Ethiopia and Uganda agree a Strategic Partnership
On Friday last week, July 22nd, Ethiopia and Uganda established a Joint Ministerial Commission (JMC). Ethiopia’s delegation to the bilateral meeting in Kampala was headed by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ato Hailemariam, and the Ugandan delegation was led by the Honorable Sam K. Kutesa, Uganda’s Minister for Foreign Affairs. Other ministers and senior officials took part in the discussions.
In his opening remarks, Mr. Kutesa welcomed the delegation from Ethiopia and thanked it for coming to Kampala to establish the Joint Ministerial Commission (JMC). Ato Hailemariam expressed his appreciation to the Government of Uganda for hosting the meeting for the establishment of the JMC. Discussions covered a wide range of issues including defense and security, education, agriculture and food security, culture, gender, infrastructure, trade, investment, health, immigration, fight against terrorism legal and judicial cooperation as well as regional integration. The Ministers exchanged views on matters of regional peace and security with emphasis on the situation in Somalia and the outstanding issues relating to the Republic of South Sudan, as well as the fight against terrorism and the role of Eritrea in regional destabilization.
The two sides expressed their willingness to diversify their relationship. The Deputy Prime Minister noted that there were many mutual benefits to be obtained from cooperation: “We have made considerable progress, but the challenge Somalia poses for our region and the continent at large remains centered on the activities of Al Shabaab, supported by various actors both in the region and beyond. We need to expand our joint activities because the situation in Somalia still requires serious and close attention. Somalia indeed would certainly be one of the issues that a strategic partnership would deal with”, he said. Ensuring the viability and freedom of the new state of South Sudan, he added, called for economic, political and security cooperation in the regional context. “Viable peace and security for South Sudan is critical to Ethiopia, Uganda and the whole region at large. Any setback to its stability will have a real impact on the region”.
At the end of the bilateral discussions the Ministers signed agreements establishing the Joint Ministerial Commission and a Declaration on Strategic Partnership, covering all the other areas where the Ministers agreed that the various sectors should develop, negotiate and conclude separate agreements and Memoranda of Understanding. These should cover the areas of Defense and Security, Agriculture and Food Security, Education, Health, Culture, Gender, Infrastructure, Water and Energy, Trade and Investment, Immigration, the Fight against Terrorism and Legal and Judicial Cooperation as well as Regional Integration, Peace and Security. Other areas which will fall under the agreed framework include exemption of double taxation, extradition, and the principle of reciprocity on immigration and visas. These will be worked out during subsequent detailed discussions and then ratified by the respective parliaments.
Officials from the different sectors will be expected to report on the implementation of the respective agreements at the next meeting of the Joint Ministerial Commission, scheduled for 2013. In the meantime, to follow up progress and encourage full implementation of the decisions taken, the Joint Ministerial Commission agreed to convene a review session of senior officials of the relevant ministries before the next JMC meeting. This will be held in Ethiopia at a date to be agreed. The JMC also agreed that officials of the various sectors should remain in regular consultation on all matters of mutual concern.
Ethiopia briefs the UN Sanctions Committee in New York
On Wednesday, Ambassador Berhane Gebre-Christos, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, had a meeting with the UN Sanctions Committee to discuss Eritrean activities and Eritrea’s failure to respond to previous UN Resolutions. Ambassador Berhane made some introductory remarks on Eritrean activities, and subsequently security experts involved in the investigation of the plot to try and disrupt the AU Summit last January also gave presentations. Their accounts were supplemented by video recordings of interviews with the terrorists involved in that operation. The Foreign Minister of Eritrea has also been in New York over the last week making representations in his efforts to get the sanctions on Eritrea lifted rather than reinforced. He met with the Sanctions Committee on Friday last week. The massive and detailed report of the Monitoring Group was posted yesterday on the UN web site (see following story) and it is expected that the Sanctions Committee will take up the recommendations of the report shortly. The Security Council is expected to renew the mandate of the Monitoring Group on Somalia before the end of the week but consideration of any further resolution on sanctions is likely to take a little longer.
In his comments to the Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Berhane suggested the Committee should take note why so many countries and the sub-regional organization were unanimous in appealing to the Security Council for help to stop the activities of the Eritrean leadership. It was very obvious that the Eritrean government wasn’t prepared to comply with the laws of nations unless it knew that there would be serious consequences. Eritrea’s President consistently refused to take calls from the UN Secretary-General. The former chairperson of the African Union Commission, previously President of an African country, finished his term without ever being able to get an audience with the Eritrean President despite repeated requests. The current Chairperson of the African Union Commission has yet to see the Eritrean President. There have been more than thirty efforts by would-be mediators to bring Ethiopia’s Prime Minister and Eritrea’s President together. On each occasion, the Ethiopian Prime Minister had agreed to the initiative, but every approach has been rejected by the Eritrean President out of hand, deliberately and demeaningly rebuffing those who had tried to help.
Ambassador Berhane noted that quite suddenly over the previous few weeks the Eritrean leadership had apparently been trying to play a different role. Despite snubbing the Secretary-General for years, it had pestered the UN for a meeting between President Isaias and the Secretary-General, and requested a meeting with the Security Council between June 15 and June 24. This ostensible change of behavior had one purpose – to try to pre-empt, and discredit, the Monitoring Group’s report, to undermine the evidence that Eritrea continued to be a destabilizing force in the Horn of Africa. Eritrea has even apparently decided to reactivate its membership of IGAD.
However, none of this means Eritrea is ready to change its behavior. It would be a mistake to assume that. Certainly, it could, of course, change, but on previous evidence this would depend upon the Security Council taking firm and concrete steps to show Eritrea that terrorism would not be countenanced by the international community.
Ambassador Berhane emphasized that the Council shouldn’t let itself get caught up in secondary non-issues. These included the boundary issue which was never the cause of the conflict in the first place and which could be settled at any time with good will from both parties. The crisis that exploded in May 1998 was, as the Ethio-Eritrean Claims Commission had made clear, a war of aggression committed by Eritrea against Ethiopia: “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…”.
Lessons might be learnt from that aggression by Eritrea, but it remains secondary to the current challenge of Eritrean-sponsored terrorism which is what needs to be addressed effectively today. The Security Council needed to focus on what Eritrea is doing in Somalia with Al-Shabaab, and what it tried to do in Addis Ababa last January. Ambassador Berhane pointed out that no sane people would do what the Eritrean leadership did in May 1998; nor would they indulge in state-sponsored terror as the Eritrean leadership did last January. He emphasized that what took place in January in Addis Ababa cannot be ignored. Equally, these things had happened. And now because Eritrea was actively continuing to support people engaged in such efforts in Somalia, Djibouti, Sudan, Uganda and Kenya the entire IGAD region was facing a major challenge. This is what should concern the Sanctions Committee and the Security Council.
The UN Monitoring Group Report: The proof of Eritrean regional destabilization efforts; IGAD’s position vindicated
IGAD and the countries of the Horn of Africa have repeatedly said that Eritrea has been persistently working on the destabilization of the region. Now the publication of the UN Monitoring Group’s latest report provides the evidence to confirm the claims that have been circulating for several weeks and the detailed proof that the case against Eritrea has reality and substance.
The Monitoring Group’s report is categorical: “the Eritrean leadership has committed multiple violations of Security Council Resolution 1844 (2008) and 1907 (2009).” And the Eritrean regime’s aggressive behavior isn’t just directed at those that share common borders with it. It has extended its efforts well beyond its borders. The report provides ample evidence that Uganda, Kenya and the newly independent South Sudan, in one way or another, have all been victimized by the regime in Eritrea. The report demonstrates that apart from its support for extremists in Somalia, Eritrea has also been involved in terrorist plots throughout the region. The network that the External Intelligence Directorate of Eritrea has created in the sub-region extends from Mogadishu to Hargeisa, Khartoum to Juba, and Nairobi to Kampala as well as to Djibouti and Ethiopia. “Most significantly”, the report says, “in January 2011, the Eritrean Government conceived, planned, organized and directed a failed plot to disrupt the African Union in Addis Ababa by bombing a variety of civilian and governmental targets.” The detail is overwhelming – a sniper rifle taken from one of those arrested in January, for example, is traced to a consignment sold to Eritrea by Romania in 2004. The report describes this as representing “a qualitative shift in Eritrean tactics”, envisaging “mass casualty attacks against civilian targets and the strategic use of explosives to create a climate of fear”.
The report underlines that this whole plot was conceived, designed, led and executed by the External Intelligence Directorate of Eritrea. It notes that all but one of the people arrested had received their training and orders directly from Eritrean officers. The report adds “[that] the Eritrean intelligence apparatus responsible for the AU Summit plot is also active in Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda implies an enhanced level of threat to the region as a whole.” This indeed is exactly what Ethiopia and other IGAD countries have been saying all along. The report then expands on this by its finding that Eritrea’s Embassy in Nairobi has been providing funding for the campaign of terror in Somalia. The embassy has been responsible for disbursing 80,000 US dollars a month to fund Al-Shabaab operations, including its all-too-frequent attacks against civilians in Somalia and elsewhere in the region. The report includes copies of payment slips from embassy officials to known members of Al-Shabaab. The report notes that “the embassy of Eritrea in Nairobi continues to maintain and exploit a wide range of Somali contacts, intelligence assets and agents of influence in Kenya.” The recent attempt to infiltrate terrorist cells into Djibouti, the bombings in Kampala in July last year (given the code-name of “the Asmara retreat”) and other operations are all the handiwork of the government of President Isaias Afeworki.
It hasn’t actually been a secret that the Eritrean regime has been financing a wide variety of extremists in the region. At various times, the addresses of all extremists in the region, whether from Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia or Djibouti, have been found in Asmara. Most are still there. All these groups, ranging from secessionist groups in Ethiopia to hard-core Islamists in Somalia, are being financed in their operations by Eritrea. Eritrea’s support for armed groups is, of course, specifically forbidden by Security Council Resolution 1907. In fact, the UN Monitoring Group Report establishes Eritrea as the main supplier of arms and funds for the more extreme Somali Islamist groups. It is ironic that this activity is taking place at a time the people of Eritrea are facing chronic shortages of food and the serious effects of drought. The regime in Asmara clearly believes that financing terror campaigns against its neighbors and other countries in the region is more important than addressing the problems of its own population.
The Monitoring Group report is specific: “Eritrean involvement in Somalia continues to represent a small but troubling part of the overall equation. Asmara’s continuing relationship with Al Shabaab, for example, appears designed to legitimize and embolden the group rather than to curb its extremist orientation or encourage its participation in a political process.” Certainly, the Eritrean Government has always flaunted its support for extremists and its opposition to the TFG in Somalia “as a matter of principle”, claiming this is in “in the interest of the people of Somalia”. It should be underlined that this allegedly “principled” position of the regime in Asmara has nothing to do with helping the efforts of the international community to bring about lasting peace and stability in Somalia. As the Monitoring Group’s report makes clear “…there is no evidence to suggest, either in terms of unilateral initiatives or through participation in multilateral political forums, that Eritrea is employing its privileged relationship with Al Shabaab or other opposition groups for purposes of dialogue or reconciliation”. Indeed, the report also adds that “Eritrean involvement reflects a broader pattern of intelligence and special operations activity, including training, financial and logistical support to armed opposition groups in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Sudan and possibly Uganda in violation of Security Council Resolution 1907.”
The report identifies one of the main characteristics of the regime in Asmara as the “subversion of Eritrean government and party institutions by a relatively small number of political, military and intelligence officials, who…choose to conduct the affairs of the state via informal and often illicit mechanisms, including people smuggling, arms trafficking, money laundering and extortion.” The report identifies the methods of financing of these activities. At one level it is financed by the support that Eritrea receives from some foreign states. In addition “the regime’s irregular financial practices combined with direct financial contributions from ruling party supporters..… as well as the imposition of a ‘Diaspora tax’ on Eritreans and foreign nationals of Eritrean origin living abroad, help to explain why a country as poor as Eritrea manages to sustain support for a variety of armed opposition groups across the region.” Hundreds of thousands, if not close to a million, Eritreans live abroad and obtaining a visa to re-visit Eritrea requires proof of payment of the ‘Diaspora tax’ and other ‘voluntary’ contributions.
The other major source of revenue is from mining, and it is worth noting that it seems the regime is not using this to create badly needed jobs for its nationals, but to increase its capacity to destabilize the region. There is a real danger here. As more and more foreign companies come in to exploit Eritrea’s resources they are required to make generous up-front payments. These need to be discouraged before they start operating on a large scale. What is particularly disturbing is not just that the revenues generated are going to be used for regional destabilization but the growing evidence that the mineral companies are using what can only be described as slave labor. National service conscripts are being forced to work on these projects for minimal wages, barely enough to provide food for the workers. Even these meager earnings are heavily taxed by the government. With conscription being open-ended (some conscripts have served for a dozen years or more), there is little on offer for the conscripts except destitution or flight.
To paraphrase the report, Eritrea is a country where the constitution is indefinitely suspended, elections have been indefinitely postponed and an apparently permanent de facto state of emergency indefinitely imposed. The ruling “PFDJ today considers itself and acts like a fighting front,” the report adds, “retaining complete control over functions that would normally be discharged by the State. As a result, state and even party institutions have been left to atrophy, while power and resources have become increasingly concentrated in the hands of a small number of individuals and are largely managed outside government institutions and channels.” Indeed, the Monitoring Group found in the course of its investigations that “decisions are taken and implemented in a highly personalized and often clandestine manner,” while resources are mobilized and managed in “informal and routinely illicit ways.”
The Monitoring Group report underlines just how far this is a regime at odds with all its neighbors and the international community at large. It is a regime much addicted to shoot its way out of any crisis. It is a regime that has been terrorizing its own people for close to two decades. It has incarcerated thousands of its own people without due process and holds them incommunicado for simple expressions of concern that the leadership in the person of President Isaias might not always be right. The repressive activities of the regime have led a very significant number of the population to leave the country, risking being shot on sight if caught trying to cross the border. Despite the obvious dangers, thousands take their chance every month to cross into Ethiopia or Sudan.
As IGAD countries have consistently repeated, Eritrea must be told that there is a limit to what it can do in defiance of international law. Strengthening the implementation of previous United Nations Security Council Resolutions; and imposing concrete economic sanctions that deny the regime additional resources to continue with its destabilization and terrorist activities are a clear way forward. These must, of course, be properly targeted. They must avoid affecting the people of Eritrea generally, and be aimed at those responsible for the negative activities of the regime. Failure to take action yet again will certainly send the wrong signal that, when it comes to Eritrea, international norms of behavior somehow do not apply. As Deputy Prime Minister Hailemariam underscored last week failure to take serious action will quite frankly be a travesty of justice, and a slap in the face of the peoples of the region including the people of Eritrea. There is no doubt that effective, targeted, sanctions would be welcomed by the people of Eritrea in general and particularly by the hundreds of thousands of Eritrean youths currently frittering their lives away in un-ending “national service” and the tens of thousands in prisons across the country.
As we have frequently mentioned, Eritrea’s leaders have the perennial and perverse habit of blaming everyone else for their own problems and failures and even for their own reckless behavior. They even claim that they are involved in terrorist missions and regional destabilization because of the so-called “unresolved” border crisis with Ethiopia and their alleged frustration with the international community’s refusal to force Ethiopia to implement the demarcation of the border between the two countries. The argument is that it is only by engaging in a series of what can only be described as reckless adventures and campaigns of unmitigated violence in defiance of international law and ordinary commonsense that they can attract the international community’s attention. Indeed, as the UN Monitoring Group report indicates this is “routinely cited by Asmara as justification for its support to Ethiopia’s armed opposition groups such as the ONLF and OLF.” It all underlines yet again that the “border dispute” is a mere façade, demonstrating clearly it has nothing to do with the regime’s continued determination to destabilize and weaken its neighbors and cause problems throughout the region.
President Isaias frequently asks where is the evidence for the allegations that Eritrea has been and is continuing to indulge in reckless behavior aimed at destabilizing the Horn of Africa. The answer is here in this report, and the evidence produced by the UN Monitoring Group is impressively detailed, in words, pictures, reports and documents. The evidence is striking, factual and quite simply undeniable and indisputable.
The Humanitarian Crisis in the Horn of Africa: Al-Shabaab denies there is famine; WFP flies food to the border refugee camps; Emergency management working in Ethiopia
On Monday, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and France, as chair of the G20, organized an emergency summit in Rome seeking to mobilize help for the victims of the drought in the Horn of Africa and of the famine declared in Lower Shebelle and southern Bakool. The meeting came as it appeared that Al-Shabaab had rescinded its earlier statement that it would allow international agencies to provide aid in areas under its control. Speaking to the meeting, Somali Deputy Prime Minister, Mohamed Ibrahim, gave a blunt warning that the vast majority in Al-Shabaab controlled areas might starve to death in the next few weeks. An estimated 11.6 million people have been affected by the drought and need humanitarian assistance according to the UN. Although only two areas in Somalia, southern Bakool and Lower Shebelle have been identified as subject to famine, there are major fears that famine could extend into most of the regions of Somalia over the next few weeks. The numbers of malnourished children reaching feeding camps in Puntland, for example, has doubled in the last two weeks.
The Director General of FAO, Jacques Diouf, opened the meeting noting that there was a need for greater international coordination in response to drought. M. Diouf said this “catastrophic situation demands massive and urgent international aid”; it was imperative to stop the famine. He described the current crisis as arising from a triple storm of “drought, soaring food prices and conflict”. France’s Agriculture Minister, Bruno Le Maire said “the international community has failed to ensure food security in the world…if we don’t take the necessary measures, famine will be the scandal of this century.”
By the beginning of the week, a total of $1.1 billion had been committed or pledged, but there was still an estimated $1 billion dollar gap in funding for the emergency in the Horn. Save the Children says that if this is not covered up to a million children in the region may die in Somalia alone; and UNICEF have estimated that up to 1.85 million children in Somalia need urgent humanitarian assistance. Aid agencies have been critical of the response of a number of countries. The World Bank has promised to provide more than 500 million dollars to help drought victims. Some of this would be for immediate relief, but most of the money would be for building longer term drought resistance in Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti and Somalia “where circumstances permit”. World Bank President, Robert Zoellick said “immediate relief and recovery is the first priority, and it is important to act fast to relieve human suffering, but we also have an eye on the long term solutions of economic recovery and drought resilience…” This will include restructuring existing projects and fast tracking new projects. Possibilities include a regional Enhanced Drought Resilience and Livestock Recovery Program, scaling up Ethiopia’s Pastoralist Community Development Project, and its Productive Safety Net program, new projects in Ethiopia and Djibouti, and a support program in Somalia to build on previous rapid response operations and a partnership with FAO to deliver to the most affected areas. Mr. Zoellick emphasized that agriculture was more vulnerable to climate change than any other sector: “we need a major international effort to address this challenge now. Climate-smart agriculture, including scaled up research on drought resistant seeds, and cross-border strategies for drought risk reduction are essential over the medium and long term.” The World Bank noted in April that rising food prices had pushed another 44 million people into poverty over the previous ten months.
This week the World Food Program began airlifts of food into government controlled areas of Mogadishu, and is planning to airlift food into areas near the borders with Kenya and Ethiopia to try and slow the flow of refugees across the borders into the already overfull refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya. As humanitarian operations finally gather pace, WFP is managing to feed 1.5 million people in Somalia, but it remains unable to reach another 2 million in the areas of famine and drought in southern and central Somalia. These are people under control of Al-Shabaab. There have been disagreements within Al-Shabaab over whether to allow international aid into areas it controls, but Al-Shabaab spokesmen have denied there is any famine. At the end of last week, Sheikh Ali Mohamed Rage, claiming the UN was exaggerating the situation, told Somalis to stay in their homes and wait for the rains to come! Some international NGOs, including Kuwait Direct Aid and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent, have been allowed into the worst affected areas of Lower Shebelle and Bakool, but their reports suggest the situation there is still deteriorating. On July 24th ICRC officials distributed food to 24,000 people in Bardhere, in Gedo region.
In Ethiopia, although the situation remains serious, it appears the emergency is being contained, though the long dry season in the southern and south eastern lowlands of Ethiopia means that there is an increasing need to truck water supplies into a number of areas. According to UN OCHA, trucking of water is currently going on in six woredas of Oromiya Regional State, in Borena and West Arsi zones. Another six woredas in the Somali Regional State are also getting water by truck, as are five woredas in the Afar Regional State, and some small areas in five woredas in Tigrai Regional State. The situation in other areas is being closely monitored and trucking is carried out where need is found. The current focus for rehabilitation of water resources is in the Oromiya Regional State as earlier developments in the Somalia Regional State has meant that 90% of the boreholes in that region are now functioning. Under the existing safety net procedures, there were substantial supplies of pre-positioned food in place which meant the government could respond rapidly to the situation once the extent of the drought became clear. Food distribution in affected areas began in February and has continued across the whole affected area. Communities are certainly suffering but as the BBC reports, overall the disaster management system built up in recent years is working and the crisis is being controlled. WFP Director, Josette Sheeran, said the crisis would have been worse if not for the early warning system and quick response programs that had been established. The worst areas in the region were those not covered by that safety net.
Ethiopia is now also hosting more than 112,000 refugees from Somalia in the Dollo Ado area of the Somali Regional State. The Ethiopian Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs, UNHCR and WFP are continuing to provide food, Save the Children and MSF-Spain are providing supplementary feeding and nutritional support, and other agencies are assisting with water and additional services; UNHCR and UNICEF are planning an expanded immunization program. With the three camps at Bokolomanyo, Melkadida and Kobe full or over-full, a fourth camp is now being prepared at Hilowen. In Kenya, the government has agreed to open another camp at Ifo to relieve the pressure on the Dadaab camps which now hold some 390,000 refugees. Last week alone over 5,000 more refugees arrived at Dadaab. According to the World Food Program there are currently 2.4 million people who are classified food-insecure in Kenya at the moment, but the number is expected to rise to 3.5 million during the next month.
Al-Shabaab planning another Ramadan offensive?
Despite Al-Shabaab’s serious defeat during the offensive it launched during Ramadan last year, there are expectations it will attempt to go on the offensive in Ramadan again this year. Ramadan is due to start on August 1st. In the last month or so, Al-Shabaab has seen a significant drop in its funds and in its popularity, but there is evidence that it has been trying to build up its arms before the arrival of Ramadan. Two weeks ago, the organization apparently received a consignment of arms and ammunition through a village near the port of Brava, possibly from Yemen. It has also been regrouping its forces and sending a thousand newly recruited, and barely trained troops to Mogadishu in an attempt to revive the support of its donors and prove Al-Shabaab is intact in the city. Similarly, it appears Al-Shabaab has sent another 150 new fighters to the Gedo region. Despite its current funding constraints, it has promised these new recruits salaries of US $250 a month. Over the last month, Al-Shabaab training camps in Lower Shebelle, Bay and Middle Shebelle regions have been filled with youngsters drawn from the regions under Al-Shabaab control. Overall, in the areas of south central Somalia, Al-Shabaab is believed to have between sixty and eighty battlewagons (“technicals”), mostly land cruiser pick-ups armed with B10, ZU 23s and DSKH weapons.
The planned offensive is expected to focus on Mogadishu, Central Somalia and Gedo regions. These are the regions in which Al-Shabaab has previously suffered significant defeats at the hands of the TFG/AMISOM and Ahlu Sunna forces. The TFG, AMISOM and Ahlu Sunna wal Jama’a have been making extensive preparations to respond to any such offensive in these areas. Reports suggest that the Al-Shabaab commander in central Somalia was recently killed when his car was hit by a roadside bomb near El-Buur as part of Ahlu Sunna’s preparations for resisting any Al-Shabaab offensive.
As part of their preparation for the planned offensive, it seems that Al-Shabaab commanders have again been reassigned on a clan basis. Al-Shabaab tried this last year though with little apparent effect. Abu-Zubeyr “Godane”, (Isaaq) was assigned to Somaliland, Fuad Shongole was told to go to Puntland, Colonel Hassan Dahir Aweys to Central Somalia, Muktar Robow “Abu-Mansoor” to Bay and Bakool regions, Sheikh Ali Dheere, the Al-Shabaab spokesperson, to take command in Mogadishu, and Hassan Turki in the Juba region. Sheikh Muktar Robow has already taken his Rahenweyne fighters to Bay and Bakool regions after disagreement with “Godane” over whether to allow international aid agencies into Al-Shabaab controlled areas.
Meanwhile, the new cabinet of Prime Minister Dr. Abdiweli Mohamed Ali has been overwhelmingly endorsed by Parliament. Out of 420 MPs, 397 voted in favor, 21 voted against and 2 abstained, despite the fact that the decision that previous TFG Cabinet members would not be considered had come in for considerable criticism. There remains some concern over the background of many of the new ministers, some of whom are from Europe and America and have been out of the country for a long time. This is particularly the case with the important security ministries which have been so successful in recent months. A handover ceremony from the outgoing to the incoming Ministers took place on Wednesday at State House in the presence of the President, the Speaker and the Prime Minister. Speaking after the vote, the Prime Minister promised that he would resume the fight against Al-Shabaab, work to establish security as a whole and deal with corruption, pirates, and improving the government’s relationship with the international community.
The Prime Minister also condemned Al-Shabaab in forthright terms for reinstating the ban on international humanitarian agencies at a time when the country is suffering catastrophic famine.”The extremists are literally and deliberately starving the people to death,” he said, after the reports that they were also stopping people from leaving areas under their control in search of food. He appealed to the world to come to the aid of Somalia and to help free her people from both the famine and the inhuman treatment of the insurgents. “The international community must come to our aid by giving us, not just food, but also the means to get rid of these callous terrorists in Somalia who have no regard for the interest of the Somali people,” he said, adding that “the insurgency itself is the root cause of the famine”. He emphasized that the government, with the support of AMISOM, was doing all it could to tackle the immediate crisis as well as defeat the extremists. It had established a relatively secure zone in the southern half of Mogadishu where humanitarian agencies could deliver emergency assistance. “With more resources and troops, we could expand this to cover the whole country”, he added, and “we must do this if we are to save the lives of millions.”
Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Ministry of Foreign Affairs