A Week in the Horn (19.03.2010)


  • A historic step as Somalia’s TFG expands to incorporate Ahlu Sunna wal Jama’a

    On Monday this week, the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and Ahlu Sunna wal Jama’a (ASWJ) officially signed an agreement allowing for the integration of their administrations and security forces on the basis of the Transitional Federal Charter and the Djibouti Agreement. The agreement commits both parties to bring on board all Somalis who are prepared to renounce violence; to pool their resources to fight the common enemy: extremism and terrorism in Somalia; and it provides ASWJ with a significant presence in government: including several ministers and assistant ministers, and a number of posts in the administration and the diplomatic service as well as the deputy commanders of the armed forces, the police and security. ASWJ forces will be placed under overall command of the TFG. The agreement will be implemented in 30 days after the official signing at the headquarters of the African Union in the presence of numerous representatives of the international community. Already the two sides have established a joint committee of nine representatives each, holding the first meeting on Wednesday. ASWJ high level representatives will travel to Mogadishu from central Somalia on 26th March to begin the implementation process. Following the signing by TFG Deputy Prime Minister, Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden, and Sheikh Mohamed Yusuf Heefow, Chairman of ASWJ’s Executive Committee, the Prime Minister of the TFG, Abdurashid Ali Omar Sharmarke and the Spiritual Leader of ASWJ, Sheikh Mahmoud Sheikh Hassan expressed their commitment to the implementation of the agreement and to intensify the struggle against internal and external extremist elements in Somalia. They emphasized that the agreement provided the opportunity to deal with the Al-Shabaab/Hizbul Islam extremist coalition but fulfillment of the agreement did depend upon quick and meaningful support from the international community and the provision of necessary resources from international partners.

    The official signing of this agreement can be seen as the most significant move since the Djibouti Agreement, signed in August 2008, which led to the creation of the present TFG, but there was widespread agreement on the need for prompt and meaningful support from the international community. The African Union Commissioner for Peace and Security, Commissioner Lamamra, told representatives from the African Union, the Ethiopian Government, the United Nations, the League of Arab States, IGAD and the International Partners Forum (IPF) that the agreement would consolidate the Djibouti Peace process. It demonstrated the support of the international community to Somalia and should encourage other forces to join the TFG and form a strong coalition against extremists. Foreign Minister Seyoum emphasized that the agreement commits both parties to reach out to all Somalis who are prepared to renounce violence, support the Djibouti process, and make the Transitional Government more inclusive, allowing for the mobilization of the people of Somalia throughout the country and in the Diaspora to fight for the reconstitution of the Somali nation. Minister Seyoum said the two parties had agreed the Transitional Federal Charter and the Djibouti Agreement would be the basis for establishing a new political framework. They had come to a full understanding of the need to preserve and promote traditional Islamic practice and the shared values of the people of Somalia, and to combat foreign ideologies that pose a threat to Somalia and to the region. The Minister noted that the integration of ASWJ into all aspects of the structure of the TFG would create a formidable synergy and provide for the sort of effective unity that would make it possible for the TFG to make real headway in keeping extremists at bay. In the past, a lack of co-operation among groups committed to peace had meant little progress had been possible. Now this genuine coming-together of the two parties was a major breakthrough for laying the foundation for durable and sustainable peace in Somalia. The implication was momentous for the region and for the peace and stability of Africa. The Minister also noted that it would be naive if we believed the Agreement on its own would bring about a miracle in Somalia, but it did allow for the forces of peace and sanity to utilize the opportunities available to move towards peace and stability. Equally, even though the extremist forces were without popular support, they did not lack outside assistance, and it was critical that everyone should redouble their efforts to support the TFG and the integration of ASWJ into the structures of the government. Minister Seyoum said it was now the turn of the international community to do what is expected of it. Time was of the essence here. There was need for action now. The situation had changed in Somalia, and the international community must encourage this emerging development both politically and in other ways to put the TFG in a position to defeat extremism, fanaticism and the external agenda imposed on the people of Somalia.

    The UN Secretary-General Deputy Special Representative, Mr. Charles Petrie, thanked the signatories, the Government of Ethiopia, the IGAD and the IPF, for making possible this consolidation of the Djibouti Peace process. The signing and its implementation demonstrated there was a government in Somalia committed to reach out to all those interested in peace. He expressed the readiness of the UN to continue to face the challenges in Somalia. Ambassador Stephano Dejak, the Italian special envoy to Somalia representing the IPF, called the agreement historic, a defining element in the transitional period marked by reconciliation; it marked consolidation of the fight against the barbaric acts of terrorists. The IPF, he said, applauded the agreement and would support a new start to strengthen the TFG. The Special Envoy of the League of Arab States, Ambassador Salim Al Qusaibi, called the agreement a new chapter. He said it was an opportunity not to be missed. The TFG and ASWJ should not be left alone to implement the agreement on their own and he urged the international community to act now. He appealed to Al-Shabaab to abandon its terrorist acts and follow the path of ASWJ. The Hon. Arap Kirwa, IGAD Facilitator for the Peace Process to Somalia, said the crisis in Somalia was a global challenge not confined to Somalis. It had been marked by a lack of commitment and resolution but the agreement meant things were changing. Joint action by internal and external actors was essential and the international community must now work on the basis of a shared vision for Somalia. The Chairperson of the AU, Dr. Jean Ping, took the opportunity to confirm the support of the AU and encourage other forces in Somalia to follow this example. This agreement consolidates the Djibouti process and provides a basis for other Somali forces to broaden the TFG even further. It provides a real basis for the restoration of peace and stability in the region, and the international community must provide the necessary resources and assistance to help implement the agreement quickly.



  • The UN Monitoring Group Report – plenty of evidence for sanctions

    Substantial publicity has already been given to the latest Report of the Monitoring Group on Somalia which was forwarded to the UN Security Council this week by the UN Sanctions Committee in accordance with resolutions dealing with Somalia and Eritrea. Much of the media comment on the report has emphasized the continuing weaknesses of the TFG, the obstruction of humanitarian assistance to Somalia and piracy. Surprisingly, less emphasis has been given to the details of Eritrean support to armed opposition groups in Somalia. It might be noted that the Eritrean Government, while insisting in several letters that it was always prepared to meet the Monitoring Group, managed to find a variety of excuses in refusing multiple requests from the Group to visit Eritrea throughout the year. The exchange of letters is provided in an annex.

    In fact, the Report makes it clear that the Government of Eritrea has continued to provide “assistance to armed opposition groups in Somalia” in violation of Resolution 1844 (2008). It notes that the Government of Eritrea has consistently opposed the Djibouti Agreement of August 2008 and denied the legality and legitimacy of the TFG, also calling for the expulsion of AMISOM from Mogadishu: “In support of this policy, the Government of Eritrea has provided significant and sustained political, financial and material support, including arms and ammunition, and training to armed opposition groups in Somalia since at least 2007.” The Eritrean Government now claims it doesn’t support one party against another in Somalia, but as the Monitoring Group points out, this flatly contradicts a whole series of Government statements (and interviews by President Isaias) over the last year, portraying the TFG as “illegal, illegitimate and externally imposed.” The Government of Eritrea has even described its support for armed opposition groups, including Al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam, as “a legal right and a moral obligation”.

    The Report details Eritrean sponsorship of the opposition Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS) in 2007, providing delegates with money and accommodation. It specifies the role played by Eritrea’s Minister of Information, Ali Abdu, the head of the party’s political affairs office, Yemane Ghebreab, and by Colonel Te’ame Goitom ‘Makelle’ of Eritrean intelligence, in making ARS appointments. The senior military commander for ARS was apparently appointed on the direct “instructions issued by the Government of Eritrea.” Eritrea also provided passports to ARS leaders and to “at least one senior Al-Shabaab leader, Mukhtar Roobow.” After the ARS split and a new TFG administration under President Sheikh Sharif was set up in Mogadishu, Eritrea facilitated the creation of Hizbul Islam headed by Sheikh Hassan Dahir ‘Aweys’. The Report, detailing the evidence that the Government of Eritrea still tries to deny, notes Sheikh ‘Aweys’ on April 23rd flew from Asmara to K50 airfield outside Mogadishu. It provides the times and flight details, and adds that this demonstrated “Eritrea’s direct and overt support for [‘Aweys’] return and subsequent reinvigoration of Hizbul Islam in preparation for its offensive of May 2009” against the TFG in collaboration with Al-Shabaab. Two plane loads of arms arrived three weeks later.

    The Report does suggest that by late 2009, “possibly in response to international pressure” including of course the imposition of UN Resolution 1907, that the scale and nature of Eritrean support to armed opposition groups in Somalia may have diminished or become less visible, but it also makes quite clear that such assistance had certainly not ceased. Eritrea is still a major supplier of weapons. Much of Al-Shabaab’s weapons come through the port of Kismayo, or via beach ports between Kismayo and Merca, or between El Maan and Hobyo north of Mogadishu. Supplies also come through the airfields of Balidogle and Daynille. In October last year for the first time the Soviet-made Saxhorn anti-tank weapon was used against AMISOM forces. Early last year, the Somaliland authorities recovered ten SA-7b missile launchers from an arms dealer from a consignment of 18 delivered by air from Eritrea to Guri’eel in central Somalia. The remaining eight missiles went to Al-Shabaab. A piratical warlord in eastern Sanaag region, and using the port of Las Qorey, is identified as importing weapons from Yemen and receiving consignments from Eritrea, including 120mm mortars. Some of these were transferred to southern Somalia and to Al-Shabaab. In May last year there were reports of Ukranian small arms and anti-tank weapons arriving in Kismayo for Hizbul Islam. The Report, however, said it was unable to confirm that material used for the suicide bomb which killed a TFG minister and a former ambassador of Somalia to Ethiopia in June last year, had been supplied by Eritrea.

    In addition to weapons supplied, the Report detailed the training facilities provided to armed Somali opposition groups since at least 2006, and adds that Eritrea had also deployed trainers or military advisers inside Somalia. Originally, the main training center was at Assab, but after May 2008, two thirds of the training was moved to a camp near Tessenai in western Eritrea.

    The other main area of Eritrean support identified by the Report was financial: “In addition to military support the Government of Eritrea has consistently provided financial support to Somali armed opposition groups, including ARS-Asmara, Hizbul Islam and Al-Shabaab”, noting that the provision of cash allowed these groups to purchase arms. The money was provided directly to ARS-Asmara, the Ras Kamboni militia (a part of Hizbul Islam), to Al-Shabaab and to Hizbul Islam, apparently at a rate of between $40,000 to 60,000 a month, with extra payment for specific operations. Some of the funding also went direct to individuals including last year to Mukhtar Roobow of Al Shabaab. These cash transfers are normally done through Eritrean diplomats and intelligence officers directly to representatives of the groups outside Somalia, though in July last year, a German national, acting as a cash courier for the Government of Eritrea, was arrested at Mogadishu airport. Payments are also sometimes made via Hawala banking to Somali businessmen and then handed on. In September 2008, an Eritrean government official crossed the border from Kenya into Lower Juba region to deliver $60,000 to a senior member of the Ras Kamboni militia which is headed by Sheikh Hassan Abdullahi Hirsi ‘Al-Turki’. The Report estimates that as much as $1.6 million may have passed through the Eritrean embassy in Kenya en route to armed opposition groups in 2008, in addition to the funds provided through the embassies in Djibouti and Dubai. In April 2009 when Sheikh ‘Aweys’ left Asmara he had been given $200,000 to be distributed among Hizbul Islam leaders.

    Given this detail, it can hardly be a surprise that the first of the Monitoring Group Report’s recommendations is that the Sanctions Committee “should proceed without further delay to designate individuals and entities proposed by the Monitoring Group or Member States for target measures under Security Council resolution 1844 (2008) and/or resolution 1907 (2009)”.



  • Sanctions cover destabilization efforts against Ethiopia as well as Somalia and Djibouti

    Eritrea’s activities in Somalia are not the only reason for the implementation of sanctions under Resolution 1907. Indeed, the scope of Resolution 1907 appears to be rather larger than Eritrea has yet allowed itself to realize. It may be that Eritrea is being more cautious about open support for Al-Shabaab; it certainly hasn’t yet begun to minimize its support for armed opposition movements elsewhere in the region even though this is very clearly prohibited under Resolution 1907. As we have noted before, the Resolution covers Eritrea’s refusal to co-operate with earlier resolutions over Djibouti, but in addition, as the Monitoring Group also underlines, it bans Eritrean support to other non-Somali armed groups operating in the region. The Monitoring Group (paragraph 56) notes that “[it] is aware of past Eritrean support to non-Somali armed opposition groups in the Horn of Africa, including (but not limited to) the Oromo Liberation Front, the Ogaden National Liberation Front and the United Western Somali Liberation Front. Under the provisions of resolution 1907 (2009), paragraphs 15 (b) and (d), such activities are now prohibited.” The Monitoring Group also notes (paragraph 69) that “Eritrea also maintains training camps for members of Ethiopian opposition groups, which is prohibited by resolution 1907 (2009).” It is perhaps worth quoting the relevant passages from Resolution 1907 which do specifically widen the imposition of sanctions to individuals “including but not limited to the Eritrean political and military leadership, governmental, and parastatal entities, and entities privately owned by Eritrean nationals living inside or outside of Eritrean territory”(paragraph 15) and then specifies (15 (b) that this covers those “providing support from Eritrea to armed opposition groups which aim to destabilize the region”; and in 15 (d) includes those “harbouring, financing, facilitating, supporting, organizing, training , or inciting individuals or groups to perpetrate acts of violence or terrorist acts against other States or their citizens in the region. Resolution 1907 (2009) is quite clear and is summed up in paragraph 16 demanding that Eritrea, in particular, cease[s] arming, training, and equipping armed groups and their members including Al-Shabaab, that aim to destabilize the region or incite violence and civil strife in Djibouti.



  • Eritrea’s diplomatic twists and turns

    Since the imposition of sanctions in UN Security Council Resolution 1907 (2009), the Government in Asmara has been trying to use every trick it can to minimize the impact. The sanctions were imposed because of Eritrea’s acts of destabilization in the region, its invasion of Djibouti, its military support for extremist opposition in Somalia, and, as frequently forgotten, for supporting armed opposition movements throughout the region. The Government has made no effort to address the concerns of the Security Council but has preferred to engage in a series of obfuscations to try to distract the attention of the international community from the real issues. The demonstrations that President Isaias’ supporters in the Diaspora staged in a number of Western cities last month had nothing to do with the demands made by the Security Council. They were no more than a forum where loyal cadres and indeed coerced demonstrators attacked the international community for daring to try to call a halt to Eritrea’s unbridled adventurism.

    It would be the easiest thing for the regime to stop its support for Al-Shabaab, withdraw its forces from sovereign Djibouti territory, and end its backing for armed opposition movements in Ethiopia. President Isaias will have none of it. As he made clear in his recent interview with Al Jazeera, if the world unanimously believes Eritrea to be in the wrong, that is the world’s problem, not his. In fact, the Government is doing more than issuing denials or organizing “spontaneous” demonstrations. But there is more to what the regime in Asmara is doing than flat out denial or staging demonstration in Geneva or San Francisco. There appears to be a newfound passion for diplomacy, something of a surprise given the record of President Isaias who normally shuns all forms of diplomatic nicety. Diplomacy has never appeared to interest him. Equally, Eritrea’s leaders often display an extraordinary capacity to take up diametrically opposed positions from week to week, even at the same time. The capacity to combine isolationism, or supposed self-reliance with dependence, without any sense of contradiction, has little parallel. During the Eritrea-Ethiopian war of 1998-2000 Eritrea’s leaders moved from a position of extraordinary arrogance to one of extraordinary sensitivity within a matter of days, even hours.

    Since the UN Monitoring Group submitted its report last week, providing the evidence for the imposition of sanctions, Eritrea’s diplomats have been grovelingly polite to numerous African states, appealing to their ‘African Big Brothers’. Pretending to forget that the call for sanctions was unanimously passed by the African Union, Eritrea’s officials are now scouring all corners of Africa in search of a country which they can hoodwink into believing that Eritrea is the victim not the culprit. This is unlikely to get much credibility with African states most of which have all-too-often been at the receiving end of fulminations by President Isaias for failing to agree with him. Eritrea’s ambassador to the EU, using a semantic sleight of hand, has tried to claim that the Monitoring Group’s report about Eritrea’s ‘diminishing military support’ to Somali extremists vindicates Eritrea’s claim to innocence. This didn’t prevent Eritrea’s foreign ministry from producing its usual violent diatribe and invective against the Monitoring Group, denouncing the Report’s assertion of Eritrea’s continued support for Somali extremists. Contradictory though the statements are, both are part of a campaign to try to find some semblance of support from anywhere at all to water down the united position that the international community has taken against Eritrea’s acts of destabilization and the view of Eritrea as a rogue state. It is not, perhaps, surprising that Eritrea’s diplomacy demonstrates no sense of shame. It is also symptomatic of the arrogance of its leadership that it still believes that it will be able to get away with its wrongdoing by playing one power against another. That is no more than contempt for the ordinary notions of civilized behavior and inter-state relations.



  • The African Union Peace and Security Council imposes sanctions on Madagascar

    A year ago, on March 20th, 2009, the AU Peace and Security Council suspended Madagascar from participating in the activities of the AU until the restoration of constitutional order in the country. This followed the unconstitutional resignation of President Marc Ravalomanana under pressure from the civilian opposition and the armed forces, and a transfer of power to Mr. Andry Rajoelina. A whole series of efforts were made by the AU and SADC and mediators with the support of international partners to restore constitutional order in the country. Under the mediation of President Chissano, agreement was reached between the four concerned political movements at Maputo on a Charter of the Transition, not to exceed 15 months, and the formation of a Government of National Unity. However, contrary to the Agreement the de facto authorities led by Mr. Andry Rajoelina unilaterally decided, on 8th September last year, to form their own “Government of National Unity” without the participation of the other three movements who were signatories to the Maputo Agreement.

    The AU Peace and Security Council noted with serious concern the unilateral measures taken by the de facto authorities born out of the unconstitutional change of government. On 19 February, at its 216th meeting, the Council decided that if by 16th March the de facto authorities did not comply with full and timely implementation of the Maputo Agreements and the Addis Ababa Additional Act, sanctions would be applied, starting on 17th March. The Council convened again on March 17th and reviewed developments and the efforts made to return Madagascar to constitutional order. Following its deliberations, and taking into account the failure of the de facto authorities to comply with previous decisions, the Council decided that the sanctions listed in its communiqué of 19th February should enter into force from 17th March. The targeted sanctions include a travel ban, the freezing of funds and diplomatic isolation for the de facto authorities. The Peace and Security Council also requested the Chairperson of the AU Commission in collaboration with the Executive Secretary of SADC, the Head of the SADC mediation committee and the International Contact Group on Madagascar to monitor and ensure implementation of this decision and to continue to work for the return of constitutional order in Madagascar.

    It is to be recalled that over the last few months Africa has witnessed a series of coups. This should be seen as a threat to the peace, security and stability of Africa and to the continued democratization of the continent.



  • Promoting and Protecting Human Rights in Ethiopia– a National Action Plan

    “Devising a Road Map for the Development of a National Action Plan for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in Ethiopia” was the title of a national consultative workshop held in Addis Ababa on Monday this week to reinforce government initiatives for promotion and protection of human rights. The workshop was organized by the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission in collaboration with the East Africa Office of the United Nations Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights. Opened by Mrs. Shetaye Minale, Deputy Speaker of the House of People’s Representatives, it drew participants from federal ministries and the judiciary, parliamentarians, and federal agencies and national institutions, representatives from National Regional Governments, civil society organizations, academia, UN Agencies, development partners and the media. The aim was to sensitize all stakeholders to the need to develop a National Human Rights Action Plan and adopt a roadmap to implement it.

    Ambassador Tiruneh Zena, newly appointed Chief Commissioner of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, reflected on the importance of analyzing existing mechanisms for the protection and promotion of human rights as well as devising a road map to develop a national action plan. Mr. Minelik Alemu, Director General for International Law and Consular Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, detailed the successful cooperation between the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission and the East African Office of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in enabling Ethiopia to submit all its overdue reports to UN treaty bodies and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights as well as the Universal Periodic Report submitted to the UN Human Rights Council. Mr. Ferej Fenniche, the outgoing East African representative of the office of the UN Commissioner for Human Rights agreed the need to develop a national action plan. He took the opportunity to emphasize the cooperation he had received from the Government and various stakeholders during his time in Ethiopia. Background documents presented to the workshop included studies by experts on “The Development and Implementation of a National Human Rights Action Plan” and “The Human Rights Situation in Ethiopia: Challenges and Priorities for the protection and promotion of Human Rights”. The workshop adopted a number of recommendations including proposals for the Ethiopian Government to consider and initiate a formal process to develop and adopt a National Human Rights Action Plan and the establishment of a permanent body to develop this Action Plan.

    The National Action Plan will involve the coordination of various Government institutions including the Human Rights Commission and the Institution of the Ombudsman as well as civil society organizations and other stakeholders to ensure that human rights are effectively protected and respected. The plan will guarantee wider participation from different sectors of society to assist in the protection and respect of human rights. It will help to enhance the capacity of national human rights bodies, and provide a platform to evaluate progress as well as take concrete measures to guarantee compliance with the country’s international obligations. It will provide the basis for dissemination of information about human rights throughout the country and encourage human rights activity. The plan will allow for continuous training for law enforcement agencies including police, security forces and prison officials. It will also involve programs designed to address the human rights needs of specific sections of society including children, women, persons with disability, minorities and other dispossessed or marginalized groups.

    Overall, the National Action Plan will provide a framework for regular monitoring of the observance of human rights in Ethiopia. It will be a challenging exercise. Under the Constitution all Federal and State legislative, executive and judicial organs, at all levels, currently have the responsibility and duty to respect and enforce the provisions of the Constitution on fundamental rights and freedoms. It is incumbent on these bodies to include the steps taken to comply with this constitutional obligation in their implementation reports. The relevant Federal Government organs routinely comply with this requirement in the periodic reports they submit to the House of People’s Representatives. The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, of course, has a particular duty in this regard. At the same time, all of these reports cover the specific activities, areas and aims of these different bodies. There is an obvious advantage in having a streamlined national framework for monitoring respect for human rights, taking proactive or corrective measures where necessary, and providing a more informed global assessment of the human rights situation in the country.

    Such a nationally owned and comprehensive process would also provide a more accurate account of human rights in Ethiopia than that given by the recurrent and very negative reporting to be found in the US State Department Annual Reports or from groups like Human Rights Watch which never seem to bother to read any of the reports produced by the Federal and State bodies. An overall report on human rights in Ethiopia, objective and factual, detailing all the challenges, opportunities and progress made, would certainly provide a more accurate picture than the present usual compilations of unsubstantiated allegations intended to find fault rather than encourage the further improvement of human rights. It will be of immense value for Ethiopia to prepare the ground rapidly for this National Action Plan for Human Rights in close collaboration with all national stakeholders and with the necessary technical assistance from development partners.



  • Eritrea at the UN Human Rights Council

    The 13th Ordinary Session of the UN Human Rights Council, in its meeting held on March 17th, considered and adopted the report assessing human rights in Eritrea undertaken by the 6th session of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review. The Council will be considering the report on Ethiopia’s UPR evaluation today. The report, which incorporated questions and recommendations raised during the Working Group by member and observer states, exposed numerous violations of human rights in Eritrea. The Eritrean Government was expected to respond. It didn’t. Eritrea not only played its usual game of denial; it also rejected the majority of the recommendations submitted. A number of states expressed their deep concern over Eritrea’s failure to reply to the numerous questions raised and the recommendations made.

    Stakeholders in the Council highlighted Eritrea’s failure to accept many of the recommendations made during the UPR, underlining the plight of Eritrean journalists in prison, severely criticizing forced conscription of youth and the harsh treatment of those who tried to evade the national draft, exposing the use of torture against dissidents and critics of the regime, and expressing alarm at the proliferation of training camps within Eritrea being used for the training of armed opposition groups throughout the Horn of Africa. They called on the Council to condemn these violations.

    The Eritrean delegates not only denied all the charges, they tried to claim that “Ethiopia’s illegal occupation of Eritrea’s territory” was the major cause of Eritrea’s failure to implement human rights in the country. The Ethiopian delegation, exercising its right of reply, interrupted the statement of the Eritrean delegation to put on record that Eritrea’s allegations on the border issue were outside the Council’s agenda. Eritrea’s response to the UPR process once again exposed its total disregard for accepted international mechanisms for dialogue and multilateral engagement on human rights and other issues.



  • Ensuring the integrity of the upcoming elections: Eritrea and destabilization

    Democratization in Ethiopia has various dimensions. At one level it is about ensuring the empowerment of the people, putting in place political formulae to serve as a solid basis for a national unity. The Constitution is an embodiment of the resolve to enhance this objective on the basis of mutual benefit and popular sovereignty, and the last 15 years have seen the development of various institutions to ensure the fullest possible participation of the peoples of Ethiopia in managing their own affairs and cementing their unity while respecting their diversity. The Constitution also envisages a government that must remain focused on putting in place policies that will realize these objectives while at the same time protecting the Ethiopian state and its peoples from undue interference from within or without. The pro-poor policies that have been implemented and the consistent focus of the Government’s Foreign and Security policy in the fight against poverty are a case in point. Ethiopia has consistently worked towards good relations, based on mutual interest and respect for international law, with all its neighbours. The positive progress made in both respects is a testament to the success of the democratization process.

    Equally, the process has not always been smooth. There have been challenges from inside and outside. One such has come from the leadership in Asmara, once in the form of naked aggression, and after that failed in the form of attempts at destabilization using all sorts of rejectionist elements willing to run Eritrea’s errands. It’s been more than a decade now since President Isaias began to focus on what now appears to be a life-long quest: wreaking havoc in Ethiopia through any means. Long detached from its social base, the preservation of the leadership of the Peoples Front for Democracy and Justice has become an end in itself, perpetuation of President Isaias’ Eritrea. And this, according to PFDJ logic, can only be assured by bringing about collapse in Ethiopia. Hardly a day passes without the PFDJ government concocting one scheme after another intended to sabotage Ethiopia’s peace and stability. President Isaias consistently goes out of his way to welcome any and all parties prepared to oppose the Ethiopian Government, no matter how disparate their ideologies or their objectives.

    The obsession President Isaias appears to have with what he calls Ethiopia’s worsening domestic political and economic situation is extraordinary. He invariably describes it as a crisis that has reached an irreversible stage. Indeed, according to him, Ethiopia’s political, economic and military position long ago reached boiling point and should be irreversibly descending into chaos and disintegration. Eritrean propaganda describes the army as in total disarray and on the verge of collapse; economic hardships have become so harsh and disheartening that people will be tearing each other apart out of sheer desperation; armed movements of every type have been stepping up highly effective anti-government campaigns everywhere; the violent demise of the regime is all but imminent. Whether or not these allegations have any reality on the ground doesn’t seem to bother the government in Asmara very much. Eritrean leaders and their flatterers, at home and abroad, continue to create a fictional universe, an alternate reality based on the advertising principle: repeat something over and over again, and you’ll end up believing it. So Eritrea’s (official) media endlessly repeats itself. And now Ethiopia’s elections provide Asmara with an easy opportunity to encourage destabilization.

    Indeed, the government in Asmara has used every means imaginable to try to create chaos in Ethiopia short of an all-out invasion. President Isaias is too well aware of the consequences to try that again. Nevertheless, the intensity of his resolve to achieve his aims is nowhere more evident than in the curious mix of organizations he has managed to bring together in his search for anti-Ethiopian groups. They promote mutually exclusive political platforms, some even arguing that Ethiopia should take back Assab and re-acquire a coastline. Nothing seems to worry the regime in Asmara as long as all of the groups have some quarrel with the Ethiopian Government. In Eritrea’s campaign to sabotage Ethiopia’s peace and stability as well as its economic progress, a veritable alphabet soup of self-styled patriotic organizations, fringe Diaspora elements, the much divided Oromo Liberation Front, and the split Ogaden National Liberation Front, as well as Ginbot 7 and others have made it all-too-clear they are prepared to join any anti-Ethiopian government bandwagon, whatever the stakes. The logic holding these strange bedfellows together is no more than the fact that the PFDJ has some use for them, whether planting bombs along a road, attacking local officials or merely spreading anti-government propaganda. It all helps Asmara’s aims; and they all get some benefit from it.

    However bizarre this mix may be, they are linked by a common thread – ill-will towards the incumbent Ethiopian Government. They cheerfully take orders from Isaias to do his bidding. Despite the support given by Asmara, none of these ‘Ethiopian’ groups have the strength even to temporarily seize control of any military post or village from government forces. They are no more than a nuisance to the security of the country. President Isaias has repeatedly urged these groups to unite. His deadline for the many ‘Ethiopian’ organizations to form a united alliance before December 2009 wasn’t met, but a new round of feverish efforts has been going on to cobble up some semblance of unity among this motley crew. In fact, they have little or no semblance of any organizational structure either at home or abroad. All they can manage is an occasional bomb here and there, minor disturbances here, disturbances there. If one attempt fails another follows. If one group is detained, another is immediately dispatched. It is a cascade of efforts to sow the seeds of violence. Despite his frustration at the complete failure of many OLF and ONLF efforts at destruction, the peaceful completion of another election is apparently too much for President Isaias. He is unprepared to relax his efforts as long as he has at his disposal such a collection of errand boys satisfied to take his orders.

    Eritrea’s latest efforts are predicated on the assumption that there are forces within and without Ethiopia – ostensibly Ethiopian – willing to join hands in an anti-government campaign. The leadership in Asmara is merely counting on the zero-sum politics of many in the violent sections of the Ethiopian opposition to achieve its own objectives at little or no cost to itself. While the people and the security forces will certainly foil any of the measures that President Isaias and these dubious allies may concoct, we should remain vigilant to minimize any continuing security threats, however small. Equally, we should work to make certain the election is as successful as possible, to give the lie to the aims and claims of Asmara and its renegade allies. The most effective way, of course, will be to carry on with the very processes that have elicited their anger in the first place: democratization and economic development.


    Talking of interference in the electoral process, Ms. Ana Gomes has reappeared, not unexpectedly. She was the highly controversial head of the EU Electoral Observer Mission to Ethiopia in 2005 whose behavior and less than balanced relationship with opposition leaders and parties led to a formal complaint by the Government. Ms. Gomes has been active on a number of occasions in recent years on behalf of violent opposition movements in the Diaspora, particularly Ginbot 7. Now with the election coming up she is looking for the limelight again. This week, as a European Member of Parliament, she was hosting and opening a “hearing” on “Human Rights and the Security Situation in the Ogaden”, in collaboration with the Organization of Unrepresented Nations and Peoples, a collaboration which, by definition, demonstrates Ms. Gomes’ ignorance of the political situation in Ethiopia’s Somali Regional State where Ogaden Somalis are represented and participate in government. This week Ms. Gomes has been in London where she addressed a meeting organized by Third World Solidarity. It appears that Ms. Gomes and the Eritrean Government have something of a common agenda. Whether they are working together as some allege, is beside the point. Most of those at the meeting were former Derg members or supporters guilty of crimes against the people of Ethiopia. The organizers claimed the meeting would be attended by MPs but none of those listed actually attended. One person who did attend was a lady who is persona non grata in Ethiopia because of the dubious disposal of property from the Russian Embassy in Ethiopia in the early nineties. In a few weeks time, in early April, Ms. Gomes apparently plans to be in Washington to deliver a “keynote speech” at an opposition organized conference on Governance, Peace and Security and Development. No doubt Ms. Gomes will also surface at other meetings before the election on May 23rd. It would be difficult enough to accept this sort of deliberate effort to interfere in the electoral process by an outsider even if Ms. Gomes actually knew anything about the reality of politics in Ethiopia. Ms. Gomes, however, does not as she comprehensively demonstrated by her naïve, and frankly stupid, performance as head of the EU Electoral Observation Mission in 2005. Her recent efforts show she has not become any more sensible, or knowledgeable.



Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

Ministry of Foreign Affairs