A Ministerial Press Conference
On Thursday, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Ato Hailemariam Desalegn, gave his monthly press conference, covering a number of issues including meetings with the Diaspora, and the government’s new approach towards Eritrea. He also briefed the media on the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, going into some detail of the facts and figures. He noted the establishment of a National Council by the cabinet to organize and lead popular support for the project. The Minister emphasized the importance of developing infrastructure in Africa and of its value for industrialization. He was anxious that the international community should support this for Africa. Africa had after all only been able to exploit no more than 5% of its hydropower potential compared with over 70% in Europe and North America. Ethiopia has only managed 3.5% so far. The origins of the project go back to 1964 when a US study of the Blue Nile supported the idea of dams on the river. This is still valid, and was revived by the Eastern Nile Council of Ministers under the NBI framework two years ago. Its environmental value is undoubted to assist in Ethiopia’s aim to have zero net carbon emissions by 2025. The project’s environmental impact on local populations will be minimal and any effect can easily be mitigated. There is no doubt that Sudan and Egypt will also benefit largely from the project through water conservation. Evaporation levels will drop significantly, and sedimentation will also fall. It will provide a valuable regulation of water flow in a period of climate change, improve prospects of navigation and provide power for the Nile valley.
Following the Egyptian revolution, there is a new momentum there and the Egyptian Prime Minister is coming to Ethiopia shortly together with public diplomacy groups to discuss the issue. There is, said the Deputy Prime Minister, a desire on both sides to discuss matters. Ethiopia believed that policy makers in Egypt, and the younger generations, were beginning to understand the values of the dam. As far as Egyptian requests for further information on the dam, this could only happen after Egypt signed the Cooperative Framework Agreement of the Nile Basin. Ethiopia has friendly relations with Sudan, and the Sudan government now appears to support the project. In response to questions the Deputy Prime Minister said that the President of Sudan in interviews had said the project would help Sudan, improve the flow of water in the summer and overall increase the amount of water available to the Sudan.
The Deputy Prime Minister also spoke about the recent meetings with the Diaspora in Europe and America, describing these as highly successful and positive. In addition to making clear their support for the Renaissance Dam, participants took the opportunity to raise other issues including problems over bureaucratic bottlenecks and problems of good governance relating to investment and other issues. There were attempts to disrupt but these were confined to small groups drawn from the previous regime or members of armed rebel groups, merely trying to prevent the meetings being held. Other subjects included forthcoming visits and meetings, in particular the India /Africa Forum next month, and the visit of the President of South Korea. The Deputy Prime Minister also noted that Ethiopia rejected the recent US State Department Human Rights report and had distributed a statement to that effect, as we noted in A Week in the Horn last week.
The Deputy Prime Minister also referred to Ethiopia’s new approach to Eritrea when responding to questions, stressing that Ethiopia would abide by all international legal issues. Ethiopia, he pointed out had a right to defend itself against attack. Its response, however, would be proportional, but this did not mean it would be similar, meaning that it would not respond to terrorist attacks by doing the same thing. He added that Ethiopia fully supported the Eritrean opposition groups and the Eritrean people in their desire for a change of government in Eritrea.
Chairperson Ping’s report on Somalia
On Thursday, AU Chairperson, Dr. Jean Ping, presented a report to the AU Peace and Security Council on Somalia, covering the political and humanitarian situation and the efforts being made by the African Union (AU) and the larger international community in support of peace, stability and reconciliation. The report recalled the IGAD Heads of State and Government Summit in Addis Ababa on January 30th had stressed the need to avoid a political vacuum after the transitional period ends on August 20th, and had reached a consensus on the necessity to extend the term of the current Transitional Federal Parliament (TFP). The Assembly of the AU then endorsed the IGAD decision to extend the term of the TFP, and this was followed by the TFP’s decision to extend its term for three years, starting from the end of the current transitional period. The Parliament also called for the new election for the President of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), as well as of the Speaker of the TFP and his deputies. Dr. Ping’s report noted that some members of the international community strongly condemned the extension, which, they observed, was done without due consultations with relevant stakeholders. The report also added that the regional administration of Puntland and Ahlu Sunna wal Jama’a (ASWJ) both rejected the unilateral action of the TFP. Dr. Ping pointed out that the PSC had supported efforts by AMISOM, IGAD and UNPOS to help bridge differences among Somali stakeholders on the transitional arrangements and attempts to expedite implementation of the most urgent transitional tasks by August 20th. He emphasized the importance of Somali stakeholders reaching agreement on these issues. Continuation of the current situation could only undermine efforts to promote peace and reconciliation.
Dr. Ping referred to the UN‐sponsored high‐level consultative meeting in Nairobi last week attended by the Speaker of the TFP, the Presidents of Puntland and Galmudug regions, representatives of Ahlu Sunna wal Jama’a and key partners, including the AU, the European Union (EU), the League of Arab States and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), as well as by Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda. The intent was to reinvigorate dialogue, consultation and cooperation among the Somali institutions and other stakeholders, in order to agree a way forward to end the transition and determine post‐transition arrangements. Regrettably, the President and the Cabinet of the TFG, after numerous attempts to cancel the meeting, refused to attend arguing that it was counterproductive and could further factionalize Somalia. Dr. Ping noted that participants reached consensus on a number of issues: on the need to end the transition according to the provisions of the Transitional Federal Charter (TFC), which calls for elections of the President, the Speaker and his deputies before the end of the transition; to extend the mandate of the TFP for two years to enable it to complete certain critical tasks, including preparations for national elections; to enhance security and to redouble joint efforts to defeat extremism; to reform the current Parliament and to intensify processes of outreach and reconciliation with the “states”, regional authorities, civil society and the Diaspora; to accelerate progress towards a new federal Constitution; to implement previous agreements between the TFG, Puntland, regional administrations and Ahlu Sunna wal Jama’a; and to increase the provision of humanitarian and development assistance, at federal, state, regional and district levels. It was proposed that the next meeting should take place in Somalia.
Chairperson Ping urged the TFG to extend the required cooperation, observing that as the end of the transition period approached many tasks including the finalization and adoption of a new Federal Constitution and the restructuring of the Somali security forces, had not been completed. The report underlined that the continuing disagreements between the TFG and the TFP had the effect of impeding implementation of the transitional mandate as stipulated in the Djibouti Agreement and the Transitional Federal Charter. These and other factors continued to pose serious challenges to the peace process, and had the potential to undermine the military successes that the TFG and pro‐TFG forces, with the support of AMISOM, had achieved in Mogadishu and other regions of Somalia.
The report noted that AMISOM leadership had continued active engagement with Somali transitional leaders and other interlocutors to try to reach consensus on managing the transition. Despite all efforts, however, there must be concern that Somali stakeholders will not produce acceptable, inclusive, participatory and legitimate transitional and post‐transitional arrangements. They need to demonstrate real political will and determination. Somalis, of course, have primary responsibility for the restoration of peace and security. Dr. Ping made clear his appreciation of Uganda and Burundi’s commitment to peace in Somalia, and encouraged other African countries that have pledged troops and contributions to provide them rapidly. He also reiterated the AU call to the United Nations Security Council and the international community as a whole to provide the necessary political, financial and technical support to the enhanced AMISOM. The PSC, at its 245th meeting, requested the Security Council to authorize an enhanced support package for AMISOM, funded through UN assessed contributions, to cater for reimbursements for Contingent Owned Equipment (COE) and the payment of troop allowances at UN rates, to provide adequate and sustainable support for AMISOM. The Council also requested the imposition of a naval blockade and a no‐fly zone. Dr. Ping noted that these requests remained as relevant today as when they were last communicated to the Security Council last October. He acknowledged the AU’s appreciation for UN support for AMISOM, but he also called on the Security Council to consider providing additional assistance to enable AMISOM to discharge its mandate fully.
The Peace and Security Council was also briefed by Ambassador Mahiga, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative, who stressed the complex nature of the problem, suggesting IGAD was the best answer to provide the way forward.
The UN Security Council meets
Meanwhile, this week the United Nations Security Council also held a session on developments in Somalia. UN Under-Secretary-General, Lyn Pascoe briefed the Council in a closed session on current developments and on the recent UN meeting in Nairobi. He emphasized the improving security situation and noted that the TFG and AMISOM now controlled more than 60% of Mogadishu. He reiterated the frustration of the international community over the continued divisions within the TFG leadership and the difficulties this created for accomplishing the remaining transitional tasks. Mr. Pascoe said the presence of the TFP, the Puntland leadership, the Galmudug administration and the representatives of Ahlu Suna wal Jama’a at the conference provided for shared experiences in creating administrative arrangements and institutions of governance. The Security Council was informed of the refusal of the President and the Prime Minister of the TFG to attend the consultative meeting. The Special Representative of the Secretary General, Ambassador Mahiga had, however, met the President of the TFG during a visit to Tanzania, and he supported the proposed reconciliation conference, announced by the Somali Government for June 11th. Ambassador Mahiga said the UN would participate officially and would assist.
Considerable tension is reported in Mogadishu currently after Sharif Hassan Sheik Aden, the Speaker of the TFG, returned after attending the UN conference in Nairobi. Nearly a hundred MPs have organized a motion criticizing the Speaker for going to the meeting after the government refused to attend. The Speaker held a press conference on arrival to explain his attendance. He said he had used the occasion to talk about Somali issues with the international community and defend the TFP’s decision to extend its term. He mentioned the compromise proposal made in Nairobi which was to extend the TFP mandate for two years rather than the three that the parliament had claimed. The Speaker said he would report back to parliament on the decisions of the conference, which he described as a victory.
An Anti-Piracy Conference in Dubai
On Monday and Tuesday this week, the United Arab Emirates hosted a counter-piracy conference in Dubai under the title: “Global Threat, Regional responses: Forging a Common Approach to Maritime Piracy.” The conference, attended by government officials from sixty countries, including over twenty foreign ministers, and nearly 200 senior shipping industry leaders, was addressed by UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon and briefed among others by Somalia’s Foreign Minister, Mohammed Abdullahi Omar. The UN Secretary-General called for a comprehensive solution to solving the problem of piracy in the Gulf of Aden: “Piracy is not a water-borne disease. It is a symptom of conditions on the ground, including the overall security and political situation in Somalia”. So he added “our response must be holistic and comprehensive, encompassing simultaneous action on three fronts: deterrence, security and the rule of law, and development” The TFG Foreign Minister noted that “it is equally clear that piracy can only be uprooted on land, where it grows and persists.” He stressed that the international community had to make the necessary and urgent investment in Somali security forces “to build up the capacity of the Somali state and establish its national authority”.
At its conclusion the conference called for Somali Federal and Regional authorities to cooperate and set up an internal joint coordination mechanism for security and for judiciary sector development to improve the effectiveness of support from the international community. The thirteen point conference declaration called on the international community to carry out a comprehensive strategy of support to Somalia, prioritizing assistance to the Federal government and to the regional authorities of Galmudug and Puntland, and to Somaliland, to improve security and establish a system of governance and rule of law. The declaration called on the international community to expand the resources available for projects supporting capacity building and economic development in Somalia and other states that suffered directly from piracy. This should include the provision of coordinated training as well as material and financial capacity to improve land-based security and livelihood in Somalia to deter and prevent piracy. Over five million US dollars were promised to the Trust Fund to Support the Initiatives of States to Counter Piracy off the Coast of Somalia by the UAE, the Netherlands, Norway, France, South Korea and others. Conference participants agreed to work together to actively pursue a comprehensive and fully resourced approach to combating piracy and the conditions which give rise to it. They also recognised the role played by the Contact Group on Piracy and called on the international community to fully endorse and support all initiatives to combat piracy. Other concerns included naval action and pursuit, capture and prosecution of pirates, and ransom payments, and the plight of hostages held by pirates.
Shipping owners made it clear they would like to see an increased military and naval presence off the shores of Somalia, in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean. Pirates operating in these waters carried out 15 out of the 16 hijackings that took place in the first three months of this year, and as of March 24th there were 28 ships and 576 hostages held by Somali pirates according to the International Maritime Organization. Other bodies monitoring pirate activity suggest that figures may be as high as over 40 ships and at least 700 hostages when smaller fishing boats are included. According to one estimate the total cost of piracy last year, including ransoms paid, insurance premiums, extra security precautions, and naval activity amounted to as much as 12 billion US dollars.
The UN Security Council expressed its concern earlier in the month with Security Council Resolution 1976 (2011). This called for the establishment of specialized international courts and prisons as well as new laws to help counter piracy off Somalia. The resolution said the Security Council remained gravely concerned about the threat of piracy and armed robbery, the expansion of pirate activity into the western Indian Ocean, the increase in pirate capacity and the growing violence used by pirates. It condemned in the strongest possible terms any and all violence against individuals. It emphasized the importance of finding a comprehensive solution to the problem and stressed the need to build up Somalia’s potential for sustainable economic growth to tackle the underlying causes including poverty. It also reaffirmed respect for Somalia’s rights to natural offshore resources including fisheries and affirmed the importance of preventing illegal dumping of toxic materials and the importance of investigating any such cases. The resolution said the Council had urgently decided “to consider the establishment of specialized Somali courts to try suspected pirates both in Somalia and in the region including an extraterritorial Somali specialized anti-piracy court.” The resolution called on the Secretary-General to report within two months on the modalities for such prosecution mechanisms. The resolution asks all nations to make piracy a criminal offence, to cooperate in investigations and share evidence, to implement anti-money laundering laws and facilitate the transfer of suspected pirates. The Secretary-General is also requested to report on the protection of Somali waters, on alleged illegal fishing and dumping within six months. Many of these measures are based on the suggestions made by former French minister, Jack Lang, who recently produced a report for the Secretary-General on Legal Issues Related to Piracy off the Coast of Somalia.
It is the view of A Week in the Horn that piracy can be addressed holistically in the framework of establishing peace and security in general in Somalia. Obviously piracy is the outcome of statelessness in Somalia. The amount of money that the international community has put into counter piracy activity recently would have brought radical changes, if not miracles in Somalia, if it had been geared towards strengthening state institutions at regional and federal level in the country.
China and Ethiopia sign grant and loan agreements
This week, China’s Vice-Minister of Commerce, Mr. Fu Ziying has been visiting Ethiopia, and on Monday he signed agreements with Ato Ahmed Shide, State Minister of Finance and Economic Development providing for grants and interest free loans of over 200 million birr for projects that have yet to be decided. The two ministers also agreed on the implementation of other projects including a feasibility study for small-scale hydro-electric power projects, as well as a bore-hole water supply project, provision of bio-gas equipment, solar power and the supply of anti-malarial and other medical equipment. These are being financed under previously agreed grants and loans. Speaking at the signing ceremony, Industry Minister, Ato Mekonnen Manyazewal, said the people of Ethiopia were extremely grateful for China’s support. It was an example of the way development partners should continue their genuine assistance to help keep up the momentum Ethiopia’s growth was achieving. Mr. Fu Ziying noted that cooperation between China and Ethiopia continued to move forward in areas of investment, infrastructure and development assistance: “We are working together in the industrial and capacity building sectors as well as the construction of an eastern industrial zone” in Dukem in East Oromia Zone to the south of Addis Ababa.
Mr. Fu Ziying also had talks with Prime Minister Meles on Monday. During their discussions, Prime Minister Meles emphasized Ethiopia’s need for China’s support for the realization of its Growth and Transformation Plan. He told the minister that Ethiopia hoped to learn from the vast experience of China especially in the construction of such major infrastructural projects as roads, railways, and power plants. The Prime Minister said it was important that relations between Ethiopia and China were elevated to a higher level. He commended Chinese efforts to strengthen the strategic partnership between China and Africa, and the building of the new African Union headquarters. During his stay, Mr. Fu Ziying paid a visit to the building which is being funded by China, to see progress. In his discussions with the Prime Minister, which focused largely on bilateral relations in trade and investment, Mr. Fu Ziying expressed his government’s commitment to assist in the realization of the Growth and Transformation Plan.
In a press conference before he left at the end of his three day visit, Mr. Fu Ziying said that China would be launching a new foreign assistance policy document next month which would lay out the parameters of Chinese assistance to Africa clearly. He noted that China was planning to provide extensive training over the next three years to enhance Africa’s competitiveness in trade. China currently allows nearly 5,000 products to be imported to China free of quota and tariff restrictions.
China is, of course, one of Ethiopia’s most important trading partners and sources of direct investment. According to the Ethiopian Investment Agency well over a thousand investment licenses had been issued to Chinese investors up to the beginning of December last year, amounting to a total investment of 43.6 billion Birr. Of these 253 enterprises are under operation. Bilateral trade volume in 2010 amounted to about 2 billion US dollars, and Ethiopia hopes this will continue to rise. Ethiopia currently has an embassy in Beijing and a Consulate General in Guangzhou. It is now considering opening new Consulate General offices in the future. At the moment Ethiopian Airlines flies to Beijing, Hong Kong and Guangzhou and will open up a new destination, Hangzhou in July.
A Mediation Support Unit for IGAD
Experts from IGAD and its partners met in Djibouti on Monday and Tuesday this week to consider ways and means to set up a Mediation Support Unit (MSU) for IGAD, to strengthen the institutional capacity of IGAD in preventive diplomacy and mediation. Since the expansion of its mandate in 1996, IGAD has been active in promoting peaceful resolution of conflicts in the region. These efforts have now culminated in development of a draft Regional Peace and Security Strategy, to cover the next five years, and defining major intervention areas and possible approaches for realization of sustainable peace, security, and stability. Since IGAD is one of the building blocks of the AU, it needs to harmonize its peace and security programs with those of the AU in order to contribute to the effective implementation of the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA), the continental framework for peace and security interventions in Africa.
It is against this background and rationale that IGAD plans to establish a Mediation Support Unit in order to provide institutionalized and professional assistance to the member states. The draft Strategy, expected to be endorsed by the next session of IGAD’s Council of Ministers, has four main pillars: Early Warning, Preventive Diplomacy and Mediation, Security Sector Programs, and cross-cutting issues like Governance and Gender. The meeting exchanged views on how IGAD should follow the strategy regarding capacity building, at both national and regional levels; networking with similar institutions both in and outside the region; participation of CSOs and women in peace-making processes; and the need for research and documentation for informed policy decision and knowledge sharing. The experts insisted that IGAD’s peacemaking process would have to be based on impartiality, trust and cooperation, inclusiveness, and flexibility and would have to be non-threatening. The core functions of the MSU would be to provide and co-ordinate mediation and preventive diplomacy support to IGAD envoys and to member states; to undertake and co-ordinate capacity-building activities for mediation and preventive diplomacy; to design a strategy to enhance these and link them to regional efforts; advise IGAD officials on the role of the Secretariat; co-ordinate development of policy and produce operational guidelines; develop and co-ordinate involvement of IGAD envoys and mediation experts; design ways to link diplomatic activities regarding engagement of CSOs and monitoring of the implementation of peace agreements.
This will be done in a number of ways, working through IGAD’s Early Warning Mechanism to identify emerging conflicts and opportunities for preventive diplomacy and mediation as well as working with the UN, the AU and other actors on the widest level, and liaising with the mediation capacity of the IGAD NGO/CSO Forum and the IGAD Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU). The experts emphasized that most of the major conflicts in Africa fall simultaneously within the peacemaking mandates of the UN, the AU and one of the RECs. Regardless of who takes the lead, the critical issue should be that the relevant organizations should co-ordinate their efforts and work together. Which organization might be best suited to assume a lead would depend on circumstances, resources available, views of member states and, on occasion, the parties’ preferences. If parties agree, their preference should be respected. IGAD’s advantage is its knowledge of regional political dynamics, actors and cultures. It should therefore take the lead in mediating conflicts in the region with support from the AU and the UN. The meeting looked in detail at the structure and physical location for the proposed MSU. The draft report is expected to be presented and endorsed by the upcoming IGAD Council session.
The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam: what’s in a name?
Since the cornerstone for the Renaissance Dam was laid, the country has witnessed an exceptional outpouring of enthusiasm from people of all walks of life. An impressive, indeed overwhelming, sense of camaraderie has been shown by Ethiopians across the world. No development in living memory has drawn as much support as Ethiopia’s Renaissance Dam.
It isn’t really a surprise. There have been a considerable number of hydroelectric dams built here in the last few years, more than tripling the country’s power generating potential and capacity. They have gone a long way to fuelling the country’s economic growth. They will continue to do so in the years to come. The Gilgel Gibe series of dams, Tana Beles, the Tekeze are only some of the dozen or so such projects that are either completed or under construction. As A Week in the Horn has shown this development makes enormous sense in terms of export potential and for domestic use. Equally, it is important to note that this is certainly the best way to ensure the sort of “green” development that Ethiopia has always championed in international forums. The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam will be no exception.
What makes the Renaissance Dam over the Nile so special is partly its sheer size in terms of power generation and in cost. It is going to have a reservoir twice as large as Lake Tana and is expected to generate more than five thousand megawatts of power upon completion. The estimated cost is more than 80 billion Birr. As impressive and important is the project’s monumental symbolic value for all Ethiopians, representing as it does a major step towards the realization of the dreams of generations of Ethiopians. This will be the largest dam ever to be built over the Nile and it is something Ethiopians have been pushing for millennia. The Nile has, after all, always been an object of fascination and a source of popular art and myth. Generations of Ethiopian leaders have either sought to assert their right to a share of the Nile waters or tried to carry out some project or another to meet local demands. The fact that Ethiopians have suffered starvation and hunger for so long, while the Nile itself has continued to nurture life elsewhere, has always been a source of discomfort. Hardly a day passed without an Ethiopian leader trying to realize the long dream of putting the Nile waters to use for the people of the country which contributes the bulk of its waters and its soil. The project comes at a time when Ethiopia has been making strenuous efforts to caste off its image as a famine-ridden nation. This is a mark of the symbolism that it represents to the people and government of Ethiopia.
It is no surprise that there is a palpable sense of euphoria, but in a larger sense the reaction of the peoples of Ethiopia underlines their dedication and commitment to carry through the campaign to rid the country of poverty. The Dam is the largest infrastructural project ever undertaken by Ethiopians. They are fully aware that the country is being forced to foot the bills of all the hydroelectric projects it has so far managed to build largely because most international financiers have been reluctant to go ahead with such projects due to pressure from other countries. The Renaissance Dam is no exception. Its cost will be totally covered by the Ethiopian government. The outpouring of public support is an expression of Ethiopians’ defiance to such pressures. It is clear that nothing will be allowed to deter the nation from embarking on this certainly ambitious but potentially rewarding project.
In this, the peoples of Ethiopia have displayed a sense of patriotism and single-mindedness that has surpassed the wildest government expectations. There is no doubt the government was most pleasantly surprised by the level of mobilization everyone has displayed. Apart from heeding the call of the government to buy bonds, various sections of society have gone way beyond this and have been contributing significant amounts of their earnings as donations to the cause of the Renaissance Dam. An equal measure of dedication is being shown over purchase of bonds: civil servants, farmers, businessmen, military personnel, students, prison inmates. Everybody has come out en masse to respond to the government’s call. The whole nation has spoken in unison. It is a testament to the great significance everyone attaches to the project. In Addis Ababa alone, it is expected that more than 7 billion Birr, or roughly 9 per cent of the cost of the project, will be collected. With the participation in large numbers by hundreds of thousands of farmers who are now making extra-money as a result of successful rural development programs, the amount of money that is expected will be very significant.
In fact, the purchase of bonds goes far beyond the government’s plan to finance the construction of the Renaissance Dam. The most important reason for launching this scheme was to encourage Ethiopians to save, a very important element of the Growth and Transformation Plan. Without strengthening the culture of saving, the results of the GTP can only be ephemeral. To ensure the successful transformation of Ethiopia into a middle income economy in a few years, an important aspect of Ethiopia’s renaissance necessarily requires significant savings to provide for the sustainability of economic growth. It is fitting and proper that the huge task of transforming society should start with an equally huge project of far reaching economic, social and symbolic significance. That the Renaissance Dam has already helped mobilize millions of Ethiopians to buy bonds clearly demonstrates that long before completion, the project is initiating millions into a culture of saving so important to the nation’s transformation. Indeed, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is already showing promise that it will remain true to its name.
Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Ministry of Foreign Affairs