The Security Council hears the Secretary-General’s latest report
Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon’s latest report on Somalia was presented to the Security Council on Thursday this week. The report, an update on the situation in Somalia since the Secretary-General’s last report in May, underlined the tensions within the Transitional Federal Institutions (TFIs) over the last few months. He appealed, as TFG partners have done, to Government and Parliament to resolve their political disputes. The report noted that the Federal Constitution Commission had continued to work on the draft constitution and this was expected to be issued in December. The transition period ends next year and the Secretary-General expressed concern that there had been so little progress with the transitional agenda. Security remained a major issue. There had been an increase in insecurity in Mogadishu and the security situation in Puntland had become more volatile. Somaliland remained stable. In areas controlled by Al-Shabaab, UNPOS had received reports of nine executions by firing squad or by stoning as well as five cases of amputation, 28 floggings and 7 cases of beheading. The Secretary-General noted that UNPOS was in the process of deploying a full-time presence in Hargeisa (Somaliland) and in Garowe (Puntland). The UN Support Office for AMISOM was about to begin construction of offices and accommodation. It has improved living conditions for AMISOM troops, but there were still substantial resource gaps which affected AMISOM’s performance. The Secretary-General thought that the support package for AMISOM should be identical to that provided for UN peacekeeping operations. He reiterated his commitment to ensure maximum co-ordination of UN operations in Somalia and his intention to establish an integrated UN presence there.
The Security Council was also briefed by Ambassador Mahiga, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Head of UNPOS. Ambassador Mahiga, who introduced the Secretary-General’s report, said he had had consultations with various stakeholder including the TFG and Ahlu Suna wal Jama’a as well as regional and international bodies. There was serious concern over the lack of cohesion in the TFG. He had urged the TFG to reach out to more groups committed to peace and expand the political process as well as focus on delivering basic services. He commended AMISOM and urged the international community to scale up its support. AMISOM’s defensive capabilities should be strengthened and the TFG’s security capacity developed. He appealed to member states to fill the gaps in AMISOM’s material and financial support, and said AMISOM troops allowances should match those paid under UN operations.
For Somalia, Elmi Ahmed Duale also underlined the need for continued support and stressed the links between instability on land, acts of terrorism and piracy. Root causes must be addressed. He expressed concern about the constant negative and hostile media coverage of AMISOM, the TFG and the UN. It was, he said, coverage designed to support the efforts to destabilize Somalia. Kenya’s Foreign Minister, Moses Wetang’ula, told the Security Council it was important to recognize the centrality of the regional body, IGAD, to help resolve the issues of Somalia. The region remained nervous about the proliferation of initiatives and meetings, coupled with the lack of will from the international community. IGAD, he noted, had already and consistently encouraged the TFG to reach out. He hoped the Council would enforce some of the decisions taken by IGAD, including the matter of targeted sanctions, addressing among other matters the airfields and ports in Al-Shabaab hands. He urged the Council to formulate a robust communications strategy to counter Al-Shabaab propaganda. The end of the Transitional Charter also needed to be addressed.
In discussions, Security Council members made clear the need for all parties to participate in the Djibouti Peace Process, and for the TFG to strengthen the reconciliation efforts and resolve its internal differences. There was strong welcome for TFG co-operation with Ahlu Suna wal Jama’a and regional administrations. Members paid tribute to AMISOM and those who supported it. The US emphasized its support for the Mission and called upon other countries to participate. Others also emphasized the need for more assistance for AMISOM. The lack of “comprehensive, coherent, predictable and sustainable support to AMISOM and the TFG security forces was of major concern”. There were a number of calls for AMISOM forces to have parity of pay with UN peacekeepers. Members expressed their concerns over piracy and several speakers reminded all parties of their liabilities and obligations under international law over human rights abuse. China called on all countries in the region to support the TFG, to facilitate reconciliation. Others specifically emphasized their support for the targeted use of existing sanctions to help staunch the flow of arms and build stability in Somalia, including the need for implementation of Security Council Resolution 1907 to be effectively monitored.
Al-Shabaab’s Ramadan failure
Meanwhile, it has become clear that Al-Shabaab has been suffering a number of reverses in Mogadishu in recent weeks. At the beginning of Ramadan, it repeatedly claimed it was going to take full control of Mogadishu and oust the President, the TFG and AMISOM during the month of Ramadan. It failed. Even more, it suffered some significant losses. Over a period of ten days it launched a continuous series of assaults, including two suicide attacks at the airport and the port both of which miscarried. Indeed, in the first a total of eight suicide bombers lost their lives without achieving their aims. In fact, during the Ramadan fighting, Al-Shabaab also lost several senior commanders in a series of unsuccessful attacks on AMISOM positions including a leading American-Somali commander, Dahir Gurey. Overall, despite claims to the contrary, Al-Shabaab actually suffered a series of reverses and entirely failed to carry out its intended aims. That hasn’t prevented it continuing, as usual, to exaggerate its efforts substantially. It has claimed, for example, to have destroyed six AMISOM tanks. It hasn’t. The reality is that during a patrol, one AMISOM tank was accidentally damaged when driven into a ditch. AMISOM then destroyed it to prevent it falling into anyone else’s hands. That is the only AMISOM tank that has been damaged.
By contrast with Al-Shabaab failures over the last few weeks and indeed over the previous months, AMISOM has significantly expanded its presence and assisted the TFG in moving into other districts of Mogadishu. TFG and AMISOM military posts and those of allied clan militias in the west can now be found in some three quarters of the city. And they have begun to advance into the four districts in the north and north east in which Al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam have been centered. This hasn’t prevented Al-Shabaab attacks, such as the shocking suicide bombing at the Muna Hotel last month, but it certainly blunted Al-Shabaab hopes of greater success.
Nevertheless, the internal divisions within the TFG have meant that the government has been unable to take full advantage of these and other AMISOM successes. The capacity of Somali politicians to concentrate exclusively on possible short-term political gains, at the expense of long-term progress, remains extraordinary and incredibly short-sighted. As noted in the Security Council discussions, there is serious concern over the failure of TFG to work together. This continues to affect the ability of the TFG to function effectively. Members of the TFG, at every level, should be under no illusion about how seriously this is regarded.
Ambassador Mahiga visits Addis Ababa
The new Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Somalia, Ambassador Augustine Mahiga, paid a working visit to Ethiopia on Monday, meeting Prime Minister Meles and Foreign Minister Seyoum and discussing the current situation in Somalia. The Ambassador briefed the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister on his recent visits to Mogadishu and to Asmara and discussed the way forward for the establishment of peace and security in Somalia before the end of the transitional period. Ambassador Mahiga reiterated the commitment of the United Nations to work closely with the countries of the region, IGAD and the African Union with a view to finding a lasting solution in Somalia.
Prime Minster Meles elaborated the efforts being undertaken by IGAD, which is currently chaired by Ethiopia, and by the AU to help eradicate the terrorist activities creating such havoc in Somalia. He emphasized the imperative necessity of all stakeholders to work in unison, with the one aim and the one objective of establishing a stable and viable government in Somalia.
With reference to Ambassador Mahiga’s visits to Asmara, both Prime Minister Meles and Minister Seyoum particularly noted the unchanged role of the Eritrean Government in destabilizing Somalia and the region. It was indeed regrettable that while Ambassador Mahiga was visiting Asmara, the Eritrean President was in the process of organizing the dispatch of over 200 Eritrean-trained ONLF terrorists with arms and ammunition through Somaliland into Ethiopia’s Somali Regional State. And it was clear evidence that Eritrea was continuing to defy the call of the international community to cease its destabilizing activities. It was indeed ironic that this was happening just at a time when some in the international community were pushing for Eritrea to be relieved of its obligations under UN Security Council Resolution 1907 and even to be seen as a peacemaker in Somalia. As Prime Minister Meles and Minister Seyoum stressed it was only too clear that Eritrea was not prepared to change its policy of undermining the peace and security of Somalia, or indeed the region. It was continuing to violate Resolution 1907 of the Security Council (December 2009), and such disregard for decisions of the Security Council needed to be checked.
Eritrean tactics, Eritrean strategy: No change
Last week (Smoke and Mirrors: Eritrea, the UN and Somalia) we cast doubt on suggestions that President Isaias might be softening his attitude towards members of the international community and his neighbors in the Horn of Africa, whatever he might be saying in public. Eritrea participated in the UN Conference on Somalia in Istanbul in May, but even though much has been made of its presence there, Eritrea subsequently denied ever having agreed to all of the items in the Istanbul Declaration which reaffirmed that “the current hardships and insecurity will require a determined, long-term effort from the Somali Government to promote political cooperation and build strong government institutions” while appealing to those who threatened the peace process to change attitudes. The Declaration also acknowledged the contribution of the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) and the role of regional organizations, including the Intergovernmental Authority of Development (IGAD) and the League of Arab States (LAS).
In fact, Eritrea still does not recognize the Djibouti Agreement, nor the Transitional Government of Somalia. Indeed, Eritrea remains particularly opposed to President Sheikh Sharif who broke away from Eritrea’s influence and left Asmara to sign the Djibouti Agreement in 2008. Nor does Eritrea acknowledge the role and importance of AMISOM whose presence in Mogadishu it has consistently opposed. Indeed it has, as consistently, continued to provide arms and training to those fighting AMISOM, Al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam. None of this has changed since May whatever President Isaias may have said to Ambassador Mahiga. .
A similar divergence is apparent in Eritrean acceptance of Qatar mediation over its dispute with Djibouti. Eritrea may finally have withdrawn its troops from Djibouti territory, but it has still not admitted that they were across the border nor that it even has a problem with Djibouti. It has shown no indication that it is prepared to withdraw its claims to the Afar Sultanate of Rahaita which straddles the border or provide any guarantee that it will not repeat its invasion. Indeed the Qatar mediation involvement was confined to the specific issue of Eritrean troops across the border in Djibouti. There has been no indication that Eritrea is prepared to talk to Djibouti or to stop its support for rebuilding Djibouti armed opposition groups.
In the last weeks, President Isaias has been trying to create an impression that any differences between the UN and Eritrea are narrowing. He suggested that the UN had a “higher responsibility to find a peaceful solution for the Somali issue”, and expressed his “full support” for the initiatives being taken by the UN in Somalia. He also expressed “his conviction that the Somali issue would be resolved in a politically inclusive manner”. However, as we noted last week, at the same time that President Isaias was making these comments, a planeload of Eritrean arms for the use of Al-Shabaab extremists fighting against the TFG in Mogadishu was actually landing in Kismayo. The plane returned to Asmara with some 30 wounded Al-Shabaab fighters. By any standards this would appear to be a direct and deliberate snub to the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1907 and to the Somali Monitoring Committee. Another specific violation of UN Resolution 1907 came this week with the attempt to infiltrate over two hundred ONLF fighters trained in Eritrea into Ethiopia’s Somali Regional State. Full details of this attempt can be seen in the following item.
These open displays of disdain for the UN Security Council and its Resolutions (not for the first time) hardly suggest that President Isaias really believes in the UN “responsibility for creating conducive grounds for the Somalis to resolve their differences”. Certainly, he has yet to take any realistic or concrete steps to change Eritrean policy on the ground, either in Somalia, or the region as a whole. He has yet to display any contrition for Eritrea’s invasion of Djibouti or make any effort to try to resolve their dispute; he has yet to show any indication that he might be prepared to respond to Ethiopia acceptance of the Boundary Commission’s Decisions six years ago and implement the Border Demarcation according to international practices or to show any interest in normalization of relations with Ethiopia; he has yet to stop supporting and arming opposition groups throughout the region; he has yet to call a halt to direct support for terrorist and extremist groups in Somalia.
As all these were points raised in Resolution 1907 nearly a year ago, it is hardly surprising that Prime Minister Meles in a recent interview with Reuters said he really couldn’t see any softening of the stance of the Eritrean government. Indeed, he doubted whether it was capable of making such a U-turn in policy. Prime Minister Meles indicated that he thought that President Isaias’ “diplomatic efforts” were nothing new and little more than a rather frantic effort to try and persuade some Security Council members to remove the “noose of sanctions”, an attempt to change Eritrean tactics, nothing more.
Certainly, as latest events have clearly demonstrated, there is no change in Eritrea’s regional strategy which still involves active support for terrorist groups operating in Somalia and in Ethiopia. Recent events in Ethiopia’s Somali Regional State and in Somalia itself suggest no change in tactics either. President Isaias never actually believed that the Security Council would impose sanctions. It failed to do so when he had forced UNMEE to leave Eritrea and in effect tore up the Algiers Peace Agreement between Eritrea and Ethiopia. It was a shock when it did impose Resolution 1907 last December but even this has not made any real dent in his own certainty that he, and he alone, understands Somalia; and that he, personally, holds the key to (in)stability in the Horn of Africa.
In current circumstances, to detect any “softening” of Eritrea’s regional aims and policies is no more than an illusion, requiring the eye of a true believer or perhaps the haziness provided by distance from the situation on the ground. Some analysts may perceive possible changes; nothing so definite is apparent in the region or on the ground. Given the history of Eritrea’s past activities in the region, it is hardly surprising that we believe there is a need to see real, actual and specific evidence of any Eritrean change of policy. As we said last week: “Smoke and Mirrors” is hardly sufficient.
Eritrea’s latest effort to destabilize the Somali Regional State
As we mentioned above, this last week there has been yet another specific example of the way Eritrea continues to flout United Nations Security Council Resolution 1907. This took place exactly while President Isaias has been trying to hoodwink the international community that Eritrea is prepared to support UN policies in Somalia, as part of Eritrea’s efforts to demonstrate it is responding to the impact of sanctions.
On Saturday last week a group of over two hundred heavily armed men landed from two dhows along the largely uninhabited Somaliland coast south of Zeila, between Zeila and Lughaya. They were met by three large trucks made up to look as though they were transporting salt, and taken directly towards the border with Ethiopia, some 120 kms away. They successfully passed through at least one check point en route towards the border, but were spotted close to the small town of Abdulqadir not far from the border. The group was apparently intending to cross the border into Ethiopia’s Somali Regional State through the remote Maar Maar hills in Awdal region. Somaliland security forces rapidly closed in on the group, alerting Ethiopian security and military forces on the other side of the border. Just across the border inside Ethiopia they were surrounded by Ethiopian troops and Regional militia forces. They refused to surrender, and according to the Somali Regional State authorities, over 120 were killed and a senior commander captured. As of Wednesday, the remainder were surrounded.
By then, it was very clear who was in the group and where they had come from. Two prisoners captured earlier, before the group fled Somaliland, had documentary evidence demonstrating their membership of the ONLF, that is of the ONLF faction headed by Admiral Osman which has been based in Asmara for several years. They also admitted to having been trained in Eritrea before setting out on this attempt to infiltrate Ethiopia’s Somali Regional State. According to Somaliland’s Deputy Foreign and International Cooperation Minister, Mohammed Yonis Awale, the group had been armed with a total of 64 rocket launchers and other equipment. This as well as currency and documents proved the group had come from Eritrea where they had been trained. Subsequently, in a press conference in Hargeisa, Somaliland’s Army Commander, General Elmi Robleh Furr, and the Somaliland Police Commissioner, Nuah Taani, gave details of some of the material and equipment abandoned after the group realized they had been spotted. This included bazookas, chemical materials (presumably for bomb making), cash including Eritrean nakfa, communication equipment, and military training manuals written in Somali and Amharic. Predictably, if implausibly, the ONLF have denied that these fighters belonged to their organization or that any of their fighters were trained in Eritrea.
This is not the first time that ONLF fighters from Eritrea have been sent to Ethiopia. Several hundred were sent to the Somali Regional State via the Islamic Courts Union in Mogadishu in late 2006. It was some of those fighters who were responsible for the appalling massacre at Abule at the end of April 2007 when 65 Ethiopian Somali workers and 9 Chinese technicians were slaughtered, most while asleep or lining up for breakfast – surprisingly, no party in the international community saw fit to condemn this appalling terrorist atrocity. After the defeat of the ICU, Eritrea tried to infiltrate small groups of ONLF fighters into the Somali Regional State through Somaliland on several occasions. Somaliland police have picked up people trying to cross the border before but according to General Elmi this is the first time such a large group of armed fighters have tried this route into Ethiopia’s Somali Regional State.
Eritrea has been providing support for one faction of the ONLF at least since 1998 after Admiral Osman took over the chairmanship of one fraction. The government of Eritrea set up three training centers for ONLF fighters in western Eritrea, and another later at Mulober not far from Assab in south eastern Eritrea. At Mulober, training which included the handling of explosives and intelligence as well as ordinary military matters, was directed by President Isaias’s presidential advisor, Yemane Gebreab. Full details of this were provided by two senior ONLF commanders who surrendered two years ago. The majority of these trainees were sent to the Somali Region in 2006, leaving less than a hundred at Mulober at the time. This latest group have apparently been recruited over the last two or three years.
The reason for this attempted incursion appears to be that Admiral Osman’s fraction of the ONLF and Eritrea are trying to respond to the fact that a majority of the ONLF, headed by its Supreme Council, has been in negotiations with the Ethiopian Government and there are reports that it will sign an agreement very soon. The ONLF’s move followed the agreement made by another opposition group in the Somali Regional State, the United Western Somali Liberation Front earlier this year. As a result of the growing support within the region, and within the ONLF for peace, Admiral Osman’s group and the Eritrean leadership have been trying hard to demonstrate that the ONLF can still remain active. Indeed, there have been reports that the Eritrean government has been putting pressure on Admiral Osman and his remaining supporters to try and persuade them to continue a struggle that most of the group now want to bring to an end.
Ambassador Lyman, US analysts and control of aid
Criticism comes in various shapes and forms and at different levels of intensity. Some is from well-intentioned people expressing concern over one development or another. Others make it their business to try and meddle in the internal affairs of a country or arm-twist a government into following their own misguided policy prescriptions. There are also those who have the habit of making noises every time the opportunity presents itself, apparently in the conviction that repetition, even if poorly based, will somehow change reality on the ground to their liking. Some critics are knowledgeable (and their comments can be appreciated, if not always welcomed), but others all-too-often have no more than the scantiest idea about the issues on which they claim expertise. Indeed, Ethiopia has frequently been the subject of ill-informed tirades driven by political intent, and often serving as repositories of inaccurate information.
Ambassador Princeton Lyman is one of those people who occasionally comment on Ethiopia, but as a recent article in Foreign Affairs, co-authored with Stephen Wittels, and entitled ‘No Good Deed goes Unpunished’, demonstrates he has little knowledge of current Ethiopia, and has fallen back on the superficial comments found most frequently on opposition Internet sites. His grasp of events in Ethiopia is frankly superficial and there are numerous indications that he hasn’t bothered to try to check some of the ‘facts’ he repeats. The article is written with a view to shedding light on an apparent dilemma of the US government: despite providing billions of dollars of humanitarian assistance to many countries, and more particularly assistance provided for treatment of HIV/AIDS programs in Africa, the US administration is apparently unable to use this assistance to leverage policies. In what frankly appears to be an extraordinarily callous political calculation, the Ambassador repeatedly laments “the foreign policy problem this kind of aid creates”. It limits “Washington’s influence on issues other than HIV/AIDS in recipient countries.” The authors claim that the dramatic increase in humanitarian and life-saving AIDS assistance has created “an acute paradox” because “it diminishes Washington’s leverage over the governments that get aid.” One looks in vain for even the smallest indication that the aim of humanitarian aid is not political, that it should not be leveraged for political purposes. There is not even any suggestion that recipient countries might have interests of their own that shouldn’t necessarily be sacrificed for such assistance. The argument is rather that it would be inappropriate for poor countries to expect to have any kind of say about the handouts they receive from benevolent donors. It is hardly surprising, even if somewhat callous, that Ambassador Lyman looks at humanitarian aid from strictly political considerations.
Of particular interest for us is the authors’ claim that this “acute dilemma” is making it difficult for the current US administration to exercise a proper measure of influence in Ethiopia’s domestic political developments. Specifically, Ambassador Lyman lists a number of allegations, most of which have been repeated endlessly in the media, about which he apparently believes the US should take action. These vary from accusations of interference in the electoral process to activities of dissidents. Clearly demonstrating a lack of knowledge about recent events, the authors of the article even allege that the government arrested “a prominent opposition leader…in the run up to national elections this May”. If this is meant to be a reference to Birtukan Mideksa, the authors have failed to notice that she wasn’t arrested for any political reason nor was the timing immediately before the May election as the authors claim. They also make an extraordinary claim for which there is no evidence that the government “limited the role of election monitors”; and even repeat equally specious allegations about a “crackdown on dissidents in the Ogaden”. Neither claim can be substantiated by facts on the ground. The latter also demonstrates a real lack of understanding of what has been happening in the Somali Regional State in the last few months with the United Western Somali Liberation Front and Supreme Council of the Ogaden National Liberation Front entering into negotiations with the government. It is also indicative of the authors’ interest in repeated unconfirmed claims and allegations. The authors express surprise at what they apparently consider “an insulting” response from an alms-receiving government merely because that government apparently dared to differ with the State Department over who had the best claim to ownership of certain issues. The assumption that the authors appear to be emphasizing is that no recipient of humanitarian aid should expect to pursue policies independently of the interests of the aid-giving government.
The aim of the article is clearly to argue for donors to be able to exercise greater leverage in return for their assistance. This, incidentally, has nothing to do with improving the efficiency or the effectiveness of HIV/AIDS or other assistance and aid. If anything, it appears to be a rather callous attempt to take advantage of the predicament in which some countries find themselves in order to promote the political agendas of donor governments. There is no indication of any pretension towards any grand theory or any intellectualization of aid relationships to which some western intellectuals are prone. It is, in regard to remarks about Ethiopia at least, quite simply a reflection of the resentment by some circles that humanitarian aid cannot be leveraged for political ends to allow for effective intervention in the internal affairs of the country. More importantly, perhaps, it also demonstrates the propensity of these authors to repeat biased information without any attempt to check the actual development on the ground.
Even from the perspective of US interests, this approach must be seen as extremely myopic. It will not produce any short-term results in terms of leveraging, and all it will do in the longer-term is produce concerns about interference. It is in fact totally short-sighted to believe that countries like the US should confine their interests to attempting such an immediate impact. It is through the long-term approach currently adopted that the US and other donors can, and do, build up good-will and positive sentiments. It is indeed because of such an approach in the past that there is such a reservoir of goodwill towards the US in Africa, in much of the developing world, and in Ethiopia. We hope this will continue.
The colourful celebration of National Flag Day
The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia is celebrating National Flag Day for the third time on Monday, September 20th. The occasion is being observed throughout the country at ceremonies where the flags of Ethiopia and of its nine federal states are raised and displayed, and the National Anthem sung. A number of other events are involved, including panel disussions, parades, and various contests. In Addis Ababa, the event will also be marked by the laying of a foundation stone for Flag Square in the presence of senior government officials and distinguished guests. In future, Flag Square will be the site of a permanent display of the flags of the Regional States of Ethiopia, of the Federal Democratic Republic, and of the countries of the African Union.
Flag Day provides the opportunity for all Ethiopians to renew their promise of committment to work for the allievation of poverty and for the rennaissance of the country. It reconfirms the acknowledgement of Ethiopia’s independence as well as equality in diversity, solidarity and justice, and in the unity of the states of the federation. Indeed, September 20th is noteworthy as the day when the nations, nationalities and peoples of Ethiopia stand in front of their national flag, show their respect and renew their promises to fight against poverty. Flag Day enables the nations, nationalities and Peoples of Ethiopia to forge unity on the base of mutual respect, commonality, and equality. It is a celebration which strengthens the solidarity and unity of Ethiopians and expedites the nation’s peace, democracy and sustainable economic development. It is appropriate that this year the celebration coincides with the discussions on the implementation of the new Growth and Transformation Plan, and follows the peaceful fourth national and regional elections earlier in the year.
The flag of Ethiopia, and the flags of the regional states, demonstrate the pride of all Ethiopians in their languages, cultures, nations and their flags; and the National Flag now belongs to Ethiopians more than ever before. There is pride and respect for the flag which signifies the unity and cohesion of the different nations, nationalities and peoples of Ethiopia, a true symbol of unity in diversity. The celebration of National Flag Day underlines the love and respect that Ethiopians have for their country and for each other. It helps to implement the shared vision of the nations, nationalities and peoples of Ethiopia: to lift the country out of poverty, to enhance democracy, good governance and justice, to achieve the promise of Ethiopia’s Renaissance and of its new Millennium.
The Core Principles of Ethiopia’s Foreign Policy: Ethiopia-China (PRC) relations
Ethiopia and the Peoples Republic of China have enjoyed long historical ties based on the common values of civilization. Both are very aware of their ancient civilizations and their long histories. Diplomatic relations, however, were only established in 1970. Indeed, in November we will be celebrating the 40th anniversary of the relationship, a relationship that is based upon adherence to the properties of mutual respect, non interference in the internal affairs of each other’s countries, and peaceful coexistence.
China has proven itself to be a real and dependable friend in many areas. It has played a significant role in helping the fight against poverty. The economic relations between the two countries bear witness to the level and strength of cooperation between them. And two factors that contribute largely to the consolidation of the bonds between Ethiopia and China are the frequent exchange of visits by high level officials and legislators; and secondly, the successful signing of agreements on a number of significant bilateral issues. Trade relations have shown significant progress over the last few years following the Government of China’s allocation of quota and tariff free rights to African countries. Exports, mainly agricultural produce, have shown significant improvements as a result, though the balance of trade remains in favour of the PRC. The volume of trade amounted to about US $1.5 billion last year. Chinese investment in Ethiopia is showing significant expansion in both quality and quantity, and it currently stands at over US $ 1 billion. Chinese companies have invested in areas as diverse as cement and glass factories, manufacturing mainly in textile and pharmaceuticals, and in areas of mining. They have generated substantial job opportunities and Ethiopia has also benefited from the transfer of technology. The Chinese Government has played a remarkable role in encouraging Chinese investors to come to Ethiopia.
In addition, China has also provided an impressive development program to Ethiopia on the basis of mutual respect and understanding and on the principle of non-interference. It has provided soft and interest free loans as well as grants for project development. It has been involved in the infrastructure including roads, hydroelectric power, telecommunications, water development, and manufacturing as well as other areas. China’s aid and assistance can above all be described as practical assistance to help Ethiopia escape from the poverty trap, and as particularly timely in assisting Ethiopia achieve the Millennium Development Goals. In terms of health for example, the PRC has sent numerous doctors to Ethiopia, serving in different hospitals and medical centres across the country. It has been a generous supplier of medical equipment and anti-malaria medicine in support of the effort to eradicate malaria. It is also involved in the training of traditional doctors.
China has proved a strong contributor to social sector development as well. It has provided numerous scholarships and the number has been increasing every year. It has provided generous contributions to the construction of vocational, technical and training colleges in various parts of the country, and numerous volunteer trainers and teachers at different levels. Many Ethiopian journalists have acquired training in China and there is a flourishing relationship between the Ethiopian News Agency, ENA, and the Chinese Agency, Xinauhu. Ethiopia and China have also signed an agreement on approved tourist destination status to encourage Chinese tourists to visit Ethiopia. The potential for expanding bilateral relations in this area are enormous. The capacity of the Chinese people to travel abroad is growing rapidly and is expected to reach tens of millions. Ethiopia’s tourist industry will certainly benefit.
The establishment of the China-Africa Co-operation Forum (FOCAC) in 2000, and Ethiopia’s co-chairmanship of the Forum (2003-2006), gave a substantial impetus to the comprehensive and sound relations and understanding that exist between Ethiopia and China. The establishment of FOCAC, of course, created an important platform for collective dialogue and the effective mechanism of practical cooperation between African states and China. Ethiopia also benefited from this. It also recognizes the need to continue to strengthen FOCAC, to build on the existing relationship of China-Africa co-operation, to expand and deepen the links. It has already demonstrated its value as an excellent example of south-south co-operation, based as it is on mutual trust and understanding as well as mutual respect and recognition of the sovereignty of both parties.
Economic development in Ethiopia relies heavily on the development of closer economic links between Ethiopia and China, as well as with other countries, including India. The relationship with China has provided countries like Ethiopia with economic development that they can really own themselves. China’s policies are based on the principles of promoting mutual advantage and a serious commitment to a win-win scenario in bilateral relations. China’s readiness to stay away from insistence on the concept of conditionality underlines its understanding of Ethiopia’s need to own its own economic development strategy. This indeed explains why relations between China and African countries including Ethiopia, have become so close and successful, as exemplified in FOCAC. And indeed why they will continue to expand and be effective.
As Prime Minister Meles emphasized when opening the 8th Congress of the EPRDF on Wednesday what has been particularly impressive about the Government and Party of the Peoples Republic of China is that it has been prepared to offer so much to Ethiopia even before completing its efforts to lift its own people out of poverty. China, the Prime Minister noted, has been a most dependable partner. And Ethiopia will not forget its generosity.
Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Ministry of Foreign Affairs