A Week in the Horn

1 Sep 2017

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Africa and the African Union

The African Leaders Forum 2017 last weekend in Johannesburg, South Africa (August 25-26) was chaired by former South African President Thabo Mbeki and attended by six former presidents as well other distinguished figures. The theme of the two-day meeting was: “Peace and Security for an Integrated United and Sustainable Africa”, with the aim of fostering dialogue and agreement among activists, academics and politicians to end human rights violations. (See article)

The TICAD Ministerial follow-up meeting was held in Maputo, Mozambique last week (August 22-25) with the objective of evaluating the outcome and the progress of implementation of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development meeting, held in Nairobi in August last year. The meeting was organized and sponsored by Japan, the African Union Commission, the World Bank, the United Nations Development Program and the United Nations Office of the Special Adviser. (See article)

Gabriel Negatu, African Development Bank Director General, East Africa Regional Centre, told the Regional Dialogue Conference on World Trade Organization (WTO) accession for Comoros, Ethiopia. Somalia and South Sudan, in Nairobi, that African economies were not adequately diversified. He called for African regional blocs to specialize to attain competitiveness and to work to remove non-tariff barriers. Mr Paul Brenton, World Bank Group’s Lead Economist, Trade and Competitiveness Global Practice, also called for diversification. Infrastructure, he said, was crucial but it was also necessary to look at policies and regulations that affect infrastructure use, and to remove barriers to logistics chains.

 

Ethiopia

President Dr Mulatu Teshome hosted a farewell ceremony for newly appointed Ethiopian Ambassadors on Sunday (August 27) at the National Palace. He urged them to make use of Ethiopia’s growing international status to enhance Ethiopia’s bilateral and multilateral relations and demonstrate their commitment, patriotism and integrity in their new assignments. (See article)

President Mulatu, when bidding farewell to the outgoing Gambian Ambassador Mass AxiGye on Tuesday (August 29), noted that Ethiopia and Gambia needed to implement the agreements they have concluded to further enhance bilateral ties.

Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn held talks with General David Muhoozi, Special Envoy of President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, on Wednesday (August 30). The Special Envoy delivered a letter from President Museveni to the Prime Minister. They discussed the security situation in Somalia and explored ways of cooperation with other countries in the fight against terrorism.

Prime Minister Hailemariam received a South Sudanese delegation, led by Ambassador Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth, Presidential Envoy and Minister of Petroleum, which delivered a message from President Salva Kiir last week on the implementation of the IGAD-led peace process and Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan. (See article)

Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen received the Danish Minister for Development Cooperation, Ms Ulla Tørnæs on Wednesday (August 30). Discussions covered bilateral cooperation and the national efforts of dealing with the current drought as well as the Sustainable Development Goals.

Foreign Minister Dr Workneh Gebeyehu met with Japan’s Foreign Minister, Taro Kono, on Sunday (August 27). They discussed Ethiopia-Japan bilateral relations and cooperation on regional and international issues of mutual concern. They agreed that bilateral cooperation should be bolstered further in areas of trade and investment. (See article).

Foreign Minister Dr Workneh held discussions with the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Congo, Jean-Claude Gakosso, on Monday (August 28). Foreign Minister Gakosso handed over a letter from President Denis Sassou Nguesso to Prime Minister Hailemariam.

State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mrs Hirut Zemene met with the Canadian Ambassador to the UN and Chair of UNHCR’s Executive Committee, Rosemary McCarney, on Wednesday (August 30). Their talks focused on the Joint Ethio-UNHCR efforts underway to address issues related to the management of refugees, the global trends on migration and refugees and the upcoming UNHCR EXCom session which will take place in Geneva in October of 2017.

State Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Aklilu Hailemichael led the Ethiopian delegation to the TICAD Ministerial follow-up meeting which was held in Maputo, Mozambique last week (August 22-25).

Ambassador Amin Abdulkadir, Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, has held talks with immigration officers in Riyadh over the situation of Ethiopians who remain without work or resident permits. The Embassy is continuing to coordinate efforts to repatriate who were not able to return to their country during the Saudi Arabian amnesty. (See article)

The head of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Mark Green, visited Ethiopia this week (August 30-31), to visit USAID-funded ‘Feed the Future’ and PEPFAR sites as well as met senior officials. (See article)

Sufian Ahmed Beker, former Minister of Finance (1995-2016) has been appointed to the Advisory Board of the Harvard Ministerial Leadership Program. He is currently Special Advisor to the Prime Minister on Macro-Economic Development.

Ethiopian Airlines Group announced this week that it would be starting direct flights to Sao Paulo, Brazil as of September 16. It started flying to Brazil in 2013 via Lomé in Togo. The airline has also announced it is finalizing feasibility studies for additional flights to China, to Shenzhen, Chongqing and Zhengzhou to add to its five destinations there: Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Hong Kong and Chengdu.

Chinese Maxtor International Financial Services has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Amhara Regional State to build a Special Economic Zone in Bahir Dar. The project, to be set up at the side of Lake Tana, will focus on and it is expected to attract up to 20,000 tourists on completion.

 

Kenya

The AU Peace and Security Council has appealed to Kenyans to abide by the Supreme Court’s ruling on the presidential petition filed by the opposition National Super Alliance. The Court is expected to rule on the petition on Friday. In a statement issued on Wednesday (August 30), the Council asked all sides of the political divide and stakeholders to avoid making irresponsible statements or engaging in actions meant to incite violence. It commended Kenya for having peacefully conducted the recent General Election and the calm that has prevailed in the country since the announcement of the results where President Uhuru Kenyatta was declared winner.

A ban on plastic bags came into force in Kenya on Monday (August 28); those found in violation could be given a maximum fine of $38,000 or serve a four-year jail term. The ban applies to the use, manufacture and importation of plastics and provides for a minimum fine of about $19,000 or a years’ imprisonment. According to the U.N. Environmental Program around 100 million plastic bags are handed out every year in Kenya by supermarkets alone.

 

Somalia

The UN Security Council unanimously agreed to authorize another nine months for the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) until the end of May 2018 and also approved the first reduction of numbers as the start of the process for the gradual handover of responsibility from AMISOM to Somali security forces. (See article)

Prime Minister Hassan Khaire has told ministers not to communicate with the media without prior clearance from his office. This follows a series of contradictory statements following a US supported Somali army operation in Barire, Lower Shabelle on Friday last week (August 25) in which the government has now acknowledged some civilians were killed.

Two contingents of Individual Police Officers (IPOs) from Sierra Leone and Uganda were decorated this week as they completed their tours of duty at ceremonies presided over by AMISOM’s Police Chief of Staff, Rex Dundun. The police officers had been tasked with mentoring, advising and training the Somali Police Force with whom they worked at collocate at various police stations in Mogadishu and the federal states. Acting Police Commissioner Dundun said the contingents had upheld the core principles of the African Union while mentoring the Somali Police Force. He said their performance had shown integrity and impartiality; efficiency and professionalism; and information and knowledge sharing.

Egypt and Somalia have agreed to cooperate in farming. Egypt will send agricultural experts to Mogadishu to assess over 200 hectares of farmland to implement the first phase of the project. It has also agreed to train agricultural experts and livestock at Egyptian agricultural research institutions. Somali Agricultural Minister, Said Hussein Eid, said a joint technical committee is being set up. The agreement is one of several other cooperation agreements signed during recent visit of President Mohamed Abdullahi to Egypt.

 

South Sudan

President Kiir told Deutsche Welle last week that the national dialogue would allow those who had unaddressed grievances under the [2015] peace agreement to be taken into consideration in the next formation of the government. He said the return of Riek Machar to the country to participate in the national dialogue process would create regional instability. He said the whole region did not want Machar to join in the dialogue because “whenever he comes here, he would create a situation that takes people back to war.” The President also described the flight of refugees to neighboring Uganda as a conspiracy against the government using social media. He said there had been no fighting in that area and people had been told to run away or they would be killed if they stayed.

The Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Mechanism for the IGAD-led South Sudan peace process held its August Plenary meeting on Thursday last week (August 24). Chair, Festus Mogae, who detailed the progress and problems the JMEC was facing, said the meeting had “constructively deliberated on key issues raised and welcomed specific recommendations. (See article)

UN Secretary-General António Guterres announced the appointment of Alain Noudéhou from Benin as his Deputy Special Representative for the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) on Tuesday (August 29). Mr Noudéhou will also serve as UN Resident Coordinator, Humanitarian Coordinator and Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) for South Sudan.

 

Sudan

President Omar al-Bashir underlined Sudan’s keenness to see security and stability in Libya at a joint press conference with Fayez al-Sarraj, Prime Minister of Libya’s internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA). He described the ties between the two countries as “eternal and historic” and expressed regret over recent developments in Libya, noting the adverse impact of illegal migration and cross-border crime. Sudan has proposed the establishment of a joint force to monitor the common border between Sudan and Libya to curb the movement of Darfur rebels and fight against illegal migration and terror groups.

The Vice-Premier of the Chinese State Council, Zhang Gaoli, on a visit to Khartoum, announced debt relief of $160 million for Sudan as well as an additional 500 million Yuan (US$75 million) in financial assistance. In a meeting with President Omar Al-Bashir, he expressed his appreciation of Sudan’s efforts to strengthen its economic partnership with China. (See article)

The head of USAID Mark Green arrived in Khartoum on Sunday (August 27) to assess the progress in the delivery of humanitarian assistance in the conflict areas. This is one of the conditions that needs to be met before the US Government decides whether or not to lift its sanctions on Sudan. (See article)

 

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President Mulatu calls on new Ambassadors to enhance Ethiopia’s global standing

President Dr Mulatu Teshome hosted a farewell ceremony at the National Palace for twelve newly appointed Ethiopian Ambassadors on Sunday (August 27). The President urged the new Ambassadors to make use of the growing role that the country has been playing in various issues in different regional, continental as well as global venues, to further enhance Ethiopia’s position in bilateral and multilateral relations and scale up its global standing. Recalling their untiring commitment, patriotism and integrity in serving their country in different positions previously, President Mulatu expressed his certainty that they would replicate their competence in their new assignments.

The President noted Ethiopia’s remarkable achievements in economic growth, coupled with its ever growing diplomatic acceptance on the global stage, and stressed this would serve as a spring board for the ambassadors to exploit all possible opportunities in their efforts to extend and encourage Ethiopia’s national interests. He called on them to further reinforce the number one priority of the country’s Foreign Affairs and National Security Policy – economic diplomacy. This could best be materialized by embracing cutting edge methods to find global markets for the country’s exports, looking for uncharted ways of attracting Foreign Direct Investment, finding new ways of discovering meaningful aid, development and technical assistance, and working vigorously and efficiently to promote the untapped tourism resources of the country. He noted that success in these priority areas would undoubtedly signify success for the country’s Second Growth and Transformation Program and its vision to join the list of middle income countries by 2025. The President also suggested that the new Ambassadors who are assigned in Africa and the Middle East should give particular emphasis to their activity, as Ethiopia attached greater importance to these areas.

Indicating the fact that the World’s Nation-States are becoming more intertwined and hence the rapid shift towards an integrated and interdependent world is more real than ever, Foreign Minister Dr Workneh Gebeyehu underlined the obvious need for diplomats to be aware of the complexities that arise from world developments and problems. He noted that they had served the people and Government of Ethiopia with demonstrated commitment and hard work in the past. This would greatly help them to be effective in their diplomatic mission in the future. He called on them to do all they could to lift Ethiopia’s position in regional, continental and global platforms of engagement and promote the country’s national interest. The Foreign Minister also noted that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was working vigorously on enhancing Ethiopia’s position in bilateral and multilateral relations to scale up its standing in the Horn of Africa, in Africa and in the world. Ethiopia currently has 56 Embassies, and Consulates as well as Commercial Offices operating in various countries.

The newly appointed ambassadors include: Kassa Teklebrhanis appointed Ambassador to Washington, USA; Berhane Ghebre-Christos to Beijing, China; Aster Mamo to Ottawa, Canada; Dr Shiferaw Teklemariam to Pretoria, South Africa; Professor Merga Bekana to Stockholm, Sweden; Tebeje Berhe to Abu Dhabi, UAE; Metasebia Tadesse to Doha, Qatar; Professor Admasu Tsegaye to Jakarta, Indonesia; Lulit Zewde to Kigali, Rwanda; Ali Suleiman to Paris, France; Mulugeta Zewde to Khartoum, Sudan; and Ewnetu Bilata to Brussels, Belgium.

 

Prime Minister Hailemariam receives message from South Sudan’s President….

A South Sudanese delegation led by Ambassador Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth, Presidential Envoy and Minister of Petroleum, delivered a message from President Salva Kiir Mayardit of South Sudan to Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn last week. The delegation included General Akol Khoor Kuc, South Sudan’s Director General for National Security and Ambassador James Pitia Morgan, South Sudan Ambassador to Ethiopia. The message covered implementation of the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (ARCSS) signed in 2015, and discussions focused on the general security situation in South Sudan, and, in particular, the situation in Pagak town, located on the South Sudan-Ethiopian border. The two sides also considered the implementation of the August 2015 Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict, the national dialogue process launched by the Transitional Government of National Unity, the IGAD Revitalization process, the deployment of Regional Protection Forces (RPF), and bilateral relations between Ethiopia and South Sudan.

The Prime Minister, after re-affirming Ethiopia’s continued commitment and support for South Sudan’s peace, security, stability and development, underlined the importance of the South Sudanese government working towards the full restoration of peace and stability in South Sudan and urged it to solve the country’s problems in a more inclusive manner. He emphasized that Ethiopia and South Sudan shared an extensive border. People of the same community lived on both sides of the border and he stressed that peace and stability in South Sudan were crucial to both Ethiopia and South Sudan.

Prime Minister Hailemariam underlined the importance of all-round public participation in seeking a political solution to the current crisis in the country. He said all South Sudanese had a crucial role to play in the revitalization process to address the multi-problems that have ruined the country. He said this process, which should be owned and led by the people of South Sudan, was needed because all South Sudanese need to collectively resolve their political differences and address those issues that have affected the nation. The revitalization process, in fact, required all South Sudanese to contribute to reconciliation and to the healing of wounds, and to the building of confidence, in order to achieve lasting peace and bring back communities into harmony through addressing the root causes of conflict. The Prime Minister reiterated Ethiopia’s commitment and support for South Sudan’s reconstruction and development once peace was restored and conflict ended. He also underlined the crucial importance of peace and stability in South Sudan in order to allow for infrastructural and economic integration between the two countries.

Ambassador Gatkuoth explained the security situation in Pagak to the Prime Minister. He expressed concern about security developments along the border area and underlined the need to cooperate to facilitate the return of civilians who had fled from military activities in the area near the border. He briefed the Prime Minister on the progress of implementation of the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict and of the advances made with regard to the National Dialogue. The government, he said, was doing its best to implement the revitalization process. This, and the National Dialogue, he said, would help bring unity and reconciliation and resolve the country’s problems. Ambassador Gatkouth expressed concern about misunderstandings between the Transitional Government of National Unity and the United Nations Mission in South Sudan regarding the deployment of the Regional Protection Force. He noted there had been a meeting with Mr Moustapha Soumare, UNMISS Deputy Special Representative, to resolve differences.

On bilateral relations, Ambassador Gatkouth stressed that Ethiopia was a strategic partner on which South Sudan would continue to rely. He mentioned South Sudan’s interest in possible development projects ranging from road connectivity to an oil pipeline and construction of an oil refinery once the security situation had started to improve and peace was restored. General Kuc also briefed the Prime Minister on South Sudan’s serious overall economic situation and the weakness of the South Sudanese currency against the US dollar, outlining the government’s efforts to solve the problem.

 

… and the JMEC Chair’s statement to the Mechanism’s Plenary meeting

 The Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Mechanism for the IGAD-led South Sudan peace process held its August Plenary meeting on Thursday last week (August 24). The meeting was briefed by South Sudan’s Minister of Cabinet Affairs, Martin Elia Lomuro, the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG), David Shearer, and JMEC officials. Chairman, Festus Mogae said the meeting had “constructively deliberated on key issues raised and welcomed specific recommendations”. The meeting reiterated its call for IGAD to expedite urgently the convening of a meeting in Juba of the Chief of Defense Staff of the Troop Contributing Countries for the Regional Protection Force, the TGoNU and the UNMISS, to address the challenges related to the practicalities of the RPF deployment. It also reiterated the need for the Parties and estranged groups to take advantage of the revitalization process and submit concrete proposals to IGAD.

In his opening speech, Chairman, Festus Mogae, who also briefed the UN Security Council last week, noted the second anniversary of the signing of the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan on August 17 had passed relatively unnoticed. He stressed the perception at the time of the signing in August 2015 that the agreement had ended a tragic internal conflict, that disagreements amongst the Parties over substantive issues had been resolved, and that the JMEC’s task would be simply to oversee implementation by the Transitional Government of National Unity. By 2017, the Peace Agreement should have achieved considerable progress. However, said Mr Mogae, from day one we have had to persuade the Parties to implement each and every task in accordance with the Peace Agreement: “Two years on since the signing of the Peace Agreement there has been little meaningful progress in its implementation.”

He said the JMEC remained “profoundly shocked by the rampant hostilities across the country and the rapid deterioration of the political, security, humanitarian and economic situation in South Sudan.” He referred to the worsened security situation in the former Upper Nile State following the recent offensive operations by government forces in and around Pagak over the past month, and spoke of the cycle of violence, displacement and deprivation of humanitarian support over the past year. Mr Mogae also noted that the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism (CTSAMM) continued to receive reports that all Parties were carrying out serious breaches of the Permanent Ceasefire across the country. He said leaders must ensure adherence to the provisions of the Permanent Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements. Offensive military campaigns like that in Pagak should not be taking place, he said, especially after the recent unilateral declaration of a ceasefire by President Kiir. Mr Mogae said “an immediate restoration of the Permanent Ceasefire is needed to ensure that recommendations are implemented and the violence ends.”

He noted that while the imminent threat of famine may have receded, the number of people who are severely food insecure continues to rise. Six million people, half of the entire population, were now severely food insecure, and continuous displacement from the Equatoria region, the bread-basket of South Sudan, might further increase future food insecurity as cultivation is disrupted. The total number of displaced South Sudanese people was now four million, of which two million are internally displaced and two million are refugees in neighboring countries. He also noted the continued reports of gross human rights abuses, in the form of indiscriminate killings, rape, sexual violence against girls, boys, women and men, and the destruction of property.

Mr Mogae noted that the JMEC’s six Working Committees were in the process of preparing recommendations ahead of the High-Level Revitalization Forum. A JMEC Evaluation Workshop would produce a final evaluation report for the Chairperson of IGAD. He noted that the High-Level Revitalization Forum was an IGAD initiative mandated by the Summit of Heads of State and Government and executed by the Council of Ministers through the office of the new IGAD Special Envoy. The JMEC’s role was to support IGAD in its efforts to convene this Forum. It had three objectives: 1) to reinstate the Permanent Ceasefire; 2) to reinstate full and inclusive implementation of the Peace Agreement; and 3) to develop revised and realistic timelines for implementation towards elections at the end of the transition period. Equally, Mr Mogae said, it was for the Parties and the estranged groups to determine and commit to the outcomes of the Forum. The responsibility for the implementation of the Peace Agreement lay, of course, squarely with these same Parties. The Forum would also allow for exploring of options to restore the prominence of the peace process, taking account of current realities: It is, he added, “our hope that this revitalization process will be pursued in the spirit of peace, inclusivity and compromise.”

The process needed, Mr Mogae said, “demonstrable political will by the Parties and estranged groups to be inclusive and to accommodate one another politically, rather than defeat each other militarily.” He said: “We must all speak with “one voice” to the leaders of South Sudan and align our actions. There should be clear consequences for intransigent groups, spoilers and violations. The Parties must commit to adhere to any revised timelines and implementation schedules and there is need to determine and secure adequate funding for implementation of the revitalized Peace Agreement.” He called for a total cessation of violence and a commitment by all parties and groups to pursue a political path to reconcile their differences, and for the full cooperation of all Parties and groups to fulfill the mandate of the Revitalization Forum. He also called upon the EU and IGAD to urgently convene the JMEC Partners Forum to discuss and commit support for the revitalization process.

 

Foreign Minister Dr Workneh meets Japan’s Foreign Minister in Addis Ababa

Japan’s Foreign Minister, Taro Kono, arrived in Addis Ababa on Sunday (August 27) after attending the 2017 Ministerial Meeting of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) in Maputo, Mozambique. During his visit to Addis Ababa, he held talks with Foreign Minister Dr Workneh Gebeyehu on Ethiopia-Japan bilateral relations and on cooperation on regional and international issues of mutual concern. The two ministers noted the long-standing bilateral relations between Ethiopia and Japan. They also agreed that bilateral cooperation should be bolstered further in areas of trade and investment.

Dr Workneh, who assured his Japanese counterpart that the Government of Ethiopia was ready to work closely with Japan to ensure the relationship remained fruitful and beneficial for both counties, emphasized the importance of continuing their relationship in economic and social sectors at the most extended level in the near future. Mr Kono said his country fully understands the importance of its relationship with Ethiopia. He praised the historic ties between the two countries and promised to enhance the long-standing relationship between Japan and Africa by opening a Japanese AU representative office in Addis Ababa in January 2018.

During their bilateral discussions, the Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono announced that the Government of Japan pledged US$100 million to support road development in Ethiopia. He specifically mentioned that this assistance will be used to finance the upgrading of the Addis Ababa-Chida road. The Minister also noted Japan would continue its support to Ethiopia’s development endeavors in a sustained manner through the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA). The Minister also noted that the continued efforts to encourage Japanese companies to invest in Ethiopia will be consolidated and promoted further. He affirmed his country’s commitment to further strengthen and support its multi-sectoral relationship with Ethiopia, noting the importance of Ethiopia’s regional role.

Foreign Minister, Dr Workineh underlined the need to enhance further the existing ties between the two countries. Noting that the Ethiopian Government is striving to attract more foreign direct investment, he urged Minister Kono to encourage more Japanese investors to come and invest in Ethiopia. He briefed the Minister on the huge investment that the Government of Ethiopia has been putting into infrastructural development, and emphasized that Japanese investors would benefit if they invested in this sector. It offered huge opportunities for both parties, he said. The Foreign Minister detailed Ethiopia’s efforts, as Chair of IGAD, to find a peaceful solution in South Sudan, briefing Mr Kono on IGAD’s efforts to bring lasting peace in South Sudan and on the revitalization of the implementation of the peace process. He also underlined the efforts to support the positive political developments in Somalia. The two sides further noted the need to reform the United Nations Security Council in a bid to ensure a fair and democratic representation on the Council.

Ethiopia and Japan have enjoyed long standing historic and diplomatic relations since the early 1920’s. Ethiopia much appreciates the level of existing economic and technical cooperation between the two countries. Japan’s support to Ethiopia comes mainly through the Japanese International Cooperation Agency, and is primarily focused on promoting industrialization, agricultural and rural development and human resource development. This also includes the industrial development policy dialogue, KAIZEN philosophy, and the Champion Product Approach, a trade promotion strategy, that aims to enhance the country’s image by promoting and exporting ‘champion’ products.

 

Ministerial follow-up meeting to TICAD VI in Maputo

The TICAD Ministerial follow-up meeting was held in Maputo, Mozambique last week (August 22-25) with the objective of  evaluating the outcome and the progress of implementation of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development meeting held in Nairobi, in August last year. The meeting was organized and sponsored by Japan, the African Union Commission, the World Bank, the United Nations Development Program and the United Nations Office of the Special Adviser. The Ethiopian delegation was led by State Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Aklilu Hailemichael.

The Ministerial meeting essentially focused on the progress made on the three thematic areas identified in last year’s “Nairobi Declaration”These werefirstly: Promoting structural economic transformation through economic diversification and industrialization; second: Promoting resilient health systems for quality of life; and third: Promoting social stability for shared prosperity.

In the discussions on the first of these pillars of the Nairobi declaration, “Promoting structural economic transformation through economic diversification and industrialization”, the ministers recognized the efforts being made in many countries to realize their transformation, including those which adopted privatization, among them Tunisia, Ghana and Mozambique; and those countries which excelled in export diversification. The latter included Ethiopia, Kenya, Morocco, Tanzania and Madagascar. There was common understanding that a lot more must be expected from African governments and countries themselves and from their international development partners to further strengthen the good beginnings that African countries were making in realizing the structural economic transformation. In this context, the meeting underlined the importance of enhanced physical infrastructure, skills’ development and improved macroeconomic environments, as well as strong public-private partnerships, free trade of goods and services, and strengthening Regional Economic Communities in creating integrated markets. All these were underlined as essential elements in the process of transforming African economies.

On the second pillar, “Promoting resilient health systems for quality of life”, the meeting acknowledged that infant and under-5 mortality rates were continuing to decline in Africa though malaria, lower respiratory infection, diarrheal diseases, stroke and heart diseases still remained major killers across the continent. Participants agreed that access to adequate and affordable health services with the adoption of universal health systems, safe water and sanitation remained basic and fundamental concerns. The meeting called for concerted efforts to reduce maternal, new born and child mortality with the adoption of a Universal Health System and improved health care costs.

Regarding the third theme, “Promoting social stability for shared prosperity”, participants noted that, in 2017, only two African countries were categorized as ‘stable’ or ‘more stable’. These were Mauritius and the Seychelles. Twenty-six countries were categorized as either on ‘alert’, ‘high alert’ and ‘very high alert’. Six African countries, however, were among the 20 most improved countries on the instability index – Mali, Cameroon, Kenya, Nigeria, Togo and Burundi. The discussions strongly emphasized the role of peace and security for sustainable and inclusive development and the importance of development for peace and security. The ministers reached  an understanding that good governance, the rule of law, respect for human rights and equality, addressing the root causes of social instability and conflict such as economic, social, and political exclusion, including youth unemployment, were equally important elements. The meeting also noted that good governance could be ensured through the implementation of the African Governance Architecture, including the African Peer Review Mechanism, to help build effective and accountable institutions and promote inclusive, participatory and representative decision making process.

 

Integration for citizens returning from Saudi Arabia

 The Ethiopian Embassy in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is continuing to extend and coordinate efforts to repatriate Ethiopians living in Saudi Arabia who were not able to return to their country during the amnesty period of the last four months.

Ethiopia’s Ambassador to the Kingdom, Ambassador Amin Abdulkadir, held talks on Ethiopians who remain without work or resident permits with the Head of Riyad Immigration, Major General Sulieman Ambdurahimin Alisuhabani and the Riyad City Shumesi Center Head Brigadier General, Mansur Seif Al. Ambassador Amin told the kingdom officials that there are many Ethiopians who had taken exit visas but who had not yet left the kingdom during the previous four months. There were also a number of Ethiopian citizens who had taken travel documents but who were still waiting for final exit visas. The Ambassador asked for the cooperation of the Saudi government to assist those citizens whose exit visas had expired.

The Head of Riyad Immigration and Head of the Shumesi Center expressed their support for the Ethiopian government’s effort to return its citizens. The immigration officials noted that migrants crossing the Saudi borders, Umrah and Hajj over-stayers, and those with transit and visit visas who had overstayed their time, and who had not left the Kingdom during the grace period, have been given exit visas since August 14. They were also waiting for an order from the Saudi Ministry of Interior to issue exit visas for workers with expired Iqama.

The Ethiopian Embassy in the Kingdom is continuing to work closely with Saudi officials to facilitate the safe return of Ethiopians now living illegally in Saudi Arabia. Following the setting up of the National Task Force, established in Ethiopia to expedite the safe return of nationals, more than seventy thousand Ethiopians have returned to their country in the past four months. The Federal Government is continuing to rehabilitate and integrate returnees in collaboration with  the Regional State Governments.

According to data from the Diaspora Affairs Director General at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs a total of 22,225 nationals have been registered in Tigray, Amhara, Oromia and SNNPS Regional States and with the Addis Ababa City Administration. The returnees have been registering at woreda level to join the programs put in place to help them re-establish themselves in their home areas. Programs organized to rebuild the life of returnees include youth employment opportunity programs, providing loans and credit through small and micro finance institutions and entrepreneurship training.

 

UN Security Council authorizes another nine months for AMISOM

The United Nations Security Council extended its authorization of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) until May 31, 2018. In  resolution 2372 (2017), adopted unanimously on Wednesday (August 30), the Security Council also approved a small reduction of AMISOM’s uniformed personnel to start by the end of December, as part of the process of the gradual handing over of responsibilities to Somali security forces. The Security Council said the downsizing, the first for AMISOM, should include a minimum of 1,040 AMISOM police personnel and five Formed Police Units. A further reduction, from the current maximum of 22,126 AMISOM personnel, to 20,626 uniformed personnel by October 30, 2018 should follow, unless the Council, taking into account the capabilities of Somali security forces, decided to accelerate the pace. The Security Council will consider further uniformed personnel reductions as security conditions and Somali capabilities allow.

The Security Council made it clear that the long-term objective for Somalia, with international support, is for the Somali Security Forces to assume full responsibility for security, with AMISOM remaining critical during the transition, the Council welcomed the recommendation by the AU-UN review for a “gradual and phased” reduction and reorganization of the Mission. The resolution listed strategic objectives for AMISOM: enable the gradual handing over of security responsibilities from AMISOM to the Somali security forces contingent on abilities of the Somali security forces and political and security progress in Somalia; reduce the threat posed by al-Shabaab and other armed opposition groups; and assist the Somali security forces to provide security for the political process at all levels as well as stabilization, reconciliation and peace-building in Somalia.

To carry out these objectives, it noted that AMISOM needed to maintain a presence in the sectors set out in the AMISOM Concept of Operations; assist, as appropriate, the Somali security forces to protect the Somali authorities to help them carry out their functions of government, their efforts towards reconciliation and peace-building, and security for key infrastructure; protect, as appropriate, its personnel, facilities, installations, equipment and mission, and to ensure the security and freedom of movement of its personnel, as well as of United Nations personnel carrying out functions mandated by the Security Council; secure key supply routes including areas recovered from al-Shabaab, in particular those essential to improving the humanitarian situation, and those critical for logistical support to AMISOM; conduct targeted offensive operations against al-Shabaab and other armed opposition groups, including jointly with the Somali Security Forces; mentor and assist Somali security forces, both military and police, in close collaboration with UNSOM and in line with the National Security Architecture; reconfigure AMISOM, as security conditions allow; and receive defectors, as appropriate, and in coordination with the United Nations and the Federal Government of Somalia.

The resolution underlined the commitment to support an inclusive Somali-led political peace and reconciliation process, and the determination to support efforts to reduce the threat posed by al-Shabaab in Somalia and condemned continued violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law in particular the deliberate targeting of civilians. It recognized the Federal Government of Somalia had the primary responsibility to protect its citizens and build its own national security forces and commended its decision to make security sector reform a priority for the next four years as well as its endorsement of a new National Security Architecture. It also reaffirmed the strong commitment of international partners to support the Government and Federal Member States in establishing under the National Security Council and Regional Security Councils.

It commended the contribution of AMISOM to lasting peace and stability in Somalia and expressed appreciation to the troop-contributing countries. It took note of the Joint AU-UN Review of AMISOM, the Report on the Ten Year Lessons Learned from AMISOM 2007-2017, and the African Union Peace and Security Council’s communiqué of 12 July 2017 on the situation in Somalia and AMISOM, and the outcome of the meeting of Troop and Police Contributing Countries on July 3, 2017. It welcomed the recommendation of the AU-UN Review for a gradual and phased reduction and reorganization of AMISOM’s uniformed personnel in order to provide a greater support role to the Somali Security Forces. It welcomed the intention of the AU to develop a new Concept of Operations for AMISOM, and stressed that AMISOM’s civilian component should be fully operational to support its military and police tasks and improve coordination between the United Nations and the AU in Somalia and that this should focus on supporting the revised tasks of the AMISOM military and police components in order to facilitate the transition and eventual drawdown.

The resolution also insisted on the need for new and existing donors to support AMISOM through the provision of additional funding for troop stipends, equipment, and technical assistance, and contributions to the United Nations Trust Fund for AMISOM. It underlined the AU’s call for its Member States to provide financial support to AMISOM, stressing the need to enhance the predictability, sustainability and flexibility of financing for African Union-led peace support operations authorized by the Security Council. It encouraged partners to further enhance their support to national and state-level institutions for the development of the Somali security sector, including logistical support, and underlined that it was essential that military operations were followed immediately by Somali efforts to establish or improve governance structures in recovered areas and by the delivery of basic services, including security.

The resolution expressed its grave concern over the humanitarian crisis and risk of famine in Somalia and its impact, commended the efforts of the UN agencies and other humanitarian actors to deliver assistance to vulnerable populations. It called on all parties to respect and protect humanitarian personnel, facilities and assets, demanding  all parties allow and facilitate rapid, safe and unhindered access for the timely delivery of aid to persons in need across Somalia.

Overall, there was agreement that the proposed AMISOM configuration reflected the gains made over the past 10 years. Nevertheless, Somalia had a long way to go in terms of post-conflict recovery and peace-building and speakers underlined the need to secure predictable, sustainable funding for AMISOM, including through possible United Nations assessed contributions. They also agreed the al-Shabaab threat remained serious and welcomed the fact that the Security Council and the African Union Peace and Security Council will be holding a joint meeting in Addis Ababa next week.

 

USAID head visits Sudan and Ethiopia

The head of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Mark Green, visited Ethiopia this week (August 30-31), going to a number of USAID-funded ‘Feed the Future’ sites that contribute to strengthening community resilience and economic development. He also went to see a program supported through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which reduces the economic vulnerability of families affected by HIV/AIDS. Mr Green met with senior government officials, and encouraged the government to increase its own involvement in humanitarian responses and future economic development. He also met with African Union Commission officials and emphasized the importance of USAID’s partnership with the AU on global health, youth empowerment, gender equality, and food security, among other development goals.

Mr Green started his first trip as Administrator for the USAID, a job he took up two weeks ago, in Khartoum. His visit to Sudan included assessing whether Washington should lift its sanctions on Sudan. Just before leaving office, former U.S. President Obama temporarily eased sanctions, suspending a trade embargo, unfreezing assets and removing financial restrictions. In July, the Trump administration postponed a decision on whether to remove the sanctions permanently, giving October 12 as the deadline for a decision. Part of Mr Green’s mission was to look at whether the Khartoum government is letting aid into Darfur and other areas where rebels operate. This is one of several conditions that should be met before lifting the sanctions. During his meeting with Abdul Wahid Yousif, the governor of North Darfur state, who is credited with restoring the rule of law in the region, Mr Green said, “The timing of my visit shows the importance the U.S. attaches to our relationship with Sudan during this very important sanctions review period.” U.S. officials and many aid groups say the Sudanese government has made notable progress over the past year reining in lawlessness and allowing aid workers into conflict zones they had been blocked from reaching. In fact, several aid workers favor eased sanctions. Marta Ruedas, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Sudan, said on Sunday (August 27) that aid workers have been admitted to areas where they were long denied, which she said was credited to the change of policy to negotiations between Khartoum and Washington over sanctions relief.

Speaking to U.N. representatives and other donors after his arrival in Khartoum, Mr Green said his visit showed the importance of improving humanitarian access. “This review period is not the sole reason I am here, but it is one,” he said. “I’m here to listen, learn, and gather information to take back to Washington as the administration evaluates Sudan’s progress.” He also assured donors that the United States would not walk away from funding the humanitarian crisis, despite possible proposed budget cuts. He said: “The United States will not walk away from our commitment to humanitarian assistance, and we will always stand with people everywhere when disaster strikes.”

After meeting with Sudanese government officials, Mr Green noted the importance of Sudan sustaining and building on its recent positive actions in multiple areas. These areas, he said, included maintaining a cessation of hostilities in the conflict areas, continuing improvement of humanitarian access throughout Sudan, and maintaining cooperation with the United States on both regional conflicts and regional counterterrorism threats. Mr Green visited North Darfur, stressing  his visit demonstrated USAID’s continuing concern and the importance America attached to its relations with Sudan. He said: “We remain committed to engaging with the Government of Sudan at a high level on all areas of our bilateral relationship and to seeing sustained positive actions, including improving humanitarian access.”

His visit to Sudan and Ethiopia comes at a time when the US government is considering cuts in the budget of the State Department and USAID. Mr Green told journalists earlier this month that he needed to do more with less as he faced the prospect of budget cuts, and he had to prove that development assistance could further the “America First” agenda.

 

China offers Sudan US$160 million in debt relief

 Arriving in Khartoum for a two-day visit last Friday, the Vice-Premier of the Chinese State Council, Zhang Gaoli, and his delegation, including the Vice President of China National Petroleum Corporation,  held bilateral talks with First Vice-President and Prime Minister, Bakri Hassan Salih. Vice-President Salih described cooperation between Khartoum and Beijing as a “model” for bilateral relations, noting that the two countries had signed a strategic partnership agreement in 2015. He expressed appreciation for China’s stance towards Sudan. Vice-Premier Gaoli, who later met with President Omar Al-Bashir, expressed his appreciation of Sudan’s efforts to strengthen the economic partnership with China. During his visit, he announced debt relief for Sudan worth $160 million and also the provision of an additional 500 million Yuan (US$75 million) in financial assistance. In March this year, Khartoum announced that it would settle its entire debt to China, estimated at more $10 billion.

Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour, described Mr Gaoli’s visit as “historic and important”, and praised the political, economic and cultural ties between Sudan and China. Mr Ghandour stressed Sudan’s support for the unity of Chinese territory, pointing to Beijing’s support for Khartoum in regional and international fora. He said the two sides had agreed to form a higher committee to discuss the details of the economic relations. He noted that they had signed a number of agreements and Memoranda of Understanding covering technical and economic cooperation, human resource development and training and the debt relief.

Sudan’s Minister of Oil and Gas, Abdel-Rahman Osman, also held talks with the Vice President of China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), Zhang Jianhua, on ways to promote joint cooperation in the oil industry. Mr Jianhua said the CNPC was ready to provide a new plan to invest in two other oil blocks. He also said the CNPC was ready to resolve issues of debt arrears and the safety of Chinese workers. Mr Osman praised their joint cooperation noting that China had invested more than $15 billion in the oil industry in Sudan. He called on China to increase its oil investments in Sudan, and said the government would remove all obstacles facing Chinese companies. Sudan lost 75% of its oil reserves at the independence of South Sudan in 2011. It currently produces 133,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd), mainly from the Heglig area and its surroundings, as well as western Kordofan.

 

The African Leaders Forum 2017 meets in Johannesburg

The African Leaders Forum 2017 was held last weekend Johannesburg, South Africa, August 25-26. Chaired by former South African President, Thabo Mbeki, the theme of the two-day meeting was: “Peace and Security for an Integrated United and Sustainable Africa”, with the aim of fostering dialogue and agreement among activists, academics and politicians to end human rights violations. The Forum brought together six former presidents (Chief Olusegun Obasanjo (Nigeria), Jakaya Kikwete (Tanzania), Thabo Mbeki (South Africa), Benjamin Mkapa (Tanzania), Hassan Mohamed (Somalia) and Mohamed Marzouki (Tunisia) as well as leaders from all sectors across Africa to discuss pressing issues affecting Africa’s sustainable development. It aimed at building on three previously successful dialogue meetings that focused on Africa’s transformation, integration in Africa, and African business. This year the focus was on the complex dynamics that have caused continuous conflicts and deliberate on how to practically and realistically navigate through them for lasting peace. The discussions covered peace and security, inclusive economic growth and leadership.

Mr Mbeki urged retired African leaders to offer solutions towards the problems of conflict on the continent. Referring to the failure by African leaders to deal with conflict collectively, he said: “When you have a leadership that is self-centered, the problem is not a policy issue, it’s a leadership issue.” Chief Obasanjo said human trafficking and migrant flows were on the rise and African countries must deal decisively with corruption to halt this. He called for more decisiveness and underlined the importance of African solutions to African problems. Others noted that these solutions would have to be funded by Africans. There was agreement that the conflicts in Libya and the Sudan could be solved by united leadership in the region and the continent as a whole.

The Forum called on African leaders to speak with one voice and take bold decisions to solve conflicts in countries like South Sudan and Libya. Unless this happened, it said, instability would continue affecting the continent, sometimes creating room to loot resources from affected countries. Mr Mkapa said some conflicts had remained unsolved for years due to African leaders being “disorganized and lacking coordination”. Mr Kikwete urged the AU to boldly continue to address the conflicts in Libya, which had already claimed so many lives. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo said that unless African leaders took the bull by its horns, more conflicts might continue emerging on the continent.

Mr Mkapa criticized selfishness as an outdated attitude that all African leaders should get rid of. They should respect their countries’ constitutions on term limits, he stressed. He also said leaders needed to be ready to take difficult measures: “We need brave African leaders to address issues of marginalized democracies that subject Africans to deaths and turmoil. Leaders should consult different cadres before coming to a certain decision.” Mr Marzouki agreed and stressed that countries facing conflict in Africa should always resolve to hold national dialogue meetings to bring together all sides including the opposition and other parties to conflict: “If convened before eruption of catastrophes, national dialogues put conflicting parties at mutual understanding. The meetings should not wait for issues to get out of control.” Namibia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, remained optimistic that Africa was moving in the right direction when former leaders commended ways of creating peace and stability in Africa. She called on the AU to work on the sources of conflicts in search of permanent solutions to problems facing Africa. Others underlined the vital importance of regional cooperation in bringing about implementable democratic process.

Chief Obasanjo said ill-conceived and poorly implemented policies in Africa were the cause of poverty. In a keynote address he said the quality of life of Africans was “concerning” and he blamed this on bad leadership. Mr Mbeki emphasized that for countries to achieve inclusive economic growth the focus needed to shift to rural areas, and a strong state and a progressive leadership was necessary to set up programs suitable for both urban and rural areas. African leaders, he said, should address the issue of subsistence, agriculture and train people to participate in trading. He said: “You must be able to address matters of security but we must also create possibilities for these people to produce enough food to sell to the market.” Former South African Deputy Finance Minister, Mcebisi Jonas, said that inequality across Africa had increased and unless African states were made more inclusive, economic growth wouldn’t translate into large scale poverty alleviation. He said: “We know that income inequality reduces the growth poverty elasticity of an economy. In simple terms, the higher the inequality, the less there could be a reduction in poverty.”

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