TFIs’ decisions should resolve the end of Somalia’s transition period
South Sudan to be named the Republic of South
President Isaias continues to sabotage his own ‘vision’
Does Human Rights Watch really support human rights?
Core principles of Ethiopia’s foreign policy: Ethiopia and the African Union
FIs’ decisions should resolve the end of Somalia’s transition period
Following the controversy over the extension of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Parliament, TFG President, Sheikh Sharif, gave a press statement at State House on Tuesday, February 15th. This expressed his views about the term of the transitional period, pending transitional tasks and the extension of the Parliament’s mandate. The President’s statement appears to be trying to reconcile the varying positions that have emerged since the Transitional Federal Parliament (TFP) announced its extension following the consensus reached during the IGAD Summit and later endorsed by the full AU Summit. The issue was also discussed and that consensus accepted at the Mini Summit organized by the UN Secretariat and the African Union Mission during the AU Summit. It was only subsequently that some opposition, rejecting the decision of the TFP, emerged within the international community, with some even claiming the decision of the TFP to extend would have the effect of strengthening Al-Shabaab.
It was while this debate was going on that the UK organized an informal brainstorming session at Wilton Park last week, attended by various parties from Somalia and from the international community. This raised important issues of reconciliation and peace building, the constitutional process, security and service delivery, including the need for engagement with local and regional administrations in various parts of Somalia. The meeting stressed that the political process needs to move forward. It called for greater legitimacy and strengthened accountability while emphasizing that the status quo was not acceptable, and that the Djibouti peace process must remain at the centre of future development. Progress in Somalia, however, would not come exclusively through activity at federal government level; equally it would not come through operating only at local and regional levels. The meeting therefore suggested a multifaceted approach. Calling on the reform process begun by the TFIs to be stepped up, it said this should be recognized and accepted by all authorities in Somalia. Emphasizing the partnership of the international community and the Somali authorities, it called on each to work collaboratively, coherently and transparently, both with each other and with the Somali people. It referred to the need for a greater sharing of ideas between neighbouring countries, which have significant understanding and influence, and the wider international community.
The meeting also underlined the need for a clear, shared political strategy as a matter of priority to frame military activity, and also to engage Somali groups, including the private sector, religious leaders, Somali civil society, women’s groups and the Diaspora. The Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General is best placed to co‐ordinate this strategy with other key actors, including the AU in particular. The meeting underscored that the political process must be Somali‐led, and that participation by a wider number of Somali actors was a key factor. A Somali voice, Somali principles and Somali traditional approaches need to be heard more clearly in all that is happening. Grass‐roots processes, working in the interests of peace‐building, should be encouraged as a matter of urgency. The meeting identified as key priorities: reconciliation and peace‐building; security; the constitutional process; and delivery of basic services to the Somali people. The importance of the need to address the humanitarian needs of the Somali people, including mitigation of the devastating effects of the ongoing drought, was clearly emphasized.
Following the Wilton Park meeting, the UN Special Representative, Ambassador Mahiga, in the name of the international community, came up with a proposal to extend the term of the TFIs as a whole, including the Government as well as the Transitional Federal Parliament (TFP), by a year from August 2011 when the transitional period ends. He put this to the TFI leadership in Mogadishu which reached no consensus on the suggestion. The President suggested a compromise two year extension. The Speaker and other parliamentary leaders however insisted that Parliament’s decision should be respected. Ambassador Mahiga said he would consult further on the issue.
Ambassador Mahiga’s proposal, of course, would effectively nullify the previous decision of the TFP which allows for its own three year extension and calls for the election of a new leadership through an election in August. And since Ambassador Mahiga’s suggestion completely ignores the TFP’s decision, it gives no indication how the TFP might now be able to make any such suggested amendments; and time is running out.
In the meantime, the Council of Ministers met this week and endorsed the decision of the TFP, though it also suggested that any election for President should be postponed to August 2012, providing a one year extension for the government. This appears to be an attempt at compromise between the decision of the TFP and the suggestion of Ambassador Mahiga.
In his carefully crafted statement, President Sheikh Sharif emphasized that the mandate of the TFG established by the Djibouti agreement comes to a conclusion on August 20th. The statement noted the consensus of the AU Summit last month, which he had attended, and the decisions of the TFP which was the national legislative body of Somalia. The statement also acknowledged the efforts of the international community, led by Ambassador Mahiga, to foster agreement and consensus on the issues relating to the completion of the transition and ways to move on. It also emphasized the need to inform the people of Somalia, as well as stakeholders and members of the international community, that broad consultations are underway aiming to achieve consensus. The statement referred to the decision of the President “to provide ample space for broad consultations on the way forward beyond the transitional period and attain additional time in order to achieve the key transitional tasks”. It was therefore relevant “to provide opportunity to the new Council of Ministers, which is still within its first 100 days of its program, as well as the other branches of the TFIs.”
The Presidential statement called upon the need to give full attention to such critical government tasks as security, strengthening governmental structures and necessary measures against the devastating drought, calling on government institutions, the business community inside and outside the country and the Diaspora to help mobilize relief assistance. It requested the international community to offer meaningful support to the different institutions of the government to strengthen law-enforcement agencies, and the President concluded: “I would especially like to call upon the people of Somalia….[to] defend against the divisions of the people of the Republic of Somalia and participate in the promotion of conflict resolution”.
The statement received mixed reactions. People in Mogadishu have been protesting in the streets both in support and in opposition to the statements by the TFG leadership, and a number of demonstrators have been killed. One thing that all would probably agree is that Somalia is at a critical juncture. Equally, the way forward is now in the hands of the TFIs and in the implementation of their decisions. There is a clear need for the international community to assist the TFIs in implementing their decisions. The TFIs are, after all, Somali owned and Somalis themselves believe that it is the TFIs alone which are capable of moving the peace process forward on the ground.
Meanwhile, Al-Shabaab has arrested 30 traditional elders from the Bulo Xaji locality in Lower Juba Region, demanding that they pay Zakat (annual alms) to Al-Shabaab. According to reports the group has been dragged off to Kismayo where they have been tortured. An elder in Kismayo, who declined to give his name, told the media that some of these elders were sick and needed medical attention. According to reports, Al-Shabaab has been levying exorbitant taxes and Zakat on many parts of the southern and central regions. In another development, Al-Shabaab has also removed the governor of the Banadir Region, Sheikh Ali Muhammad Husayn, replacing him by Sheikh Hasan Umar ‘Abu Abdirahman”. Sheikh Ali said he had achieved a lot for the region but he was pleased to be relieved of his post. He urged the public to give support to the new Al-Shabaab governor. In turn the new Al-Shabaab governor welcomed his appointment and called on Al-Shabaab members to continue fighting the TFG and AMISOM. In fact, it seems Sheikh Ali was removed from his position because of the continuing differences among Al-Shabaab leaders. Apparently the former Emir, Ahmed Godane, was behind the move. He considered Sheikh Ali to be too close to Fuad Shongole and others who have been critical of the leadership’s policies, and its methods of dealing with present issues including Al-Shabaab’s present financial crisis, the drought and other factors.
South Sudan to be named the Republic of South Sudan
Southern Sudan political parties have unanimously agreed that the name of the new state to be created in July 2011, following the landslide vote in favor of separation in last month’s referendum, should be the Republic of South Sudan (RoSS). The decision was reached at a political parties’ leadership forum held in Juba this week. The naming received the agreement of all political forces in the South. All political parties in the semi-autonomous region had met in Juba on Wednesday to discuss the process of transition. It was a follow up to the crucial meeting that the South Sudanese political parties had held in October last year when they unanimously agreed on the need to hold the referendum on time and put all political differences aside to ensure the vote was peaceful.
During the opening of the leadership forum, chaired by South Sudan President and SPLM chairman, Salva Kiir Mayardit, party leaders endorsed a report presented by the Chairman of the Southern Sudan 2011 Task Force, Riek Machar Teny, the Vice-President of Southern Sudan. This outlined the role being played by the Task Force which has been and is serving as Southern government’s think-tank on such issues as the referendum, post-referendum issues and the future governance of South Sudan. After agreeing on the name of the future independent South Sudan, political leaders continued discussions on the flag and a name for the currency for the independent state as well as on the need for the inclusion of the political parties in the technical committee on constitutional review among other issues in the process of transition. The Minister of Peace and CPA Implementation, Pagan Amum, who also serves as the SPLM’s Secretary-General, noted that the institutions of the emerging state would be formed on the basis of inclusivity of all political parties in order to achieve a smooth transition. The Minister also added that the SPLM would prefer that its own flag, which was already serving as an interim flag for the Government of Southern Sudan, should remain as the national flag of the new state. It would however be subject to endorsement by all the political parties, after which the decision would be presented to parliament for further discussion and final endorsement.
Meanwhile, however, clashes erupted between South Sudan’s army, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), and militiamen loyal to General George Athor around the towns of Fangak and Bor in Jonglei state. More than 200 people, including civilians, died as a result of the fighting. This underlines the need for the leadership in South Sudan to resolve urgently any disputes and conflicts through peaceful means. The people of South Sudan have had enough of war. Similarly, both signatories of the CPA must continue to resolve any outstanding issues and assist each other to move forward to complete the successful outcome of the implementation of the CPA. The SPLM and the NCP are partners. It is this partnership that will ensure the viability of the two states, in the north and in the south. The international community must assist both as they endeavor to work towards full implementation of the CPA, and continue to discuss other post referendum issues including the future of UNMIS.
President Isaias continues to sabotage his own ‘vision’
After a prolonged absence of several weeks, President Isaias finally reappeared before Eritrean TV but only to make an unusually brief speech commemorating the capture of Massawa 21 years ago by the EPLF forces. His appearance, following a two-week absence in Qatar, is widely believed to have been intended to placate supporters seriously worried by his long absence from public view. Whatever the reasons for his disappearance, President Isaias didn’t seem to relish his return to the screen as much as usual. If his unusually ultra-brief speech was any indicator, the days appear to be gone when he insisted on bending the ears of his audience with repeated stories of miraculous wonders yet to come in Eritrea as a result of his government’s vision and hard work. The Eritrean leader has always had a weakness for superlatives and long-drawn-out speeches particularly when it comes to describing his still unrealized dreams and visions, or when he has felt the need to chastise people for complaining of broken promises. Now long-winded speeches have apparently been dropped. This year, the President even dropped his traditional marathon New Year address for the first time in 20 years. His speech at Massawa was another indication of the president’s new-found distaste for long-winded lectures. Perhaps, even President Isaias has realized the futility of daily efforts at conjuring up pink elephants for a jaded public which has long been feeling the stinging bite of reality at firsthand.
Then again, old habits do die hard. It may have been an unusually brief speech but President Isaias still managed to sneak in his usual we-shall-overcome mantra, though this time it was firmly referenced to the particular town of Massawa as opposed to Eritrea at large. Indeed, he was his old self when he praised the port city for having paved “the way for total liberation” of Eritrea promising that it would “become the hub of investment for national development, as well as for regional and international trade and investment, thus symbolizing the mark of our pledge and progress.” To a casual listener, the words might sound like the optimistic remarks of a well-intentioned leader giving his wide-eyed audience a preview of the great days to come. The residents of Massawa know better. They have heard the same words every February while their town has seen anything but progress. For believers in the power of positive thinking, President Isaias’ generous hopes for Massawa might just be meant to add colour to the actual ongoing efforts, however modest, to develop the town, to ready the town’s port facilities for the business activities he assures his audience Massawa will shortly have – as a hub for regional and international trade.
It’s an impressive vision, but a vision is only a mirage without some solid base. Visions, however powerful, are not necessarily reliable pointers to actual development. As one commentator remarked, while visions may reflect one’s basic faith in matters of politics, they cannot account for many specifics in the actual complexity of political life. This is the case of President Isaias’ ‘hallucinatory fantasies’ for the port of Massawa. Ports are not like military camps, where you can bring fighters from all over the world to receive all sorts of training, something that President Isaias’ government has now made its principal export trade. A port can only become a hub for international or regional trade as long as there are people in the region or more widely who are prepared to do business with it. Equally, it needs the government controlling the port to take the idea of good neighbourliness and normal behaviour of international relations seriously. On both counts President Isaias’ government has failed for as long as Eritrea has been independent. No country that has gone to war with all of its neighbours can realistically expect its ports to be the hub of regional trade. International trade is unthinkable without a nation showing willingness to subscribe to the ordinary applicable notions of international law including those covering business transactions. If there is anything that Eritrea is particularly famous for today, it is for defying the norms of international relations. The very ports that could have earned Eritrea billions of dollars over the last two decades now lie empty and barren because its relations with all potential trade partners are frosty at best. President Isaias has no one to blame for this but himself.
For all the positive notes that President Isaias tried to strike during his Massawa speech, there is little chance Massawa can become a vibrant port again unless and until his government mends fences with its neighbours. It is obvious that Eritrea’s ports are of no real use for either Djibouti or Sudan. The only significant possibility for Eritrea’s ports to become a hub for regional or international trade lies in restoring Eritrea’s relations with Ethiopia amicably. Ethiopia’s growing economy is quite obviously the best opportunity for President Isaias to realize his ‘vision’. The supreme irony is that this is exactly the last thing the regime in Asmara is prepared to do. President Isaias would rather let his whole nation collapse than take even the smallest steps to normalize relations with Ethiopia. Indeed, buried beneath the brevity of his recent remarks and his ‘visions’ for Massawa lies his equally strong proclivity to contradict himself. Therein lies the paradox: President Isaias, as always, sabotages his own grand designs more effectively than anyone else.
Does Human Rights Watch really support human rights?
Last year, Human Rights Watch produced a report on Ethiopia: “Development without Freedom: How Aid Underwrites Repression in Ethiopia”. This made a number of serious allegations about claimed misuse of donor-supported programs for political purposes, and as we noted at the time, all these claims were immediately denied by the NGOs and all others involved in the programs, including the Government of Ethiopia. The Development Assistance Group (DAG) in Ethiopia which brings together organizations and countries involved in such assistance programs was quite clear: it did not “concur with the conclusion…regarding widespread systematic abuse of development aid in Ethiopia”. Significantly, the DAG pointed out that its own investigations on this issue “did not generate any evidence of systematic or widespread distortion.”
Despite this universal criticism of its report and the significant lack of evidence for its claims, HRW continued to repeat its allegations, going on to issue demands for an end to development aid. It even went so far as to write to the Ethiopia Country Director for the World Bank to demand suspension of the Democratic Institutions Program which is aiming “to build domestic accountability by funding government institutions”. And among these institutions are the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, the Office of the Ombudsman, the National Electoral Board, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, the House of Peoples Representatives and the House of Federation (the Parliament) and the Office of the Auditor General. All are seriously involved in different aspects of human rights. For HRW to suggest on the basis of a statement which it admits came from only “one donor official” that the Democratic Institutions Program, which is in fact long-term and on-going, had failed to achieve its goal, can only be described as “ill-informed and baseless.”
All the organizations involved in the Democratic Institutions Program, of course, play a central role in the process of building democracy and human rights in Ethiopia, something that should be apparent to even the briefest and most superficial effort to investigate human rights in Ethiopia. It might be noted that last week the Human Rights Commission opened six branch offices in various towns around the country, including Mekelle, Jijiga and Gambella, to offer pro bono services on human rights. As we have noted on other occasions, it’s very clear from HRW’s comments that it has never read the reports of the organizations involved in the DIP or looked at the documentation the Human Rights Commission and the Ombudsman’s Office regularly produce for the House of People’s Representatives every nine months, details of which can easily be accessed. There is, in fact, a mass of evidence on human rights in Ethiopia which HRW persistently and deliberately ignores.
Irrespective of this, however, as the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission has suggested, for Human Rights Watch to call for donor assistance to the DIP to be suspended certainly raises very serious questions about “the sincerity of your organization’s commitment to the very ideals of human rights and fundamental freedoms which you claim to advocate.” Indeed, HRW’s letter to the World Bank appears to be a very deliberate and specific attempt by HRW to attack the credibility of human rights organizations which have a rather wider view of human rights than HRW, and which have consistently resisted HRW’s efforts to control human rights activity in Ethiopia. It is an obvious attempt to indulge in political policy-making in an area well outside its human rights mandate.
As a number of African, and more recently European and American scholars and academics, have noticed “many western institutions behave in a parasitical manner to Africa…playing up the suffering in Africa to gain funds for themselves…”. A corollary to this is that such institutions automatically try to denigrate any organizations in Africa which might generate output and interest and attract competitive funding or threaten the role these western bodies try to assume. One of these bodies is HRW, and it has in fact become a leading exponent of the way in which the human rights rhetoric has been debased in recent years “to demonize countries whose governments are too independent from the West…[to try to] maintain a climate of hostility and distrust”. HRW is one of the organizations which bear a major responsibility for creating “a human rights discourse intended to legitimize ‘humanitarian intervention’”.
Numerous observers have made it clear that there are now a number of fundamental questions over HRW’s activities which need to be answered, over its methodological model and approach, the lack of support that its approach to human rights offers for democratic norms within particular states, and serious queries about the ideological views of its staff. Reality in HRW’s claims often disappears in the welter of exaggeration that the organization is prepared to countenance in pursuit, not of human rights so much as in its own interests as an organization whose present raison d’être lies more in the realm of fund raising and celebrity support than genuine concern for the rights of people: “Self-assertive self-justification”, suggesting that human rights exist to serve the ends of Human Rights Watch!
One of the central problems of HRW’s methodology is the issue of ‘contamination’ of sources. Journalism, by contrast, is aware of the constant need to keep advocacy and news well apart. Advocacy, polemics and opinion are confined to editorial pages; news items, event driven, are placed on the news pages. HRW, however, happily mixes the two categories, merging hearsay, exaggeration and sheer fabrication, fact and fiction, and making no apparent effort to identify the differences, in order to concentrate specifically on alleged political rights. The approach ignores other human rights concerning shelter, land, health, education, food or even survival. Event-driven political rights, after all, provide the important and necessary focus for fund-raising and similarly profitable activities. In the process, certain values that should be central to any advocacy focus, including accuracy, balance and consistency, simply disappear.
The pattern continues. Earlier this week, HRW issued a statement about the continued conflict in Mogadishu, accusing all sides involved in the fighting of committing war crimes. The comments were based exclusively on a few dozen interviews with refugees in Kenya who fled from the city between May and October last year. HRW apparently made no effort to carry out investigations in Mogadishu or check, for example, whether claims of indiscriminate bombardment of civilians by AMSIOM had any validity. It would have been simply enough for HRW to check such allegations. It didn’t. Its repetition of allegations made months later by refugees in a refugee camp in which Al-Shabaab is known to recruit, underlines this central methodological failure: HRW’s constant refusal to make any effort to evaluate the reliability of sources or investigate possible political interests renders many of its claims and conclusions valueless.
Similarly, HRW nearly always refuses to provide sufficient or specific details of alleged abusive incidents for ‘security reasons’. This deliberate policy of course makes it impossible to check any claims though it might be over-cynical to suggest this is the reason why HRW refuses to supply such details. Certainly, however, as HRW well knows, in Ethiopia when concrete or credible evidence is provided allegations of human rights abuse are investigated and necessary action taken, as in Gambella, in the Ogaden and after the election in 2005.
As the letter to the World Bank underlines, another difficulty with HRW’s approach is its refusal to accept the possibility of cooperation with existing organizations. This may be an age of globalization but it is still true to say that the primary responsibility for human rights whether civil, political, economic, social or cultural, must lie with domestic governments. International organizations, whatever their area of operation, need to see what is present as much as what is absent as their basis for involvement. There is rather more available for cooperation than aspirants to hegemonic control like HRW are prepared to admit.
One thing HRW is certainly consistent over is in its negative responses to question and criticism. Anything or anyone that fails to agree with its own claims is, by definition, ‘not credible’. HRW holds this view irrespective whether the views come from individual eye-witnesses, international or local NGOs or from governments. It consistently refuses to accept any evidence, any findings or the results of any investigations which do not agree with its own conclusions. Equally, it also refuses to accept that its claims and allegations are usually just that: claims or allegations.
In sum, there are four main areas in which HRW has been and is consistently criticized and to which it has failed to make any serious or acceptable response, continuing to use the same technique as it does in reports, assuming that continuous repetition of fallacies will eventually lead to acceptance. Most significantly, and most frequently, HRW has been accused of poor research methodology leading to the production of inaccurate reports. It does in fact consistently break the most fundamental principles of analysis in practice and theory, only accepting data that relates to its own, pre-determined, theories and rejecting anything that fails to fit these. Secondly, it has been accused of bias in the selection of evidence, with reference to China, Serbia, Sri-Lanka, Israel, Venezuela, Ethiopia and others. Its own reports provide a mass of evidence to support this claim. Thirdly, HRW has been accused of ideological bias and finally, numerous questions have begun to be asked over its fund-raising. The most recent examples of these were the accusations last year that the organization had been “using anti-Israeli sentiment to elicit support while fund-raising in Saudi Arabia”.
HRW’s responses have been less than convincing. As the Times of London noted, HRW “depends upon wealthy donors who like to see the organization’s reports make headlines”. Its own founder and former Chairman, Robert Bernstein, felt obliged to go public eighteen months ago suggesting HRW had “lost critical perspective” on events in the Middle East. HRW deliberately appears to take actions or make statements that can generate headlines. These frequently include attempts to influence politics within a country, even electoral processes, on the basis of consideration of relevance to HRW’s main financial supporters. Given HRW’s poor methodology and inaccurate findings, this is all something that goes well beyond human rights reporting or even advocacy. HRW’s assumption of certainty, indeed its arrogance, and its refusal to consider any publicly available evidence that disagrees with its view or to reconsider any stance on the basis of detailed factual evidence contradicting its claims, permeates all the comments and assumptions it makes in dealing with countries against which it has taken a specific stance. These include Israel, and a number of other Middle Eastern states as well as Somalia, the states of the former Yugoslavia, Venezuela and other countries around the world. HRW’s stance in fact becomes the question of HRW’s view of those states. It is no longer an issue of human rights.
HRW consistently tries to claim its work is based on serious, academic criteria, but this little more than a veneer for pre-conceived positions based on prejudiced and partial sources. It does not attempt to evaluate its information, investigate the origin or consider possible distortions among its informants. It constantly refuses to listen to criticism and persistently repeats un-proven and un-provable allegations, carefully avoiding the provision of sufficient detail to allow for investigation or checking. Its reports remain largely hypothetical and speculative, based on un-investigated sources, partial reports, repeated exaggerations and doubtful opinions. Its efforts to counter criticism and stifle opposition have become increasingly strident. It finds no place for genuine discussion of its methodology and academic criteria and rigor. Insinuation, accusation, even defamation remain its main weapons in response to criticism. Indeed, it has even been accused of carrying out “governmental character assassination by repeated self-referencing fabrications”.
Serious scholars and observers of human rights have, rightly, been becoming increasingly concerned by the way HRW misrepresents its critics and critical comment. Now HRW is going further, prepared to pressure NGOs involved in efforts to save lives and improve economic and social rights, to try and coerce them into stopping their activities on no more than the basis of widely disputed HRW claims. This is putting support for HRW’s own place and its own role far above the reality of human rights, or even above any interest or involvement in HRW’s own (rather limited) version of human rights.
Core principles of Ethiopia’s foreign policy: Ethiopia and the African Union
Ethiopia’s Foreign Affairs and National Security Policy and Strategy attaches great importance to the country’s relations with other African countries both at the level of bilateral relations and in the context of the continental organization, the African Union. As a founding member of the Organization of African Unity in 1963, Ethiopia continuously fought for the realization of the objectives of the OAU. It did its level best, both covertly and overtly, to assist the countries under colonialism to gain their independence. Even when the record in domestic policies was decidedly counter-productive, the policy and practice towards Africa pursued by past Ethiopian governments was outstanding, enabling the country to discharge its African responsibilities and to gain the respect of our African brothers and sisters. Ethiopia all along steadfastly championed the cause of Africa and Africans dating back to a time when it stood virtually alone. There has never been a time when Ethiopian governments shied away from taking up their responsibilities towards Africa. It can also be said that there was hardly any occasion when Ethiopia was refused political and diplomatic support from Africa when it was needed. This mutually beneficial relationship has continued with added vigour along similar lines after the adoption of Ethiopia’s Foreign Affairs and National Security Policy and Strategy.
Ethiopia is the seat of the African Union, the successor organization of the OAU. As the Foreign Affairs and National Security Policy and Strategy clearly points out, this naturally means that Ethiopia carries a special responsibility for the organization. Certainly, Ethiopia fully subscribes to the AU’s vision for an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa providing and representing a dynamic force in the global arena. Ethiopia has been in the forefront of the efforts to achieve this African vision and at no time has it shifted its attention away from addressing the age-old problems that have bedevilled Africa for so long. Ethiopia is keenly aware of the difficulty that Africa has faced in getting its voice heard on the range of issues that means so much to the future of its people. Ethiopia has played its part in making sure the AU fulfils its role as a forum of debate in the struggle to enhance Africa’s share, and that of its member states, in the process of globalization as well as in the promotion of peace. It has helped ensure that Africa takes its proper place in world politics not merely as recipient of the generosity of the developed world but also as a responsible stakeholder in the planet’s future. Ethiopia has done all that it can to champion the cause of Africa in global forums on agendas ranging from fair trade and debt relief to the negotiations on climate change. Among other things this has resulted in Africa achieving a considerable bargaining position as a unified bloc with a common agenda. Africa today has become one of the powers in the newly emerging multi-polar world.
Ethiopia also works closely with the AU and its institutions in seeking peaceful solutions to the conflicts in various parts of Africa. It is actively involved in peacekeeping operations in Darfur under the auspices of the AU. It has been supporting the AU’s mission in Somalia out of its conviction that African problems are better solved by Africans themselves. This is an issue that Ethiopia feels particularly strongly about. The AU today takes the initiative in efforts to address conflicts and other crisis situations when and as they arise. Ethiopia’s involvement in these activities is as much part of its commitment to the cause of Africa as a reflection of the long-held principles specified in the Foreign Affairs and National Security Policy and Strategy. This will certainly continue to be the case in the years to come.
Ethiopia is also doing its level best to make the African vision of unity a reality. It sincerely believes that unity is in the best interest of the peoples of Africa and it has always encouraged progress in that direction. Equally, it is also mindful of the economic, political and social challenges that are facing Africa and which can create havoc with this endeavour. This is why Ethiopia believes that the effort to make African unity a reality must first and foremost take into account the need to strengthen regional economic communities (RECs) as the building blocks for future continental unity. Ethiopia’s strong emphasis on the revitalization of IGAD emanates from this firm conviction of the importance of African unity and the ultimate goal of union government.
Although Ethiopia enjoys healthy diplomatic and political relations with other African countries, bilaterally and in the context of AU, there have been limitations arising from the overall challenge that the continent faces in fostering unity. Overall economic ties between and among African countries are still weak. Ethiopia does not have significant economic relations with African countries except those in the Horn of Africa. Enhancing economic cooperation is the key to realizing the AU’s goal of African unity. Additionally, more needs to be done in terms of improving the existing cooperation in areas of conflict resolution and peace. Ethiopia is very aware of the value of acting in a united manner in ensuring that Africa’s voice is heard properly in global forums. On a national level it also recognizes that continued support for, and cooperation with, the AU helps its own voice to be heard more loudly and clearly in international forums. It is therefore natural that Ethiopia should continue to further encourage and expand its role in the AU not only in the interest of continental unity but also to promote its own national agenda of regional peace and development.
Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Ministry of Foreign Affairs