An IGAD Council meeting on Somalia and Sudan in New York
Yesterday’s UN mini-Summit on Somalia
“No global project more worthwhile”: the MDGs reaffirmed in New York
The ICG report on Eritrea: better but not good enough
A Symposium on International Humanitarian Intervention in Africa
Core Principles of Ethiopia’s Foreign Policy: Ethiopia-Indian relations
An IGAD Council meeting on Somalia and Sudan in New York
The IGAD Council of Ministers held its 37th Extraordinary Session on Wednesday in New York, on the margins of the 65th UN General Assembly. The meeting was chaired by Ethiopian Foreign Minister Seyoum (Ethiopia is the current chair of IGAD) and all IGAD ministers attended. The Council was given briefings on the situation in Somalia by the AU Commission Chairperson, the IGAD Facilitator on Somalia, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Somalia, and the Foreign Minister of Somalia’s TFG. The Council was also briefed on Sudan and on the progress of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) by the Foreign Minister of the Sudan and by IGAD’s Special Envoy to the Sudan, Lissane Yohannes.
In his opening remarks, Minister Seyoum thanked his colleagues for attending the meeting which he described as particularly important in view of the rapidly changing situation in Somalia relating both to the political situation there and to the recent behavior of some international organizations towards Eritrean claims that it was now prepared to contribute positively to help solve the problems of Somalia. He recalled the important decisions taken by the AU and IGAD aimed at changing the security situation in Somalia, emphasizing that the status quo must change and the extremists could not be allowed to succeed. He reminded the meeting of the decisions taken by the Council at its last Extraordinary meeting on June 15th, when the Council had welcomed the Memorandum of Understanding between AMISOM, the IGAD Facilitator’s Office and the UN Political Office to co-ordinate their efforts and activities and to improve communications between them. Minister Seyoum took the opportunity to call on these parties to further co-ordinate their actions and deal with any remaining gaps in their collaboration.
Minister Seyoum also reminded the meeting of the IGAD Summit following the last Council meeting which had added clarity to a number of the crucial decisions taken. The IGAD Heads of State and Government in their final communiqué had, of course, stated that “the conflict in Somalia is not a conflict among Somalis but a conflict between the people of Somalia and international terrorists.” The position taken by the IGAD Summit was endorsed by the AU Summit in Kampala in July.
With reference to Eritrea’s apparent claims that it was now prepared to be helpful over Somalia, Minister Seyoum briefed the Council on some of Eritrea’s recent activities both in reference to Ethiopia and Somalia. Over 200 ONLF terrorists trained in Eritrea had been sent from Eritrea, through Somaliland and into Ethiopia’s Somali Regional State. They were surrounded and caught close to the border inside Ethiopia and 123 were killed last week; dozens of others had been captured. On September 3rd, Eritrea had sent a planeload of arms and ammunition down to Al-Shabaab in Kismayo. The plane had returned with some 30 wounded Al-Shabaab terrorists, presumably for treatment in hospital in Asmara.
The IGAD Council held extensive discussions on the best way to support the TFG at this juncture and move forward to address the challenges still facing Somalia. It also considered the activities of some international agencies which apparently played a role in creating misunderstandings among the leadership of the TFG. Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmake has now resigned this week after weeks of dispute with the President. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Transport, Abdiwahid Elmi Gonjeh, was appointed acting Prime Minister by President Sheikh Sharif before he left to attend the UN General Assembly.
In the communiqué issued at the end of the meeting, the IGAD Council reiterated their call for the international community to do more to assist in making peace in Somalia. The Council expressed its regret that Eritrea, in continued violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1907, continued its spoiling activities in Somalia. Eritrea was still the main conduit of arms and ammunition to Al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam, continued to train insurgents from these terrorist groups and infiltrate them into Somalia. In this regard the Council called on the UN Security Council to implement all pertinent resolutions that had been adopted on Somalia and Eritrea and in particular Resolution 1907 which imposes sanctions on Eritrea for its efforts to destabilize Somalia, and the region, and Resolution 1916 (2010) mandating the UN Monitoring Group to follow up implementation of the sanctions.
The Council noted with regret the internal differences within the TFG leadership which had continued despite repeated calls by IGAD and the international community. It called on the TFG leadership to demonstrate its commitment to the people of Somalia, rapidly appoint a new prime minister, strengthen its cohesion and work together. It underlined the need to maintain the status quo within the TFIs until the end of the transition period in August next year and to sustain the trust of partners and of Somalis. It reiterated that the Djibouti Peace Process remained the sole basis for achieving peace and national reconciliation in Somalia, and committed IGAD to keep the process alive. It called on the TFG to redouble its efforts to bring on board all forces that reject violence. It condemned the continued attacks by Al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam on civilians, on the AMISOM peacekeepers and on the Transitional Government. It underscored the importance of building up TFG security institutions in line with the decisions of the IGAD Chiefs of Defense Staffs and the need to provide the necessary military equipment and technical support as well as financial assistance and training for effective action.
The Council also expressed its concern over the multiplicity of conferences and the proliferation of initiatives which threatened to undermine the Djibouti Process and the regional efforts. It urged the UN and other stakeholders to engage with the Region and with the African Union in their efforts to assist in Somalia. As always, the Council also expressed its appreciation to AMISOM and to the troop-contributing countries. It appealed to those members states which have pledged troops, equipment and other support to redeem their pledges so AMISOM could attain the necessary 20,000 troop level to fulfill its mandate. In this regard, the IGAD Council requested the UN Security Council to agree formally to approve the 20,000 troop level as well as make funds available to sustain this larger force. It appealed to the UN to mobilize necessary resources to sustain AMISOM pending its transformation into a UN peacekeeping operation.
The IGAD Council also stressed the urgency for the TFG to complete the Constitution Drafting and Validation processes, the establishment of regional administrations and the building up of institutions as envisaged in the Transitional Federal Charter before the end of the transition period. It underlined its deep concern over the deteriorating humanitarian situation, and affirmed the readiness of IGAD states to provide safe passage for vulnerable groups. It appealed to the international community to provide adequate resources to address the humanitarian problems.
The IGAD Council also exchanged views on Sudan and made clear its appreciation of efforts by all parties to implement the CPA. It welcomed the establishment of the South Sudan Referendum Commission and the appointment of a Secretary-General to the Commission. It encouraged the parties to redouble efforts to consider post-referendum arrangements, to expedite the establishment of the Abiyie referendum commission, the final demarcation of the Abiyie area administration and the North-South border. It expressed its appreciation of the African Union High Level Implementation Panel, headed by former South African president, Tabo Mbeki, for assisting the parties to implement the CPA. It assured the panel of IGAD’s support.
Yesterday’s UN mini-Summit on Somalia
UN Secretary-General, Ban ki-Moon, took advantage of the UN General Assembly to convene a mini-Summit on Somalia yesterday. It was attended by some 35 countries and organizations including IGAD states, except Eritrea. Eritrea did not participate because it was felt inappropriate for it to participate in a Summit on Somalia when it was under UN sanctions for its behavior in supporting terrorism in Somalia and for its destabilization activities in the Horn of Africa.
The meeting reaffirmed that the Djibouti Agreement and Peace Process were the basis for resolution of the conflict in Somalia, and the determination of the United Nations and the international community to work with the TFIs and the people of Somalia to break the cycle of lawlessness and violence. It noted that collective and coordinated action was crucial to building a peaceful future for the Somali people. It called on the TFI leaders to complete the remaining transitional tasks by August 2011, noting that the constitution-making process should include consultation within Somalia and in the Diaspora. It identified priority tasks including agreement on post-transitional arrangements in coordination with the UN and the international community; reaching out to opposition groups that have renounced violence and expanding the political base of the TFG; and improving the delivery and access to basic services.
At the same time, participants called for a roadmap of achievable objectives and clear time lines to be developed for the remainder of the transitional period. It underlined the need for the TFG leadership to maintain cohesion and resolve any internal differences. They welcomed the TFG’s pledges to continue its outreach efforts, its undertakings to end internal disputes, finalize the draft constitution without delay, ensure integration of security forces including those of Ahlu Suna wal Jama’a into the national army, and improve the command and control of the armed forces. The meeting commended the efforts of the AU and IGAD to achieve stabilization and expressed its appreciation of Uganda and Burundi for the provision of troops for AMISOM.
The meeting drew attention to the need for UN agencies to improve their internal coordination and effectiveness in Somalia. It encouraged UNPOS to establish a UN presence in Mogadishu, Puntland and in Somaliland. The meeting condemned all attacks on humanitarian aid workers including Al-Shabaab’s expulsion, on September 16th, of aid organizations. It condemned the terrorist attacks in Kampala in July and the repeated attacks on civilians, on the TFG and on AMISOM. These have resulted in substantial population displacements and aggravated the humanitarian crisis.
Participants noted that political and security gains needed to be supported by effective reconstruction activities. Recalling that the Istanbul Declaration noted six priority areas for intervention, it welcomed the Task Force formed after the Istanbul Conference earlier in the year. The International Contact Group on Somalia will also be meeting in Madrid next week, and is expected to continue to discuss these issues.
“No global project more worthwhile”: the MDGs reaffirmed in New York
This week, from Monday to Wednesday, more than 140 presidents, heads of states and government, participated in New York in the Global Summit on the Millennium Goals. Attendees were welcomed by UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon as well as the President of the current 65th Session of the UN General Assembly, Mr. Joseph Deiss, and the President of the 64th Session, Dr. Ali Abdussalam Treki. As Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon emphasized the Summit was to take stock of the progress made so far towards the eight Millennium Development Goals, devised in 2000, a “blueprint for ending extreme poverty”. “There is no global project more worthwhile” said Mr. Ban, calling on the assembled leaders to send a “strong message of hope” and “to keep the promise”. He pointed out that the transformative impact of the MDGs was undeniable. It was something to be proud of but it was also necessary to protect these advances many of which were still fragile. There was much more to be done.
Mr. Deiss called on all those present to reaffirm the commitments made at the Millennium Summit in 2000 and declare they wanted to create the conditions necessary to achieve the MDGs by 2015. He noted that the picture was mixed. Real progress had been made in some areas: poverty had declined in overall terms, but some areas, including sub-Saharan Africa, were lagging behind. And additional efforts were needed in regard to eliminating hunger, reducing child mortality and improving maternal health. The global economic and financial crisis had also undermined progress. Further progress required commitment from donors and from beneficiaries. A genuine partnership: if we want to succeed we have to do it together, “we do not have the right to fail”. Dr. Treki, co-chair of the plenary session, said there had been much progress in, for example, education and health but he added “let us be frank and acknowledge that what we say or agree is only words unless in the poorest countries and in the poorest communities, the poor start to see improvements in their lives.”
African leaders acknowledged that they could do more to meet the MGD goals to slash poverty, and called for stronger leadership among developing countries. Prime Minister Meles quoted Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon’s description of the Millennium Declaration as “the most important collective promise ever made to the world’s most vulnerable people” and as a promise “based not on pity or charity but on solidarity, justice and the recognition that we were increasingly dependent upon one another for our shared prosperity and security.” Prime Minister Meles noted that continental progress had been uneven. He said those in the developing world had to do more for themselves, to design programs and strategies appropriate to their circumstances and mobilize their own resources: take charge of their destiny and depend upon their own resources as the primary means of achieving the MDGs. Equally, he underlined that it was unavoidably necessary to rely partly on international solidarity. Partners needed to do more and be better in delivering on their promises: to go beyond empty words and “put their money where their mouth is”. “We need action-oriented recommendations designed to ensure accountability for commitments and promises”. He stressed that Ethiopia itself had made substantial progress. It had taken full charge of its destiny, devised its own strategy and maximized the mobilization of domestic resources to achieve the MDGs. The results were encouraging and robust economic growth had created the basis for similar growth in social indicators and the MDGs. Indeed, the recently published African Economic Outlook for 2010, produced by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the African Development Bank and the Economic Commission for Africa notes that Ethiopia is either an early achiever (of MDGs 1,2,5,and 6) or on track (MDGs 3 and 4) to achieve six of the seven MGDs. The MDGs are: eradication of extreme poverty and hunger (MDG 1); achieving universal primary education (MDG 2); promoting gender equality (MDG 3); reducing child mortality (MDG 4); improving maternal mortality (MDG 5); combating disease (MDG 6); and ensuring environmental sustainability (MDG7). The eighth MDG – ‘Developing a global partnership for Development’ – is not, of course, country specific. Ethiopia is classified as making only ‘slow progress” in ensuring environmental sustainability and halving the percentage of people without access to safe water. The only other African states to have reached the level of early achievement or be on track for six of the MDGs are Libya and Tunisia, though Benin, Morocco and Uganda have reached five.
President Kagame of Rwanda made the same point that developing countries needed to take charge of the development agenda instead of leaving donors to dictate to them. The perspective of donors, he suggested, is often predicated on paternalism not partnership, on charity not on self-reliance and on promises unfulfilled, rather than on real change on the ground. “We must assume effective leadership”, he added. Some European leaders made similar points: Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany said “the primary responsibility for development lies with the governments of developing countries. It is in their hands whether aid can be effective. Support for good governance is an important as aid itself.” Liberia’s President, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, stressed the need for more inclusive economic growth, for rapid sustained growth that creates jobs especially for youth, women and the poor.
The document adopted by the Summit, addressed on its final day by President Obama, and the Prime Ministers of Japan and China, spelt out detailed and specific actions to accelerate implementation of each of the MDGs over the next five years. The leaders stressed they were convinced the MDGs could be achieved with “renewed commitment, effective implementation, and intensified collective action by all member states and other relevant stakeholders at both domestic and international levels.” They requested the UN General Assembly to review the progress made annually and for the President of the 68th Session in 2013 to follow up on efforts made towards achieving the MDGs. The role of the UN Economic and Social Council, as principle body for co-ordination and for recommendations for development and for follow-up for the MDGs, was reaffirmed. The Secretary-General was requested to report annually on progress. On the sidelines of the Summit, Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon launched a global campaign to spur action in three specific MDGs: reducing the numbers of women dying during pregnancy and childbirth by three-quarters (MDG 5); cutting the numbers of children who die before five by two-thirds (MDG 4); and promoting equality for women (MDG 3). Over US $40 billion in resources was pledged to accelerate progress on women and children’s health. And a considerable number of other significant commitments were made for each of the eight goals from both developed and developing countries, the private sector, foundations, international organizations and partners, civil society and research organizations. In his closing remarks, Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon suggested the Summit had laid a solid foundation for the necessary progress on the MDGs. There was now a roadmap for dramatically accelerating MDG progress, but, he added, “between now and 2015 we must make sure that promises made become promises kept.”
The ICG report on Eritrea: better but not good enough
The Brussels-based International Crisis Group released its 163rd Africa Report on Tuesday this week. It was entitled ‘Eritrea: The Siege State’. It was somewhat unusual as the ICG more often reports on Eritrea’s relations with its neighbors than looks at domestic politics; and equally surprising was the strong tone taken by a report which concentrated essentially on the plight of the peoples of Eritrea under the repressive rule of President Isaias rather than referring to alleged threats from neighbors.
The report details the factors, historical, political and personal, which have contributed to the degeneration of the leadership of a highly popular liberation movement into a highly authoritarian regime whose primary interest is to cling to power as long as possible. It lays bare the historical roots of the political aberration that makes up Eritrea’s politics today. Its leaders always counted on mistrust of Ethiopia and of the international community to rally support during the armed struggle without bothering to consider if these might serve as foundations for a viable state. The resort to myth to build an Eritrean identity on the basis of a common enemy had gone a long way to provide for the militarized approach the regime introduced immediately after independence.
As the report details, personalization of power around a small cabal of EPLF leaders and then in the person of President Isaias had its roots in the leadership style during the armed struggle. The result is that Eritrea today is a personal fiefdom of President Isaias and a small circle of military and security officials. The President is the fulcrum on which the entire system rests. The President keeps highly centralized control over any and all resources, making every official personally loyal to him. Eritrea’s oversized military and the emphasis on security in every aspect of life significantly affect the viability of the state, taking away any incentives to engage in constructive diplomatic exercises with neighbors or with the larger international community. As the report says, Eritrea has all along “displayed an alarming tendency to fight first and to talk later.” This has earned it the dubious honor of being the most militarized state, per capita, on the planet. It is also perhaps the only country that has gone to war with almost all of its neighbors in a span of less than ten years. Military service was allegedly introduced to initiate the new generation into the hardships of the liberation struggle, to build up strength to hold off the country’s enemies, which appear to include almost the whole world. In fact, conscription has only led to disastrous consequences to Eritrea and its people, and as the report stresses, militarization of Eritrean society is incapable of preventing its demise. Indeed, it identifies high levels of decay, desertion and corruption rampant at all levels of the army.
The report defines the leadership’s belief in self-reliance as a dangerous miscalculation incompatible with the kind of mistrust of neighbors built up as the rallying cry behind the search for a unique Eritrean identity. It was, in fact, always clear that relations with Ethiopia might prove problematic if only because the regime never showed the slightest intention to consider Ethiopia seriously as a genuine partner for mutually beneficial relations despite it being the destination of three-quarters of Eritrea’s exports. Today, as the report notes, thousands of Eritreans are voting with their feet by fleeing the country, a clear indicator of the hopeless situation that obtains in Eritrea. Indeed, the country has become, according the ICG report, “a penal state.”
As mentioned this ICG report is certainly unusually candid about the state of affairs in Eritrea. At the same time, somewhat surprisingly in these circumstances, there are still areas where the authors appear to cling to old prejudices, particularly in its treatment of Eritrea’s external relations and the problems these have caused in the region. It does acknowledge the disastrous consequences of the regime’s adventurism but still asserts that “Eritrea is not solely to blame for its increasingly difficult regional relations.” The report even suggests that President Isaias’s long-held mistrust of his neighbors, notably Ethiopia and Sudan, is legitimate and it points to the Ethio-Eritrea conflict of 1998-2000 as having “justified some of that mistrust.” It does acknowledge that Ethiopia “most obviously gave its blessing to Eritrea’s independence” but it then tries to exculpate the Eritrean government for its responsibility for the war in 1998 when it refers to “an exchange of fire at Badme and a large-scale Ethiopian armed response”, even suggesting somewhat ridiculously that “its scale may have surprised Eritrea”. As the ICG knows well, and admits elsewhere, the Claims Commission made it quite clear that Eritrea initiated hostilities and on a large scale. In what amounts to an attempt to blame Isaias’s external problems on others, it even tries to suggest that Eritrea did not lose the war.
More recently, as the report rightly observes Ethiopia now dominates Eritrea’s worldview and its external relations. It points out that President Isaias extends armed support to Ethiopian armed opposition groups such as the ONLF. It accepts that Eritrea supports for extremists in Somalia even though it claims the extent “is certainly exaggerated.” Many would disagree. It acknowledges that there is a problem between Eritrea and Djibouti though the report goes no further than suggesting Eritrea is said to have “allegedly occupied” Djiboutian territory even though Eritrea itself has tacitly admitted occupying areas of Djibouti by agreeing to withdraw.
At this point the report looks at what it claims to be some justification for Eritrea’s behavior. The aftermath of the Ethio-Eritrean war “heightened the feeling in Isaias’s circle that it was alone in the world and could trust no one, not even, it would seem, its own citizens, and it set Eritrea on a path of further confrontation.” “However”, the report continues, “there was nothing inevitable about this: the main problem arose after the Boundary Commission…reported its findings” which in the event “only Eritrea accepted”. It really shouldn’t be necessary to repeat that Ethiopia did in fact accept the decisions of the Boundary Commission very publicly and clearly six years ago, after which Eritrea continually refused to cooperate with UNMEE and the peace process. Nor should it be necessary to underline the fact that there is no such thing as “virtual demarcation.”
The ICG appears to try to argue that all the regional destabilization activities carried out by Eritrea in the last decade and a half have had to do with the Boundary Commission Decisions and that it is Ethiopia which is really to blame. This is absurd as the ICG knows well, not least because so many of the activities took place long before the Boundary Commission reported. Nevertheless the report’s conclusion appears to suggest that the fact that Eritrea is now teetering on the brink of failure is due to the unresolved border issue. Eritrea’s adventures in Yemen, Sudan, Djibouti, Somalia and elsewhere will vanish as soon as this is resolved. The international community should stop mistaking Eritrea’s “pride and sensitivity for hubris” and put pressure on Ethiopia to accept the Boundary Commission’s decision. As already noted it is six years out of date in this respect. The report laments that “the EPLF has had to contend with the special status Ethiopia enjoys as the region’s powerhouse, the focus of international attention and favor”.
It also wants to see the international community provide some sort of balancing act coming from what the authors call a holistic approach taking into account the “clear relationship between Eritrea’s militarized foreign policy and its brand of domestic authoritarianism.” This should recognize that “it is inadequate and unhelpful to portray Eritrea as the regional spoiler” because “it is the product of the political environment of the Horn as a whole.” In other words, we are being told Eritrea’s aberrant behavior is the result of the environment of the Horn rather than, as most people would believe, that the current problems of the Horn are largely the responsibility of Eritrea.
In the final analysis, this assessment of Eritrea’s domestic situation suggests a situation is being created in which there is a very real danger of Eritrea becoming a failed state. The ICG therefore suggests something should be done to prevent this. No one who has the circumstances of the people of Eritrea at heart would disagree. But calling for the suspension of normal international rules to let the current authoritarian regime off the hook, or trying to suggest that what is now essentially a non-issue, the Ethio-Eritrean border dispute, is really the most important problem in the region, merely offers a lifeline to a regime that this report suggests is past its sell-by date. There are rather obvious alternatives, one of which is for the Eritrean government to take note of why it has been sanctioned by the UN Security Council and for it to respond appropriately. That would be a very clear start to a process which might then reverse the danger of Eritrea becoming a failed state and help the people of Eritrea.
A Symposium on International Humanitarian Intervention in Africa
A symposium on Reflections on International Humanitarian Intervention in Africa took place in Addis Ababa this week. Hosted by the United Support Artists for Africa, Trust Africa, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, African Humanitarian Action and the UN Economic Commission for Africa, it commemorated the 25th anniversary of “We are the World”. And in his opening remarks, Mr. Jalal, Head of the Civil Society Section, Governance and Public Administration Division, of ECA, underlined his optimism that the symposium would bring about a new paradigm shift for humanitarian intervention in Africa as well as improve awareness of the subject.
Ambassador Mahdi Ahmed, representing the Minister of Foreign Affairs, expressed his gratitude for the many names and organizations engaged in providing genuine humanitarian assistance to Africa in general and Ethiopia in particular. He hoped ” the symposium would contribute to a better understanding of all aspects of humanitarian intervention so a genuinely African perspective can be developed ….as an endeavor driven solely by consideration of the interests of humanity.” This is not as easy as it might appear, particularly when so much “is politicized and when human rights issues are used for ideological purposes”. The de-politicization of humanitarian work is now “an imperative necessity.”
The participants discussed a range of issues including what such intervention meant for Africa, and what implications and consequences it meant for the famine of “biblical proportions’ in the Sahel, the tragedies in Darfur, the genocide in Rwanda, racial discrimination and apartheid. Humanitarian intervention seemed to have been mostly organized by non-Africans, and designed, monitored, implemented controlled and financed by them as well. The symposium, which also considered the role of the Diaspora, suggested the need for African initiatives and African-led interventions, and considered whether African ownership would improve such activities.
Participants agreed on the need for a new paradigm in humanitarian intervention, a paradigm that would take Africa out of dependency, to be made up of a combination of self-assertion, self-control and self-development. They agreed on the importance of establishing a working group to produce a working document and called for the AU to be engaged proactively in African-led humanitarian intervention when necessary.
Core Principles of Ethiopia’s Foreign Policy: Ethiopia-Indian relations
It was in July 1948 that Ethiopia and India first established diplomatic relations at the level of legations. The relationship was raised to ambassadorial level four years later in 1952. Equally, there had been contacts between the people of both countries for many centuries, and this long legacy had been nourished through trade and commerce. More recently, since the establishment of full diplomatic relations, the two countries have consistently made efforts to strengthen their relations. There have been a number of visits by the leaders of each country and a number of agreements signed. These have steadily contributed to the deepening of relations.
This has been particularly visible in the way the two countries have constantly supported each other’s positions in international forums in many different areas. Ethiopia and India share a common understanding on such issues as cross-border international terrorism, the need and direction for reform of the United Nations, and now on climate change.
Economic relations have steadily increased in the last two decades, since the EPRDF came to power. The volume of bilateral trade reached over US$ 500 million last year. Certainly the balance substantially favors India, but Ethiopia exports raw hides and skins, pulses, oil seeds, spices, and similar products to India. India, in turn, exports iron and steel products, drugs and pharmaceutical supplies, machinery and instruments to Ethiopia. The Indian government has now initiated a Duty Free Tariff Preference Scheme designed to help Ethiopia and other developing African states export their products to India. Ethiopia is already operating this scheme. In addition a trade agreement was signed in 1997 to facilitate trade relations, and the two countries set up a Joint Trade Committee that same year. This regularly reviews the progress of bilateral trade as well as the progress in implementing the various agreements that have been signed between Ethiopia and India. It also has the job of exploring possible new areas for cooperation.
Indian companies have been playing a prominent role in the area of investment. Currently some 427 Indian companies have investment licenses. The total capital involved is more than US$ 4 billion. The areas involved include: agriculture including floriculture, engineering, plastics, pharmaceuticals and hotels and restaurants. Indian companies have shown a keen interest in investing in Ethiopia, identifying it as a country that is stable, that has sound macro economic policies, and that also has good governance. All this facilitates investment. In addition, the Indian government has certainly encouraged Indian investment in Ethiopia, and indeed in Africa more widely, by providing finance through its Export-Import Bank (EXIM Bank). The bank opened an East African regional office in Addis Ababa this week, on September 21st. . This is expected to further expand trade and investment relations between India and East African countries in general, and Ethiopia in particular. It is also expected to create significant and conducive opportunities for Indian investors.
Another aspect of this has been India’s willingness to help finance different development projects through the provision of soft loans. Ethiopia has benefited largely. The EXIM bank has already provided some US$ 700 million through its line of credit facilities. Of these, for example, US$ 65 million has been earmarked for a rural electrification project; another US$ 640 million has been for the expansion of Ethiopia’s sugar industry. The opening of the EXIM Bank’s regional office in Addis Ababa suggests real possibilities for loans for future development prospects.
The government of India has not confined its assistance to loans of this kind. It has offered various training courses through the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) program. This started as long ago as 1969, and has been exceptionally useful in educating experts in various fields and in giving support for capacity building, as well as providing a supply of equipment to a wide variety of different institutions. Nearly 700 Ethiopians have been able to study under the ITEC program. As part of its intended transfer of technology and skills, the Indian government has set up a pilot project for tele-medicine and tele-education under the Pan-Africa e-Network project. Ethiopia is the first country to implement this project; and Addis Ababa University and the Black Lion Hospital in Addis Ababa are the nodal centers for tele-education and tele-medicine respectively.
Cooperation between Ethiopia and India has also been encouraged by the recent launching of the India-Africa Forum. The Forum is a mechanism for collective dialogue and mutual cooperation between Africa and India, and in general it focuses on issues of economic and social development. The Forum is, of course, essentially a multilateral structure and this aspect of India-Africa relations can now expect to be strengthened so that the Forum can work more closely with the African Union, with NEPAD and with the Regional Economic Communities (RECS) and other groupings, on cross-border, multi-country projects encouraging regional integration. It is also expected to encourage investment in Ethiopia as well as elsewhere in Africa.
The government of India underlined its readiness to continue to strengthen bilateral relations with Ethiopia by the opening of EXIM’s East African regional office in Addis Ababa. It is scarcely surprising Prime Minister Meles pointed out in his address to the 8th Congress of the EPRDF last week that India, like China, has been remarkably generous in offering such support to the people and government of Ethiopia even before it has completed efforts to lift all of its own people out of poverty. India has consistently been a most dependable and generous partner. Equally, it has always offered a relationship based on mutual respect and mutual benefit. Ethiopia will not forget India’s generosity nor its support in so many areas.
Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Ministry of Foreign Affairs