A Week in the Horn
(24.12.2010)

     ·        Human Rights Watch refuses to accept criticism or contradictory evidence

 


The Security Council extends AMISOM’s strength and its mandate in Somalia

On Wednesday this week, the United Nations Security Council extended its authorization of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) until the end of September next year. The Security Council, unanimously adopting Resolution 1964 (2010) under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, also requested the African Union to increase AMISOM’s force strength from the current mandated level of 8,000 troops to a maximum of 12,000. The Council requested the Secretary-General to provide a logistical support package for a maximum of up to 12,000 AMISOM troops. This should be for equipment and services but not include the transfer of funds, while ensuring accountability and transparency in the expenditure of United Nations funds. The Council, however, failed to listen to the AU’s call to resource AMISOM through assessed contributions. The Council noted the recommendations of the AU’s Peace and Security Council of October 15th and underlined its intention to keep the situation on the ground under review. In future decisions on AMISOM it would take into account progress by the TFG on remaining transitional tasks, constitution drafting and delivery of basic services; adoption of a National Security and Stabilization Plan; continuation of reconciliation and political outreach efforts within the framework of the Djibouti Agreement; and consolidation of security by the TFG.

The Council urged Member States and regional and international organizations to contribute generously and promptly to the United Nations Trust Fund for AMISOM without caveats, or to make direct bilateral donations in support of the Mission.  It encouraged donors to work closely with the UN and the African Union to ensure that the appropriate funds and equipment were provided promptly, particularly in relation to AMISOM salaries and the costs of contingent-owned equipment, particularly lethal equipment.

Recalling its “statement of intent” in resolution 1863 (2009) regarding the establishment of a United Nations peacekeeping operation, the Council noted that any decision to deploy such an operation would take into account, among other things, the conditions set out in the Secretary-General’s report dated 16 April 2009. It requested the Secretary-General to take the steps identified there, subject to the conditions laid out there. In that report the Secretary-General recommended an incremental approach in three phases: in the first phase, the United Nations would maintain its support to AMISOM, for building Somali security institutions, and for the political process and humanitarian activities of the United Nations country team. If security conditions permitted, United Nations engagement would then extend to a light footprint in Mogadishu consisting of elements from UNPOS, to support the political process on the ground, for the Department of Field Support to oversee delivery of the AMISOM support package, and for the UN country team to oversee delivery of humanitarian assistance. These two phases would be considered as transitional steps, to allow time to fully implement the planned support package to AMISOM, assess the progress of the efforts of the Transitional Federal Government to build security and develop its own security institutions, and gauge the acceptability of a United Nations presence in Mogadishu. The Security Council would then review the United Nations role and decide whether the conditions and timing were conducive to a shift to the final phase in which a United Nations peacekeeping operation could be established to take over from AMISOM. This, the Secretary-General said should remain the long term goal of the UN in Somalia.

In discussion following adoption of the Resolution, the representative of Uganda welcomed the Council’s response to the African Union’s request to increase the strength of AMISOM.  He encouraged Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government to continue its efforts to reach out to those groups willing to cooperate within the framework of the Djibouti Peace Process.  He said it was essential that the international community continue to support the Government in building the capacity of security sector institutions, and crucial that AMISOM receive the essential resources to fulfill its mandate. Japan’s representative noted that, in paragraph 3 of the resolution, the Council had noted the African Union’s recommendations and underlined its intention to review the situation on AMISOM.  He expressed hope that the Council would continue consultations on how to provide continued support to the AU Mission.

 

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Al Shabaab Leaders Condemn Each Other Publicly 

Meanwhile a month-long dispute among senior members of Al-Shabaab intensified last Saturday when a senior Al-Shabaab commander openly criticized the group's leading figure and Amir. Sheikh Fuad Mohamed Khalaf ‘Shongole’, publicly addressing the congregation at a mosque in Mogadishu's Bakara Market, claimed that Al-Shabaab’s Amir, Ahmed Abdi ‘Godane’, otherwise known as Sheikh Muktar Abdirahman Abu-Zubeyr , had "hidden agendas." Referring to ‘Godane’, ‘Shongole’ said "A leader is he who addresses his people and leads his people towards all good things, but fighting everyone is not part of the solution."

 The dispute among Al-Shabaab's top leaders intensified earlier this month after Al-Shabaab forces attacked and seized Burhakaba town, located in Bay region northwest of Mogadishu. Thirty people were killed in the clashes as Al-Shabaab took over the town. Burhakaba had previously been under the control of Hizbul Islam, the other main extremist group, led by hardliner Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys. ‘Shongole said publicly at the mosque that "The fighting in Burhakaba was not jihad, because it’s haram [prohibited] for a Muslim person to kill another Muslim person and then brag about it." According to sources in Al-Shabaab, ‘Shongole’ is allied to Al-Shabaab's deputy commander, Sheikh Muktar Robow "Abu Mansur," who is a native of Bay region. ‘Godane’, Al Shabaab's leader and Amir, is from Somaliland.

This is the first time that a senior member of Al Shabaab has publicly condemned ‘Godane’, openly revealing the fractures that have occurred within the group since the fighting in September when a large number of Al-Shabaab fighters were killed in Mogadishu during clashes with African Union-backed Somali government forces when an Al-Shabaab attempted offensive was defeated. According to reports at least 800 Al-Shabaab fighters were killed, a majority of them brought down to Mogadishu from Bay and Bakool regions by Sheikh Muktar. The massive loss angered some members of Al-Shabaab’s executive council and led to private and outspoken criticisms of ‘Godane’ and others. Now the critics have gone public.

Despite the clashes between Al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam, there are now reports of an alliance between Hizbul Islam and one of the factions of Al-Shabaab. Last week, a consignment of weapons intended for Hizbul Islam was seized by TFG troops on the edge of Mogadishu. This was apparently a last ditch effort to reinforce Hizbul Islam’s forces and open another effort to try to retake Burhakaba. On December 15th a meeting attended by Hizbul Islam’s leader, Sheikh Hassan Dahir ‘Aweys’, announced Hizbul Islam’s intention to retake the towns lost to Al-Shabaab. However, without this weaponry it seems Hizbul Islam had no other option left. After a short two day's negotiation, Hassan Dahir ‘Aweys’ appears to have accepted the inevitable and joined Al-Shabaab.

It remains to be seen how far the supporters of Sheikh ‘Aweys’ will accept this decision. Hizbul Islam is made up of four small factions and one of them, the Ras Kamboni militia, split earlier after its leader , Sheikh Hassan ‘Turki’ announced he was joining Al-Shabaab and most of its members left the organization. Al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam have few ideological differences and disagree largely over the distribution of resources. It was this which led to the fighting in Kismayo and the defeat of Hizbul Islam there.  The Burhakaba incident is another indicator of conflict between the two groups over resources. As we have indicated time and again the two groups share a similar determination to impose the same extremist versions of Sharia’a on the people of Somalia. Neither is prepared to become a partner for peace and national reconciliation in Somalia.

 Fighting has continued in Mogadishu this week with AMISOM and the TFG forces killing a senior Al-Shabaab commander in engagements in Boondhere district, as AMISOM has continued its slow advance into districts previously held by Al-Shabaab. Al-Shabaab claimed victory in these clashes with AMISOM and the TFG forces; AMISOM convincingly refuted the claim. Al-Shabaab frequently tries to play the propaganda war when ever it has suffered any setback on the ground. On this occasion, according to some sources, Al-Shabaab deliberately fired a mortar into populated areas and then blamed AMISOM. It is not the first time it has carried out such action.

 

In another development, a bomb exploded on a bus in central Nairobi on Monday during a security search killing three and wounding 23 civilians. The vehicle was due to leave for the Ugandan capital Kampala. The atrocity was universally condemned in the strongest terms as a barbaric act. It was obviously carried out by terrorists bent on creating havoc and mayhem in the region. Uganda's police chief, Kale Kayihura, told AFP that this followed threats that had come from Al-Shabaab which had pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda and from a Ugandan Islamist group, the Allied Democratic Forces. Uganda suffered East Africa's worst terrorist attacks in a dozen years in July when suicide bombers struck two Kampala bars during the football World Cup final, killing 76 people. Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the coordinated bomb attacks and warned that any country supporting the central Somali government that Al-Shabaab was fighting in Mogadishu would be a target.

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Discussion of the UN’s Universal Periodic Review recommendations

The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs this week called a two day meeting to discuss the recommendations about Ethiopia made by the Universal Periodic Review Working Group when meeting in Geneva earlier this year. The initial review by the Working Group took place in December 2009 when Ethiopia’s delegation, led by Ambassador Fiseha Yimer, Special Adviser to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, made a statement and submitted the required documentation. The Working Group issued its final report later that month and then held further sessions in January this year when the responses to the recommendations were discussed and adopted. During the inter-active dialogue a number of delegations welcomed the fact that Ethiopia’s national report had been prepared with the contributions of civil society organizations. Ethiopia was commended for being a party to most core international human rights treaties and for the submission of the necessary reports to the treaty bodies.  The reviews are based on information provided by the state under review, by information from independent human rights experts and bodies and other UN entities, and by information provided by other stakeholders including non-government organizations, and national human rights organizations.

  The meeting this week  was attended by dozens representatives of  Ethiopia’s federal government and state governments, relevant ministries including the Ministry of Justice, international and national NGOs, the media, and Civil Society organizations including human rights bodies. The purpose was to discuss how to implement the recommendations of the Universal Periodic Review Working Group. The Working Group produced its final list of 142 recommendations on human rights in Ethiopia in April this year. Of these 98 were accepted, and thirty two rejected as inappropriate for Ethiopia’s legal and cultural systems. The Ethiopian delegation reserved its response to another 12 suggestions. The 98 recommendations accepted ranged from the first: to consider ratifying the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and members of their Families; to the ninety-eighth: to establish an effective and inclusive process to follow-up on recommendations emerging from the Universal Periodic Review. Some of the recommendations have already been put into practice; the meeting looked at ways to implement the others as soon as possible.

The regional representative of the UN Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR), Mr. Musa Yerro Gassama, gave an opening statement to the meeting, which was attended by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ato Hailemariam Desalegn, and the Chief Commissioner of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, Ambassador Tiruneh Zena. Mr. Gassama noted that Ethiopia’s active participation in the review demonstrated its commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights, and confirmed its readiness to cooperate with UN human rights mechanisms. He pointed out that consultative workshops such as this one had a vital role to play in developing roadmaps, timelines and other practical mechanisms to ensure reliable follow up to the recommendations. The outcome would also provide a great contribution towards the preparation of Ethiopia’s first National Human Rights Action Plan. Mr. Gassama also took the opportunity to assure listeners of the support of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for the follow-up process as well as in all other areas of inter-action with the international human rights system. Others who spoke to the more than 200 stakeholders who attended included Ambassador Tiruneh, Ambassador Fiseha and the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Representative, Eugene Owusu. Mr. Owusu underlined that the UNDP would further bolster its assistance to Ethiopia’s efforts to protect the rights of its citizens.  

 The objectives of the Universal periodic Review process are the improvement of the human rights situation on the ground; the fulfillment of the State’s human rights obligations and commitments, and assessment of positive developments; the enhancement of the State’s capacity and technical assistance; the sharing of best practices among States and other stakeholders; support for cooperation in the protection and promotion of human rights; the encouragement of full cooperation and engagement with the Human Rights Council, other human rights bodies and OHCHR. 

                                                                        

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Land Leasing and BBC cynicism

Hypocrisy comes in many forms.  For many detractors of Ethiopia, it is often demonstrated in the form of crocodile tears over what they allege to be the destructive policies followed by the incumbent government. Anything the government does is made the subject of ridicule and all-too-often a deafening media cacophony verging on hysteria. Ethiopia’s dams, for example, have all too often been singled out as environmentally unfriendly even when all the scientific evidence proves the contrary. Development projects that can benefit tens of millions, lifting people out of debilitating poverty, are invariably dismissed as white elephants designed to destroy the ecosystem. A common refrain among some international NGOs and media outlets is that hydro-electric projects, however environmentally friendly they may be, will invariably cause destruction to the lives of the indigenous communities, a phrase which provides a missionary ring to it. Some of these campaigns have fizzled out over the years but others are quick to follow on their heels. One recent story carried by the BBC, and headlined “Land Grab Fears for Ethiopian Rural Communities” (16.12.2010), epitomizes this pattern of paternalistic concern from western commentators with questionable motives.

In fact, the BBC story is the latest chapter in a campaign that at some point seemed to lose its momentum after starting out with near ferocity.  This is perhaps one indication that this holier-than-thou pontificating about protecting local populations by organizations like the BBC is indeed becoming absurd. The central element of the BBC report is that lives and livelihoods of millions of people in Ethiopia are being threatened by external investments and that Ethiopia is doing its people a disservice, even an injustice, by leasing millions of hectares of land to foreign investors. To back up his claim the BBC reporter quotes unnamed sources with lots of grim stories to tell about what ‘they’ claim has been the lot of their compatriots following examples of land lease. They add, for good measure, that they couldn’t air their opinions because this would get them killed.  It’s a waste of time to respond to such outrageous allegations - people aren‘t arrested or killed for commenting on government policies in a country where they are actually expected to openly discuss those policies. Of course, the nameless people to whom the reporter alludes aren’t necessarily residents of the areas they refer to. It is all-too-common for journalists to quote an interpreter or friends as representatives of indigenous communities. Reference to a possibility or the likelihood of being killed as a result of one’s comments immediately obviates the need to give names or the whereabouts of sources. It’s a technique common to journalists and advocacy organizations alike.

What started out as a defense of the rights of pastoralist farmers also gets mixed up half-way through the article as advocacy of smallholder farmers displaced from their landholdings as a consequence of these leases. While the allegations of displacement of pastoralists are totally erroneous, even more outrageous is the claim that the land leases result in dispossession of smallholders. According to the report, areas earmarked by the government for lease in the western and south-western parts of the country support more than 4 million people. The intent is obviously to suggest that this is the number of people potentially affected by the arrangement. A modicum of research however will find that the population of the two regions involved, Gambella and Benishangul Gumuz Regional States, is a little under a million inhabitants between them. If even a few of these allegations were true, this remains a substantial figure, but it is interesting to see just how far critics are prepared to go to paint a grim picture about a development that is proving pivotal in improving and changing so many lives. It doesn’t seem to matter that local people continue to suffer as long as Asian or Middle Eastern investors can be excluded from access to cultivable land even then it doesn’t in any way harm any single individual. The criticisms are not about the people in whose name such reports are written; they are rather about those involved. It is no surprise that European commercial farmers who own literally tens of millions of hectares of land in some parts of Africa are never referred to as “land grabbers”.

For the BBC reporter, any deal of land lease in Ethiopia involving Asian and Middle Eastern investors is suspect as the kind of infrastructural development expected to come with the deal just doesn’t materialize. The reporter also insinuates that while compensation is paid to smallholders this is not the case for pastoralists, though no evidence is offered for this assertion. The reporter claims that pastoralists are bribed to sell their own farms but adds that such transactions cannot be valid because residents claim there is no empty land ‘without history’, all land is “ancestral land.” This amounts to a cheap trick aimed at ennobling a duplicitous agenda that has little to do with honoring the will and history of the locals. The reporter quickly goes on to take issue with the very notion of land lease in Africa as unviable. It might work elsewhere but not in Africa. The condescending overtones are clear: the only difference that exists in land lease in Latin America and in Africa is not in the arrangements but in the identity or national origin of the investors.

 In fact, for those interested, understanding the government’s policy and the reality on the ground are not actually difficult. The government of Ethiopia has always made it quite clear that no single individual, smallholder or otherwise, will be displaced for the purpose of investment. What is allocated for this purpose are previously uncultivated and inaccessible lands in areas where there are virtually no farmers. Investment in those areas is providing opportunity for infrastructural expansion and development designed to lift local people out of poverty. The evidence already underlines this is the case. No single farmer has been dispossessed of his holding on account of foreign investment; the government is committed to avoiding such a possibility.

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Human Rights Watch refuses to accept criticism or contradictory evidence

 As noted in the previous item, Ethiopia is fully committed to the objectives of the Universal Periodic Review process, and therefore to full cooperation and engagement with “other human rights bodies” as well as to implementing the numerous recommendations made by the UPR Working Group. In theory this cooperation should certainly include international human rights bodies like Human Rights Watch, but it is difficult to cooperate and engage with an organization which consistently misrepresents the situation on the ground and then deliberately refuses to accept extensive evidence from a wide variety of sources that contradicts its own unproven assertions based on minimal and partial evidence.

 One appreciates that it is difficult for an organization like HRW to admit to errors whether of methodology or of fact. Equally, one can even sympathize when HRW’s assertions are so comprehensively rubbished as were its claims of the misuse of aid in Ethiopia earlier this year.  It is hardly surprising that it has taken Human Rights Watch’s Executive Director, Mr. Kenneth Roth, two months to reply to the Development Assistance Group’s statement criticizing HRW’s report. This week he wrote an open letter to the Director of the World Bank in Ethiopia, Ken Ohashi, to underline his irritation that the Development Assistance group (DAG) of donors had the temerity to disagree with Human Rights Watch’s criticisms of the development agencies work in Ethiopia and with HRW’s calls to stop aid to Ethiopia. Following HRW’s report in October entitled “Development without Freedom: How aid underwrites repression in Ethiopia”, the DAG issued a rebuttal of most of HRW’s claims.

 In his reply, Mr. Roth, continues to make a series of assertions and allegations which are not supported by the facts on the ground or by international bodies operating in Ethiopia. HRW, of course, does not operate in Ethiopia, having made it clear it will not accept the Government’s Charities and Societies Proclamation. The main problem with this bill is that it demands that organizations like HRW should be registered and evaluated annually, something that HRW apparently regards as demeaning and something that an organization like HRW should not be subject to.

As might be expected on its past record, Mr. Roth and HRW entirely refuse to consider the organization might have been in error. Indeed it consistently refuses to accept that a report based on no more than a handful of interviews (a mere two hundred in all) in only a handful of places, can constitute reliable evidence for a country of more than 80 million people, especially when there has been no attempt to evaluate any political bias that might be involved. It is unprepared to allow any doubt over a report which is filled with unqualified assertions. “…as one official told us, ‘if people were excluded for political reasons I don’t think the rapid response teams would pick it up.’” This is hardly the basis for demanding an end to development aid in Ethiopia particularly when so many other officials and NGO staff made it quite clear they had a different view.

 If HRW would take a realistic look at Ethiopia, not one mired in its own allegations and its own pre-determined views, it might notice that it is not actually difficult to undertake independent investigations into human rights. The key perhaps is ‘independent’. There is exercise of freedom of speech, association, and assembly in Ethiopia. The “growing persuasive climate of fear” simply doesn’t exist except in the minds of a few people, and, it seems, HRW!  The work of the Ombudsman and of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission is transparent and accountable. Humanitarian and development groups have not been silenced, nor have human rights groups, though it is true that Human Rights Watch with its record of persistent manipulation and misrepresentation is hardly welcome.  It has, after all, refused to apologize for the extensive factual mistakes committed in earlier reports including that on the Ogaden where a subsequent investigation found numerous errors including villages that had not been burnt down as HRW alleged, people who had not been tortured as HRW claims, and even people still alive after HRW suggested they had been murdered. HRW still denies that it might have been misled by opponents of the Somali Regional State government or that it relied exclusively on highly partial exiled opposition sources for that report.

 It is deeply regrettable that an organization like HRW is apparently so arrogant that it refuses to acknowledge errors when they do occur, and so determined to insist on its own version of events that it will not accept widespread on-the-ground evidence specifically contradicting its own claims.   

 

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

Ethiopia, although never colonized, played a major role in fighting against colonialism by training its opponents and helping other African countries to establish the Organization of African Union in order to fight colonialism in a constructive and cooperative manner. One result of this was that many African countries established close links with Ethiopia in the 1960s. However, the relationship between Ethiopia and Rwanda goes far beyond the ties that came from the establishment of the OAU and from cooperation against colonialism. Certainly the links are strong and Rwanda opened its embassy in Addis Ababa over thirty years ago in September 1978.

 The diplomatic relationship is at ambassadorial level and has been complemented by a number of high level visits and other ties. Ethiopia played a major role in helping to create sustainable peace and security in Rwanda together with the African Union and the United Nations in the mid 1990s; it participated in the deployment of peacekeeping forces to bring an end to the war which had culminated in the 1994 genocide. Ethiopia was also involved in establishing the International Panel of Eminent Personalities to help bring peace to Rwanda. In turn, Rwanda contributed to the unfortunately unsuccessful efforts to try to bring about a peaceful solution after Eritrea invaded Ethiopia in May 1998. Last year, at Rwanda’s Liberation Day celebrations, Prime Minister Meles, along with President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and former President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, was awarded Rwanda’s two highest decorations. All three were recognized for their role in the liberation struggle in Africa and for their condemnation of genocide in Rwanda. Rwanda’s Liberation Medal (URUTI) is given in recognition of contributions to Rwanda’s struggle. The other award, Rwanda’s Campaign against Genocide Medal, (UMURINZI), embodies the values of wisdom and humanism, and was given in response to Ethiopia’s contribution to end the genocide which led to the killing of 800,000 people in just 100 days.

Ethiopia and Rwanda are, of course, both upper Nile riparian countries. They have cooperated closely over the decade-long efforts to transform the Nile Basin Initiative into the Nile Cooperation Framework Agreement. This has now been signed by five of the seven upper riparian states, including both Rwanda and Ethiopia. They both remain hopeful that Egypt and Sudan, which have been reluctant to accept the Agreement in full, will also sign the CFA. As Ethiopia and Rwanda agree it is, after all, an agreement which seeks to develop the Nile in a cooperative manner and share the resources of the river equally and fairly with out causing any harm to other riparian states.

 When Prime Minister Meles paid a visit to Rwanda in 1999, he signed various agreements covering agriculture, health, civil aviation, air transport, education, trade, culture, and the science and technology sectors. The two countries have also agreed to work together in cooperation on new agreements and to set up a joint commission to manage the implementation of these. President Kagame visited Ethiopia in 2002. He also participated in the 5th International Conference on Federalism here in Addis Ababa earlier this month.

 In March this year, Rwanda and Ethiopia signed a Memorandum of Understanding to strengthen defence and military cooperation when Ethiopia’s Minister of Defence and its Chief of Staff visited Rwanda. The Rwandan Minister of Defence, General Marcel Gatsinzi said Rwanda and Ethiopia shared a long history of cooperation in defence and the new bilateral deal would cement their strong relationship. As Ethiopia’s Defence Minister, Ato Siraj Fegesa, noted Ethiopia was the first country to respond to the 1994 genocide and to call upon the international community to take action. Military cooperation has largely been in the areas of education and training together with joint activity in international peacekeeping operations.    

The diplomatic and political relationship of Ethiopia and Rwanda remains excellent. Both, of course, are members of the United Nations, the African Union, the African Development Bank and COMESA. They continue to cooperate closely with each other on a bilateral level, and in multilateral forums.

 

 

 

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          Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

                     Ministry of Foreign Affairs