A Week in the Horn

20 Apr 2018

 

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Africa and the African Union

The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa has launched a $56.9 million construction [project] to renovate and modernize Africa Hall in Addis Ababa, the scene of the establishment of the OAU in 1963 and host to many meetings of African leaders over the years. It remained the headquarters of the UNECA after the African Union removed to its new headquarters. UNECA now aims to transform Africa Hall into a rejuvenated facility, complying with the highest international standards for conference facilities. As part of preserving its historical and cultural values, the project will include a permanent exhibition to turn Africa Hall into one of the leading tourist destinations in Addis Ababa and highlight its significant role in the UN and in modern African history. The project will also involve the Ethiopian Government, UNESCO and the African Union to ensure wide and solid participation; and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Mrs Hirut Zemene said: “We recognize the very important role made by our founding fathers…with a special tribute to Emperor Haile Selassie. We are very grateful for the attention given by the United Nations.”

The 2nd African Union Specialized Technical Committee on Finance, Monetary Affairs, Economic Planning and Integration Ministers Meeting was held this week at African Union Headquarters. AU Commissioner for Social Affairs, Amira Elfadil, urged member countries to prioritize fighting illicit financial flows to meet the African structural transformation plan. She said it was necessary to broaden the tax base by elimination of tax benefits, fight against the abusive practice of multinationals in terms of transfer pricing and allow fairer and more transparent taxation of extractive industries. Ethiopia’s State Minister of Finance and Economic Cooperation, Admasu Nebebe said corruption, including rent-seeking behavior, was recognized as an emerging problem in Ethiopia, with the potential to pose a serious challenge to its rapid economic growth as well as being a threat to its aspiration of building a democratic society. He said the government was working with various responsible institutions and the media to create anti-corruption awareness across the country.

 

Ethiopia

Prime Minister Dr Abiy Ahmed named a new cabinet this week and made some other appointments to head federal offices. The appointments were approved by the House of Peoples’ Representatives on Thursday (April 19). Addressing the members of parliament, the Prime Minister underlined that the reshuffle signified the government’s desire to “solve people’s complaints” and to combat corruption. Prime Minister Abiy stressed, “This is a red line that has to be enforced,” adding, “What the public is fed up of is graft and maladministration. This will not be tolerated.” The appointments were chosen taking into consideration educational background, political and leadership skills(See article)

Addressing some 25,000 representatives of the youth, civil society organizations, and professional associations drawn from all parts of the country on Sunday (April 15) in Addis Ababa, Prime Minister Abiy stressed the current and future role of the youth in the process of the socio-economic development of the country and the decisive role to be played by the youth. (See article)

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed received Engineer Abdurahaman Bin Abdlmuhisin Alfadly, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture and special envoy for King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia on Wednesday (April 18). The two sides discussed the longstanding ties between Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia. The Premier also received congratulatory message from king Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.

Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen, during his meeting with Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ms Amina Mohammed, in New York on Tuesday (April 17) emphasized that Ethiopia will continue its path to development. Ms Mohammed said the UN would continue to support Ethiopia’s development endeavors.

An Ethiopian parliamentary delegation headed by Abadula Gamada former Speaker of the House of People’s Representatives attended the 15th Meeting of the East African Region of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly in Nairobi last week (April, 11-13). The meeting focused on regional integration and cooperation and trade, investment promotion and private sector development as well as energy and infrastructure needs. Abadula emphasized Ethiopia’s active role in regional integration and cooperation as well as the purpose of the construction of the Great Ethiopia Renaissance Dam in generating electricity and helping to connect the region through power as well as road and rail links.

Foreign Minister Dr Workneh Gebeyehu met with Saudi Arabian Minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture Eng. Abdulrahman bin Abdulmohsen Al-Fadley on Wednesday (April 18), and called for more agro-investors from Saudi Arabia to invest in Ethiopia’s untapped agricultural resources and exploit the country’s attractive investment schemes.

Dr Workneh received Brazilian football legend, Ronaldo de Assis Moreira (aka Ronaldiinho Gaúcho) on Saturday (April 14). The Minister welcomed Ronaldinho to “Ethiopia, the birthplace of humankind”, and noted that “sports diplomacy is one important element of contemporary diplomacy.” He added that sports bring people of all color and religion together, thus serving as a powerful platform to forge unity.

State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mrs Hirut Zemene met with the United Nations Under-Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations, Mr Jean-Pierre Lacroix on Monday (April 16), and exchanged views on the Secretary General’s latest Action for Peacekeeping initiative.

The State Minister mentioned Ethiopia’s constructive role in promoting peace and stability in the region. She further emphasized that peace keeping is essential; but the issue of peace enforcement should further be prioritized. Ethiopia currently provides the largest peacekeeping forces from and in Africa, with troops for the UN Hybrid Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), UN Mission in Liberia (UNML), UN Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS), the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and UN Operations in Cote d’Ivoire (UNOCI) as well as providing all the 4,400 troops deployed for UNISFA in the disputed Abyei region between Sudan and South Sudan.

State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr Aklilu Hailemichael met with Minister for Foreign Affairs of Malta, Carmelo Abela this week on the side-lines of an Ethiopian Business Seminar held in Malta. Discussions focused on ways of strengthening business and economic ties between the two countries. Ethiopia and Malta also concluded an agreement on the avoidance of double taxation.

State Minister of Finance and Economic Cooperation, Admasu Nebebe shared Ethiopia’s experience and lessons learned in their ongoing DRM initiatives and Fight against Corruption and Illicit Financial Flows at the ministerial segment of the 2nd AU Specialized Technical Committee on Finance, Monetary Affairs, Economic Planning and Integration which opened on Monday (April 16).

The 5th annual Ethiopia-Saudi Arabia Joint Ministerial Commission (JMC) meeting convened in Addis Ababa this week (April 16-18) at the Sheraton Addis Hotel. This year’s JMC meeting, according to officials, was an expression of both sides’ commitment “to bring the relationship of the two countries to a higher level and the high importance our governments attach to the friendship and cooperation of the two countries.” (See article)

The World Economic Outlook report released by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Wednesday (April 18) estimated Ethiopia’s economy [would] grow [the] quickest in Africa this year. According to the report, Ethiopia’s economy is expected to expand by 8.5 percent in 2018, followed by Ivory Coast, second at 7.4 percent and Ghana, at 6.3 percent. Ethiopia’s economy, which has held the number one sub-Sahara spot for most of the past decade[s], has drawn investors including General Electric Co., Johannesburg-based Standard Bank Group, and hundreds of Chinese companies.

The Ethiopian Investment Commission (EIC) received an award as the best investment promotion agency in East Africa. Eyerusalem Amdemariam, Consul General of Ethiopia in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) received the award presented to the Commission at the Annual Investment Forum (AIM) held this week (April9-12) in Dubai. EIC was lauded for its success in attracting sizable investments into industrial parks, which are of high potential for export growth, technology and skills transfer as well as sustainability and local linkages.

The US International Visitor Leadership Program has taken professors from the schools of journalism at six public universities to Washington this weekend to participate in an exchange program focused on sharing improved teaching methods and curriculum developments for journalism programs. The six professors, from Addis Ababa, Bahir Dar, Mekelle, Haromaya, Gondar and Wollega Universities will visit top U.S. journalism schools and other institutions to share ideas and explore possibilities for partnership as part of efforts to support the growth of professional journalism in Ethiopia.

 

Djibouti

President Ismail Omar Guelleh who was in Saudi Arabia for the Arab League Summit last weekend, held talks with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, on Sunday (April 15). Their discussions focused on regional developments, as well as bilateral ties and ways of developing these in various fields.

In an interview prior to the Arab League Summit, President Guelleh stressed Djibouti’s strategic position and its role as a gate to East Africa. He said presence of international military bases was primarily aimed at combating terrorism and marine piracy. (See article)

 

Eritrea

Representatives from the United Nations and international NGOs participated in a hearing on Eritrea on Wednesday (April 18) as the United States Congress and its Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission focused on the human rights conditions in Eritrea that caused “so many people to leave their homes at the risk of slavery, trafficking, and death.” The Commission heard expert testimony that the predominant impetus for flight was to escape indefinite “national service.” Other significant drivers included repression of President Isaias’ critics and political opponents, a lack of press and religious freedoms, torture and other human rights violations. A spokesman for the government said media coverage and political discourse on Eritrean migration had “largely remained shallow and distorted” and lacked a nuanced analysis of the drivers and actors.

 

Kenya

President Kenyatta has been on a five-day visit to the UK this week, attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit as well as meeting Queen Elizabeth and holding talks with Prime Minister Theresa May. Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma said the President’s talks centred on trade, investment, security, and relations between Kenya and the UK. The President visited the London Stock Exchange for a meeting with investors to discuss areas of investment opportunities for his development agenda and job creation. He also met Kenyans living in the UK, and spoke at Chatham House to “showcase to the global audience the progress Kenya has made in achieving inclusive economic growth and the positive role it plays in supporting regional peace”.

The World Bank’s latest Kenya Economic Update which came out last week emphasizes that the government’s priority development areas (agricultural and food security, affordable housing, an increased share for manufacturing, and universal health coverage) depend significantly on agriculture which contributes so much to the country’s GDP. It also says the county’s manufacturing potential would be driven by growth in agriculture. (See article)

 

Somalia

In a phone call to President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi of Egypt this week, President Mohamed Abdullahi praised Cairo’s support for Mogadishu’s efforts to restore order and stability in the country. President El-Sisi’s office said the two leaders discussed recent developments in Somalia and President El-Sisi had stressed Egypt’s continued support for the unity of Somalia, expressed Egypt’s keenness to continue to enhance various aspects of bilateral cooperation between the two countries and that Egypt would continue to provide “technical support to the people of Somalia and back them in their efforts to build the institutions of their country and to establish security and stability.”

President Mohamed Abdullahi attended the 29th Arab League Summit which opened on Sunday (April 15) in Saudi Arabia. He addressed participants of the conference and held talks with a number of other Arab leaders on regional and bilateral issues.

An AMISOM sector commanders’ conference on Friday last week (April 13) in Mogadishu discussed issues relating to the transition plans for the gradual reduction of AMISOM troop levels. The Deputy Special Representative of the African Union Commission for Somalia, Simon Mulongo, underlined the importance of implementing the transition plan. (See article) 

A two-day International Sufi Conference in Mogadishu ended on Friday (April 13). Dozens of Muslim scholars and Imams from Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, UK, Algeria, Morocco, Turkey, Sudan, Nigeria, Iraq, Senegal and other countries, attended the 7th International Sufi Conference which focused on peace, and the fight against extremism and terrorist activities as well as peaceful spreading of Islam.

A statement from the Foreign Ministry on Monday (April 16) said the UAE had explained that the $9.6 million cash seized at Mogadishu airport last week and deposited in the Central Bank was intended for military assistance. Earlier the UAE had said the seizure flew in the face of diplomatic traditions and contravened agreements signed by both countries. The statement said the UAE had “explained the purpose and the utilization of the funds and the federal government will work together with UAE on their utilization.”

The Qatar government donated 30 new buses on Tuesday (April 17) to be used for local governments across the country. 17 will be given to Mogadishu, and the remaining 13 buses will be divided among the regional states. In February, Qatar handed over 30 Toyota land-cruisers to the Somali police force. Following an agreement last year, between Somalia and Qatar, Qatar will soon implement a $200 million deal for reconstruction of roads and government institutions.

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, Michael Keating, visited the Dadaab camp complex in Kenya last week. He told camp residents that things were gradually improving in Somalia: “There is now a stronger State, a federal structure, there are big efforts to try and improve security, [and] economic activity is picking up and things are, in a non-linear way, getting better.” He also stressed that returns were voluntary. He said he visited Dadaab to listen and factor the views of the refugees into how to move forward in Somalia.

The fourth bi-annual Conference on Countering Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDS) was held in Mogadishu this week. It acknowledged indiscriminate use of IEDs by al-Shabab militants posed a major risk to the realization of sustainable peace and stability. The conference, which brought together key stakeholders including senior Somali security officers, AMISOM and international partners, called on the international community to help Somalia develop capacity to tackle the potent threats in the country. It also resolved to encourage the use of forensics and intensify training of personnel to help counter the threat posed by IEDs.

A contingent of 145 police officers from Sierra Leone arrived in Somalia this week as part of a surge to implement policing programmes in south central Somalia. They have been posted to Kismayo. Ms Christine Alalo, Acting AMISOM Police Commissioner, thanked the Sierra Leonean government for deploying the extra officers to Somalia to help with stabilization efforts. The additional officers are being deployed in response to a UN Security Council Resolution last year which approved an increase in the number of police officers serving under AMISOM.

A 24-year-old Somali-British poet Momtaza Mehri, has been chosen as the new young people’s laureate for London. She is hoping to spend her year in the role convincing young people “to see poetry as part of their every day, rather than in some dusty tome, or academic niche interest”. Ms Mehri, author of the poetry chapbook ‘Sugah. Lump. Prayer,’ has been shortlisted for this year’s Brunel African poetry prize and won last year’s Out-Spoken Page poetry prize. She hopes to encourage young people to voice their concerns and experiences through poetry.

Minister for Finance, Dr Abdirahman Beileh, held discussions with officials from the World Bank and IMF in Washington on Wednesday (April 18). The talks focused on Somalia’s fiscal and economic process in recent months. Somalia achieved the $42 million income target for domestic revenues set by IMF late last year following successful efforts to increase the sales taxes and other income revenues.

 

South Sudan

The chairperson of the African Union Commission, Mousa Faaki Mohamed called for the unreserved participation of South Sudan rebel leader, Dr Riek Machar in the IGAD High Level Revitalization Forum, due to hold its third session next week. The Commission Chairperson met with Dr Machar on a visit to South Africa last week. He underlined the imperative for all South Sudanese stakeholders to muster the required political courage and commitment to end the conflict unfolding in their country and called on Dr Machar to fully play his part and cooperate unreservedly with the IGAD-led efforts within the Revitalization Forum. (See article)

In his latest report to the Security Council, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, referring to sexual violence in South Sudan said: “In almost all recorded cases, the perpetrators and victims came from rival ethnic groups, with the physical violence often accompanied by verbal insults levelled against victims on the basis of their identity and presumed allegiance.” UNMISS in 2017 documented 196 cases of conflict-related sexual violence. Where perpetrators could be identified the report said: “The attacks were attributed to SPLA (67), the pro-Taban Deng Sudan People’s Liberation Army-in-Opposition (SPLA-IO) (4), the pro-Machar SPLA-IO (7), the South Sudan National Liberation Movement (SSNLM) (1), the South Sudan People’s Patriotic Front (SSPPF) (2), militia allied to SPLA (5), militia allied to SPLA-IO (4), the South Sudan National Police Service (1), with the remainder attributed to unidentified gunmen”.

The government launched a factory producing concrete poles that will facilitate an ambitious project by a Chinese company to rehabilitate and expand the Power Distribution System in Juba, on Monday (April 16). The Minister of Dams and Electricity, Dhieu Mathok, said that the factory, rented by Power China, will produce some 13,350 poles for the electricity distribution in the capital and other states. The project is part of the Juba Power Distribution System Rehabilitation and Expansion Project, funded by the African Development Bank, and covers Rehabilitation of Diesel plant substation, Rehabilitation and Expansion of medium voltage network, low voltage network, and Rehabilitation and Expansion of street lighting and improvement of customer care.

 

Sudan

President Omer al-Bashir and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia discussed bilateral relations in a meeting held on the side-lines of the 29th Arab Summit in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia on Sunday (April 15). During the meeting, they reviewed bilateral relations and the opportunities to develop these in various fields. They also discussed the latest developments in the region. The former Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour who attended the meeting said the Crown Prince praised Sudan’ s role in Arab issues and its contribution to regional security and stability. In its final communiqué, the Arab summit reaffirmed full solidarity with Sudan to safeguard its national sovereignty and consolidate peace, security and development. It also declared support for Sudanese efforts “to benefit from the initiative of international financial institutions for heavily indebted countries”.

 

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Prime Minister Dr Abiy announces ministerial and other appointments…

In order to strengthen the ongoing reforms that he has launched in the country, Prime Minister Dr Abiy Ahmed named a new cabinet this week and made some other appointments to head federal offices. The appointments were approved by the House of Peoples’ Representatives on Thursday (April 19). Addressing the members of parliament, the Prime Minister underlined that the reshuffle signified the government’s desire to “solve people’s complaints” and to combat corruption. Prime Minister Abiy stressed, “This is a red line that has to be enforced,” adding, “What the public is fed up of is graft and maladministration. This will not be tolerated.” The appointments were chosen taking into consideration educational background, political and leadership skills.

The Prime Minister made sixteen changes to the cabinet, moving six ministers and bringing in ten new faces. He named new ministers for defense, industry, energy, trade, mining, health, and revenue and appointed a new attorney general. Among the Ministers who retained their jobs included Foreign Minister Dr Workneh Gebeyehu and Finance Minister Abraham Tekeste, both appointed in late 2016.

In addition to the ministerial changes, the Prime Minister also appointed nine officials to head various federal offices.

The session of the House of Representatives, which approved the appointments, also elected a new Speaker for the House of Peoples’ Representatives, with Ms Muferiat Kamil replacing Abadula Gemeda. Ms Muferiat was previously serving as Minister of Research and Publicity for the Center of Democracy Building in the Office of the Prime Minister. She is the first female speaker of the House. Her deputy is Ms Shitaye Menale. During the session, the House also approved the draft bill to merge the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources with the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries. The new ministry, under proclamation 1084/ 2018, has the name of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock.

The 16 ministerial changes and new appointments are: Mottuma Mekasa: Minister of Defence (previously Minister of Mines); Siraj Fegessa: Minister of Transport. (previously Minister of Defence); Shiferaw Shigute: Minister of Agriculture and Livestock; Ahmed Shide: Head of the Government Communication Affairs Office with ministerial rank (previously Minister of Transport); Berhanu Tsegaye: Attorney General; Dr Hirut Woldemariam: Minister of Labor and Social Affairs (previously Minister of Culture and Tourism); Teshome Toga: Minister of Public Enterprise; Umer Husien: Heads of the Revenue and Customs Authority with ministerial rank; Ms Ubah Mohamed: Minister of ICT; Dr Ambachew Mekonnen: Minister of Industry (previously Minister of Construction); Fozia Amin: Minister of Culture and Tourism; Zanterar Abay: Minister of Urban Development and Housing; Meles Alemu: Minister of Mining and Energy; Ms Yalem Tsegaye; Minister of Women and Children; Melaku Alebel: Minister of Trade; and Amir Aman: Minister of Health (previously State Minister of Health).

And the nine appointments to head federal offices are: Fetlework Gebre-Egziabher – Chief Coordinator of Democratic System Building Coordination Center with the Rank of Minister; Demitu Hambisa – Head of Prime Minister’s Office and Cabinet Affairs Minister; Abadula Gemeda – National Security Affairs Advisor to the Prime Minister (previously the Speaker of the House of People’s Representatives); Ahmed Abitew – Director General of Policy Study and Research Center with the Rank of Minister (previously Minister of Industry); Moges Balcha – Coordinator of the Democratic System Building Coordination Center at the Prime Minister’s office with the Rank of Minister; Aleminew Mekonnen – President of the Meles Zenawi Leadership Academy with the Rank of Minister; Dr Bekele Bulado – Director General of the Metals and Engineering Corporation (METEC); Temesgen Tiruneh – Director General of Information Network Security Agency (INSA);  and Yared Zerihun – Commissioner General of Federal Police Commission.

 

…..and pledged to work closely with the youth

 Addressing some 25,000 representatives of the youth, civil society organizations, and professional associations drawn from all parts of the country on Sunday (April 15) in Addis Ababa, Prime Minister Abiy stressed the current and future role of the youth in the process of the socio-economic development of the country and the decisive role to be played by youths.

In his remarks, the Premier indicated that the government would do everything to strengthen national unity by ensuring the participation of youths, women and other key stakeholders of the social fabric. Dr Abiy noted the government would make the necessary improvements, identifying underlying factors causing violations of human rights and causes for miscarriages of justice. Furthermore, he assured his listeners that his Government would work to improve the quality of education and work for the betterment of the livelihood of persons with disabilities by ensuring their participation in all sectors of the country’s development programs. He stressed the significance of quality education as the backbone of the country’s multi-sector development.

Youth representatives from different regions pledged that they would stand by the government to protect the peace and stability of the country and strengthen existing unity among the peoples. They also stressed that the government should exert further efforts to work closely with the youth by putting in place an all-inclusive agenda that the youth could carry through.

Last week, on April 12, the Premier also held talks with competing political parties. He underlined that strengthening the capacity of these parties and enhancing their involvement in the political equation was imperative for consolidating a meaningful democratic system in Ethiopia. Dr Abiy pledged that his government would work hard to make the upcoming [general] election [2020] peaceful, free, fair and democratic. Moreover, he underscored the importance of strengthening the justice system as one of the key pillars of establishing a democratic order, providing due consideration for the rule of law and the administration of justice.

 

Fifth Ethio-Saudi Joint Ministerial Commission meeting in Addis Ababa

The 5th annual Ethiopia-Saudi Arabia Joint Ministerial Commission (JMC) meeting convened in Addis Ababa this week (April16-18) at the Sheraton Addis Hotel. This year’s JMC meeting, according to officials, was an expression of both sides’ commitment “to bring the relationship of the two countries to a higher level and the high importance our governments attach to the friendship and cooperation of the two countries.”

During the meeting, opening remarks were delivered by Dr Iyasu Abreha and Dr Kaba Urgessa, the then Minister and State Minister of Agriculture and Natural Resources of Ethiopia respectively. In their addresses, both Dr Iyasu and Dr Kaba touched upon the longstanding multifaceted relations between Ethiopia and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that they described as “infused with deeply entrenched people-to-people relations that date back to antiquity.” Dr Iyasu stated: “The foundation of these relations has always been people-to-people ties further strengthened by commercial and cultural interests. This historic link takes us back to the ancient civilizations of the Axumite Kingdom of Ethiopia and the Arab world. We share a very special history in which the Axumite (Ethiopian) King provided sanctuary and hospitality to the followers of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) in 615 AD, as they arrived to Ethiopia escaping persecution by the Quraysh rulers of Mecca at the time. This is a piece of history well cherished by Muslims all over the world.”

Alluding to the establishment of formal diplomatic relations between Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia in 1948, both the Minister and the State Minister emphasized that the two countries had consistently been witnessing new dynamism in strengthening cooperation in various fields ever since. The establishment of the Joint Ministerial Commission in 2001 with the view of strengthening cooperation in various fields, and the subsequent signing of several agreements, laid the basis for further expansion of cooperation. The meetings have convened on a rotational basis, so the previous four meetings have been held in Addis Ababa and in Riyadh.

One of the key areas highlighted in this JMC meeting was the conducive environment Ethiopia now has for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), and for  potential Saudi Arabian investors in various parts of the country. Dr Iyasu said, “Ethiopia offers the right mix of opportunities for mutually beneficial partnerships for investment. It commands a disciplined and affordable trained labour force, abundant natural resources and the cheapest energy resources. It has made many improvements, putting in place attractive policies and fiscal incentives to provide a competitive environment. It is now one of the top four destinations for Foreign Direct Investment on the African continent.”

The JMC meeting was concluded with both sides calling attention in their deliberations that both Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia should redouble their efforts to further enhance engagement in trade, investment, tourism and people-to-people interaction, with a view to deepening and solidifying their friendly relations and mutual cooperation.

Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia are, of course, key players in their respective sub-regions. With both sub-regions constantly facing security problems, including the proliferation of jihadist extremists and the related menace of violent radicalism, that continue to threaten the very stability of those sub-regions, both sides renewed their commitment to cooperate in response to such issues. They underlined that Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia ought to create mechanisms that enable them to work closely in dealing with emerging security threats in the region.

Meanwhile, in a meeting on Wednesday (April 18) with Saudi Arabian Minister of Environment, Water, and Agriculture Engineer Abdulrahman bin Abdulmohsen Al-Fadley, Foreign Minister Dr Dr Workneh Gebeyehu, called for more agro-investors from Saudi Arabia to invest in Ethiopia’s untapped agricultural resources and exploit the country’s attractive investment schemes. He pointed out that the visit by the Saudi Minister coincided with Prime Minister Dr Abiy underlining the need to make concerted efforts to further scale-up the agriculture sector in Ethiopia. The second Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP-II) (2015-2020) has acknowledged agriculture as a main driver of the economy and as a critical stimulus for Ethiopia’s growing industrial demands. Dr Workneh pledged that the government would do all it could to encourage Saudi investors and resolve any problems that might arise without delay. Engineer Abdulrahman bin Abdulmohsen expressed his government’s readiness to further enhance efforts to boost bilateral ties to new levels, particularly in agro-investment. He also underlined the need to encourage the private sector and work in close collaboration to extract maximum benefit.

 

AU urges South Sudanese parties and stakeholders to work for durable peace

The IGAD Council of Ministers agreed last month to resume Phase III of the High-Level Revitalization Forum (HLRF) on April 26. The Council also decided that the Chairperson of the Council and his colleagues as well as the IGAD Special Envoy for South Sudan, Dr Ismail Wais and others, should hold consultation meetings and undertake shuttle diplomacy with the parties and stakeholders to narrow the gaps on responsibility sharing and permanent security arrangements before the next meeting of the Forum.

The Chairperson of the Commission of the African Union, Moussa Faki Mahamat, undertook a visit to South Africa last week (April 11-12), during which, as one follow-up to this directive, he met with Dr Riek Machar, the leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM/iO). During their meeting, the Chairperson of the Commission emphasized the imperative for all South Sudanese stakeholders to muster the required political courage and commitment to end the conflict unfolding in their country. He strongly called on Dr Machar to fully play his part and cooperate unreservedly with the IGAD-led efforts at the Revitalization Forum. Dr Machar pledged to do all he could to facilitate the search for peace, and said he was looking forward to the resumption of the Revitalization Forum under IGAD auspices. The last IGAD Council meeting decided the house arrest of Dr Machar in South Africa should be lifted as soon as possible, on conditions that ensured he renounced violence and did not obstruct the peace process. He would then be allowed to relocate to any country outside the region, not neighboring South Sudan. Designated IGAD Ministers would decide on a possible location.

Another element in the preparations for the next session of the High-Level Revitalization Forum was a five-day visit to South Sudan by a delegation of the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) at the end of last week. The mission took place in the context of expressing the solidarity and total support of the African Union towards finding lasting peace in war-torn South Sudan; and it paid special attention to consider adequate response and solutions to the humanitarian situation. The delegation, led by Bankole Adeoye, permanent representative of Nigeria and chairperson of the PSC for this month, aimed to interact with all South Sudanese stakeholders, as well as African and international actors. It assessed the challenges still impeding the implementation of the 2015 agreement on the resolution of the South Sudan conflict and prolonging the suffering of the South Sudanese people.

Representatives of the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism (CTSAMM) and the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) secretariat briefed the visiting delegation on their recent monitoring activities. The CTSAMM, according to a statement issued on Monday, updated the delegation on the verification of forces throughout the country and also gave an overview of five violation reports which have been recently submitted to JMEC and to IGAD. The PSC delegation thanked CTSAMM for their presentation and commended its work in ensuring the security situation was being accurately monitored.

In a statement the AU said, the PSC delegation was expected to put pressure on the parties to the conflict to commit to the peaceful political settlement of the crisis. The statement further said that the AU delegation would pay special attention to looking for adequate responses and solutions to the humanitarian situation in the country where there are now millions of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and refugees in neighboring countries, all of whom are in urgent need of life-saving assistance. In this context of the humanitarian situation in South Sudan, the PSC delegation also visited the city of Malakal as part of its field mission. The AU statement also noted that the PSC delegation would also endeavor to find solutions to the political and unfolding economic challenges, while engaging with the government and opposition parties along with the civil society.

The Nigerian embassy in Ethiopia said that the field mission would take stock of the outcome of the two phases of the IGAD led High Level Revitalization Forum under the auspices of the regional economic community Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) so far held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in December 2017 and February 2018. A statement said the PSC was expected to call on all parties to adhere to the provisions of the cessation of hostilities agreement signed on December 21, 2017 in Addis Ababa and witnessed by Nigeria and other member states on the AU High Level Ad Hoc Committee on South Sudan.

 

Djibouti’s President: Foreign bases there to combat terrorism and piracy

The 29th Arab League Summit was held in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, on Sunday April 15. The Summit was chaired by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz, and was attended by the Presidents of Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Mauritania, Palestine, Somalia, Sudan, Tunisia, and Yemen, as well as leading representatives from Algeria, Libya, Oman and the UAE.

Prior to the Summit, President Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti expressed his hopes that the Summit would help shed light on the various problems and crises in the Arab world. He told the pan-Arab daily, Asharq Al-Awsat, that the Summit was being held at a critical time in the region as several countries, such as Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Somalia and Libya were facing crises. He emphasized that the Palestinian cause remained the main issue for joint Arab work, and also highlighted terrorism as another particular obstacle facing the Arab world. President Guelleh hoped that the summit would reach important resolutions that would help resolve the problems in a way that would preserve unity and solidarity and bolster cooperation, moving away from “petty disputes.”

President Guelleh said Djibouti’s ties with Saudi Arabia were “solid and historic.” They were based on trust, understanding and coordination on the highest levels, and this reflected a harmony in political visions on several regional and international crises, he told the paper.

He noted that Djibouti enjoyed a strategic position on the Red Sea basin and it overlooked the Bab al-Mandeb strait, which was a vital passageway for the global economy. His country also acted as the gate to east Africa. Given this unique position, he said: “We look forward to playing a very important role in the Horn of Africa and east Africa in order to achieve economic security and political stability.” The President stressed this was embodied in the opening up of the country to investment, the establishment of a free economy and the presence of the international military bases. He said the French, American, Japanese and Chinese military bases in Djibouti were not aimed at creating international competition over economic and strategic interests. They were primarily aimed at combating terrorism and marine piracy. Equally, he added, “We are also keen on preserving the security, stability and development of our country.”

Referring to regional issues, he emphasized that a political solution was the only resolution to the tragedy in Syria, and he hoped that such resolution would meet the expectation of the Syrian people and be based on factors that would preserve their country’s unity and independence and restore its security and stability. He expressed his solidarity with Iraq in its fight against terrorism and his support to Libyan parties, urging them to unite to end their disputes and reach a solution that can restore security and stability to the people.

 

AMISOM sector commanders’ conference in Mogadishu

The Deputy Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission for Somalia, Simon Mulongo, had underlined the importance of implementing the transition plan on the gradual reduction of AMISOM troops serving in Somalia as agreed by the United Nations Security Council. Mr Mulongo was speaking at an AMISOM sector commanders’ conference on Friday last week (April 13) in Mogadishu. The conference was held to discuss issues related to the transition and Nations Security Council late last year. AMISOM is due to gradually reduce the number of its troops serving in Somalia and reconstitute its forward operating bases with the cooperation of the Somali National Security Forces to ensure national security is not compromised during the transition period. AMISOM withdrew 1,000 troops last year and is due to draw down another 1,000 by October this year.

The Deputy Special Representative said the transition has reached a point where it could no longer pose any serious threat to the Somali National Security Forces. He emphasized that AMISOM was focused on implementing the transition plan and urged its troops to readjust their strategies in the fight against al-Shabaab. He said: “Everything we are doing now should be geared towards transition. The way you plan in your sectors, the way you plan in your units and other formations should be geared towards transition, [and] how do we empower the local forces; how do we empower the local people so that they take over responsibility.” Mr Mulongo said the first phase of the transition plan would last four years and success would be measured against the ability of the country to conduct peaceful and secure one-person-one-vote elections planned for 2020. This, he said, would be a major milestone if successful.

Mr Haji Ssebirumbi, AMISOM Senior Political Affairs Officer who made a presentation on the draft transition plan, stressed the Federal Government of Somalia would take the lead in the implementation of the transition, with AMISOM playing a support role. He repeated that AMISOM would draw down another 1,000 troops by October, adding: “There must be therefore, reconfiguring of AMISOM in such a way that it must be able to defend itself with fewer troops because 1,000 drew down last year.”

In a statement at the end of the meeting, AMISOM said its senior commanders had resolved to place emphasis on tasks that will enable the force to achieve its agenda of complete pacification of Somalia along with the transition plan. The commanders agreed to re-examine and assess the progress made with the transition plan so far, to allow AMISOM to plan the next stages more effectively. Charles Tai Gituai, the Deputy Force Commander in-charge of Operations and Planning said: “Our mandate is very clear, that we are here to eradicate al-Shabaab, to help the Somali people to be able to live in peace; the communities to be able to start their economic activities and that is our focus.”

During the meeting, AMISOM’s sector commanders evaluated the implementation status of the transition plan, which includes launching operations to flush out al-Shabaab remnants. They resolved to build the capacity of the Somali security forces, to enable them to take over the security of the country, as stipulated in the country’s National Security Architecture, agreed by political leaders in April 2017. AMISOM Force Commander General Owoyesigire said; “There is need to continually discuss in detail how ready AMISOM is, in terms of manpower and logistics, in executing these tasks (training and operations), in the sectors, putting into consideration the operational readiness and the strength of Somali security forces to support the above tasks.”

 

World Bank urges Kenyans to invest in agriculture

The Government of Kenya has outlined four big priority areas for the country’s economy for the next five years: agricultural and food security, affordable housing, an increased share for manufacturing, and universal health coverage. Unveiling the latest Kenya Economic Update last week, Allen Dennis, Senior Economist at the World Bank, emphasized that all four agendas depend heavily on agriculture which contributes so much to the country’s GDP. He pointed out: “Agriculture contributes about 51% to GDP: 26% directly and another 25% indirectly. Consequently, the sector remains a major driver of the Kenyan economy, with years of strong agricultural sector growth reflecting in overall GDP growth.” He stressed that the county’s manufacturing potential would be driven by growth in agriculture, adding: “Food for all can only be realized with heavily investment and good policies in the agricultural sector. People are what they eat, showing a connection between food and health.”

The Economic Update noted that the agricultural sector also contributed over 60% to employment, yet less than 2% of total expenditures in FY 2016/17 were allocated to the sector in Kenya. The report said this was well short of the 4.5 % average in sub-Saharan Africa and of the recommended 10% agreed to under the AU Malabo Declaration.” The report said only 2% of the total arable land in Kenya was irrigated compared to 6% in sub-Saharan Africa or 37% in Asia. It noted that recent studies showed that for sub-Saharan economies returns from irrigation range from 17% for large scale farmers to 43% for small scale farmers. It could also triple per capita farm incomes, with significant impact on poverty reduction.

The Kenya Economic Update suggests Kenya should introduce property taxes on agricultural land to encourage the utilization of large tracts of fertile but idle agricultural land to increase access to land for smallholder farmers and to support the food security agenda. It urges the country to increase the adoption of drought resistant or tolerant varieties of crops, to invest in soil and water management and to provide effective climate and weather information services to farmers to improve their decisions over production.

The report emphasizes that support from the public, and more importantly, the private sector is required to achieve the government’s priority areas. Among specific measures to provide the necessary financial support for the government aims, the report identifies: enhancing domestic revenue mobilization through the rationalization of tax exemptions; slowing the pace of expansion of recurrent spending and improving financial efficiency; prudent macroeconomic policies to lay down an appropriate foundation; and critical sectoral policy reforms, including allocation of more resources to agriculture to boost productivity and food security, as well as more resources for extension services and irrigation to small hold farmers;  and climate proofing the agriculture sector. The report says universal health coverage will require some level of government subsidies, and it calls for the expansion of health insurance. Provision of affordable housing needs both supply and demand-side bottlenecks to be addressed. Policy options to advance manufacturing should focus on competitiveness, capabilities and connectedness and the report suggests “development of industrial enclaves with reliable infrastructure and procedures”. It calls for strengthened regional integration.

The report has three key messages overall. The first is that after problems dampened growth last year, economic activity is gaining momentum once again. With improved rains, the beginning of the removal of political uncertainty which held back investment, and broad-based recovery in the global economy, Kenya’s GDP growth is expected to recover to 5.5% this year and rise to 6.1% by 2020. Equally, the report does express concern over macro-economic stability, subdued credit growth to the private sector and the impart of tighter global financial market conditions and tensions in global trade.

The second message is that the government’s four big priority areas, if ambitious, can be achieved, though they will need significant policy reforms. The report proposes necessary macroeconomic and sectoral policy options to help in the medium-term. To get support from both public and private sectors, there is a need to provide appropriate incentives through policy reforms and allow resources to flow to the priority areas.

Thirdly, the report also notes that the policies to achieve the priorities would also help to foster inclusive growth and accelerate the pace of poverty reduction. It analyzed the macroeconomic drivers of poverty reduction and suggests that while growth in the agriculture sector accounted for the largest share of poverty reduction, progress remained vulnerable to climate shocks. The report says that to eradicate poverty by 2030, Kenya needs a combination of higher and more inclusive growth increasingly driven by the private sector. increasingly driven by the private sector and translates into more rapid poverty reduction.

The World Bank makes it clear it remains committed to working with key Kenyan stakeholders to identify policy and structural issues to enhance inclusive growth, attain its major policy objectives and keep the country on the path to upper middle-income status. In this context, it notes that the Economic Update offers a forum for policy discussions and debating policy issues that might “contribute to fostering growth and shared prosperity and poverty reduction in Kenya.”

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