A Week in the Horn
(17.12.2010)

     ·        The 50th anniversary of Burkina Faso’s independence

The Fifth International Conference on Federalism held this week in Addis Ababa

This week the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia hosted the Fifth International Conference on Federalism in conjunction with the Forum of Federations. By an appropriate coincidence, this week also saw the celebration of the country’s Fifth Nations’, Nationalities’ and Peoples’ Day at the Federal level. The Conference was formally opened on Monday by President Girma Woldegiorghis, who welcomed delegates to Ethiopia, and by the Chairman of the Forum of Federations, Dr. Vijay Kelkar. Prime Minister Meles gave a keynote address and President Kagame of Rwanda, President Omar Al-Bashir of the Sudan and former President Obasanjo of Nigeria also spoke. The Deputy Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa, Ms. Jennifer Kargbo, spoke on behalf of the Under-Secretary General and Executive Secretary of the ECA, Mr. Abdoulie Janneh. Also present were the Prime Ministers of Tanzania and Somalia, and numerous international representatives from countries with federal constitutions or with an interest in federalism.

Several hundred delegates from dozens of countries gathered to consider the theme of the Conference: “Equality and Unity in Diversity for Development”. In his keynote address, Prime Minister Meles emphasized that no two federal systems could be identical but equally, they were bound to have some common features and face common challenges. The conference provided a unique opportunity to learn from others. He noted that Ethiopia’s experiment with Democratic Federalism was one of a line of attempts to achieve “unity in diversity’ in Ethiopia and that “all indications so far suggest that this is at last a successful experiment.” The federal system had allowed Ethiopia to introduce a democratic system of governance that was fast maturing and consolidating. It empowered all the peoples of Ethiopia to manage their local affairs autonomously while actively participating in national affairs. Democratic Federalism was one of the two pillars of Ethiopia’s national renaissance, together with the establishment of an effective developmental state. It was still a fledging system, a work in progress, and the system still had a number of significant weaknesses. It was based on a multi-party democracy but democracy was still “a new experience for our old nation”, and the institutions of democratic governance still needed further consolidation. This, the Prime Minister added, was why Ethiopia was eager to learn from the participants at the conference which it was honored to host.

Ms. Kargbo, the Deputy Executive Secretary of the ECA noted that this year’s Conference on Federalism would show-case the experience of African countries with federalism and decentralization. Nigeria and Ethiopia, of course, had full-fledged federal constitutions and others practiced some aspects of federalism. She emphasized that the relevance of the conference theme to Africa, and underlined the need of governments to promote participatory and accountable governance strategies for attaining development goals. Management of diversity was a key challenge, and Ethiopia, she noted, was an example of a nation where federalism has helped to promote unity in diversity. The adoption of a federal democratic system meant it had succeeded in promoting a climate of sustained growth and development underlined by peace, stability and security.  

Chief Obasanjo of Nigeria outlined the complexities of Nigeria with its three major ethnic groups and hundreds of nationality groups, and noted the advantages of a federal system in a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural society “comprised of otherwise autonomous nations and strong nationalities” in reducing tensions, redistributing resources, assuring minorities of development and protection, reducing political pressures and providing for major contributions from the center. Giving an outline of federal practice in Nigeria, he stressed that it was democratic practice, political will, good governance, leadership commitment and dedication to the cause of the people which determined how well a federal system functioned.In his remarks, President Kagame of Rwanda stressed the theme of development noting that a successful federation should be a process driven by a common interest, and in the case of Africa this would be development and prosperity. By joining forces, Africa would have a greater voice in the international arena. Referring to the East African Community, he said federation always needs to be underpinned by the fundamental principles of collaboration and unity, fairness and openness and respect for diversity in the context of increased global competitiveness.

Another keynote speech from the President of Addis Ababa University, Professor Andreas Eshete, opened the proceedings on Tuesday. Noting that the historical context shaped cultural diversity, cultural identity and federalism, Professor Andreas said the previous political order had sought to create a modern unitary government rooted in an inclusive national culture. One result was the appearance of organized nationalist movements which plunged the country into protracted civil war. The overthrow of the military regime in 1991 marked the end of the project to define a centralized state around one specific ethnic group. Federalism indeed enabled both Ethiopia’s survival and the establishment of legitimate political authority; and once in place enabled democratic values and such practices as a culture of peace, the rule of law, secularism, a free press, and competitive political parties. Regional states offered new space for its citizens to assume responsibilities; the dispersal of power served radical democracy allowing the least advantaged to enter their vital interests on the national agenda. Professor Andreas said federalism had lent support to political pluralism and to the cause of greater political and social equality. This in turn has galvanized people into concerted action to find freedom from poverty and hunger; and material progress will encourage wider moral and political pluralism. Ethiopian federalism is “still an unfolding work in progress” but it already involves “a sense of the whole that is more than the sum of the constituent parts.”   

 Seven countries in Africa are federal states and about 40 percent of the world’s population live under federal or devolved government, including some of the largest and most complex democracies such as India, Brazil, the United States, Germany and Mexico. Federalism is a highly flexible and adaptable approach to the problems of government allowing for a decentralized system that can be presidential or parliamentary but always dependent upon democratic forms. As delegates noted it is no coincidence that the two most populous countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Nigeria and Ethiopia are both federal states. Among others with federal characteristics are Sudan, South Africa DRC and Tanzania. Both North and South Sudan will have federal forms of government if South Sudan opts for independence in next month’s referendum. Federalism requires a commitment by politicians to work together and to demonstrate respect for a level of devolution of power to regional authorities. This is the concept of unity through diversity, operating irrespective of whether one is looking at mono-national, relatively homogenous federations as in Germany, Mexico or the USA, or multi-national, more ethnically heterogeneous federations as in India, Belgium, Switzerland or Ethiopia.

Federalism also depends upon democracy and the increasing interest in Africa for federalism certainly reflects the desire for greater democracy. In turn this depends upon the political space available. This can operate through many parties or through a dominant party as in South Africa, Nigeria or Ethiopia. The experiences of Mexico and India also suggest that federalism can encourage a shift from a single dominant party to a multi-party structure. The details of the structures differ of course allowing every state to learn from the experiences of others. This is exactly what the themes of this conference underlined: Equality and Unity in Diversity for Development. The 45 case studies, from academics and practitioners alike, considered federalism and decentralization and the conference theme from different subject areas with each topic being looked at from three perspectives relating to Ethiopia, Africa and the world.

The Conference concluded on Thursday after what delegates and participants unanimously agreed was a highly successful meeting, and an impressive demonstration by Ethiopia of its development as a federation. While it might still be “a work in progress” as Prime Minister Meles said, it was developing and developing quickly. In his concluding remarks the Prime Minister said Ethiopia, and other African countries, had learned valuable lessons to help improve their federal systems from the lively discussions and from the 45 papers on federalism presented. The conference, the first such meeting ever held in Africa, offered African leaders the opportunity to review the concepts on federalism and benefits that could accrue from its diversity. He noted that the continuing increase in the numbers of participants from Africa and the experiences Africa added to the conference had given it a certain African character and this had encouraged valuable and frank exchanges of views.

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The Cancun Climate Change Conference

The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Mexico started on November 29th and lasted until December 10th. It was the 16th Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 16) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 6th session of Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (COP/MOP6) as well as of the four subsidiary bodies. Of these the outcome of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the UNFCCC and the fifteenth session of the AD Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol were the most highly anticipated. Both will continue their work and the latter will be expected to complete its work by the end of 2011. 

Prime Minister Meles addressed the Plenary Session of the Conference on behalf of the African Group, calling upon the international community to disburse immediately the US$ 30 billion fast start finance promised in Copenhagen. He emphasized that the delivery of the fast start finance would help build trust and noted that its delivery had to be transparent. He reiterated the point that while Africa contributed virtually nothing to global warming it was suffering earlier and more seriously as a result of the effects of others. For Africa, climate change was not about future risks that might or might not happen; many countries in Africa were already facing increasing drought and unprecedented levels of flooding. This bizarre combination was already devastating agriculture output and causing starvation. Every day of delay in the negotiations meant more lives lost. He stressed that the African delegation wanted a legally binding agreement at the earliest possible moment.

Underlining that Africa needed to continue to speak with one voice, from one book, Prime Minister Meles held a series of consultations with African ministers present at Cancun, exchanging views on the state of the negotiations and to consider strategy during the last few days of the negotiations. The guidelines were based, of course, on the decisions of the African Union, and the key priorities at Cancun included adaptation, REDD+ (the Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation), financing in particular for the establishment of the Climate Fund and the establishment of a mechanism to work out details of the fund, and technology transfer.

Together with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg of Norway, Prime Minister Meles also took part in a high-level side event on the report of the Secretary-General's High-Level Advisory Group on Climate Change Financing (AGF). Other members of the AGF were also present. The key findings of the report were presented by the Secretary- General and the Co-chairs. In his introductory statement, the Secretary-General stressed that climate finance was an important aspect of addressing climate change. He recalled the Advisory Group's conclusion that raising US $100 billion was challenging but possible even in face of the current economic crisis. He also made the point that climate finance was not a charity, but an investment for a prosperous and healthy future. He concluded by urging participants to anchor the findings of the Group in their negotiations. Prime Minister Meles, on his part, said that the report presented different means of achieving the target. It showed complimentarity between the ambitions for mitigation targets and the finance for adaptation and mitigation but it did not determine the mix of public and private sources for mobilizing the US $100 billion a year by 2020. This was because the Copenhagen Accord did not provide guidance on this issue. Nor did the report look at the trajectory of the funding between 2013 and 2020. Nevertheless, the report’s results were compatible with the problems identified by the Group, and it would constitute the necessary groundwork for the parties who would now have to take the key decisions.  

Prime Minister Meles also participated in two Heads of State and Government Dialogue sessions hosted by Mr. Felipe Calderon, President of Mexico. The first session was held under the title, "Consequences of inaction: our responsibility to act now", while the second dealt with “The struggle against climate change, what should our legacy be?" The Heads of State and Government participating in the sessions shared their experience of climate change effects and their views on what needed to be done at regional and international levels to combat climate change.

The discussions at Cancun went on for a long two weeks of negotiations before member states finally agreed at the last minute to adopt documents presented by the current President of the Conference of the Parties, Mexico. Agreement on the outcome of the Conference, entitled the Cancun Agreements, only came as the conference was due to close. All member states with the exception of Bolivia finally accepted the agreements when the Conference President insisted that one State Party could not hold hostage the more than 190 state parties who had expressed their support to the text through their statements and many rounds of standing ovation.

The agreements reached at Cancun allow for rebuilding trust in the multilateral process as well as serving as key building blocks for a future, legally-binding, agreement on climate change. They contain all the elements that Africa put forward as priority outcomes. With respect to long-term finance, for example, the parties have agreed to the establishment of the Green Climate Fund by a Transitional Committee and this is to provide US$100 billion a year by 2020. Agreement was also reached on enhancing delivery and transparency of the fast start finance process. This will allow for up to US$30 billion from 2010 to 2012.  Other agreements have also been reached on REDD+, and on the development and transfer of appropriate technology and adaptation.

In advance of the conference there was considerable uncertainty whether Cancun could produce any agreement, and concern about its outcome. In the end, however, it can be seen that it did deliver something that will serve as a building block for further negotiations, and it does provide a real basis for the possibility of a legally binding treaty in Durban, South Africa at the COP 17 meeting there in December next year. For Africa, Cancun has delivered some steps in the right direction, but there is still a very long way to go.

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Prime Minister Meles meets Somalia’s Prime Minister Muhammad

This week Prime Minister Meles had a meeting with the new Prime Minister of Somalia, Mr. Muhammad Abdullahi Muhammad ‘ Farmajo’, who was in Addis Ababa to attend the 5th International Conference on Federalism. Prime Minister Meles said Ethiopia would continue its efforts, together with IGAD, the AU and the international community, to ensure lasting peace and stability in Somalia. He emphasized that ensuring peace and stability in Somalia was of paramount importance for the Horn of Africa, and he confirmed that Ethiopia would continue to work closely with the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia to that end. The Prime Minister said Ethiopia had taken note that the newly established cabinet of Somalia had committed itself to ensuring peace and stability in the country. He hoped the new ministers would now work urgently towards completing the arrangements necessary for the end of the transitional period of the TFG in August next year. He strongly encouraged the TFG to work to implement fully its relationship with Ahlu Sunna wal Jama’a according to the agreement signed by the two parties. Ahlu Sunna officials have recently said that the group’s relations with the TFG have been largely confined to fighting together against insurgents. Ahlu Sunna has made it clear it does not think the previous Prime Minister had done much to implement the agreement. Prime Minister Meles underlined the importance of working to bring the two parties closer together again. He also firmly reiterated the importance of the TFG continuing its efforts at reconciliation with all those prepared to accept peace and to support the Djibouti peace process. 

Prime Minister Muhammad said his Government will work strenuously to enhance the relations of the two countries for the mutual benefit of both. He made it clear the people of Somalia, like the international community and Somalia’s neighbors, strongly condemned the disruptive acts of international terrorist groups like Al-Shabaab. He emphasized that he and his government were determined to resist these “anti-peace elements”, and he welcomed all assistance from the international community. The Somali Prime Minister detailed the measures his government intended to carry out during the next months.

During his stay in Addis Ababa, Prime Minister Muhammad held extensive discussions with the IGAD Facilitator for Peace and Reconciliation in Somalia, the Honorable Arap Kirwa and his staff. Mr. Muhammad emphasized that the TFG would closely work with the IGAD Facilitator to move the Somali peace process forward. Before coming to Ethiopia, Prime Minister Muhammad who was on his first visit abroad since his appointment visited Djibouti at the invitation of President Ismail Omar Guelleh. During his visit there he had meetings with President Ismail and with Prime Minister Dileta Mohammed Dileta. He also held discussions with the President of Puntland, Dr. Abdurahman Muhammad Farole, who was visiting Djibouti at the same time. Prime Minister Muhammad was accompanied by the TFG Ministers of Foreign Affairs and of Finance. Djibouti has just reopened its embassy in Mogadishu at a ceremony attended by the TFG’s Deputy Prime Minister, Abdullahi Mohamed Omar, the special envoy of the Arab League to Somalia and the Ambassadors to Somalia of Yemen and Sudan.  The new ambassador of Djibouti to Somalia called on other countries to re-establish their presence in Somalia. Accusing the international media of exaggerating the fighting in Mogadishu, Ambassador Roble urged the international community to act quickly to help the TFG. 

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IGAD’s Committee of Experts meet in Nairobi

An extraordinary meeting of the Committee of Experts of IGAD was held from the 9th - 11th December, in Nairobi, Kenya.  Delegates from all member countries with the exception of Eritrea participated. The meeting was chaired by Ambassador Kongit Sinegiorgis, current Chairperson of the Committee of Experts who underlined the need to revise IGAD’s peace and security strategy by incorporating the principles, the threats and the core concepts, as well as the priority areas the strategy needed to address. The fundamental problem of peace and security in the IGAD region was the disrespect for international law and the rule of law, the absence of a democratic culture of peace and a lack of mutual confidence among countries in the region. Accordingly, IGAD’s strategy should focus on the architecture of peace and security and the development of a democratic culture in the region involving the full participation of the people to address the challenges to regional peace and security. Following a presentation on the Peace and Security Strategy, members discussed a draft proposal; after amendments, it was agreed to submit the document to the Council of Ministers for approval.

The Committee also considered the IGAD Minimum Integration Plan (MIP) and the Roadmap to the IGAD Free Trade Area (FTA). These documents have been under discussion and consultation among member states for several years. The meeting noted that the regional integration agenda had not received the attention it deserved until the 12th IGAD Summit of Heads of State and Government of June 2008 had directed the Secretariat to develop regional integration policies and programs to make IGAD a relevant building block for the African Union. A presentation was made on compatibility with other regional and international agreements, on the economic structure and trade performance of member states, and on the constraints that might affect an IGAD-FTA including overlapping memberships, potential loss of revenue and trade diversion and expansion. The meeting noted that an IGAD-Free Trade Area was feasible. It emphasized that it would create additional preferences without affecting the existing ones. IGAD as a region offers tremendous potential for trade and investment, and the meeting agreed that harmonization of policies and programs within the region were critical. It particularly noted the need for simplification of customs procedures and documentation.

The Committee of Experts also considered the proposed budget of IGAD for next financial year, 2011, as well as the expenditure report for 2010. The meeting emphasized the need for budget proposals to be supported by the proper documentation including the audit reports for 2009 and 2010. The Secretariat is expected to elaborate and complete supporting documents before the budget can be submitted to the Council of Ministers for consideration and approval.

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The 50th anniversary of Burkina Faso’s independence

The Minister of the Civil Service, Ato Junedin Sado, attended the 50th anniversary of Burkina Faso’s independence on December 11th.  Ato Junedin, who represented Prime Minister Meles at the celebrations, also delivered a special message from the Prime Minister to President Blaise Compaore. The Prime Minister expressed his heartfelt congratulations and sincere wishes to President Compaore and to the friendly people of Burkina Faso on the 50th anniversary of the country’s independence. He noted that Burkina Faso, over the past many years and under the able and wise leadership of President Compaore had achieved significant progress in socio-economic and political fields, greatly benefiting the people of Burkina Faso. Prime Minister Meles said that Ethiopia highly valued its relations and the cooperation it had with Burkina Faso. He expressed his confidence that relations between the two countries would continue to grow stronger in the future. He assured the President of Burkina Faso that Ethiopia was committed to further strengthen and deepen their relations for the mutual benefit of the two countries and their peoples. 

December 11th was chosen as the day to celebrate 50th Anniversary of Burkina Faso’s independence which was achieved on August 5th 1960. The day was celebrated under the theme of “50 Years of the Construction of the Nation: Remembrance and Hope”. A variety of activities took place throughout the country, and in addition homage and respect was paid to those who had contributed greatly to various spheres of life and to the strong spirit of unity and solidarity of the people and their intent to achieve further advancement in the future. The colorful celebrations, including military parades and demonstrations, showed the achievements of the country over the last fifty years. Heads of State in the region and senior government officials from a number of other countries participated in the celebrations which were also seen in the context of 2010 as a year that marked the 50th Anniversary of the independence of so many West African nations.

Burkina Faso opened its embassy in Addis Ababa in 1997. Ethiopia’s diplomatic relations with the country are covered from the Ethiopian Embassy in Abidjan, Côte D' Ivoire. Ethiopian Airlines has four flights per week to Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, and the two countries signed an Air Service Agreement in October 2003. More recently, they have exchanged a draft memorandum of understanding on an Economic, Technological and Cultural Cooperation Agreement with the view to signatures in the near future.

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When will Eritrea behave in accordance with UN resolutions?

President Isaias Afeworki of Eritrea held one of his rare cabinet meetings this week, discussing a range of issues with a rather reduced number of officials. It’s now become clear that these meetings - few and far between as they are - are one of the few signs to indicate the existence of any semblance of civil government in Asmara. Usually the meetings provide no more than another opportunity for President Isaias to give one of his ‘extensive briefings’, as the Eritrea media describe his marathon lectures to his ministers. As usual, many topics were covered and numerous self-congratulatory remarks made about “the significant progress” achieved in various sectors, social, economic and political. As President Isaias tells it, Eritrea is the personification of success par excellence. If there are any negative developments in Eritrea, as many insist is the case, none are ever mentioned in cabinet meetings which are characterized by Eritrean officials taking turns to praise their leader to the skies for his extraordinary successes. There is never any indication of the suffering that has become the hallmark of the people of Eritrea.  

This week, however, there was another, more surprising omission from the meeting. Very unusually, there was apparently no mention of Eritrea’s foreign relations. Or at least, the media report made no mention of it. There was apparently none of President Isaias’s trademark outbursts of invective against “his enemies”. This is indeed surprising and unusual. Unusual because Eritrea’s leaders very seldom miss an opportunity to launch a rant against their enemies, local or external, to blame them for anything that might have gone wrong in Eritrea. Surprising, because this is the time of the year when Eritrea’s leaders normally take turns to boast about their numerous diplomatic “successes”.

In fact, it appears all the diplomatic guns have suddenly fallen silent on the Eritrean front. Alternatively, if the chronic optimists who never tire of giving the Eritrean leadership the benefit of the doubt are right, this may indicate newly discovered maturity in the leadership and a determination to focus on internal problems. In fact, for all the speculation, it is actually quite clear nothing has changed in the regime’s behavior to offer any warrant for any surprises or possibilities of hope. The apparent lack of enthusiasm for international issues may well be a deceptive façade to conceal the mundane realities of Eritrea’s domestic decay and its continued campaigns at destabilizing the region through all kinds of subversive activity.

Eritrea still continues to meddle in Somalia, extending its support to extremists. Its media reviles the TFG, day in and day out, blaming it for any problem under the sun. Its campaign against Ethiopia has, if anything, become even more vitriolic after a brief hiatus. Now the various ‘movements’ and ‘fronts’ Eritrea has concocted to attack Ethiopia have recently been recycled for yet another round, for a “final push to finish off the Ethiopian regime”. Successive defeats notwithstanding, the leaders of Eritrea seem determined to continue to churn out anti-Ethiopian elements. There is even reason to believe that President Isaias is now trying to offer his anti-Ethiopian services to entities farther away from the region. He appears determined to stop at nothing, short of open invasion of course, to see Ethiopia dismembered or at the very least its progress retarded.

More interestingly, on the international level, the much-hyped peace agreement that Eritrea was supposed to have signed earlier this year with Djibouti through the mediation of the Emir of Qatar does not appear to have lasted very long thanks to the Eritrean regime’s recalcitrant behavior. President Isaias’ repeated spurning of the whole process reached new levels with his recent denial of any agreement to withdraw his forces from Djibouti. This openly contradicted the very mediator he simultaneously and affectionately referred to as “a brother.” If his repeated shuttling to Doha is any indication, his friends have perhaps not taken this volte-face very well. In addition, Djibouti has also broken its silence regarding the deal brokered by the Emir of Qatar, calling in question the latter’s claim that the dispute has been amicably resolved. In a recent statement, Djibouti noted that “the task of resolving the border dispute between the two countries is still under the auspices and the mediation of the Emir of Qatar”. It expressed “hope that the conflict would be resolved peacefully and in accordance with relevant United Nations resolutions.”

It all rather suggests that the so-called peace agreement is less than definitive. Indeed, it remains to be seen if a leader who is still denying the existence of the dispute will ever be able to bring himself to honor an agreement about which he is so openly dismissive. It would be naïve to expect the Eritrean leader to suddenly change his ways and become a partner for peace. For any serious minded people interested in changing or influencing the behavior of the regime in Asmara the last part of the Djibouti statement is the critical point: the only way to achieve this is to force the regime to behave “in accordance with relevant United Nations resolutions.” Nothing less is required from the UN and from the international community.

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Core Principles of Ethiopia's Foreign Policy: Ethio-Cuba relations

Today, December 17th, marks the third anniversary of the inauguration of the Ethio-Cuban Friendship Park and of the monument put up to commemorate Cuban internationalist soldiers who fought and died alongside Ethiopians during the invasion of Ethiopia by the forces of Siad Barre, the then President of Somalia, in 1977-78. Situated in the heart of Addis Ababa on Churchill Road, the park was inaugurated in December 2007 in the presence of the Vice-President of Cuba, Mr. Esteban Lazo Hernandez; the former Ethiopian Defense Minister, Ato Kuma Demeksa; and the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ambassador Teshome Toga.  

Ethio-Cuban relations can hardly be free of sentiment. The reason is the simple historical fact that 163 Cuban men and women paid the ultimate sacrifice in defense of Ethiopia's sovereignty and territorial integrity during that invasion. The nature and magnitude of solidarity and of selfless friendship demonstrated by Cuba was unique. It has been described by some as having been “knitted in blood”. Certainly, the role of Cubans at that particular moment of Ethiopian history occupies a unique place in the hearts of any middle aged Ethiopian. It is "a privilege won by Cuba through sacrifice for absolutely no reward in return." said Seyoum Mesfin, the then Foreign Minister of Ethiopia, visiting Havana in January 2003.

Official diplomatic relations between Ethiopia and Cuba began in 1975. The two countries have since exchanged several high level delegations including the visit made to Ethiopia by President Fidel Castro in 1978. The visit of the Vice-President of Cuba, Mr. Esteban Lazo Hernandez to Ethiopia in 2007 was particularly historic as it marked the 30th anniversary of Cuban involvement in the war with Somalia. More recent high level visits paid to Havana by Ethiopian officials have included that by Seyoum Mesfin as Foreign Minister in January 2003 and by Dr. Tekeda Alemu, then State Minister for Foreign Affairs, in November 2008. The bonds between the two countries have been further strengthened by the more than 3000 Ethiopians who were trained in Cuba.

The Bilateral Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation Framework Agreement signed between the two countries in September 1999 governs the dialogue and the engagement between Ethiopia and Cuba. And the Joint Ministerial Commission established under this Agreement has been instrumental in ensuring the implementation of various sectoral agreements. The Commission has held a total of five meetings alternatively in Addis Ababa and Havana, and at the request of the Cuban side, the two governments are currently exploring the possibilities to make the joint consultative mechanism more effective.

Education, health and agricultural research have been the main areas in which the two countries have been working together. The agreements envisage, inter alia, that the Cuban Government provides experts to work in these sectors in Ethiopia. Currently, under the Comprehensive Health Care Agreement some thirteen medical doctors are helping Ethiopia in the health sector. Cuba is also involved in efforts to cooperate in the fight against malaria. Similarly, with the growing number of universities and higher learning institutions in Ethiopia, there has been an expanding need for university teachers. Cuba has responded generously to the request put forward by the Ethiopian Government for the provision of professors. Under the agreement, more than 50 teachers have served in various Ethiopian higher learning institutions, and there are three teaching here at the moment. There are also some 30 Ethiopian students currently studying at Cuban higher education institutions and that number is expected to increase.

In the agriculture sector, steps are being taken to implement the agreement which provides for the two countries to cooperate in technology transfer, technical assistance and training in growing tissues for the production of high-quality sugar cane seeds. This segment of the agreement is an area which matches the rich scientific experience of Cuba with the huge demand from Ethiopia to acquire technology, part of the effort to realize the current five year Growth and Transformation Plan. This specifically provides for the large scale expansion of the sugar industry in Ethiopia.      

Ethiopia is committed to maintain and nurture the important relations that exist with Cuba. It has no doubt that these relations, based on the vital support for development in Ethiopia, especially in health and education, that Cuba has provided for Ethiopia, and indeed elsewhere in Africa, will continue to be strengthened further in the years ahead.

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          Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

                     Ministry of Foreign Affairs