A Week in the Horn

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hailemariam Desalegn in New York

In the last week Ato Hailemariam Desalegn attended the 66th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York where he delivered Ethiopia’s policy statement as well as held bilateral talks with a number of foreign ministers. In his statement to the Assembly, the Deputy Prime Minister emphasized the challenges that a globalized world had presented to Africa and the developing world. The negative developments over the last few years had made it even more difficult for such countries to move along the path to development. There was now a need to redouble efforts to make sure that efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals would not be frustrated.   Ethiopia, he said, felt that it was on track for almost all targets; and at the same time, it had committed itself to even more ambitious targets in line with its five year Growth and Transformation plan. It was confident of achieving this but he underlined that the global economic situation remained a source of concern. 

Ato Hailemariam noted that the Horn of Africa had been hit by the worst climatic crisis in 60 years. With respect to this, he said, and at this current critical juncture, the international community must be galvanized, particularly with assistance to alleviate the crisis in Somalia.  The call made to that effect at the mini-summit a few days earlier needed to be repeated, reiterated and amplified. At the same time, what was most crucial for the region was sustainable development. Poverty, he noted, on top of the denial of human rights for people, was not a solid foundation on which to build peace and security. 

The Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister spoke of the challenges facing the countries of the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD), stressing the adverse effects of climate change which were already becoming evident in a variety of ways. This, he said, was an issue that embodied injustice. Africa and the developing world were the worst affected even though they had contributed the least to climate change. Equally, members of IGAD had been trying to bring their efforts to bear even though the most serious challenge hindering development in the region was related to security and the lack of durable sustainability.  In Somalia, he noted, in close collaboration with the East African Community, the African Union and the United Nations, IGAD had been operating as the “linchpin” of efforts to assist the Somali people.  Now, he underlined, with the extremist Al-Shabaab group having been driven out of Mogadishu and the “tide turning against them”, there was new hope in Somalia. This had to be sustained. He paid special tribute to Uganda and Burundi for the sacrifices they had made, in the course of the progress, and emphasized that the struggle had implications for humanitarian efforts and for development as well as for security and politics.  

He recalled that IGAD countries had requested the Security Council to support them in their efforts for peace in Somalia, and to act against those who not only encouraged but took part – actively - in terrorism.  It was, he said, particularly vital for the council to act on the conclusions and recommendations of the body that it, itself, had established, the UN Monitoring Group: “Sweet talk, devoid of any behavioral change in practice and on the ground, should not lead the Security Council to wish away concrete evidence.” There should be no “double standard” in the fight against terrorism.  The struggle could not succeed if it was merely selective.   

In his statement, the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister also recalled Ethiopia’s call for the reform of the Security Council and the revitalization of the General Assembly, the true representative of the people of the world.  In the same spirit, he stated, there was a need for peaceful negotiations and mutual accommodation between the parties to the Arab-Israeli conflict.  It was not enough for the right of the Palestinians to a viable State be acknowledged or given lip-service, he stressed.  Real, tangible and practical steps must be taken.  Ato Hailemariam said the world was passing through a period of uncertainty,and such periods needed to be “handled delicately”. More attention needed to be paid to the prevention of conflict and mediation. 

On the sidelines of the General Assembly in New York, Ato Hailemariam held a series of bilateral discussions with the Foreign Ministers of Indonesia, Norway, Australia, Russia, Hungary, Bosnia Herzegovina, Sudan and Ireland, exchanging views on a wide range of bilateral, regional, continental and global issues of common interest and concern. He signed an Agreement on Technical and Economic Cooperation with his Indonesian counterpart to strengthen the bilateral economic cooperation between the two countries. Ato Hailemariam also signed a multilateral Agreement on the Establishment of an International Think Tank for Landlocked Developing Countries in Mongolia.



Ethiopia’s 4th National Flag Day celebrated  

The 4th Ethiopian National Flag Day was celebrated at a national level on Monday-September 26, 2011 here in the capital Addis Ababa with a central theme: “Our Flag and the Grand Renaissance Dam Are Our National Pride”.

Attending the celebration were Ato Girma Woldegiyorgis, President of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopoia, Ato Abadula Gemeda, Speaker of House of Peoples Representatives of Ethiopia, ministers, foreign dignitaries and others.  

Speaking at the occasion, President Girma Woldegiyorgis said the national Flag symbolized the Ethiopian nations, nationalities and peoples’ quest for national pride, freedom, sovereignty, development and patriotism. He paid his tribute to the courageous sons and daughters of Ethiopia who had sacrificed their lives for the country and the Flag, and called up on the youths of the country to follow the good path of the forefathers and stand in unity towards ensuring the development of the country, including the realization of the new five year Growth and Transformation Plan.  

Speaker of the House of Peoples Representatives of Ethiopia, Abadula Gemeda on his part noted that the continuation of the celebration of the National Flag Day had played significant role in consolidating national unity, national consensus and tolerance as well as expediting the struggle against abject poverty.

During the event Ethiopian National Anthem was sung followed by saluting the national Flag.  

The event was also celebrated at different institutional levels including at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and its diplomatic missions abroad.

Ethiopia began celebrating the National Flag day annually since the 5th of July 2008 which was the first in its kind throughout Ethiopia’s history. The second National Flag Day was celebrated on the 5th of October 2009, and the third on the 20th of September 2010; followed by this year’s celebration for the fourth time.




Consultative Meeting of the UN Secretariat and the AU Commission Joint Task Force on Peace and Security

On 19 September 2011, the United Nations and the African Union Joint Task Force on Peace and Security (JTF) held its third consultative meeting at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. The AU Commission and the UN Secretariat were represented by Commissioner Ramtane Lamamra, the Under-Secretaries-General B.Lynn Pascoe and Susana Malcorra, Mr. Edmond Mulet, Assistant Secretary General and Officer in Charge of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, and Mr. Herve Ladsous, Under-Secretary General Designate for the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. They were accompanied by other senior officials from the two organizations. The JTF reviewed the situation in Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and South Sudan and agreed on steps and arrangements needed to strengthen and ensure greater coherence to the partnership between the United Nations and the African Union in those countries, within the framework of Chapter VIII of the UN Charter. 

On Libya, the JTF reviewed the situation in light of Security Council resolution 2009 (2011), establishing the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), and which gave the United Nations a central role in coordinating international assistance to Libya, as well as the relevant communiqués of the AU PSC and the ad hoc Committee on Libya. The JTF agreed on the need to take steps to ensure coordinated support to Libya. The participants welcomed the commitment of the NTC to establish an all-inclusive national Unity Government, promote reconciliation, ensure the safety of foreign Nationals in Libya, in particular those who have been threatened, mistreated and/or detained, and contribute to efforts to address the challenges posed by the proliferation of weapons and terrorist threats in the region. The JTF agreed on the need to work together, in the context of the Cairo Group format, in support of the NTC to implement its transition plans. 

On Somalia, the JTF acknowledged the new realities on the ground and agreed to strengthen cooperation and complementarity of efforts. The JTF applauded the leadership of the AU, in particular through AMISOM, in stabilizing the situation in the country, and paid tribute to the sacrifices made by the Burundian and Ugandan forces. The JTF discussed follow up action to assist the implementation of the TFG Roadmap to End the Transition and to secure enhanced support to AMISOM. In this regard, the JTF agreed to focus on helping AMISOM reach its mandated level of 12,000 troops. It also agreed to follow up on the preparation of plans and resources for the next phase of AMISOM operations and looked forward to the upcoming resolution of the Security Council on the renewal of AMISOM’s mandate and the extension of the UN support package to AMISOM. The JTF underscored the dire humanitarian situation in Somalia, and pledged to consider ways to assist AMISOM to facilitate the provision of humanitarian assistance to the Somali population.




The Technical Committee for the Implementation of the Roadmap in Somalia

As required by the roadmap for Somalia, the TFG Cabinet in Mogadishu has now appointed a technical committee to oversee implementation of the recently agreed roadmap. The committee is being drawn from members of the TFIs, regional entities, Ahlu Sunna wal Jama'a, and regional organizations and other organizations including IGAD, the EAC, the AU, AMISOM, the LAS, the EU and the UN. The job of the committee is to facilitate cooperation and collaboration among Somalia and its partners to implement the roadmap in detail. The committee comprises of 21 members. This includes three co-chairmen, the TFG planning minister, Mr. Abdullahi Godah, the deputy of the SRSG[UN] and the Deputy AU Representative, Mr. Wafula Wamuinye. There will also be five members from IGAD, EAC, AMISOM, LAS and EU, four members from the TFG, three from the Puntland administration, three from Ahlu Sunna and another three from the Galmadug administration. The committee is expected to work from Mogadishu and provide detailed periodic progress report to the external stakeholders.

This follows the mini summit on Somalia held in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly where participants emphasized that recent political and security developments created a real opportunity to further peace and reconciliation in Somalia as well as improve the humanitarian situation. Participants also welcomed the recent adoption of the roadmap for ending the transitional period by August 2012, as a process consistent with the Djibouti peace agreement and the Somali Transitional Federal Charter.

This week, over 80 Hawiye MPs held a meeting in Mogadishu to consider the situation in Somalia and among the matters raised were the grievances of Hawiye clan elders raised at a recent ground-breaking discussion in Mogadishu. The MPs acknowledged the problems which had been raised. They also focused on the planned consultation meeting due to be held in Garowe and which will be attended by regional administrations as well as the representatives of the TFG, and of the international community. The MPs suggested that the delegates to the consultation meeting “should be selected on the basis of the 4.5 power sharing formula”, since the TFG itself is based on such formula.

All the discussions and the steps to implement the roadmap are taking place against the background of improved security. Al-Shabaab has been suffering setbacks since the death of Osma bin Ladin with an internal power struggle, financial constraints following the loss of Mogadishu, victories by TFG, AMISOM and Ahlu Sunna forces, and the growing concern about Al-Shabaab activities within Somalia and among the general population. All these factors, in combination, have triggered significant defections among fighters, and some commanders have fled with numbers of foreign fighters 'relocating' to Yemen. Equally, some observers note that Al-Shabaab still has substantial forces in some areas and can still carry out operations. It may even be able to retake some areas where TFG forces are spread thinly. They will be able to continue to control some areas until they can be forcefully defeated and driven out.

In fact, another group of soldiers of the TFG and of Ahlu Sunna have just finished their training in Dollo district of Gedo Region. Closer to 650 troops have completed a rigorous three-month training course, and will now participate in operations in Bay, Bakol and Gedo regions against Al-Shabab with TFG and Ahlu Sunna forces. According to Ahlu Sunna's spokesman in southern Somali regions, Sheikh Mohamed Hussein, the newly-recruited soldiers have already been deployed to the districts of Luq and Beledhawo. He said there would soon be a new offensive against Al-Shabaab there.




Ambassador Berhane Gebre-Christos meets the Ethiopian Partners’ Group  

The Ethiopian Partners’ Group, (EPG) is composed of Ambassadors of Ethiopia’s major development partners. It has a number of committees, one of which, consisting of 31 countries, deals with issues of regional peace and security. The Committee, currently chaired by Ambassador Gabriel Branzaru of Romania, met with the State Minister for Foreign Affairs on Friday last week. 

Ambassador Branzaru said the Committee welcomed the meeting and hoped that such encounters could continue on a regular basis in the future. It was platform that offered a unique opportunity to the members of the Group to share views and ideas on issues relating to peace and security in the sub-region, and get Ethiopia’s perspective on such issues. 

The discussion touched upon current developments in the sub-region, with special focus on Somalia, Sudan, Eritrea, IGAD’s up-coming Summit and recent developments with regard to the Nile, with special emphasis on Prime Minister Meles' visit to Cairo earlier in the month.

Questions focusing on Ethiopia’s peace-keeping operations in the Abiye region, Eritrea’s recent diplomatic activities and its bid to re-join IGAD, the situation in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan regions of Sudan and the situation in Libya as well as infrastructural ties within and among countries of the sub-region were issues that were given special attention in the discussion. The State Minister gave a detailed and frank briefing on the points raised by the EPG Ambassadors, and agreed that such meetings would enhance inter-action and dialogue with the members of the Group, as well as assist them to get a clear understanding of Ethiopia’s position and perspective on these and related matters.




The BBC's Newsnight - viewers call it “morally questionable”

As a former UK Ambassador to Ethiopia during the major famine of the 1980s pointed out recently: “someone at the BBC seems to have it in for Ethiopia.” He was referring to the BBC's Newsnight which has made a couple of attacks on Ethiopia in the last couple of months, most recently last week, as well the World Service gaffe last year which led to a grovelling apology to Bob Geldof and BandAid, though not to the Government of Ethiopia which had equally been targeted by the libel. Newsnight's original program was broadcast in early August, and as we noted at the time, its claims were made on the basis of accusations  drawn exclusively from opposition politicians who lost their parliamentary seats in last year's election and from critics in exile including some members of groups openly committed to the violent overthrow of the current government. The government was accused of manipulating food aid for political advantage, of refusing to allow political opposition and of a catalogue of other activities, but a central thread of the program appeared to call for the suspension of all aid, humanitarian and developmental alike, to Ethiopia.

The program sparked some trenchant criticisms from highly respected commentators and observers including Peter Gill, the author of Famine and Foreigners: Ethiopia since Live Aid, referred to as a “superb and vital piece of work,” by Bob Geldorf and praised by, inter alia, Jonathan Dimbleby and Michael Buerk. One highly respected UK commentator referred to “unbalanced, sub-standard, biliously anti-Ethiopian material being broadcast on respected BBC channels on three separate occasions in just a few months”. The program indeed amounted to 'unsupported allegations' claimed as ‘revelations'; 'non-sequiturs extrapolated from shaky or unsubstantiated evidence', and broadcast without discussion or any apparent recognition of any potential consequences. It might be added that the presenter, Jeremy Paxman, also used 'his usual technique of aggressive interrogation to avoid letting his targets have any chance to state their case'.   In sum, Newsnight, in seventeen minutes, tried to cover six years worth of political development, ranging from the multi-party elections of 2005, through the intervention in Somalia at the request of the Somali government, the responses to the terrorist actions in the Somali Regional State and the present drought and its effects. Superficial is too mild a word to cover its breathless scurry through a period in Ethiopia's development in which it did in fact carry out several multi-party elections, managed to achieve annual double digit growth rates, launch a five year Growth and Transformation Plan, and launch and operate Plans for Accelerated and Sustained Development to End Poverty, Productive Safety Net Programs, an Early Warning System and Drought Risk Management, successfully dealing with the current drought emergency and avoiding the onset of famine.

Newsnight saw fit to ignore all this. The result was “a program that contradicts all the BBC canons of fairness, balance and reliability.” The central intent was to try to link human rights abuse and aid provided by western agencies. No such connection were made: “as so often in this sort of program claims and allegations were reported as fact despite the political bias involved; no effort was made to scrutinize the allegations critically or question the claims made”.

Newsnight, as so often, totally ignored the criticisms. Indeed, in the second program, last week, apparently trying to save both time and money, it didn't even bother to produce a new film, it merely lazily recycled elements from the previous one, ignoring all the detailed and accurate points made by informed commentators. The only new element in the program was an interview carried out by presenter, Jeremy Paxman, with the UK's International Development Secretary, Andrew Mitchell, in New York.  Mr.  Mitchell, who has actually been in Ethiopia on several occasions, (unlike Mr. Paxman), stressed the numbers of Ethiopian lives that British aid had saved and the numbers being assisted today and made the rather relevant point that British aid isn't actually distributed by the  Ethiopian government in any case.  Mr. Mitchell also pointed out that allegations of UK food aid being politically manipulated had been investigated by British officials in Ethiopia and that “they had found no evidence whatever of systemic food aid manipulation”. Indeed, as has been noted in detail before, the Donors’ Assistance Group (DAG) investigated last year similar accusations from another organization with a similarly anti-Ethiopian slant, Human Rights Watch, and found no evidence of such activity.  Equally, despite Mr. Paxman’s claim that the British enquiry had not been carried out on the ground but only in Addis Ababa, there have in fact been a number of investigations of these and similar allegations  on the ground. In no case have any such allegations been found to have any substance. Mr. Mitchell pointed out, as might be expected, that any such allegations were carefully investigated; Prime Minister Meles has also made the point that any such claims are always scrupulously investigated, and usually by NGOs and donors as well as Ethiopian officials.  

The other organization associated with Newsnight in these programs was the 'Bureau of Investigative Journalism’, a group organized in the City of London University journalism department. This incidentally has now placed a 'highly tendentious' account of the Paxman/Mitchell interview on its internet site, an account described by one viewer as “lacking in all the characteristics that any journalistic degree course ought to be trying to instil in its students; indeed, fairness, balance, reliability and accuracy are equally lacking in the 'Bureau of Investigative Journalism approach both to this story and to Ethiopia”.  The 'Bureau of Investigative Journalism' underlines its approach on its website which carries a whole series of stories under such headings as 'Ethiopia Aid Exposed.’; ‘Revealed: Aid to Ethiopia increases despite serious human rights abuses,’ ‘Aid as Weapon of political oppression in the Southern Regions’ and ‘Analysis: European taxpayers fund abuses in Ethiopia.’ All exhibit exactly the same problems as the Newsnight films; a lack of balance, of accuracy, indeed of knowledge, and in no case is there any evidence of sources other than exiles or opposition politicians who lost their seats in the multi-party national elections of 2005 or 2010, or the local elections in 2008.

The BBC and the 'Bureau of Investigative Journalism' crew travelled to Ethiopia as tourists, not journalists. They made no effort to interview any Ethiopian officials, nor did they approach any foreign aid officials in the country. The only people they talked to were opposition politicians and one foreign critic. They didn't even bother to ask any UK ministers to explain why Britain assisted Ethiopia.  Their conclusion was to claim that the purpose of development aid was to help Ethiopia on to its feet, to establish democracy, justice and the rule of law and that the evidence they had gathered suggested it was failing. A more obvious and accurate interpretation of the evidence would be that it was succeeding.  

The really disgraceful part of this, however, is not the attack on the government of Ethiopia, but the attempt to prevent the provision and distribution of humanitarian aid just at a time when the Horn of Africa as a whole has up to 15 million people in need, hundreds of thousands of whom, including many children, face death from famine in Somalia. As we noted, Ethiopia has managed to avoid famine and largely deal with the drought emergency due to its early warning systems, and its safety net programs, structures for which, it must be underlined, British assistance has been a vital element. Whether or not the programs did deliberately intend to canvass for the suspension of emergency, humanitarian and development aid to Ethiopia (which it denied), this was certainly the idea many viewers were left with.  

Indeed, the program specifically appeared to suggest that as a matter of course that UK aid should be withheld from any country which it considers might be undemocratic or have an unsatisfactory human rights record. It is certainly not for us to suggest how the UK government should allocate its aid – aid to which millions of Ethiopians owe their lives and livelihoods, but by any standards this is morally questionable, implying, as it does, that such rights as freedom of expression and free trade unions or similar are actually more important than providing access to food, safe water, health and education, to survival.  Whatever questions there might be about human rights in Ethiopia (and Newsnight might take a look at what is actually being done by Ethiopia's Human Rights Commission, its Ombudsman and other organizations), to use unsupported allegations to try to discredit humanitarian and development aid to one of the poorest countries on earth is, indeed “inexcusable”. It is a disgraceful proposition to which any journalists, reputable or otherwise, should be ashamed to put their names. Using aid to reward and punish governments for their record on ‘governance’ rather than for helping the poor out of poverty, comes very close to the way the elements of aid to Africa were manipulated during the worst days of the Cold War. Newsnight appears to believe the rich world should be more interested in promoting government systems which resemble its own rather than in helping Africa's poor and winning the battle against poverty. To that end it, like the 'Bureau of Investigative Journalism', appears deliberately prepared to overlook significant achievements in the fight against poverty and extending health and education services, just in order to make points about UK aid.  

Of course, it is the job of journalists to raise tough questions without the need to provide any solutions. Their questions, however, need to be based on fact not fiction, on accuracy not inaccuracy. That is their responsibility. This is particularly the case today when so many tend to go along with accounts of war, abuse or famine provided by any sources, without bothering to carry out their prime job of questioning informants, investigating claims or trying to produce accurate summations which explain the complexities of situations. All too often journalists now appear to be prepared to limit themselves to a single eye-catching headline claim, irrespective of reality. Newsnight has produced two films that were frankly lazy, dishonest in their use of sources, and deeply one-sided; they bore no relation to the BBC's traditional claims of balance, accuracy and objectivity.




          Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

                     Ministry of Foreign Affairs