The IMF, the World Bank back Ethiopia’s Development efforts
The IMF and the World Bank recently approved loans and disbursements for the FDRE Government after a thorough assessment of successful implementation of development policies. Two Loan Agreements amounting to 130 million dollars (1.8 billion birr) were signed between the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and the World Bank on April 30, 2010. The first Additional Financing Agreement amounting to 80 million US dollars (1.1 billion birr) will be utilized to address the financial gap in the implementation of Water Supply and Sanitation Project, i.e. for the construction of water supply facilities in 50 towns originally targeted by the project. The second agreement which covers 50 million US dollars (672.21 million birr) will be used to finance the implementation of Public Sector Capacity Building Program (PSCAP) that includes the improvement of the scale, efficiency and responsiveness of public service delivery at the federal, regional and local levels; for empowering citizens to participate more effectively in shaping their own development and also for promoting good governance and accountability. Once again, on June 3/2010, an additional Financing Loan agreement that amounts 100.00 million dollars (approximately 1362.21 million birr) was signed between the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and World Bank. Also recently, the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved the first review of Ethiopia’s economic performance under the 14-month arrangement of the high access component of the Exogenous Shocks Facility (ESF). The approval will enable Ethiopia country to draw SDR 40.11 million (about US$58.7 million), bringing the total disbursements under the arrangement to SDR 113.65 million (about US$166.2 million). According to the IMF Executive Board, Ethiopia has been successfully implementing policies to reduce inflation and rebuild external reserves as agreed in the ESF-supported programs. Since the end of 2009, consumer price inflation had declined sharply to a single digit. Overall the negative impact of the global recession has not been as severe as expected. All of the quantitative performance criteria and indicative targets for end-December 2009 were met. The structural measures covered by the Fund-supported program were also implemented. It is noted that, the ESF arrangement for Ethiopia was approved by the Executive Board on August 26, 2009 to help Ethiopia deal with the effects of the global recession on its balance of payments. In a related development, Ken Ohashi, WB’s Country Representative to Ethiopia stated in a letter to the New York Times Review of books that the aim of any development assistance was to promote national development for a country and the reduction of poverty for its people. In this regard, he further stated, Ethiopia had an impressive performance, with economic growth accelerating sharply on a sustained basis since about 2003, despite the global economic crisis. Since 2000, Mr Ohashi added, Ethiopia had recorded the second-fastest improvement in human development in the world, according to the UNDP Human Development Report 2009. This measure related to more Ethiopians living a longer and healthier life, being better educated, and having a decent quality of life. With regard to the globally agreed Millennium Development Goals, Ethiopia, according to Mr. Ohashi, was making significant progress in all areas. The country was on track to meet goals relating to extreme poverty and hunger, universal primary education, combating HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases, and developing a global partnership for development. Good progress is also being made in reducing child mortality and ensuring environmental sustainability. Despite having already achieved gender parity in primary schools, Ethiopia is likely to fall short, as of 2015, on the targeted improvements for promoting gender equality and empowering women and improving maternal health. He further stated that these achievements in national growth and poverty reduction were important measures by which donors assess the effectiveness of their support to Ethiopia. They show that donor funding to the country and peoples of Ethiopia have yielded substantial results that have had a significant impact on improving the lives of the poorest in society. While indicating that these were also testimony to the government’s strong commitment to improving basic services and building a backbone of infrastructure (i.e., roads and electricity) that can facilitate economic growth, he concluded by underlining the central role of the government’s commitment to a sustained progress in the development process.
Extra-Ordinary Meeting of the IGAD Council of Ministers held
The 36th Extraordinary session IGAD Council of Ministers was held on 15 June 2010, in Addis Ababa. The meeting was called to assess the prevailing political and security situation in Somalia with a view to ensuring that IGAD plays a more proactive role in addressing the challenges facing the country. The recent crisis encountered within Parliament, the approaching of the end of the transition period, the Agreement signed between the TFG and Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama (ASWJ) on 15 March 2010 and the need for its full implementation were some of the issues discussed. In addition, the meeting also deliberated on attempts to launch parallel peace initiatives that would have negative effect on the Djibouti process. The Council received a detailed briefing from Mr. Abdirazak Osman Hassan, Minister of Posts and Telecommunication of the TFG, and Mr. Kipruto Arap Kirawa, IGAD Facilitator for the Somalia Peace and National Reconciliation on the current political and security situation in Somalia. Following the briefing session, the Council deliberated at length on the various aspects of the challenge Somalia is facing. A Communiqué was issued at the end of its meeting. The Council in its Communiqué recalled with serious concern the recent development among the leadership and congratulated them for handling the crisis responsibly. On the other hand, it commended the Agreement signed between the TFG and Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama and strongly urged the parties to implement the Agreement. The Council also welcomed the MoU signed between IGAD, AMISOM and UNPOS on 28 April which provided for coordinating their activities in Somalia. It condemned the terrorist attacks by the extremist elements causing loss of civilian lives, injury and destruction of property and reiterated its call on the UN to assume its responsibility by deploying a UN peacekeeping mission in Somalia to take over from AMISOM. The Council reiterated the central role of IGAD on matters pertaining to Somalia and called for the avoidance of proliferation of initiatives. The ministers were emphatic in stressing that the status quo should be changed in Somalia and that the prevailing security situation should not be tolerated. In this connection, the Council recommended to the IGAD Assembly of Heads of State and Government to convene an urgent extraordinary summit at the earliest opportune time to review the serious political and security development in Somalia and the region with the objective of reengineering the whole process. In the meantime, effort would also be made to assess the security situation on the ground for the purpose of taking the appropriate steps. The meeting demonstrated clearly to change the status quo and affirm IGAD’s leading role in the affairs of Somalia in a more systematic and persistent manner. During the meeting the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Djibouti, Mr. Mahamoud Ali Youssouf, briefed the Council about the mediation efforts by Qatar between Djibouti and Eritrea. The Council on its part decided to encourage the positive developments and also underscored the necessity for Eritrea to carry out all its obligations under the UN Security Council Resolution 1907 (2009).
The Status Quo in Somalia unacceptable, Say IGAD Ministers
The 36th Extraordinary meeting of the IGAD Council of Ministers held in Addis Ababa on 15 June 2010 was in a real sense extraordinary. It was not a meeting where ideas repeated in past meetings were regurgitated. It was a meeting at which all Ministers, without exception, committed their countries to doing what it takes to assist the TFG overcome the security challenge it continues to face. No doubt, the problems in Somalia are not going to be resolved through measures that are taken in the security area only. The military approach will never ensure sustainable peace and national reconciliation. The primacy of politics should be insisted upon, in Somalia or in any situation of conflict. It was in this spirit that the TFG has concluded in March this year the historic agreement with Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama’a. This is an agreement which has a real potential to contribute to the strengthening of the TFG and the peace forces in Somalia. But the TFG should not be allowed to believe that the effort to broaden its base has now been completed and that there is no more effort needed to bring into its fold all those who might still be prepared to commit themselves to peace and to embrace the Djibouti process. In other words, the TFG has a standing obligation to remain committed to the principle of inclusivity which is the only sure basis for defeating extremism in Somalia and for keeping at bay non-Somalis who have been benefiting from the division within Somali society. On the other hand, no matter how much the TFG might be committed to embracing all those committed to peace, there would still be the likes of Al-Shabaab leaders and their dedicated followers who would never abandon their objective of forcibly removing the TFG and imposing their brand of extremism on Somali society and the region at large. The TFG needs to have the military wherewithal to be able to defend itself from these groups and also defend the people of Somalia from the real threat they face from these sources. This is what the TFG has not been able to do thus far. This is not because the TFG officials have been unwilling to undertake this task. The real culprit has been lack of capacity, but lack of capacity that can be addressed, and should have been tackled quite long ago. One major problem in the security area that the TFG has not been able to solve has been the absence of unified command responsible for managing, administering and deploying the various TFG security forces. This needs to change and changed as soon as practically possible, said the IGAD Ministers at their latest meeting in Addis Ababa. They have agreed to take concrete measures in this area to assist the TFG, beginning with an assessment of the situation on the ground. The other related problem in this area has been lack of coordination and the absence of mechanism for such coordination between AMISOM and the TFG security forces. The IGAD Ministers have also discussed this issue at the meeting and have agreed to take the appropriate steps in this regard in consultation with other stakeholders. It is with the view to facilitating the creation of enhanced opportunities for carrying out these and other related tasks that it was felt by the Ministers that there was a need for convening a summit of the IGAD countries the soonest. In general, the 36th Extraordinary meeting of the IGAD Council of Ministers was quite businesslike, greatly meaningful. That the planned summit would be even more meaningful cannot be doubted.
Eritrea’s behaviour still belies the International community’s enthusiasm
Almost two weeks after the signing of an agreement between Djibouti and Eritrea to resolve their border dispute, the picture coming out of the region is far from clear yet. Despite, the enthusiasm of the international community over the Qatar mediated agreement, there is little evidence the government of Eritrea will come clean before the international community .There is little, if any, to indicate that there is a readiness on the part of the regime in Asmara to embark on a genuine change of attitude. For all the enthusiasm among the international community, the peoples of Eritrea have as yet not heard a word about the agreement from their government. This is a rather strange spectacle which cannot be put aside as politically insignificant or trivial. All the more so because as late as two or three weeks prior to the announcement of the Qatari initiative, the Eritrean authorities were telling the international community including through official communication to the Security Council, that the accusation that they were occupying Djibouti territory was mere fabrication.
Congressman Payne’s Horn hearing degenerates into an Ethiopia-bashing circus, again
The sub-committee on Africa and Global Health, of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee, held a hearing on 17th June 2010, entitled “ The Horn of Africa: Current conditions and US Policy”. In what has now become an all-too-predictable pattern, the sub-Committee’s hearings on Horn of Africa almost invariably degenerate into an Ethiopia-bashing circus whereby testimonies of select group of detractors of the government of Ethiopia take turns to level all kinds of allegations against it. The latest hearing left little doubt that that was indeed the case. [More detailed response next week] As usual, the hearing was chaired by Congressman Donald Payne and also in attendance was ranking committee member Chris Smith. The selection of people giving testimonies was clearly made to fit the intention of the organizers. More particularly, two of the testimonies were unabashed indictments against the government of Ethiopia. Congressman Payne as usual took the opportunity to put the government of Ethiopia in the dock on a wide array of issues. According to the testimonies, the recent election results were proof positive that Ethiopia is indeed becoming a one-party state. HRW’s whimsically generated reports were once again recycled during the hearing to lend credence to the self-serving claims that have been pushed ad nauseam. It was suggested by the speakers that the US leverage its aid to Ethiopia—whose amount has dramatically been inflated to two billion USD annually—to force an elected government to submit to their wills. Specific demands—very strict ones at that—were also made of the government of Ethiopia and even stricter conditions were suggested by way of recommendations to the Obama Administration. The Ethiopian government was even instructed to amend specific provisions of specific legislations, underlining the extent of hubris that informs such hearings. All told, the hearing made recommendations that practically amounted to demanding absolute abdication of sovereign power by the government of Ethiopia. More outrageous claims were made during the question and answer session. Deep-seated prejudices veiled in semantic sleights of hand during the presentations were on garish display in the heat of the Q & A session. Mendacious allegations were made, for example, of the presence of Chinese military in some parts of the country while speakers repeatedly bantered against what they said was a dangerous tendency on the part of the Ethiopian government. While they were at it, the Congressman from New Jersey and his select group of witnesses did everything they could to defend the most egregious behaviour of the government of Eritrea. In fact, it is not entirely surprising that the Congressman should do this as it has now become an open secret that he and his closest unofficial advisors are only too keen on helping the regime in Asmara get away with its repeated wrong doing on any occasion they can. What is a bit more surprising during the latest hearing was that there was no inhibition whatsoever on the part of these people when they tried to defend the government of Eritrea on its abysmal record in religious persecution and suppression of dissent. If the hearing was about bashing Ethiopia on political grounds, it was even more about exonerating Eritrea from all kinds of accusations made against it by the international community including the US. What all this underlines is that most if not all the pressure these people want to bring to bear on the government of Ethiopia has nothing to do with what they purport it to be about.
Analyzing the election results: the two competing trends
It has now been almost a month since the 2010 national election was successfully conducted in a peaceful and calm manner. The National Electoral Board of Ethiopia has already declared the provisional results according to which the incumbent has won a landslide victory. While the victory of the ruling party is not by itself much of a surprise given its performance in terms of economic development the last five years, there has nonetheless been much wonderment with regard to the wide gap in the performance of the ruling party and the opposition. The fact that the opposition failed to win a significant number of parliamentary seats has drawn a lot of debate across the country and among outside commentators. Questions are still being asked as to why people’s expectations of the relative strength of the contending parties fell wildly off the mark. Taking a step back from the performance of the parties in this election, there are also attempts to draw some kind of conclusion on the short-term and long-term implications of this development on the overall democratization process in the country. The attempt to make sense of the results is only understandable; but there is also a tendency by some to read too much into the results—and cynically. Why did the EPRDF win and the opposition lose in such a wide margin? For some the question is not all that difficult to answer; they just point to the huge development works currently underway in the country: construction of infrastructure and the obvious transformation of a significant portion of the Ethiopian population as a result of the government’s policies. Even the BBC’s Will Ross did say as much. The fact that the EPRDF put much effort into campaigning unlike in the past is also believed to have made significant contribution. What’s more, these people also readily point to the lack of well-thought out political platform and strong organizational structure of the opposition parties. This assessment is also shared to a certain extent by some section of the opposition in Ethiopia. No sooner were the provisional results declared than the great majority of opposition parties that participated in the election began soul searching in an attempt to make sense of the results. Many of them have already conceded defeat and having reflected on the weaknesses and strengths of their respective campaigns, they have come to the conclusion that the victory of the ruling party is attributable as much to its concrete development record as to the rampant division and disorganization within their ranks. However, this is far from a cut-and-dried explanation of the factors that conspired to deny the opposition the kind of electoral outcome some so stubbornly hoped would see the opposition outperform the incumbent. Indeed considerable time and resource have gone into supporting the democratic process and there has been important progress. The negotiations among political parties were a bona fide effort to make the electoral process as free and fair as possible. The decision of the government to disburse funds for parties to finance their campaigns was another milestone in the run-up to the elections. The preparations made by the NEBE were meant to ensure that the electoral process would effectively run its course and handle complaints if and when they arise. Yet it is much harder to make judgment on the degree to which these actions have contributed to the building of confidence among all the various parties contending during the elections. But it is fair to conclude that they have gone a long way to addressing the kinds of irregularities so prevalent in the previous election. But the focus of many commentators is exclusively on the result of the elections and even then, the explanations are half-baked at best. Needless to say, one has to be clear-eyed about the evolving political dynamics in the country to have a better grasp of things and to arrive at a cogent conclusion with regard to the factors the inter-play of which might have better influenced the outcome of the elections. For quite some time now, the standard explanation by mostly external commentators for the election results has largely been one of blaming the incumbent for all sorts of electoral mishaps that might have befallen the opposition in the election. In the most outrageous cases such as the likes of HRW, the results of the May 2010 elections “were simply a milestone in a broader effort by the EPRDF to consolidate control” and the incumbent’s victory is the result of “the government’s five-year strategy of systematically closing down space for political dissent and criticism.” Of course, the very allegations are considered tautologies in their own right. Even well-meaning commentators almost invariably seek the explanation for the results exclusively in the ruling party’s behaviour. There has in fact been hardly any effort to look at the behaviour of the opposition—both in what it did and it failed to do, that is—by way of explaining the outcome of the recent elections. This habitual characterization has all too often been decidedly categorical. It is therefore encouraging to see that some private media outlets and commentators have begun to break this habit by emphasizing the need to look at both ends of the political spectrum in order to put developments in the proper context. Less noticeable, to the point of absence until recently, has been an interest from local actors including notably the private media to make an in-depth analysis into the fundamental factors that have been largely responsible for the results. In a series of articles and very recently on its editorial, the English weekly Fortune has been making quite interesting analyses into the factors that contributed to the EPRDF’s landslide victory and to the opposition’s loss. Rather than harping on the same old string of blaming the ruling party for everything that went wrong in the opposition camp, it attempts to have a look at the opposition parties’ own overall preparedness both in terms of clear-cut political platform and reliable organizational structure and their possible impact on the outcome of the elections. Fortune’s pieces raise a number of valid issues and draws very interesting conclusions. This trend also seems to be followed to a varying extent by other media outlets as well. This attempt to get to the bottom of it all through an in-depth and comprehensive analysis is certainly helpful not only out of fairness to the overall democratic process but also to the parties themselves by nudging them into making a serious and hard look at their own weaknesses and strengths. This is certainly a very constructive approach. In a stark contrast to these encouraging developments, however, there are still some media outlets that have difficulty coming to terms with the reality on the ground. There appears to be an obvious resentment on the part of some detractors of the government not just in the election result but more importantly in the peaceful and calm conclusion of the elections. The VOA Amharic service and its cabal of nay-sayers are leading the charge in this campaign to extend the wrangling over the electoral process beyond its shelf age. It is not the first time that the VOA Amharic service started to meddle in the internal affairs of Ethiopia. It has long served as the veritable voice of the rejectionist elements of the Diaspora-based opposition. In fact, the VOA’s open campaign against the government of Ethiopia has reached a point where some of the opposition figures don’t seem to believe voices other than theirs should be allowed on VOA. Although VOA’s campaign to discredit the electoral process in the country got off to a wrong start with the conduct of the elections, it is still trying to tap into what little is left of rejectionist tendencies among some of the legal opposition. Virtually all of its coverage since the conclusion of the elections is meant to stir up emotions within opposition supporters in the vain hope that this would create an opportunity to create an unchecked momentum against the government. Out of their depth, they are now leaving no stone unturned to see to it that violence once again takes over in the streets of Addis. The opposition leaders appearing on the show are directly or indirectly being told to reject the result of the elections—a not-so-subtle message to take their complaints to the streets. This obsession has reached extremely morbid levels. Clearly, there is bitterness on the part of the people at VOA Amharic on account of the election results. The fact that the post-election scenario has been decidedly calm has compounded that bitterness even more as it was hoped that, if not the results of the elections, at least post-election disturbances would further complicate matters to the incumbent. The VOA is still rooting for violence of some kind, for sure publicly goading some leaders of the opposition into the kind of rejectionist tendency that helped set the tone for the street violence following the 2005 elections. But the circumstances today do not augur well for the morbid hopes of the prophets of doom at the VOA-Amharic. Nor is their mutual-flattery with some of the rejectionist elements in the opposition going to bear out their hopes of discrediting the legitimacy of the elections. As the encouraging trends within the private press indicate, the time of smear has given way to one of reason and sober judgment. Even more reassuringly, the peoples of Ethiopia have emphatically disowned any violent overtures much less fall into the kind of pitfall the VOA is busy trying to put in place. In fact, this election has made it loud and clear that Ethiopia’s democracy will outlive the dying voices of rejectionism well into generations down the line. That the nay-sayers are getting even louder must have been borne out of this realization.