News and Views:
Somalia: The Decisions of the Garowe Conference
As we noted last week, the first Somali national constitutional conference was held in Garowe from December 21st to 23rd. Convened by the Transitional Federal Government, it was hosted by the Puntland State Government of Somalia under the auspices of the UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS), and attended by the signatories of the Roadmap. Among those present were President Sheikh Sharif, Speaker Sharif Hassan, Prime Minister Dr. Abdiweli Mohammed, President of Puntland Mohamed Ahmed and the President of Galmudug Sheikh Mohamed Mohamoud, as well as representatives of Ahlu Sunna wal Jama’a (ASWJ), members of parliament and civil society and other interested parties.
The meeting concentrated on two outstanding issues relating to the end of the transition – the post-transition parliamentary structure, and the national constituent assembly and its adoption of a new federal constitution. Considering the TFG charter, the Djibouti Agreement, the Kampala Accord and the Roadmap, the meeting agreed on a nine-point plan of ratification for the draft constitution and a seven-point plan for finalizing the structure of a new federal parliament under the new federal constitution.
The points for ratification of the draft constitution stressed the need to complete the draft constitution no later than April 20th, 2012, and for this to be adopted as a provisional constitution (subject to an Implementation Review process and a National Referendum as circumstances permit), by a National Constituent Assembly with members nominated by all signatories of the roadmap and civil society on the basis of the 4.5 clan formula. The Assembly should number up to 1000 delegates of whom 30 percent should be women. The draft constitution itself would be reviewed by the Committee of Experts which will ensure it is harmonized with existing state constitutions. The final draft would be handed over to the Independent Federal Constitution Commission by May 5th, and the National Constituent Assembly would convene by May 15th, vote on the final draft no later than May 22nd, and be able to dissolve itself with its work completed on May 30th 2012.
The seven-point plan on the new Somali Federal Parliament provides for the Parliament to be sworn in on June 15th with elections for the Speaker and his Deputies on July 20th and the election of the President on August 20th. The bicameral federal legislature will then be formally established on August 21st, 2012. Parliament will number 225 of which 20% should be women, and since the security situation doesn’t permit elections, the lower house will be selected on the basis of the 4.5 clan formula but only for this four year term of parliament. After that, parliament will be elected by “universal polling of one person one vote”. The plan specifically notes that the 4.5 formula can never be a basis for power sharing after this and the new Federal Constitution will not include any provisions using this formula. It adds that the new parliament shall not amend or enact any law or policy which takes this formula into account. Members of the new Parliament will be nominated by recognized traditional elders assisted by qualified civil society members, none of whom shall have political affiliation. Existing state administrations will nominate delegates and submit them to the Independent Interim Electoral Commission which will evaluate and approve all nominees. The upper chamber will be drawn from members of the federal states and regional administrations. The mandate of the new parliament includes preparation for a referendum and for general elections following municipal and local elections. In the conclusion of these “Garowe Principles”, the signatories requested that the international community take action against any elements trying to take frivolous or capricious actions against the President, the Prime Minister, the Speaker or the two Deputy Speakers or designed to derail the implementation of the Roadmap.
The meeting was an important step forward for Somalis in terms of organizing the end of the transition period. The next Constitutional Consultative Conference will be held in Garowe in the third week of January and will focus on “the finalization and adoption of federalism”. The Garowe Conference followed another parliamentary crisis which began in October when a group of MPs voted to impeach the Speaker, threatening a serious, and unnecessary, distraction to the efforts for the implementation of the Roadmap and a successful end to the transition period. There are less than nine months to go and the TFG and the Transitional Federal institutions still have a great deal to do to provide for the conclusion to the process. They can ill-afford renewed challenges to the Speaker, or anyone else. The efforts to remove the Speaker actually go back to last year when Abdi Hashi Abdullahi (Habir Awal/Isaaq) lost to Sharif Hassan (Digil/Mirifle) in the vote for the position of Speaker. Abdi Hashi, who was born in Ethiopia’s Somali Regional State, obtained 143 to Sharif Hassan’s 217 votes and subsequently organized his supporters into a parliamentary caucus – the ‘Kudlada’ group – which has made up a pressure group critical of the Speaker.
There has also been criticism of the Kampala Accord and the concomitant resignation of the then Prime Minister, Mohamed Abdullahi ‘Farmajo’ (Marehan/Darod) which set off a wave of protests in Mogadishu and among the Diaspora. There is still a significant block of MPs who remain suspicious of the Accord and would like to see the Roadmap delayed. Another group of MPs have been those associated with Ahlu Sunna wal Jama’a authority in central areas of the country. The Speaker played a major role in getting the Addis Ababa deal between AWSJ and the TFG last year, but since then some ASWJ leaders have become disillusioned with the government.
The concerns of the critics of the current process of course need to be addressed, but as the fact-finding committee from the UN, the AU and IGAD noted a fortnight ago, all parties, in or out of parliament, should avoid actions which might exacerbate the situation. This applies to any political or clan challenges or those by any specific interest groups. As we have emphasized before, time is running out. The TFG is faced with a major, a mammoth, job to achieve a successful end to the transition in the limited time available. A great deal of effort is needed to carry out the transitional tasks and achieve the required milestones. Everybody needs to put aside their personal ambitions and cooperate fully, without qualification, and it is important that the international community remains on board in support of these Somali initiatives in creating a framework for the future.
Meanwhile, the Kenyan Defence Forces spokesperson, Major Emmanuel Chirchir, was quoted over the weekend as saying that Kenya’s involvement in Somalia was a “long-term investment” and that Kenyan forces would only leave once Somalia become stable and joins other peaceful countries in the region: “The issue of pulling out prematurely is out of the question. We are in this business for the future of Somalia and so Kenya will only get out when Somalia regains the status of a normal nation”. The East African quoted Major Chirchir as saying that the Kenyan Defence Forces would not get official permission to join AMISOM before April or May and by that time he expected they would have secured the towns of Afmadow, Kismayo and Bardhere.
A meeting of the Ethiopia/Sudan Joint Political Committee in Khartoum
The second meeting of the Ethio-Sudan Joint Political Committee took place in Khartoum, December 22nd to 25th. Ato Hailemariam, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs led an Ethiopian delegation of six ministers and other officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Federal Affairs, the Ministry of Defence and the Government Communications Agency, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, the National Intelligence and Security Services, whose members make up the Joint Political Committee, and the joint sub-committees at sectoral level. The Deputy Prime Minister also met with President Omar Al-Bashir during his stay in Khartoum and discussed bilateral and other regional issues.
The first meeting of the Joint Political Committee was held in May 2009 in Addis Ababa and the second meeting last weekend was able to evaluate the progress made in the overall three year general plan as well as the annual action plans signed then. The Joint Committee looked at the results of the regular meetings of the joint bilateral mechanisms set up after May 2009, including the Joint High Commission, the Joint Political Committee Meetings and the Joint Border Development Commission. The Joint Border Development Commission held its most recent meeting, its 14th session in Bahr Dar at the beginning of the month. The Committee also evaluated the exchanges of security information and the joint military patrols along the common border to prevent incursions of dissident elements, the cooperation of Ethiopia and Sudan over the implementation of the CPA and in revitalization of the regional organization, IGAD, as well as harmonization of policies on multilateral issues and the regular consultation between the two Ministries of Foreign Affairs in multi-lateral fora. All these were identified as demonstrating encouraging progress registered during the past three years. In addition, the committee looked at the progress of efforts to control drug smugglers, at protection of forests along the border, media information exchanges, and the extradition of criminals and terrorists. Other areas covered control of the movement of small arms and light weapons along the border, illegal migration and human trafficking and facilitation of the flow of tourists.
The Joint Political Committee signed two Memoranda of Understanding during its meeting and agreed to sign two more in the next two months. It also agreed a number of other general and annual action plans in various sectors. The MoUs are to cover cooperation in the fields of legal and judicial activity, including exchanges of information, and the organization of bilateral symposia, seminars and workshops on legal issues affecting both countries. In areas of information and communication, the two sides agreed to exchange radio and TV programs every six months. The Ethiopian News Agency and various bodies in the Sudan are to set up contacts with editors of news papers and magazines and technical assistance in information technology is to be provided.
Both sides agreed to continue their joint bilateral mechanism meetings on foreign relations within the scheduled time frame. Ethiopian consular offices are to be opened in Gedaref and Damazein, and Sudanese consulates in Gondar and Bahr Dar. The two parties re-emphasized their agreements to work together on revitalizing regional integration through IGAD, on peace and stability in Somalia, to jointly combat terrorism, to cooperate in bringing peace to Darfur and to further harmonize their polices in multilateral fora. They agreed to further strengthen exchanges of information on issues along the border, to expand cooperation in religious tolerance and inter-religious dialogue, and to cooperate and exchange experiences between police forces at different levels. Further efforts to control the movements of small arms and light weapons in the future were also agreed. In the area of labour and social affairs, there was agreement to facilitate recruitment and movement of workers and to exchange information about availability of labour and job opportunities. In regard to culture and tourism, the two sides agreed to organize familiarization tours for high-level management, to familiarize tour operators about the possibilities available and to encourage joint tourist promotions, joint training programs and exchanges of wildlife delegations.
Overall, this second meeting of the Ethio-Sudan Joint Political Committee was concluded in the same spirit of brotherhood and friendship by which the two countries have agreed to further strengthen their strategic bilateral ties. Both sides made it clear they appreciated their existing strong bilateral cooperation as underlined by the agreement to exert maximum efforts to prevent illegal human trafficking and ease conditions for their nationals to work legally in each other’s countries. The joint bilateral mechanisms are working effectively to consolidate the strategic partnership between Ethiopia and the Sudan further. The two countries have agreed to hold the next high level and joint political committee meetings. They have underlined the importance of protecting and maintaining the existing cordial relationships between the two countries for the next generation.
Journalists and the rule of law
The Federal High Court of Ethiopia has found two Swedish journalists, Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye, guilty of supporting terrorism and sentenced each to eleven years in jail after the pair entered the country under the auspices of a known terrorist organization, the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF). The pair admitted entering the country illegally but pleaded not guilty to supporting terrorism, claiming to have entered Ethiopia to gather news information about a Swedish oil company working in the Somali region of Ethiopia. The court found this defence “unacceptable,” as the ONLF had organized the journey of the accused starting from London and travelling via Kenya and Somalia into eastern Ethiopia. This is a route well-known to be used by the ONLF in organizing terrorist activities inside Ethiopia. The two journalists were captured by Ethiopian troops after a clash with the group of rebels escorting them. The court found that this also demonstrated the level of cooperation between the ONLF and the two journalists. It was on this basis that the two were accused and found guilty of supporting the ONLF and crossing the border illegally.
Various international advocacy organizations, notably the Committee to Protect Journalists, were quick to claim the two journalists had entered the country merely for professional reasons. The same argument was made by other organizations like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International which also claimed that the trial had produced “a political sentence”. This was exactly the claim made by the ONLF itself as well! In fact, as anyone who followed the trial could see, such assertions are implausible. The court had more than enough evidence for the journalists’ conviction, as well as their admission that they had entered the country illegally under the auspices of admitted terrorists. The trial was open and transparent.
By their comments on the trial and their reports on the journalists themselves, the Committee to Protect Journalists and other organizations tried to question the impartiality of the court and the due process of the law. They have, as usual, also raised the issue of the freedom of the press and the so-called right of journalists to do what they want irrespective of legality and the law or of any responsibility to any code of journalistic ethics. In fact, rather than trying to interfere with due process of law or advocate illegal practices, these organizations should perhaps consider the need to condemn open violations of the law and offer support to the idea of journalistic responsibility. These organizations know perfectly well that the journalistic mission the two were on could have easily been done legally without violating any law, let alone associating with a terrorist organization.
Reporting is, of course, not terrorism and no one suggests it is, but the decision of the court aside crossing illegally into a country with a group of armed terrorists on a terrorist mission hardly qualifies as responsible journalism particularly when one claims to be chasing a story about the operations of a Swedish oil company which certainly would deny any and all contacts with terrorists. Indeed, it has to be said that investigation into company activities by involvement with a terrorist group is hardly the most obvious approach to such a story. It is difficult to see any justification for taking such an approach to a business story of this kind when, by any standards, a far more effective and logical method would have been to approach the local administration and indeed the company itself either of which would have been prepared to cooperate. The two made no effort to contact the pertinent bodies for accreditation in the Somali region; instead, they started by opting for illegal means to enter the country. There have been claims that the decision to try the two was a deliberate attempt to deter journalists from trying to report on the alleged abuse of human rights in the Somali Regional State to which Human Rights Watch has made frequent, if unsubstantiated, reference. The two journalists, however, did not enter the region to investigate such allegations. On their own admission they were trying to gather information on the activities of a Swedish oil company. Equally, as any journalist knows, a terrorist organization like the ONLF believes it will benefit from the publicity provided by western journalists travelling under its auspices.
In fact, not for the first time, the double standards of certain advocacy, human rights and media organizations are apparent in their comments. The media in the countries where these groups operate function under very specific rules and regulations that govern media and journalistic activities. Whoever violates those rules is held accountable, at least eventually, as the recent detail of widespread phone-hacking in the UK makes clear. At least one newspaper there has been closed down and even the journalists have been cautious to raise claims of press freedom in the face of widespread and obvious illegalities and other excesses. The claim that accountability is proper and natural in America or Europe but wrong, even unlawful, in the developing world is a classic case of the double standards for which these advocacy and human rights organizations have become notorious. They frequently and indeed almost consistently claim that journalists (particularly western journalists) should be immune to any consequences for illegal activities and violations as long as they are committed in Africa. This is unacceptable. The media cannot be above the law in Europe or in Africa, or indeed wherever it operates. Nor can freedom of the press be allowed to be synonymous with freedom to do anything one wants or violation of legal norms whether these involve illegal entry or posing a threat to a country’s national security by involvement with a terrorist organization.
The authority of the judicial process is duly recognized by the laws of Ethiopia and its constitution, by the government and by its partners. Advocacy and human rights organizations should recognize the concept of the rule of law and accept the verdict of duly constituted courts. The government has made it clear it fully respects the rights of the media to work freely within the framework of its legal obligations and responsibilities. Indeed, the government has been working hard to encourage the creation of a genuinely free and responsible media that will assist the efforts of the government and people to create a peaceful and developed country that can play a pivotal role in the fight against terrorism in the Horn of Africa. Irresponsible behaviour by journalists, in or out of the country, does not help the process.
Lecturing the world – President Isaias’ latest interview
President Isaias has finally provided his promised long-overdue interview to the local media in advance of the European New Year. The announcement by the Eritrean media of “an up-coming extensive briefing” by the ‘dear leader’ was first made a month ago and the interview was originally slated to be conducted in the second week of December. It was going to be extensive indeed. The President would, according to the Ministry of Information, highlight in depth the following issues among others: Eritrea’s enduring choice and independent political line; the bright future and the tenacious striving of the Eritrean people inside the country and abroad; the progress in investment, agro-industry, trade and infrastructure; the existing regional, continental and international scenarios; the new global order, future prospects and “the eclipse of the philosophy of “End of History”, the philosophy of global social justice and other issues. It seemed President Isaias would probably have to spend the better part of the month explaining these issues in detail and elaborating what he so often claims is the significant progress his government has made in a range of areas and in imparting his unsolicited advice to the world on issues ranging from the world financial crisis to the stalled Middle East peace process.
In the first instance, looking at the so-called Arab Spring, President Isaias was surprisingly, if decidedly, circumspect, with his trade-mark “I-said-so” pontificating giving way to a visible concern of how things could spiral out of control unless ‘something is done in time.’ In general, the President said, the Arab Spring was the result of “societies calling for justice on the one hand, and those regimes that serve by proxy the forces pursuing adventurous uni-polar economic and monopolistic objectives, on the other.” He avoided being openly dismissive of these so-called revolutions as expressions of the aspirations of the peoples concerned, but the President was however almost certain that the so-called democratic transitions in the likes of Tunisia would be “aborted or face relapse.” His overall message was that the people who are said to have instigated the revolutions would not in the final analysis stand to gain from the overthrow of their corrupt and dictatorial regimes. The warning certainly seemed to be directed most clearly towards his own people.
As usual, President Isaias gave a long-winded explanation of what he said were the major problems ailing the world, and detailed the sinister moves on the part of some “special interest groups in the west to gobble up the world’s resources through deceit and sheer banditry.” He lamented what he almost nostalgically called “the sudden” collapse of the Soviet Union which caused some to “pose as sole power in control of a planet” and to argue that “the world should not only be directed in accordance with our philosophy” but also proclaimed that “the world should be governed in tune with our ideology.” President Isaias has made it a habit to berate the ‘new world order as the root of all evils’ while wistfully reminiscing about the sort of balance and justice that was dealt a mortal blow due to the ‘sudden collapse of the Soviet Union’. His characterization of the new world order as a source of all evil is not a novelty and, as usual, hardly demonstrates any particular insight into what he has repeatedly told his people for a number of years. Nor is it necessary to dwell on why he always takes pains to skirt round the more pressing economic and political problems that haunt Eritrea on account of his own misguided policies. What is worth questioning is why President Isaias in all seriousness believes his tiny nation was singled out by these so-called special interest groups for harassment and exclusion. The answer, of course, is simple: as the information ministry’s announcement hyperbolically suggested, and as he has repeatedly asserted, this has everything to do with “Eritrea’s enduring choice and independent political line.”
In looking at what he believes the future holds in store for the world, he reassures his audience that what appears to be a uni-polar world which the West is intent on dominating is in fact giving way to a multi-polar world in which the likes of America will no longer be allowed to impose their wills on others. The emergence of new powers, the president tells us, is a sure sign that the status quo is no longer sustainable. However, in a self contradictory passage typical of his more grandiose utterances, President Isaias turns around to claim that “ irrespective of whether or not the world economic order assumes uni-polar, bi-polar or multi-polar character, “unless people lead a dignified and secure life, it is impossible to talk of security at all.”
On the Middle East, he once again expressed his view that the so-called ‘two-state solution’ was a mere illusion and he ascribed the failure of successive efforts to bring peace in the region to the fatally wrong prescription given to the two parties ‘back in the Oslo process’ which President Isaias claimed, ‘installed an illusion that a two-state solution was achievable.” He, he said, believed the ‘the Trans-Jordan’ initiative was more realistic although he was afraid ‘he would be blamed for advocating an unorthodox position’ on the issue. He had plenty of advice to give to the parties, but he did not want to be misunderstood.
All told, President Isaias spent more than three hours explaining at length the major ‘philosophical’ and political issues of international significance. There wasn’t the slightest hint that the leader of a poor and small country might rationally be obliged to look at these matters in light of the daunting bread and butter issues affecting his own people, not to mention the numerous problems his people suffer on account of his misguided policies. As we will see next week, when we look at the other areas of the interview, the President paid half as much attention to regional and domestic issues even though they are of much closer existential relevance to his regime. President Isaias does obviously see himself as a much-sought-after, all-knowing, pundit on international affairs rather than the leader of a small and impoverished nation at odds with all its neighbors.
News and Views
A Tripartite Experts Committee meeting convenes in Cairo
The Tripartite Experts Committee from Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt, set up to discuss the newly launched Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, held its first meeting in Cairo from December 24th to 26th. The meeting was held within the framework of the November agreement which laid down the terms of reference and rules of procedure for the establishment of the Tripartite Technical Committee. Ethiopia’s Water and Energy Minister, Ato Alemayehu Tegenu, Sudan’s Irrigation and Water Minister, Kamal Ali Mohammed and Egypt’s Irrigation and Water Resources Minister, Hisham Kandil, signed the agreement at a November 29th meeting in Addis Ababa. Egypt’s Ambassador to Ethiopia, Mohamed Fathi, emphasized that the three-day Cairo meeting of the Committee provided for the activation of the tripartite pact, and said the move was crucial to the cooperation agreed by the three countries. The three countries agreed on the composition of the Tripartite Committee as a group of six experts, two from each of the three countries, and another four foreign experts to participate directly and fully in any discussions. The agreement gives the Committee responsibility to conduct its work on the issues freely and present its final findings to highest bodies in each state. Other experts may also provide assistance to their respective negotiating representatives on the Tripartite Committee. Prime Minister Meles and other leading government officials have repeatedly said the new Renaissance Dam and the issue of the Nile Waters as a whole should be a means to strengthen cooperation between all the riparian countries, adding that the Dam will benefit the lower riparian states of Egypt and Sudan, controlling excessive flooding and downstream siltation problems.
Egyptian Medical Team in Addis Ababa
An Egyptian medical team made up of eighteen doctors specializing in the fields of surgery, oncology, gynaecology, anaesthesia and orthopaedic surgeries arrived in Addis Ababa on December 26th. The visit, the ninth by Egyptian medical teams, is organized under the Cooperation Protocol signed between the Ethiopian and Egyptian Ministries of Health two years ago. The team will stay in Ethiopia until January 4th 2012 and will carry out operations at the Ras Desta and Yekatit 12 Hospitals in Addis Ababa and resume an Infection Prevention Program at the Alert Hospital. Their activities are not being confined to Addis Ababa. A three person team will also be going for the first time to the city of Nedjo in Oromia Regional State, 360 km west of Addis Ababa to carry out general surgery as well as gynaecological and anaesthesia operations at Nedjo Hospital. Another sub-team with four doctors will travel to Chiro, also in Oromia State, 143 km south of Addis Ababa. They will be carrying out orthopaedic surgery, general surgery and gynaecological operations at Chiro Hospital. The previous Egyptian medical team, the eighth, was in Ethiopia for ten days in October, carrying out 198 operations including highly sophisticated surgery in cases of colon cancer, breast cancer and goitre tumours. Egyptian medical teams have so far performed a total of 1077 operations in various areas. The current team will raise even further the number of beneficiaries and cooperation between Egypt and Ethiopia in this area.
Minister assures Parliament that Ethiopia will maintain a strong military
The Minister of National Defence, Ato Siraj Fegisa, has assured Parliament that Ethiopia would be maintaining a strong military. Addressing MPs on Tuesday last week, December 20th, he detailed the government’s plans for ensuring that changes in the military command would go smoothly. He was announcing the retirement of 13 generals and 303 colonels and lieutenant colonels in two phases of the retirement plan. The Minister added that the ministry would be retiring a total of 561 senior military officers in three phases during the current budget year. All the necessary retirement packages, he said, had been put in place. The Minister said the changes were being implemented following extensive and lengthy preparations aimed at maintaining a strong military leadership, and there would still be 50 generals in the military after the departure of the current retirees. In the 19 page report submitted to Parliament, the Minister also emphasized that the National Defense Forces were taking the ethnic balance of all Ethiopian peoples, nations and nationalities into consideration in its changes and in recruitment of personnel. The army’s current ethnic composition was: 30.3% Amhara, 25% Oromo, and 18.5% Tigrean, with all other nationalities 26%. This compares with 1996 when the make-up was more than 50% Tigrean with 25% Amhara and 21.3% Oromo, reflecting the struggle against the Derg’s brutal communist regime.
The Minister also told MPs that Ethiopian forces had not yet entered Somalia’s territory but they were maintaining a buffer zone for close monitoring on both sides of the border, following IGAD’s request to support the fight against Al-Shabaab. The Defense Forces were also on standby at the Ethio-Eritrean border in case of possible Eritrean aggression though the Minister stressed that any such aggression could be dealt without any need to mobilize the reserve forces that are currently engaged in development campaigns. He noted that the defense budget, even though Ethiopia was the leading troop-contributing country in peace-keeping missions in the continent, made up less than 1% of the country’s total GDP, far below the internationally acceptable level of around 3% of GDP. He stressed that the army for the first time in the country’s history had now added support to the efforts for development and renaissance to its previous focus on protecting and defending the country’s constitution and sovereignty. The army’s Ethiopian Metal Engineering Corporation was now supplementing the demands of a booming economy, and would soon start exporting assembled buses to neighboring countries. The military education facilities were providing for the creation of skilled civilian manpower as well as for the military, contributing to the country’s facilities in engineering and technology.
The Peace, Development, and Democracy Forum meets the Deputy Prime Minister
The Public Consultative Forum of Ethiopia on Peace, Development, and Democracy held a consultation meeting on Wednesday with the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Minister, Ato Hailemariam, in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Forum officials gave a brief presentation of the tasks accomplished by the Forum including consultation with religious leaders over their role in preventing potential conflicts and meetings with relevant bodies on natural resource preservation. It also presented a study it had prepared on the Abay River Basin Integrated Sediment Control and Watershed Development Project. The Forum is an indigenous independent think tank that aims to support government development activities and to promote public participation in the democratization process of the country. In his remarks, the Minister emphasized that the government considers public participation a key element in ensuring sustainable development and to reinforce democracy. He urged think tanks and groups like the Forum to continue with efforts to contribute towards filling any gaps left by limitations of government services. Referring to environmental protection, Ato Hailemariam explained that activities were being undertaken across the nation to control erosion and the lost of sediment as well as improve the quality of soil and ensure re-forestation, through the building of check dams and improved production techniques. He noted that although the image of the country was steadily improving, much still remained to do to fully change the stereotypes attached to Ethiopia in the past. He said the government was working relentlessly to build up Ethiopia’s image and emphasized think tanks and other similar organizations could play a most important role in this effort.
The MFA’s performance report to the House of People’s Representatives
On Tuesday this week, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs delivered its mid-term performance report to the House of People’s Representatives. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ato Hailemariam told the House that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had carried out successful activities to support the achievement of the five-year Growth and Transformation Plan in the areas of economic diplomacy during the reporting period. These included promotion of the favourable investment situation, attracting more foreign direct investment, and expanding technology transfer in priority areas. Efforts aimed at expanding alternative markets for the country’s growing production, and maximizing untied, timely and effective loans and grants from bilateral and multilateral partners were also among the Ministry’s successful activities in the area of economic diplomacy. The Minister added that a stake-holders’ “alliance for economic diplomacy” had been established under the Ministry’s facilitation in order to coordinate these economic activities. He noted that the Ministry has played an active role during the reporting period and relations with several countries have been transformed to a level of strategic partnership. Other relevant activities, he said, included efforts to encourage Ethiopians living in foreign countries to participate in national affairs, and other concerted efforts related to public diplomacy with particular reference to creation of awareness about the mutual benefits of the new Renaissance Dam. The MPs said the Ministry had carried out commendable activities in creating partnerships with other countries which could significantly contribute to Ethiopia’s ongoing efforts to speed up development, build democracy and maintain regional peace. The Ministry had also exerted successful diplomatic efforts to create awareness among the international community concerning the behavior of the government of Eritrea and its efforts at destabilizing the entire region. These efforts had helped the UN Security Council to understand the need for imposing additional sanctions on Eritrea. MPs emphasized the importance for the Ministry to intensify its efforts to enable Ethiopians in the Diaspora to increase participation in development activities in Ethiopia, and in particular to support the construction of the Renaissance Dam. The Deputy Prime Minister stressed that the Ministry would exert its utmost effort to encourage this aspect of its activities.
A Week in the Horn would like to take this opportunity to offer our best wishes for the New Year to all our readers and to all those who access the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia. We hope that 2012 will be the year which will finally see an end to destabilization and conflict in our region and allow us all to make real progress in development and democracy, in peace and security.
Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Ministry of Foreign Affairs