A Week in the Horn
- News in Brief
- Ethiopia and Somalia: neighborhood diplomacy for a cooperative partnership
- UN High Commissioner for Human Rights visits Ethiopia
- Eritrea’s Dawit Issac awarded the Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize
- “Immediate Action and Change of Strategy needed” in response to Somalia’s drought
- Ethiopia hosts Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change meeting
- The Asian-African Legal Consultative Organization (AALCO) meeting in Nairobi
- World Economic Forum on Africa held in Durban this week
News in Brief
Africa and the African Union
The Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister of Germany, Mr Sigmar Gabriel, met with the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Mr Moussa Faki Mahamat, on Tuesday (May 2). They discussed current issues and cooperation aspects pertaining to peace, security and emerging issues in Africa and the Africa Initiative under the German Presidency of the G20 this year.
The Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) held a scoping meeting in Addis Ababa this week (May 1-5), with the aim of drafting the preliminary outline of its planned sixth Assessment report. (See article)
The 27th World Economic Forum on Africa was held in Durban, South Africa, this week (May 3-5). The theme of this year’s Forum is “Achieving inclusive Growth through Responsive and Responsible Leadership”, and discussions covered Inclusive Growth, Leadership in an Era of Disruption, Civil Protest and Terrorism, the Evolving Dynamics between Africa and Global Economic Powers, CEOs and Business Growth in Africa, African Union Agenda 2063, Africa’s Industrial Corridors, Infrastructure, Intra-Regional Trade and Fragile States and Unemployment. The Forum also reviewed and evaluated some of the mega projects in Africa including the North-South Transport Corridor and Pan-African Fiber Connectivity.
Chinese investment in Africa has increased dramatically, making it the single largest contributor of foreign direct investment and jobs in Africa last year, according to Ernst & Young’s Africa Attractiveness report, released on Wednesday [May 3]. China has invested in 293 Foreign Direct Investment projects in Africa since 2005, an outlay of US$66.4 billion, creating 130,750 jobs. The report said Chinese companies and state-related entities have financed and built many infrastructure projects, one notable example is the railway linking Addis Ababa to Djibouti. It says the China-proposed Belt and Road initiative to rebuild the ancient Silk Road trading route could prove to be a win-win situation for both China and Africa. China is also now Africa’s largest trade partner with exports of US$82.9 billion and imports from Africa at US$ 54.3 billion.
President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed of Somalia made a state visit to Ethiopia on Wednesday this week. He held talks with Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn at the National Palace. Discussions underlined their common interests and the need to take Ethio-Somalia ties beyond the realm of security and into a new area of developmental partnership, emphasizing that mutual trust and understanding were the basis for subsequent growth of Ethio-Somalia ties. (See article)
Prime Minister Hailemariam met with the visiting UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, and discussed the human rights situation in Ethiopia and the work of the UN Human Rights Office in the country. (See article)
Prime Minister Hailemariam received the Vice-Chancellor and Foreign Minister of Germany, Mr Sigmar Gabriel, at his office on Tuesday (May 2). They explored ways to facilitate the engagement of German investors in the manufacturing sector of Ethiopian industrial parks. They discussed issues of regional peace and stability, with a particular focus on political developments in Somalia and the current situation in South Sudan, and considered how to further strengthen their partnership and cooperation on regional and international affairs. They agreed to support efforts of rebuilding Somalia through maintaining the existing peace and security and creating jobs for Somali youth.
Poland’s President Andrzej Duda will pay a two-day state visit to Ethiopia this coming weekend. Heading a delegation which includes a number of Polish businessmen, President Duda aims to increase Polish business links. He will be meeting with Prime Minister Hailemariam as well as with officials from the African Union as part of Poland’s efforts to canvass support for its bid to become a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council in 2019.
Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Workneh Gebeyehu met with the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, Nicholas Haysom, on Thursday (May 4). Dr Workneh reiterated Ethiopia’s firm stance on the importance of implementing the peace agreement and an all-inclusive peace process in South Sudan. Mr Haysom, who appreciated Ethiopia’s continued effort to bring peace and stability in the Horn of Africa, underlined the need to strengthen the coordinated efforts of the UN, IGAD and AU in South Sudan. They agreed to continue working together to ensure peace and stability, particularly in South Sudan.
The Minister of Government Communication Affairs Office, Dr Negeri Lencho, speaking on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day on Wednesday (May 3) said the state of media development in contemporary Ethiopia was lagging behind the level needed and expected by the public. He said a committee to study the challenges facing the media industry would be set up shortly. The Minister also said a lack of knowledge, skill and experience had contributed its share to the media’s failure to address key public concerns adequately.
Dr Aklilu Hailemichael, State Minister for Foreign Affairs, headed Ethiopia’s delegation to the 27th World Economic Forum on Africa in Durban, South Africa, this week (May 3-5).
The National Bank of Ethiopia, presenting its nine-month performance report to the Budget and Finance Affairs Standing Committee of the House of People’s Representatives, said there had been no decline in foreign exchange reserves during that period. It said the country’s foreign exchange reserve was sufficient for 2.3 months import coverage. Ethiopia had earned only US$2 billion from exports in the past nine months and secured US$2.4 billion in remittances.
The House of People’s Representatives unanimously approved an agreement with China on mutual extradition on Wednesday (May 3). It allows extradition of nationals if the conduct indicated in the request for extradition constitutes an offence according to the laws of both Ethiopia and China. The House also approved another agreement with China to capitalize efforts in the fight against illegal trade, abolish the effect of contraband and help create favorable frameworks for trading and cooperation.
A joint Ethiopian-Sudanese force has started patrol operations to stop human trafficking and drug smuggling on the borders between the two countries. It will also deal with theft incidents and excessive cutting of trees in Dinder Biosphere Reserve (DBR) on the border 300 miles south-east of Khartoum. This follows the recent meeting held in Bahir Dar recommending the formation of a joint force for the border of Sudan’s Sennar state and Ethiopia’s Amhara Regional State and the meeting last March of Sudanese and Ethiopian officers in Khartoum to discuss border security, ways to prevent and combat human trafficking and migrant smuggling besides the local and regional security threats.
The World Bank approved another US$100 million for the Productive Safety Net Program on Tuesday this week (May 2). The Bank said this was in response to a recent appeal for US$ 742 million for emergency food and non-food assistance, including more than 432,000 metric tons of grain for 7.7 million people until the end of June. This grant is in addition to the $100 million the World Bank gave to the PSNP last year. PSNP provides regular cash or food transfers to 8 million people, 4 million of them in drought-affected areas. The PSNP food-for-work component supports public works programs, chosen by members of affected communities. It also has a contingency fund for drought allowing it to add new beneficiaries and increase the time to receive benefits.
As part of World Press Freedom Day 2017, the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize this year was awarded to Dawit Isaac, an Eritrean-Swedish journalist, in recognition of his courage, resistance and commitment to freedom of expression. Dawit has been detained in Eritrea since 2001, without charge, trial or sentence, and under the most appalling conditions. Dawit was one of eleven journalists arrested in September 2001, when Eritrea’s entire private media was closed down. Of these seven are believed to have died in detention. The survivors, Dawit Isaak, Seyoum Tsehaye, Temesgen Gebreyesus and Emanuel Asrat, continue to be held. (See article)
President Uhuru Kenyatta told the departing Somali Ambassador to Kenya, Gamal Mohamed Hassan, that a closer partnership between Kenya and Somalia would enable the two countries to overcome terrorism and other challenges. President Kenyatta stressed he wanted to encourage formal trade between the two countries and he looked forward to opening one border post, either at Liboi or Mandera, to encourage people to trade legally. He said: “We need to work together to formalize the cross-border movement of our people.”
President Kenyatta announced an 18% rise in the minimum wage for workers on Monday (May 1) and also an increase in non-taxable bonuses and overtime. He was taking part in the Labor Day celebrations at Uhuru Park in Nairobi. Earlier in the month, the President also promised to push for salary raises for private-sector workers.
The 56th annual session of the Asian African Legal Consultative Organization (AALCO)
was held this week in Nairobi (May 1-5). More than 400 delegates from 47 governments, including 12 Ministers of Justice and eight Attorney Generals, from Asia, the Middle East and Africa attended. Russia was an observer for the first time. The conference discussions focused on Violent Extremism and Terrorism, and the Status and Treatment of Refugees as well as addressing environmental concerns touching on the protection of the atmosphere. (See article)
President Mohamed Abdullahi cut short his visit to Ethiopia to attend the burial of Abbas Abdullahi Siraji, Minister of Public Works and Reconstruction. He said he was deeply saddened by the minister’s death and ordered an immediate investigation into the circumstances. The Minister was killed on Wednesday (May 3) when soldiers opened fire on the Minister’s car, apparently mistaking it for a militant attack. Abbas Siraji, regarded as a brilliant appointment, had gone from being a refugee in the Dadaab camp to becoming Somalia’s youngest cabinet minister at 31.
Germany’s Vice-Chancellor and Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel made an unannounced visit to Mogadishu on Monday (May 1). He held a closed-door meeting with Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khayre and Foreign Minister Yusuf Garad Omar, discussing a range of issues, including bilateral relations. Mr Gabriel also announced that Germany was “ready to at least double” the 70 million euros ($76 million) it has already pledged to help Somalia cope with drought and hunger. He urged other international donors to scale-up support.
Prime Minister Hasan Ali Khayre officially opened a consultative conference in Mogadishu on Tuesday (May 2). Organized to “support government performance”, the conference is attended by cabinet officials, lawmakers and members of civil society. The Federal Government aims to obtain recommendations to support policies to achieve political stability, national security, and improve economy, education, health, national unity and foreign policy.
The economic cost of maritime piracy is increasing once again according to The State of Maritime Piracy 2016, a report released on Wednesday by Oceans Beyond Piracy. It rose from $1.3 billion in 2015 to $1.7 billion in 2016. This includes costs paid by shipping operators for increased insurance, labor, armed guards and other protection measures, and the costs of naval deployments. Although no vessels were hijacked in 2016, there were 27 reported incidents of pirate activity.
Following talks convened by Speaker Osman Jawari and Prime Minister Hassan Khayre, the Federal Parliament and the Government agreed on most elements of the new Security Architecture. Somalia will have a 22,000-strong army, including 4,000 Special Forces. Federal State presidents will not take part in the redistribution of forces. They will, however, sit in the National Security Council, which will take decisions on internal security threats, though the president will have exclusive powers over decisions on external security threats. The government will present the new security architecture at the London Conference to seek international support for implementation.
Information Minister Abdirahman Omar Osman said the government would promote responsible freedom of expression, media freedom and enhance the safety of journalists. He said his ministry regularly consults with media leaders and practitioners in order to provide an environment that is conducive for media practitioners to carry out their duties without fear. He paid tribute to journalists, who have lost their lives while working for the people and the country. He also promised to review some of the articles in the contentious media law that journalists claim include restrictions threatening to put many of them out of a job.
The Heritage Institute for Policy Studies, a Mogadishu-based think-tank, last month issued a study, Somalia’s Drought Induced Crises: Immediate Action and Change of Strategy Needed, highlighting Somalia’s ongoing drought and its devastating humanitarian consequences. (See article)
Aid officials say heavy seasonal rains have started in Somalia, reducing the risk of widespread famine. The rains began in the second week of April and by last week had spread to most parts of the country. This will allow farmers to plant crops as well as encourage growth of grass for livestock, but the rains can also bring cold and spread disease. The World Health Organization said last month that 25,000 people had been infected by cholera, and that number was expected to double by summer.
This week, Ahmed Duale Geyle ‘Xaaf’ won the election for the presidency of Galmudug state obtaining 54 votes out of a possible 89, and defeating Ahmed Sharif Hilowle. Ahmed Duale, a federal MP for 16 years until losing his seat last year is the founder of Daallo Airlines.
UNICEF said this week that 1.4 million children in Somalia are likely to be acutely malnourished this year, an increase of 50% over last year. This figure includes more than 275,000 children who will suffer life-threatening severe acute malnutrition. Steven Lauwerier, UNICEF Somalia Representative, said the “combination of drought, disease and displacement are deadly for children, and we need to do far more, and faster, to save lives.”
The South Sudan Government on Sunday (April 30) welcomed the arrival of the first batch of the Regional Protection Force. UNMISS said the RPF Headquarters had already been established in Juba under the leadership of Brigadier General Jean Mupenzi from Rwanda. An advance party of a Construction Engineering Company from Bangladesh arrived on April 20. Regional troops from Rwanda would follow in June and July. UNMISS said the 4,000 troops of the RPF would be based in Juba and provide coordinated protection to key facilities and for the main routes into and out of the city.
South Sudan opposition parties, including rebel armed groups, have set conditions for the government’s inclusive national dialogue process announced by President Kiir in December. Prerequisites for a meaningful dialogue were: “an agreement on the process to end the war, a negotiated and enforceable permanent ceasefire, a genuine commitment to an immediate, full and unconditional deployment of the Regional Protection Force and demilitarization of Juba and other major cities.” Opposition politicians appointed by President Kiir last week, including Rebecca Garang, widow of SPLM founder John Garang, and former finance minister Kosti Manibe, declined appointment to the steering committee citing lack of consultation prior to selection.
The Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) on Wednesday (April 26) called on the South Sudanese army to immediately stop attacks in Upper Nile region. It said the army bore the responsibility of the violence that had displaced 25,000 civilians. The statement from JMEC chairman Festus Mogae said the JMEC was pleased to hear army units were under proper control and it therefore called “upon the SPLA specifically, and all armed forces and groups, to stop all offensive operations immediately, bring all violence and displacement of civilians to an end and implement the ceasefire as set out in the 2015 Agreement.” He warned the government would be held accountable for the ongoing violence and gross human rights violations on the civilian population.
Following a UN Security Council meeting last week, the UN Secretary-General issued a statement on Saturday (April 29). He said, “There can be no military solution to the crisis in South Sudan. We hope regional and international partners will join us in encouraging the parties to return urgently to the negotiating table, and we remain committed to working with the African Union and IGAD to secure a peaceful resolution of the conflict.” He noted the upsurge in fighting was “a callous and blatant disregard of the pledges made during the March 25 IGAD Summit to implement a ceasefire and to facilitate humanitarian access.”
AU Commission Chairperson, Moussa Faki Mahamat, in a statement issued on Sunday (April 30), expressed “deep” concerns over the increasing military clashes in South Sudan, especially in the restive Upper Nile region. He called on the Transitional Government of National Unity, the SPLM-IO and other armed movements to immediately desist from fighting, Mr Mahamat said: “The immediate consequences of the military clashes on the civilian population are shattering and therefore it should be understood that those engaging in this callous behavior should be held accountable.”
UNMISS in a statement on Tuesday (May 2) said about 400 United Kingdom troops had arrived in Juba to join UNMISS. They will provide a Military Engineering Taskforce for the Malakal and Bentiu Protection of Civilians Sites as well as a Level II Hospital in Bentiu and be involved in protecting civilians and creating conditions to enable the delivery of humanitarian aid. There are about 12,000 peacekeepers serving in UNMISS, protecting more than 200,000 civilians in six Protection of Civilians sites.
Sudan’s Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour said on Monday (May 1) that the Joint Political and Security Committee for Sudan and South Sudan would convene next week in Addis Ababa after an invitation from the African Union mechanism. He told the Sudan Assembly that the Committee had received an invitation from the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) for a meeting on May 8 and 9 to discuss the implementation of the Cooperation Agreement signed on 27 September 2012.”
Sudan’s Minerals Ministry and Belarusian Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection on Monday signed an agreement on mineral investment and development with the Belarusian Minister of Environment Andrei Kovkhuto. The agreement also covers cooperation in environmental studies, laboratory development, legislative cooperation and the introduction of new technologies. The two sides will cooperate to train a technical cadre, introduce new technologies and benefit from the Belarusian experience in remote sensing. Earlier this year, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko and Sudan’s President Omer al-Bashir signed an agreement on friendly relations and cooperation in Khartoum.
Defense Minister Awad Ibn Ouf discussed with Qatar Defense Minister Hamad bin Ali Al Attiyah ways to develop military cooperation in the fields of training and exchange of experiences on Sunday (April 30). Minister Ibn Ouf also met with the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.
The two hold-out groups from the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur, the Sudan Liberation Movement of Minni Minnawi (SLM-MM) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) led by Gibril Ibrahim, gave the Darfur Joint Chief Mediator and UNAMID head, Jeremiah Kingsley Mamabolo, on Wednesday (May 3) a position paper on the negotiation process. They said this would enable the parties to resume negotiations on substantive issues, including a humanitarian cessation of hostilities, addressing the root causes of the conflict, recovery and development, return of refugees and displaced persons, justice, and reconciliation, land and settlement, and compensation. The two groups said they had renewed their unilateral cessation of hostilities for an additional six-month to November 2017.
Ethiopia and Somalia: neighborhood diplomacy for a cooperative partnership
Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn and the visiting President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed of Somalia held talks this week at the National Palace in Addis Ababa, after President Mohamed Abdullahi’s arrival at Bole International Airport on Wednesday (May 3) where he was welcomed by Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn, high-ranking government officials, members of the diplomatic corps, and members of the Somalia community. The discussions marked a new era of neighborhood diplomacy of cooperative partnership for peace and common development. President Mohamed Abdullahi’s visit at the invitation of Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn underlined their common interests and the need to take Ethio-Somalia ties beyond the realm of security and into a new area of developmental partnership. Underlining a vision of joint development, the visit emphasized that mutual trust and understanding were the basis anchoring an agenda for shared benefit and further growth of Ethio-Somalia ties. The roundtable talks demonstrated the concept of neighborhood diplomacy as an approach to establish a cooperative partnership between the two countries, aimed at expanding the scope and deepening the existing Ethio-Somalia partnership. After the talks, the two leaders spoke to journalists and issued a communiqué.
The communiqué said that during President Mohamed Abdullahi’s visit, the two leaders, accompanied by their respective delegations, had held extensive and fruitful discussions on bilateral, regional and international issues of common interest. The leaders recalled earlier meetings in Mogadishu during the inauguration of the newly elected President in February and in Nairobi for the Refugees Summit in March. Their discussions were held in a frank and cordial manner that characterizes the historic friendship existing between the two countries. They exchanged views on ways and means to further consolidate cooperation in various fields. They agreed to forge a cooperative partnership and closer ties on the basis of principles of good neighborliness, mutual respect and the promotion of mutual interest in such areas as trade, investment, education, health, agriculture, livestock, and water resource management to lay a solid developmental foundation for enhancing the bilateral relations between the two sisterly countries. The two leaders also committed themselves to fully implementing previously signed agreements to revitalize the already existing mechanisms of cooperation. They expressed their readiness to create a high-level joint cooperation committee to further the collaboration between the two countries. They reaffirmed that both countries need to have strong economic cooperation. They expressed the need to encourage free movement of goods and services between their respective countries for mutual benefit.
The two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to bolster their support to AMISOM in the latter’s endeavor to stabilize Somalia. Furthermore, they vowed to take practical measures to avail all necessary resources to develop a well-functioning Somalia National Army that can effectively deal with al-Shabaab and progressively take over from AMISOM. At the press briefing, President Mohamed Abdullahi underlined his determination to defeat al-Shabaab within two years, pointing out that he had a comprehensive plan, which included support from regional countries. He calls the extremist group “a disease” that isn’t interested in humanity. He said “Al-Shabaab has been active in Somalia for the last ten years causing huge destruction,” and it was intent on expanding its reach to neighboring countries. That gives a reason for cooperation against the menace posed by the group, he said. He praised the support provided by Ethiopia and Kenya as well as AMISOM and said the sacrifices of [men in uniform] of neighboring countries would not be in vain. Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn, referring both to the fight against terrorism, the current drought that affects both countries and development cooperation, said “We sink or swim together; we cannot thrive leaving other nations behind.” Both leaders also expressed their concern on the return of piracy in the Indian Ocean and urged the international community to redouble efforts to support the Somalia National Coast Guard and to increase the capability of the Somalia Police Forces to enforce the rule of law in order to control the criminal activities both on shore and off shore.
They expressed their common concerns on the critical humanitarian crises in the Horn of Africa. They noted the spirit of the Mogadishu Declaration on Regional Cooperation on the Current Drought, and the Nairobi Declaration on Durable Solutions for Somalia Refugees, and called on national, regional and international collaborative efforts to effectively respond in a timely manner to regional crises including drought, famine and migration. They also called on the London Conference on Somalia later this month [May 11] to recognize Somalia’s ownership of the process, and to accommodate Somalia’s peace and development objectives as well as to consider a New Partnership Agreement between Somalia and the international community. They urged the countries in the IGAD region to speak with one voice to make the most of the opportunities it presents for Somalia.
Prime Minister Hailemariam noted the visit of President Mohamed Abdullahi marked the beginning of an era of cooperative partnership in all areas of common interest. He underlined that this cooperation partnership should be built on people-centric diplomacy and emphasized the importance of expanding and expediting people-to-people ties, and encouraging the social foundation of Ethio-Somalia links. The Prime Minister suggested crafting a new type of institutional framework for practical coordination of the joint efforts aiming at expediting bilateral cooperation on security, education, health, trade, investment, infrastructure, capacity-building and other cross-border issues of common interest. He noted the importance of Joint Ministerial Commission meetings as a platform to collaborate effectively and work together for common development and mutual benefit. This could be a window for mutual learning, exchange of ideas and expertise as well as experience sharing.
Prime Minister Hailemariam also stressed that Somalia’s peaceful election of the representatives to the Federal Parliament and of its President confirmed the people’s commitment to take charge of their destiny and build their future. These were very positive developments. Ethiopia, he underlined, was very willing to help the National Army of Somalia root out the terrorist elements of al-Shabaab. It also continued to stick to the traditional principle of safeguarding the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Somalia.
President Mohamed Abdullahi agreed with Prime Minister Hailemariam that his visit offered a new beginning, ushering in a new era of partnership to forge ties, intensify coordination, and exchange insights on areas ranging from foreign policy to the monetary system, from immigration to security issues. The President commended the role played and the contributions made by Ethiopia in fighting al-Shabaab extremists and emphasized that his government stands ready to work closely with Ethiopia and the region to eliminate the menace affecting the lives of the people of Somalia. In a similar fashion, he said, the two countries ought to devote time and energy in the fight against poverty to improve the capability, resilience and livelihood of the two peoples. Considering Ethiopia as a reliable and strong partner, both countries could move forward embarking on the pursuit of peace and development, the President suggested.
Overall, a strategic consensus was reached between the two sides to put in place the developmental and socio-political foundation for further growth of the bilateral relations of the two countries giving resonance to the security realm in the fight against extremism and terrorism as well as other security challenges. The two sides agreed a multi-layered cooperative partnership would create conditions for the greater peace and stability as well as economic integration of the region in addition to its contribution for the reconstruction and recovery of Somalia.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights visits Ethiopia
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid bin Ra’ad Zeid Al Hussein, made a three-day official visit to Ethiopia this week (May 2-4). He came at the invitation of the Government and during his visit, he met with Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn; the Speaker of House of People’s Representatives, Abadulla Gemeda; Foreign Minister, Dr Workneh Gebeyehu; Communication Minister, Dr Negeri Lencho, and the Commissioner of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, Dr Addisu Gebre-Egziabher, and other government officials and stakeholders and discussed the human rights situation in Ethiopia. He signed a Memorandum of Intent for the establishment of a Human Rights Regional Hub for the Eastern and Southern Africa sub-regions in Addis Ababa. The High Commissioner shared his views on the importance of closer cooperation with Ethiopia with high-ranking government officials. He visited a remand center, witnessed what he described as a “vibrant dialogue” between opposition party members and members of the ruling party, and met representatives of civil society.
During his visit, the High Commissioner also held talks with leading African Union Commission officials, including the Chairperson of the Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat; the AU Commissioner for Peace and Security, Ambassador Smail Chergui; and AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Minata Samate Cessouma. Discussions focused on plans to reinforce coordination between the UN and AU on human rights, in line with other recent steps to strengthen the UN/AU partnership, including the recent signing of a framework agreement on enhanced cooperation in peace and security.
Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn received High Commissioner Zeid bin Ra’ad Zeid on Wednesday. They discussed the human rights situation in Ethiopia and related challenges in the country and exchanged views on the recent investigative report by the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission following the unrest in some parts of the country. Following consideration on ways to work together on human rights protection and human rights institution-building, Prime Minister Hailemariam underlined Ethiopia’s commitment to work with the United Nations Human Rights Commission.
Ethiopia has a responsible government. It has engaged itself in promoting and protecting human rights because it knows, as a matter of history, that this is a necessity for continued existence. It is not, in any sense, a luxury. The government has never waited to be reminded by others of the importance of human rights or of democracy. It has acted to implement these necessities from the outset and for the sake of the Ethiopian people, not to please outsiders. Equally, it is, of course, a learning process after many previous years of undemocratic rule prior to 1991.
In recent years, protection of human rights has become even more necessary because of the increasing demands arising from the effects of continued economic growth, particularly in the last decade or so. The recent crisis is an example of this. The number of graduates leaving university every year, for example, has not been commensurate with number of jobs being created annually. Certainly, more needs to be done, and remedies for the problem have now become a central element of economic policy. In this, as in other areas, corrective measures are being taken.
Ethiopia believes it is on the right track in laying down the fundamentals for the creation of a democratic society. The institutions to provide for the necessary checks and balances, taking note of the local context of requirements, have been set up. Among these are the Ethiopian Commission for Human Rights, the Office of the Ombudsman, the Standing Committees of the House of Representatives and the Office of the Auditor General. There is no need for other bodies to replace these, or for outsiders, including international NGOs, to try to supplant or substitute for them. There is, however, a need for support to strengthen their activities. What is needed, in fact, is increased capacity building. That, indeed, is what might legitimately be expected from the Office of the UN Human Rights Commission.
In his meeting with Dr Addisu Gebre-Egziabher, Commissioner of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC), the UN High Commissioner exchanged views on ways of strengthening co-operation and relations between both commissions as well as other related issues. The UN High Commissioner stressed: “Ethiopia is one of our partners in the Commission’s efforts to promote and protect human rights for all.” Dr Addisu pointed out that as a founder of the Commission, Ethiopia has consistently implemented the international human rights laws endorsed by the global human rights body. It has, of course, acceded to virtually all the core international human rights treaties, underlining the commitment to human rights reflected in the Constitution.
The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission’s first report on the disturbances that occurred in certain areas of the Amhara and Oromia Regional States last year was given to the High Commissioner’s office, demonstrating the government’s establishment of an independent mechanism to investigate human rights violations. The Commission’s second report, recently approved by the House of People’s Representatives, detailed the numbers killed in the unrest, including members of the security forces. The report included the factors that contributed to the unrest and the impact on human life and property. It singled out the parties that should be held accountable, whether from officials, security forces or any anti-peace element or party that committed destructive activities. It recommended that those responsible should face justice. A copy of the report will be sent to the UN Human Rights Commission. The government is, of course, following up the Commission’s recommendations.
The High Commissioner also discussed various mechanisms in establishing ways of reporting and progress in addressing human rights concerns with the Speaker of the House of People’s Representatives, Abadulla Gemeda. The Speaker mentioned various committees that investigate human rights situations at the federal as well as regional level, and the reporting mechanisms available, as well as the methods for resolving outstanding issues in human rights.
Foreign Minister Dr Workneh Gebeyehu met with High Commissioner on Thursday (May 4). Their discussions focused on ways of establishing closer cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner. They discussed the recent report of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission and signed a Memorandum of Intent for setting up a Host Country Agreement for the establishment of a Regional Office for the High Commission in Ethiopia. Dr Workneh welcomed the visit of the High Commissioner and detailed the progress made in promoting democratic rule of governance and dealing with related challenges. He underlined the need to work further and in concert with the High Commission to enhance areas of democratization and human rights.
The High Commissioner also met with representatives of eleven opposition political parties and shared views on political space and human rights. The opposition parties said they appreciated the efforts of the ruling EPRDF to resolve problems through discussion and the ongoing negotiations. However, they underlined that while the constitution stressed human rights, violations arose in implementation. The High Commissioner said that there were problems that should be resolved by Ethiopians themselves. As he said at his press conference before leaving on Thursday (May 4), ultimately only the government of Ethiopia can take action to shape the future of the country.
In his press conference, the UN High Commissioner also highlighted the need for greater and freer civic space, with “broader latitude for the contributions of critical or dissenting views” to decision-making in the country. It was, he said, “important for the government to ensure a far more substantive, stable and open democratic space for all its people”. He noted that all governments needed to be held to the mark by independent media and “the vital action of civil society and human rights defenders.” He said: “I am convinced the Ethiopian Government will find its most important and productive investment will be in the rights of the people, which build strong and safe societies,” adding, “If it stumbles, mistrust and grievance will grow, and this may well have considerable negative impact on prospects for development and for the people’s wellbeing.”
The High Commissioner hailed the commitment of Ethiopia to protecting the human rights of its people as illustrated by its accession to a number of human rights treaties and their reflection in the constitution. He described the work of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission as heartening and called on the Government to take further steps to grant the body more independence. He also urged the authorities to allow access for UN human rights officials to visit the regions affected by the unrest. He said that he had benefited greatly from the briefings provided by the Attorney General’s office, but he thought that “considering the number of arrests, over 26,000, it was unlikely rule of law had been observed in every case.” These were, of course, the people who were detained after involvement in violence and released after being given education in civic behavior and ways to utilize their own rights without jeopardizing the rights of others or resorting to violence. The vast majority were released in a matter of weeks.
The High Commissioner spoke of the importance of economic, social and cultural rights and stressed that progress on these rights would translate into civil and political rights advances. He offered his support and that of his Office to the Government and the people of Ethiopia in confronting the challenges posed by the drought affecting large parts of the region. He praised the warm hospitality accorded to him, something, he said, which Ethiopia was known for. He spoke of the interest of the government authorities in investing more in upholding human rights, and commended the openness of the government’s stance and its commitment to transform the country. He noted Ethiopia’s active involvement in the United Nations Security Council and its role as one of the leading contributors of troops to United Nations Peacekeeping Missions. Pointing out that Ethiopia was a very important country in a number of areas, the High Commissioner emphasized that his Office was looking forward to working closely with Ethiopia in various areas of mutual interest, including assisting the government in translating its commitments to human rights into action.
Eritrea’s Dawit Issac awarded the Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize
World Press Freedom Day was on Wednesday this week (May 3). It is a date to celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom, evaluate press freedom around the world, to defend the media from attacks on their independence and to pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession. It aims to defend the media from attacks on their independence and pay tribute to journalists who have died in the line of duty. At a time of unprecedented crisis and complexity, responsible fact-based journalism has never been more important, especially in areas of crucial global issues like climate change and migration. Millions are suffering in humanitarian crises; they need to have their voices heard.
On this year’s World Press Freedom Day, a statement from United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres called for an end to all crackdown on journalists because, he said, “a free press advances peace and justice for all. When we protect journalists, their words and pictures can change our world.” He said journalists go to the most dangerous places to give “voice to the voiceless,” adding that media workers suffer character assassination, sexual assault, detention, injuries and even death. He said, “We need leaders to defend the free media, this is crucial to counter misinformation and you need everyone to stand [up] for our right to truth.” UN Human Rights Council rapporteur David Kaye said government harassment of journalists was a global crisis, noting journalists were threatened by continuing hostile media environment and unhealthy industry competition. “On every day of the year, those who practice journalism face censorship, criminalization, harassment and, all too often, physical attacks and murder,” said Kaye. He called on governments to release journalists in detention while also asking for review of legislation that is “manifestly inconsistent with freedom of expression” The proliferation of fake news, which erodes public trust of journalists, has also caught the attention of the Council. The Human Rights Council has called [on] independent journalists “to confront intentionally misleading and deceitful stories, such as “fake news” and disinformation.”
The UN General Assembly proclaimed World Press Freedom Day in 1993 following a Recommendation adopted at the 26th Session of UNESCO’s General Conference in 1991. This was in turn a response to a call by African journalists who produced the landmark Windhoek Declaration on media pluralism and independence in 1991. UNESCO, the Government of Indonesia, and the Press Council of Indonesia organized the 2017 World Press Freedom Day’s main event, the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize Ceremony in Jakarta.
This year the Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize was awarded to Dawit Isaac, an Eritrean-Swedish journalist, in recognition of his courage, resistance and commitment to freedom of expression. Dawit has been detained in Eritrea since 2001, without charge, trial or sentence, and in the most appalling conditions. He is held incommunicado, without access to his family or lawyers, and has been consistently denied the right to meet his family, his lawyer, Swedish diplomats or the International Red Cross. According to the account of a former prison guard in 2010 the last time Dawit was seen alive, he is kept in isolation, in inhuman conditions, handcuffed, and exposed to terrible heat in the special prison at Eira Eiro. There has been no news of Dawit since then. During Eritrea’s Universal Periodic Review by the UN Human Rights Council, member states have repeatedly made recommendations about the lack of media freedom, the complete control of state journalists and the inhuman treatment of imprisoned journalists in complete violation of all the rules of international law. The Eritrean government has systematically ignored these recommendations.
Dawit was one of eleven journalists arrested in September 2001, when the entire private media was closed down. Of these eleven, seven are believed to have died in detention. Those thought to be still alive are: Dawit Isaac, owner and co-founder of Setit, a Swedish citizen; Emanuel Asrat, editor of Zemen; Temesgen Gebreyesus, sports reporter at Keste Debena; Dawit Habtemichael, deputy editor and co-founder of Meqaleh; and Seyoum Tsehaye, freelance reporter and former director of the government’s television station. All these cases have been referred to the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances. They are by no means the only journalists who have suffered in Eritrea. In February 2009, for example, the educational Radio Bana, an official organization, was closed down and some fifty journalists and staff members jailed. Since 2001 there have been no longer any independent media outlets in Eritrea, which is ranked 179th out of 180 countries in the 2017 World Press Freedom Index of Reporters Without Borders. Eritrea has persistently taken one of the last places on this index for several years. The Committee to Protect Journalists similarly classifies Eritrea as one of the most censored countries in the world. Only the state radio stations, the government newspaper and state-owned Eri TV can report what is going on inside Eritrea.
PEN International and Pen Eritrea, in a statement last year, said that over the previous 25 years, Eritrean journalists, independent and state-journalists alike, had been subject to systematic arbitrary arrests, intimidations, enforced disappearances, and in some cases extra-judicial killings. PEN International said it was aware of at least 17 journalists, all held in circumstances amounting to enforced disappearance, and some of whom were believed to have died in appalling conditions in prison.
President Isaias has consistently rebuffed all calls for Dawit’s release, or the release of any of the other journalists, and treated any enquires from the Swedish government, or anyone else, with contempt. A couple of years after their arrest, President Isaias called the imprisoned journalists ‘spies’. He claimed ‘external persons’ had bribed them during the war he had launched against Ethiopia in May 1998, and said “they are not even journalists. You cannot say a spy is a journalist.” In an Al-Jazeera television interview in May 2008, the President had a slightly different approach, denying imprisoning any journalists: “There were never any. There aren’t any. You have been misinformed.”
When asked about Dawit Issac’s incarceration in an interview with Swedish television in 2009, eight years after his arrest, President Isaias scornfully replied: “I don’t know, I don’t even care about where he is or what he is doing. He made a big mistake.” He then added, underlining Eritrea’s unique approach to judicial matters, let alone human rights: “We don’t release him, we don’t take him to trial, we know how to deal with him and others like him. We have our own ways of dealing with that.” The President went on to criticize the Swedish Government for trying to raise Dawit’s case through representatives of other countries accredited to Eritrea, although he himself had earlier rebuffed a number of formal official Swedish efforts to raise the issue with him. He rather undiplomatically added, “For me Sweden is irrelevant.” He even brought the CIA into the interview claiming it was largely responsible for everything that he objected to in the world, apparently including Dawit. Subsequently, answering a question about a report that Isaac had died in May 2012, President Isaias’s response was: “this question no longer deserves my answer. If Sweden’s government wants to make this a huge issue, we can only say that we have other things to do.”
Other Eritrean officials have, of course, taken the lead from the President. Isaias’ chief political advisor, Yemane Gebreab, claimed ignorance about the journalists, saying three or four years ago: “I don’t know them at all.” Last year, at the time of the interactive dialogue between Eritrea and the UN Human Rights Council, Eritrean Foreign Minister Osman Saleh said the high-ranking government officials and veterans of Eritrea’s liberation struggle (the G15) arrested on September 18, 2001, and the private press journalists detained a week later, were “all alive” and “in good hands”. None of these prisoners, of course, have ever been tried or convicted in any court and there have been a number of plausible reports that they have suffered from serious mistreatment and persistent solitary confinement, treatment which has led to a number of them dying. One of those whom Mr Saleh claimed to be still alive was Dawit Issac, and Mr Saleh went on to say that Dawit would eventually be sentenced when the country’s government “sees fit.” So far, the government has detained Dawit for 16 years without considering sentencing him, let alone charging him or allowing him a trial!
“Immediate Action and Change of Strategy needed” in response to Somalia’s drought
The Heritage Institute for Policy Studies, a Mogadishu-based think-tank, last month issued a study, “Somalia’s Drought Induced Crises: Immediate Action and Change of Strategy Needed”, highlighting Somalia’s ongoing drought and its devastating humanitarian consequences. The report details causes and contributing factors to the humanitarian disaster, looks at the relief efforts and mitigation strategies being carried out by the international community, and at the national efforts being undertaken to respond to Somalia’s needs. It also looks at the challenges facing the delivery of humanitarian aid to affected communities, provides recommendations for policy makers to avert the cyclical drought and its devastating consequences and addresses the needs of the affected communities in a sustainable, holistic and consistent manner prioritizing the reproduction of community livelihoods and resilience.
Quoting the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), the report notes that as of 21 February more than 135,000 people have been displaced due to the drought, with more than 6.2 million stressed or in need of urgent life-saving support. The ongoing drought caused by the poor Gu rainy season (April-June 2016) and the failed Deyr rainy season (October-December 2016) was now affecting the entire country. This was combined with destitution and forced displacement of communities following food and water shortages along with spiraling food prices and the death of massive numbers of livestock. The report notes that southern agricultural and agro-pastoral as well as northern pastoral areas were the most affected parts of the country and it added that the humanitarian situation continues to worsen in southwest Somalia.
The Heritage Institute, comparing the nature and impact of this drought with earlier ones, points out that this one was devastating in terms of magnitude and severity as well as in the speed of its extensive range of impact in claiming lives and destroying community livelihoods. This inevitably caused extreme food insecurity, poor health care, lack of access to drinking water and sanitation facilities and resulted in deaths of humans and livestock as well as the destruction of farms and grazing lands. In turn, this meant displacements, outbreaks of endemic diseases, rural migration, larger numbers of urban poor and increased child mortality rates across Somalia.
The Heritage Institute says that two successive seasons of poor rainfall, lack of functioning regional and national institutions, the absence of a systematic humanitarian response plan synchronizing the local, sub-national, national and international efforts, and the continuing drought were the causes and contributing factors to the scope and severity of the drought-induced crises. With respect to the international relief efforts and mitigation mechanisms, it notes the slow and inadequate humanitarian response, adding that UNICEF and the World Food Program began to provide some assistance to communities in northern Somalia already suffering from the severe drought and the harsh El Nino conditions in early 2016. Equally, WFP plans to tackle the ongoing drought-related problems through the provision of “immediate relief assistance and in-kind and cash based transfers to the most vulnerable people in central Somalia for about six months”. Other partners including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, Qatar and Canada have provided assistance to the drought-affected communities.
With regard to national efforts, the Heritage Institute notes the steps taken by the National Drought Response Committee as well as various citizen initiatives. These, it says, are positive but seen from the perspective of awareness campaigns and mobilization purposes they are insufficient. It identifies challenges facing relief operations as the effects of displacement and patterns of refugee flows, political constraints to access, counterterrorist complications and legal risks, poor cooperation and coordination mechanisms among aid actors, corruption, mismanagement and aid diversion, among others. It is in this context that the report says that “the specter of another deadly famine” is a looming possibility given these challenges, coupled with ineffective coping and mitigation strategies.
In the face of the continued food insecurity, humanitarian crisis and looming famine, the Heritage Institute notes some policy considerations, stressing that attention ought to be given to places that are difficult to access in the interior of the country, the restoration of livelihoods of the affected pastoral communities in the shortest possible time and the implementation of sustainable projects based on local infrastructure and a knowledge base of resilience for pastoral and agro-pastoral communities in the long term. It underlined the need to create conditions for well-functioning and accountable state institutions and for a peaceful Somalia in order to avert famine and manage drought in the future. It emphasized the importance of making the newly established Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs a functioning ministry. It called on the business community, social media activists and Diaspora citizens to redouble their efforts to lead the awareness campaign and other relief activities. In the longer term, the Heritage Institute also recommends the development of a national food security policy and efforts to encourage local coping mechanisms, including saving food for future consumption as well as diversification of community livelihoods. Lastly, it recommends the importance of the national government and regional states coordinating long-term response strategies including investing in strategically located water storage facilities, building roads and improving other infrastructure.
Ethiopia hosts Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change meeting
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) held a scoping meeting in Addis Ababa this week (May 1-5), with the aim of drafting the preliminary outline of its planned sixth Assessment report. 200 experts from 60 countries attended the meeting. The previous week the African Climate Policy Centre of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa organized a two-day outreach event (April 29-30) for policymakers, academia, media and students. This provided findings for presenting to IPCC Bureau members and the Panel prior to the scoping meeting.
The first IPCC assessment Report was in 1990. It underlined the importance of climate change as a challenge requiring international cooperation to overcome its consequences. The report played a decisive role for the creation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the main international treaty on climate change. Since then the IPCC has delivered five comprehensive and scientific Assessment Reports about climate change worldwide. It has also responded to the information requests of international organizations and governments on scientific and technical matters through various methodology and special reports and technical papers. The second Assessment Report of the IPCC was released in 1995 and that paved the way for the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997. The third Assessment Report came out in 2001 and the fourth in 2007. The fifth Assessment Report was released in four parts between September 2013 and November 2014. At its 41st session in February 2015 the IPCC decided to produce a sixth Assessment Report. It is expected this will be finalized in 2022, in time for the global stocktaking required under the UNFCC Paris agreement.
At the opening of this week’s meeting in the United Nation Economic Commission for Africa’s conference center, IPCC secretary, Abdalah Mokssi, underlined the mandate of the Panel: to provide policy makers with regular assessments on the scientific basis of climate change, its impact and future risks and options for adaptation and mitigation.
Ethiopia’s Minister of Water, Irrigation and Electricity, Seleshi Bekele, told the Panel that the participation of Africans as contributing lead authors and/or review editors had been insignificant in the past. He noted that this trend needed to be changed in order to allow wider representation of the IPCC’s work on the continent; African scientists, he said, should take the responsibility to engage proactively as lead and review authors of the relevant scientific papers. Ms Fatima Denton, director of the Economic Commission for Africa’s Special Initiative Division, also stressed the importance of African input into the Panel’s work. She called on the Panel to ensure Africans contribution to Assessment Report 6. She said it was important that the IPCC built on the regional and broad experience of Africa to ensure that the next IPCC assessment report properly articulates Africa’s development priorities and better reflected Africa’s unique position and contributions to the exercise. She said the convening of the meeting in Addis Ababa was a significant step towards achieving that objective.
The IPCC is the leading international body for the assessment of climate change. Established by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) in 1988, the UN General Assembly endorsed their action through resolution 43/53 the same year. Membership of the IPCC is open to all member countries of the United Nations and the World Meteorological Organization and 195 countries are currently members. Because of its scientific and intergovernmental nature, the IPCC embodies a unique opportunity to provide rigorous and balanced scientific information to decision makers. Its reports, therefore, are policy relevant and yet policy neutral. The IPCC doesn’t carry out its own original research. Rather it assesses thousands of scientific papers published each year and to provide neutral reports dealing objectively with the scientific, technical and socio-economic factors relevant to the application of particular policy.
The initial task for the IPCC, as outlined in the UN General Assembly resolution, was to prepare a comprehensive review and recommendations with respect to the state of knowledge of the science of climate change, the social and economic impact of the changes, possible response strategies and elements for inclusion in any future international dialogues on climate change, the implications and risks as well as putting forward adaptation and mitigation strategies.
The Asian-African Legal Consultative Organization (AALCO) meeting in Nairobi
56th annual session of the Asian African Legal Consultative Organization (AALCO) was held this week in Nairobi (May 1-5). More than 400 delegates from 47 governments, including 12 Ministers of Justice and eight Attorney-Generals, from Asia, the Middle East and Africa attended. Russia was an observer for the first time.
The conference discussions focused on Violent Extremism and Terrorism, and the Status and Treatment of Refugees as well as addressing environmental concerns touching on the protection of the atmosphere and examination of the emerging issue of International law in cyberspace. The Immunity of State Officials from Foreign Criminal Jurisdiction under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic and Consular Relations was also discussed. African countries that have seen increased cooperation and trade have in particular been seeking legal advice in the areas of conflict of laws in international trade, law of treaties, extradition and mutual legal assistance in criminal matters and debt relief. The law of the Sea has also generated significant interest in Africa with the exploitation of maritime resources located within territorial waters.
On the side-lines of the Conference, Japan and China hosted meetings centred on Promoting Rule of Law in Asia and Africa and Combating Illegal Trade on Wild Flora and Fauna as part of the transnational effort to deal with organized crime. Addressing the opening ceremony on Tuesday, Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto urged AALCO member countries to work together to contain the illegal wildlife trade, an issue of great concern to Kenya. He asked the governments represented at the summit to strengthen their information-sharing capacity to help curb the illegal trade in a wide range of fauna and flora. This, he said, was fast growing international organized crime.
Deputy President Ruto also called for greater representation of Africa in the international justice system. He said member states should look for ways that would give them, and other partners, more say in the international judicial system. He said the International Criminal Court needed to undergo drastic changes for it to be respected as an instrument of global justice. He said: “I say this informed by Kenya’s cases at the International Criminal Court. I am happy they have ended but the experience with the ICC gave us cause to observe that these institutions often times have become tools of global power politics and they do not deliver justice that they were built to dispense.” The Deputy President called on AALCO to ensure balanced representation of Africans, adding: “It is incumbent upon us to ensure the interests of developing nations are protected by a stable and just court…we must be champions of global institutions that are grounded in fairness. “He stressed that national sovereignty was important in the dispensation of justice. AALCO Secretary-General Professor Kennedy Gastorn reiterated Deputy President Ruto’s remarks saying the fight against impunity could not be left to ICC alone, though he also called on countries in Africa and Asia who are not signatories of the Rome Statute that established the ICC to join it.
Kenya’s Attorney General Githu Muigai, chair of the 56th session of AALCO, at a dinner hosted by the Chinese Embassy, said Sino-Kenya cooperation had moved beyond infrastructure development and technology transfer to cover critical areas like law, justice and governance. He said Kenya and other African countries had enhanced bilateral cooperation with China in the legal fraternity to sustain peace, good governance and political stability. He noted that through the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation legal forum, Kenya and China had continued to enhance legal cooperation through capacity building and legal exchanges through programs like the China-Africa legal professionals exchange program, now in its fourth year. He also praised the Youth of Excellence Scheme of China master’s program that improved professional skills of legal practitioners from China and Kenya. He said Kenya and China would formalize a legal training exchange program during President Kenyatta’s state visit to China later this month. The Attorney General also welcomed China’s support for the Asia-African Legal Consultative Forum, adding that Kenya is fully behind ideals espoused by the AALCO that includes establishment of a just international order.
The Asian-African Legal Consultative Organization (AALCO), originally known as the Asian Legal Consultative Committee, dates back to November 1956 when it was founded as an outcome of the historic Bandung Conference, in Indonesia a year earlier. Its original members were Burma (now Myanmar), Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), India, Indonesia, Iraq, Japan and the United Arab Republic (now Arab Republic of Egypt and Syrian Arab Republic), but two years later it decided to include African countries, changing its name to the Asian-African Legal Consultative Committee. At its 40th Annual Session, in New Delhi, in 2001, it again changed, to the Asian-African Legal Consultative Organization. The changes in nomenclature had major symbolic significance reflecting the growing status of the AALCO and the place it has secured among international organizations. Originally established as a non-permanent Committee for a term of five years, in 1981, it decided to place itself on a permanent footing.
Forty-seven countries are presently members of the Organization. These countries are: the Arab Republic of Egypt; Bahrain; Bangladesh; Brunei Darussalam; Cameroon; Cyprus; Democratic People’s Republic of Korea; The Gambia; Ghana; India; Indonesia; Iraq; Islamic Republic of Iran; Japan; Jordan; Kenya; Kuwait; Lebanon; Libya; Malaysia; Mauritius; Mongolia; Myanmar; Nepal; Nigeria; Oman; Pakistan; People’s Republic of China; Qatar; Republic of Korea; Saudi Arabia; Senegal; Sierra Leone; Singapore; Somalia; South Africa, Sri Lanka; State of Palestine; Sudan; Syria; Tanzania; Thailand; Turkey; Uganda; United Arab Emirates; Socialist Republic of Vietnam and Republic of Yemen. Membership is open to all Asian and African States who wish to join unless objections are received from at least one-third of the membership.
High-ranking diplomats and legal experts represent Member-States at the Annual Session, and there are always a number of observer delegations representing governments and international organizations. Russia is attending as an observer for the first time this year. The AALCO has forged close links with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the International Law Commission (ILC) over the years. It has become customary for judges of the ICJ and members of the ILC to participate in the Annual Sessions. One of the main interests of the AALCO is international law issues such as those actively discussed in the United Nations especially the International Law Commission and the Sixth Committee of the UN General Assembly.
Over the years, the AALCO has discussed the agenda of the International Law Commission, International Economic Trade Law and related Matters, the Law of Treaties, Diplomatic Law, Oceans and the Law of the Sea, Human Rights, Refugees and International Humanitarian and Law, and Environment and Sustainable Development.
World Economic Forum on Africa held in Durban this week
The 27th World Economic Forum on Africa Summit which focused on Africa’s drive to generate inclusive economic growth and the leadership ended on Friday (May 5) in Durban, South Africa The Forum, themed on Achieving inclusive Growth through Responsive and Responsible Leadership, brought together Heads of State and Government, leaders from different regional, continental and international governmental and non-governmental organizations and multi-national corporation CEOs to discuss and find best solutions for Africa to achieve inclusive growth, long-lasting peace and integration. Discussions covered Inclusive Growth, Leadership in an Era of Disruption, Civil Protest and Terrorism, the Evolving Dynamics between Africa and Global Economic Powers, CEOs and Business Growth in Africa, the African Union Agenda 2063, Africa’s Industrial Corridors, Infrastructure, Intra-Regional Trade, Fragile States and Unemployment. The Forum also reviewed and evaluated some of the mega projects in Africa including the North-South Transport Corridor and Pan-African Fiber Connectivity. The problem of youth was also a central area of discussion and South African President Jacob Zuma made this a focus of his speech to the Forum, urging the continent’s youth to participate in the realization of the African Union’s Agenda 2063, and emphasizing that it was in the hands of the youth to shape the future in which they wanted to live.
Forum participants noted that only 3 million formal jobs were created annually in Africa, despite millions more young people entering the workforce every year, and most of these were actually underprepared. The Forum stressed that to eradicate deep-rooted poverty from the African continent and solve the problem of unemployment, the foremost challenge of youth, governments and business leaders should work closely together in an orchestrated and coordinated manner. They also underlined the importance of the concept of the Public-Private-Partnership in Africa and emphasized that it should be given due attention and prime focus to help speed-up Africa’s agenda of realizing a peaceful, prosperous and integrated Africa in 2063. The Forum strongly urged that it was high time to work on inclusive growth and address the challenges facing the youth of Africa. It also underlined the importance of large-scale economic and social infrastructure projects as crucial to Africa’s growth and integration, and said states in Africa should work together and boost efforts to realize mega projects.
Dr Aklilu Hailemichael, State Minister for Foreign Affairs, led Ethiopia’s high-level delegation to the Forum. He shared Ethiopia’s best practices and experience in development policies, strategies, programs, long and short-term national plans, infrastructure expansion, Public Private Partnership dynamics and the economic growth that the country has achieved. The State Minister said that the government of Ethiopia was working to ensure inclusive economic growth, structural transformation and advancement of technology. Ethiopia, he pointed out, aspired to be a leading country in the light-manufacturing sector by 2025.
Dr Aklilu said Africa was facing severe challenges posed by a variety of increasing risks and vulnerabilities, including declining commodity prices, escalating geo-political tensions, rising wealth inequality, technological disruption and social marginalization. He detailed a number of key factors necessary to accelerate inclusive economic growth and solve challenges in Africa.
Among these were: advancement of productive capacities, decent work and employment, sustainable industrialization, boosting agriculture, expanding infrastructure, increasing participation in the global value chain through promoting economic diversification, revitalizing of manufacturing, and harnessing human innovation, export promotion, technology transfer, as well as enhancement of affordable, reliable and sustainable modern energy services, and empowering the private sector.
Dr Aklilu added that countries needed to reinvent access to financial services and develop responsive policies. They should give due attention to such matters as Intra-African Trade, Infrastructure Development and Economic Unification. He emphasized the critical importance of enhancing digitalization and IT technology in order to promote technological innovation, to raise civic participation, to build accountability through open data and to strengthen trust and accountability in public and private institutions. Dr Aklilu also pointed out the need to improve environmental and infrastructural deficiencies as well as eliminate neglected tropical diseases, prevent epidemics, eradicate communicable diseases and curb non-communicable diseases.
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