Somalia: The AU’s Peace and Security Council meets
On Wednesday the Peace and Security Council held a session in Addis Ababa on current developments in Somalia. It was extensively briefed by the Deputy Representative of the AU Commission to Somalia, by Ambassador Mahiga, the new Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General to Somalia, by Ambassador Kongit Sinegiorgis, the Permanent Representative of Ethiopia to the AU, and by a representative of the TFG.
The AU Commission’s Deputy Representative detailed the challenges facing the TFG and AMISOM forces on the ground, and emphasized the need for the AU and the international community to swiftly provide support. The TFG’s representative focused on the dangers from the onslaught of terrorism, underlined by the terrorist atrocity at the Mona Hotel the previous day in which 6 parliamentarians had died as well as twenty civilians. He stressed the need for immediate action to support TFG forces materially and logistically and called on the AU and the international community to contribute to the efforts of the TFG and AMISOM in a concrete way.
Ambassador Mahiga noted that there were signs of growing cooperation and coordination among members of the international community. He said destabilization activities against those areas which had had peace and stability for quite some time should be a concern to the region, to Africa and the international community. He emphasized the critical role to be played by IGAD member states and AMISOM; and emphasised the need to expeditiously implement the issues that had been discussed at the sideline meeting in Kampala. He informed the Council about the meeting scheduled between the AU Commission’s Special Representative on Somalia, UNPOS and AMISOM’s field commander in New York on September 13th. .
Ambassador Kongit Sinegiorgis, speaking on behalf of the current IGAD Council Chair, Ethiopia, recalled that the AU Assembly in Kampala had endorsed the decisions of IGAD Heads of State and Government in July including the decision to deploy another 2000 peacekeepers for AMISOM immediately. She expressed IGAD’s belief that the Council would encourage the relevant bodies to make the necessary efforts for its timely implementation. Ambassador Kongit said that while the leadership of the TFG had yet to show the necessary determination and resolve to work together, the consultations between the TFG and Ahlu Suna wal Jama’a earlier this month, evaluating the implementation of their Agreement, had been constructive; the two parties had come a long way. They had held extensive discussions on how to implement their agreement fully and shown determination to move forward.
An important development, Ambassador Kongit noted, was the international community’s current activity. Immediately after the Kampala sidelines’ meeting, a US-led demarche, involving Somalia’s partners and neighbours, was carried out in various capitals, with a view to soliciting support for the TFG and AMISOM in terms of equipment, logistical support and troop contributions. This was an encouraging development and would continue to help concretize necessary support for Somalia. As the IGAD Summit in July made clear, the fighting in Somalia is no longer between Somalis but rather between the people of Somalia and international terrorism. Ambassador Kongit took the opportunity to underline that IGAD was committed to continue to work closely with the AU and the UN.
The need for constructive engagement, not disengagement
The suicide bombing and shoot-out on Tuesday at the Mona Hotel in Mogadishu killed thirty people, six of them MPs and four government officials. The remainder of those who died were innocent civilians. The attack came only a month after the atrocity in Kampala when 76 people watching the World Cup final on Television died in two suicide bombings. In both cases Al-Shabaab did not just admit responsibility; it boasted of it, as indeed it normally does when it has carried out an atrocity of this nature. The deaths for which it has been responsible in Mogadishu alone now run into thousands. They have even included on more than one occasion, dozens of women involved in street cleaning, as well as commuters attempting to get to work on buses, and children on their way to school. The only occasion when Al-Shabaab appeared reluctant to admit to such action was when a suicide bombing in December last year killed 20 people at a graduation ceremony at a hotel in Mogadishu – among the dead were four ministers, and a number of the first doctors to graduate in Somalia for over 20 years. The wave of anger was so great that even Al-Shabaab originally refused to acknowledge what it had done.
A recent report on Al-Shabaab’s activities summed these up: “Men are forced to grow beards. Women can’t leave home without a male relative. Music, movies and watching sports on TV are banned. Limbs are chopped off as punishment, and executions by stoning have become a public spectacle.” Those that try to speak out against the activities of Al-Shabaab are routinely killed. Following some severe losses in fighting against the government in Mogadishu, Al-Shabaab, now largely run by foreign fighters trained in Afghanistan, is demanding that households in areas it controls must contribute a boy to the ranks of its fighters. Those that have no children have to pay $50 a month, a sum equivalent to the average annual per capita income of Somalis.
And Al-Shabaab is the organization to which some commentators, with their oxymoronic concept of “constructive disengagement”, want to hand over Somalia. Questions can legitimately be raised about the internal disputes of the TFG and the TFIs. It is pertinent to look at the international community’s lack of support for Somalia and its government. None of this, however, can provide any justification for handing the population of Somalia over, lock, stock and barrel, to Al-Shabaab which subjects those it controls to “unrelenting repression and brutality” and whose leaders have no roots in Somalia. Al-Shabaab has, in fact, neither an Islamic nor a Somali agenda. It has no respect for humanity, nor indeed for the religion it professes to follow, as it demonstrated with its latest atrocity, murdering innocent Muslims during the month of Ramadan.
One reason for the calls for “constructive disengagement” comes from the facile acceptance of claims by Al-Shabaab and its supporters that it controls most of Somalia. It doesn’t. This is a description routinely made with no reference to reality. The frequent associated description of the TFG as holding no more than a few streets in Mogadishu is also highly misleading. In both cases these claims ignores the reality of Somali politics and the situation on the ground. The Puntland administration, for example, is in full control of the northern areas, including the regions of Bari, Nugal and part of Mudug, though it is currently facing a small insurrection by an Al-Shabaab warlord in the Galgala mountains along its border with Somaliland. Ahlu Suna wal Jama’a, an organization now participating in the TFG, controls most of the central region of Galgudud, as well as large parts of Hiiraan and Middle Shebelle. Al Shabaab does operate in other areas and controls a number of towns including Kismayo, Baidoa and Bardera but in the regions of Gedo, Middle Juba, Bakool and Lower Shebelle, they face opposition from various sources, including clan militias, and warlords as well as pro-TFG forces.
The major focus of most reporting and comment has been on Mogadishu where Al-Shabaab has certainly been making considerable efforts to oust the TFG. It has so far failed, and with AMISOM building up to its mandated 8,100 strength, and TFG security forces currently increasing with the arrival of hundreds of troops and police trained outside Somalia by IGAD members and by the EU, Al-Shabaab is unlikely to succeed. At the moment, AMISOM actually holds 8 of Mogadishu’s 16 districts and is currently expanding into another 4. Al-Shabaab controls no more than a quarter of the city, four of Mogadishu’s districts (Wardiglei, Yaqshid, Hiruwa and Karan), though they regularly lob shells and fire mortars into other areas. Some commentators endlessly repeat Al-Shabaab propaganda suggesting that AMISOM troops are “inflicting thousands of civilian casualties, indiscriminately shelling neighborhoods in Mogadishu”, just as they used to claim that Ethiopian soldiers did the same. Even proponents of “constructive disengagement” should be able to see these allegations for what they are: exaggerated and inaccurate propaganda from an organization which has itself publicly and proudly carried out the slaughter of thousands in Mogadishu.
This is the background against which proponents of “constructive disengagement” like Ms. Bruton and others, including the Council for Foreign Relations, want the international community to withdraw all support for the TFG and hand Somalia over to an extremist organization led by terrorists from the battlefields of Afghanistan and guided by Al Qaeda. Those who support this negative scenario consistently claim that no military solution is possible. They apparently believe a political solution will simply appear in a puff of smoke out of a possible post Al-Shabaab collapse. Given that Somalia’s political crisis began 19 years ago with just such a collapse after the fall of Siad Barre, it is hard to see how such a scenario can generate any optimism.
A central point is that none of these analyses appear aware that IGAD, the neighboring states and the African Union and the TFG, do in fact all agree that deploying military forces in isolation will not resolve Somalia’s problems. Everybody is fully conscious of the need for the TFG to extend the process of peace and reconciliation. This indeed is what led to the Djibouti Agreement in August 2008, to the TFG/Ahlu Suna wal Jama’a agreement earlier this year and to the memorandum of understanding between the government of Puntland and the TFG. As we have noted before, proponents of “constructive disengagement” have no understanding of either local politics or IGAD policies, nor indeed of Al-Shabaab’s aims and intentions. If Somalia is simply abandoned, as Ms. Bruton suggests, the whole of East Africa will be threatened with destabilization, as Al-Shabaab has already made clear. Not content with bombings in Uganda, in the last couple of months it has launched a number of cross border raids into Kenya.
Nobody denies that the TFG could do more to implement its policies and agreements, nor that the international community needs to demonstrate the political will to provide the necessary resources. The required shift in the balance of power in Mogadishu still depends upon the donors producing and supporting a committed plan of action. Boosting AMISOM and TFG security is one aspect of this in order to establish control in the capital, other elements include the ongoing capacity building for the TFG and the TFIs, constitutional drafting for the end of the transitional period and the widening of the peace and reconciliation process. All this, as IGAD has frequently emphasized, must be coupled with a vigorous and realistic response from the international community, not the abandonment of 10 million Somalis to international terrorism.
A cautionary note on Eritrea’s conduct
Just over ten years ago in June 2000, Eritrea, reluctantly, acknowledged that it had been defeated in the war that it had launched two years earlier when Eritrean troops seized the town of Badme in May 1998. Subsequently, the Claims Commission, set up under the Algiers Agreement which ended the war, found Eritrea liable for its unprovoked aggression against Ethiopia in violation of the United Nations Charter. In its Partial Award Jus Ad Bellum (December 19, 2005), paragraph 16, the Commission stated categorically “Consequently, the Commission holds that Eritrea violated Article 2, paragraph 4, of the Charter of the United Nations by resorting to armed force to attack and occupy Badme, then under peaceful administration by Ethiopia as well as other territory…in an attack that began on May 12, 1998…”
A decade ago, the war was brought to an end by the Cessation of Hostilities in June 2000 and the Algiers Agreement of December that year. The former set up a Temporary Security Zone, a 25 kilometer wide zone inside Eritrea to provide a buffer between the two armies, to be patrolled and monitored by a United Nations Mission to Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE). The zone was created by the voluntary withdrawal of Ethiopian troops following their successful counter-offensive against Eritrea’s invasion of Ethiopia. The Agreements also set up the Claims Commission to investigate compensation claims arising from the conflict, and the Ethiopia Eritrea Boundary Commission to delimit the border and to demarcate it. UNMEE was given the additional task of providing support and security for the demarcation.
The EEBC’s Delimitation Decisions were announced in April 2002. While Eritrea accepted them immediately, Ethiopia raised a number of concerns over inconsistencies in the Decisions, and tried to work with the Commission to look for legal ways to resolve its complaints. In the end, despite failing to get satisfaction from the EEBC, Ethiopia accepted the Delimitation Decisions in November 2004 making it clear it was prepared to proceed to demarcation on the basis of dialogue and in conformity with international practice, and with respect to bringing about sustainable peace. Sir Elihu Lautherpacht, the EEBC Chairman, subsequently put on record at a meeting of the EEBC that “we have taken note of the fact that Ethiopia has accepted the delimitation decision. At one time there was a qualification of that acceptance by the expression ‘in principle’ and we understand that this has now been dropped so it is a complete and unconditional acceptance, so there is no doubt that Ethiopia is willing to move on to the complete demarcation of the boundary and all we are trying to do is to figure out how to go about that.”
However, Eritrea’s response to Ethiopia’s acceptance of the Delimitation Decisions was increasingly blunt refusals to normalize relations or hold any dialogue to lay the basis for sustainable peace. Indeed, as soon as Ethiopia accepted the EEBC Delimitation Decisions in November 2004, Eritrea openly and consistently began to flout the Algiers Agreements, beginning a series of violations of the TSZ with the infiltration of its forces into the zone. When these violations met with no more than mild critical comment from the UN Security Council, Eritrea steadily expanded its activities until it had taken over the whole TSZ, eventually forcing out UNMEE by withdrawing all facilities for the Mission. As Eritrea expanded its activities in the TSZ, the UN Secretary-General noted that Eritrea’s actions “represent a serious violation of the Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities of 18 June 2000”. In a report of July 2007, the Secretary-General referred to President Isaias’ comment two months earlier that the TSZ had been rendered “obsolete and meaningless” and noted UNMEE’s assessment that “thousands” of Eritrean Defense Force personnel were now “actively constructing new defenses in the Zone”.
The Security Council did in fact pass a number of resolutions demanding Eritrea remove the restrictions it imposed on UNMEE, including the restriction of night patrols and supply routes, banning the use of helicopters even for medical emergencies, and finally cutting off fuel supplies, but it did nothing else. By February 2008, UNMEE was, humiliatingly, forced to withdraw from the Zone completely, thus rendering the central element of the Algiers Agreement, and the Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities null and void. The Security Council formally terminated UNMEE’s mandate on July 31st 2008, in Resolution 1827, noting that Eritrea’s actions had “reached a level so as to undermine the basis of the Mission’s mandate”.
Since that time, Eritrea has continued its refusal to respond to any and all UN Security Council resolutions, including, for example, Resolution 1827 (30 July 2008) when the Security Council, “recalling [its] previous condemnation of Eritrea’s lack of cooperation”, demanded the “full and expeditious implementation” of the Algiers Agreements “as the basis for peaceful and cooperative relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea”, and reaffirmed the integrity of the TSZ. Eritrea has continued to claim all its actions, including rather surprisingly its invasion of Djibouti in mid 2008, have been caused by its “frustration” over Ethiopia’s alleged refusal to demarcate. In fact, Eritrea’s deliberate efforts to unpick the Algiers Agreements long post-dated Ethiopia’s full acceptance of the EEBC Delimitation Decisions. Following that acceptance, it has been Eritrea that has continuously raised barriers to the demarcation process, violating the Agreement on the cessation of Hostilities, and the TSZ, and clearly demonstrating it preferred the continuation of the dispute rather than its resolution.
Indeed, Eritrea’s interest in the border issue has always been subordinate to its wider ambitions to destabilize Ethiopia and to weaken neighboring states. Right from the outset, it was not the border issue that caused problems between Ethiopia and Eritrea. The origin of the crisis lay in Eritrea’s destructive conduct, its irresponsible leadership. This remains the case, and until this is resolved, something that Security Council Resolution 1907 tried to address, there appears to be little chance that Eritrea will change its policies. Any attempt to reduce the mischief caused by Eritrea in the region to the level of bilateral conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea can hardly serve the interests of peace.
This is precisely what the Eritrean leadership has been trying to promote for some time, but it ignores exactly what Eritrea has been doing in the region. In Somalia, for example, this has included support for Al-Shabaab as well as other extremist groups. There has been, and still is, a consistency to Eritrean strategy, a strategy that has nothing to do with any border dispute, or with supporting peace, security or regional stability. Eritrea has been the major source of instability in the IGAD region for the last decade. Again and again, Eritrea has used conflict as an element of foreign policy, passing up possibilities that might lead to peace, consistently refusing to accept the good offices of the UN or any other international assistance to resolve its problems whether with Ethiopia or any of its other neighbors. Equally, there is no indication that its recent acceptance of Qatar’s mediation in its dispute with Djibouti actually represents anything other than an attempt to persuade the Security Council to withdraw last December’s Resolution 1907 imposing sanctions.
In conclusion, what A Week in the Horn wants to reiterate is that the achievement of peace, security and stability in the Horn of Africa will continue to be problematic until the Eritrean leadership is brought to realize that destabilization of the region cannot be permitted. Assisting terrorism, directly or indirectly, cannot be tolerated by the international community. Eritrea should realize this. Any indication given to the Eritrean leadership that there is any justification for its behavior can only perpetuate the crisis of the Horn of Africa. All states in the region, including Ethiopia and the IGAD countries, have every reason to accommodate an Eritrea which is committed to peace and stability and regional co-operation. One has to admit, however, that this possibility still appears remote.
Core principles of Ethiopia’s Foreign Policy: Relations with Neighboring Countries
Ethiopia enjoys warm relations with all its neighbors with the exception of Eritrea. This reflects the mutual interests of the counties of the region, and it also highlights the objectives of Ethiopia’s foreign policy as laid out in the Foreign Policy and National Security Strategy which emphasized the government’s priorities: fighting poverty and backwardness and the promotion of democratization. The strategy makes clear that Ethiopia values relations with its neighbors and has a keen interest in advancing bilateral and regional relations on the basis of mutual interest. In this regard, the revitalization of IGAD was, and remains, a top priority in Ethiopia’s efforts to bring together neighboring countries in the quest for peace, stability and economic development. Similarly, Ethiopia’s active participation in the AU as well as IGAD has contributed to the creation of a cooperative framework among countries in the region on issues of common concern including peace initiatives, conflict early warning systems and economic integration.
On the bilateral level Ethiopia enjoys good relationships with all of its neighbors with the single exception of Eritrea. As we noted in the previous item, this is not a situation of Ethiopia’s choosing. Ethiopia continues to hope that Eritrea will stop its efforts to destabilize its neighbors, act to normalize relations with Ethiopia, and resume its rightful place in IGAD. It has to be said that little progress is apparent at the moment.
With Somalia, Ethiopia has been active in working on the resolution of conflicts there. Since the early 1990s it has hosted successive peace conferences aimed at bringing together different parties to the conflict. Ethiopia has done everything possible to support any effort by regional organizations as well as by the international community to resolve Somalia’s problems. Despite security threats from armed and extremist groups in Somalia, Ethiopia has always remained a friend to the peoples of Somalia. Indeed, it has welcomed hundreds of thousands of refugees from Somalia. It was in this spirit, and in the face of an intolerable level of extremist threat, that the Ethiopian government accepted the request of the Somalia Transitional Federal Government to send troops to Somalia in December 2006. The performance of the Ethiopian Defense Forces while in Somalia demonstrated the level of respect and friendship that Ethiopia has for the peoples of Somalia. In addition to cooperation with, and support for, the Transitional Federal Institutions, Ethiopia also maintains close cooperation with both Puntland and Somaliland on a range of issues of concern. It has made it clear that it will continue to extend every support it can to help find a lasting solution to the conflicts in Somalia.
With Sudan, Ethiopia shares thousands of kilometers of border. In the past relations have not always been as good as they might have been, and misguided policies on both sides of the border for a long time complicated relations. The coming to power of the EPRDF opened a new chapter of cooperation which has been characterized by friendship and mutual respect. Apart from security cooperation and the continuing joint effort to properly demarcate their common boundary, both countries are aware of the potential for mutually beneficial economic cooperation. Ethiopia now imports 100 per cent of its benzene from Sudan, and exports cereals and sesame to the Sudan. Ethiopia’s use of Port Sudan is particularly significant for increased investment in the northern parts of the country. All this has created a real opportunity to leave any difficulties behind. Also important in Ethiopia’s relations with the Sudan is the fact that Ethiopia has a close friendship with both the North and the South. It has always supported peaceful resolution of conflicts between the two regions. It remains a committed supporter of the CPA, and has frequently expressed willingness to use its close ties to both areas to help resolve any differences over post-referendum issues. There may still be areas that need improvement, but Ethio-Sudan relations will continue to thrive whatever the outcome of the referendum.
Another neighbor with which Ethiopia enjoys excellent bilateral relations is Kenya. Both countries are active members of IGAD and play a significant role in the African Union. They have steadily deepening economic cooperation and people-to-people relations. Joint commissions are active in resolving any disputes that arise between trans-boundary communities over scarce resources or as a result of cattle rustling. Cooperation in security and in infrastructure is growing steadily. Ethiopia fully appreciates the value of further strengthening relations in the areas of road transport, the use of ports and in energy. Both countries have spent millions of dollars in infrastructural development aimed at further extending the benefits of their long-term relationship. The building of the Gilgel Gibe III dam, for example, is seen by both as another milestone in enhancing bilateral relations. There are clear indications that these will continue to expand.
With Djibouti, of course, Ethiopia shares long-standing cultural, historic and economic ties because of the railway linking Djibouti port with Addis Ababa which has now been operating for nearly a century. There are fraternal links of the peoples on both sides of the border. The Port of Djibouti remains Ethiopia’s largest outlet to the rest of the world; Ethiopia’s is Djibouti’s biggest customer. The two countries have close ties in security and other areas. Both are committed to bringing about economic integration in the region and have co-operated in other regional problems including Somalia. As in any such relationships, misunderstandings can arise, but there are mechanisms in place which can quickly address these. Today, Ethiopia and Djibouti have an excellent relationship cemented by common economic interests. Nor should one overlook the very good relations Ethiopia has with Yemen. Ethiopia along with Yemen, Sudan and Djibouti, is involved in the Sana’a Forum for Co-operation, now a major factor for stability in the Red Sea.
Ethiopia’s relations with its neighbors are now far more solid than ever before. Apart from Ethiopia’s declared policy of peaceful relations based on the principle of mutual respect, the existence of enduring security, economic and political ties has made these relationships closer and more dependable. The role of the regional organization, IGAD, in this respect is significant, and its current revitalization is hoped to be a major factor for improving relationships and development in the region. Obviously, extremism and terrorism remain a growing threat requiring regional co-operation. This is in the vital interest of all countries in the region. Others outside the region, and the international community as a whole, may have responsibilities in fighting extremism; however, in the last resort it is the responsibility of the regional countries to take the lead in addressing this threat. This, indeed, is reflected in the common position taken by the IGAD states with respect to the problem in Somalia and their support for the TFG and the Djibouti process.
Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Ministry of Foreign Affairs