A Week in the Horn
(15.04.2011)

Somalia: The UN’s Nairobi consultative meeting

   President Sharif visits Addis Ababa

   Continuing public anger against Al-Shabaab

Further pre-independence meetings for South Sudan

Conference on Employment for Peace, Stability and Development

Engaging the Diaspora for Development

The US State Department Human Rights Country Reports

Ethiopia’s policy on Eritrea


The UN’s Nairobi consultative meeting

A two day UN consultative conference on Somalia ended in Nairobi on Wednesday (April 13th). Among those present were delegates from the semi-autonomous region of Puntland and from Galmudug State as well as Ahlu Sunna wal Jama’a and other delegates including the Speaker of the Parliament, Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden. Ambassador Mahiga, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Somalia welcomed the invited participants who attended. The main objective of the meeting was to discuss the future of Somalia and the end of the transitional government, though the TFG itself was not represented nor were several other expected attendees. Puntland’s President, Abdirahman Mohamud ‘Farole’, briefed the meeting about the establishment and development of the Puntland administration. He expressed his view that the transitional government of Somalia should do more to deliver what is expected of it before the end of the transition period in August. Colonel Mohamed Ahmed Alin, the President of Galmudug State, also detailed the activities of his administration and its planned developments. 

After the meeting Ambassador Mahiga noted that several of the most important stakeholders from Somalia attended the meeting, including the Speaker of the Transitional Federal Parliament and some of his colleagues, Presidents ‘Farole’ and Alin led impressive teams from Puntland and Galmudug, and Ahlu Sunna wal Jama’a had sent a strong delegation from different parts of the country. Some two dozen international stakeholders had observed the proceedings among them representatives from regional organizations. Ambassador Mahiga said the atmosphere during the conference was excellent, at plenary discussions, behind closed doors and in the margins of the meeting. Everyone had spoken openly and candidly and with mutual respect. The overall tone had been highly constructive. The purpose of the meeting had been to exchange views and share information on a number of pertinent issues and to resume dialogue. This it had done and it had also produced a series of important ideas, inaugurating a process of continuing consultations among Somali stakeholders and with international partners. The Ambassador said it was now possible to identify substantial areas of common ground and therefore the importance of working together. 

In particular, Ambassador Mahiga stressed, there was agreement among Somali stakeholders on several points. One was the need to end the Transitional period according to the provisions of the Transitional Federal Charter which calls for elections to the offices of President of the TFG and Speaker of the TFP and his deputies before the end of the Transition in August this year. Secondly in relation to the extension of the Transitional Federal Institutions (TFIs), it was proposed that the Transitional Federal Parliament (TFP) could be extended for a period of two years. This was seen, not as an end in itself, but as a requirement to complete certain critical tasks, including preparations for eventual national elections. The TFP, of course, unilaterally extended its term of office by three years in February this year. Thirdly, there was agreement on the need to strengthen security and redouble efforts to defeat extremism, both politically and militarily, and to fight against piracy, human smuggling, illegal fishing and the dumping of toxic waste. Fourth was to reform the current TFP and to intensify the process of outreach and reconciliation with the various “states” and other regional authorities, with civil society and the Diaspora. This should also involve making suggestions to reform the next Parliament. Another suggestion was to accelerate progress towards a new federal Constitution and it was agreed this was a shared responsibility for the TFIs, the “states”, regional authorities and other stakeholders including the international community. Finally, the importance of implementing fully any previous agreements between the TFG, the “states” and in particular Puntland, other regional administrations and Ahlu Sunna wal Jama’a, was underlined.  

Above all, Ambassador Mahiga noted, there had been agreement on the need to place Somalis at the centre of the process and for everyone to participate inclusively and in a spirit of partnership. This meeting would be the start of the process. Its outcome would be communicated to the President and the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia and all other stakeholders. Ambassador Mahiga said it was now necessary to continue all possible efforts to forge widespread agreement on how to end the Transition and on how to build peace, prosperity and security. He proposed another meeting should be held soon and in Somalia. He hoped that the TFG, which had a vital role in taking the process forward, would then attend.

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President Sharif visits Addis Ababa 

This week, the President of the TFG, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed visited Addis Ababa where he held extensive discussions with Prime Minister Meles. The President provided an extensive briefing on current developments, and detailed the recent gains made by the TFG, AMISOM and other forces against Al-Shabaab and Al-Qaeda in Mogadishu, in Lower Juba, Gedo and the central regions. He indicated that Al-Shabaab’s present weaknesses suggested the time was ripe for sustained pressure to defeat it totally. This, he said, calls for a restructuring of TFG forces through the provision of logistic support and capacity building, as well as networking all the different anti-Shabaab forces in the country through a command structure that fits the reality and can withstand any efforts at infiltration by Al-Shabaab. Equally, he noted that even when Al-Shabaab and Al-Qaeda have been defeated it will need a serious effort to overcome the remnants of the ideology they leave behind.   

President Sheikh Sharif also gave Prime Minister Meles details of the humanitarian crisis. Food stocks have been seriously reduced and livestock has been seriously affected by the current drought. In addition, the security situation makes life very difficult as it prevents people from moving to other areas.  

In referring to the Transition, the President recalled the IGAD Summit decisions on the issue and their subsequent misuse. He said Somalia did not need the sort of lengthy transition provided for by the decision of the TFP to extend itself by three years. He expressed his dissatisfaction about the timing and organization of the just concluded Consultative meeting in Nairobi. He said firmly that the next meeting should certainly take place in Mogadishu to allow Somalis to discuss these issues without being influenced by those others who have been making decisions for Somalis for the last 20 years. Somalis find themselves at a very critical juncture, he said. President Sheikh Sharif noted that there a number of parties that do not want Ethiopia and Somalia to be close. It was necessary to redouble their efforts to defend their interests and move forward. Neighbors were more important than anyone else, and it was necessary to work together for peace and security in the region, and leave a proper legacy for generations to come. 

For his part Prime Minister Meles expressed his concern over the effects of the drought, and stressed that despite the many other challenges the humanitarian challenge should not be ignored. He encouraged the TFG to work with the international community to address the emergency situation, and said Ethiopia would be prepared to open humanitarian corridors to the needy. Prime Minister Meles agreed with the President’s assessment that Al-Shabaab was now at its weakest. He emphasized the need to maintain momentum against it by strengthening the TFG’s security institutions. He underlined the need for military coordination for operational activity, training and capacity building, and for training to take place in Somalia. Prime Minister Meles said that judging by events of the last decade it appeared that whenever security improved, the political process faltered. The current challenges in the political arena should be addressed amicably by Somalis. He encouraged the TFG leadership to do the best it could until the end of the transition so its leadership could offer a good track record for Somalis, the members of Parliament and the international community.

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Continuing public anger against Al-Shabaab

 

Large crowds have been demonstrating against Al-Shabaab in the town of Lugh, in Gedo region. This is one of the places recently liberated from Al-Shabaab by a coalition of TFG and Ahlu-Sunna wal-Jama’a forces. The protests followed serious rises in food prices in the town caused by Al-Shabaab forces deliberately blocking the supply of food to towns that they recently lost. Local clan elders in the region spoke to a huge crowd which had gathered to express peoples’ frustration with Al-Shabaab. Al-Shabaab still controls the roads from Mogadishu and Kismayo ports to Gedo region and can therefore interrupt food supplies and other traffic to the region. The protestors called upon the government to register the thousands of local clan youths who were ready to volunteer to drive the terrorists off the crucial roads linking the region to Mogadishu.  

The blockade first became apparent on March 23rd when trucks carrying goods to districts in Gedo region were stopped from going beyond the Baidoa and Bardale districts of Bay region. Al-Shabaab tried to stop anything heading into Gedo region or to Belet Hawo and Elwak. The impact of the blockade on Belet Hawo and Elwak however is less serious as these towns can obtain food and other goods from across the Kenyan border. Nevertheless, clan elders and civil society throughout the affected region have voiced their condemnation of what amounts to Al-Shabaab’s attempt to starve the population of the towns and districts of Lugh, Belet Hawo, and Elwak in Gedo region.  

Al-Shabaab still retains control over some parts of Gedo region and there are reports that Al-Shabaab militia have recently arrested over 30 elders in various districts. The elders are being severely punished following the escape of a number of school-age children from Al-Shabaab training camps. The children had been drafted to fight for Al-Shabaab following its defeats by TFG and Ahlu Sunna wal Jama’a forces. Some, however, have managed to escape to areas controlled by the TFG. One of the youngest is 12 year old Ibrahim Abdullahi Mohamed, who surrendered to TFG police in Mogadishu after an appalling ordeal in Al-Shahaab’s training camps. Now Al-Shabaab is punishing the parents and grandparents of those who escape from their camps in an attempt to stop their flight.   

In the Jowhar district of Middle Shebelle region, Al-Shabaab militia in Jowhar city chopped off the hands and legs of three youngsters for theft. These boys, Hassan Siyad Mohamed, Abdullahi Farah Barqad and Hassan Moallim Farey, each lost one hand and one leg. Hundreds of local residents were forced to witness the chopping off of the limbs, carried out publicly as Al-Shabaab’s more barbaric punishments usually are. According to the report, the young boys were accused of stealing no more than a hundred dollars worth of Somali shillings.  

Meanwhile, ten Al-Shabaab fighters surrendered to pro-government forces in Dhobley, the most recent town captured from Al-Shabaab by government troops. The fighters, who surrendered with all their weapons, abandoned the Al-Shabaab militia which after its defeat at Dhobley is now facing another attack from TFG and pro-government militias at Bilis-qoqani town. Government forces are now pushing towards Qoqani and Afmadou, and are less than twenty kilometers from the retreating Al-Shabaab forces at Qoqani.

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Further pre-independence meetings for South Sudan 

The Finance, Economic and Natural Resource “Cluster” of the signatories of Sudan’s Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the NCP and the SPLM, held its second meeting on post-independence issues last weekend. The meeting from April 9th to 11th was again held at the Kuriftu resort south of Addis Ababa where the previous discussions had been held at the beginning of March. Discussions again covered various issues ranging from currency and trade arrangements to oil and Sudan’s debts. The two parties reaffirmed their shared commitment to good faith, transparency and cooperation both for any negotiations and for any apportionment process. They also emphasized their shared desire to pursue common economic and strategic cooperation to maximize, rather than prejudice the growth and potential of the economies of both countries. They underlined their shared interest in working together to contribute to the economic stability of the region and for win-win solutions in any discussions in which the economic viability of both states would be promoted after the independence of South Sudan. 

They therefore agreed to exercise their best efforts as a matter of utmost urgency in respect of the creditor outreach strategy to obtain a firm commitment by the international community to provide a comprehensive relief for Sudan’s external debt burden. One aspect of this will be putting the Sudan under enhanced initiative for HIPC.  The parties agreed to campaign together in various ways and on a fallback apportionment of the current debts in the unlikely event of a failure by the international community to provide debt relief.  The parties also agreed to establish joint technical committees to deal with negotiation over the distribution of assets and liabilities. These will meet as frequently as required to keep meetings of the assets and liabilities “sub-cluster” informed. 

The two parties also held extensive discussions on other asset and liability issues. They agreed to establish various working groups to discuss different issues. One is to prepare for the implementation of the new arrangements already agreed for the lifting and marketing of their respective oil shares. The parties said they would appoint members to this group by April 15th and the working group will start work immediately. It is to have a first meeting in Khartoum by next Monday and present a report with proposals by May 10th. The parties also agreed to establish a separate joint technical working group to evaluate and propose alternative arrangements for the supply of crude oil from the South to the Khartoum refinery and for the supply of refined oil products to the South. 

At the meeting of the ”sub-cluster” on currency and banking, there was extensive discussion on issues of redemption, on how best South Sudan could arrange to have its own currency and what kind of a mutually acceptable arrangement was necessary to implement this. The parties agreed to adopt a more holistic approach, identifying linkages to other discussions in different clusters, particularly those in the assets and liabilities ”sub-cluster”. It was agreed that negotiations should be held together with other groups because of the cross-cutting nature of the issue of redemption. It was agreed the Joint Committee on Trade and Related Payment Arrangements should be invited to report to the Finance, Economic and Natural Resource “Cluster” on its work. The heads of the three Joint Technical Committees that have been set up by Country Based Organizations (CBOS) should also be invited to discuss their work. The parties made several disclosures about bank accounts and other issues to encourage transparency. 

On the sidelines of the Economic “Cluster”, a workshop was also held on the requirements of border security and joint border management. This followed a meeting of the Security “Cluster” at the beginning of the month (April 2nd  to 4th) where discussions covered the name/definition of the security zone along the border, UNMIS’ mandate extension and third party support, security arrangements for the two areas, the Joint Integrated Units and SPLA from Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile and Southerners associated with the Sudan Armed Forces. The workshop looked at the key strategic issues, the order of priorities, and the identification of key stake holders. 

In another development, the Abyei Standing Committee met on Wednesday in Khartoum. Abyei remains one of the most contentious factors still unresolved. Both parties agreed on their commitment to implement the Kadugli Agreement in January, and the Abyei Agreement of March 4th to operationalize Kadugli. UNMIS reiterated its commitment to help both parties in their efforts and presented a draft timeline and a concept of operations, to which both parties agreed. They also agreed on the withdrawal of all unauthorized forces from the area, and on the establishment of a Joint Technical Mission to verify the withdrawal. This is to meet on Monday next in Abyei and it will be given unhindered access along with UNMIS to ensure the agreement is carried out. The two parties agreed to tell traditional leaders of the different communities to arrange urgent meetings to ensure the smooth withdrawal of any such forces, and of any community movements.

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Conference on Employment for Peace, Stability and Development

On Monday and Tuesday this week, Employment for Peace, Stability and Development in the Horn of Africa was the subject of a conference here in Addis Ababa. Sponsored by the African Union Commission, the International Labor Organization and the regional authority, IGAD, the conference of stakeholders and development partners brought together policy makers and experts from the IGAD area. The 150 or so participants included delegates from the Economic Commission for Africa, other UN agencies, the European Union, the African Development Bank and donors. The conference’s aim was to deliberate on a regional strategy for “Employment for Peace, Stability and Development in the Horn of Africa”, a strategy built on the concept of a “virtuous triangle’. This is made up of creating employment opportunities, social protection for the most vulnerable and empowerment for people and communities. The objectives of the dialogue include building a consensus around the regional strategy, fostering commitment for a successful implementation by stakeholders of the Road Map and promoting the concept of the ‘virtuous triangle’. The idea of the forum comes out of the implementation of the Plan of Action adopted by the Extraordinary AU Summit in Ouagadougou in September 2004, the Decent Work Agenda adopted by the Assembly of Heads of State and the AU’s call on the need to develop a regional approach to the challenges of peace and security in the Horn of Africa in January this year.  

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Ato Hailemariam Desalegn, welcomed participants to the opening session, noting the importance of the subject and that regional and trans-regional cooperation required more than promises to ensure economic progress and political stability as well as peace and stability. He pointed out that whatever policies were adopted, they needed to be supported by the existing framework of international trade and other global arrangements. So, the current failures of international regulations and the effects on developing nations in particular should be addressed. There were also political failures nearer to home to be considered: the region faced multiple challenges. It had some who wanted peace and stability, but there were those who wanted to rule by terror and subjugation and made it a habit to interfere in the internal affairs of others. The international community largely ignored these challenges. If it continued to do so, all efforts to resolve the challenges of poverty and underdevelopment would be vain. He mentioned Somalia where, he said there was a very clear need for the international community to do more. Progress had been made in Sudan but the signatories of the CPA still deserved every support in their efforts to work together.  

Ato Hailemariam stressed that in creating opportunities for employment governments had to have policies that fitted their own domestic circumstances. Ethiopia, he said, recognized that education was the fundamental key to resolving unemployment. It had therefore expanded education at an unprecedented rate. Enrolment of school-age children in most of the regional states was now over ninety per cent. The country had high hopes of fully achieving the Millennium Development Goals even before 2015.  At the same time, agriculture remained the mainstay of over eighty per cent of the population. Ethiopia had built up the capacity of farming communities, providing technical know-how through extension packages and providing credit services through micro-financing, which together with supply of fertilizers and selected seeds and the provision of different market mechanisms created the basis for real agricultural expansion. Ethiopia’s development policies attached great importance to private investment not just for heavy industry or large corporations, but also for micro and small-scale enterprises which, the Minister said, played a real and significant role in job creation and expansion. Development, evenly applied, decreased political exclusion, social disruption and misery, and was an essential part of the democratic decision-making process. It provided a solid foundation for peace and stability and Ethiopia was committed to it; it was equally committed to carry out its share of realizing this in the sub-region.  

Ato Hailemariam emphasized that employment generation and economic developments were inseparably intertwined, reinforcing each other and impacting on peace and security. At the same time they depended upon continued investment which in turn needed a stable and vibrant democratic culture. Democracy, peace and stability must be the basis for sustainable development and the creation of employment opportunities in the Horn of Africa. Most states in the region now had a structure of political representation, with multi-party presidential and parliamentary elections. Political representation had been increasingly moving towards multi-party democratic systems of governance, though there was, unfortunately, still one exception, Eritrea. The Minister underlined that the path to a future of realistic development, peace and stability must lie in acceptance and implementation of democratic norms, good governance and sustainable development.

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Engaging the Diaspora for Development

High-level government delegations were on tour in the United States and Canada last weekend holding a series of town hall meetings with the Ethiopian Diaspora in fourteen cities across North America. These meetings were organized by community leaders residing in the various cities in collaboration with the Ethiopian Missions in the two countries. Meetings in Washington, D.C, in New York, Boston, Dallas, Ohio and Ottawa (Canada) took place on April 9th; the meetings in Atlanta, in Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Denver, San Jose, Seattle and in Toronto (Canada) were all on the following day, April 10th; and another was held in Las Vegas on Wednesday, April 13th. In total some ten thousand members of the Ethiopian Diaspora living in these cities attended the meetings.  

The objective of the meetings was to discuss the elements of the five year Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) and to encourage mobilization of the Ethiopian Diaspora to play its part in the successful implementation of the Plan. In every place the meetings attracted capacity attendance despite all the efforts of extremist opposition elements to disrupt them through intimidation and sabotage. The turnout was an eloquent statement of rejection of the tactics employed by these externally-based extremist elements. 

At each meeting, the head of the government delegation presented details of the Growth and Transformation Plan. In the discussions that followed, participants provided critical comment and input, and expressed their views in a frank and transparent manner. In every case, the meetings concluded with participants generally endorsing the Growth and Transformation Plan with acclamation and promising to do everything possible to help with its implementation. The fullest support was also expressed for the Millennium Dam on the Nile which will produce 5250 MW of electricity. Participants in several places pledged money, urging the Government to speed up availability of Millennium Bonds being issued to raise finance for the project for the Diaspora. There were a number of requests for the Government to update and streamline procedures on a regular basis to encourage and facilitate meaningful participation of the Diaspora in the overall development of Ethiopia. The government representatives made it clear they appreciated the point, and underlined that the Government was very open to look into any areas causing problems and which might affect full participation of the Diaspora in the development of Ethiopia. They pointed out that a new Diaspora Policy, designed to take just these points into consideration, is in process of formulation; they took the opportunity to ask participants to provide input to the policy.   

Participants at the meetings took positive note of the efforts of the Government to reform the bureaucracy and to strengthen capacity building. Equally, they underlined the need to extend these elements even further in order to successfully implement what is agreed to be an ambitious plan. At the end of the discussions, resolutions of support for the Growth and Transformation Plan were adopted. Closing ceremonies included the singing of the National Anthem. 

In every case, the meetings provided clear evidence of a real sense of renewed interest and determination by the Diaspora in what is happening in Ethiopia, and of support for recent developments. Indeed, these meetings can be considered as a turning point in the relationship between the Government and the Diaspora. The relationship hasn’t always been as close as it might have been but these meetings demonstrate strong indications of consensus both inside and outside Ethiopia, of acknowledgment of the need to free the country from the clutches of poverty and backwardness in the shortest possible time. 

At the conclusion of their tour, the high-level delegations met at the Ethiopian Embassy in Washington, on Wednesday, to evaluate the outcome of the visit and of the various meetings they had attended. The delegations reported on the successful conclusions of their meetings  and on the various views expressed there on the Growth and Transformation Plan, on how to improve and facilitate Diaspora participation in the implementation of the Plan and other issues, including suggestions for improvements in links between the Government and the Diaspora.  

Government officials involved in the tour have made it clear just how much they appreciated the strong and patriotic desire of the Diaspora Community to engage in the Plan, and in the Millennium Dam. These are ventures that everybody now believes will have the capacity to open a new chapter in Ethiopia’s history. They will transform Ethiopia’s image positively and put the country on a firm footing to become a middle-income nation in the not-too-distant future.

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The US State Department Human Rights Country Reports

The U.S. State Department’s annual Human Rights Country Reports for the year 2010 were released at the end of last week. The reports cover one hundred ninety four countries, including Ethiopia.  

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia has carefully examined the Report on Ethiopia. It regrets that once again over 80% of the publication reproduces, almost verbatim, claims contained in previous reports. Not for the first time, the Report narrates groundless and unverifiable allegations and repeats the same politically motivated accusations obtained from dubious sources. The report refers to these as “reliable” and “credible” but ironically, it also identifies many of them as “violent movements” and “opposition sources”.  

There are some newly added entries but these, too, are also a compilation of fabricated stories, misleading judgments, and claims invented by opposition elements with known motives. In the spirit of “telling a lie often enough will make people in the end believe it”, opposition networks are quick to see the State Department’s annual report as a vehicle to tarnish Ethiopia’s image. Some of the entries also find their way into the reports of “advocacy” networks such as Human Rights Watch, always quick to pickup anything detrimental to Ethiopia or which might encourage a down turn in Ethiopia-US relations. 

In order to enhance better understanding between the two governments, Ethiopia and the United States have been involved in a series of political discussions under the framework of the Bilateral Dialogue Mechanism jointly established in Washington two years ago. Human rights is one of the issues in these discussions. Ethiopia was optimistic that the dialogue exercise would lead to undertaking objective assessments of situations in Ethiopia as well as the identification of areas in which the United States could extend support to Ethiopia’s democratization process. Judging by the content of the Report, it is the Ethiopian Government’s understanding that the political dialogue mechanism did not produce the desired outcome, as the report only added a few new lies and fabrications to the old ones to which Ethiopia had already responded in detail. 

The Ethiopian Government is disappointed that the Report again follows the old path of compiling fictitious stories without a serious attempt to verify the facts. The fact that this is happening at a time when the two Governments are actively engaged in a dialogue on the matter is even more disappointing. Indeed, the Ethiopian Government is entitled to raise the question as to whether the intention of the Report is to compile fabrications with a view to tarnishing the image of the country rather than engage the Government in addressing any challenges with respect to the human rights situation in Ethiopia. 

The Government therefore, dismisses the Report in its entirety and with the contempt that it deserves. It does not intend to respond in detail at this time.

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Ethiopia’s policy on Eritrea

Ethiopia has always stated that it does not have the slightest intention to go to war with Eritrea and all the evidence supports this contention. The 1998 war, of course, was the result of the PFDJ government’s persistent ambition to dictate terms to others by force. After its successful defense against Eritrean aggression in 2000, Ethiopia actively sought a workable arrangement to normalize relations and to find amicable solutions to any of the differences that might exist between the two countries. It has continued to do so ever since. The Eritrean leader’s response has been remarkably consistent, prevaricating over the idea and at the same time exerting continuous efforts to sabotage Ethiopia’s development and its role in the region.

In fact, the reason why the regime in Asmara isn’t willing to engage in dialogue is very clear. Among other things, dialogue would presuppose detailing any issues that stand in the way of normalized relations with Ethiopia. That would open a floodgate of internal criticism against the regime. It would remove all the excuses that the regime resorts to in controlling the freedom of its citizens so tenaciously and keeping its grip so firmly on all aspects of security. Ethiopia provides an “enemy” against which an unhealthily militarized Eritrea, indeed the most militarized state in the world today, claims to stand. It would take a real change of heart to alter this scenario, and despite small steps here and there, this is one thing the regime in Asmara will not be able to come to terms with.

Ethiopia has always maintained that it will not be sidetracked from its focus on economic development by Eritrea’s repeated efforts at interference. Despite UN sanctions, Eritrea is still as defiant as ever in its opposition to the TFG and its support for Al-Shabaab terrorists in Somalia. Despite mediation efforts by third parties, Eritrea has yet to make good on its promises to resolve its dispute with Djibouti amicably. Its destabilization activities against other countries in the region, including Ethiopia, continue unabated; and hardly a day passes without yet another group of terrorists from Eritrea attempting to infiltrate Ethiopia.

It is an open secret that since its independence was recognized the Eritrean government has committed itself to regional destabilization as a central element of foreign policy. It has done everything possible to destabilize the entire region through any means at its disposal. Equally, Ethiopia is President Isaias’ fixation, par excellence. The regime appears to consider Ethiopia’s disintegration would provide some catharsis for its own political bankruptcy. Eritrea, PFDJ logic suggests, can only fare as well as it does by dragging its southern neighbor down to its own level.  

To achieve this, President Isaias and his Peoples Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ) have always been prepared to find alternative options. The intensity of his resolve is nowhere more evident than in the curious mix of participants he has tried to bring together. Some promote mutually exclusive aims and policies, but that doesn’t seem to matter as long as they oppose the Ethiopian government. The only logic that holds such strange bedfellows together is a shared hatred towards the incumbent government in Ethiopia and their determination to cause chaos here.  

These efforts which have been repeatedly foiled by Ethiopia may not constitute a major existential threat, but the fact that they demonstrate continuous efforts at work in the mind of Eritrea’s leader makes it impossible to dismiss them offhand as no more than mere irritants better dealt with through regular security measures. It is an insidious approach that uses a dangerous mixture: of relentless media campaigns, economic sabotage and downright terrorism. If left unchecked these could eventually cause significant harm to Ethiopia’s national interests. It is in the light of this threat that the government of Ethiopia recently announced a change of policy towards Eritrea’s repeated acts of destabilization.

The Ethiopian government has now decided to carry out a more active policy, taking measured action against Eritrea’s activities, rather than continuing the passive approach it has pursued in the past in dealing with the regime in Asmara. The change will involve using all means at Ethiopia’s disposal to force the government of Eritrea to change its ways or failing this to change the government. The first of such means is obviously diplomatic. Ethiopia has, of course, been giving diplomacy the chance to resolve its differences with Eritrea for a decade. It has pursued a peaceful and responsible approach to encourage the international community to bring pressure to bear on the government in Asmara. Unfortunately, this simply hasn’t worked. Nothing meaningful has been achieved and despite overwhelming evidence, the international community has failed to take any serious action against the government of Eritrea. This, of course, has emboldened Asmara to carry on its campaigns of destabilization. Now, Ethiopia will make every effort to invigorate diplomatic efforts to get the international community to act decisively about Eritrea. It will also make specific efforts in both IGAD and the AU.

The other major area where Ethiopia will further strengthen its activity is in supporting Eritreans in their campaign to change the government. In the past, Ethiopia has given refuge to some opposition groups and some limited support to the Eritrean resistance as well as providing refuge to those who have managed to escape. Now support to the opposition will be strengthened further, demonstrating Ethiopia’s enduring support for the cause of the Eritrean people and its resolve to bring about change in the behavior of the regime in Asmara. The government of Ethiopia is willing to support and work with any Eritrean organization which has the interest of the peoples of Eritrea as its objective.

At the same time, the Ethiopian government will also be prepared to stand up to any challenge emanating from Eritrea, directly or indirectly. For Ethiopia, the international community has never been its last line of defense against Eritrea’s destabilization. As Prime Minister Meles recently made clear, in light of Eritrea’s continuing nefarious campaigns, Ethiopia will continue to work to force the regime to change its policies or failing that it will be prepared to change the government itself through any means at its disposal. In this context, Ethiopian actions will include a proportionate response to any and every act by the regime in Asmara. No act of aggression by the government of President Isaias will be left unanswered. This is a reluctant decision but it is borne out of the government’s responsibility to protect its people and to maintain the stability and peace of the country. The regime in Asmara might well be advised to take the Prime Minister’s remarks seriously.

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          Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

                     Ministry of Foreign Affairs