A Week in the Horn

18 May 2018



Africa and the African Union

The 51st Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, a high-level Ministerial dialogue, was held at the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) in Addis Ababa (May 11-14). It focused on the transformational opportunities offered by the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) together with the measures needed to unlock these. Keynote speakers included Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Dr Abiy Ahmed and Ms Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary of the ECA. (See article)

The Chairman of the National People’s Congress of China, Li Zhanshu, on his visit to Addis Ababa last week, met with the Deputy Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Ambassador Kwesi Quartey. They discussed the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) Summit due to take place in Beijing in September and implementation of joint projects under their strategic cooperation. Ambassador Quartey said the African Union plans to establish an AU representational office in Beijing this year to strengthen strategic areas of cooperation between the AU and China.

Ambassador Tibor Nagy, a former career diplomat, has been nominated as the US Assistant Secretary of State of African Affairs by President Trump. Ambassador Nagy retired from 14 years of teaching at Texas Tech in December after a long career in the foreign service in which he served as US Ambassador to Ethiopia and to the Republic of Guinea. He also worked in US embassies in Zambia, Seychelles, Togo, Cameroon and Nigeria.

A Forum on “Grid Connection Gearing Up Sustainable Africa” organized by Global Energy Interconnection Development and Cooperation Organization, a Chinese NGO was held in Addis Ababa on Monday (May 14). Kuang Weilin, Chinese Ambassador to the AU, told the Forum that the September FOCAC summit would focus heavily on the China-Africa partnership in the renewable, clean energy sector. Sileshi Bekele, the Ethiopian Minister of Water, Irrigation and Electricity, said Ethiopia was partnering with China on clean energy development as part of its climate resilient green economy strategy.

The International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) officially launched its Africa climate-smart agriculture (CSA) profiles at the “Profiling climate risk and CSA opportunities to de-risk agriculture” event at the two-day (May 15-16) Africa Climate Smart Agriculture Summit in Nairobi this week for four additional countries, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Niger, and Ethiopia. CIAT has already produced profiles for Kenya, Mozambique, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia analysing practices to increase farm productivity, helping farmers adapt to climate change or reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and outlining the challenges from climate change and their impact. CIAT has also produced climate risk profiling of specific crops, for coffee in Uganda and is considering profiles for bean and dairy products in Ethiopia and Rwanda.



President Dr Mulatu Teshome on Wednesday (May 15) sent a congratulatory message to Miguel Díaz Canel on his election as President of the Councils of State and Minister of Cuba. President Mulatu underlined Ethiopia’s commitment to strengthening the bilateral relationship between the two brotherly countries.

Prime Minister Dr Abiy Ahmed arrived in Saudi Arabia on Thursday (May 17) for an official working visit at the invitation of King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud. The two sides have agreed to scale up the bilateral cooperation on energy and the agricultural sector, as well as enhancing people-to-people ties between the two countries. King Salman underscored his country’s readiness to support Ethiopia’s development endeavours. King Salman has also agreed to release Ethiopian prisoners in Saudi Arabia upon the request of Prime Minister Abiy.

Prime Minister Dr Abiy Ahmed on Wednesday (May 16) held talks with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry on the side-lines of the second high-level meeting on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). Prime Minister Abiy reaffirmed Ethiopia’s commitment to strengthen relations with Egypt and build confidence for the benefit of the two peoples.

Prime Minister Dr Abiy on Wednesday (May 16) wished all Muslims a happy Ramadan. The Premier noted that the month of Ramadan is unique as it concurs with peace, love, kindness, unity and several other religious values, adding: “I strongly believe that Ramadan will be a month in which you pray for peace, unity and prosperity of Ethiopia.”

Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen called for harmonization of Ethiopia’s health extension program (HEP) with the people’s living standard and lifestyle, on Wednesday (May 16), during an event on the “Revision of the existing Health Extension Program”. The event brought together heads of regional health bureaux and health extension programs.

Foreign Minister Dr Workneh Gebeyehu, on a visit to Qatar, handed over a written message from Prime Minister Dr Abiy Ahmed to the Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. The message concerned ways of enhancing bilateral relations between the two countries.

The Second Joint Commission Meeting between Ethiopia and the Republic of India was held on Wednesday last week (May 9) in New Delhi. The Ethiopian delegation was led by Foreign Minister Dr Workneh, and the Indian delegation by the External Affairs Minister of India, Ms Sushma Swaraj. (See article)

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Workneh, presenting the ministry’s 9-month report to members of the House of Peoples’ Representatives on Thursday (May 17) underlined that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has managed to effectively discharge its responsibilities and thereby ensure Ethiopia’s national interests. The Minister also responded to queries from parliamentarians.

The IGAD Council of ministers met and discussed on Tuesday (May 15) in Pretoria with Dr Rieck Machar, Chair of SPLM/IO on moving forward the South Sudanese Peace process. The council members led by State Minister Ms Hirut Zemene, was composed of State ministers of Somalia Abdulqadir, Kenya Ababu Namwamba, and the Sudan Mohammed Idris. The group also discussed, in the spirit of the Council communique of March 26, the possibilities of moving Dr Machar out of South Africa to the country of his preference.

The second tripartite high-level ministerial meeting on GERD was successfully concluded on Tuesday (May 15), during which the three countries agreed to regularize the summit of the leaders, establish the Tripartite Infrastructure Fund and issues relating to the GERD, submit their queries and observations regarding the Draft Inception Report to the consultant through the current Chair of the National Tripartite Committee (TNC), and set up a national independent scientific research study group on the filling and operation of the GERD.

The World Bank’s Vice President for the Africa Region, Makhtar Diop, began his three-day visit to Ethiopia on Thursday (May 17). The visit is part of the World Bank Groups’ effort to further strengthen the partnership with Ethiopia by exploring additional opportunities and addressing challenges arising from its current engagement.

Following Prime Minister Dr Abiy’s recent visit to the Republic of Sudan, 1,400 Ethiopians imprisoned in Sudan have been freed. The Prime Minister’s Office expressed its gratitude to the Sudanese Government.

The Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church, Abuna Mathias, met with the Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation, Sergey Lavrov, on Tuesday (May 15). Abune Mathias was in Moscow for a 6-day official visit at the invitation of Patriarch Kirill of Russian Orthodox Church. They exchanged views on development of historic, friendly Ethio-Russia relations, and discussed the establishment of a sustainable and constructive interfaith dialogue in the context of efforts to counter global terrorist threats.

China has granted a concessional loan of $250 million USD under an agreement signed on May 10 by State Minister of Finance and Economic Cooperation, Admasu Nebebe, and the Chinese Ambassador to Ethiopia, Tan Jian. The loan will implement a project to address drinking water shortages in Mekelle.

Ambassador Shiferaw Jarso, Ambassador to the Republic of Korea, attended an “International Workshop on Capacity Building for Developing Countries to Address Climate Change” held at Korea University last week (May 9). Ambassador Shiferaw spoke of Ethiopia’s Climate Resilient Green Economy strategy and its efforts to achieve development goals while limiting Green House Gas emissions. He said partnership with development partners as well as contributions by the private sector were needed.

The German company Voith Hydro opened its new East Africa Hub in Addis Ababa this week, highlighting its contribution to the development of electricity generation from hydropower in East Africa. The hub will service projects in Egypt, Kenya, Sudan, South Sudan, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. Chief Executive Officer Uwe Wehnhard said Ethiopia was chosen as a location because of its “good market conditions and the proximity to our customers and partners, as well as the hydropower market potential and impressive economic development in recent years.”



The Minister of Energy, Mr Yonis Ali Guedi, and the Chinese group poly cgl, signed a series of agreements on Sunday (May 13) to formally launch their partnership to implement the construction of a gas pipeline to transport natural gas from Ethiopia, a production unit to transform this into a finished product, and installation of a power plant in the town of Damerjog. A Memorandum of Understanding on renewable solar and wind energy, to provide for 1,500 megawatt was also signed.



Deputy President William Ruto has asked MPs of the East African legislative Assembly to draft laws on actualisation of Africa’s Continental Free Trade Agreement, and enact legislation that would bolster regional integration, cooperation, strengthen customs and build a resilient common market. He said: “Africa can make huge gains, get richer and achieve more if we facilitate the free movement of people, goods, services and work together in trade and investment.”


President Mohamed Abdullahi paid an official visit to Qatar at the beginning of the week, holding talks with Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, on bilateral relations and prospects for development in addition to a number of issues of common concern. (See article)

A three-day National Convention opened in Mogadishu on Sunday (May 13) to launch the constitutional review process to replace the 2012 Provisional Constitution. Several hundred stakeholders from across the country and the Diaspora, including members of the federal Parliament, and representatives of Somalia’s Federal Member States, religious leaders, civil society representatives and international partners, attended. (See article)

The UN Security Council on Tuesday (May 15) unanimously extended authorization of the deployment of the African Union force in Somalia (AMISOM) to the end of July. (See article)

An International Monetary Fund (IMF) team met with Somali officials last week (May 7-14) in Nairobi for a second review of the recently finished Staff-Monitored Program (SMP II) and discuss a follow-up Staff-Monitored Programme (SMP III) to consolidate reforms. (See article)

Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khayre, the Minister of Security, Abukar Islow Duale, and military officials inspected parts of Mogadishu on Sunday night ahead of the holy month of Ramadan which started this week. The Minister for Internal Security told the media they were on a routine inspection of security operations in the capital. In the past, al-Shabaab has warned it would intensify attacks during Ramadan.

Police officers serving under the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) have completed a one-week refresher course on human rights and gender-based violence in Mogadishu on Tuesday (May 15). Twenty-six officers drawn from all the six Police Contributing Countries (PCCs) of Uganda, Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Zambia attended the training to help them broaden their knowledge on human rights issues.

Somalia commemorated National Youth Day on Tuesday (May 15), celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Somali Youth League, the youth political party founded in 1943 by 13 young men in a club in Mogadishu and which was instrumental in the country’s struggle for independence from Italy and Britain.

Abdulrahim Abby Farah, former Permanent Representative to the United Nations as well as Ambassador to Ethiopia, died in New York on Monday (May 14), aged 98. Mr Farah, one of the country’s most accomplished diplomats had also been Somalia’s representative to the League of Arab States and to the Organization of African Unity (now the African Union) as well as Chairperson for the UN’s Special Committee Against Apartheid and Under-Secretary-General for Special Political Questions.

AMISOM and the Federal Government last week praised the United Nations Support Office in Somalia (UNSOS) for its help towards establishing community radio stations. They plan to establish community radio stations in HirShabelle, Jubaland and South West states next month, in Belet Weyne, Kismayo and Baidoa. The radio stations are expected to help inform and alter attitudes, by providing ordinary people with a voice, and providing targeted messaging on peace-building, countering violent extremism, the constitutional review, the 2020 elections and federalism as well as other issues.

The new Speaker of the Somalia Lower House, Mohamed Mursal, hosted a delegation from the Djibouti Parliament on Friday last week (May 11). The Speaker emphasized that Somalia remained grateful to Djibouti’s role in the reconstruction of Somalia as the country returned to normalcy.


South Sudan

IGAD’s High-Level Revitalization Forum on South Sudan officially reconvened on Thursday this week (May 17). The Chair of the IGAD Council of Ministers and Foreign Minister of Ethiopia Dr Workneh Gebeyehu opened the proceedings with a strong message that the parties must restore their trust in each other, silence the guns and genuinely prepare for democratic elections. Referring to those who continued to violate the Agreement on the Cessation of Hostilities, the Chairperson firmly noted “we cannot, and we will not tolerate” spoilers any longer. (See article)

Earlier in the week, the Director of IGAD’s Peace and Security Division, Ambassador Tewolde Gebremeskel, opened a two-day seminar on Governance and Security Issues for South Sudan stakeholders as part of the framework of the preparation for the High-Level Revitalization Forum session in Addis Ababa.



The UN Security Council, unanimously adopting resolution 2416 (2018) on Tuesday (May 15) extended the mandate of the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) for another six months. (See article)

The UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator (UNOCHA), Mark Lowcock, made a three-day official visit to the Sudan at the weekend (May 12-14), meeting Government officials and humanitarian partners, as well as talking to internally displaced persons in Murta and Kulba in South Kordofan. (See article)

President Omer al-Bashir reshuffled the cabinet on Monday this week (May 14), appointing Dr Al-Dirdiri Mohamed Ahmed as Foreign Minister and former presidential assistant Engineer Ibrahim Mahmoud Hamid as Minister of Interior, a position he occupied previously 2008-2013. Other changes included the Ministers of Justice, Agriculture, Petroleum and Gas, Youth and Sports, and a Minister of the Council of Ministers. State Minister were also appointed for Foreign Affairs, Justice, Information, Finance and Economic Planning and Investment. Another decree appointed Walis (governors) of eight states, White Nile, Sennar, Blue Nile, Northern, South Kordofan, North Darfur, West Darfur and Central Darfur.

The UAE’s Assistant Foreign Minister for Economic Affairs, Mohamed Sharaf, headed a delegation to Khartoum last week to discuss ways to promote economic and trade cooperation. Mr Sharaf said the UAE was keen to explore more investment opportunities and increase the volume of trade with Sudan as well as promote economic and trade cooperation.

The Minister of Transport, Roads and Bridges, Makkawi Mohamed Awad, on a visit to Doha, met with Qatar’s Minister of Transport and Communications, Jassim Saif Ahmed Al Sulaiti, to discuss implementation of the agreement to develop Suakin Port. The talks covered ways to promote transit trade for neighbouring countries as well as development of trade. Mr Awad said Suakin was a strategic project not only for Sudan but for the whole region. The two sides agreed a US$4 billion dollars project to develop and manage Suakin in March.

The Sudanese-Turkish Political Consultation Committee met in Khartoum on Thursday last week (May 10) to discuss issues of common concern including bilateral relations and ways to promote economic, technical, development, educational, cultural and consular cooperation, as well as coordination between the two foreign ministries in regional and international fora. During President Erdogan’s visit to Sudan last December, the two sides signed 12 cooperation agreements and agreed to launch a strategic partnership covering agriculture, industry, minerals and health as well as establish a higher political committee headed by the two presidents, to meet annually.

The Sudanese-Ugandan Political Consultation Committee held its third meeting on Sunday (May 13) in Khartoum to discuss issues of common concern including ways to promote bilateral relations especially in economic, trade and technical fields as well as coordination of positions in regional and international fora and preparations to hold the Joint Ministerial Committee meeting in Kampala during the next few months.

The Minister of Defense, Lt. General Awad Mohamed Ahmed Ibn Auf, received Major General Gebre Adhana Woldezgu, the new force commander of UNISFA, on Monday (May 14). The Minister stressed Sudan’s keenness to meet its commitments and maintain normal relations with South Sudan, as well as its readiness to provide every possible support and assistance to UNISFA to enable it to carry out its mission fully.




Finance Ministers meet to discuss the African Continental Free Trade Area

The 51st Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, a high-level Ministerial dialogue, convened at the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) in Addis Ababa this week (May 11-14). The conference focused on the transformational opportunities offered by the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) together with the measures needed to unlock these. As Ms Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary of the ECA emphasized “Africa is waiting. Our challenges are huge, but we are on the way to solving them through the AFCFTA”.

During the four-day conference, Finance Ministers and policy makers from across the continent reaffirmed their commitment to the African Consolidated Free Trade Area, widely praised for referring to the “real” issues affecting the continent. A ministerial statement recognized the potential of the AfCFTA to advance industrialization, economic diversification and development, and to foster prosperity for all on the continent. The statement also recognized the challenges, including concerns over the impact upon the tax base arising from a single continental market for goods and services.

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) was signed by 44 countries in Kigali in March, under the theme: “Creating one African Market,” and if all countries come on board, it will bring together 1.2 billion people whose estimated combined Gross Domestic Product would be over $2.5 trillion. It would then be the world’s largest free trading bloc. A second round of negotiations is expected in December 2018. Kenya and Ghana have handed the documents ratifying the Continental Free Trade Area to the African Union Commission, the first two countries to do so. Niger and Rwanda also ratified the AfCFTA this week. Ethiopia has made it clear it will be following suit shortly. Ten countries have yet to sign the AfCFTA – Nigeria, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Zambia, Burundi, Eritrea, Benin, Sierra Leone and Guinea Bissau. However, six of these have already signed a statutory note indicating that they intend to be part of the Free Trade Area.

The AfCFTA, part of the AU’s Agenda 2063, will progressively eliminate tariffs on intra-African trade and, according to the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa, this could boost intra-Africa trade by 53.2%. Intra-continental trade in Africa is around 16% as against 51% for Asia and 70% for Europe. The AfCFTA aims to change that, dealing with problems that include local business laws, security and poor infrastructure. Industrial exports stand to benefit the most from the agreement. The AfCFTA aims to harmonize the efforts of [the] sub-regional trading bloc, especially empowering Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) which form around 80% of Africa’s businesses. Working through the AfCFTA, SMEs will have the capacity to supply inputs to larger regional companies which will in turn deal with overseas export.

Prime Minister Dr Abiy Ahmed, speaking at the official opening of the ministerial segment of the Conference, urged the finance ministers and policy makers to use their “collective vision” to create the right conditions and commit the necessary resources to the creation of the world’s largest trading bloc. During his speech, the Prime Minister underlined his government’s enthusiasm to ratify the AfCFTA deal. He said Ethiopia was ready to deposit its instruments at the African Union and encouraged other countries to do the same, emphasizing the need for Africans themselves to finance Africa’s development. He said: “Let us finance our own development. There are no losers with the AfCFTA. We are all winners.” He said it must create “inclusive prosperity” for all Africans, including marginalized and vulnerable communities. He described the deal as key to the continent’s development through creation of employment for its citizens, ensuring diversification and especially the collective well-being of women and youth.

ECA Executive Secretary, Ms Songwe, said African countries would generate growth that could support economic diversification, industrialization and development by implementing the AfCFTA. She said the AfCFTA was expected to increase GDP by between 1% to 6%, broadening the tax base and boosting revenue collection from other sources. The most important and urgent action involved would be creating the fiscal space needed to foster both public and private investment, while ensuring economic diversification with the view to creating jobs.

Ethiopia’s Permanent Representative to the AU and UNECA, Ambassador Woinshet Tadesse, said the conference was timely and crucial in moving forward the agreement signed at Kigali. She said the economic integration agenda of Africa had reached a new height but added that Africans “should, however, bear in mind that we still have a lot of work to do to reach the ultimate goal of accelerating intra-African trade and using trade as an engine [of] growth and sustainable development to our continent.”

The importance of infrastructure and logistics for the AfCFTA was another major focus for the meeting. Ms Songwe said: “If we provide the infrastructure and border reforms necessary through the AfCFTA we can create jobs and growth.” The ECA believes that this effort to advance the ambitious initiative to form a regional common market could boost intra-African trade from its current level of 16% to 52% by 2022. Professor Emmanuel Nnadozie, Executive Secretary of the African Capacity Building Foundation, noted that capacity was a central problem, and recommended robust institutional arrangements, appropriate regulatory changes and private sector involvement [where] necessary to ensure expeditious action.

Another area of discussion was the need to stem the illicit movement of money and capital from one country to another. Abdalla Hamdok, ECA’s Deputy Executive Secretary, said money illegally transferred across borders in addition to aggressive tax avoidance now amounted to a loss of $100 billion annually for African states. He said the debate was not about the seriousness of the issue but “how we can arrest it”, adding: “This is an African problem. The only way we can resolve together is by working together with our partners.” Dr Nara Monkam, Research Director at the Africa Tax Administration Forum, said inter-country cooperation at a continental level was required to tackle the issue and it had become a priority to review the adequacy of global frameworks in tackling illicit financial flows. She added there was also a need for greater funding for technical assistance on tax matters and improvements in tax administrations. There was agreement that government commitment was crucial, and speakers noted that some African countries had been “dragging their feet.”

During the meeting the ECA launched two publications, “A Study on the Global Governance Architecture for Combating Illicit Financial Flows”, and “Base Erosion and Profit Shifting in Africa: Reforms to Facilitate Improved Taxation of Multinational Enterprises.” ECA Deputy Executive Secretary, Abdalla Hamdok, thanked the Government of Norway for funding the ECA High Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa, chaired by former South African President Thabo Mbeki. Countries have committed themselves to tackling these illegal [flows] through UN Sustainable Development Goal 16.4 and the 2015 Special Declaration of the Assembly of the African Union on Illicit Financial Flows.


Ethiopia-India Joint Commission Meeting held in New Delhi

The Second Joint Commission Meeting between Ethiopia and the Republic of India was held on Wednesday last week (May 9) in New Delhi. The Ethiopian delegation was led by Foreign Minister Dr Workneh Gebeyehu, and the Indian delegation by the External Affairs Minister of India, Ms Sushma Swaraj.

The Meeting was held at a time when the two countries have embarked on the celebration of 70 years of diplomatic relationship, and the two delegations held productive discussions in a warm and cordial atmosphere, covering bilateral, regional and multilateral issues. The talks focused on building closer cooperation in areas of defense cooperation, Lines of Credit, human resource development, capacity building, trade and investment, cultural exchanges and enhancing people-to-people contact.

Dr Workneh emphasized that relations between the two countries were multi-faceted, covering a wide range of cooperation in trade, investment, education, capacity building and technology transfer. He appreciated the important role that the provision of Lines of Credit by the Government of India had for major development projects in Ethiopia. He thanked India for its support in the areas of education and capacity building. The Minister also applauded Indian investors in Ethiopia for their contribution to Ethiopia’s development and encouraged them to invest further in Ethiopia. Dr Workneh also reiterated Ethiopia’s commitment to further strengthening its partnership with India and called for the friendship of the two countries to grow strategically.

External Affairs Minister, Ms Swaraj stated that the partnership between the two countries was underpinned by their shared values and strong economic and commercial partnership. India, she said, saw Ethiopia as a gateway to Africa. The Minister welcomed the successful visit of the President of India to Ethiopia and reiterated the commitment of India to the early implementation of the agreements made during that visit, including the Line of Credit for a 400 KV power transmission line to the Industrial Park project in Mekele. The Indian side reiterated its commitment towards its development partnership with Ethiopia and also expressed interest in supporting Ethiopia in space science.

The two sides also exchanged views on issues of mutual interest at regional and multilateral levels including cooperation at the United Nations and other international organizations. They expressed satisfaction on enhanced engagement at all levels between their two countries. In addition, they underlined that the Ethio-India partnership is underpinned by shared values and a strong economic and commercial partnership.

This Second Joint Commission Meeting had an added significance as the two countries are celebrating 70 years of diplomatic links this year. Diplomatic relations began in 1948 and the relationship has consistently been close. Trade between India and Ethiopia is worth over US$500 million annually, and the over 420 Indian companies now licensed to work in Ethiopia have invested over US$4 billion. They are involved in engineering, agriculture, pharmaceutics, hotels and restaurants as well as horticulture.

A Memorandum of Understanding between the Foreign Service Institute of India and the Foreign Service Training Institute of Ethiopia was signed between the two countries after the conclusion of the Joint Commission Meeting.

The Joint Commission Meeting was preceded by a Senior Officials’ Meeting on May 8, when the two sides held detailed discussions on the status of various projects between the two sides and identified new areas of cooperation. They also agreed that they would address and resolve outstanding issues in the spirit of close and friendly ties between the two countries.


The IGAD High Level Revitalization Forum on South Sudan reconvenes

IGAD’s High Level Revitalization Forum on South Sudan officially reconvened on Thursday this week (May 17). The Chair of the IGAD Council of Ministers and Foreign Minister of Ethiopia Dr Workneh Gebeyehu opened the proceedings with a strong message that the parties must restore their trust in each other, silence the guns and genuinely prepare for democratic elections. Referring to those who continued to violate the Agreement on the Cessation of Hostilities, the Chairperson firmly noted “we cannot, and we will not tolerate” spoilers any longer.

Dr Workneh paid tribute to the efforts by the former Premier Hailemariam Dessalegn in working for peace in South Sudan and made clear his strong belief that under the leadership of Prime Minister Dr Abiy Ahmed the Revitalization process would continue to make real progress and come to a successful conclusion. Dr Workneh commended the work of the IGAD Special Envoy for South Sudan, Ambassador Ismael Wais; the Chair of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission, Festus Mogae; the High-Level Facilitators of the Forum, UN Special Envoy to South Sudan, and all those involved and working to bring about a peaceful and prosperous South Sudan in the Troika, the IGAD Partners Forum, China, Japan and other stakeholders.

The Chairperson noted that the signing of the Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities and Unhindered Delivery of Humanitarian Assistance in December 2017, and the discussions on Responsibility-Sharing and Transitional Security Arrangement Mechanisms as well as other pertinent issues, were all crucial in advancing the peace process. However, Dr Workneh emphasized, they were not sufficient. All parties to the Process must restore the deficit in their trust for each other, silence the guns and genuinely prepare for the country’s much awaited democratic election. This, he said, could only be achieved by holding their discussions in good faith and negotiating in a spirit of give and take and “compromise, compromise and compromise.”

Ambassador Ismail Wais, IGAD Special Envoy to South Sudan, had earlier noted the need to narrow the gaps between the positions of the Parties, prompting suggestions that the IGAD Council of Ministers intensify engagement with the South Sudanese parties and stakeholders prior to the Forum sessions to encourage them to make the necessary compromises. During its last Extra-Ordinary Summit the Council decided to undertake extensive shuttle diplomacy before the resumption of the Forum. Indeed, in the intervening period between Phase II of the Forum and this week, the IGAD Council of Ministers engaged with the different parties to the conflict in Juba, Addis Ababa, and Pretoria, working to bridge the gaps in the divergent views on outstanding substantive issues.

One aspect of this process working within the framework of the preparation for the Forum, was a two-day workshop on governance and security in Addis Ababa that ended on Wednesday (May 16). IGAD’s Director of Peace and Security Division, Ambassador Tewolde Gebremeskel, opening the workshop, said it would provide an opportunity for the key party representatives, leading on governance and security issues, to revisit general principles and practices relating to governance and security issues during periods of political transition. The case-studies, discussions and exercises would refresh and deepen knowledge on the subject and enable participants to identify optimal security arrangements, power-sharing options and challenges associated with a Transitional Government of National Unity. They would enable participants to reflect, in a non-adversarial environment, on the specific challenges of transitioning in the South Sudanese context.

This was particularly relevant to the agenda for this phase of the Forum which is determined by the outstanding issues on governance and security during the Transition Period.

The Chairperson of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission, Festus Mogae expressed concern that the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement “has been repeatedly violated with impunity.” He said, “This is regrettable and only serves to undermine our confidence on how seriously some parties are taking this noble process.” The Deputy Chairperson of the AU Commission, Thomas Quartey, noted the sad fact that while IGAD worked to ensure stability in South Sudan, the Parties continued to fight. He said, the AU would continue its commitment to play its part, together with IGAD, to make spoilers of peace accountable. As the humanitarian condition continued to deteriorate, he urged the international community to continue their necessary and invaluable support to save lives in the country. Others, including the UN Special Envoy to South Sudan, Michael Haysom, the representatives of the EU, the Troika, the IGAD Partners Forum as well as China and other stakeholders, noted they would continue to place their strong confidence in the IGAD-led Process and urged all the parties to show unconditional cooperation with the Revitalization Process.


The Security Council extends UNISFA’s mandate

The UN Security Council, unanimously adopting resolution 2416 (2018) on Tuesday (May 15) extended the mandate of the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) for another six months. The Council welcomed the progress made towards the implementation of the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JBVMM), as well as the positive momentum it has generated between the parties. Equally, it called for full and urgent implementation of all outstanding issues from the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

The Council also commended the continued assistance provided to the parties by the African Union High-level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) and the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA).

Reaffirming commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Sudan and South Sudan, the resolution underlined that the future status of Abyei must be resolved by negotiations between the parties. It called on both parties to implement their commitments to the agreements on Temporary Arrangements for the Administration and Security of the Abyei Area (20.6.2011), on Border Security and the Joint Political and Security Mechanism (29.6.2011), on the Border Monitoring Support Mission between the Government of Sudan and the Government of South Sudan (30.7.2011), the Agreements on Cooperation and Security Arrangements (27.9.2012), and all subsequent decisions of the Joint Political and Security Mechanism. It also urged both parties to urgently establish the Abyei Police Service.

While it extended UNISFA’s mandate until November 15, 2018, the resolution also underlined that this would be the final extension of support to the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism unless both parties demonstrated measurable progress in implementation. It reduced UNISFA’s authorized troop ceiling to 4,500, but also authorized a further reduction to 3,959 as of October 15 if the parties made no progress.

In fact, the Security Council expressed its intention to revise the configuration and mandate of UNISFA, requesting that the Secretary-General provide detailed recommendations by mid-August to create the necessary space for a viable political process and for an exit strategy. It stressed this should cover progress on movement of weapons, human rights monitoring, implementation of Abyei Joint Oversight Committee decisions, progress towards the establishment of the Abyei Area interim institutions, steps to promote reconciliation and engagement of the Misseriya and Ngok Dinka communities and resolution of the final status of Abyei. It called for overall progress toward the establishment of the Abyei Area interim institutions.

The renewal of the mandate also covered UNISFA’s protection for civilians, including provision of demining assistance, facilitating delivery of humanitarian aid and free movement of humanitarian personnel, strengthening capacity of the Abyei Police Service; and providing security for oil infrastructure. It encouraged the African Union High‑level Implementation Panel and the Special Envoy of the Secretary‑General to continue their efforts for full implementation of the 2011 agreements. It strongly urged all parties to cease all forms of violence, human rights violations and abuses, violations of international humanitarian law, and in particular violations and abuses committed against women and children.


UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock visits Sudan

The UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator (UNOCHA), Mark Lowcock, made a three-day official visit to the Sudan at the weekend (May 12-14), meeting Government officials and humanitarian partners, as well as talking to internally displaced persons in Murta and Kulba in South Kordofan.

“Millions of people face serious and growing humanitarian needs,” Mr Lowcock said at the end of his visit, stressing the importance of unimpeded, sustained humanitarian access everywhere to respond to the 7.1 million vulnerable people needing humanitarian response in Sudan. Underlining the need to scale up longer-term development aid to help the country make itself more resilient, he noted, “Many have suffered for the past 15 years, but we cannot let them slide back into a situation where they become completely dependent on humanitarian assistance.” Mr Lowcock commended the Sudanese Government and people for hosting some 1.2 million refugees this year, including over 770,000 from South Sudan. However, he also noted that price increases meant that many could not afford to buy food, while recent fuel shortages impacted the ability of aid convoys to reach many in need.

Mr Lowcock welcomed the Sudanese Government’s efforts to improve humanitarian access to most locations in Sudan, including those controlled by non-state armed groups. He said unilateral ceasefires had improved the security situation across Darfur, South Kordofan and the Blue Nile. Mr Lowcock urged all parties to conflict in Sudan to allow the humanitarian community to bring assistance to people in need. He called for further measures to improve the operating environment for humanitarian agencies. He said: “It is critical to strengthen social protection mechanisms for the most vulnerable, including returnees, internally displaced people and host communities,” highlighting his particular concern for the protection of women and children who are vulnerable to sexual violence

The UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator strongly urged the international community to provide more support to the 2018 UN-coordinated Humanitarian Response Plan for Sudan. This is appealing for US$1.4 billion. So far this year, donors have only provided some US$229 million. An OCHA press release last week cited urgent need for $566 million to provide assistance to the most vulnerable individuals in the next six months.


Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi in Qatar…

President Mohamed Abdullahi arrived in Doha, Qatar, on Sunday (May 13) for an official visit. He met the Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, on Monday for talks on bilateral relations and prospects for development in addition to a number of issues of common concern. His visit was the second he has made to Qatar, previously visiting it in May last year. The President also met Emir al-Thani on the side-lines of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation summit in Istanbul last December.

Qatar officials said relations between Qatar and Somalia were strong and enjoyed the full support of the leaders of the two countries, both keen to develop bilateral co-operation in trade, economic, investment, culture and other fields. Qatar has provided US$385 million in infrastructure, education and humanitarian aid to the Somali government. The two leaders were reported to have discussed ways and means to strengthen these relations. Following the talks, Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, said the relationship between Doha and Mogadishu were based on “brotherhood and mutual respect.” In a tweet after their meeting, the Emir said Qatar would continue to support the unity, stability, sovereignty and well-being of the people of Somalia.

Qatar said it was working intensively to strengthen relations with Somalia through the exchange of official visits between the two countries at all levels; signing economic agreements between the two countries; opening Qatari markets for Somali products; visits by visiting delegations from various investment sectors to study investment opportunities in Somalia; co-operation in the fields of education and health and holding cultural events between the two countries in addition to participation in relief and development projects and reconstruction of public facilities in Somalia. Qatar officials say Somalia has extensive investment opportunities in the livestock, agriculture, mining, sugar and salt sectors, as well as fisheries, and also some oil reserves. While the economic situation remains fragile, the International Monetary Fund says Somalia has made great progress in recent years and stresses that international support is vital in the reconstruction of institutions and restoration of normal life. Quoted examples include Turkish companies and investment, especially in the management and operation of Adam Uday International Airport in Mogadishu and the management and operation of the port of Mogadishu.

In November 2017, Qatar Fund for Development signed a partnership agreement with the Somali government aimed at strengthening its efforts in the area of stability and economic development. The Fund pledged to support the Somali economy through a $200mn package of projects in the areas of infrastructure, education, economic empowerment and the re-establishment of state offices and institutions. The agreement provided for the implementation of several development projects, including the construction of the 90km Mogadishu-Jawhar road and the 30km Mogadishu-Afgoye road, in addition to the rehabilitation of the Somali Government’s headquarters, the Ministry of Planning, Investment and Economic Development, the Mogadishu Municipality and the rehabilitation and construction of the Diplomatic Institute building. It also offered the Silatech Foundation’s support to unemployed Somali youth through vocational and technical training projects in various Somali states. These projects also included a Memorandum of Understanding to support education programmes in Somalia between the Fund and the Education Above All Foundation.

Speaking to the media after the meeting between President Mohamed and Emir al-Thani, Somalia’s Minister for Planning, Investment and Economic Development, Jamal Mohamed Hassan, who accompanied the President, said the two leaders “discussed a wide range issues including health, education, infrastructure, trade and investment. The meeting of the leaders ended successfully,” he said, and added that the Government of Qatar pledged to implement all the development projects it signed with Somalia: “All the discussed issues have been agreed upon and will soon be implemented. Last year, Somalia signed deals including road construction, job creation and other projects with Qatar. All these are underway.”  During the visit, Somalia’s Minister for Health, Fowziyo Abikar Noor, also signed an agreement with her Qatari counterpart, to cooperate in health-promotion, research and medical training.


…while the Constitutional Review process is launched in Mogadishu….

The constitutional review process was started at a three-day National Convention held in Mogadishu on Sunday (May 13). It marks the beginning of a process to give Somalia a new constitution to replace the 2012 Provisional Constitution agreed by the 825 delegates to the National Constituent Assembly. Several hundred stakeholders from across the country and the Diaspora, including members of the federal Parliament, and representatives of Somalia’s Federal Member States, religious leaders, civil society representatives and international partners, came for the three days conference to launch the constitutional review process, which will involve a chapter by chapter review of the Provisional Constitution based on timelines agreed by stakeholders during various consultation forums across the country. The Ministry of Constitutional Affairs said Federal Member States had agreed on the action plan and the timelines which were presented during the Convention. A number of articles including power-sharing between the Federal Government and Member states, resource-sharing and the status of Mogadishu are expected to generate extensive discussions.

Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khayre opened the Convention and pledged financial and political support to the process to ensure the country gets a new Constitution by the end of 2019. Somalia currently has a Provisional Constitution, adopted on August 1, 2012. The federal and state governments plan to have a new document ready ahead of the one-person one-vote elections scheduled for 2020. Mr Khayre underlined that Somalia needed a new Constitution to ensure the one-person one-vote process that would give the population an opportunity to pick leaders of their choice. The Prime Minister stressed the need to finalize the constitutional process to unify the country, promote economic growth and above all deliver a new document for posterity. He said: “I hereby confirm that my government has pledged $3million for the constitution process to be finalized.” However, he went on: “this should produce a Somalia-owned document, Somali thinking, Somali economy, Somali advice and a new Somali unity to rebuild the Somali nation we lost.” The Prime Minister singled out power-sharing between the levels of government, resource- and revenue-sharing, and governance structures and design of the judiciary, as outstanding issues which called for in-depth consultation.

The Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission and head of the African Union Mission in Somalia, Ambassador Francisco Madeira, said the meeting was crucial in providing a platform for Somalis to express their views on the supreme law before it is put to a vote through a referendum. He said: “This is happening in accordance to an already approved Somali political roadmap and in a timely manner to address key lingering issues in a wide consultative engagement whose outcome must aim at facilitating a fair and inclusive process in Somalia.” He said, “Today’s historic event resonates well with the Constitutive Act of the African Union that expresses the AU’s determination to promote and protect human and peoples’ rights, consolidate democratic institutions and culture and ensure good governance and the rule of law.”

The Minister of Constitutional Affairs, Abdirahman Hosh Jibril, traced the history of constitution-making in Somalia. It began in 2000 in Djibouti and continued in Nairobi, before the eventual adoption of a Provisional Constitution in 2012 through a Constituent Assembly in Mogadishu. The Minister said: “The agreement signed by the Constitution Review Commission, the Parliamentary Oversight Committee and the Ministry of Constitutional Affairs at the Office of the Prime Minister last November made us become one united group without any divisions.” Under this agreement, he said, the Constitution Review Commission was determined to give the people of Somalia a new document as soon as possible so that the next elections in 2020 would be held under the new political dispensation.

The Speaker of the Upper House of Parliament Abdi Hashi Abdullahi, who also attended the Convention, called for an inclusive process to enable the country to produce a better document and for clear definitions of responsibilities and powers in the federal constitution. He said: “An inclusive constitution should be the foundation of rebuilding the government of Somalia,” adding; “a federal constitution should clearly define the essential elements that are pillars of rebuilding the country and implementing the federal system of government.” The convention was also addressed by the Chairperson of the Somali National Women Association, Batulo Sheikh Ahmed Gaballe, and by women’s rights activist, Zahra Mohamed Ahmed, who pleaded for the 30% quota for women to be protected and the rights of the people with disabilities to be enhanced.

In a communiqué issued on Tuesday (May 15), stakeholders warned against a unilateral decision or a constitutional process spearheaded by a handful of politicians. They emphasized the need for an inclusive process on the articles of the constitution which require thorough discussion. The communiqué said firmly: “The points [in the constitution] that need political consultation should be discussed by the Federal Government and regional states.” It called upon Parliament to endorse the chapters of the constitution, saying: “Within the session 2019, the Parliament should approve all chapters of the provisional constitution of Somalia.”

In a speech read to the closing session, President Mohamed promised to ensure Somalia held the next elections under a new constitutional order. He said: “the process of constitutional review has gone on for too long and this is the right time to put an end to it.”  He was determined, he said, “to put an end to the review and finalize Somalia’s constitution by the end of 2018.” He said delivery of a new constitution had been one of the three key promises that led to his election in February 2017, adding that “the document would foster unity, bring political stability and enable the country to co-exist peacefully with its neighbours.”


…and the UN Security Council extends AMISOM’s mandate

The UN Security Council meeting on Tuesday (May 15) authorized the Member States of the African Union to maintain the deployment of AMISOM until July 31. The extension for another two months, allows the Security Council to review the recommendations which the Joint AU/UN Review of AMISOM is expected to make in mid-June. The Security Council had requested that the AU and the UN last August conduct a joint assessment of AMISOM’s operations. The Joint AU/UN AMISOM Review Team was in Mogadishu this week where it met government officials, international partners, and representatives of AMISOM Troop and Police Contributing Countries. The TCC contributors, Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda, warned in March that this timescale was “not realistic and would lead to a reversal of the gains made by AMISOM.”

Tuesday’s Security Council resolution noted the Council had earlier authorized the African Union to reduce AMISOM by another 1,000 troops by the end of October, following the drawdown of a thousand last year, reducing numbers to 20,626 by October 30 this year. It also requested that the UN Secretary‑General continue to provide logistical support for AMISOM, the 10,900-strong Somalia National Army jointly operating with AMISOM, and the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM).

Briefing the Security Council, Michael Keating, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, said that AMISOM continued to play an indispensable role in protecting population centres, main supply routes and in Somalia’s overall political progress, though “at great human cost”. He emphasized that the recent approval of Somalia’s security transition plan by the Council of Ministers, and its endorsement by the African Union Peace and Security Council, marked a milestone in the country’s path towards assuming full responsibility for its own stability. Speaking by video-conference from Mogadishu, he underlined the imperative of implementing the plan. He noted the government was launching biometric registration, payroll reform and operational readiness assessments, but more was needed. A successful security transition would require “deep reform of Somalia’s security forces and of AMISOM”, whether relating to flexible joint operations and combat mentoring, greater emphasis on policing, adequate enablers and force multipliers, or stronger accountability. More flexible operational support from UNSOS would also be needed, as would predictable financing.

Mr Keating noted that the conclusion of the National Constitutional Convention augured well for enhancing the rule of law as well as stability and reconciliation, while in Baidoa the federal state presidents met as the Council of Interstate Cooperation to prepare for engagement with the Federal Government on critical issues relating to security, resource and revenue sharing. He reiterated that unity among Somalia’s leaders, complemented by coherent support from the Council and the broader international community, would be the key to the country’s success. Mr Keating said he expected the AU-UN joint review to underline that “the foremost requirement for success is the need for unity of purpose among Somali actors, as well as between Somalis, the AU, the troop-contributing countries, and principal security partners.”

Ambassador Madeira, Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission for Somalia and Head of AMISOM, also briefed the Council by video, stressing the same point. He said challenges had been exacerbated by the spill-over effects of international rivalries and divisions within the region. These, he said, were sowing the seeds of division among Somalis, forcing them to choose sides. He called on the Security Council to deliver an unequivocal statement requesting that all actors refrain from actions that could further heighten tensions.


…and IMF agrees to a third Staff-Monitored Program for Somalia

An International Monetary Fund (IMF) team met with a team of Somali officials including Finance Minister, Abdirahman Duale Beileh and Central Bank Governor, Bashir Issa Ali as well as development partners representatives last week (May 7-14) in Nairobi. The IMF was carrying out the second review of the recently finished Staff-Monitored Program (SMP II). Also on the agenda were recent economic developments, consideration of the implementation of reforms during the SMP II, and discussions of a follow-up Staff-Monitored Programme (SMP III) to consolidate reforms.

At the conclusion of the discussions, an IMF statement said the Federal Government of Somalia had successfully completed the third Article IV Consultations with the IMF and first review under SMP II in February 2018. The Somali authorities continued to demonstrate a strong commitment to implement critical reform measures in a very difficult environment. The Government was making progress in building institutions and improving economic performance. He singled out budget execution, treasury and cash management frameworks, and domestic revenue collection as improving. Efforts to lay the foundation for sustainable financial sector development and strengthen compliance with anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism standards were underway and preparatory work to launch a new national currency were well advanced. Economic activity in Somalia was recovering from the effects of the drought in 2016-17, and growth for 2018 was projected to increase to 3.1% from an estimated 2.3% last year. Inflation, he said, was expected to fall to under 3% from last year’s 5.2%. The fiscal framework and fiscal performance improved in 2017 and in the first quarter of 2018.

The IMF considered performance under SMP II was satisfactory. Equally, significant challenges remain. Growth remained too low to affect Somalia’s widespread poverty, high youth unemployment, and large social needs significantly. The economy remained vulnerable to shocks. External public debt was high, and there was no capacity to service public debt obligations. Somalia needed proper compliance with international standards over Anti-Money Laundering and Combating Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT), to allow remittance flows to continue freely.

The IMF statement said that SMP III would help maintain the momentum and provide for macroeconomic stability as well as support the government’s broad reform agenda. It would focus on enhancing public financial management and revenue mobilization; on producing a new national currency; providing a foundation of financial sector reforms to foster financial development, inclusion, and stability and strengthen compliance with AML/CFT; and improve data reporting. Other aspects would include strengthening the procurement framework and improving governance and transparency. The statement also stressed: “Somalia’s debt relief is a priority for the IMF, and every effort is being made to accelerate the process within the established framework under the HIPC Initiative, which is designed to help countries avoid slipping back into arrears while putting them on a path to sustainable debt and reducing poverty.”

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