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How Ethiopia Managed To Ward Off Terror Attacks Part2

How Ethiopia Managed To Ward Off Terror Attacks [II]

(Tsehay Adugna 05-05-15)

Lately, especially following Al-Shabaab conducted one of the worst attacks on civilians last month in Garissa, Kenya, several writers have been asking on why and how Ethiopia managed to ward off the threats from terrorists.

As we noted on the first part of this article, comparing Ethiopia and Kenya is not necessary or useful and it could be misleading. The political, historical, socio-economic backgrounds and current situations of the two sisterly countries are too different. Therefore, we cannot and should not make prescribe copying one country's methods to the other.

Nevertheless, it is useful to shade light on some of the strong features of Ethiopia in this regard so that the achievements receive due recognition and some general lessons can be taken from it by any interested country and political pundit.

Therefore, we should highlight some of the strong characteristics of Ethiopia in preventing and countering terror threats.

Proactively Tackling Terrorists

One of the major bold measures the government took to neutralize terror threats was the military intervention in Somalia in 2006 to remove the now-defunct Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), which had ruled most of southern Somalia for six months that year.

Back in the early 2000s, when the world gave up on Somalia, the government of Ethiopia didn't relent its efforts. The disintegration of Somalia had in itself brought ever-growing danger. The crisis in Somalia had allowed religious extremism to take hold and it had become a haven and conduit for terrorists and extremists. Anti-peace elements started using the country as a base and place of transit in order to threaten Ethiopia's peace.

At the time, several regional and international efforts to bring peace and reconciliation had failed and many nations decided to prevent spill-overs from Somalia's crisis rather than seek a solution to it.

Ethiopia, however, chose a proactive approach.

The government clearly stated in the National Security and Foreign Relations Policy that:

"Our proximity to Somalia would be beneficial to our development if there were peace and stability in Somalia. Peace can come to our region if a government committed to fighting disorder, terrorism and extremism in cooperation with its neighbours is established in Somalia."

In line with the Foreign Policy direction, Ethiopia made various efforts, sacrifices and played decisive role to stabilize Somalia both in direct military intervention as well as mobilizing regional and international efforts.

Ethiopia first entered Somalia in 2006 to remove the now-defunct Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), which had ruled most of southern Somalia for six months that year.

Islamic Court Union, a cluster of diverse extremist and terrorist groups was becoming strong enough to threaten the government and literally hundreds of moderates were assassinated and murdered in Mogadishu, including many professionals, civilians, former soldiers and police.

The world was watching silently and almost no one was willing to risk its resources to contain the looming regional danger.

As Ethiopia battled the UIC, Al-Shabab emerged from its egg shells. The first contingent of AMISOM troops arrived in Somalia only in March 2007, with Burundi, Djibouti, Kenya, Sierra Leone and Uganda.

Since then, Ethiopian forces have been operating in neighbouring Somalia for most of the time, helping the UN-backed government fight the al-Qaeda-aligned al-Shabab group. Last year, more than 4,000 Ethiopian troops Ethiopian troops have officially joined the African Union mission in Somalia known as AMISOM, giving a boost to the security force as it continues to battle against al-Shabab militants.

Indeed, the government of Ethiopia took the decision to intervene in Somalia in 2006 solely in light of national interests and depending on its own finance from the national treasury. It was several months after Ethiopia chased UIC from Mogadishu that other nations became encouraged to join in.

However, there are some who tried at the time and still try to downplay Ethiopia took the far-sighted decision and implemented the operation on her own.

However, that was unequivocally confirmed in the diplomatic telegrams about the confidential meetings between Ethiopian and United States government officials that had been published by Wikileaks in 2012. Those telegrams that were written by from US Embassy Addis Ababa provided minutes of the meetings were held between top level government officials of Ethiopia and U.S in 2006 regarding Ethiopia’s planned intervention in Somalia.

Following Ethiopia's footstep regional countries and the international community launched massive effort to stabilize Somalia. Thanks to the joint operations of IGAD and the new Somali National Army, Al Shabaab had been weakened and the movement of goods and the population’s access to aid had increased.

Community Policing  

Historically, the police in Ethiopia had lost a good relation with the community. This is true for the entire country. Police officers had little interaction with the community. In essence, police contact with the individuals mostly occurred only when a matter of criminal law is involved. The police departments paid little attention to the inclusion of the community in policing matters. Opportunities for participation in policing had not been offered or community empowerment had been significantly ignored.

The community had been less sympathetic and friendly. The police had a reputation for rude ness, brutality, dishonest and partiality. For a long period, policing practices had kept suspicions and mistrust between the police and the community which discarded the chance to establish a cooperative relation. The community was substantially unwilling to voluntarily assist the police. Recently, however, the government has acknowledged the importance of community participation, and called upon police offices to develop new partnerships.

According to the manual of the Ethiopian Federal Police, community policing is:

A policy and  a strategy aimed at achieving a more sufficient and effective criminal control,  reduced fear of crime, improved quality of life, improved police services and a  police  legitimacy  through  a  proactive  reliance  on  community  resources  that  seek  to  change  crime  causing  conditions;  it  assumes  a  need  for  greater  accountability, greater concern for civil rights and liberties."

According to the Research Institute of the Ethiopian Federal Police, two key principles suffuse for community policing:   

1.  Embedding  police  in  existing  community  gatherings  and  associations,  or generating new partnerships, with the  aim of obtaining information, creating a  broad  referral  network  for  dispute  resolution,  and  encouraging  a  culture  of  “let’s end crime with me”; and   

2.  Urging  the  community  to  take  responsibility  for  protective  services,  whether  by  forming  neighborhood  watch  programs  or  engaging  private  security and/or militia.

Typically, Ethiopia's community policing method in urban areas constitutes a geographically intensive patrolling.  One  head  officer  and  6  patrol  officers  (patrolling  in  pairs  over  a  series  of  shifts)  were  assigned  to  communities  of  300  households.  With  64  such  households  in  the  pilot,  the  initiative  made  a  substantial  claim  on  police  resources. 

Moreover, it  emphasizes a  coordination  with  existing  government,  civil  society  and  community  structures.  The  police  act  primarily  as  a  referral  service  for  3  different  types  of  disruptions  to  community life:  

1.  The  first  was  criminal  incidents,  which  were  initially  recorded  at  the  community  police  station  but  then  immediately  referred  to  ordinary  police  stations  for  investigation  and  further processing.   

2.  The second type of disruption was nuisance and perceived disorder in the streets.   

3.  The  third  type  was  a  wide  range  of  local  “social  problems,”  for  whose  handling  the  police  called  on  existing  community  structures  of  dispute  resolution,  as  well  as  neighboring households. 

It should be recognized that the implementation of community policing should be appropriate to the needs and realities of communities while holding the core principles of community engagement, problem solving and organizational change. The Community Policing Strategy Manual pointed out that different communities have different policing priorities and needs, and therefore, the implementation of community policing should be kebele based.

 Certainly, a best-fit approach is more important than best practice to implement this strategy, and that it appears that because community policing is concerned with local conditions. Therefore, community policing is not monolithic but it is adaptable to the nature of the community where it is being implemented that enables to adopt local solutions to local problems. 

Monitoring on Terror Financing 

Money laundering and terrorist financing are among the growing criminal activities in East Africa and the Greater Horn region.  Money  laundering  and  terrorist  financing  are  transnational, cross-border, multifaceted, and complex problems that require cooperation and  coordination  among  actors  looking  to  successfully  respond  to  them.  Not  only  do  money  laundering and terrorist financing negatively affect the integrity and stability of the financial  sector,  but  they  also  undermine  national  security  and  economic  development  goals.   Strong measures on anti–money laundering (AML) and countering the financing of terrorism (CFT)  can  help  mitigate  criminal  behavior  by  reducing  or eliminating  the  economic  gain  from  criminal activities.

Ethiopia has made numerous key improvements to strengthen its AML/CFT regime. Among others:

• A  three-year  strategic  action  plan  has  been  developed  and  is  under review  for implementation.

• A comprehensive AML/CFT law has been drafted by national experts and reviewed by  an experienced expatriate consultant for compliance with international standards and  requirements and is under review by an expert team set by the Council of Ministers of  the  Ethiopian  government.  Detailed regulation is also under  development  while  enactment of the draft law is pending.


  The  FIC  has  developed,  installed,  and  applied  a  computerized  report  management  system  capable  of  receiving,  processing,  and  disseminating  cash  transaction  reports  (CTRs)  and  suspicious  transaction  reports  (STRs).  The system detects and analyzes suspicious cases of money laundering and terrorist financing to allow concerned law enforcement authorities to proceed if necessary with investigations, and then investigate.

  At least three criminal trials involving money laundering and terrorist financing are  underway, and another dozen cases are under investigation.

  The  FIC,  a  majority  of  Ethiopian  banks,  the  Ministry  of  Justice,  and  partnering  international organizations have organized and delivered various training sessions on  AML/CFT issues that have made a start in the process of raising the overall awareness,  supervision and monitoring skills, and technical expertise of relevant professionals in  preventing and countering money laundering and terrorist financing. FIC leadership and operational officers have acquired vital experiential and practical learning skills by visiting foreign FIUs.

  The FIC has implemented its organizational structure plan and recruited, oriented,  and  deployed  operational  and  support  staff.  The FIC office  is  equipped  with  the  necessary facilities, technologies, and resources that enable it to operate professionally.

  A  majority  of  formal  banks  are  said  to  have  implemented  customer  due  diligence,  know your customer, and AML/CFT policies, and all banks have created compliance  units that  oversee  AML/CFT  measures as  a  result  of requirements  by  the National  Bank of Ethiopia (NBE).

  New  legislation  requires  all  citizens  to  have  national  ID  cards  that  comply  with  international  security  standards,  and  the  Immigration and Nationality  Affairs  Main  Department has commenced a project to design, print, and issue the national ID card.

Somali Region and People

In the recent historical period, one major and one lesser war were fought between Ethiopia and Somalia. The empty dream of the so-called "Greater Somalia", an expansionist policy, had brought to Somalia nothing but hostility and conflicts with all its neighbors, especially Ethiopia. Moreover, the government of Ziad Barre had always allied with all groups and countries it believed were anti-Ethiopian and had disturbed Ethiopia's peace.

However, the situation had fundamentally changed in the 1990s and afterwards. The "Greater Somalia" ideology has been discredited and Somalia has become stateless.

As the foreign policy document emphatically puts it:

Even if some circles say that the establishment of such a government in Somalia would once again resuscitate the ideology of "Greater Somalia" and that peace, democracy and development in Somalia would, in that case, not benefit Ethiopia.

This view is fundamentally wrong and dangerous. First, of all, from now onwards, our country safeguards the unity of its peoples not by denying them options but by helping them recognise and confirm in practice, the option based on equality, mutual development and democracy.

As a result of this, we have created the condition whereby Ethiopian Somalis, no matter whether the ideology of "Greater Somalia" is revived or not, would choose to live in equality and unity with their other Ethiopian brothers and sisters. As our development and democratisation process gains momentum, our vulnerability to the effects of this and other similar slogans will be much reduced. Furthermore, it should be underscored that, since it has been the cause of much suffering first and foremost to the people of Somalia, this slogan of "Greater Somalia" has been discredited and its chances of revival are indeed very slim. In light of the encouraging political and economic situation in Ethiopia, the fact that Somalis live in both countries would actually ensure that they serve as a bridge that creates strong connections between the two countries, rather than as a factor of suspicion.

Indeed, the sacrifices the Ethiopian Somali people have paid for the unity of Ethiopia are being widely recognized.

The size of the Somali Regional State is the second largest in the country. The population is perhaps the fourth largest. However, the people of this region have for long been victims of widespread national oppression. Furthermore, related to low-level people-to-people contact, coupled with the geopolitical situation, the people had suffered from identity crisis.

On one hand, the people have struggled hard and paid a lot of sacrifices to maintain their Ethiopian identity. On the other hand, because the previous rulers used to look at the region with suspicion, and because of the interference of outside forces, the people were forced to look away.

The last twenty years, however, have created better and conducive situations for the people to develop full confidence in their Ethiopian identity.

The region has not been as well advanced as other regions in the areas of development and building a democratic order. A lot of sacrifices have been paid in the region to change this reality.

Especially, since the last seven years, signs of real peace have started appearing.  This is done in two ways. The first one is that the region itself prepares plans to embark on wide development campaigns starting from the kebele levels to speed up its own development by initiating the people. The second one is to use this opportunity to successfully complete development undertakings in the region with the help of the federal government.

As is known, the ONLF, which has for long been engaged in armed struggle against the region’s political authority, has not been completely eradicated, although it was severely weakened by their resistance. Attitudinally, if there is anyone who supports the ONLF, from inside or outside, it is to further weaken and eventually eradicate this tendency. Similarly, if there appears any armed group, it is to deal with it effectively.

More and more can be said on the peculiar features of Ethiopia that makes her resilient to terror threats and terrorists groups. However, this suffices for the sake of highlighting the essential elements.

The most important point is, nonetheless, to understand the nexus between development and peace.  Development as a process of societal change and a question of who gets what, how and when, operates in a context of increasing scarcity: scarcity of resources, scarcity of power, scarcity of identity and scarcity of status.

In situations where there is limited capacity for managing these scarcities peacefully, the process and state of development and specifically human development can actually contribute to the occurrence and reoccurrence of violent conflict.

As a dynamic process, conflict is an integral part of a so development. Hence, the strategic goal of peace-building is to help prevent the slide into violent conflict and not any illusory ambition of trying to prevent conflict altogether. Experiences from other countries suggest that peace-building should be engaged as part of a holistic development process, with focused attention on empowering people and enhancing the resilience of institutions and processes.

The critical link between peace-building and development is the process by which conflicts (such as ethnic conflict) are transformed into peaceful outcomes by converting the relationships, interests, discourses and, if necessary, the very socio-economic and political structures of society that supports the continuation of violent conflict".

At last, we should recall what the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said abot the two decades of peace and stability that Ethiopia advanced. He said:

"....the prognosis was not all that encouraging; everyone expected us to disintegrate like the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. That didn’t happen.

I think the primary reason that did not happen was that we were able to design a system that would could accommodate diversity adequately, and this for the first time in our history. That system is the federal democratic system.

And so over the past 20 years I think we have proved the skeptics wrong, we have proven that Ethiopia is here to stay, but to do so on a new basis, on the basis of a federal system, of a democratic system, a system that accommodates the ethnic and religious diversity of the country adequately.

In the same fashion, as Rupak Chattopadhyay, President of the Forum of Federations, said:

"Ethiopia is one of the exciting innovations in federal governance in recent decades - one that is proving to be a major success on many fronts, not least of which have been the sustained high levels of economic growth and the unprecedented levels of peace and stability since starting the process of decentralization in 1991 and becoming federal in 1995".  


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