A Week in the Horn

30 Jun 2017


  • News in Brief
  • The 29th Ordinary Session of the Summit of the African Union starts
  • Foreign Minister Dr Workneh on an official visit to Russia
  • Djibouti’s 40th anniversary of independence
  • Human Rights Council extends Special Rapporteur’s mandate on Eritrea
  • Inauguration of the Hawassa Industrial Park
  • Ethiopia’s tourism sector is attracting more investment


News in brief

Africa and the African union

The 31st Ordinary Session of the Executive Council opened on Friday (June 30) and deliberated on the agenda of the AU Summit in preparation for the 29th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Union, under the theme: “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investments in the Youth”. The 34th Ordinary Session of the Permanent Representatives’ Committee (PRC) was held earlier on Tuesday (June 27), (See article)

The second International Civil Aviation Organization meeting on air cargo development in Africa was held this week in Addis Ababa (June 27-29). ICAO President, Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu, and the CEO of Ethiopian Airlines, Tewolde Gebremariam, called for strengthening Africa’s aviation industry to foster the continent’s development.


President Mulatu Teshome congratulated the People and Government of the Republic of Djibouti upon the occasion of the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Independence Day of the country.

President Dr Mulatu Teshome extended his condolences on the passing of the Former President of Botswana, Sir Ketumile Masire.

President Mulatu Teshome received President of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), Dr Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu, at the National Palace on Wednesday (June 28) and noted that Ethiopia would step up the role it has been playing to improve Africa’s aviation industry.

Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn congratulated the Government and peoples of Djibouti on the 40th Anniversary of the country’s Independence Day.

Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn on Thursday (June28) inaugurated Ethiopian Airlines’ a state-of-the-art cargo terminal-II built at a cost of 110 million Euros. The Prime Minister said that the new cargo terminal has an instrumental role for the growth of Ethiopia’s horticulture. The new terminal will also help boost Ethiopia’s footwear, leather and pharmaceuticals exports.

Prime Minister Hailemariam held discussions with delegations from the Israeli–based Save A Child’s Heart (SACH) and the US-based Mending Kids on Wednesday (June 28). The delegation pledged to support the efforts being made by the Government of Ethiopia to help people affected by heart disease.

Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr Workneh Gebeyehu congratulated the People and Government of the Republic of Djibouti upon the occasion of the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Independence Day of the country.

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Workneh Gebeyehu met his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov in Moscow, Russia, on Monday (June 26) where the two ministers discussed bilateral relations as well as ways to strengthen their cooperation in many sectors, including in infrastructure, trade and economic spheres.

Foreign Minister Dr Workneh received his Ugandan counterpart, Sam Kutesa on Friday (June 30) and exchanged views on bilateral and regional issues of common concern.

Dr Workneh Gebeyehu met with Foreign Minister of Madagascar, Beatrice Attalah on Friday (June 30, 2017) in Addis Ababa on the margins of the 29
th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union. The two ministers explored ways of cooperation on areas of transport and aviation industry and exchanged views on regional and international issues of mutual concern.

Foreign Minister Dr Workneh welcomed the visiting President of ICAO Council Dr Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu on Wednesday (June 28). The two sides agreed to make joint efforts on various issues concerning aviation industry in Africa.

State Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mrs Hirut Zemene received the Deputy Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC), Ambassador Thomas Kwesi Quartey on Tuesday (June 27) and held discussions on possible areas of cooperation between Ethiopia and the African Union Commission.

State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mrs Hirut Zemene congratulated the People and Government of the Republic of Djibouti on the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Independence Day of the country. (See article)

State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mrs Hirut Zemene met with the Danish Under-Secretary for Global Development and Cooperation, Mr Morten Jespersen on Wednesday (June 28) and held discussions on migration, trade, investment, development cooperation, peace and security of the region as well as possible areas of strategic cooperation between Ethiopia and Denmark.

State Minister Mrs Hirut Zemene extended her condolences on the passing of the Former President of Botswana, Sir Ketumile Masire. Mrs Hirut said Sir Ketumile Masire was a leading figure in the independence movement of Botswana and a committed leader who worked tirelessly for the growth and development of his country as well as for the peace and stability of Africa, adding “His death is, indeed, a loss not only to the people and Government of Botswana but also to the continent”.

State Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Aklilu Hailemichael received Ms Tina Staermose, a Senior Advisor at the International Labor Organization (ILO) on Wednesday (June 28) and emphasized the need for collaboration between the Government of Ethiopia and other concerned international organizations in a bid to provide technical support for the implementation of jobs compact and other refugee initiatives.

Neway Gebreab, Chief economic adviser to the Prime Minister, has been officially declared Ethiopia’s candidate for the post of AUC Economic Affairs Commissionership. Speaking at a reception held on Monday (June 26) at Hilton Hotels, State Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hirut Zemene officially announced Ethiopia’s decision to choose Neway as candidate for the post, adding: “Mr Neway, an accomplished practitioner with decades of experience in economic affairs will lead the continent to transformation”.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on Thursday (June 29) extended the 90-day amnesty for undocumented migrants by an additional one month.

The World Bank Board of Executive Directors endorsed a new World Bank Group five-year Country Partnership Framework to support Ethiopia’s development aspirations on Tuesday (June 27). The Bank said the CPF was informed by extensive consultations and was in line with priorities outlined in the country’s Growth and Transformation Plan II (GTP-II). It would intensify support for poverty reduction in Ethiopia and seek to address key challenges facing the country.

Ethiopia and the European Investment Bank (EIB) signed a 4billion loan agreement this week on Thursday (June 29). The loan will be used to support Small and Micro as well as mid-level agro-processing and manufacturing enterprises in the country.

China’s top legislature ratified an extradition treaty with Ethiopia on Tuesday (June 27). The treaty was approved at the closing meeting of a bimonthly session of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee. It is to be recalled that Ethiopia signed the extradition treaty with China on May 4, 2014.


The UN Human Rights Council in Geneva closed its thirty-fifth session on Friday last week (June 23) after adopting two resolutions on Eritrea and on counter-terrorism measures. (See article)


President Ismail Omar Guelleh led the celebrations for Djibouti‘s fortieth anniversary of independence on Tuesday this week (June 27). (See article)


According to the Kenyan Police, at least four children and four policemen were killed in a roadside explosion in southeastern Kenya, near the border with Somalia on Tuesday (June 27).


The Prime Minister of Somalia Hasan Ali Khayre met with Norway’s Foreign Minister Børge Brende in Mogadishu on Thursday (June 29). Khayre highlighted the importance of international community’s support, including Norway’s, to stabilize the country, build institutions and tackle various challenges. He said the current government has managed to achieve significant progress during the past months.

Somali government forces retook control of areas from militant group al-Shabaab in southern Somalia on Thursday (June 29); following fighting between the two sides, government forces have overpowered the militants to recapture areas in Gedo region.

The President of Puntland, Abdiwali Mohamed Ali “Gaas” held meeting with the Federal Electoral Commission on Thursday (June 29), and discussions focused on the agenda of the Electoral Commission and the progress it made since its formation in the past several months.

The Interior Ministry of Somalia’s southwest state has announced the first-time local council elections for districts to be held in the region next month. The residents of Barawe, Eel Bade, Bardaale, Hudur and Baydhabo of Lower Shabelle, along with districts in Bakol and Bay regions, will elect district commissioners and their deputies in ballots on July 10.

The UN on Wednesday (June 28) said an outbreak of cholera and acute diarrhea in Somalia has killed 795 people since January. OCHA said, of these, 337 cases were reported from Wadajir district in Banadir region; it said: “A cumulative total of 53,015 cases including 795 deaths have been reported since the cholera outbreak started in January 2017.”

South Sudan

The South Sudanese government has written letters to its diplomatic missions in seven countries across the world, asking them to report to the headquarters of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, including from the United Kingdom, Sudan, Germany, India, Egypt, Uganda and Eritrea.

South Sudan’s armed opposition faction (SPLM-IO) representatives across Europe, America, South America and Africa have demanded the “immediate” and “unconditional” release of Riek Machar from his confinement in South Africa.

The heads of the member churches of the South Sudan Council of Churches criticized the country’s political leaders “on all sides” for placing political and personal interests above the needs of ordinary people. In a statement last Friday (June 23), the Council said this had led to economic decline, famine and on-going violence. The Council charged that the country’s problems were “man-made, a result of mismanagement, blatant corruption, insecurity, lack of governance and the rule of law.” In its statement at the conclusion of a meeting in Addis Ababa, the Council welcomed the creation of a forum for national dialogue but lamented that the attempt at dialogue has gone unaccepted by opposition parties.


A statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday (June 28) said Sudan respects the right of the United States of America to protect its national security but it hopes that the travel ban on its nationals would not affect the expected lift of economic sanctions, said the foreign ministry on Wednesday.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service on Friday (June 23) announced the addition of Sudan to the eligible countries under the Africa Middle East Region for the Export Credit Guarantee Program. This provides credit guarantees to encourage financing of commercial exports of U.S. agricultural products. In January, former President Barack Obama eased the 19-year US economic and trade sanctions on Sudan. On July 12, several U.S. administration agencies will decide to confirm Obama’s decision to permanently lift the sanctions or to maintain them.


The 29th Ordinary Session of the Summit of the African Union starts

Under the theme “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investments in the Youth”, the 31
st Ordinary Session of the Executive Council of the African Union (AU) opened this week on Friday (June 30) in Addis Ababa, at the African Union Headquarters. In his address to the Executive Council, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat stressed four key issues. He said: “Priorities of our Agenda include Progress in Institutional Reform; Need to speak with one Voice; and Link our Decisions and will to implement them.” The Chairperson recalled his visits to African union Member States that continue to face war and terrorism, and reiterated the need for Africa to speak with one Voice, adding: “It is urgent to propose to our Heads of State concrete measures to speed up the African Union Process.” He stressed: “Whenever we have kept our Unity and spoken with One Voice, we have won victories.”

The Executive Council’s adoption of the various Decisions and Declarations would be forwarded to the Assembly of the Heads of State and Government which is holding its 29th Ordinary Session Summit on Monday and Tuesday next week (July 3 – 4).

The 29th AU Summit opened with the 34th Session of the Permanent Representatives’ Committee (PRC) which was held earlier on Tuesday (June 27). The Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, the Deputy Chairperson, the AUC Commissioners, the Ambassadors of all 55 African Union member states based in Addis Ababa, representatives from the diplomatic corps, the international community, civil society, private sector and invited guests attended the opening of the Session.

The Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, in his first address as Chairperson of the Commission, emphasized the relations between the Permanent Representatives’ Committee and the new Commission. He emphasized: “While dealing with emergencies, and trying to identify the strategic lines of our action, we have acquired a serious awareness of the need to change certain crucial aspects of the Commission’s working methods. The result is the necessity of addressing the relations between our two organs” he added. The Chairperson underlined the need to give full measure to the necessary cooperation and synergy between the two institutions. He reaffirmed the Commission’s commitment to work with the PRC. He said: “We have a lot to achieve with limited means”, adding, “Our success depends on the coherence of our actions and our commitments, whatever the level of our responsibilities”.

The Chairperson highlighted the main issues to be considered during the Permanent Representatives’ Committee session. Prominent among these was the Reform of the African Union. Follow up of the implementation of this was jointly entrusted to President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, President Idriss Deby Itno of Chad and President Alpha Conde of Guinea, in accordance with the decisions of the July 2016 and January 2017 AU summit. Other major issues were the question of migration and the need to address the serious situation arising from the crisis that millions of internal refugees are experiencing because of conflict and the threat of famine in several states; the challenges to peace and security across the continent, with the renewed fighting in South Sudan, the situation in Somalia and crises in Libya are among issues at the top of the agenda as well as the situation in Central African Republic, Mali, the Democratic Republic Congo (DRC) and Burundi; the need for coherent action and commitment against active terrorism and extremism, affecting all regions of the continent; and implementation of the decision of the 0.2% levy on imports of eligible products in order to ensure predictable, sustainable and equitable financing of the AU.

Mr Mahamat stressed the need to encourage concerted efforts from AU member States to end political crises and conflicts. He also highlighted the partnerships of the AU with other continental and global bodies, noting “our strategic partnerships merit a new examination in order to make them more relevant to the requirements of our Agenda 2063, and to the pillars of the reform of our Union”. He underlined the need to finalize the study on the evaluation of the AU strategic partnerships and to present it to the deliberative bodies.

Mrs Fatoumata Kaba Sidibe, Chairperson of the Permanent Representatives’ Committee and Ambassador of the Republic of Guinea, in her remarks during the opening ceremony, expressed appreciation for the efforts already made by the AU Commission Chairperson in the search for solutions to the crises and conflicts on the continent. She called on the PRC members to be comprehensive and clear when taking decisions and making recommendations on the various reports, so as to facilitate the work of the AU policy organs.

Issues considered by the Permanent Representatives’ Committee included: the budget of African Union, the Permanent Representatives’ Committee subcommittee reports (on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, the African Union Council of International Law (AUCIL), the Economic Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC), Human and Peoples’ Rights, on the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, on Social Development and Labor). The PRC also considered reports on the reversal of the Executive Council decision on selling the old New York building, on the humanitarian situation in Africa, on the outcome of the meeting of the Ministerial Committee on Agenda 2063, on the first ordinary session of the specialized technical committee on transport, transcontinental and interregional infrastructure, on energy and tourism, and other issues.

The summit is being seen by many as historic, as it is the first summit with the full participation of all fifty-five African countries, following the return of the Kingdom of Morocco to the 28th AU Assembly in January this year. It is also the first summit for the new Commission of the African Union, elected in January.

Over the weekend, the NEPAD Agency, the implementing agency of the African Union, is launching the Global Hunger Index: Africa Report. The Index is calculated on the basis of four indicators, undernourishment, child wasting, child stunting and child mortality and it aims to encourage commitment among policy makers and other stakeholders on the Zero Hunger campaign by promoting the generation and application of Global Hunger Index data. This is intended to improve the design, strengthen the implementation and foster investments in food security and nutrition in Africa towards the continental target of zero hunger by 2025. The NEPAD Agency is also holding an engagement session with the Media and Youth, to speak to and with African Youth on how they can contribute towards the realisation of the Agenda 2063 vision, but also to empower them in understanding their role in making this African vision a reality. It aims to provide a pan-African orientation to young and dedicated African youth and media and create a youth and media network to encourage the role of the NEPAD Agency in the implementation of the Agenda 2063 vision.


Foreign Minister Dr Workneh on an official visit to Russia

Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Workneh Gebeyehu paid a working visit to Moscow at the invitation of Sergey Lavrov, the Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation, at the beginning of the week.

The bilateral meeting was conducted in the usual atmosphere of warm friendship and partnership, which is defined by a centuries old history of engagement. The two ministers reviewed the state of bilateral relations and expressed their satisfaction on the general direction of these relations. They particularly focused on the implementation status of the decisions taken by the 6th Inter-Governmental commission (IGC) which took place in March this year. It should be noted that the IGC discussions covered a wide range of cooperation proposals and draft agreements including in the fields education, science and technology, nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, industry, tourism and culture, agriculture, customs trade and investment as well as mineral resources.

The two ministers also exchanged views on how to further enhance people-to-people and business ties through aviation links, scholarship and robust private sector involvement. Underlining that the business links between the two countries are not commensurate with the deep and historic ties existing between them, the ministers have agreed to take more initiatives that would enhance the trade and investment partnership between the two countries.

During the talks, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Workneh expressed that Russia and Ethiopia have enjoyed historic and friendly relations, and Russia has been an all-weather friend of Ethiopia in good as well as bad times.

Sergey Lavrov on his part described Ethiopia as one of the leading African partners of Russia and expressed that Ethiopia enjoys high prestige on the global arena, which is evidenced by its election as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for 2017-2018, as well as the election of Dr Tedros Adhanom as Director-General of the World Health organization. He characterized Ethiopia’s policy on global affairs as balanced and responsible.

The two ministers exchanged views on various issues of peace and security in the Horn of Africa region in particular and Africa in general. As members of the UNSC, both countries have agreed to work together towards enhancing peace and security through peaceful resolution of conflicts as provided for in the UN Charter. They also reiterated their commitment to continue to work together with international community in the fight against terrorism, drug trafficking, piracy and other modern threats and challenges on the basis of international law.

The two sides agreed to celebrate the 120 years of Russian-Ethiopian diplomatic relations next year, which would be marked on a grand scale. It should be recalled that Ethiopia and Russia established formal diplomatic relations in 1898.

Djibouti’s 40th anniversary of independence

The Republic of Djibouti celebrated its 40th independence anniversary on Tuesday this week (June 27) with a colorful military parade, underlining Djibouti’s strategic importance at the mouth of the Red Sea. Alongside Djiboutian military units were contingents from the United States, China and India. President Omar Guelleh and representatives of neighbouring countries attended the 40th independence parade and the celebrations included an impressive fireworks display.

In a speech on the occasion, Mrs Hirut Zemene, State Minister of Foreign Affairs, congratulated the People and Government of the People and Government of the Republic of Djibouti on the country’s 40th independence anniversary. She was very proud and honoured to witness the remarkable achievements registered by Djibouti in the areas of political stability and economic growth. The State Minister underlined the long-standing and exceptional relations between the two countries, with their strong political, economic and social cooperation based on a solid foundation of mutual benefit and respect. She also noted they were “marching towards economic inter-dependence through ever-growing infrastructural connectivity – railways, roads, water pipelines, telecom networks and power interconnections that demonstrate the future for regional economic integration.” The recent inauguration of the Ethio-Djibouti railway line launched a new phase in thriving bilateral relations; and the ever-growing infrastructural integration between the two countries was an indication of expanding interdependence and regional integration in the IGAD region. State Minister Hirut also emphasized that the high level of mutual understanding and cooperation in bilateral, sub-regional, regional and global forums should be characterized as exemplary and the best in the sub-region. Both countries, she added, were also committed to securing peace and stability in the Horn of Africa: “Your celebration is our celebration.”

Djibouti’s position at the Bab el-Mandeb strait at the southern end of the Red Sea underlines Djibouti’s strategic importance. By 2015, over 900 million metric tons of goods, including almost 10% of the world’s maritime oil trade, passed through the Suez Canal and the Bab el-Mandeb strait. This has allowed Djibouti to capitalize on the country’s location. Since independence, Djibouti has steadily expanded links outside France, the former colonial power, allowing the United States to rent and renovate a former French Foreign Legion facility, Camp Lemonier. Now Japan, Italy and China also have facilities in Djibouti, and currently Saudi Arabia has signed an agreement to allow for a permanent military presence as well.

Djibouti is interested in gaining increased access to the growing levels of inter-Horn trade and regional resources. It is a central member of IGAD and hosts its Secretariat. It participates in the AU Mission in Somalia, AMISOM, providing it with two battalions. The port of Djibouti is now becoming a stop on China’s maritime Silk Road, and the increasing number of ports provides facilities for extensive maritime activity. Their largest user remains Ethiopia, providing access to the outside world as well as offering the future potential for much wider links into the Horn as a whole, and into East Africa and beyond.

Djibouti is the major access for Ethiopia’s imports and exports, a status now expanded significantly by the operation of the Addis Ababa to Djibouti Standard Gauge Electric Railway, inaugurated last October. The 756-kilometer line was built and financed by China, for $4.2 billion, and when fully operational will cut transport times to a matter of hours. Prime Minister Hailemariam has said the railway will play an indispensable role in helping achieve the full-scale economic growth of the region in addition to improving and upgrading the quality of the socio-economic development for both countries, and enhance the normal functioning of the Ethio-Djiboutian business corridor. President Guelleh says the electrified railway line will contribute to the overall economic transformation of the two countries and that the completion of the project presaged a positive brighter trajectory in their overall relationship. Djibouti has built several new port facilities to help cope with the extra traffic generated by Ethiopia’s booming economy and the expected increases when Ethiopia’s industrial parks begin to generate increased exports.

Both Djibouti and Ethiopia see this as highly desirable. Ethiopia’s Foreign Minister, Dr Workneh Gebeyehu, last December told the Annual Conference of Djiboutian Ambassadors of Ethiopia’s interest in raising the relationship to even higher levels, stressing Ethiopia attached the utmost importance to its relations with Djibouti. He emphasized that Ethiopia’s Foreign and National Security Policy was devised with the aim of fast-tracking the fight against poverty and underdevelopment; and was also designed to give full play to the promotion of regional integration. Ethiopia shapes and directs its neighborhood diplomacy in the interests of regional development and security, and mainstreams the importance of its national interest in perfect synchronization with regional integration.

Shared future and common benefits are central to its aims for upholding regional platforms, including IGAD, as mechanisms to promote regional stability, along with massive infrastructure development and regional integration. Equally, the strategic application of Ethiopia’s foreign policy in relation to Djibouti had steadily advanced. Their comprehensive strategic partnership sets an example for other countries to follow. Djibouti’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohammed Ali Yusuf, also underlined Djibouti’s interest in transforming the existing language, cultural, religious and historic links between Djibouti and Ethiopia into economic integration. This, he said, provided a model for other African countries.

There are a number of integration efforts operating in the Horn of Africa, not least because of Ethiopia’s commitment to infrastructural links as the basis for regional development. Earlier this year, Prime Minister Hailemariam said the two countries had integrated themselves through port use, railways, power, telecommunications and fiber optics, trade and investment and most recently potable water. Last week, there was an official inauguration ceremony for drinking water supplies from Ethiopia. This will provide drinking water to the Ali-Sabieh, Dikhil and Arta regions as well as to Djibouti city itself. President Guelleh described the project as “a key lever” for development: “With the realization of this project, our country is beginning to develop a new state of mind, that of understanding more calmly its development, after the acquisition of provisions indispensable to its survival such as water.” Indeed, this is another concrete example of successful economic integration.

The Ethiopia-Djibouti relationship can be seen as a potential model for greater sub-regional integration efforts in the Horn of Africa. Currently it is largely based of the independent initiatives of the two countries rather than on the efforts of regional organizations, but both countries belong to IGAD and COMESA, and the possibilities for wider integration efforts within the East African area remain high. Indeed, within IGAD Ethiopia and Djibouti are torchbearers for fulfilling AU’s vision of economic integration.

President Ismail Omar Guelleh’s three-day official visit in March this year underlined the point. During his visit, he addressed a joint session of the House of People’s Representatives and House of Federation, opening his speech in Amharic, Ethiopia’s official language. The President stressed that the new railway was a testament to longstanding bilateral ties and underlined the commitment of both countries to foster and deepen their unique links, and emphasized economic integration and the desire of the citizens of both countries for economic stability were the guiding principles for the development. He appreciated Ethiopia’s efforts and leadership in creating regional economic integration between the two countries and setting an example to Africa.

During bilateral talks with Prime Minister Hailemariam, the two leaders again expressed their commitment to lifting relations to even greater heights. They agreed on the need for more and speedy implementation of cooperation packages to further enhance relations, and signed new agreements on Extradition, Mutual Legal Assistance on Criminal Matters, on Cooperation in the fields of Justice and Legal Training, and Trade. They also agreed to streamline customs procedures and use new technology for cross-border payments to simplify cross-border trade, underlining deepening ties. Prime Minister Hailemariam, after talks with President Guelleh, told reporters: “Djibouti is the main port for our transactions and trade. We are also a source of income for Djibouti. We can either die or survive together.” Ethiopia and Djibouti will now be holding meetings of the High-Level Joint Commission biennially and meetings of the Joint Ministerial Commission quarterly.

Human Rights Council extends Special Rapporteur’s mandate on Eritrea

The UN Human Rights Council in Geneva closed its thirty-fifth session on Friday last week (June 23) after adopting two resolutions on Eritrea and on counter-terrorism measures. In the first of these, the Council adopted a resolution extending the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea for another year. It adopted the resolution without a vote. The resolution also called upon the Government of Eritrea to consider the establishment of a presence of the Office of the High Commissioner in Eritrea with a holistic mandate to protect, promote and monitor human rights with unhindered access. The second resolution, also adopted without a vote, urged States to ensure that measures taken to counter terrorism and violent extremism conducive to terrorism were not discriminatory, and not to resort to profiling based on stereotypes founded on ethnic, racial or religious grounds or any other ground of discrimination prohibited by international law. The Council also appointed four Special Procedure mandate holders. It agreed the thirty-sixth regular session of the Human Rights Council should take place in September 2017.

The Resolution on the Situation of Human Rights in Eritrea (A/HRC/35/L.13/Rev.1) was adopted without a vote. Under this, the Council decided to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea for a period of one year, and requested the mandate holder to continue and to strengthen efforts to follow up on the implementation of the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry and the recommendations made by the Special Rapporteur in her report on the situation of human rights in Eritrea. The resolution also calls for the Special Rapporteur to submit and present a written report to the Human Rights Council at its thirty-eighth session, and to address and engage in an interactive dialogue with the UN General Assembly at its seventy-second session.

The Council also decided to hold an enhanced interactive dialogue on the human rights situation in Eritrea at its thirty-seventh session, with the participation of the Special Rapporteur, the Office of the High Commissioner, civil society and other relevant stakeholders. It called upon the Government of Eritrea to consider the establishment of a presence of the Office of the High Commissioner in Eritrea “with a holistic mandate to protect, promote and monitor human rights with unhindered access.” The Council further requested that the Office of the High Commissioner continue to enhance engagement in improving the situation of human rights in Eritrea. It requested that the High Commissioner’s Office present an oral update to the Human Rights Council at its thirty-seventh session on progress in the cooperation with Eritrea, and on the impact on the situation of human rights in Eritrea.

Eritrea, as the “concerned country”, claimed the Human Rights Council would “get itself into a regional conflict by adopting the resolution in question”. Describing this “sordid affair” as the harassment of Eritrea to serve ulterior political objectives, it said the resolution served the agendas of other players, and claimed the moral authority of the Council would be corroded by the resolution. It claimed the underlying report had fundamental flaws. Eritrea, it said, rejected the use of the Council by “some desperate members to thwart economic progress.” The progress of the nation could not be halted, and the resolution was “oblivious to realities”. The failure to recognize progress in Eritrea was equally symptomatic of how the Council regarded other countries. The resolution, it said, exposed the destructive aims of Eritrea’s detractors. Eritrea totally rejected the draft resolution, which was “a travesty of justice.” It said Member States of the Council should disassociate themselves from the unfair and unwarranted resolution.

Resolution L.13 was introduced by Djibouti as a follow-up to previous resolutions that had enjoyed the consensus of the Council since 2012. In 2016, the Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea, in its second report to the Council, concluded that in addition to enslavement, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, torture, persecution, rape and murder, there were reasonable grounds to believe that crimes against humanity had been committed and continued in Eritrea since 1991. It called for a renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur in order to follow up the implementation of the recommendations made by the Commission of Inquiry. It particularly referred to creation of accountability mechanisms and other recommendations and called for enhanced interactive dialogue at the thirty-seventh session of the Council, due in 2018.

Most comments on the resolution underlined the need for further monitoring of the on-going human rights violations in Eritrea, calling on the Government of Eritrea to fully implement the resolution, including provision of giving access to the Special Rapporteur. The resolution was adopted without a vote.

Earlier, on June 14, the Human Rights Council had held an interactive dialogue with Sheila Keetharuth, the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Eritrea. Ms Keetharuth, presenting her report to the Council, said that Eritrea had not made any effort to address the human rights concerns highlighted by the Commission of Inquiry. It had shown no willingness to tackle the impunity of perpetrators of human rights violations. Conditions in detention remained harsh, leading to irreparable damage to the health of prisoners, in some instances even causing death. She expressed deep concern that almost 16 years later, family members of high-profile political prisoners were kept completely in the dark about their physical and mental health. The importance and value of full access to places of detention by international monitors was critical. She urged the international community to show strong commitment to address the root causes of human rights violations as this was the key reason fueling the exodus of people from Eritrea. Only justice and respect for human rights would bring a lasting solution to the problems, she said.

Ms Keetharuth said the Commission of Inquiry had called on the Government of Eritrea to ensure accountability for past and persistent human rights violations and crimes against humanity. It had recommended the establishment of independent, impartial and gender-sensitive mechanisms, and to provide victims with adequate redress, including the right to truth and reparations. It noted that far-reaching and substantial institutional and legal reforms would be required before the domestic legal system could hold perpetrators to account in a fair and transparent manner. Ms Keetharuth recommended the Government of Eritrea take concrete steps to ensure a truly participatory process in the preparation of Eritrea’s next review under the Universal Periodic Review; that Member States cooperate with Eritrean human rights defenders and civil society to ensure that human rights remained at the core of all engagement with the country; and that civil society set up and support networks among victims of crimes against humanity and other human rights violations, human rights defenders and their partners at regional and global levels. She urged the international community to show a strong commitment to addressing the root causes of human rights violations as the key reasons fuelling the exodus of large numbers of people from Eritrea. Only justice and respect for human rights would bring a lasting solution to the problems relating to flights from the country.

Eritrea, in response to Ms Keetharuth’s report, attacked the integrity of the Special Rapporteur. It describing her report as “surreal” and claiming she had failed to display minimal standards of neutrality, objectivity and professionalism. It said she was an activist committed to regime change from the outset. Ignoring all the evidence of Eritrean efforts at regional destabilization, it also claimed Ethiopia was responsible for the prolongation of the national service.

In the discussion, delegations repeatedly reiterated their concerns over the grave human rights abuses in Eritrea, including arbitrary arrests and detention of citizens, their imprisonment in harsh conditions, and the use of torture and sexual violence, as well as the fate of unaccompanied children fleeing the prospect of indefinite conscription. Speakers called on Eritrea to undertake substantial legal and institutional reforms to improve respect for human rights, account for and release all political prisoners, work towards ending the indefinite compulsory national service and step up the fight against impunity. They said Eritrea should strengthen its cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Ms Keetharuth refused to respond to the personal attacks by the delegation of Eritrea and stressed that she was implementing her mandate in line with the code of conduct and its values. She had consistently asked for cooperation from Eritrea with specific requests for visits to Eritrea, first in 2003. It still remained unanswered. This illustrated the need to change how Eritrea engaged and cooperated with the human rights system. There had been no progress in terms of setting up accountability mechanisms or a system of checks and balances. Eritrea had no constitution or independent judiciary, which pointed to the need to find other ways to provide accountability, perhaps through a civil society support network, or helping victims and their families organize.

Inauguration of the Hawassa Industrial Park

The Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn inaugurated the biggest industrial park in Africa on Tuesday last week (June 20). The Hawassa world-class Eco-Industrial Park, featuring state-of-the art and environmentally-friendly technology, covers an area of 1.3 million square meters, of which 300,000 meters square is a factory shed build up area. It is devoted primarily to textile and garment products. It is projected to employ 60,000 people at full capacity and will be able to generate export revenue amounting to 1 billion U.S. dollars. Currently, eighteen leading global apparel and textile companies from America, China, India, Sri Lanka, as well as six local manufacturers, are operating within the park. Six are presently exporting their products to the global market.

The first sustainable Industrial Park in Africa, Hawassa Industrial Park has a total of thirty-seven factory sheds, and its own renewable electricity source. It makes use of Zero Liquid Discharge (ZLD) that makes it possible to recycle 85 percent of sewerage disposal water. The plant uses the latest technology and has the capacity to treat and recycle 11 million litres of effluent every day, conforming to all international standards. The Hawassa Industrial Park also takes into account a system to cover all government services with a one-stop-shop service center. Importantly, in terms of Ethiopia’s green economy aims, overall, the Park provides a great example for the industrial parks now being built in other parts of the country.

Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn officially declared the full operationalization of the park under phase one and emphasized Ethiopia’s vision is to be the leading manufacturing hub in Africa by the year 2025. In his remarks at the inaugural ceremony, the Prime Minister said that the Hawassa industrial park can be taken as a “foundation in Ethiopia’s ambition to be the manufacturing hub of the African continent”. He said: “Our goal is to create millions of new jobs in labour-intensive and export-oriented light manufacturing.” The Prime Minister said, “the full operation of the Hawassa industrial park is the most evident and concrete example yet towards achieving our national vision and marks a milestone in our quest to industrialization”. He also noted the country had continued to attracted huge foreign direct investment (FDI), despite the global decline. The most recent reports from both the World Bank (Global Economic Prospect, 2017), and IMF (World Economic Outlook 2017) forecast that Ethiopia will be one of the fastest-growing economies in the world and a star performer in 2017. Ethiopia has also become one of the largest recipients of foreign direct investment; according to UNCTAD’s 2017 investment report, Ethiopia is now the second largest recipient of FDI in textile and apparel next to Vietnam.

The Special Advisor to the Prime Minster, Dr Arkebe Oqubay, said Ethiopia’s rapid economic growth could only be sustained through the realization of a structural transformation. This in turn required creating a robust and competitive industrial base. Some companies in the park have already started to export and when the park production reaches full capacity, Ethiopia will earn around one billion USD every year from Hawassa Park, he said. He noted that the development of world class, specialized, sustainable, vertically integrated, export-driven and competitive industrial parks, is a central driver and catalyst of the vision to which the government is committed – to make the country the leading manufacturing hub in Africa by 2025. Dr Arkebe said, “By developing industrial parks, the country is working to ensuring agricultural transformation; enhancing export capacity and building the capacity of the manufacturing sector.”

Dr Arkebe Oqubay, who is also Board Chairperson of the Ethiopian Industrial Parks Development Corporation, indicated that Hawassa Eco-industrial Park embodies the full execution of these principles, and therefore represented a blue-print to guide the development of similar parks in the country. He noted that “Including the two parks recently operationalized, Ethiopia is currently building a total of 15 industrial parks across the country as part of its goal to emerge as Africa’s manufacturing hub”. The government has embarked on the development of similar parks in Kombolcha, Mekele, Kilinto, Bole Lemmi II, Dire Dawa and Adama and of these the Mekele and Kombolcha industrial parks will be inaugurated next month according to Ethiopian Industrial Parks Development Corporation CEO, Sisay Gemechu. The Mekele Industrial Park and the Kombolcha Industrial Park, located 783 km and 252 km north of Addis Ababa respectively, are also both dedicated to the textile and apparel sector. Being built by the China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) and China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) the combined construction cost is US$ 250 million.

Ethiopia’s tourism sector is attracting more investment

The second annual Meetings, Incentives, Travel, Conference/Congress and Exhibition/Events (MICE) East Africa Forum and Expo and the 5th Hotel Show Africa Hospitality Investment Trade-show was held at the Millennium Hall in Addis Ababa earlier this month (June 8-10). The MICE East Africa Forum and Expo is an international standard MICE Business event, held this year in the fast transforming city of Addis Ababa, the seat of the continent’s African Union (AU) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) as well as more than 100 Diplomatic Missions, and international businesses and NGOs. It aimed to urge the Ethiopian tourism industry stakeholders of Meetings, Incentives Travel, Conference/ Congress and Exhibitions/Events (MICE) to exert further efforts to expand their activities and to encourage their initiative.

Ozzie Hospitality and Business Group Managing Director, Kumneger Teketel, noted the importance of the fair was mainly to create a platform to play a significant role in creating mutual cooperation and interaction among tourism sector actors as well as across other sectors. He said previous events had provided opportunities for the display of regional meetings, industry products and service suppliers, allowing them to forge international business networks which in turn had led to the attraction of global market attention.

Ambassador Mohammed Dirir, Special Advisor to the Foreign Affairs Minister and a former Minister of Culture and Tourism, opened the 2nd annual Meetings, Incentives, Travel, Conference/Congress and Exhibition/Events (MICE) East Africa Forum and Expo and 5th Hotel Show Africa Hospitality Investment Trade-show. Ambassador Mohammed said Ethiopia’s tourism policy and the diverse tourist attractions, together with the country’s capacity of hosting international conferences, had contributed to the economic development of the country and helped to attract anchor investors from across the globe. He also emphasized that the peaceful co-existence of different religions and peoples and the relative peace and stability made the country a favorable destination for MICE sector. Equally, he added, the country still had much to learn from its peers regarding the development of the sector.

The most recent World Bank report showed Ethiopia registered an annual 11.2% economic growth over the last 15 years. The Ethiopian Tourism Organization’s CEO, Yohannes Tilahun, noted that in the last fiscal year, the contribution of the tourism sector to GDP stood at 4.1 %. It was responsible for 3.6% of employment in the country and there had been over 900,000 tourists in Ethiopia that year, of whom half a million were business travelers. A new national tourism brand was officially launched this year, offering a distilled narrative and story of Ethiopia, “Ethiopia: Land of Origins”, to capture the attention of the international audience on the world stage.

The launch of this new brand came at the 3rd General Assembly of the Ethiopian Tourism Transformation Council. The Ethiopian Tourism Organization developed the new brand after conducting extensive research in consultation with Ethiopian stakeholders, tour operators and potential tourists around the world. ETO expressed its confidence that the new brand would position Ethiopia effectively, differentiating it positively from competitors in a way that resonated with stakeholders. The Government is determined to boost its tourism revenue. Ethiopia is moving steadily towards implementing a green economy. It is a leading country in Africa with 9 tangible UNESCO World Heritage sites and 3 on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage events. It is also, of course, known world-wide for the hospitality of its peoples.

Last week, the Rough Guides Travel Guidebook and Reference, one of the leading travel publishers known for its “tell it like it is” reviews, providing up-to-date travelers’ content and authoritative contemporary comment, voted “Ethiopia: land of origin” as the World’s Most Welcoming Country. This was on the basis of the experiences of the global followers of the Rough Guides. Digital followers of Rough Guides were asked to share their experiences of the most hospitable places around the world through social media. They voted Ethiopia top, drawing attention to the country’s unique features, describing it as a profoundly beautiful East African country with a history that stretched back many thousands of years, never colonized and with the tribal customs and hospitable traditions largely maintained intact. It was witness to just how much Ethiopia has demonstrated the credibility of the hospitable nature of its people with the international community. It also underlined just how much Ethiopians do prioritize the comfort of guests and the depth of the long-standing culture of respecting guests and visitors to be found all across the country.

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