African Union meetings in Addis Ababa next week
The 16th Ordinary Session of the Heads of State and Government, the 18th Ordinary Session of the Executive Council and the 21st Meeting of the Permanent Representatives’ Committee of the African Union are all scheduled to take place in Addis Ababa over next week and the following weekend. The Summit of Heads of State and Government will be the concluding meeting on January 30th and 31st.
African Heads of State and Government as well as representatives of International Organizations and other distinguished invited guests are expected to attend the Summit. This year’s Guest of Honor of the Assembly will be Mr. Nicolas Sarkozy, President of the French Republic and current Chairperson of the G8 and G20. He will be addressing the opening ceremony of the Summit.
As at all the January Summits of the African Union, the Assembly of Heads of State and Government will begin its deliberations with the election of the next Chairperson to replace the incumbent Mr. Bingu Wa Mutharika, President of the Republic of Malawi. The Chairperson is chosen on the principle of geographical rotation; this year it will be the turn of the Central African Region. Mr. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, President of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea is therefore expected to be elected as Chairperson of the AU for 2011.
In accordance with a decision of the 14th Assembly of the African Union, the theme of this Year’s Summit is “Towards Greater Unity and Integration through Shared Values”. Following a presentation on the theme by the AU Commission and subsequent discussion on the theme by member States in an open session, the Assembly is expected to issue a Declaration on Shared Values. In their closed sessions, the Heads of State and Government of the Union will discuss AU administrative, budgetary and financial matters. They will also discuss and take decisions on the continent’s political, social and economic issues with Tunisia and Cote d’Ivoire expected to figure largely. In addition the Summit will be debating some thirteen proposals by member states.
As always at AU Summits and Executive Council meetings, a number of other meetings will be taking place on the sidelines, in addition to numerous bilateral discussions. Among them on this occasion will be the 24th Summit of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Heads of State and Government Orientation Committee (HSGOC). This will be preceded by meeting of the AU’s NEPAD Steering Committee on January 22nd -23rd. The report on Ethiopia under the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) of NEPAD will be considered at the meeting. 29 African states are currently members of the ARPM and 13 have so far been reviewed.
Other sideline meetings during the week will include the Committee of Ten Heads of State on United Nations Reform, a Summit of EASBRIG nations, the 17th Extraordinary Summit of IGAD and two mini-Summits on Sudan and Somalia, and on the Côte d’Ivoire as well as a meeting of the Organization of African First Ladies Against HIV/AIDS (OAFLA) and a number of other activities. The AU’s Peace and Security Council is also expected to convene a Summit on the State of Peace in Africa.
Mogadishu demonstrations against Al-Shabaab; Puntland withdraws support for the TFG
On Wednesday, this week, hundreds of Mogadishu residents came out on the streets to participate in a large demonstration against Al-Shabaab. The demonstrators marched down roads in the government-controlled districts of the city, chanting anti Al-Shabaab slogans, carrying placards: “We don’t want the mad and cruel militants” and “Stop harassing, stop intimidating people; open access for needy Somalis to get assistance.” They were expressing their feelings at the way Al Shabaab has persistently prevented international aid agencies from helping those suffering from the country’s severe drought and needlessly expelled those trying to provide humanitarian assistance to the hundreds of thousands of displaced people, many forced out of their homes by the activities of Al-Shabaab itself. The demonstrators called on the world to act quickly to help the Somali Transitional Federal Government dislodge Al-Shabaab militants and assist those affected by drought. Warsame Mohammed Jodah, who addressed the demonstrators on behalf of the Benadir Administration, noted that the problems of internally displaced persons had increased dramatically in the last few years and particularly after Al-Shabaab banned more than 20 aid agencies from operating in southern and central Somalia.
This is the second public anti Al-Shabaab demonstration in Somalia in less than 48 hours. On Tuesday, dozens of local residents in the village of El-Arfid in the iddle Shebelle region of southern Somalia demonstrated after fighters loyal to Al-Shabaab burnt several bags of aid-donated maize. At least 50 local inhabitants were arrested by Al-Shabaab during the protest which went on to declare a curfew in the village. Al-Shabaab is also continuing to have problems over its relations with the former Hizbul Islam. Although Hizbul Islam has disbanded and supposedly joined Al-Shabaab, former Hizbul Islam officials are continuing to be arrested and jailed by Al-Shabaab as are many of Hizbul Islam’s fighters. Most recently the former spokesperson of Hizbul Islam in Mogadishu was arrested for allegedly refusing orders from Al-Shabaab to go to the lower Shebelle region.
In another development, the administration of Puntland has announced its withdrawal of support for the TFG in Mogadishu. The Puntland Government cited various reasons for its decision, including the TFG’s lack of implementation of the Galkayo accord of 23 August 2009 and the subsequent Memorandum of Understanding on Security Cooperation signed on 12 April 2010 as well as what it referred to as a lack of Puntland participation and representation in the Djibouti Peace Process. The Prime Minister of the TFG, Mohammed Abdullahi Mohammed, said on Wednesday that the decision was regrettable because it could give moral support to Al Shabaab, Al Qaeda’s proxy in southern Somalia. He pointed out that if Al Shabaab managed to seize southern Somalia, Puntland and other self-styled administrations would be their next targets. The Prime Minister said the decision would hinder the government’s efforts to bring peace back to the country. He noted that his government was committed to open negotiations with Puntland, but he added the announcement to suspend all cooperation with Mogadishu was a decision of the leadership of Puntland and not the people. This triggered a protest from the people in Garowe the following day. This will make much needed negotiations between Puntland and the TFG more difficult, if not impossible. The TFG Prime Minister has just been in New York where he met various UN officials and representatives of government. He was soliciting support for the TFG to complete the transitional tasks entrusted to it before the end of the transition period in August this year. He was also looking for support for extending the TFG’s mandate beyond August but it appears that most of the international community showed little or no enthusiasm for the idea.
Meantime, the Speaker of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Parliament (TFP), Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden, is currently on a visit to Addis Ababa following an invitation extended to him by the Speaker of Ethiopia’s House of People’s Representatives, Abadula Gemeda. Speaker Sharif Hassan will hold various meetings with officials of the House of Representatives during his stay to discuss further collaboration and cooperation between the TFP and Ethiopia’s Parliament.
Meanwhile, the Joint Security Committee established in accordance with the Djibouti agreement held a meeting in Djibouti this week. The Committee presented an activity report covering the period from August 2010 to January 2011. The Committee underlined the need to further strengthen the TFG security forces to enable them to defeat Al-Shabaab and other terrorists on the ground. The Committee recommended that the TFG should exert all efforts to reorganize the various elements of the security forces trained in different places and create a conducive environment for their coordination and integration. It also urged the international community to assist in all the peaceful areas of the country and places where an administration was functioning with the provision of capacity building. Providing support to the efforts of Ahlu Sunna wal Jama’a in this respect was underlined as an important element to address the challenge posed by the terrorist groups. President Sheikh Sharif attended the Joint Security Committee meeting as did the UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon’s Special Representative for Somalia, Ambassador Mahiga. Ambassador Mahiga also inaugurated a program to train 500 Somali police in Djibouti with funding provided by the Government of Japan as part of UNPOS’ police project. He acknowledged the support of AMISOM’s Civil Police Unit and the Somali Police Force Senior Management Team and called the program “an outstanding example of support by regional actors”.
IGAD Partners Forum meeting in Addis Ababa
The IGAD Partners Forum has held a one day meeting in Addis Ababa, hosted by Italy which currently holds the chair of the Forum. The meeting, attended by all IGAD donors, was co-chaired by Italy and by Ethiopia which is the chair of IGAD. Discussions revolved around current developments in the Horn of Africa in the light of the recently conducted referendum in South Sudan and the prospects for a peaceful completion of the transitional period for the Somali government due to end in August. The occasion of the meeting underlined the greater cooperation now existing between the Partners Forum and IGAD. This has also created an effective and interactive dialogue among those who are concerned with the peace and security of the region.
Unusually, the Forum was given an extensive briefing by the Foreign Minister of Somaliland, Dr. Mohammad A. Omar who had been on a visit to Addis Ababa. Somaliland held another round of successful multi-party elections in the middle of last year. Dr. Omar gave a detailed analysis of current developments in the region and the exemplary achievements of Somaliland in terms of establishing democratic governance, noting the peaceful transition of power that Somaliland had achieved after its free, fair and creditable elections. On the economic front Dr. Omar explained the progress that the Somaliland authorities were achieving in terms of attracting members of the Somaliland Diaspora to invest in Somaliland, in assisting in the transfer of technological know-how and in contributing to peace and stability in Somaliland.
Ethiopia, as the chair of IGAD, briefed the meeting on the latest developments in the region. It welcomed the peaceful conclusion of the referendum in the Sudan and commended the efforts of the IGAD Partners Forum, the African Union and the United Nations in the Sudan. Ethiopia reiterated its own commitment and that of IGAD towards assisting the Transitional Federal Government in its efforts to establish peace and stability in Somalia. It stressed the need to help the people and government of Somalia to reconstitute peace and stability as well as development in the country.
South Sudan’s referendum voting declared successful
All the organizations monitoring the referendum on independence for Southern Sudan have released their preliminary findings on the voting process of the South Sudan Referendum. They have been unanimous – observers for the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the European Union, the African Union and the Carter Center have all called voting peaceful, fair and transparent. Each organization released preliminary results within two days of the end of the voting which took place last week.
IGAD issued a press statement in Khartoum and Juba of its observation between January 3rd and January 16th. For IGAD, essentially a midwife for the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), observation of the Referendum was critical. In order to follow the full implementation of the CPA, and in response to IGAD Summit decisions in June 2008 and March 2010, IGAD had established the IGAD Special Envoys’ Office in Khartoum and its Liaison Office in Juba. Both offices played critical roles in facilitating the Observer Mission’s work in the field.
The IGAD Observation Mission found that the existing legal and regulatory framework had been conducive for holding the referendum. It noted that the South Sudan Referendum Commission had also managed to provide a very high level of preparedness for the vote despite delays in receipt of necessary funds. IGAD commended the Government of South Sudan for successfully carrying out its obligations under the CPA to ensure that the people of South Sudan could freely express their democratic rights in an atmosphere of peace and non-interference. The IGAD Observer Mission described the Referendum as free, fair and credible, and called it a major milestone in promoting peace and the democratic transformation of South Sudan.
The South Sudan Referendum Commission has announced it will release preliminary results on January 31st and the final official results will be made available on February 14th, a month after the Referendum. IGAD will hold an Extraordinary Summit on January 30th on the sidelines of the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa. One of the main items on its agenda will be consideration of the full implementation of the CPA. Whatever the final result of the referendum, and all indications are that there has been an overwhelming vote in favor of independence for South Sudan, there are still a number of outstanding issues that need to be resolved under the CPA. These include the issue of Abyei where there were some clashes the week before the voting. Following this, traditional leaders of the Dinka Ngok and the Misseriya signed an agreement to end any armed confrontation. This was followed on January 17th by an agreement between the Governments of Sudan and of South Sudan in Kadugli providing for an increase in the deployment of Joint Integrated Units in the region. The JIUs are made up of troops from the northern Sudan armed forces and the South Sudan army. Agreement over Abyei is so far proving the most difficult part of the CPA to implement, even harder than other outstanding issues including the determination of the North-South boundary, the division of oil revenues or citizenship. There remains a very real need for continuous dialogue between the two parties to the CPA to resolve outstanding issues and for the very positive attitude expressed over the referendum vote to continue
Normalcy still a long way off for the regime in Asmara
There’s been an unusual absence of Eritrea’s leaders from the media spotlight for a few weeks. It’s led many to wonder why the regime has apparently chosen silence for a change. Any appearance by Eritrean officials recently has been decidedly low-key. President Isaias’ previously all-too-common appearance on local and even international media outlets has almost completely stopped. Most surprisingly and uncharacteristically, the Eritrean leader failed to give his usual marathon New Year lecture. Given the empty promises and lofty rhetoric that normally fills these lectures, the failure to offer one this year merely spares Eritreans from another round of disappointment. It’s possible President Isaias may have chosen silence for now in order to keep people guessing. It’s one of his usual ways of mystifying the banal. When things get tough, he has often slipped into prolonged bouts of silence only to reappear with a carefully varnished version of events once he feels the dust has settled, though as his critics often point out, his explanations for his silence are seldom convincing.
Even on the diplomatic front, Eritrean leaders appear to have taken a more nuanced approach, making efforts to ingratiate themselves with organizations that they have previously spurned. The role in CEN-SAD and their renewed interest in the Arab-League are now being touted as indications of maturity. In this regard, Eritrea’s decision to reopen its permanent mission to the AU has drawn renewed interest among many commentators, some of whom have raised the question whether Eritrea might at last be prepared to behave normally in international relations. Some have even gone so far as to suggest that this decision could be an indication of a real change of heart and lead to a “thawing”, even normalization of relations, with Ethiopia. The reality is anything but.
Despite the possible creation of a façade of normalcy, there is virtually nothing to indicate that Eritrea might even remotely be interested in mending its international or diplomatic ways. Indeed, if anything, Eritrea still remains as destructively intransigent as ever. Eritrea’s decision to send a mission to the AU, so enthusiastically welcomed by many, has little, if any, to do with any readiness to normalize relations with Ethiopia. The mission to the AU is not after all accredited to Ethiopia. It can only carry out functions related to AU-related business. Even that decision hardly indicates any meaningful change of heart towards the organization. In the past few years, Eritrea has always prevaricated on this issue, accusing Ethiopia of preventing it from taking part in AU deliberations when in fact the decision was Eritrea’s own. Eritrea distanced itself from all AU forums, unflattering though that might have been to the AU. As a responsible host to the African Union, Ethiopia has always reassured any country, including Eritrea that nothing would stand in the way of their presence in Addis Ababa. To the extent that Eritrea’s decision to resume its mission to the AU has any significance, it demonstrates that the Eritrean regime was never serious about the allegations it made against Ethiopia on that issue.
It may be cynical to suggest that Eritrea’s decision might have been prompted by the expectation that a negative response from Ethiopia would embarrass the latter. If, however, it was indeed done out of respect for the organization that Eritrea’s leaders have continuously reviled at every previous opportunity, one might have thought Eritrea would have made an effort to meet some of the demands put forward by the AU in resolution after resolution. Eritrea is still as defiant as ever in its opposition to the TFG and its support for Al-Shabaab terrorists in Somalia. Despite mediation efforts by third parties, Eritrea has yet to make good on its promises to resolve its dispute with Djibouti amicably. Its destabilizing activities against countries in the region including Ethiopia are continuing unabated. On Monday this week yet another group of terrorists from Eritrea were caught attempting to infiltrate Ethiopia’s Afar Regional State. Frankly, Eritrea has still a long way to go before it can be given a clean bill of health for its role in the Horn of Africa or even beyond.
Similarly, those who are naïve enough to believe that the opening of the AU mission in Addis Ababa represents a “thawing of relations” can hardly be more wrong. The opening of the Eritrean mission is not a restoration of bilateral relations between the two countries. There is not the slightest indication that the Eritrean regime has any intention of that if only because this would presuppose a normalization of relations which in itself requires a dialogue. In this context, dialogue is, of course, the elephant in the room. It is the last thing that the regime in Asmara is willing to indulge in. It remains stuck in a grove, continuing to harp on the same string of “sovereign Eritrean territories occupied by Ethiopia.” Indeed, it has repeated this song for so long that the regime appears to have ended up almost believing its own claims.
In fact, the reason why the regime in Asmara isn’t willing to engage in dialogue is very clear. Among other things, dialogue would presuppose laying out all the issues that stand in the way of normalized relations. That would open a floodgate of criticism against the regime in Asmara. At the very least it would remove all the excuses that the regime resorts to in controlling the freedom of its citizens so tenaciously and keeping its grip so firmly on all aspects of security. Ethiopia provides an “enemy” against which an unhealthily militarized Eritrea, indeed the most militarized state in the world today, and its bankrupt leadership can claim to stand. It would take a real change of heart to be prepared to alter this scenario. And despite small steps here and there, this is the one thing the regime in Asmara cannot come to terms with. There is little reason to hope that it can change anytime soon.
Core principles of Ethiopian Foreign policy: Ethiopia-Algeria Relations
Ethiopia and the Peoples’ Democratic Republic of Algeria have enjoyed long-standing relations for many years. Since the establishment of diplomatic relations in the late 1960’s, and particularly following the opening of the Algerian Embassy in Addis Ababa in 1976, the two countries have steadily strengthened a relationship based on their common interests. Emperor Haile Selassie played a significant role in mediating a border dispute between Algeria and Morocco; Algeria, of course, was deeply involved in the negotiations which led to the Algiers Agreement of December 2000 between Ethiopia and Eritrea.
The two countries have been and are working closely together in regional and international fora. They hold a common understanding and a principled stand on the issue of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic. Both Ethiopia and Algeria firmly believe that peoples of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic have the right to decide on their own future.
Another major area in which Ethiopia and Algeria share a common interest and a common position is in the fight against terrorism. They both hold the widely shared view that international terrorism is one of the most serious threats to international peace and security. They see terrorism, in all its forms, as a global problem that has no frontiers and cannot be associated with any particular religion, culture or societies. Their respective responses to terrorism have in part been inspired by some of the measures taken by the OAU and subsequently by the African Union. Both Ethiopia and Algeria have worked together in this and in related continental and international issues concerned with peace and security in Africa, and globally.
To further enhance and strengthen their relations, the two countries have also signed Agreements on Trade, Investment Protection and Promotion and on Avoidance of Double Taxation. In addition to this, they have also agreed to cooperate in the areas of Science, Culture and Technical Cooperation. Following from this they established a Joint Ministerial Commission to monitor implementation of their agreements. The first Joint Ministerial Commission meeting was held in April 1984 in Algiers, and during that meeting further possible areas of joint cooperation were discussed.
Ato Seyoum Mesfin, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs, made an official visit to Algeria in 1996, and exchanged views on how to further strengthen bilateral relations and maximize the opportunities existing in each state for developing areas of trade, economics and cultural cooperation. The visit had the effect of increasing the ties of friendship and co-operation to the mutual benefit of both Ethiopia and Algeria.
Both countries have also shown a strong desire to move forward and deepen their cooperation in all mutually advantageous fields, to bring the relationship between them to a new and higher level. This would serve to promote the interests of both countries and their shared aspiration for peace and prosperity in Africa.
Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Ministry of Foreign Affairs