Somalia: Puntland accuses Al-Shabaab of causing insecurity
Puntland’s Minister for Security, Yusuf Ahmad Khayr, has accused Al-Shabaab of responsibility for a recent wave of explosions and killings, some targeted at security forces and prominent elders in Galkacyo town. The minister said the Islamists of Al-Shabaab were involved in these acts and the administration would take all possible measures to curb insecurity in Galkacyo and other towns. He added that the government had arrested a number of those involved and they were being interrogated. It would continue to crack down on those trying to destabilize the region, and he asked the local population especially in Galkacyo to cooperate with police in countering these activities. The minister’s statement comes at a time when people in Puntland have been expressing serious concerns over a number of assassinations and attempted killings, targeting influential people in Galkacyo and Bossaso.
Meanwhile, Ahlu Sunna wal Jama’a fighters said they are planning to extend operations against areas of Gedo and Bay regions still controlled by Al-Shabaab. Sheikh Muhammad Husayn Al-Qadi, the spokesman of Ahlu Sunna said its forces were heading to Garbaharey, Bardhere, and Yurkud districts in Gedo and Bay regions in response to the pleas of civilians suffering under Al-Shabaab control. Ahlu Sunna, which has been carrying out successful operations against Al-Shabaab in Gedo Region, has said that it will drive out Al-Shabaab from the whole region. It says Al-Shabaab is causing the people of the region unbearable suffering, while misinterpreting the traditional Sufi culture of Somalia and Islam. Heavy fighting broke out on Wednesday between pro-government Ahlu Sunna wal Jama’a forces and Al-Shabaab units at Tula Barwaqo, 20 km from Garbaharey. Ahlu Sunna’s spokesperson said it had won the battle, killing about twenty Al-Shabaab fighters and forcing the rest to flee. Ahlu Sunna forces, which had only sustained light casualties, were now “pursuing the remnants of Al-Shabaab in the area”. Ahlu Sunna wal Jama’a and government forces have been making significant gains against Al-Shabaab recently, in Mogadishu and other areas including lower Juba where Al-Shabaab suffered some serious setbacks, losing dozens of its fighters and a senior commander was captured after being seriously wounded.
In Mogadishu, the TFG has announced that armed forces personnel have been paid their salaries, each soldier receiving 200 US dollars. A Ministry of Defense official said the salary payment, which would be made monthly, was part of the promise the government had made to look after the soldiers and ensure that they received their salaries regularly. This is expected to boost the morale of the TFG forces that have been making significant gains on the ground, both in Mogadishu and in areas outside the capital. The TFG is now expected to solicit funds to pay the salaries of TFG forces fighting in central regions and in Gedo region. The TFG’s Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister recently visited these forces and encouraged them to continue their successful operations against Al-Shabaab.
Disagreement continues over TFG extension
Divisions continue over the extension of the term of the Transitional Federal Parliament (TFP) and of the other Transitional Federal Institutions (TFIs). The parliamentary constitutional committee is arguing that the election, for President, the Speaker of Parliament and his deputies, should be held at the scheduled time, that is before the TFG’s term ends in August. The Transitional Federal Government has made it clear it strongly opposes holding the elections in August. The Cabinet has said the stated date is “not appropriate”. The Cabinet believes that the TFG has performed well in the last couple of months, making a lot of progress on the ground and so consideration should be given to its request for further time to accomplish the remaining transitional tasks and consolidate security gains on the ground. The Cabinet therefore is requesting a postponement of the elections to August 2012. The deputy chairman of the parliamentary constitutional committee, however, says the elections should be held in August 2011 in accordance with the decision of the TFP in February, and they should not be postponed. He also added that elections should be held throughout the country despite the challenges that the government is currently facing.
Meanwhile, the President of the Transitional Federal Government, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, has been in Djibouti this week where he held talks with Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh. President Sharif and his delegation were warmly received by President Guelleh. The Djibouti President, who has just won his third term in office, and President Sheikh Sharif discussed the latest events in Somalia and other issues as well as his recent visits to a number of African countries including Ethiopia. According to sources in Djibouti, the Djibouti authorities advised the TFG leadership to concentrate on deliverables and on consolidation of gains on the ground until the end of the transition period in August.
The US-Africa Air Forces’ Conference
This week, a three day conference for African Air Forces was held in Addis Ababa. Organized by the United States on the theme “Building Air Partnerships Across Africa” the conference was attended by some 150 participants including nearly thirty African air force commanders or their deputies as well as representatives from US Air Forces Africa, from AFRICOM and from civilian agencies and regional organizations dealing with aviation issues and challenges to security in the air; the conference has also been identifying ways to build on existing regional and international cooperation and develop innovative approaches to strategic partnerships.
Participants were welcomed by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Ato Hailemariam Desalegn, who stressed that the need for Africa and the United States to work together to counter terrorism and air related activities was becoming increasingly evident. He noted the activities of international terrorists and pirates which included hostage-taking of oil tankers and cargo ships as well as shipments of weapons to Somalia using aircraft. Faced by states which violate the US arms embargo on Somalia, there was a need to consider more practical regional instruments within the framework of international law, said Ato Hailemariam. He believed the conference would highlight the magnitude of the challenges facing Africa and provide some much needed recommendations on how to deal with state-led illicit air activities.
Other speakers included General Norton Schwartz, the US Air Force Chief of Staff, Major General Margaret Woodward, US Air Force Africa commander and US Ambassador Donald Booth. In his keynote speech, General Schwartz told the conference that an airpower strategy focused on Africa would enable the US and its allies in Africa to address the root causes of security problems before they manifested themselves. US security interests were best served by building long-term relationships with African countries and with regional organizations. The conference, he said, brought together a community of airmen linked by appreciation of what air power could do to provide strategic and operational options and by a shared desire for stability, security, political viability and opportunity for economic development in Africa.
General Woodward, the commander of Air Africa, the air component of AFRICOM, said regional relationships based on respect, integrity and trust were critical. The conference would provide the opportunity to strengthen personal and professional relationships and build bilateral and multi-lateral air partnerships. General Woodward noted that Africa faced security challenges that were unique as well as others that were shared globally, and added that the only chance to confront these successfully was in partnership. She said the conference was an example of the US desire to hear and learn from the perspectives that the US African partners could give. Ambassador Booth also emphasized the US priority in building strong and mutually beneficial partnerships, and pointed out that recent events in North Africa showed the importance of an open and responsive political system and economic policies that could stimulate growth and development.
The Nile: An Egyptian Public Diplomacy delegation visits Ethiopia
A Public Diplomacy Delegation from Egypt starts a four day visit to Ethiopia today.The group numbers over forty people and includes a number of prominent political figures, among them three candidates in the forthcoming presidential elections, members of parliament, community leaders, popular figures from the Egyptian Revolution and members of the Youth of the Egyptian Revolution as well as a number of representatives of the Egyptian media. During its visit the group will be attending a dinner hosted by President Girma Woldegiorghis as well as having meetings with Prime Minister Meles, with Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Ato Hailemariam Desalegn, the Speakers of the House of Peoples Representatives and the House of Federation, and other senior officials and religious leaders.
A major subject of discussion will, of course, be the issue of the Nile. The Egyptian Ambassador to Ethiopia, Ambassador Tarik Ghoneim, recently noted that the new Egyptian Government was willing to negotiate all disputed Nile issues with Ethiopia and it wanted to start discussions with all the Nile Basin states about the use of the Nile waters. The Ambassador said everything was on the table and there should be no looking back to the past. The Prime Minister of Egypt is expected to visit Ethiopia shortly to discuss the issue further.
The Nile has always been central to relations between Ethiopia and Egypt, and Ethiopia has been a strong supporter of the Nile Basin Cooperative Framework Agreement that was reached in May last year. Six of the nine riparian countries have signed the agreement. Ethiopia hopes the others, including the Sudan and Egypt, will sign this multilateral agreement based as it is on the principles of equitable and reasonable utilization of the river and on the obligation not to cause appreciable harm to other riparian states. The upper riparian countries have repeatedly assured the lower riparian states that they have no interest whatever in harming them. The Framework Agreement in fact offers a win-win solution for everybody.
Ethiopian officials will also take the opportunity to explain to the Egyptian visitors exactly why it is building the Grand Renaissance Dam on the Nile and what this will achieve both for Ethiopia and for its neighbors. For Ethiopia this will be a central element in its fight against poverty, in addressing the challenges of poverty and underdevelopment. The power produced by the Dam will play a major role in implementing the country’s Growth and Transformation Plan. It will help transform Ethiopia’s economy through the provision of cheap sustainable power and the mobilization of resources.
At the same time, the Dam will also sustain economic development on a much wider level, allowing for the export of sustainable power to all the other countries in the Nile Basin. It will help resolve the problems of siltation which have been affecting other dams in both Sudan and Egypt, prevent recurring catastrophic floods in Sudan, and provide for a consistent and sustainable flow to the river. It will also have the effect of cutting evaporation significantly and therefore increase the actual amount of water available to downstream countries.
The central point is that Ethiopia and Egypt are linked by the Nile, and the Framework Agreement offers partnership and cooperation based on principles that give an equitable solution to all the riparian states. The Government of Ethiopia strongly believes genuine negotiations and collective bilateral actions will produce the win-win situation and the environmental and economic development we all need.
A National Conference on the Nile
A National Conference on the Nile took place yesterday at the Ghion Hotel in Addis Ababa. Organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the first of its kind, it was attended by over three hundred people including members of the House of Representatives of Parliament and of the Federation Council, regional administrations, ministers, representatives of religious groups, of the private sector, academia, women’s and youth organizations and members of the media. The objectives of the conference were: to raise awareness of the efforts made by the government to negotiate efficient and equitable use of the Nile water; to increase public participation and build a national consensus on this and similarly important national issues; and enhance the government’s decision making procedures by providing evidence from concrete studies and experience.
The Minister of Water and Energy, Ato Alemayehu Tegenu, opened the conference, detailing the efforts to realize equitable shares of the water resources of the Nile and the achievements made so far. He emphasized that Ethiopia has no intention to cause harm to others in the Nile Basin but was always ready to promote efficient and equal use of the water by all riparian countries and to help foster good all round relations. The minister thanked the population for the contributions they were making for the realization of the Renaissance Dam. It demonstrated, he said, that all Ethiopians were highly committed to development and ready to make sacrifices to realize their objectives.
Seven papers relating to the use of the Nile water were presented by various academics and others; and an additional presentation entitled “Explanations on the Current Status of EPCO and the significance of the Dam on its Economic Development in the Future” was made by Ato Mehret Debebe, the head of the Ethiopian Power Corporation. All presentations met the aim of raising awareness about the Nile and of the negotiations that have been taking place on the use of the water. All also highlighted the importance that any actions should be based on the principle of causing no harm to any of the riparian states.
In conclusion, a Conference Declaration was agreed. This emphasized the need to urgently form a “National Water Council” at the highest political level to have responsibility to manage all issues dealing with the Nile and other trans-boundary rivers. It also suggested a “National Expert Committee” should be set up to take care of all legal and technical issues, including consultation with the National Water Council. The Declaration called upon the Ethiopian Government to make every effort to continue to reach out to Egypt and the other non-signatory Nile Basin states and to encourage them to subscribe to the Cooperative Framework Agreement which would benefit all riparian states equally. The Declaration calls for the enhancement of economic and investment relations between Ethiopia and other riparian countries. This, it said, was indispensable for building trust and confidence between the governments and peoples of the Nile Basin.
The Ethiopian Renaissance Dam: Encouraging Downstream Gestures?
The launching of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam has become a source of intense debate and heightened interest among many. The reaction of the peoples of Ethiopia has been exceptionally enthusiastic and the outpouring of public support continues to gather momentum. But the news of the launching of the Renaissance Dam has also drawn interest from politicians and intellectuals of the lower riparian countries whose usual response to any such development is strongly critical. The government of Ethiopia has always been fully aware of the difficulty of bringing the downstream countries on board despite a mountain of evidence that the project is neither intended nor likely to cause any appreciable harm to them. In the absence of a cooperative framework to ensure equitable utilization of trans-boundary resources, this is a palpable problem.
The policy objective of Ethiopia’s water usage is the promotion of national efforts towards efficient and optimum utilization of its water resources for sustainable socio- economic development. Recognizing the tremendous potential of its untapped water resources, Ethiopia has adopted a strategic plan aimed at eradicating poverty and lessening the impacts of climate change, recurrent drought, environmental degradation, and famine that have bedeviled the country for centuries. The decision to build the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam as part of the ambitious Growth and Transformation Plan is a significant element of transformation of the economy through sustainable provision of cheap electric power to various sectors. It will also mobilize the necessary resources to unlock economic development by exporting power to the neighboring countries, demonstrating the government’s commitment to strengthen cooperation and equitable utilization by all. The benefits will apply to both Egypt and Sudan, helping to rehabilitate the natural environment of the upper Nile Basin; provide more irrigation opportunities particularly in Sudan; boost upstream water storage and help avoid devastating floods; and help cut back on the wastage from downstream evaporation at Jebel Awliya or Lakes Nuba and Nasser.
It is against this backdrop that recent developments in both Egypt and Sudan merit some mention. In the past, saber-rattling has been the usual response of Egyptian officialdom to any such idea as the Renaissance Dam. This time the reaction has been largely encouraging. The newly appointed Egyptian Prime Minister has already expressed interest in paying a visit to Ethiopia to discuss the issue. Other officials have been expressing willingness to negotiate over the Nile. Egypt has yet to stop its diplomatic campaign against the financing of similar projects, but the fact that there are now officials and politicians speaking in terms of cooperation and dialogue is in itself a welcome development. The semi-official Egyptian newspaper, Al Ahram, even went beyond these diplomatic niceties when it castigated some Egyptian experts for insinuating that Ethiopia and other upstream countries are always out to get Egypt. It is very unusual for Al Ahram to take such a positive stand vis-à-vis any development on the Nile by other countries. It is indeed a very good sign. The visit to Ethiopia by a large Egyptian delegation this weekend will hopefully also infuse an element of enthusiasm into the idea of cooperation.
The reaction by Sudanese officials has been even more forthcoming. Indications are that the Sudanese government is aware of the great potential that the Dam has to offer the Sudan. Sudanese intellectuals and politicians have been taking a carefully nuanced approach towards the possibility of cooperation over the project. We hope that this will continue.
All this suggests two things. One is born out of realization that Ethiopia has changed, and changed forever, in terms of its capacity to finance such projects as the Renaissance Dam. Indeed, the decision to go ahead with the project using domestic finance has freed many in Egypt and Sudan from the illusion that poverty in Ethiopia would continue to guarantee their monopoly over the Nile waters. More importantly, it indicates that the idea of cooperation and equitable utilization of resources may finally be sinking in among officials in Egypt and Sudan. If indeed this is the case, the Nile will once again become the source of mutual development that it ought to be. This has been the consistent desire and interest of the Government and the Peoples of Ethiopia.
Sierra Leone’s Golden Jubilee
On Wednesday, Sierra Leone celebrated the 50th anniversary of its existence as a sovereign state. It became independent after more than 150 years of British colonial rule on April 27th, 1961. Celebrations of the country’s Golden Jubilee have been going on all month both in Sierra Leone itself and among Sierra Leoneans around the world. Here in Addis Ababa, the embassy had organized a number of events to celebrate the occasion, including a symposium last Friday at Africa Hall on the subject of “Sierra Leone at 50: Food self-sufficiency”, a photo exhibition, and an Independence Day reception on Wednesday. The occasion is also being marked by Muslim prayers at the Abadier Mosque today and at the International Evangelical Church on Sunday.
Ato Abdulfetah Abdulahi, Minister of Labor and Social Affairs, attended the reception on Wednesday to convey the congratulations of the Government of Ethiopia to the people of Sierra Leone and to President Koroma on “this unique and highly auspicious day”. As the Minister noted this was a day that belonged above all others to the people of Sierra Leone who had sacrificed their lives to secure independence and who continued to struggle for sustainable peace, stability and democracy. He assured Sierra Leone that Ethiopia fully supported their efforts and would do everything possible to assist. The Minister emphasized that Ethiopia’s relationship with Sierra Leone began over forty years ago in 1969, and Sierra Leone opened its embassy here in Addis Ababa a year later. He said Ethiopia and Sierra Leone had continued to work together in the African Union, the United Nations, the Non- Aligned Movement and within the ACP/EU framework. He hoped that this close collaboration would continue and deepen over the next half century, and, on behalf of the people and Government of Ethiopia, he offered his best wishes for the future to President Koroma and the people of Sierra Leone.
A demonstration of Eritrean refugees in Addis Ababa
On Wednesday last week, hundreds of Eritrean refugees in Addis Ababa held a demonstration calling for democratic government to be established in Eritrea and an end to the dictatorial and repressive rule of President Isaias Aferwerki. Tens of thousands have fled from Eritrea in recent years, and according to the Eritrean urban Refugees Association in Ethiopia there are 60,000 in Ethiopia in addition to the hundreds of thousands in Sudan and elsewhere in the world. The demonstration was given added point by the recent reports of the death by drowning of more than 325 Eritrean asylum seekers in the Mediterranean when the boat on which they were trying to cross from Libya to Italy sank on March 22. Eritreans all over the world have held demonstrations and candlelight vigils in memory of the dead.
The demonstrators in Addis Ababa, numbering some sixteen hundred, called for an end to the unlimited national service in Eritrea, the most militarized state in Africa, indeed in the world. Conscription for all those aged 15 to 50 has been in force since 1994, and only a fraction have been demobilized. The demonstrators said that the national service program was supposed to last for 18 months but in practice it was unlimited. Some called it “modern day slavery”, with the use of conscripts for forced labor. They accused the government of ruining the lives of the younger generation. This is one of the main reasons why so many youngsters continue to flee the country every year. The demonstrators, who said they were there to highlight the injustices in Eritrea, called on the international community to impose more sanctions on the regime in Asmara.
Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Ministry of Foreign Affairs