Somalia’s Transitional Federal Parliament approves the budget
The Somali Parliament convened this week to deliberate on the budget for 2011, recently approved by the new TFG Cabinet. The budget, in total close to one hundred million US dollars, gives priority to the security, defense, reconciliation and reconstruction sectors. After a debate on Wednesday, in its eleventh session, 281 MPs out of the 286 present voted in support of the proposed budget, four abstained and one opposed it. It was the first time that the TFG has had a budget endorsed by Parliament, although it was clear that a number of the MPs were unclear where the money would be coming from. The cabinet endorsed the budget on the assumption that thirty percent of the funding would be mobilized locally, and the remaining seventy percent would be provided by external partners.
Prime Minister Mohammed also attended Parliament on Thursday to provide answers to a number of questions which have been dominating TFG politics recently. These included the agreements the government has signed with Saracen International, the private security firm commissioned to provide training for bodyguards for VIP personnel and other special forces; and the contract signed with SKS of Dubai to take over Mogadishu International Airport administration and management from the TFG. Saracen International’s recent activities, including a deal reportedly covering the training of a coastguard and anti-piracy force in Puntland are currently under serious scrutiny by the UN and other bodies. The Prime Minister told MPs that everything under these two agreements had been arranged before he took office and he therefore said he needed time to gather the relevant documentation. MPs said he should return to Parliament within a month with the necessary details. In the meantime, Parliament decided to suspend all activities by these two companies, including the renovation works Saracen began two weeks ago on some infrastructural projects, including the Martini Military Hospital. MPs made it clear the Prime Minister was required to confront all those TFG officials who had been involved in these agreements and obtain details from them.
In the meantime, following the recent decision by Hizbul Islam to join Al-Shabaab, and the takeover of the last Hizbul Islam positions by Al-Shabaab fighters, the integration of the two groups has given rise to a number of developments on the ground, including changes in the leadership of Al-Shabaab. The new overall commander of the group is to be Ibrahim Al-Afghani, replacing Emir Ahmed Abdi Godane, while a decentralized system has been set up to accommodate other leading figures. Ahmed Godane “Abu Zubeyr” is in charge of Al-Shabaab operations in Somaliland; Fuad Shongole is to concentrate on Puntland; Sheikh Muktar Robow will continue to have responsibility for Bay and Bakool, and Hassan Turki to have charge of Lower Juba including Kismayo. Mogadishu and the surrounding areas are to be under Sheikh Ali Dhere and Abdallah Fazul. Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys is to be engaged in the central regions though for the time being he has gone to Kismayo for “rehabilitation”. He is, of course, now working once again with former colleagues from both Al-Itihaad and the Islamic Courts Union when he was active in both groups in trying to manage differences between so-called moderates and extremists. Reports suggest that senior Hizbul Islam officials will be undergoing a period of briefing from Al-Shabaab, and Hizbul Islam fighters of training in Al-Shabaab’s methods of conflict.
This merger underlines what A Week in the Horn has consistently argued – that Hizbul Islam was no different from Al-Shabaab and it has never been ready to join the peace process. Whatever some in the international community might have claimed, there has never been any real possibility of negotiations with Hassan Dahir Aweys or of molding Hizbul Islam to a peaceful approach. The final proof lies in this “official” amalgamation of Hizbul Islam and Al-Shabaab, though it is rather that Al-Shahaab has taken over Hizbul Islam as that organization began to fall apart into its component factions in the face of recent military defeats.
The impact is already visible on the ground. First, recruits from Puntland and Somaliland have started to flock in large numbers to Mogadishu, coming from their usual areas to be (re-)trained and then re-deployed back to their own territories. Secondly, a sizeable number of trained Al-Shabaab fighters have been brought into Mogadishu with the apparent task of continuing their fight against the areas controlled by TFG and AMISOM troops. Despite the heavy losses Al-Shabaab suffered in its failed offensive in August, it has once again brought in extra fighters and increased the level of conflict in Mogadishu. For the first time it has also been prepared to be involved in longer fire-fights, lasting for half-an-hour or more, with TFG and AMISOM troops. The current Al-Shabaab commanders and the main driving force for this renewed fighting in Mogadishu are Sheikh Mukhtar Robow Abu Mansur, whose forces suffered so badly in August, Sheikh Ali Dhere and Abdallah Fazul.
A meeting of the Ethio-Sudanese Joint Border Development Commission (JBDC)
The Ethio-Sudanese Joint Border Development Commission held its 13th meeting in Sinja, the capital city of Sinnar State of the Republic of the Sudan from 23rd to 25th December. The Ethiopian Delegation was led by Ato Abay Woldu, the President of Tigrai Regional State, while the Sudanese delegation was headed by Engineer Ahmed Abbas Mohammed, the Governor of Sinnar State. The Presidents of Amhara and Gambella Regional States in Ethiopia and from the Sudan the Governors of Blue Nile and Gedaref States also attended the meeting.
The meeting was officially opened by Professor Alamian Dafalla, President of Higher Council for Decentralization who cordially welcomed the Ethiopian Delegation to what he called their second home in Sudan. It was an honor for Sinnar State to host the 13th Ordinary Meeting of the JDBC, he said, and it represented the excellent interaction between brothers who were tied together by strong historical, geographical, social and cultural bonds which opened the prospects to greater development, prosperity and productive cooperation in all sectors.
Engineer Ahmed Abass Mohamed Saad expressed his hope that the meeting would evaluate the progress achieved since the previous JBDC meeting. He emphasized that the convening of the 13th JBDC meeting in Sinja reflected the deep rooted cultural and traditional common values of Ethiopia and the Sudan. This in turn indicated the strength of the base on which their cooperation and true friendship were founded. Ato Abay Woldu, as head of the Ethiopian delegation, reiterated his firm conviction that the longstanding ties between Ethiopia and the Sudan would serve as a basis for further strengthening and consolidating their relations and their cooperation. He noted that the previous meetings of the JBDC and its achievements had contributed immensely to the prevailing cooperation and close friendship. Sudan was, he added, the fourth largest generator of investment and business activities in Ethiopia. He emphasized that was and would continue to be a genuine and a reliable friend of the Sudan and its people. It sincerely wished for durable peace, economic progress and prosperity for the Sudan. This, he added, was also in the interest of Ethiopia. Whatever happened in the Sudan affected Ethiopia and vice versa.
The Commission carried out its discussions in three sub-committees covering Political and Security matters; Economic, Trade, Investment and Related Issues; and Social, Cultural, Tourism, Sport and Youth. The two sides exchanged views on enhancing existing excellent cooperation in different areas and adopted recommendations with a view to further strengthening and consolidating cooperation. They noted with satisfaction the degree of implementation of the minutes of the previous meeting, the 12th JBDC meeting held in Mekelle, in Tigrai Regional State in Ethiopia last December. Both sides agreed on issues of mutual concern, and called for the redoubling of efforts to enhance their joint work. The possibility of upgrading various cooperative endeavors with a view of benefiting both peoples was explored further, and both sides committed themselves to focus more on addressing major challenges to peace and stability as well as on their development endeavors.
The Commission noted the various meetings held at woreda and zonal levels in April, June and July this year, and the collaboration over issues relating to the common border. The JBDC encouraged the various committees established on both sides of the border to redouble their efforts and hold meetings in a sustained and regular way. It recognized the role played by the elders from both sides in their efforts to address any border problems. Both sides agreed to enhance the work of their respective community elders and provide support through an institutional framework.
There was extensive discussion on mechanisms for controlling the trafficking of small arms and light weapons; on the need for coordinated action to deter the on-going deforestation that is having disastrous consequences for the environment on both sides of the border; on how to embark on a coordinated endeavor to address the challenges of human trafficking; on security and other challenges created by well armed pastoralists involved in such activities including deforestation; and on other issues of mutual concern covering economics and trade as well as social, cultural and other issues. The two sides agreed to establish new frameworks and strengthen existing ones to deal with any and all challenges along the border.
The Ethiopian side expressed its appreciation for the continued efforts by the Government of the Republic of the Sudan to tackle the challenges arising from those elements who wanted to cause trouble along the border. Both sides reaffirmed the position taken by the African Union with regard to the warrant of arrest issued by the International Criminal Court against the President of the Republic of the Sudan. They stressed the need for the forthcoming referendum in the Southern Sudan to be conducted peacefully in accordance with the CPA and agreed that whatever the outcome the close ties between the Sudan and Ethiopia would remain steady and strong in all areas. The Commission agreed to hold its next meeting in Ethiopia; the date and the venue has yet to be finalized.
MFA briefing on the Sudan for Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Standing Committee
This week, officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs met and held discussions with the Foreign, Defense and Security Affairs Standing Committee of the House of Peoples’ Representatives. The consultations focused on bilateral relations between the Sudan and Ethiopia, and the upcoming referendum in South Sudan. On bilateral relations, Ambassador Negash Kibret, Director General of African Affairs in the Ministry explained at length the two countries’ cooperation in political, economic, and social as well as security matters. Ethiopia’s relations with the Sudan were described as excellent. Apart from the growing trade between the two countries, Sudan is the fourth largest source of investment in Ethiopia. Both countries are currently cooperating on the construction of power transmission lines that will enable Ethiopia to export power and earn foreign currency. Ethiopia currently imports a significant amount of its fuel from Sudan further strengthening the relations between the two countries. Cooperation in security matters has included the foiling of attempts by the government in Asmara to infiltrate armed opposition elements into Ethiopia through Sudanese territory. This cooperation is all the more important because the two countries share thousands of kilometers of boundary which has yet to be clearly defined. A Joint Border Committee has been working on this for quite some time now and is expected to make recommendations to both parties in the near future. The officials of the Ministry expressed their expectation that consultations between the two parties would continue to provide cooperation in various areas and further enhance bilateral relations.
The ministry officials also dealt with the issue of the upcoming referendum in South Sudan, reiterating the government’s position of full support to the CPA process and Ethiopia’s commitment to help both parties to the agreement produce a working arrangement that would ensure the peaceful conduct of the referendum and a negotiated deal on post referendum issues. The officials pointed out that Ethiopia shares borders with both parties, and both have a positive rapport with the government. It was emphasized that Prime Minister Meles has been working closely with both parties as well as with the AU High Level Implementation Panel led by President Thabo Mbeki to try to resolve outstanding issues. Officials made it clear Ethiopia believes the AU and IGAD should play the leading role in ongoing continental efforts towards peaceful resolution of the Sudanese conflict. Ethiopia has expressed the hope that the referendum will reflect the will and aspirations of the peoples of Sudan. It has, however, made it clear it expects both parties to accept the choice of the people whatever the outcome of the vote. Officials told the Standing Committee that Ethiopia will remain committed to a peaceful resolution of all conflicts in the Sudan. Any failure in Sudan would have far-reaching consequences not only to the country but also to the entire continent of Africa.
Members of the Committee, and other Representatives in attendance, raised a number of questions over possible developments in the region following the referendum which will be taking place on January 9th. While commending the wide range of bilateral relations between the Sudan and Ethiopia, Committee members urged the government to redouble its efforts to help both parties to stick to their agreement. They emphasized the greater role that AU and IGAD could and should play in this regard. They also expressed concern that spoilers in the region, led by the regime in Asmara, might be attempting to take advantage of any problems to try and make further efforts to destabilize Ethiopia. Officials of the Ministry noted that this was a threat the government took seriously, and they did not rule out the possibility of the government of Eritrea resorting to its old ways even in the aftermath of the referendum. In conclusion, the Committee chairperson thanked the officials of the Ministry for their briefing and expressed the hope that such forums would continue in the future.
Altinbas Holding to invest in Ethiopia
Last week, Prime Minister Meles received Mr. Iman Altinbas, the Chairman of Altinbas Holding, and a delegation from Altinbas Holding, one of the biggest Turkish Companies. The delegation also met Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ato Haile-Mariam Desalegn, as well as the Ministers of Industry, Mines, Urban Development and Construction and other officials. The subject of the discussions was the decision of Altinbas to invest in various sectors in Ethiopia. Mr. Altinbas told Prime Minister Meles that the company had decided to establish a textile factory in Adama, and to extend its investment on a large scale into cotton production, mining, real estate development and the service sector. Mr. Iman said the decision had been taken on the basis of information provided by the Ethiopian Embassy in Ankara and following the talks he had had with various ministers during this first visit to Ethiopia. The Prime Minister welcomed the company’s decision to invest and play a key role in helping the progressive economic development of Ethiopia. He briefly rehearsed the existing historic and strong friendly bilateral relationship between Turkey and Ethiopia, and emphasized that the government was determined to provide the necessary support to encourage potential investors like Altinbas to take part in the recently drawn up Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP). The delegation later held talks with Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Haile-Mariam who also underlined the strong economic, social and political ties existing between the two countries. He assured the group that the government was ready to give all-round support to the company’s investment efforts.
The delegation visited two of the existing Turkish investments in Ethiopia, AYKA Textile and Investment Plc. located at Alemgena, and ELSE Addis, in Adama. Altinbas’s chairman said that the company has already conducted assessments in Adama and had selected a target area to establish its own factory there. Since its foundation in 1950s, Altinbas Holding has become one of the leading international investment groups in Turkey with an annual turnover of some UD$4 billion. Its operations include activities in mining, energy, banking and financing, shipping and logistics, construction, and various other sectors.
The 14th meeting of the Nile Equatorial Lakes Council of Ministers
The Nile Equatorial Lakes Council of Ministers (NELCOM) held its 14th meeting on December 16th in Entebbe. The meeting was preceded by a two day meeting of the Nile Equatorial Lakes Technical Advisory Committee (NELTAC). Despite membership of NELCOM, Egypt and Sudan did not attend the meeting because of their concern over the signing of the Nile Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA) earlier this year by five upper Nile riparian countries (Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda). In fact, they made efforts to block the convening of the meeting, even trying to convince the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the current chair of NELCOM to cancel the meeting after participants had already arrived in Entebbe. The meeting was attended by Ministers from Burundi, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Uganda, and representatives from DRC, Rwanda and Kenya as well as NELTAC members from all the sub-basin countries, officials of the institutions and representatives of donor partners. The Ethiopian delegation, headed by Mr. Alemayehu Tegenu, Minister of Water and Energy, attended the meeting as an observer.
At the opening session, the Executive Director of the Nile Basin Initiative, and representatives of development partners and of NELCOM members made statements. Tanzania noted the importance of water security and the role of upstream countries in fostering cooperation. As the tenure of the DRC as chair of both NELTAC and NELCOM had ended, and in the absence of Egypt which was due to take the chairmanship, Kenya was elected as chair. On the basis of the report of NELTAC, the meeting discussed a range of governance, institutional, financial, and human resource management issues. It endorsed the recommendation by NELTAC that the Ethiopia-Kenya interconnection should remain as part of the power projects portfolio. Further consideration should be given to new power projects with a trans-boundary dimension within the region. Delegates were reminded that the 12th East African Community (EAC) Heads of States Summit resolved to host a special summit of the riparian countries which would review the status of the Nile Cooperative Framework next March.
Ato Alemayehu took the opportunity to thank NELCOM for inviting Ethiopia to participate as an observer. He noted that the upstream riparian countries were facing increased demand for water. There was little development of hydropower on the upper reaches of the Nile and they had the smallest per capita electricity supply in the entire Nile basin. Upstream source countries had little irrigation infrastructural development and were unable to mitigate the impact of recurrent drought. They were undergoing rapid economic growth and urbanization which was increasing the overall demand for water. They all faced similar challenges over the issue of claims for a fair share of the use of the Nile. Ato Alemayehu noted that Ethiopia had commissioned three hydropower schemes with a total installed capacity of 1200MW in one year, and he underlined that the need for power called for collaboration between Ethiopia and NEL countries through the construction of the Ethiopia-Kenya regional transmission line. He urged constructive dialogue to foster cooperation throughout the Nile Basin.
Core principles of Ethiopia’s Foreign Policy: Ethio-Italy relations
Since the establishment of its federal form of government, Ethiopia has believed that the implementation of policies, strategies and laws to encourage rapid economic development, democratization and peace are a matter of survival. The government has promulgated various policies and strategies, notably in its Foreign Affairs and National Security Policy and Strategy. This makes it clear that Ethiopia’s foreign relations with the rest of the world should be directed towards creating an atmosphere to encourage market opportunities, investment and technical support as well as soliciting grants and loans to finance the country’s development endeavors; eliminating, or at least, reducing external security threats; minimizing the negative effects of globalization; and resisting external threats and reducing vulnerability, with democratization being a key element. Following these basic objectives, Ethiopia’s foreign relations with the rest of the world including Europe have grown rapidly. It was only after putting in place the necessary mechanisms and by shifting the main focus of its relationships towards trade, investment and technology transfer that Ethiopia began to enjoy the opportunities for assistance and development available from European countries, such as Italy.
Ethiopia and Italy, of course, have overcome the problems arising from the eras of colonialism and fascism that affected their relations from time to time. The relationship between the two countries today, following the introduction of the current Foreign Policy Strategy, has seen a steadily strengthening trend in all areas. In fact, a longstanding historical relationship has been consolidated by various cooperation agreements and by a whole series of high level visits. Recent visits to Italy by Ethiopian officials have included Prime Minister Meles (2004) and former Foreign Minister Seyoum (February and April 2009). Visits by Italian officials have included visits by Prime Minister, Mr. Romano Prodi, (January 2007), and by Foreign Minister Franco Frattini (January 2010). The visit of Prime Minister Meles to Italy in 2004 was a particular landmark. Ethiopia and Italy signed agreements for a soft loan of 220 million Euros for the Gilgel Gibe II hydropower project, for the cancellation of US $432 million of debts and for the return of the Axum Obelisk. There was also the agreement for a series of regular political consultation between the two Foreign Ministries marking the opening of a new chapter in bilateral cooperation between Italy and Ethiopia.
Ethiopia views Italy as one of its most valuable partners for economic cooperation. Ethio-Italian Development Cooperation was originally guided by an agreement signed between the two countries in 1999. Under this, Italy allocated 108.5 million Euros mainly focusing on health, education, and rural development. The agreement was replaced by a new development cooperation framework agreement in April 2009 providing for an outlay of 46.4 million Euros for the period of 2009-2011. This allows for various projects focusing on Rural Water and Sanitation (WASH) and Agricultural Value Chains in the Oromiya, SNNP, Amhara and Tigray Regional States for 9.6 million Euros. Under a bilateral accord signed in November by Italy’s Ambassador to Ethiopia, Mr. Renzo Mario Rosso, and Ato Ahmed Shide, State Minister of MoFED, another 8.2 million Euros has been provided for Ethiopia’s 2010-2012 healthcare sector development projects. Italy, of course, provided substantial support for the Gilgel Gibe 11 dam which was built by the Salini Construction Company; and during his visit in January this year, Italian Foreign Minister Frattini attended the formal inauguration of the dam by Prime Minister Meles.
Ethiopia and Italy signed a bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement in 1994; and Italian businessmen discussed over two hundred direct investment projects in Ethiopia between July 1992 and July 2008 with possible capital involvement of 3.7 billion birr. Of these 54 projects with a total outlay of over 700 million birr are operational, while the rest are in implementation and pre-implementation phases. Given the growing investment and market opportunities of Ethiopia, and the traditional relationship that existed for so long time between the two countries in the business area, Ethiopia believes that this relationship could be far more extensive. It will continue to work hard to encourage greater Italian investment in Ethiopia. It has made it clear it would like to see Italy consider the establishment of a specific Italian industrial zone in Ethiopia, something that both China and Turkey have agreed to.
Trade relations between Ethiopia and Italy have continued to expand rapidly especially since 1997. The overall volume of trade grew more than fivefold between 1997 and 2009. Just over 1 billion birr in 1997, it reached 5.54 billion birr in 2008 before falling back to 3.8 billion birr in 2009. The trade balance, however, remains firmly in favor of Italy with Ethiopian exports amounting to 561 million birr last year and imports from Italy reaching 3.21 billion birr. The main commodities that Ethiopia exports to Italy are coffee, hides and skin. Its imports from Italy include manufacturing goods and construction equipment.
Italy has, of course, a long interest in the Horn of Africa going back well over a hundred years, , and it attaches great importance to the stability of the sub-region. It has an especial concern with regional security issues including piracy and terrorism, and in security and stability in Somalia, all elements in which Ethiopia continues to have a strong stake. It’s to be recalled that Italy recently took the commendable step of allocating 40 million Euros for the African Union’s operations in Somalia. Ethiopia strongly believes Italy will continue to be interested in the Horn of Africa. It hopes Italy will continue to take the lead in soliciting backing from the international community for the support of the TFG in Somalia, and continue to take the lead on the issue of Somalia at European Union level.
May we take this opportunity to wish all our readers a safe, successful and prosperous New Year
Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Ministry of Foreign Affairs