A Week in the Horn (19.02.2010)


  • Somalia: AMISOM Troop-Contributing Countries and Partners meet; the TFG and Ahlu Sunna reach agreement

    A consultative meeting of the Troop-Contributing Countries (TCCs) of AMISOM, separately and together with partners, took place at AU headquarters on Wednesday this week. The meeting reviewed the political, security and military situation in Somalia, and the status of capacity building and training programs, equipment and sustenance for Somali security forces. The meeting was given extensive briefings from the TFG’s Defense Minister and AMISOM’s Force Commander. With the situation in Somalia of concern to all the meeting called on partners to provide all necessary support to the TFG urgently.

    Somalia’s Minister of Defense made it clear that the TFG was making progress in reorganizing its forces. These now numbered 13,300 soldiers and were located in strategic locations right across southern Somalia, but the Minister emphasized the need for the international community to continue to provide support to the TFG to sustain these forces. He emphasized that the ongoing training provided by contingents from AMISOM and others in Mogadishu was critical to enhance the capacities of the TFG forces. The meeting welcomed the other training taking place in neighboring states, in Ethiopia, Djibouti, Uganda and Kenya as well as elsewhere, and underlined the need for strategic coordination and harmonization to increase effectiveness on the ground. Successful completion of the current training will provide further opportunity to strengthen TFG security institutions.

    The meeting noted that the efforts to impose a foreign agenda on the people of Somalia were connected to events in Yemen: in a recent engagement with Houthi rebels, Yemeni Government forces captured 27 fighters from Somalia. It identified major challenges to the TFG and AMISOM efforts to create a secure environment in Somalia. These included maritime threats, the present Al-Shabaab mobilization in Mogadishu, extremist attacks on civilians and the deteriorating economic and social situation as well as weakening infrastructure. The meeting called on the international community to assist in providing better security as well as basic services, and on all those supporting the TFG to provide assistance without strings or conditions so the meager resources could be used effectively and flexibly. The need to handle the issue with vigor and urgency was emphasized, and it was suggested that an AU Peace and Security Council Summit might be called to evaluate the situation further and produce a clear plan of action.

    In the joint TCC and partners’ meeting, Dr. Tekeda Alemu, Ethiopia’s State Minister of Foreign Affairs also gave a briefing on the current situation of Somalia and the negotiations that had been taking place between the TFG and Ahlu Sunna wal Jama’a in Addis Ababa over the last week or so. He emphasized the need for close coordination among all those involved in the efforts to produce peace and stability in Somalia. Most, he said, were not living up to expectations. He noted that while there was complete agreement that there were efforts going on to impose a non-Somali agenda on Somalia, and indeed it was apparent that this challenge extended both to the Horn of Africa and also beyond it to the region at large, the problem of a satisfactory response remained. The assessment of this complex situation was clear enough, but now the international community needed to ask itself whether the assistance given to the TFG, and other supporters of peace, was commensurate with what the situation actually demanded. Dr. Tekeda emphasized that the efforts made against piracy needed to be duplicated on the ground if the situation inside Somalia was to be changed.

    He said the absence of coordination and cooperation had seriously affected Somali effectiveness, but this might now be changing. There have been positive developments in the dialogue between the TFG and Ahlu Sunna, following up their declaration in Nairobi last June. Dr. Tekeda said that a major breakthrough had been achieved in the recent negotiations. The TFG team had been headed by Sherif Hassan Sheik Aden, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, and the Ahlu Sunna delegation by Ahlu Sunna’s spiritual leader, Sheikh Mahamoud Sheikh Ahmed. Both parties have agreed to mobilize Somalis inside and outside the country to fight jointly against the onslaught of extremism, to preserve Somali tradition and custom. They have agreed to establish a National Advisory Council of Ulamas to produce a framework for the protection and preservation of the traditional Somali Islamic faith. Both sides will now take the agreement back to their respective constituencies and carry out extensive discussions. The final agreement will be signed during the first week of March. Dr. Tekeda called on the international community and all who want to see the realization of peace and stability in Somalia to support this endeavor.

    Subsequently, Dr. Tekeda also briefed the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Partners Forum at the Italian Embassy premises on the outcome of the negotiations between the TFG and Ahlu Sunna. He detailed how the agreement provided for an effective mechanism for strategic cooperation. Since there is no reservoir of goodwill for Al-Shabaab on the ground either inside or outside Mogadishu, the understanding reached between the TFG and Ahlu Sunna can be expected to bring about real change on the ground in the fight against extremism. Dr. Tekeda called for unambiguous and unanimous support from the Partners Forum, for concrete political and material support to ensure that the TFG/Ahlu Sunna agreement can be sustained. The IGAD Partners, noting that Ahlu Sunna reflected public opinion in Somalia towards the extremists, expressed their readiness to provide support. The Royal Danish Embassy offered an immediate US$150,000 from its Africa Peace Program through the existing framework of cooperation with IGAD.


  • Prime Minister Meles to co-chair the UN High-Level Advisory Group

    On Friday last week, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Ban ki-Moon launched a High-Level Advisory Group to mobilize finance for climate change. The High-Level Advisory Group will be co-chaired by Prime Minister Gordon Brown of the United Kingdom and Prime Minister Meles Zenawi; other members of the Group will include President Bharat Jagdeo of Guyana and Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg of Norway. Launching the Advisory Group, the UN Secretary-General said its mission was to mobilize the financial resources pledged at the recent United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen to provide scaling up both short-term and long-term financing for mitigation and adaptation strategies for developing countries. It will in effect look at how to “jump-start’ the efforts to raise the promised funds. The Group will work with governments, central banks, and finance experts to find innovative ways to co-operate with public and private companies to raise the funds. Prime Minister Brown, who said he very much looked forward to working with Prime Minister Meles and other members of the Group, described their task as “daunting” but “one of the most important we face – combating climate change by ensuring that the poorest countries have the finance that is necessary to do so”. The Group is expected to prepare preliminary suggestions for the May/June meeting of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Final recommendations would be drawn up and issued before the next UN Climate Summit in Mexico in December.

    The scale, source and mechanism of financing for the response to climate change was one of the contentious points in the negotiations leading up to Copenhagen. And financing is a crucial component of the Copenhagen Accord. Much of what Prime Minister Meles proposed regarding financing for developing nations was included in the Copenhagen Accord. The developed countries agreed to provide funding approaching 30 billion US dollars between 2010 and 2012, and a hundred billion US dollars by 2020. It was agreed that there would be a balanced allocation for mitigation and adaptation activities, and that adaptation resources would particularly be allocated to poor and vulnerable regions and countries, particularly the small island states, and to Africa. The governance mechanism for adaptation funding proposed by Prime Minister Meles was also accepted together with a commitment to put a significant part of the resources into a Trust Fund to be administered by a board with equal representation from developed and developing countries. This indeed explains why the recent African Union Summit of Heads of State and Government endorsed the provisions of the Copenhagen Accord.

    The point of establishing the High-Level Advisory Group now is to translate the political agreement on financing into detailed and practical measures. The Secretary-General has acted in a timely manner to implement what was agreed in Copenhagen in an urgent and credible manner. This will allow the international community to pave the way for a satisfactory conclusion of the climate change negotiations with a legally binding outcome by the end of the year in Mexico. Some at Copenhagen also felt that what had been promised might not be delivered, but it is clear financing for climate change cannot and must not be dealt with on the lines of “ business as usual”. As Prime Minister Gordon Brown has stated fast-track financing of 30 billion dollars has to begin to flow now in order to provide the support for developing countries to tackle the impact of climate change and implement mitigation activities effectively.

    In this sense, the establishment of the Advisory Group is a significant start to address the challenges of climate change faced by developing countries, particularly Africa. A lot will be expected of the Group, and of Prime Minister Meles. He was given the role of leading the climate change negotiations on behalf of Africa by his peers, allowing Africa to speak with a single voice. Their trust and confidence enabled the African voice to be taken seriously into account at the Copenhagen Summit. Now the selection of Prime Minster Meles as a co-chair of the High-Level Advisory Group will enhance the continued reflection of Africa’s views over the key issue of financing for climate change. It is a responsibility on behalf of Africa, and an honor for Ethiopia.


  • A successful Ethiopia/Kenya Joint Border Administrators and Commissioners meeting

    The 26th Ethio-Kenya Joint Border Administrators and Commissioners’ meeting took place on Tuesday and Wednesday this week, in Hawassa, Ethiopia. The Ethiopian delegation was led by Ato Mulugeta Mekonen, head of the Main Department of Immigration and Nationality Affairs, and the Kenyan delegation was led by Ms. Claire Omolo, Provincial Commissioner of Eastern Province. The meeting was officially opened by Ato Shifraw Shigute, President of Ethiopia’s Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ Regional State. Discussions covered a wide variety of issues including cross-border cooperation and trade, security including cattle rustling and cross-border clashes as well as the illegal circulation of small arms, human trafficking and the maintenance and inspection of the border pillars. The activities of the cross-border sub-committees were reviewed; they were commended for their cooperation in managing cross-border clashes and cattle rustling. The meeting also appreciated the efforts made by the Southern Regional State and Rift Valley Province to contain the problems arising in the Karamoja cluster. It was decided that a meeting of the relevant sub-committee should take place in two weeks in order to arrange for the exchange of rustled animals from both sides of the border. It was also agreed to introduce the branding of cattle in an effort to cut back on rustling.

    In the security sector, the meeting noted the level of cooperation between the adjacent administrations in tackling threats to local peace and security. It applauded the role of Boran elders and the local Kenyan administration in assisting in the recent surrender of a number of OLF fighters. The meeting called for further strengthening of cooperation in security and in sharing of information as well as for joint operations to address any remaining security threats. It was agreed to set up radio links between the police on both sides of the border. Illegal immigration also figured on the agenda, and it was agreed to enhance existing cooperation between immigration offices on both sides of the border to help control human traffickers and illegal cross-border movements. Both sides agreed to take action to stop the circulation of small arms; Kenya will be starting a campaign of disarmament in due course. The meeting also took note of the efforts of both countries to improve their road links. The road to Moyale on the Kenyan side of the border is currently under construction and it is expected to provide significant economic development when finished. The meeting, considered as highly successful by both parties, concluded by emphasizing the need for increased cross-border cooperation over health, livestock, agriculture and education.


  • “Eritrea’s External Affairs” reviewed

    “Eritrea’s External Affairs”, subtitled “Understanding its Regional Role and Foreign Policy” is the title of a book published by Chatham House in London. In 2007 a workshop on this subject was organized at Chatham House, and the papers delivered there have now been updated and published in a book edited by Dr. Richard Reid, author of one of the papers.

    Following Eritrea’s independence (de facto 1991; de jure 1993), Eritrea’s leaders spent a good deal of time and effort underlining the myth that they had won independence ‘against all odds’ and without any assistance. This was coupled with the idea that Eritrea was destined to be a beacon of hope for both its own people and, more importantly, for the whole region. Few doubted that the commitment that Eritreans had made to the independence struggle would be turned to achieve significant and rapid development, in a bold experiment in nation-building. Its president was seen as an example of a new style of African leader. Now nearly two decades later, Eritrea is widely regarded as a pariah state, the most militarized state in the world, and is regarded as a central factor in, indeed a major cause of, instability in the Horn of Africa. The papers in this book attempt to explain what has gone wrong with Eritrea’s foreign relations and explore Eritrea’s aggressive relations with all its neighbors and indeed most of the rest of the world. The authors attempt to explain the policies and motives of President Isaias and what underlies his “belligerent isolationism”.

    The book is a collection of seven articles on Eritrea’s foreign policy: four are by foreign scholars, two with a long previous association with the Eritrean leadership; three others are by Eritrean scholars now engaged in teaching or research in European or American universities. They focus on a number of topics linked to the major challenges of and prospects for Eritrea’s foreign relations. The nature of Eritrea’s foreign relations and its policy towards its neighbours, Eritrea and the international community, Eritrea-US relations, and the Ethio-Eritrean ‘border’ conflict are some of the issues dealt with at length by the authors. There has always been a dearth of critical intellectual discussion on the policies of the Eritrean leadership. Economic or political decisions in Eritrea have largely been devoid of serious debate. Even today, many of the former supporters of President Isaias find it difficult to see clearly where he is taking Eritrea. There has been very little critical analysis of either the domestic or the external policies that Eritrea’s leadership has relentlessly pursued, and these articles do not go far enough to fill the gap.

    Sally Healy (“Hard and Soft Power: some thoughts on the practice of Eritrean foreign policy”) and Dan Connell (“The EPLF-PFDJ experience: how it shapes Eritrea’s regional strategy”) look at the influence of the long guerrilla struggle on current policies. Their analyses of the historical-psychological settings, on which these policies are based, are close to being realistic. Dan Connell details President Isaias’ methods of control, and his efforts to implement his two major external concerns, which he identifies as President Isaias’ vision of Eritrea as a major player in the region despite the fact that it is a small and vulnerable state, and his belief that Eritrea’s best defense against the hostility of others is to create and support effective opposition forces to assist Eritrea in destabilizing and weakening its neighbors. Eritrea’s intent, says Connell, is “to be a player in regional politics that local and global powers ignore at their peril”. Kidane Mengisteab (“What has gone wrong with Eritrea’s foreign relations?”) also sees Eritrea’s foreign policy goals as mostly misguided or poorly conducted, though he notes some of these goals were undermined by external factors. The one possible success story in Eritrea foreign relations is identified by Dr. Gaim Kibreab (“Eritrean-Sudanese relations in historical perspectives”), but even he suggests that whether current “warm relations will endure in the future is an open question”.

    At the same time much of this book fails to dispel the various myths and misleading assumptions that have accumulated around President Isaias’ destructive domestic and external policies. There is considerable re-writing of history apparent, and a number of serious errors. Richard Reid, who edited the book and wrote the introduction, as well as a paper (“Eritrea’s role and foreign policy: past and present perspectives”) has been strongly attacked by defenders of President Isaias because he is “known to harbor anti-Eritrea, anti-EPLF and anti-Government of Eritrea sentiments”. Bizarrely, the book has even been called “an insult to the people of Eritrea”. It’s certainly not that. Dr. Reid says “It has never been more important to understand Eritrea’s foreign Relations,” because, he explains, “Eritrea represents a concatenation of the most pressing issues of our era: undemocratic power structures, low levels of socio-economic development, a highly militarized political system increasingly given to armed adventurism and to a tendency to disregard international opinion in its search for local solutions.” Dr. Reid acknowledges Eritrea’s propensity to try to “punch above its weight” and its “readiness to employ force as the first resort”, even admitting to admiration for such ambition. His advice to the international community is that Eritrea, despite its abnormal behavior, must be treated with kid gloves because “it is a state that requires more nurturing than normal.”

    There is little or no condemnation of President Isaias’ open contempt for the international community or his perennial invective against international opinion. All is excused because Eritrea won its independence “against all odds.” This myth is called upon by Redie Bereket-Ab (“The Eritrea-Ethiopia conflict and the Algiers Agreement”) to suggest that that the root of the conflict was about Eritrea’s sovereignty and independence, and the subsequent failure to reach a settlement, and any threat of sanctions, has more to do with “Eritrea’s defiance against the US” than anything else, though Dr. Bereket-Ab does allude to Eritrea’s offer in 2001 to work closely with the US in the latter’s war on terror. Indeed, these suggestions fit in remarkably well with President Isaias’ current allegations that the UN Security Council sanctions against Eritrea for its invasion of Djibouti and its support for Somali terrorists and extremists, is all part of a US/CIA conspiracy to obstruct Eritrea’s development. He even claims the CIA is responsible for the fact that last year 11,650 refugees fled across the border into Ethiopia, over 4,000 of them soldiers. The current rate of influx into Ethiopia now, at the beginning of 2010, is actually over 2,000 a month, or some 70 a day. As many or more are crossing into Sudan.

    Like Dr. Reid, Dr. Bereket-Ab fails to acknowledge that Eritrea started the war, a point that the Claims Commission of course underlined. Dr. Reid simply refers to “an exchange of fire in the contested area of Badme” having swiftly led to a full-scale war, without bothering to mention who in fact initiated hostilities. Dr. Reid claims to find evidence of Ethiopia’s “deep resentment and bitterness regarding the state to the north” in vitriolic language used by the Ethiopian government as well as in what he calls “the new front” Ethiopia opened by deporting Eritreans from Ethiopia. Eritrea’s equally extensive response he simply downplays as “a small scale” measure. In fact, several of the authors either put the blame for initiating the conflict on Ethiopia or indulge in amnesia to insinuate it. Dr Bereket-Ab even attempts to recast Eritrea as the victor in the war because Ethiopia failed to achieve what he claims was the objective of regime change. There is, in fact, no evidence in any Ethiopian statements or actions of hegemonic ambitions or alleged desire for regime change in Asmara.

    Overall, this attempt to clarify the “frequently misunderstood and too often underestimated” policies of Eritrea is a disappointment. In places, it comes close to being little more than an effort to restore the image of Eritrea’s leaders, failing to make sufficient scrutiny of failed policies. There are too many errors, and from the Horn of Africa it is difficult to accept references to the “otherwise sound” foreign policy of Eritrea, or to Eritrea’s “ambitious” aims of “checking Ethiopia’s hegemonic aspirations”. There is far too much uncritical acceptance of official Eritrean propaganda about Ethiopia, about regional US policies, and about Eritrean relations with Somalia or other regional states. The aim of the book according to its editor is not to castigate, or caricature, but to evaluate and understand, to identify the parameters and circumstances within which Eritrea operates.

    Dr Reid tries to explain Eritrea’s foreign policy today by looking at the history of the last hundred years or so. He fails. His arguments completely neglects the central point that it is in fact the dictatorial and erratic behavior of President Isaias himself which provides the most obvious explanation for the way Eritrea’s foreign policy is carried out. Dr. Reid’s advice on how to deal with Eritrea today is dangerously misleading, and distracts attention from focus on the major element that would help analysts make sense of Eritrea’s bizarre foreign policy actions. Sociological and political analysis based on the behavior of individuals might sound shallow, and usually is, but in the case of present day Eritrea there is no better explanation than that. The Eritrean Government today, unfortunately, can hardly be described as a normal government.


  • Ensuring the Integrity of the Upcoming Elections: the Responsibility of Electoral Observer Missions

    Last week, an AU exploratory mission to assess deployment of an AU Election Observation Mission arrived in Addis Ababa. This week, it was the turn of an EU technical team to evaluate the political situation and make recommendations for an EU Election Observer Mission. They came in response to invitations from the Government to observe the national and federal elections in May. The National Electoral Board has now announced it has drawn up a code of conduct for international election observers following discussions with the political parties. Board Chairman, Professor Merga Bekana, said the directive lays out the procedures observers should follow and was prepared in order “to enable election observers to discharge their responsibilities in accordance with the rule of law [and Ethiopia’s] election law.”

    Responsibility is the key word. In 2005, the Government was forced to make a formal complaint to the European Commission over the behavior of the Head of the EU Electoral Observation Mission and her failure to follow the EU’s own code of conduct for observers. It is perhaps worth underlining the main elements of the guidelines that the EU provides for its election monitors. These include: the maintenance of strict impartiality in the conduct of their duties, and at no time expressing any bias or preference in relation to national authorities, parties, candidates, or with reference to any issues in contention in the election process; to undertake their duties in an unobtrusive manner, and not disrupt or interfere with the election process, polling day procedures, or the vote count; they may bring irregularities to the attention of the election officials, but they cannot give instructions or countermand decisions of election officials; they must base all conclusions on well documented, factual, and verifiable evidence, and refrain from making any personal or premature comments about their observations to the media or any other interested persons; they must comply with all national laws and regulations. At all times during the mission “each election observer should behave blamelessly, exercise sound judgment, and observe the highest level of personal discretion”. These are excellent guidelines and full compliance with them will certainly deepen the mutual confidence and trust which is so important to both Ethiopia and the EU.

    Elections are a crucial element in any democratic process. Election observers have a significant role to play in increasing the available information about the process and in making it harder for either incumbent or opposition to commit fraud. They also have the responsibility of certification, an important element in providing support for the development of a country’s democratic institutions and procedures, and assisting in the objective of holding elections of a high standard. The EU Commission has described the principles of election monitoring as based on full coverage, impartiality, transparency and professionalism, with the main goals being “the legitimization of an electoral process, where appropriate, and the enhancement of public confidence in the electoral process” as well as deterring fraud and strengthening respect for human rights. And indeed election monitoring can certainly help to build confidence in the electoral process, and provide conflicting parties with confidence that the election will be conducted fairly. At the same time, election observers need to remember that the electoral process remains in the ownership of the country holding the elections. If that is taken away then the whole process becomes meaningless.

    Democracy involves a number of factors, and one of the most important elements is the role of the loyal opposition. Any democracy needs a loyal opposition, and in a real democratic electoral process, parties with a real political platform can be genuine contenders for power. Most opposition parties have confidence in the overall integrity of the electoral process, and will accept electoral rules and are prepared to accept the results of the election and play the role of a loyal opposition should they lose. A minority, however, often resorts to a propaganda campaign, making wild allegations to deflect attention from its own political failure, and essentially demonstrating a lack of commitment to the principles of a loyal opposition. Parties of that type assume they must win before they will consider the process fair. That is contemptuous and arrogant, as well as anti-democratic. Any election must have losers as well as winners. For instance, the problems in previous elections in Ethiopia have largely come from the refusal of a small minority of politicians who are prepared to threaten a violent option rather than accept defeat. This applies to the first election in 1992 after the overthrow of the military dictatorship.

    All opposition parties have an equally shared responsibility to deepen and expand democracy. It is not just a question of rights, as Election Observation Missions often seem to think. It is not only rights that opposition parties have. They also have responsibilities, just as much as the government or any ruling party, to make the election free, fair and peaceful. And at the heart of this responsibility lies the necessity of respect for the rule of law. This is usually overlooked by election observers, by academics and human rights organizations and, most of all, by the media.



Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

Ministry of Foreign Affairs