A Week in the Horn

                          Al-Shabaab leaders disagree over drought relief

                        The situation around the region



 Drought in the Horn of Africa: The UN declares famine in Somalia 

On Wednesday, the UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) formally declared famine in two regions of Somalia, southern Bakool and Lower Shebelle, and said it could quickly spread to the rest of the country. The drought, a major cause of the problem, is unlikely to end before December or January next year. Mark Bowden, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia said immediate action was required. With malnutrition rates reaching 50 percent in some areas, immediate action was required to avoid famine spreading. “This is a time for exceptional action”, Mr. Bowden said. In New York, UN Secretary-General, Ban ki-Moon, made an urgent appeal to donors for 300 million dollars within the next two months. This he said was what was needed for an immediate response to famine affected areas, but he also said that the overall funding requirement for humanitarian intervention in Somalia was 1.6 billion dollars. The UN says some 3.7 million people in Somalia, about half the population, were now in danger, and of these 2.8 million are in the conflict ravaged south. Tens of thousands have already died across the region, most of them children. The last time conditions were as bad as this in Somalia was during the civil war in 1992 when hundreds of thousands of Somalis died, and an international peacekeeping force had to intervene to make sure food aid deliveries could reach those in need.


Aid agencies have been unable to work in most of southern Somalia since the beginning of 2010, and this has contributed significantly to the crisis. Al-Shabaab was linked to a string of attacks on foreign aid workers and journalists, and the World Food Program, which has lost a total of 14 workers since 2008,  pulled out of Al-Shabaab controlled areas following further demands for cash payments for safe passage for aid. It was only over the weekend, following Al-Shabaab’s apparent lifting of a ban on international aid in areas they control that UNICEF was able to make the first airlift of food and medicine to malnourished children in the Al-Shabaab controlled town of Baidoa. UNICEF said its workers had been given unhindered access, and hoped this would encourage other agencies. However, the UK which has pledged £52.25m ($84m) in emergency drought aid to the region, has said it will not deal with Al-Shabaab. The UK’s Overseas Aid Minister, Andrew Mitchell, has been touring the huge Dadaab camp in north-eastern Kenya which currently hosts around 400,000 refugees, over three times as many as intended. Some 1,400 Somali refugees are arriving every day at the overcrowded camp - some walking up to 20 days to get there. Mr. Mitchell said more than 3,000 people every day were crossing into Ethiopia and Kenya, many of them arriving with starving children: "We need everyone who can help from across the world now to make sure they focus on this developing crisis here to stop it becoming a catastrophe. There is an emergency developing of profound proportions." He said that the UK “will not allow operations to be fettered by [Al-Shabaab]; we must be able to see that [our aid] can actually reach, with lifesaving  provision, those for whom it is intended, and then we will be giving additional support inside Somalia…".


Over the weekend, Somali President, Sheikh Sharif, also declared Somalia to be suffering from famine, and called for more international help. According to Abdikadir Hersi, a member of the government’s drought committee, 11,000 people have died in the last six weeks, most of them in the Bay, Bakool and Lower Shebelle regions. According to government sources, over 10,000 families from these drought-stricken areas had moved to Mogadishu. The government was doing its best but the “problem is beyond its capacity”.


 That situation may be eased shortly, as following “broad and inclusive consultations” with different Somali stakeholders inside and outside the country, including the President and the Speaker of the Parliament, the Prime Minister has finally made up his list of eighteen ministers, using the four point five power sharing formula. Each of the four main clans have four positions and two appointments go to minority clans. The size of the Cabinet is similar to that of the previous premier, Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo. Unexpectedly, it contains no members of the former cabinet, and only four of the members are MPs which has led to suggestions that parliament may be reluctant to approve the list.

 The appointments include three deputy prime ministers: Hussein Arab Ise (Gerhajis/Isaaq/Dir) who is also Minister of Defense; MP Abdiwahab Ugas Hussein Ugas Khalif (Absame/Ogaden/Darod) also Minister of Trade and Industry; and Mohamed Mohamud Haji Ibrahim (Dabare/Digil and Mirifle) also Minister of Foreign Affairs. The Minister of Interior and Security is Abdisamad Ma’alim Mohamud Sheikh Hassan (Ayr/Haber Gidir/Hawiye), the son of Ma'alim Mohamud, the Spiritual leader of Ahlu Sunna wal Jama’a in Central Somalia. The Minister of Health, Dr. Abdiaziz Sheikh Yusuf (Sure/Dir) is also from Ahlu Sunna. The Minster of Federal and Constitutional Affairs and Reconciliation is Abdirahman Hosh Jibril (Leylkase/Darod); and the Minister of Finance, Dr. Abdinasir Mohamed Abdule (Marehan/Darod), who is from the USA.



Al-Shabaab leaders disagree over drought relief  

 Meanwhile the drought and famine is having a considerable political impact within the senior ranks of Al-Shabaab with not everybody prepared to support lifting of the ban on operations of international aid agencies. Al-Shabaab’s chief commander, Abu-Zubeyr “Godane” opposed the move, apparently worried that  NGOs might provide intelligence for air strikes by US and France helicopters and drones. This view is apparently shared by a number of the leaders of the foreign fighters, the so-called “ Al-Qaeda operatives”. Others, including Sheikh Muktar Robow “Abu-Mansoor”, Al-Shabaab’s second in command, whose clan members are most affected by the drought, Sheikh Ali Dhere, Al-Shabaab spokesperson and Fuad Shongole,  head of Al-Shabaab’s community mobilization and religious affairs department, strongly pushed for allowing international aid agencies to operate. They argued that this will help Al-Shabaab regain lost trust and confidence in the drought-stricken communities  in the South Central areas under its control. They have been encouraged in this by support from clan elders. 

 Shortly after Al-Shabaab announced that it would allow aid agencies to operate in areas under its control elders in Bay and Bakool regions, two of the worst drought affected areas Sheikh Muktar Robow to pull the Rahenweyn fighters out of Mogadishu since Abu-Zubeyr “Godane” was opposing any re-engagement with aid agencies.  The elders accused “Godane” of betraying the local communities of Bay and Bakool regions by denying them aid despite their full support for Al-Shabaab. The elders claimed “Godane” did not have the interest of the people at heart even though these were the people most affected by the drought. A local elder in Baidoa, who identified himself as Hasab Aliyow was quoted as saying they would do anything to resist any condition that Al-Shabaab might try to impose on aid organizations.  “Those organizations operate in all other regions of Somalia. It is not only us that have been affected by the drought. Other communities are getting assistance in their areas,” said Aliyow.

 Sheikh Muktar listened to the elders from his clan. Witnesses reported seeing Rahenweyn fighters (Robow’s clan) moving out of Mogadishu on Tuesday and Wednesday last week, and returning to Bay region, a stronghold of Al-Shabaab. It is a region mainly inhabited by the Rahenweyn and other affiliated minorities. It is from these areas from which the majority of people have been moving into the severely overcrowded Kenyan refugee camps or those at Dolo in Ethiopia. Most of the people fleeing the drought come either from the Rahenweyn or other minority Somali clans in the south-west where Al-Shabaab has been able to gain significant support. Most of the refugees now reaching the Dadaab camps have been coming from Sakow, Ufurow, Afmadow or Bardera, and their dialects clearly show to which clans they belong.

 “Godane” reluctantly went along with the decision to allow aid into Baidoa  in the face of the pressure and insistence coming from Muktar Robow and his allies and from the Rahenweyn, but insisted that this “painful decision” of allowing international aid agencies to carry out aid distribution should only be carried out strictly under monitored and regulated procedures. A week after Al-Shabaab lifted its ban, a UNICEF plane landed at Baidoa Airport.  Shortly before its arrival, “Godane” forces took control of the process away from the UNICEF coordinators on the ground, organizing the off-loading of the food and medicine from the aircraft and placing it all in storehouses in Baidoa under their control. Sheikh Muktar, angered that the supplies were not immediately being distributed, mobilized his forces to seize them.  A violent confrontation was only avoided by the intervention of the commander of the foreign fighters, Abu-Mansoor Al-Ameriki, who forced “Godane” and Sheikh Muktar to meet. After two days of discussion failed to resolve the impasse, they were told to wait for a decision from Al-Qaeda, and until that came Sheikh Muktar was to pull his forces to the west of the town and “Godane” take his to the east.

 Aid organizations have been making use of the disagreement between Al-Shabaab leaders to mobilize local elders and members of the Diaspora community to put pressure on Al-Shabaab to allow access to drought victims. A number of aid agencies have negotiated agreements with clan elders in various parts of Bay, Bakool and Juba regions to take relief supplies into areas under the control of clans affiliated to Al-Shabaab leaders. There have, however, been other incidents underlining the fact that not everyone in Al-Shabaab is prepared to support the operation of aid agencies. Last Friday, Al-Shabaab fighters burnt a vehicle carrying aid medicine for drought affected people in Gedo region. The same day another car loaded with aid drugs has seized as it was heading towards Garbaharey, a town controlled by pro-government forces. Yesterday, an Al-Shabaab spokesman, Sheikh Ali Mohamoud Rage, claimed the UN declaration of famine was “100% false and propaganda”. He agreed there was drought but denied this had led to widespread hunger. Sheikh Ali said Al-Shabaab would not allow certain banned organizations to return and would continue to block previously banned organizations.




 The situation around the region

Somalia may be the worst affected part of the Horn of Africa but it is not the only area suffering. Overall, eastern Africa is experiencing the most severe drought in several decades, with an estimated 11 million people affected. North and north east Kenya, south and eastern Ethiopia and Djibouti as well as parts of Somaliland have all been affected in addition to the worst hit area, Somalia, which has also been suffering from widespread conflict. Eritrea is also believed to be suffering severely though its government has released no figures nor given any indication that its people are facing problems. Aid agencies, however, estimate it has been as seriously affected as other parts of the region. The United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization has called an emergency meeting in Rome next Monday to discuss mobilizing aid for the region.      

Large areas of south and south east Ethiopia have been hit by the severe drought. The government has appealed for nearly 400 million dollars for emergency food assistance for those in need. According to the Ministry of Agriculture some 4.5 million people are in need of emergency humanitarian assistance; this is 40 percent higher than estimated at the time of the original appeal in April when it became clear the rains were failing again. The Disaster Pre-emergency and Response Unit and the Ministry of Agriculture are jointly assisting the worse hit areas, distributing food and special rations for malnourished children. According to Ato Mitiku Kassa, the Minister of Agriculture, a total of 380,000 metric tons will be needed to assist all those affected, including an estimated 700,000 children under five, as well as pregnant and lactating women. So far, Ethiopia has received about 44 percent of the amount for which it appealed. 

The situation remains serious. In large parts of southern Oromiya Regional State, the most recent rainy seasons, October-November and February-May, both failed as they have in the Somali Regional State. There are predictions that this year’s rains in October may also fail. A third of the people in the Borana zone are currently getting some food assistance, some under the government’s Productive Safety Net Program, but the resources of the local Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Agency Office are limited, and the numbers in need are rising fast. In the Somali Regional State, the government has been trucking in water to worst hit areas. This, however, is an extremely expensive exercise. According to OCHA the operation to supply water cost at least 11 million dollars between January and March alone. 

 The UN Under-Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Baroness Amos, on a visit to the Somali Regional State earlier this month, commended federal and regional governments’ efforts to mitigate the effects of the drought. She also referred to the fact that needs were not limited to Ethiopians. There has been a major influx of refugees from Somalia into Ethiopia in recent months. According to the UN at least 55,000 new Somali refugees have arrived since January at Dolo, on the border with Somalia, where the UNHCR has set up a new camp to help them. Dolo has two long term camps and the third has been opened to assist recent arrivals. It is already crowded. Another is about to be opened to relieve the pressure.   

In Ethiopia alone the number of Somali refugees has reached more than 160 thousand and the number continues to rise. According to Ministry of Interior statistics, Kenya is now hosting a total of 514,000 refugees from Somalia. International NGOs involved in relief operations are warning that more refugees will be crossing the borders of Somalia to neighboring Kenya and Ethiopia. In light of the equally large number of Ethiopians and Kenyans needing emergency food aid, the overflow of refugees will certainly complicate aid operations. The Kenyan authorities recently called on the UN agencies to consider, the international community should now start to think in terms of setting up aid operations within Somalia.

 Serious consideration should be given to this. The overflow of refugees to parts of Ethiopia and Kenya which are already facing drought and are themselves in need of emergency food aid creates a logistical nightmare for the aid agencies and for the effort so the two governments to provide aid. UN relief agencies are already expressing concern that their capabilities are overstretched. The long distance many have to travel to reach the camps is taking its toll. The number of people who die on their way to the camps has reached alarming levels. These are deaths that could be avoided by setting up camps closer to the areas from which the refuges are coming.  

More importantly, perhaps, there is now relative peace and stability in many areas of Somalia. This means there is a much improved opportunity for international relief agencies to carry out operations in large areas of the country, irrespective of the attitudes of Al-Shabaab. Equally, with Al-Shabaab in retreat in many areas, the relocation of Nairobi-based organizations to Somalia has become quite possible. IGAD has been calling on the UN and other agencies for some time to relocate to parts of Somalia that have seen an improvement in security. This would have several advantages. The relief this would bring to the drought sufferers is obvious. It would also go a long way to take off some of the pressure on neighboring countries. Another advantage is that it would send a message that it is after all possible for Somalia to have a semblance of stable administration if the international community would harmonize its efforts to support Somalis and a Somali government. The relocation of these agencies would go a long way to boost the morale of those who are fighting extremism in Somalia as well as deny extremists the space that has enabled them to recruit thousands of desperate youths. The relocation of UN and other agencies from Nairobi to Somalia is long overdue.




 IGAD views on Eritrea presented to the UN Security Council  

On Tuesday, Ethiopia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Ato Hailemariam, presented IGAD’s views on Eritrea at an “interactive dialogue” between the UN Security Council and a number of parties including Ethiopia, Somalia, Djibouti,Uganda and Kenya, all members of IGAD and Eritrea.  

 The meeting occurred because details of the Report of the Monitoring Group on Somalia, due to be presented to the Security Council in the first week of July, began to leak a couple of months ago. This is a 400 page document which provides extensive and detailed evidence of the efforts that Eritrea has been making to provide support for anti-government extremists in Somalia, as well as efforts to destabilize most of the other countries of the Horn of Africa. Eritrea was disturbed because it became apparent that the report would be confirming details of its involvement in a number of incidents, and in particular the attempt to carry out a series of bombings in Addis Ababa to disrupt the AU Summit last January. In an attempt to pre-empt this and project an image of reasonability, President Isaias asked Secretary General Ban ki-Moon for a meeting with the Security Council. The suggested dates were between June 16 and June 24, prior to the circulation of the report. These dates were not acceptable but it was agreed that a meeting could take place on July 19th. The Security Council also accepted the requests of other parties to participate. As a result representatives from Kenya, Djibouti, Uganda and Somalia all participated as well as Ethiopia in its capacity as chair of IGAD. The meeting was notable for the unanimity of the IGAD members, who demonstrated almost unparalleled agreement for a multi-national regional organization in the exposition of their views on the activities of Eritrea. 

Eritrea has persistently claimed its actions have been the result of frustration with Ethiopia’s failure to implement demarcation of the disputed border between the two countries. Its Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Araya Desta, made the same point again on Tuesday. In other words, Eritrea was arguing that it had been necessary to engage in repeated campaigns of reckless adventure and violence, in defiance of international law, in order to persuade the international community to pressure Ethiopia. It has simply ignored all efforts to persuade it to behave normally.

 In fact, as Ato Hailemariam noted in his presentation, Ethiopia has consistently made it clear it is prepared to live with the regime in Asmara in spite of their differences. It has repeatedly reiterated its desire to demarcate the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea in accordance with the decision of the Boundary Commission. Ethiopia has repeatedly said it wishes to resolve all outstanding issues through dialogue. The Eritrean government, however, equally persistently has refused to consider any such peaceful resolution to its differences with Ethiopia. It has rather preferred to try and “cause havoc” apparently hoping for the total disintegration of the Ethiopian state.

 The attempt to disrupt the AU Summit in Addis Ababa in January through a widespread bombing campaign was a clear example of this. Dozens of terrorists were recruited and trained in Asmara before being sent to Addis Ababa. Ethiopia has already shared the conclusive evidence of the involvement of the External Intelligence Directorate of Eritrea in this operation with members of the Security Council. But the activities of this Directorate have not just been a threat aimed at Ethiopia. The network that the External Intelligence Directorate of Eritrea created extends from Mogadishu to Hargeisa, Khartoum to Juba, and Nairobi to Kampala as well as into Djibouti and Ethiopia. The plot to disrupt the AU Summit was conceived, designed, led and executed by this Directorate. Eritrea’s Embassy in Nairobi has been instrumental in supporting Eritrea’s campaign of terror, disbursing 60,000 dollars monthly to fund Al-Shabaab’s activities in Somalia and elsewhere. Other activities have included a recent attempt to infiltrate terrorist cells to Djibouti and last July’s bombings in Kampala (given the code-name of “the Asmara retreat”) as well as the evidence of the plan “to turn Addis Ababa into Baghdad”. In other words there is a mass of specific, detailed and independent evidence of a deliberate policy of destabilization and destruction being carried out by the government of Eritrea against the members of IGAD.

Ato Hailemariam emphasized that there was no justification for such a policy. “A government that has rejected all overtures for peace and rebuffed countless efforts at quiet diplomacy to achieve peace cannot claim to have been mistreated by anyone..” It was hardly surprising that IGAD’s Executive Council (Ministerial) and Summit meetings on June 28th and July 4th   recognized the determination of the regime in Asmara to destabilize the region. Djibouti, Uganda, Ethiopia and Kenya all produced hard evidence of Eritrean activities. Eritrea’s reasons might be opaque, but the aims were very clear – Eritrea has deliberately and intentionally tried to wreak havoc in the Horn of Africa “by bankrolling, training and generally sponsoring terrorists throughout the region”.

 All IGAD states were in complete agreement in demanding that Eritrea should stop all attempts to terrorize the region and bring an immediate end to all efforts to recruit, train or equip terrorist groups. Eritrea’s approach has been very clear - shoot first and talk later, if at all. IGAD was therefore now appealing to the Security Council to act as the situation warrants. The challenge was how to avoid any further deterioration of the situation, how to avoid further attempts to undermine an admittedly fragile neighborhood. Ato Hailemariam said IGAD’s hope was that the Security Council should now act firmly and strongly. Eritrea must be told there is a limit. It was time to strengthen the previous Security Council resolutions and impose concrete economic sanctions to deny the regime the resources it needs to continue its destabilization and terrorist activities.

 Ato Hailemariam underlined that any sanctions must first and foremost be framed in such a way to avoid affecting the average Eritrean. Remittances must not be included in any sanctions regime. However, controls could be imposed on the funds extracted from the Diaspora, through the 2% tax on all incomes and enforced fund raising. This is one of the regime’s main sources of income. The other is from the profits expected shortly from new mining developments. These should be subject to sanctions so the government would be unable to use these funds for its destabilizing activities.


IGAD was unanimous as the presentations by other parties present underlined. Everybody agreed it was necessary to act, “to rein Eritrea in, to put a stop to its reckless and violent efforts to destabilize the region”. Eritrea was a major threat to regional peace and security and this was why IGAD leaders had decided to speak together to the Security Council. Ato Hailemariam stressed that “failure to act will send a very wrong signal,” encouraging Eritrea to continue its aggressive terrorist activities. It would be a slap in the face for the peoples of the region, and would reverberate widely around the region, with serious and lasting implications for peace and security. He concluded by appealing to the Security Council to support the unanimous view of the countries of the region on the ways to avoid any descent into further turmoil. The Council should, he said, give the region its full cooperation to achieve peace and security. It had a responsibility to help.





Ethiopia’s Report on Civil and Political Rights presented in Geneva  

Last week, Ethiopia presented its initial and combined periodic reports in implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to the UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva. The report was drawn up in June 2009 and in April this year the government gave additional replies to questions raised. The Ethiopian delegation comprised experts from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Permanent Mission of Ethiopia to the United Nations in Geneva, the Ministry of Justice, the Federal Police and the Prisons Administration.

 The report was presented by the head of the delegation Ambassador Fisseha Yimer, Special Adviser to Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minster, and Ethiopia’s former Ambassador to Geneva. This was the first such report Ethiopia has presented under the Covenant and Ambassador Fisseha explained the delay as a result of limited technical capacity. He also took the opportunity to express the Ethiopian government’s thanks to Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) for its technical and financial assistance in the preparation of the report. OHCHR’s assistance in fact has been invaluable in the presentation of Ethiopia’s reports for several international and regional human rights instruments, including the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (see the following story). Last year Ethiopia was successfully assessed for its human rights performance under the Universal Periodic Review of the UN Human Rights Council. Most of the recommendations for improvements made in the Review were accepted. The government, with OHCHR support, then held a national consultation exercise with the relevant national institutions and civil society organizations to build up a national framework for implementation. 

 In preparing for this report, the government adopted a similarly participatory and transparent process, involving federal and regional government organizations, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, civil society organizations and academic institutions. The resultant report provides detailed information on the relevant technical and legal framework, and the implementation of the provisions of protection of the Covenant relating to the right to life and protection from torture, cruel and degrading treatment, guarantees from discrimination for vulnerable and marginalized groups, measures to deal with impunity and trial of those involved in human rights violations, political participation and accountability.

 In his presentation, Ambassador Fisseha emphasized that Ethiopia’s constitution recognized, and indeed incorporated, almost all the key human rights and freedoms recognized by human rights instruments. It also recognized the supremacy of these as sources of interpretation of the provisions of the constitution relevant to the protection of these freedoms. He noted the positive measures taken in recent years, including the revised Federal Criminal Code (2004) as well as several laws and instruments regulating the conduct of police and prison administrators and the security forces, among them the Federal Police Commission Proclamation (2003), the Federal Prosecutor Administration Council of Minister’s Regulations (1998), the Federal Wardens Administration Council of Ministers’ Regulations (2007) and the Treatment of Federal Prisoners Council of Ministers’ Regulations (2007). There are in fact a number of mechanisms for monitoring the activity of the conduct of law enforcement officials as well as the Criminal Procedure Code.

 Other bodies play an important role in promoting law and justice, among them the Human Rights Commission and the Ombudsman’s Office. The House of Peoples’ Representatives has recently passed a proclamation to allow the Commission to set up offices in each regional state, and it is currently doing so. There is regular assessment and evaluation of law enforcement officials to ensure proper implementation of codes of conduct and the relevant legislation. Failure do so has led to many documented instances of dismissal. Ethiopia has an extensive human rights education program, and the 2007 report of the Independent Expert on Minority Issues acknowledged this as both comprehensive and exemplary. Indeed, the core tenets of human rights are now learnt in primary school – and the current enrolment rate is well over 90 percent! Training is also carried out by the Federal Judicial Training Institute and the Ministry of Defense.

 The government has encouraged independent enquiries of incidents of violations of human rights, including the conflict in Gambella (after which several members of the defense forces were tried and convicted) and the post-2005 election violence, which cleared the police of using excessive force. The government arranged for the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and others to carry out an independent monitoring of prison administrations. The 2004 report of the Special Rapporteur on Prison Conditions in Africa led to further reforms. Members of the international community, the Human Rights Commission and various CSOs have looked into some the allegations of torture in Oromiya and Somali Regional States, finding them unsubstantiated. In 2007, the Human Rights Council dismissed a number of such claims of human rights violations, including torture, in the Ogaden region of the Somali Regional State. An independent investigation into further allegations about the Ogaden a year later also found most of the allegations had originated with an Eritrean-based armed opposition group which has admitted carrying out numerous terrorist activities, and which has indeed now been declared a terrorist organization. Ambassador Fisseha noted that government’s approach to tackling terrorism was in full compliance with international norms and standards.

 A number of external political bodies, including the African Rights Monitor, the Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa and the Oromo Support Group and international NGOs made submissions to the Committee. Most of the questions and points raised, which included inter alia details about the constitutional and legal framework for implementation of the Covenant, counter-terrorist measures, discrimination and violence against women, the death penalty, torture and treatment of prisoners and freedom of expression, were covered in the report or answered in the replies given to the Committee in April. Following the presentation of the report, there was a dialogue between the Committee and the Ethiopian delegation. The Committee will issue its concluding observations and recommendations in due course.




Ethiopia presents its periodic report to UN’s Anti-discrimination committee.  

 Meanwhile, last week, the Minister for Women, Youth and Children’s Affairs, Ms. Zenebu Tadesse, also presented Ethiopia’s combined sixth and seventh periodic reports to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women in new York. Ms. Zenebu told the committee that the principles of equality and non-discrimination had been incorporated in to the Constitution and they resonated across the federal and regional state judiciaries. The revised Federal Family Code and the new Criminal Code both contained string and comprehensive measures to support women’s rights, including new provisions penalizing trafficking in women or children and establishing units to investigate and prosecute offenders. Ms. Zenebu said a national committee of officials from her ministry, and the ministries of Labor and Social Affairs, Foreign Affairs and Education had been set up deal with this issue. She explained the Charities and Societies Proclamation had reserved the government’s right to engage exclusively with “endogenous” charities in gender issues as foreign funding usually did more harm than good, often failing to pursue a domestic agenda. Claims that the law had had a negative impact on NGOs whether working on women’s rights issues or others were unfounded. The government had been “exerting its utmost efforts on eliminating discrimination against women in every sector”. She pointed out that there were a growing number of women’s groups now operating in the country. The delegation also pointed out that more than 500 new civil societies had been registered during the year as well as others re-registered.

 In education, female school enrolment had risen and the drop-out rate declined. Ethiopia would meet the Millennium Development Goal in this sector by 2015. There was improved access to family planning and to health services, but Ms Zenebu acknowledged there was still along way to go before Ethiopia realized the goal of “no mother shall die while giving birth”.  Various other initiatives had benefitted women including a “leave no women behind” program which had trained over 150,000 entrepreneurs and promoted their businesses through credit schemes. 

 The committee’s members thought more training and awareness-raising was needed in respect of violence against women and asked about marriage by abduction and the issue of consent of children of forced marriages. The delegation noted that systematic allegations of rape and other actions by Ethiopian troops, made by the Eritrean-based ONLF had been thoroughly investigated by the government and found to be unfounded. The Ethiopian Defense Forces were highly disciplined and professional. The delegation stressed this was “not a blanket denial” however. More than a hundred cases had been taken to court and their perpetrators punished. More broadly, between 2001 and 2007, 3119 perpetrators had been prosecuted and 2,111 sentenced, but these cases had nothing to do with the armed forces. . It also pointed out that Ethiopia hosted refugees from Somalia, Eritrea and Sudan, and emphasized that the government did not discriminate between the refugees and Ethiopian citizens.

 The delegation pointed out that the Charities Proclamation prohibited Ethiopian charities from receiving more than 10% of their funds from abroad. The Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association had received most of its funding from abroad and it had also been planning to participate in activities forbidden under Article 14 of the Constitution. This was why its funds had been frozen, but 10% of these would, however, be released. On the differences between sharia, customary and family law, the delegation said that when parties accepted sharia they must sign a form to that effect, but all three systems recognized three types of marriage: civil, customary and religious. 

 During questions, the delegation noted that all major human rights instruments had been translated into the federal working language, and between 2003 and 2008 a five year project had trained more than four thousand judges, prosecutors and police offices, and others, on the nature and applicability of human rights instruments. There have also been other training programs.













          Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

                     Ministry of Foreign Affairs