The 6th EXTRA-ORDINARY Meeting of Council of Ministers of EASBRIG concludes
Somalia continues to face challenges
Caution needed against hasty assessment of ‘Eritrea’s renewed good faith’
More on Congressman Payne’s anti-Ethiopian hearing on June 17
The Mekelle Memorandum
This week, the parties to the CPA, the National Congress Party (NCP) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) met in Mekelle, Northern Ethiopia, to discuss Post-Referendum Issues and arrangements for the way forward toward substantive negotiations. The opening of the discussions was chaired by former President Thabo Mbeki, Chairman of the African Union High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP), and conducted bilaterally between the two parties to the CPA. These talks between the parties were conducted from 21st to the 22nd of June 2010, in a very positive and constructive manner, resulting in the signing of the “Mekelle Memorandum of Understanding between NCP and SPLM on Post-Referendum Issues and Arrangements”.
This Memorandum of Understanding is a framework on the basis of which the substantive talks expected to commence in early July 2010 are to be conducted. The main points of the Memorandum of Understanding included agreement between the parties on issues such as, the structure of the negotiations; clusters and sequencing of issues; issues pertaining to press statements and public briefings; involvement of other political parties and Sudanese Civil Society; negotiation framework and launching dates; and substantive negotiation.
The successful completion of the discussions between the NCP and SPLM on the post-referendum issues and arrangements is a very important step in creating the necessary conditions to move the peace process forward. The parties should be commended for their handling of the issues with a sense of the necessary focus and responsibility. Even more importantly, they have amply demonstrated that they own the process. Ethiopia welcomes this development and encourages both parties to the CPA to continue to build on this significant step with a view to achieving sustainable peace for the people of Sudan.
While this process labelled ‘Talks about Talks’ is entirely a bilateral process between the two parties without the need for the mediation of third parties, it has nonetheless been facilitated by the AU High-level Implementation Panel chaired by President Thabo Mbeki, with venue provided by Ethiopia, and with the support of Norway. The Ethiopian Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin expressed his satisfaction over what the two parties have been able to achieve at their encounter under this innovative formula during a working breakfast hosted for the two delegations together on the 25th of June.
The 6th EXTRA-ORDINARY Meeting of Council of Ministers of EASBRIG concludes
The 6th Extra-Ordinary Council of Ministers Meeting of the Eastern Africa Brigade was held in Nairobi, Kenya, last week. Preceding the meeting of the Council, the Chiefs of Defence Staff and the experts meetings were held from the 14th to 17th June 2010 and presented their respective reports of their meetings to the Council.
The Chairperson of the Council of Ministers of the Eastern African Region, Mr. Ougoureh Kifleh of the Republic of Djibouti welcomed all the delegates of Member Countries to the 6th Extraordinary Council of Ministers of Defence and Security. He urged the participants not to rest until they make the mission and vision of EASF a reality and the institution becomes viable in all areas. It requires consultations, time, patience, energy, financial sacrifice to make EASBRIG a viable international institution, he underlined. He praised countries of the region for having overcome some major obstacles in the process to reach the final phase of EASBRIG’s consolidation.
He underlined that the meeting would focus on the finalization and consolidation of the initial structure of EASBRIG to make it multidimensional through the integration of civilian, police and maritime components into the Planning Element; and on re-energizing the functioning of the Organization. He concluded by paying tribute to friends and partners of EASBRIG for the financial, intellectual and technical support they provided throughout the development of the regional institution.
Opening the meeting officially, Mr. Musalia Mudavadi, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for local Government of the Republic of Kenya welcomed participants to Kenya and to the meeting of the Council of Ministers of Defence and Security of the Eastern African Region. He noted that the meeting would discuss very important issues concerning peace and security in the region. One of the key issues was the conflict that continues to inflict pain on the conscience of the African continent. Apart from the immense human suffering and destruction wrought by these conflicts on the people, he emphasised that they also divert scarce resources needed to address many socio-economic challenges that member states face. He urged the participants to realize that, at this time, Africa could not afford any more conflicts; rather, he emphasised, it ought to work on resolving the bigger conflicts already brought about by poverty.
He recalled that in trying to mitigate the effects of conflicts on the continent, Africa had in the past mostly relied on the international community to intervene. Unfortunately, recent trends indicate reluctance to engage in what is seen as a peculiarly “African Phenomenon” with regard to conflict resolution; and conflicts in Africa are left to boil underneath and come to notice only too late, and after they had imploded. He noted that peace and security were complementary pillars to economic development. They play a critical role in creating an enabling environment upon which all economic activities take place. He stressed that the goal of a peaceful and secure Africa at peace with itself and the world was definitely not beyond the region’s reach. Africa has the necessary human resources to handle its problems. He further underlined the need for the region to work collectively and suggested the starting point would be a programme of action to secure a peace dividend for the continent. A good start was the signing of the protocol establishing the African Union Peace and Security Council at the inaugural Summit of the African Union held in Durban, South Africa in July 2002. The Heads of State and Government of the Eastern Africa Region followed up with a commitment through the adoption of the Policy Framework establishing the Eastern Africa Standby Brigade at the 1st Summit held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in April 2004.
He recognised the efforts made by the Eastern Africa Regional Coordinating Mechanism that has brought together the Member States of Eastern Africa. He, however, cautioned that what had been achieved so far was just the easiest part. The commitment to the Eastern Africa Standby Force in terms of concrete contributions of troops and financial resources is the main test for the whole initiatives. He urged member states to prepare their pledged troops appropriately and to honour their respective financial obligations in-order to invest in a peace dividend. He thanked the International development partners for their continued support and for standing by the region on all major activities.
The meeting also received an extensive briefing on developments in Somalia from the fact finding mission EASBRIG dispatched to Mogadishou in April 2010. AU’s representative also informed the meeting on the recent developments in Somalia and the challenges faced by AMISOM on the ground and asked EASBRIG to make what ever contribution to ensure the success of the mission. The Defence Minister of Somalia who attended the meeting also informed the Ministers that any effort to succeed in Somalia should base itself on strengthening the role of the TFG institutions in peace building and peace making. Unless the TFG is made the core of this effort, it would be challenging and even impossible to make headway on the ground.
After extensive deliberations on the matter, the Ministers agreed on a proposal on the possible deployment of EASBRIG forces to Somalia under AMISOM, for consideration of the IGAD Summit which planned to be convened on the sidelines of the AU meeting in Kampala in July 2010. The Ministers also emphasized the need to support the TFG security sectors in terms of building their capacities.
The meeting also considered the establishment of the Maritime cell, the number, rank and duties of the officers to hold positions in the Maritime Cell to be placed within the PLANELM. The Ministers welcomed the offer by Djibouti to host the Maritime Centre.
On administrative matters, the Ministers also looked at the unbalanced representation of Member States on staffing of EASBRICOM.
The meeting was informed on the progress made in the development of a framework defining the principles, scope and procedures to regulate the support of the Friends of EASBRIG (FoE) and decided that EASBRICOM finish developing a working document that would be used by the Experts Working Group from Member States at the next Policy Organs meeting. This working document will define the relationship between EASF and Friends of EASBRIG.
The meeting also received a presentation on the Annual Assessed Contribution of 2010 including a breakdown of arrears for previous years and called on member states to pay their arrears and Annual Assessed Contributions for the year 2010.
The meeting also considered a presentation of three samples of the proposed synchronized EASF flag. The meeting selected a sample which aligned with the AU flag and symbolizes the region’s effort in peace efforts.
Having heard the report of the High Level Legal and Political Experts meeting that was held in Addis Ababa from 2nd – 4th June 2010, participants of the meeting suggested amendments to the Memorandum of Understanding for the establishment of EASBRIG signed in 2005. This will be considered by the forthcoming Summit of member states.
Somalia continues to face challenges
Somalia’s challenges have yet to be addressed. The number of foreign extremist elements joining Al-Shabab and Hizbul Islam continues to grow. The support the TFG is getting in real terms is not increasing as needed. The support provided to the extremists is more coordinated and higher compared to what the TFG is actually receiving. The TFG is not assisting itself either. The differences among the leadership have yet to be resolved. There is a lack of identifying priorities for the leadership. There is a need to put the implementation of the Agreement between the TFG and Ahlu Sunna on a fast track. This needs to be expedited. Naming a new cabinet is also in the pipeline with the view to reducing its size so as to make it efficient and manageable and to enable it to concentrate on urgent issues of security as well as creating a situation conducive for a smooth transition.
The question here is whether this is the right time to involve in this exercise. Although some of these are concerns that should be addressed expeditiously, it does not mean that there is no progress at all on the ground. The TFG after signing the agreement with Ahlu Sunna has expanded its constituency. Ahlu Sunna in coordination with the TFG is taking measures in the security sector including in Mogadishu and these efforts are showing progress. This does not, of course, mean that Somalia is out of the woods or even closer to be there yet. But mere scepticism does not make sense either.
The talk of some so called experts portraying the TFG as the worst option is not only unhelpful but also dangerous. This needs to stop.
In the meantime, there are reports coming from Mogadishu indicating divisions within Hizbul Islam. Negotiations have been underway for weeks between representatives of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and a group of moderate members of Hizbul Islam, according to Somali Interior Ministry spokesman Abdelrasak Qaylow. “The talks are at a good point” and the government “hopes to achieve similar results to those obtained with other movements”, he said.
On the other hand, following the decision of the IGAD Council of Ministers last week a team of military officers from IGAD is currently visiting Mogadishu to assess the security situation on the ground. The team is expected to have discussions with the TFG leadership, as well as representatives of AMISOM. IGAD is expected to hold an extraordinary Summit in early July to look at developments in Somalia and how best to assist the TFG. The Ministers of IGAD in their recent extraordinary session have made it clear that the current status quo is unacceptable and it should change. The international community should also redouble its effort so as to enable the TFG move forward.
Meanwhile, Somaliland is preparing itself for the long awaited election on 26 June 2010. The parties concluded their campaigns on 23rd June in a peaceful manner. This shows the commitment of the people of Somaliland to a peaceful election and their rejection of unrest. It is hoped that this would continue until elections are concluded successfully. The three parties need to continue to work together in this regard to ensure that the peace and stability of Somaliland would continue for the years to come. There is a test of leadership here. The electoral commission is handling the process in a manner that won the trust of the people of Somaliland as well as that of the international community that is fully supporting the process. The electoral commission should continue to discharge its responsibility in the same way in the coming days. It needs the full support of the people in this process. The electoral commission is the one that announces the results, not political parties. The parties should desist from claims and counter claims during or after the elections and should allow the electoral process to take its natural course. They should recognize that silly mistakes on their part can undermine the legitimacy of the process and affect the effort of the people to live in peace. The successful and peaceful conclusion of the election would certainly enable Somaliland to be an example and will provide added impetus to peace and stability in this troubled region.
Caution needed against hasty assessment of ‘Eritrea’s renewed good faith’
The recent agreement signed between Eritrea and Djibouti to resolve their border dispute has received positive notice from the international community coming, as it does, from a regime that has been vehemently denying the very existence of any dispute. Various sections of the international community have been expressing optimism following the agreement, the assumption being that this is a positive indication that the regime in Asmara is mending its ways. Some naïve commentators even go as far as to take this particular development as having gone in some ways in meeting the conditions of Resolution 1907. While Eritrean regime’s willingness to sign the agreement is a welcome development, there are, however, reasons to be sceptical of the international community’s enthusiasm towards the agreement.
To begin with, the process by which the agreement was reached not only was not transparent but it also was done without the involvement or knowledge of the relevant international and regional organizations such as the UN Security Council, the AU or IGAD. These organizations, it is to be recalled, have been calling on the government of Eritrea to resolve its dispute with Djibouti and to desist from its destabilizing activities throughout the region. In fact, it was the calls of these organizations that the Eritrean government has defied for a long time. The UN and the AU were communicated of the signing of the agreement not by the parties themselves but by the Prime Minister of the government of Qatar. It is only natural that organizations be part of the implementation of resolutions passed under their auspices. This is particularly relevant to the Security Council which has been given the mandate under the UN Charter for international peace and security. Qatar, however well-intentioned, cannot assume that responsibility.
Equally important, the government of Eritrea has yet not officially acknowledged the signing of the agreement. A word has yet to be heard from Eritrea’s officials about the agreement and its specific contents. As we have noted last week, this is a rather strange spectacle which cannot be put aside as politically insignificant or trivial. All the more so because as late as two or three weeks prior to the announcement of the Qatari initiative, the Eritrean authorities were telling the international community including through official communication to the Security Council, that the accusation that they were occupying Djibouti territory was mere fabrication. It defies reason how a government that has not formally acknowledged the existence of a problem will genuinely be interested in resolving it.
But more importantly, it would be unwise, as President Omar Guelleh of Djibouti recently remarked in the UN Security Council, to make “a hasty assessment of Eritrea’s renewed good faith”. Indeed there are those who naively believe Eritrea has taken significant steps towards fulfilling the demands in the UNSC resolution 1907. However they seem to be oblivious to other aspects of the resolution than the call for the resolving of the border dispute with Djibouti. Eritrea may have of late been resorting to the use of to semantic sleights of hand and diplomatic obfuscations to wear a peaceful façade; in fact a lot of effort has been made to refurbish its image without actually getting its acts right. But there is no evidence to even remotely suggest that it has altogether stopped its destructive activities in Somalia and other countries of the region, much less any willingness to play a constructive role in the search for peace. If anything, Eritrea still continues arming and deploying insurgents into its neighbours. It is not yet clear if the agreement it signed will also include stopping its support to rebels opposed to the government of Djibouti. It continues to deny that the TFG is the only legitimate government in Somalia. Its idea of inclusive political process in Somalia is oddly antagonistic to what the rest of the world means by that: a process inclusive of all peaceful political actors. Eritrea still remains the only state adamant in its open support to extremists as partners for peace in Somalia.
It is understandable that the international community should take any positive signal from the regime in Asmara—however insignificant—with a modicum of optimism in the interest of encouraging constructive engagement, but it has to be a guarded one. Eritrea’s behaviour is far from reassuring. What the opacity surrounding the agreement could perhaps underline is the same pattern of hide-and-seek that the government of Eritrea has now perfected into an art form. The leaders of Eritrea would do anything to capitalize on the positive publicity that comes with the announcement of the signing of such agreement to improve their image tarnished by the series of destabilizing activities they have been engaged in for a long time without actually addressing the very anomalies they have helped create. It is only fitting that the relevant bodies do everything to ensure its full compliance with the UNSC resolutions in a transparent manner. This is specifically required of the Secretary General of the United Nations who has been given the mandate to submit a report soon on the implementation of Council Resolution 1907. Any exaggerated account of Eritrea’s alleged partial fulfilment of the demands of the Council under Resolution 1907 would not serve the interest of peace in the region.
More on Congressman Payne’s anti-Ethiopian hearing on June 17
As we noted last week, Congressman Payne held a hearing of his Africa and Global health sub-committee of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee on June 17th. The subject was “The Horn of Africa: Current Conditions and US Policy”. Virtually pre-empting his own title, Congressman Payne’s opening statement launched into one of his all too frequently egregious criticisms of Ethiopia and its government. He was even prepared to make the nonsensical allegation that Chinese military units had been involved in clashes in Ethiopia. Exactly where the Congressman got this extraordinary notion from wasn’t clear as no one has made any such claim before. Like some of his other comments, the Congressman’s remarks and the errors he made set the tone for several misleading diatribes against Ethiopia, notably that of Mr. Ted Dagne of the Congressional Research Service, the first witness at the hearing. His is a strange and bizarre analysis of politics in the Horn which is neither here nor there. What values and objectives they are intended to serve is very difficult to fathom. But that the peace, security and stability as well as the democratization are not Dagne’s objectives must be plain.
Mr. Dagne managed to couple his usual critical and negative comments on Ethiopia with a comprehensive number of errors in his efforts to “set the scene”. Neither civil society nor “independent press activities” have been crushed in Ethiopia as papers like Fortune, Capital and the Reporter can testify. Opposition leaders have not been forced into exile, though some, like Berhanu Nega, have chosen to go into exile and attempt to launch movements like Ginbot 7, committed to an alliance with Eritrea and to armed struggle. Mr. Dagne makes no mention of the real reasons for the EPRDF’s electoral success, including the considerable economic and other developments of the past few years, though to be fair he does refer, if briefly, to the failure of the opposition groups which “fragmented and fought each other more than preparing a united front with a vision…or building a constituency base throughout the country”, which the EPRDF did most successfully of course. This lack of accurate information on the election and the electoral process was equally apparent in the testimony of the witness from Human Rights Watch, which has consistently made little effort to investigate the reality of the democratic process in Ethiopia, and as we have noted before, has tried on several occasions to influence the elections through a series of pre-election reports.
Equally, Mr. Dagne’s account of the history of the ONLF is quite simply wrong. He makes no mention of the split in the ONLF in 1994 when the majority refused to follow the ONLF chairman in calling for a referendum on self-determination in the region or follow him into an armed struggle when this was rejected. The majority of the party stayed within the political framework of the Somali Regional State. They still participate in regional politics within the Somali Peoples Democratic Party, the current ruling party in the region. It might be added that no more than elements from a couple of sub-clans follow the ONLF, and most of the Ogaden clans (which make up no more than a third of the inhabitants of the region) actively oppose the ONLF. Nor does Mr. Dagne make any effort to give an account of the substantial recent economic developments in the region, in educations, health, infrastructure and telecommunications for example. But facts are hardly significant for Dagne; they are not to all those driven by visceral hostility towards the subject of their analysis.
Mr. Dagne claimed that “hundreds of thousands of civilians” had fled the Ogaden region of Ethiopia into refugee camps in Kenya. In fact, although there have been some Somali-speaking refugees from Ethiopia appearing in Kenya refugee camps, the numbers have been small and the majority of the Somali refugees in these camps come from Somalia itself. He said one of the leading figures in Al-Shabaab, Sheikh Muktar Robow, came from Somaliland when he in fact comes from the Bay region of Somalia. He suggested Ethiopia’s intervention in Somalia in December 2006 had contributed to the emergence of Al-Shabaab despite the fact that the organization was set up at least two years earlier.
In referring to terrorism in the region, Mr. Dagne failed to mention Eritrea’s support for Al-Shabaab and other terrorist organizations in Somalia, or indeed those operating in Ethiopia. Even more extraordinarily in his references to Eritrea he did not speak of the UN Security Council Resolution 1907 of December last year. This imposed sanctions on Eritrea because of its support for Somali terrorist organizations and for Eritrea’s invasion of Djibouti territory and its seizure of Ras Doumeira in June 2008. Mr. Dagne’s highly specious account of this episode describes it as a border dispute and a clash which had “erupted after several months of tension, following troop deployment to the border by both Eritrea and Djibouti”. He then added “In June 2010, the governments of Djibouti and Eritrea agreed to resolve their dispute through negotiations under the auspices of the government of Qatar. In early June 2010, Eritrean forces withdrew from the border area, and Qatar deployed its forces as observers.” This inaccurate and highly partial account fails to make clear that Eritrean forces invaded Djibouti, that they seized Djibouti territory, and refused to withdraw for two years even denying in the face of photographic evidence and captured prisoners that Eritrean forces had crossed the border into Djibouti or indeed that Eritrea had any problem with Djibouti. It was only following the imposition of UN sanctions that Eritrea accepted Qatar’s mediation and withdrew the forces that it had continually denied were in Djibouti. Of course, Eritrea is yet to inform its own people about all this.
Mr. Dagne’s account of US-Eritrean relations is equally specious. He fails to note the long string of outspoken attacks on the US made by President Issayas over a number of years. President Issayas has even accused the CIA of being responsible for bribing the hundreds of Eritreans who flee across the border into Sudan and Ethiopia every month, many escaping from conscription. In the subsequent discussion, Mr. Dagne defended conscription in Eritrea on the basis that it is common in other countries. He failed to mention that in Eritrea conscription is open ended, with those who were called back to military service in 1998 were still mobilized over a decade later, and that virtually no one has been demobilized. Equally, he neglected to mention that conscripts are normally used as an unpaid or cheap labor force, often for companies run by senior military officers, as thousands of those who have fled from Eritrea have testified.
Mr. Dagne claims the Ethiopian government accepted the Ethiopia-Eritrea Commission Boundary ruling in June 2007, though, as he must know perfectly well, Ethiopia in fact clearly accepted the ruling more than two years earlier in November 2004. His other comments on the issue are so biased and skewed they deserve no response. The guy does not even know that an international tribunal—the Claims Commission—handed down a ruling saying Eritrea violated the UN Charter when it invaded Ethiopian in May 1998. The Commission said that Eritrea committed an aggression, not Ethiopia.
Another statement that deserves comment is Professor Menkhaus of Davidson College who provided a lengthy critique of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in Somalia, classifying it as a failure, and suggesting that it was time for a US policy shift over Somalia. He added, however, that this could “only happen if a reasonable policy alternative could be articulated”. This he fails to do. In fact, Professor Menkhaus, even in his own terms, was overly pessimistic about the TFG dismissing its performance and exaggerating its problems. It is not true that “most” of the thousands of security forces that external states have trained and armed for the TFG have deserted or defected, though some have. Nor is it the case that Ethiopia’s direct involvement in Somalia (an involvement which ended over a year ago) had the effect of “legitimizing” Al-Shabaab or tarnishing the TFG. Indeed, as Professor Menkhaus also says elsewhere Al-Shabaab is “deeply unpopular with most Somalis, who loathe its extremism, its links to al Qa’ida, and the role foreign jihadists play in the movement.” In fact, one result of Ethiopia’s involvement was the Djibouti Agreement which was responsible for revitalizing the TFG and putting President Sheik Sherif in power. Professor Menkhaus largely ignores the Djibouti Agreement and the significant agreement between the TFG and Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama’a signed in Addis Ababa earlier this year. In fact, despite his criticisms of the TFG, he also admits it would be counter-productive to abandon it, though it should be treated more as a transitional authority; and he also argues that the US must continue to support AMISOM.
Professor Menkhaus notes that the crisis in Somalia is very much part of a regional conflict, but in line with others at the hearing fails to raise the issue of Eritrean involvement and its active support for Al-Shabaab and other anti-TFG forces. Apparently following the line Congressman Payne tried to take in ignoring Eritrea’s regional involvement, Professor Menkhaus even appears to suggest that factors underlying Somalia’s problems include the failure to resolve the Ethiopia-Eritrea border issue and the activities of the ONLF. There can be little doubt that peace in the region will eventually require recognition by all states that no one can, nor should, threaten the security of their neighbors. Eritrea, of course, has been the prime example of this over the past decade and a half, something which Congressman Payne appears determined to deny in spite of all the indisputable evidence against it.
Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Ministry of Foreign Affairs