allow “the third country fabric provision to run concurrently with AGOA.”
The reaction of the U.S. delegation headed by Secretary of State, Mrs. Hillary Clinton, was very positive. Indeed, all the US delegation members who spoke at the Forum reassured their African colleagues that the U.S administration would work towards extending these two provisions of AGOA. In her closing remarks, Mrs. Clinton said that the Obama administration would work with Congress “on a seamless renewal of AGOA beyond 2015 and on a renewal of the important third country fabric provisions in the coming months.” However, this will, of course, depend upon Congress, and by no means all US Administration agencies take the same view as the delegation at Lusaka. Nevertheless AGOA has bipartisan support in Congress and it remains likely that it will be extended beyond 2015. African countries have so far not fully utilized the benefits of AGOA. This is mainly because of constraints on supply, poor transportation infrastructure, and limited production capacity. More recently, however, improvements in infrastructure and large scale investments in the textile and agriculture sectors have been taking place. For AGOA to terminate at this stage will be a setback for African exports and investment.
Ethiopia is often referred to as a beneficiary of AGOA in its export of high-end leather products, but its earnings from exports to the US markets have barely exceeded 10 million US dollars. Given the fast growth of the textile sector currently, termination of AGOA would be a disincentive to further investment in the sector. Ethiopia will therefore use its position as the host of AGOA 2013 to highlight the necessity to keep up the momentum of AGOA and ensure that Africa achieves its objectives. This was the core message conveyed by the Ethiopian delegation in Lusaka, when it expressed its interest to host AGOA 2013. In his statement to the African Ministerial Consultative Group Meeting, Ethiopia’s chief trade negotiator, the Minister of Industry, Ato Mekonnen Manyazewal, urged his African colleagues to speak with one voice concerning the future of AGOA. This, he said, would have a significant impact on the perception of potential investors. He also referred to the large scale investments that a number of African counties are making in the agricultural and textile sectors with the view of exporting to the US market. He pledged that Ethiopia, in concert with all concerned parties, would work hard to let U.S partners know that it was unfair to change the rules in the middle of the game.
A Fourth Round of Ethio-Turkish Political Consultations held in Ankara
Officials of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia and Turkey held political consultations in Ankara on Thursday last week, June 9th. The aim of the consultations included forging a mechanism for political cooperation on regional and international issues. The Ethiopian delegation led by Ambassador Grum Abay, Director General for European Affairs who met with Ms. Birnur Fertekligil, Deputy Under-Secretary for Africa and Multilateral Political Affairs of the Turkish Foreign Ministry to endorse the agenda for the meeting. Ms. Fertekligil said that Turkey had placed Ethiopia as one of its priority countries for cooperation in the fields of health, security and defense as well as trade and business. She reiterated that Turkey has opened a new era of cooperation with Africa. It had doubled the number of its embassies from 12 to 24, and would soon increase this to 32. She described the relations between Ethiopia and Turkey as exceptionally long-standing: the Ottoman Empire had opened its first legation in Ethiopia in the 16th century!
The political consultations were conducted in the presence of Directors and officials from the African, Middle Eastern and European Affairs Directorate Generals who explained Turkey’s policies in the current state of world affairs. Emphasis was placed on the uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East, on Cyprus and on the influx of Syrian refugees into Turkey. The Ethiopian delegation, which included the Ethiopian Ambassador to Turkey, Ambassador Dr. Mulate Teshome, and other embassy staff, shared its views on regional issues in the Horn of Africa. The Ethiopian delegation gave an in-depth evaluation of policy. It briefed the meeting on Eritrea’s recent attempts to destabilize Ethiopia and sought Turkey’s support on issues relating to peace and security in the region, including the emergence of South Sudan and issues that have yet to be addressed between the North and South Sudan, and on developments in Somalia.
The Turkish side expressed its opinion that due attention should be given by the international community to assist the parties to deal with post referendum issues in Sudan. On Somalia, both sides reiterated that the TFG and AMISOM’s roles had been constructive in maintaining relative peace and stability despite certain drawbacks. The fact that Al-Shabaab was losing ground both militarily and politically was commendable and it needed to be capitalized on. Turkey appreciated the role Ethiopia has been playing in creating a stable government and a durable peace in the country.
On bilateral cooperation issues, the two sides agreed on the need for deepening and diversifying the areas of cooperation, building on developments in investment, trade, science and technology, culture, health, education and other areas. The political consultation was held in an atmosphere of confidence, trust and good cooperation, and it is expected to expand at the bilateral level as well as in multilateral fora.
Exaggerated and outdated concerns over the Nile
Apocalyptic prophesies have been around for centuries. Eschatology, millennialism and obsession with Armageddon and the Day of Judgment have all too often resulted in mass hysteria and heavy losses of life. This variant of end-of-the-world prediction is still around—Harold Camping’s prophesies spring to mind— but it is mostly the stuff of Hollywood blockbusters.
Another, more recent strain of prediction can be found in what are normally considered more heavyweight mainstream publications. Recent newspaper headlines in the New York Times or the Washington Post, not just the National Enquirer, show a dangerous trend. This isn’t alarm about climate change where there are real existential concerns for the entire human race. It is the publication of articles predicting disaster and making outrageous and unsupported claims where there is little or no evidence for it, cashing in on the public interest in catastrophe, real or imagined.
One example of this trend was an Op-Ed article in the New York Times, June 1st this year, by Lester Brown. The NYT came up with a splendidly lurid headline: “When the Nile Runs Dry”. This followed the author’s penchant for the dramatic displayed in a truly apocalyptic fashion as he outlines the looming catastrophe he claims is hovering over Egypt. The efforts of some Nile riparian countries to use part of the Nile waters for hydroelectric power or to feed their hungry are going to drain the river dry, and kill off all Egyptians. His article is apparently intended to be a call to the international community to unite to stop any such malicious and evil aims, and force these countries to drop any claims on the use of the Nile waters.
Mr. Brown’s love of drama begins with his first sentence. A new ‘Scramble for Africa’ is underway. The evidence is what he calls ‘land grabs’ in some African countries. He is attempting to draw a parallel with the European decision to ‘civilize’ Africa in the 19th century and the subsequent colonization of almost the entire continent. Ironically, what he decries today as the ‘new scramble for Africa’ is actually the effort of African countries to extricate themselves from poverty by utilizing millions of hectares of hitherto uncultivated land. Mr. Brown thinks the fact that investors from the Middle East and Asia are leasing thousands of hectares of land in a number of African countries, notably Ethiopia, should be seen as a process of post-modern colonization. It should be resisted as strongly as possible by the West. Indeed, Mr. Brown makes it clear that it is only the West that can come to rescue Africa from the ‘new scramble [now] underway.” The paternalistic undertone is all too clear. His condescending arrogance betrays the kind of contempt with which he and others still regard Africa. Africans cannot be trusted to take care of their own interests. These deals with wealthy countries and investors are tantamount to renewed colonization even though Africans now have their own say on who they are doing business with and the conditions of this activity.
All this is misleading enough but for Mr. Brown it is no more than a prelude to his main thesis which is concern over the impact of deals in Ethiopia for the future of democracy in Egypt. Mr. Brown wants to warn us that the major danger of land agreements in Ethiopia is “the threat they pose” to democracy, or rather to the “youngest democracy in Africa”, that is, somewhat surprisingly, Egypt. Certainly, western think-tanks and ideologues are quick to dub as ‘democratic’ any nation willing to follow their prescriptions, but they usually demand some kind of electoral process however minimal. Whatever the potential for the future, to call Egypt under Marshal Tantawi ‘the youngest democracy in Africa’ is simply not credible. This doesn’t prevent Mr. Brown from claiming Ethiopia’s campaign to increase food supplies for its people will endanger Egypt’s ‘democracy’ and must therefore be stopped. This is not the place to argue about the commitment of Egypt’s military council to democracy but to argue that this might falter because of hydro-electric dams on the Nile takes intellectual duplicity to new heights.
Mr. Brown is apparently opposed to deals for land use by foreigners in Ethiopia because he believes they are also deals for water acquisition. Any deal in Ethiopia, or Sudan, that might take away even a cubic meter of water from Egypt’s natural monopoly, as it were, has often been condemned in the past by many in Egyptian officialdom. Today, however, it is incomprehensible that a western scholar professing a passion for democracy should hark back to the past just as many Egyptians have begun to understand the realities of the use of water in the Nile Basin. Mr. Brown is worried that with more and more countries carrying out these land deals, Egypt will have to negotiate with more parties than ever before. In the past, successive Egyptian governments consistently refused to negotiate with other riparian countries on the possibility of equitable utilization of water. Now positive overtures are being displayed and there are indications of acceptance of the need for dialogue and understanding. This is a positive gesture Mr. Brown should consider building on, not dismissing.
These positive indications have followed Mubarak’s departure, suggesting they are the result of the broader political space that has emerged. This might surely have signaled to any percipient observer that democracy would create a more conducive environment for Egypt to secure a win-win agreement with other riparian countries, as indeed, Egypt’s Prime Minister appears to believe. Mr. Brown, however, rather than acknowledge that democracy would make such a solution possible appears to believe that an already democratic Egypt is being threatened by people who have consistently called for constructive negotiations over the future use of the Nile, and who have been in discussions on this for a decade.
In fact, Mr. Brown’s argument looks back to the saber-rattling of past regimes in Egypt. He tells us that more than sixty per cent of Egyptian families consider subsidized bread ‘an entitlement’. This status must be maintained at all costs in case any change in the status quo might stand in the way of a yet-to-be-seen democratic order. He is not too keen to extend this generosity, or even a fraction of it, to the peoples of Ethiopia. He vehemently opposes their efforts to feed themselves as an obstacle to Egypt’s advance towards greater democracy. Ethiopians’ struggle to ensure their own survival, which Mr. Brown considers to be an Egyptian’s birthright, is seen as a war against the people of Egypt. Extraordinarily, he cannot even consider for a moment the possibility that all the Nile Basin countries might work together in the quest for a sustainable solution to the use of the river. He appears convinced in the reality of his over-riding reason to maintain Egypt’s monopoly over the Nile waters rather than see a negotiated solution that would satisfy all the riparian states and result in a win-win situation.
To this end, he even goes so far as to recommend what the world should do to stave off this ‘catastrophe’ in the making. One of his transnational solutions is for all the riparian countries to work on controlling population growth. This indeed is an excellent idea though Mr. Brown for some reason emphasizes this should essentially be carried out in Ethiopia and Sudan rather than Egypt. His second solution is for all countries to adopt more water-efficient irrigation technologies and plant less water-intensive crops. Yes, indeed, but it has to be said that more than any other country this is something Egypt should have adopted a long time ago. Mr. Brown might have noticed that Egypt is one of the driest places on earth, but you can find large swathes of rice plantations there, and rice is surely the last thing you should consider planting in a desert environment however abundant water might appear to be at any one time. Egypt would save billions of cubic meters of water lost to evaporation every year by simply shifting away from open canal irrigation. Equal amounts of water could be saved by introducing a much improved water management system on the huge dams already built. Now there is the outlandish Toshka project and fancy ideas of building golf courses all over the country. These look like almost certain ways to dry up the river completely.
It is Mr. Brown’s third recommendation, however, which is his main suggestion. Despite obfuscation and semantic acrobatics, the essential element of this is that Ethiopia should not be allowed to use the Nile, that the world should stop Ethiopia from trying to feed its people so that Egyptian democracy can thrive. Mr. Brown appears to believe that Egyptian democracy, even before it has appeared, is so important that Ethiopians should be condemned to perpetual poverty and starvation to make it happen.
Ethiopians are only too well aware of the pain that comes with poverty to think for a moment that they might benefit by putting other people at risk. The government of Ethiopia has never entertained the idea of developing Ethiopia at other’s expense. Indeed, the spirit of cooperation that largely permeates relations among the Nile Basin countries today has been something Ethiopia has worked hard to achieve. The welcome to Egyptian delegations in the last couple of months and the emphasis on the need for dialogue was no mere publicity exercise. Egyptians need never worry that the dams Ethiopia is building, and will build, will endanger the livelihood of Egyptians. Quite the reverse: they will make control of the Nile and the use of the river’s power available to all. As Ethiopia has underlined repeatedly cooperation is now the necessity for the Nile Basin. It is this that will prove that Lester Brown’s predictions of disaster are unsupported, paternalistic, even racist, and certainly unnecessarily alarmist. Mr. Brown should be aware, as Egypt’s leaders are, that the days when poverty in Ethiopia was the best instrument to protect an Egyptian monopoly over the Nile waters, have gone. Ethiopia will not sit idly by while its people die of starvation, but this, despite Mr. Brown’s hysteria, will have no impact on Egypt’s food supplies.
Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Ministry of Foreign Affairs