Alsharq Al Awsat gets things wrong on Somalia
The international London based, Alsharq Al Awsat newspaper, released a report (1.8.2010 edition) on an alleged ‘Secret memo’ which it claimed had been signed by President Sheikh Sharif of the TFG in Cairo. The memo was supposed to have been written by a group of Somali religious scholars at the request of the TFG, and suggested that the TFG should negotiate with Al-Shabaab and other terrorist groups without informing any western countries. The alleged memo claimed that although the western countries offer material aid and moral support to Somalia, their involvement in Somalia affairs made the process of reconciliation with the opposition more difficult. The memo claimed that “most opposition forces do not trust” western nations and this is why they were not prepared to stop fighting the TFG or prepared to join it. It suggests that bringing the opposition closer is more important than the support given by the western countries. The memo therefore suggests the TFG should ally with the Arab League and with Islamic States notably Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the Sudan, and consult with them before taking any new political initiative. It goes on to raise issues related to Somaliland and Puntland and the question of unity of Somalia, and calls on the TFG to refrain from diplomatic relations with countries that have any security and political relations with those two administrations. It also calls for the revival of the concept of “Greater Somalia”, and in reference to the agreement between Ahlu Suna wal Jama’a and the TFG, it even alleges that Ahlu Suna opposes efforts of the TFG to negotiate with any other opposition groups.
Not surprisingly, the TFG has quickly identified this piece of cheap propaganda as a fictitious document. Indeed, this bogus “Strategy Memo” is similar to other forged documents issued in the past. It is not even worth comment except to underline that it is an entirely fabricated document; and as a statement from the TFG underlined, neither the TFG nor the Somali President had anything to do with it at all.
The fabrication of such a document, of course, raises a question as to why it has been drawn up and released at this time. One reason, presumably, is that it was intended to create a rift within the TFG leadership established after the agreement between Ahlu Suna wal Jama’a and the TFG on 15th March. Another has been to try to create suspicion between the TFG and its partners on the ground fighting against the scourge of terrorism. Thirdly, it appears intended to create misunderstandings between the region and those in the Gulf countries who have been trying to assist the TFG and the people of Somalia to make progress against terrorism.
It’s clear from the outset that these aims will not succeed. Such cheap propaganda isn’t going to deter IGAD, the AU or the international community from doing whatever is necessary to ensure success in Somalia. This has been underlined in the last few days indeed as the TFG and Ahlu Suna wal Jama’a have been involved in a round of discussions in Addis Ababa, following an earlier meeting in Mogadishu in April. The meeting was to evaluate the progress made in implementation of their historic agreement on 15th March. The discussions, 13th -18th August, agreed on the consolidation of administrative units in areas controlled by them, and on further efforts to defeat Al-Shabaab on the ground, including the mobilization of their human and material resources for joint operations in various parts of the country. The meeting was also attended by the new UN SRSG, Ambassador Mahiga, the IGAD Facilitator for Somalia Peace and Reconciliation and representatives from the AU Commission. The TFG delegation, composed of seven ministers was led by Defense Minister, Dr. Abubakr Osman, while Ahlu Suna’s nine-member delegation was led by Sheikh Mohamed Hefow, Chairperson of Ahlu Suna’s Executive Committee.
The UN’s new SRSG for Somalia visits Ethiopia
On Tuesday this week, Ambassador Augustine Mahiga, the new Special Representative for the UN Secretary General in Somalia (SRSG) held talks on Somalia with Ethiopia’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Tekeda Alemu in Addis Ababa. The SRSG made it clear that while the Somali situation remained difficult, he was hopeful that progress could be achieved on the ground with IGAD playing a critical role. He thought there had been an encouraging response from the international community over moves to increase peacekeeping troop levels. He said he was impressed by the progress made in implementation of the agreement between the TFG and Ahlu Suna wal Jama’a. This emphasized the efforts of the TFG to address the challenges it faced on the ground and in accomplishing the remaining tasks for the transition period. The SRSG noted the negative impact of the uncomfortable level of bickering in the TFG, but stressed the need for the international community to assist the TFG’s efforts.
Dr. Tekeda emphasized that while the SRSG had been appointed at a particularly challenging time, with serious problems on the ground, we were now also seeing greater coordination and cooperation among the international community. This included the recent meeting on the sidelines of the Kampala Summit; the current preparations for a joint international demarche; growing coordination between Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda; the meeting of the IGAD Chiefs of Defense Staffs who have begun to act on the decisions of the IGAD Heads of State and Government; and the overall methodical follow-up to these activities. The contrast with the previous lack of coordination was marked. Earlier, there had been more coordination among those bent on creating havoc in the region than those supporting peace and security. Now difficulties on the ground were beginning to be offset by greater coordination. This was encouraging and should help the work of the SRSG.
The momentum of the onslaught by Al-Shabaab in Mogadishu appeared to have been halted, though it seemed to be trying to expand its efforts to challenge the relative peace and stability of Puntland and Somaliland which had just conducted a well-organized election. The tempo of its attacks was increasing. Puntland was currently involved in a fight against Al-Shabaab forces. Dr. Tekeda noted that there was a lack of effective support for the efforts being made in the area of security by the administrations in Somaliland and Puntland. Ambassador Mahiga agreed that international coordination and support efforts should also include these areas. With greater international resolve and effort there was a real possibility of containing, and reversing, the activities of Al-Shabaab.
It was clear that the TFG must avoid the disagreements it has been prone to in the past. It must prove it is worthy to get support. Equally the international community must continue to assist the TFG as it remains the only rallying point for international support and legitimacy. At the same time the delivery of assistance to the TFG had certainly left much to be desired. Dr. Tekeda and Ambassador Mahiga agreed that there was a need to create mechanisms for co-ordination and encourage all those supporting AMISOM to extend their support to the TFG as well, a need for UNPOS to be present on the ground and a need to engage with Puntland and Somaliland as they were key players. They could provide a back-up in the efforts to assist the peoples of Somalia. Ambassador Mahiga noted that UNPOS was ready to go back into Somalia as soon as possible as part of Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon’s “light footprint” for the UN in Somalia.
The importance of the suggestion to hold a high-level political retreat to consider the remaining tasks for the transitional period was emphasized; and it was noted that the International Contact Group would be holding their next meeting in Madrid on August 27-28th. There are plans for the UN Secretary-General to hold a meeting on Somalia in New Work with major stakeholders on September 24th.
African Independence and the Role of OAU: Prime Minister Meles in Congo and Gabon
Seventeen countries in Africa (Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central Africa Republic, Chad, Congo Republic, Cote ďIvoire, DRC, Gabon, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia, and Togo) won independence 50 years ago. The continental Organization of African Unity (OAU), which played a critical role in the independence struggle, will celebrate its own Golden Jubilee on 25 May 2013. This is indeed a very appropriate moment for African states and for the present continental organization to take a moment to scrutinize and evaluate the successes achieved and the drawbacks still faced by Africa in fully realizing the aspirations of the founding fathers of the OAU.
When it was established in 1963, by 33 independent States, the primary objective of the OAU was to achieve the complete independence of the remaining States which were under the yoke of colonialism and apartheid. While these noble objectives have been achieved, the related vision of a peaceful and prosperous Africa is yet to be realized. As Kwame Nkrumah said nearly fifty years ago: “Never before have a people had within their grasp so great an opportunity for developing a continent endowed with so much wealth. Together, by mutual help [the independent states of Africa] can achieve much…. But the economic development of the continent must be planned and pursued as a whole…Africans have, indeed, begun to think continentally. They realize that they have much in common, both in their past history, in their present problems and in their future hopes….The greatest contribution that Africa can make to the peace of the world is to avoid all the dangers inherent in disunity, by creating a political union which will also by its success, stand as an example to a divided world.” His words still have resonance in a continent that even today is significantly affected by civil wars that continue to seriously undermine the economic development and the ultimate integration of the continent. African countries, while celebrating 50 years of independence, now have an opportunity to evaluate both the failures and the successes of the past half century. It will allow us to chart a more effective approach to address the critical challenges we continue to face in poverty and underdevelopment.
The process of liberation which started in the 1950s remains unfinished. Indeed, Africa’s independence cannot be fully realized in the absence of the eradication of poverty and conflict. Africa’s complete independence ultimately depends on its economic independence. It is indeed within Africa’s power to bring about development and eradicate poverty. As Nkrumah said “…we have in Africa the paradox of poverty in the midst of plenty, and scarcity in the midst of abundance.” As we are approaching the celebration of the Golden Jubilee of the OAU, African countries have a unique opportunity, and a very real need, to prepare themselves for commitment to more sustained and vigorous activities to end the conflicts and the poverty that still ravage our continent.
This week, of course, has seen the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the National Independence Day of both the Republic of Congo and of the Republic of Gabon. At the invitations respectively of President Sassou Neguesso of Congo and of President Ali Bongo of Gabon, Prime Minister Meles headed a high level delegation which included Foreign Minister Seyoum as well as other officials on an official visit to both Brazzaville and Libreville from August 14th to 17th. During his stay in Congo and Gabon, Prime Minister Meles was received by the Presidents of both countries. Their talks were held in a cordial atmosphere of the understanding, and friendship which characterizes the deep rooted relations existing between our countries. The leaders exchanged information on the evolution of the economic, political and social situation in their respective countries and regions. They agreed on the importance of continuing close consultation at various levels in order to enhance bilateral cooperation and harmonize policies on regional and international matters of mutual concern with a view to reducing marginalization from current global and local realities and encouraging the promotion of mutual benefits. The need for African countries to redouble cooperation was underlined during the discussions. In this respect, all three emphasized their responsibility to strengthen the African Union to enable it to fulfill the original aspirations of the OAU and now of the African Union.
Ethiopia, of course, shares a common interest with Gabon and with the Republic of Congo in making sure that the traditions, objectives and principles of Pan-Africanism continue and are sustained. It greatly appreciates the efforts of Gabon and Congo in this direction. Ethiopia believes that advancing these principles helps Africa speak with single voice in multilateral forums and strengthens its ability to advance Africa’s interests successfully. All members of the AU have a common obligation to ensure the AU continues to discharge its duties in accordance with the Constitutive Act and its principles. Ethiopia, like Gabon and Congo, believes in the responsibilities and duties necessary to guarantee that the African Union will fulfill the aspirations of the people of Africa. And, like them, it also agrees that the African Union should continue to play a central role in bringing peace and stability to the continent.
President Neguesso and Prime Minister Meles also underlined the importance of climate change as one of great challenges of our time. They emphasized the strong political will necessary to urgently fight climate change in accordance with the principles of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities. The two leaders recognized the crucial role of reducing deforestation and forest degradation, and the need to enhance the removal of greenhouse gases by increasing forest cover. They agreed on the importance of providing positive incentives for such action through the mobilization of financial resources from developed countries.
On the sidelines of these two visits, Foreign Minister Seyoum held discussions on bilateral matters with his Congolese and Gabonese counterparts. While the Ministers expressed their satisfaction at the excellent relations prevailing at the political level, they underlined the importance of accelerating economic contacts and activities. The Foreign Ministers further underscored the mutual benefit that their countries can draw from deepening of bilateral ties. The Foreign Ministers of Ethiopia and Congo signed an agreement on General Cooperation and Bilateral Consultation between their respective ministries. The Foreign Ministers of Ethiopia and Gabon also signed a similar agreement on General Cooperation and Bilateral Consultation, and an agreement to abolish visas for the holders of diplomatic and service passports.
Sudan: a country at the crossroads
The Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended the two decade war between the North and South was signed in January 2005 by the National Congress Party and by the Sudanese Peoples Liberation Movement. Since then both parties have worked steadily to implement the agreement, though not without some hiccups. Since the signing at Machakos in Kenya in 2005, the CPA has been instrumental in creating a framework to resolve the long standing conflict in the Sudan between North and South, leading up to the referendum on the future of the South, due to take place in January next year. During these five years of the interim period, many of the provisions laid down in the CPA have been implemented, including clauses covering power and wealth sharing. Others, among them clauses on security and the Abyei border issue, while they may have made significant and encouraging progress, are still in the process of implementation.
The Government of National Unity, established in accordance with the agreement, has held the first democratic elections in Sudan for over 20 years. This, in turn, is creating the framework to provide for the final details for full implementation of the CPA as well as the preparations for the conduct of the referendum. The schedule for the referendum, however, remains tight; the referendum commission is becoming pressed for time as it is only five more months before the conclusion of the CPA’s interim period.
These next five months will be critical in this respect. Although most of the provisions in the CPA have been implemented, the remaining issues such as the South –North border demarcation, the establishment of Abyei Referendum Commission and the question of citizenship are still under negotiation. The international community certainly expects the parties will come up with amicable solutions. Equally, these issues still need careful and well-thought out handling. Even if few in number, they are critical issues in moving the CPA process forward. Negotiating a settlement to these continuing differences, which now include the timing of registration for the referendum, and all other pending issues, is becoming critical. The two parties need to demonstrate a greater resolve and commitment for the full and complete implementation of all aspects of the CPA.
One critical issue that the CPA did not include was any Post Referendum Arrangement (PRA). However, both parties have recognized this omission, and they quickly resorted to dialogue with a view to sorting out issues that needed to be addressed before the referendum took place. What has been achieved so far is indeed commendable, but there is still more to be agreed. Both parties have registered a considerable amount of success following their consultations. At the same time, whatever the outcome of the referendum, it should be seen as an opportunity to create a lasting partnership between the NCP and SPLM, to ensure sustainable peace, stability and security for all the peoples of the Sudan.
Equally, for obvious reasons the peace and stability of the Sudan have their own implications for the benefit of the sub-region as a whole. The Sudan is a country bordering nine other countries in Africa. Any problems in the Sudan can certainly have a trickledown effect throughout the region as a whole and to individual countries that share a common border with the Sudan. The maintenance of peace and security in the Sudan is therefore of great concern not only to the parties involved in the CPA, but also to all the countries in the region as well as to the African Union and even the international community at large.
The CPA has provisions that accommodate the concerns of both parties. It remains of critical concern that the parties move to implement the reality of the CPA, both in theory and in application. The parties have shown time and again that they are capable of delivering their commitment to realize peace in the Sudan. They still have more to do. The international community must now encourage the parties, and those who have been given the mandate to assist the two parties, to ensure the full implementation of the CPA.
Core Principles of Ethiopia’s Foreign Policy: Ethio-Egypt Relations
As we indicated last week, Ethiopia’s national interests have been completely redefined and re-evaluated since 1991, providing a new focus on the country’s internal vulnerabilities and problems, political and economic. The Foreign Policy and National Security Strategy identifies the major threats to Ethiopia and indeed to its survival: economic backwardness and the desperate poverty affecting a large majority of the population. The strategy also emphasizes the need for democracy and good governance and for the establishment of a democratic structure and government at all levels throughout the country. It underscores that without these Ethiopia would be unable to survive as a country and its very existence would be in doubt. Considerable progress has been made in the last six years, but more remains to be done. With regard to bilateral relations, the policy clearly stipulates that Ethiopia will pursue engagement with all other countries on the basis of the principle of mutual interest and respect. Relations with all neighbors over the last two decades have been a testament to the seriousness with which the country has adhered to these principles. Ethiopia believes that whatever differences countries may have, issues of common concern can only be addressed on the basis of constructive engagement, of dialogue and in a manner that allows for a win-win outcome for all.
Ethiopia’s relationship with Egypt is one of the many bilateral relations that the government of Ethiopia has been working hard to develop along these principles. Ethiopia and Egypt, of course, have a long relationship, dating back several thousand years. Apart from the cultural and historical ties that have bound them together for centuries, both countries have been closely involved in the cause of African unity over the last five decades. Central to any relationship however has been the River Nile which has been the strong bond tying the two countries and their peoples together for millennia. The Nile can and indeed should be a source of cooperation and mutually beneficial relations between Ethiopia and Egypt in a whole number of ways. This has not, however, always been the case. Indeed, the issue of the use of the Nile water has often been a major sticking point in the relationship, a major stumbling block to any sort of robust bilateral link that might have enhanced the interests of both countries.
Robust ties are, of course, exactly what both countries need to deal with another major interest of concern to both – the issue of security and a response to extremism and terrorism, something which has equally affected both. Surprisingly, perhaps, it is also something that neither Ethiopia nor Egypt have properly explored. Yet security, internally, as well as regionally in both the Horn of Africa and North Africa, is vital to both states. Ethiopia and Egypt have some of the largest populations in Africa; both have been affected by substantial terrorist atrocities. Producing an adequate response to terrorism is not just in their own interests. Both states have responsibilities to their regions and to Africa and the Africa Union in this regard. Equally, both have a heavy responsibility to avoid exacerbating, even inadvertently, the dangers posed by terrorist activity. But this has yet to be achieved.
There are a number of causes why such co-operation has not been developed, and the major reasons revolve around the issue of the Nile. Indeed, all Egypt’s relations with Ethiopia over the last century or so have largely revolved around this more than anything else. Successive Egyptian governments have sought to ensure their continued control of the Nile water, and because of this it has not been possible to establish a regime for the river based on mutual agreement. Certainly, upper riparian countries, including Ethiopia, for a long time suffered from a lack of sufficient resources to develop their legitimate claims to usage of the Nile water. The policies pursued by Egypt on this didn’t help the confidence of the upper riparian countries towards this issue. There is a strong conviction in Ethiopia, which has been well-founded, that efforts have been made to prevent Ethiopia from accessing support for the purpose of obtaining the necessary financial support for hydro-electric projects, even where these projects would pose no harm whatsoever to Egypt.
Ethiopia attaches great importance to its relations with Egypt, over the Nile as in the area of security. It accepts that Egypt has legitimate interests in the use of the Nile River. Equally, it sincerely believes that the only way any controversy over the use of such a common resource can be settled is through dialogue and the principle of equitable utilization of the water, without causing significant harm to others. This is why Ethiopia has so strongly supported the Nile Basin Initiative and now the Nile Basin Cooperative Framework Agreement, negotiated among the Nile riparian countries over the last ten years. The upper riparian countries have time and again reassured the lower riparian countries, Egypt and Sudan, that they have not any interest in harming them or indeed any other country. Ethiopia strongly believes the Cooperative Framework Agreement is a formula for a win-win outcome for all.
Unfortunately, despite changing political and economic dynamics in the region, there are still those who want to set the clock back. It seems that concepts such as cooperation, dialogue and equitable utilization are anathema to such people. It appears some still believe in saber-rattling and diplomatic maneuverings to promote their own interests at the expense of all others. As Prime Minister Meles recently emphasized, however, the realities that held Ethiopia back in the past from utilizing the Nile water have changed and changed forever. Ethiopia is not only stable; it is no longer completely dependent upon third parties to make some use of its resources, including the Nile. Everybody will now be better served by constructive discussions and dialogue so that all potential in the relationship between Ethiopia and Egypt can be put to good use.
In fact, today the challenge that Ethiopia faces in its bilateral relations with Egypt is no longer as problematic as it has been. There are signs that attitudes are changing. There appears to be a growing realization that neither threats nor covert efforts against this or that riparian country can be successful. For example, bilateral economic relations between Ethiopia and Egypt are growing steadily, and can be expected to increase sharply in the future. Dialogue between the two governments is becoming more regular and more frequent. Both continue to face enormous challenges over the need to deal with extremism and terrorism. There can be no doubt of the value that a common approach would have. There are real possibilities for both parties to develop a sense of mutual trust that would further enhance understanding and cooperation. It is of course only such approaches that can bring the required and desired results and contribute to the enhancement of mutually beneficial relations between the two countries.
Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Ministry of Foreign Affairs