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How Ethiopia Managed To Ward Off Terror Attacks

(Tsehay Adugna 04-28-15)

The terrorist group Al-Shabaab conducted one of the worst attacks on civilians this month. On Thursday, April 2, 2015, masked gunmen from Al-Shabaab stormed a university in Garissa, Kenya. The gunmen singled out non-Muslims and took hostages, in the end killing 147. There is no doubt the heinous act was committed by Al-Shabaab. A spokesman of al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for the attack publicly.

The government of Kenya have confirmed that the mastermind of the attack was Kenyan-Somali al-Shabab official Mohamed Kuno, who had been a headmaster at a madrassa(Islamic school) in Garissa until 2007. After that he joined the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) of Somalia, which was an umbrella of Al-Shabaab. Recently he has been involved in running al-Shabab's activities in Kenya using an alias "Dulyadeyn".

This is not the first time Al-Shabaab committing such heinous crimes in Kenya. In 2013, it attacked Nairobi’s Westgate shopping center, which was frequented by expats and rich Kenyans. The death toll of that attack was 67. Following the latest barbaric and cowardly attack on civilians in a poor city, the peoples of Kenya and others have expressed their outrage. In response, the Kenyan government stepped up its efforts to neutralize Al-Shabaab.

Naturally, the incident raised questions on the effective means of countering terror threats. Several medias have been asking on why and how Ethiopia managed to ward of the threats from Al-Shabaab. Comparing Ethiopia and Kenya is not necessary or useful. It could be misleading, on the other hand. 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.

The multinational Federalism:

Ethiopia has not always been stable and peaceful. Just two decades ago, the reality was different. As many researchers indicate there were about seventeen armed groups organized along nationalist lines following the downfall of the Dergue regime in 1991. Ethiopia passed the challenge by taking the rare step of organizing regional governments based on language and culture. The multi-national federalism endowed all ethno-national groups with the right to form self-government including becoming a federal entity. It also recognized the right to self-determination up to secession.

Indeed, the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia is founded by the constitution that is “an expression of the mutual commitment” of nation, nationalities and peoples rather than individual actors or citizens. The constitution accedes to the politics of recognition not only as a means of addressing its implication on the individual level but also on the group level. The constitution aims at building one political and economic community that “redeems the historical unjust relationship”.  Between the nation, nationalities and enabling them to promote, develop and preserve their identities. As a result, it endows nation, nationalities and peoples, “the right to establish its own self-government in the territory it inhabits and to proportional representation in higher levels of organs”.  

The right of nations, nationalities and peoples to self-governance is also applied at sub-regional level. Groups either that do not have their own regional state or residing outside their home regions exercise a self-governance with the status of special zone or special Woreda or special Kebele. The proportional representation of nations, nationalities and peoples is constitutionally provided for both Federal and Regional levels of government.

 The constitution guarantees the representation of all nation, nationalities and peoples in the House of Federation, which has the power to interpret the constitution, handle inter-nation/nationality and inter-state matters and demands for self-governance and secession, among others. Every nation, nationality and group is guaranteed at least one seat in the House and extra one seat per million people, which reflects the numerical strength of the groups.

In general, Ethiopia’s multi-national federalism provided several long-term benefits for the state. It promoted peace and helped in the prevention of ethnic conflict and civil war fostering cultural and regional autonomy while maintaining Ethiopia as one political and economic unit. As Rupak Chattopadhyay, President of the Forum of Federations, attested recently:

"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".

Indeed, a well-designed federal system can help soothe a country’s politics, create more space for democratic competition and bring government closer to the people. Though federalism can carry risks, it has proven itself in rich, middle-income and poor countries with very diverse conditions. A majority of the world’s people who live in democracies operate within some form of federal or devolved governance. However, each country must find its own formula. Ethiopia designed one that fits her realities.

Local Self-governance:

Local democracy is a crucial component of the democratic developmental state of Ethiopia. The Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia states on Article repeatedly underlines direct participation as a defining feature of the state.

The Constitution stated in Article 8 (3):

"The sovereignty [of the Nations, Nationalities and Peoples of Ethiopia] shall be expressed through their representatives elected in accordance with this Constitution and through their direct, democratic participation."

In Article 38 (1), the Constitution underlined that:

"Every Ethiopian national [has the right] to take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly and through freely chosen representatives".

Again, in Article 50 (4), it stipulated that:

"State government shall be established at State and other administrative levels that they find necessary. Adequate power shall be granted to the lowest units of government to enable the People to participate directly in the administration of such units."

In line with this Constitutional principles, Ethiopia conducted democratic local elections since 1992. The public determined through secret ballot boxes the composition and implementation directions of Wedera and Kebele administration Councils. Wedera and Kebele administrative levels of provide most of the essential services for the population and have big roles in facilitating citizen's access to various services provided by higher government organs, including community based policing services. They are also the venues for public deliberations, mobilizations and making the people's voice heard at higher levels.

However, until the second half of the 2000s, Wedera and Kebele administrations had Councils consisting a dozen or two representatives. Public consultation was conducted through public meetings which are called intermittently as need arises. That resulted in failure to address several important local problems on time as well as underrepresentation of sections of the public. Moreover, given the smallness of the Councils and the unstructured  nature of the occasional public meetings, the local governments failed to advance the objectives of participatory democracy and to entrench consensus.

Therefore, the government made changes to expand the representativeness of Wereda and kebele administrations and strengthen their role in entrenching democratic norms, national consensus and effective for mobilization development and peace activities. Therefore, the number of seats in each Kebele Councils was enlarged to have about 300 representatives. These representatives meet atleast once in 3 months to deliberate on the performance of the Kebele and the Wereda Administrations as well as other issues concerning their electors. These representatives were organized into several standing and ad-hoc committees to follow up the local administrations on regular basis. Moreover, these representatives ensure continuous public participation and mobilization through sub-Kebele level developmental networking of 1 to 5 and 1 to 10 as well as traditional social organizations.

The enlargement of these local Councils, coupled with their structure, certainly enhanced their representativeness. Therefore, gave more room for a wide-range of political views and social groups to be included in the local decision making process, which affects the day to day life of the people.

A People-Centered National Defense Force

Another major feature of the federal democratic Ethiopia is the national defense forces. In the past, Ethiopian governments had resorted to mobilizing and agitating the people with a message centering on national pride and based on the achievements of previous generations. Former governments consistently failed to understand that the systems they put in place would cause national humiliation to the present generation. They did not mobilize people to fight the real sources of our shame. Instead, they indulged in bragging and arrogant declarations of bravado.

The negative impact of this situation was pointed out as twofold: It has prevented the nation from recognizing that the source of our national shame is the lack of development and democracy; and this in turn has blocked efforts to embark on a path of progress through the forging of a national consensus. Secondly, militarism and arrogance have also produced conflicts that could have been prevented and worsened their consequences. Moreover, the mentality has stifled debate, dialogue, give and take, and prevented us from focusing on the fundamental issues.  Since 1991, the government adopted a radical change of outlook. The government committed to a people-centered and economy-centered defence forces by stating the "determination to improve our lives by deploying everything for economic development and democratization free from arrogance and adventurism".

However, that was driven by prudent and well-articulated policy directions. As the national defense policy states:

"It has repeatedly been asserted that our national security can be protected in a real sense through development and democracy. Proceeding from this premise, and supported by proper analysis and study, our diplomacy has a major role in reducing tensions; in avoiding conflicts, by embarking on early negotiation; and, when all fails, in securing regional understanding as we work to have our interests protected. In ensuring reliable national security and peace, a strong defense obviously plays an indispensable role."

Creating an efficient and state-of-the-art information network significantly enhances the efforts launched in developing defense strategies. This information/intelligence network must be fully capable of predicting threats to security and providing information of value to diplomatic and defense initiatives. The creation of a capable national defense force is similarly central to the protection of our security. The existence of military strength compels prospective aggressors to stop and think twice. This allows for diplomacy to seek a peaceful solution. In other words, strength in military power is a necessary pre-condition for deterrence and effective diplomatic action.

"Even if conflict were to break out, a strong military would help to acquire victory with minimal damage to our efforts directed at building democracy and fostering development. It is therefore proper that the institution of an intelligence capacity, and the strengthening of our defense capabilities must be the basic strategy to realize our foreign affairs and national security objectives."

The national defense policy had also articulated the need for maintaining an economy-centered defence forces that have been overlooked and misjudged for decades. It stated that:

"Proudly declaring that we shall build a defense force second to none is no solution. Even if we tried, the result would not be different from the debacle that the Derg (former military regime) faced. The definition of what constitutes an appropriate defense force must proceed from the threats that we face and our political and economic capacities to deal with them. .......The national defense force that we build should essentially be within the limits of our economic capacity, and should not be above or below the needs defined by our threat analysis."

The direction taken so far was as per the internationally agreed view of economists that when a country allocates more than 2% of its G.N.P. to defense, the effects on growth are significant. Indeed, the army’s discipline, its skills and its unique characteristics as well as its performance in maintaining the balance between internal development and peace, security and territorial integrity; its contributions to regional stability; and the successful efforts to build a symbiotic relationship between the army and economic development have all been visible and widely acclaimed.

Developing an Effective Legal Framework

A critical component of Ethiopia's anti-terrorism is the sustained efforts to match the evolving national, regional and international environment through legislative and administrative advancements. Indeed, the effective government action against terrorism and related transnational crimes to secure its stability, development, and increasingly understood in the country as well as the international community.

The most important legislative measures Ethiopia has adopted in countering terrorism are the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation No. 652/2009 and the Anti–Money Laundering and Financing Terrorism Proclamation No. 657/2010. The House of People’s Representatives has proscribed five groups under the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation: al-Shabaab, al-Qaida, the Oromo Liberation Front, the Ogaden National Liberation Front, and Ginbot7. Ethiopia has established a National Anti-terrorism Coordinating Committee comprising the heads of the Ministry of Justice, the National Intelligence and Security Service, and the Federal Police. This committee provides a forum for strategic coordination, with operational coordination taking place under its auspices at a bilateral level.

Cooperation between the police and federal prosecutors is particularly close on terrorism and transnational crime issues, with several senior federal prosecutors seconded to the Federal Police for this purpose. A working-level task force was recently established by the Ministry of Justice, involving several other agencies, to develop closer operational cooperation among those agencies. This task force will also be responsible for furthering implementation of international conventions, including the IGAD MLA and Extradition Conventions.

In the area of AML and countering the financing of terrorism (CFT), Ethiopia has established a Financial Intelligence Center, which is overseen by a board involving multiple government agencies. It remains in its early stages of development. Moreover, Ethiopia has ratified a number of UN counterterrorism conventions, including recently the UN Convention for the Suppression of Financing Terrorism. Among AU agreements, Ethiopia has ratified the AU Convention for the Prevention of Terrorism.

At the IGAD level, Ethiopia has ratified the IGAD MLA and Extradition Conventions. The country also has bilateral MLA and extradition agreements with Djibouti and Sudan and is currently negotiating an extradition arrangement with Kenya. Cross-border cooperation in investigations and prosecutions remains a fairly new, although growing, enterprise in Ethiopia, with attention focused to date on police-to-police arrangements, notably with Interpol and EAPCCO.

Supporting Regional Peace

Another strategic direction taken in the past two decades was the commitment towards helping to nurture an enabling regional environment. With that understanding Ethiopia endeavored to further encourage and expand its role in the AU and IGAD not only in the interest of continental unity but also to promote the agenda of regional peace and development. One of the main areas of Ethiopia's contribution is the maintenance of peace and security in Sudan (Abyei, Darfur), South Sudan, Somalia, Rwanda and others. In total eight peacekeeping operations.

The most recent peacekeeping deployments have been in the Sudans: to the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), the UN AU Hybrid Mission to Darfur (UNAMID), the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), and the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA). While its deployment to UNAMID has been its largest recent troop contribution, Ethiopia set a new record in the history of UN peacekeeping operations by supplying almost the entire military component of UNISFA, comprising approximately 4,000 soldiers, as well as the force commander and many of the mission’s senior leadership.

This mission was also notable for Ethiopia’s rapid deployment of troops: within one month of the adoption of the UN Security Council resolution. In UNAMID, Ethiopia’s deployment peaked at approximately 2,500 troops. With its large contributions to these two missions, since 2011 Ethiopia has become the largest African troop contributor to UN peacekeeping operations. Ethiopia has also contributed some specialized assets and capabilities. For example , since 2010, Ethiopia also contribute d five tactical helicopters to UNAMID.

As one researcher point out recently:

Ranked first in sub-Saharan Africa, third (next to Egypt and Algeria) in Africa and fortieth in the world, Ethiopia’s military strength and role in regional  peace and security, and an impressive track record in  peacekeeping, counter-terrorism, and mediation create  demand for long-term partnerships and alliances in the  region and beyond.

In actual troop contribution, with a  total of 12,247 troops (4 395 troops in the AU Mission  in Somalia (AMISOM)), and 7 852 in UN missions, Ethiopia is the biggest troop-contributing nation in the  world.

As the third contributor to UN peacekeeping  missions in, for example, Darfur (UN AU Mission in  Darfur), Abyei (UN Interim Security Force for Abyei  or UNISAFA) and South Sudan (UN Mission in South Sudan), Ethiopia’s focus has been on peace and security in Africa.

It has been demonstrated on a number of occasions that Ethiopian troops have been discharging their responsibilities with high level of professionalism, dedication and courage. They have demonstrated their ability to build closer and peaceful ties with the communities in areas they had served. Indeed, there are several specific measures that have been taken in the past decade that had been highly instrumental in warding off the threats from Al-Shabaab and other anti-peace forces. We will discuss those in the next part of this article.

 [to be continued]

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