A Week in the Horn

6 Apr 2018




 Africa and the African Union

The Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, congratulated Dr Abiy Ahmed on his appointment as Ethiopia’s new Prime Minister. The Chairperson recalled that, throughout their long and proud history, the Ethiopian people have shown their ability to overcome challenges and unite in the pursuit of the higher interest of their country. He is convinced that, under the leadership of the new Prime Minister, Ethiopia will successfully meet the tasks at hand and further consolidate the remarkable social-economic progress it has made over the past two decades. He reiterated the African Union’s full support to the Ethiopian Government and people as they strive to achieve greater strides in the interest of their country, the region and the entire continent. He looked forward to working with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed towards the achievement of the objectives set in Agenda 2063, including the promotion of peace and security and the advancement of continental integration. (See article)

The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) congratulated Dr Abiy Ahmed on his election as the new Prime Minister of the FDRE. IGAD commended the ruling party for the wise and principled election of its new Chairperson. It said Ethiopia, which has embarked on a path of truly astonishing rapid economic growth, had also been faced with formidable challenges that usually accompany such growth processes, adding that it is “with this backdrop that the election of Dr Abiy was timely and eagerly awaited for”. IGAD also said it strongly believed that Dr Abiy, one of the young, dynamic and highly educated members of the EPRDF leadership, was up to the mark to lead the party which, it said, had deservedly been applauded as the architect of Ethiopia’s benchmark status regarding the economic and social progress on the continent.

UN Secretary-General António  Guterres on Wednesday (April 4) appointed Ethiopian Major General Gebre-Adhana Woldezgu as the new Force Commander of the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA). Major General Woldezgu replaced Major General Tesfay Gidey Hailemichael of Ethiopia, and the Secretary-General said he was grateful for the latter’s tireless dedication and invaluable service and effective leadership of UNISFA. Major General Woldezgu has wide experience in force preparation, planning and deployment in international and regional peacekeeping operations. Since 2008 he has served as the Director of the Ethiopian Ministry of National Defense and was previously a divisional commander (1999-2008) and a deputy divisional commander (1995-1998).



New Prime Minister, Dr Abiy Ahmed, speaking at his swearing-in at the House of People’s Representatives, said the country’s peaceful transfer of power showed Ethiopia had laid the foundations for a durable and all-inclusive constitutional order. He said he and his Government’s primary responsibility was to move the country to a higher level of development while ensuring that its unity is secured on a sustainable basis. (See article)

Speaking at a reception for new Prime Minister Dr Abiy Ahmed on Monday (April 2), President  Mulatu Teshome said the peaceful transition of power was a step forward towards the development of democracy in Ethiopia. He stressed the transition could be a model for others as well as strengthening Ethiopia’s image. The President congratulated the people of Ethiopia and wished success for the new Prime Minister. More than 1,500 guests, including the Chairperson of African Union Commission, ministers, ambassadors, diplomats, regional chief administrators, and heads of political parties attended the event.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed received and held talks with Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat on Tuesday (April 3). The Prime Minister reaffirmed Ethiopia’s commitment to the ideals and objectives of the African Union and its determination to continue to play its rightful role towards their achievement. The two sides exchanged views on the overall situation in the Horn of Africa and pledged to work closely together in pursuit of peace, security and stability in the region and beyond. The AUC Chairperson assured Prime Minister Abiy of the African Union’s full support to the government and people of Ethiopia as they work to consolidate the remarkable socio-economic progress made by their country and further strengthen national unity and widen the political space. He stressed the critical importance of Ethiopia’s stability and prosperity for the region and the continent as a whole.

Sudan reiterated its readiness to continue cooperation with the new Ethiopian leadership in all fields in a manner that achieves the ambitions of the Sudanese and Ethiopian peoples in security, stability and development.

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta extended his congratulations to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, saying: “I warmly congratulate my brother Dr Abiy Ahmed Ali on his election as Chairperson of the Ethiopian Peoples Revolution Democratic Front (EPRDF) and endorsement by the Ethiopian Parliament as the Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.” He said the election is a clear demonstration of the trust and confidence the members of Council EPRDF have in Dr Abiy’s ability to lead the Party and the entire country in its aspirations for unity in diversity, peace and national development. He added, “Kenya and Ethiopia have, over time, and dictated by our common history and heritage, forged a valuable strategic partnership characterized by excellent bilateral relations and strong cooperation in regional and multilateral issues.”

President Mohamed Abdullahi of Somalia assured the Prime Minister of his “commitment to deepen our bilateral relations in promoting trade and investment and strengthening security for the region.” He said he had “no doubt PM Ahmed would steer our cooperation to new levels.”

Dozens of Heads of State and Government extended their congratulations to Dr Abiy Ahmed following his appointment as Ethiopia’s new Prime Minister. These included Egypt, Germany, Maldives, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Somaliland Administration, South Africa, South Sudan, Turkey, the United Kingdom as well as the European Union among others. (See article)

State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mrs Hirut Zemene met Ms Joyce Kanyangwa Luma, Country Director of the World Food Program (WFP) at the end of last week. While expressing commitment to the vision of WFP to achieve its Zero Hunger Goal, Mrs Hirut welcomed the focus of the country program of WFP for Ethiopia on rehabilitation of rural lands, forestation and development of infrastructure, improving education through school feeding, urban slum physical infrastructure improvement and support to vulnerable women and children, pilot development initiatives in the pastoral areas, and Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping (VAM) as well as gender mainstreaming. Ms Joyce expressed appreciation for the positive cooperation between the Government of Ethiopia and the WFP. She also highlighted the positive results achieved so far in reducing poverty and eliminating hunger.

State Minister for Foreign Affairs for Business and Diaspora Affairs in the Foreign Ministry, Dr Aklilu Hailemichael, has underlined the importance of the work of economic diplomacy, detailing the Ministry’s activities to promote, protect and realize national interest in terms of economic gains. In an interview he also emphasized the Ministry’s effort to attract foreign investors. (See article)

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees on Wednesday (April 4) issued the Ethiopia Country Refugee Response Plan for 2018. This provides an integrated response plan for January to December 2018 for the nearly 900,000 refugees from Eritrea, Sudan, South Sudan and Somalia currently living in Ethiopia. (See article)

A tripartite ministerial meeting between Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt, on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), began in Khartoum on Wednesday (April 4). It follows the directions issued after a meeting of the Heads of State and Government held on the side-lines of the African Union (AU) summit in Addis Ababa in January 2018. This week also marks the 7th anniversary of the start of construction of the GERD. (See article)



Djibouti and the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED) on Wednesday (April 4) concluded the signing of a loan agreement worth USD26.7m for the development of a 15MW geothermal project in Djibouti. Scheduled to be completed by the end of 2021, the project is expected to meet a significant portion of the power demand of Djibouti as well as to reduce the interruption of electricity services and the import of fuel and electricity from abroad.



Responding to Prime Minister Abiy’s call for “years of misunderstandings” between Ethiopia and Eritrea, Yemane  Gebremeskel, Eritrea’s Information Minister said on Monday (April 2) that peace will indeed be beneficial to the two peoples but… “The ball has stayed for too long in Ethiopia’s court. There is no dispute as the litigation process ended 16 years ago. Ethiopia needs to honor its treaty obligations and respect Eritrea’s sovereignty and territorial integrity by withdrawing from occupied territories – including Badme.



Kenya Airports Authority and the African Development Bank Group concluded a loan agreement on Monday (April 2) to finance the Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta International Airport airfield expansion project. It said it intends to apply part of the proceeds for construction of a second runway.



The United Nations Security Council condemned in the strongest terms the terrorist attacks of April 1, 2018 perpetrated by al-Shabaab against the Ugandan contingent of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) in Lower Shabelle. The Council, in a statement issued on Thursday (April 5), said “We express our deep sympathy and condolences to the families of the victims, as well as to the people and Government of Uganda. We wish a speedy recovery to those injured. The Council underscored full support to AMISOM in delivering its mandate to reduce the threat posed by the terrorist group al-Shabaab and armed opposition groups in Somalia. The Council further reaffirmed that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security, and pressed for the need to bring perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of terrorism to justice. (See article)

The Special Envoys on Funding Consultations for the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), visited Mogadishu on Sunday (April 1) to discuss sustainable funding for peace operations in Somalia. Their visit was part of the ongoing consultations on peace support operations for AMISOM, spearheaded by the African Union and the UN. (See article)

AMISOM said on Friday last week that it had started the biometric registration of the Darwish militia in Jubaland state, in advance of their integration into the regional State’s security forces. The AMISOM Police Coordinator in Kismayo said more than 5,000 members of the militia group would be registered in Gedo, Lower Juba, and Middle Juba regions.

The European Union, through the European Commission’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid department, provided 3 million euros to UNICEF’s humanitarian response in Somalia. The new grant would help UNICEF provide life-saving treatment for children suffering from severe acute malnutrition, procure emergency water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) supplies to help communities prevent disease outbreaks, assist children and women affected by gender-based violence and unaccompanied and separated children and ensure children displaced by drought have safe and protected learning spaces to continue their education.


South Sudan

The United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for South Sudan Alain Noudehou on Tuesday (April 3) said the parties involved in the South Sudanese conflict should reach a political compromise and allow peace to prevail in the country. He said, “People don’t feel secure…they are not able to go back to their lands and they are not able to produce. They need to feel secure, not only in sense of physical protection but actually in the sense that they can go back to their lives.”

South Sudan’s Minister of Water Resources Sofia Gai and her Sudanese counterpart, Muataz Musa signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on water resources on Tuesday (April 3). The MoU aims to promote and facilitate technical support as well as to develop, protect and utilize the joint water resources between the two countries, and the two ministers agreed to set up a joint technical committee comprised of five members from each side to follow up on the implementation of the agreement of the MoU.



Sudan on Wednesday (April 4) reiterated its readiness to engage in direct negotiations with Darfur rebels as soon as the African mediation extends an invitation to resume peace talks. Sudan’s Presidential Envoy for Diplomatic Contact and Negotiation for Darfur Amin Hassan Omer emphasized that the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) constituted the basis for any future peace agreement in the region, saying the document was open to accommodate anyone who wished to join the peace process in Darfur.




Ethiopia’s New Prime Minister, Dr Abiy Ahmed, promises critical sector reforms…

Monday (April 2) marked a historic day in the political history of Ethiopia when Dr Abiy Ahmed was sworn in as the new Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.

This came after the resignation of former Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn from both the Premiership and the chairmanship of the country’s ruling coalition, the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). The Council of the EPRDF, after days of intense deliberations, announced that it had elected Dr Abiy Ahmed as its Chairman on March 27, allowing for his appointment as Prime Minister by the House of Peoples’ Representatives. On Monday (April 2), following the announcement of the agenda of the day, the Speaker of the House Abadula Gemdeda gave Shiferaw Shegute, head of the office of the EPRDF Council, the podium to officially propose the Council’s decision to the House and name Dr Abiy as a candidate for the Premiership. The House unanimously endorsed Dr Abiy for the Government’s highest executive office, the chairmanship of the council of ministers and commander in chief of the Ethiopian armed forces.

After taking the oath of office, Dr Abiy made a speech, in which, he began by extending his appreciation of former Premier Hailemariam, for his exemplary decision in voluntarily stepping down, as part of the solution for the instability that has created unease in the country in recent years.” This very spirit proved the former Prime Minister correct when he said in his resignation speech: “I see my resignation as vital in the bid to carry out reforms that would lead to sustainable peace and democracy”.

Dr Abiy called the moment “historic” as, he said, it would open up a new chapter in the county. It was, therefore, “important that we make use of it appropriately with the spirit of utmost responsibility.” The new Premier noted that the peaceful transfer of power signified two main realities. On the one hand, “it signals the fact that we have laid the foundations for a durable and all-inclusive constitutional order; on the other, it implies that we are building a system that ‘walks along’ with the country’s political, economic, and social conditions and which is governed by the will of the people, that which makes the people its master and serves them accordingly.” He made it quite clear that while learning from mistakes and forging ahead, he and his Government’s primary responsibility was to: “propel our country to a higher level of development and move forward while ensuring that its unity is secured on a sustainable basis.”

The Premier emphasized vividly some of the prominent historical events in Ethiopia that had proved to the whole world the remarkable unity of its people and its identity – “inextricably linked”, from Metema to Adwa; from Karamara to Badme. He stressed, however, that unity did not signify oneness. It needed to be one that embraced diversity while also being decorated with multinational identity. He stressed that dissent and diverging viewpoints must also be there if Ethiopians aspired to witness their country as a prosperous and strong nation.

Concerning the economy, Dr Abiy noted “even if it is known that our economy is growing, this growth has not met the changing needs of the youth. We understand that our people are dissatisfied for this reason. Our country can go nowhere without the youth. Ethiopia has to give hope for its youth, and not engender the loss of hope.” He pledged that his Government will do all it can along the lines of creating numerous young investors, and put in place a just social and economic structure.

A central element in his speech was democracy. The Prime Minister said: “We Ethiopians need and also deserve democracy. Democracy is not for us an alien idea. When it was foreign to many peoples and countries, we lived under and were governed by our democratic Gadaa system, becoming an example to the world.” Stressing the need to respect all human and democratic rights and the observance of peace and justice, the Prime Minister affirmed that for Ethiopia today, building democracy was an existential matter. Quoting Mahatma Gandhi that “the world has enough resources for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed”, he pledged to fight “organized corruption.” From this day forward, the Premier said, his Party will look at political parties outside of EPRDF as competitors rather than opposition parties who would be alternative voices in a collective spirit. Referring to opposition politicians he said: “We will not be seeing you as enemies, but be seeing you as brothers,”

In the same way, he urged all those who called for their democratic and human rights to act in a peaceful manner. Violence, he said, would stunt the growth of the budding democracy. He made it clear the government realized that a nation that neglected and marginalized half of its population – women – could not be a full and complete body and could not move forward. In this context, Prime Minister Abiy also assured the Ethiopian Diaspora that his government would continue with unreserved efforts to facilitate their active participation in transforming the country in any way they could.

Turning to external affairs and stressing the need to further expand ties with neighboring countries, the Prime Minister mentioned the close cross and inter-cultural linkages among all the peoples of the Horn of Africa. As the country is the emblem of Pan-Africanism, the founder and seat of the African Union, the founder of many important international organizations, it is a country that plays a notable role in regional, continental, and global matters. Dr Abiy said his Government would further reinforce and continue its relations with all “our African brothers.”. He referred specifically to relations with Eritrea: “While expressing our readiness to resolve our differences through dialogue, I take this opportunity to call on the Eritrean government to take a similar stand, not only for the sake of our common interest, but also for the common blood relations between the peoples of the two countries.”

Prime Minister Dr Abiy expressed his strong hope that the coming time in Ethiopia would be a time of love and forgiveness. He asked forgiveness for the many advocates of freedom and justice and the politicians and youths whose lives were cut short over the years, and for the members of the security forces whose lives were lost to keep peace, in the line of duty and their constitutional responsibility. He called for people to close the chapters of yesterday with forgiveness and promised to devise solutions for the problems that led to past crises.


…as his appointment is warmly welcomed in Ethiopia and abroad

Religious leaders and prominent elders in the country emphasized that the peaceful transition of power was an important milestone for the peace of the country. They called on the public to provide sufficient time and support for the new Prime Minister to perform successful activities in Ethiopia during his term. Many of the country’s political parties also commended the encouraging call of the new Prime Minister to parties, in and outside the country, to add their alternative voices to further speed up the country’s journey to a democratic and peaceful state.

The African Union Commission, in a statement congratulating Dr Abiy, dubbed the historic event a demonstration of political maturity. AU Commission Chairperson, Moussa Faki Mahamat, recalled the ability of the Ethiopian people to overcome challenges and unite in the pursuit of the higher interest of their country. He also commended former Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn for his commitment and contribution to the advancement of Ethiopia and the continent as a whole. The AU Commission Chairperson also met with Dr Abiy on Tuesday this week. The meeting provided an opportunity to discuss a number of issues of mutual interest. The Chairperson reiterated his congratulations to the Prime Minister following his confirmation by Parliament and praised the peaceful and smooth transition of power. He said this was a source of pride for Ethiopia and the entire continent. He assured the Prime Minister of the African Union’s full support to the Government and people of Ethiopia as they work to consolidate Ethiopia’s remarkable socio-economic progress and further strengthen national unity and widen the political space. The Chairperson stressed the critical importance of Ethiopia’s stability and prosperity for the region and the continent as a whole.

The Prime Minister and the Chairperson exchanged views on the overall situation in the Horn of Africa, including the IGAD-led process in South Sudan and efforts in support of the Government of Somalia. They pledged to work closely together in the pursuit of peace, security and stability in the region and beyond. They also discussed issues relating to continental integration including Ethiopia’s recent signing of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement(ACFTA). The Chairperson looked forward to working closely with the Prime Minister on the implementation of the ACFTA and other aspects of the integration agenda, including the Single African Air Transport Market and the Protocol on Free Movement of Persons and the African Passport. Dr Abiy reaffirmed Ethiopia’s commitment to the ideals and objectives of the African Union and its determination to continue to play its rightful role towards their achievement.

Neighboring countries have congratulated Dr Abiy. Sudan expressed hope that the selection of a new prime minister would enhance political stability as well as economic and social development in Ethiopia, contribute to boosting the progressive Sudanese-Ethiopian ties and keep Ethiopia’s essential role in the regional and international arenas. It congratulated the Ethiopian leadership over the wisdom represented in overcoming the hard challenges the country recently faced. President Uhuru of Kenya, in his message, congratulated the Government and the people of Ethiopia for the manner in which they have managed the political transition. He noted, “You have made Africa proud.” The Kenyan Head of State said he looked forward to working closely with the incoming Prime Minister to consolidate ties between the two countries. President Paul Kagame, noted that as chairman of the AU he could speak on behalf of other African leaders “to express our solidarity with the Ethiopian people and their leaders as they continue to find, from within and among themselves, solutions to the recent political problems they faced!”

Commending the peaceful transfer of power that was done in accordance with Ethiopia’s constitution, the U.S. through its Embassy noted it stood ready to support the government’s rapid implementation of democratic and economic reforms. The Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of the EU, Maja Cosijancic, noted that the EU was looking forward to working closely with the new Premier on continued political and economic reforms, as it did with his predecessor Hailemariam Dessalegn. Furthermore, the EU called for an inclusive dialogue with all Ethiopian stakeholders in the spirit of the Prime Minister’s remarks. In the same fashion, Egypt, Germany, Russia, South Africa, South Sudan, Russia, the United Kingdom and many other different countries have expressed their congratulations to the new Prime Minister.


State Minister Dr Aklilu on economic diplomacy and other issues

As we mentioned last week, State Minister for Business and Diaspora Affairs in the Foreign Ministry, Dr Aklilu Hailemichael, recently detailed the work of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in working to attract investors to invest in the country’s various priority investment sectors, including textile and garment, transport and manufacturing. Underlining the importance of economic diplomacy, he told Capital newspaper that this element of the Ministry’s activities focused on promoting, protecting and realizing national interest in terms of economic gains.

The core factor was the need for promotion of development, building relationships with state and non-state actors in the fight against poverty. The main target of foreign policy was to serve the national aims of reducing poverty and sustaining development. Central elements in this were efforts to increase Foreign Direct Investment and this involved the expansion of exports. This has been remarkably successful. Indeed, last week the Ethiopian Investment Commission announced that Ethiopia had attracted 2.2 billion dollars-worth of foreign direct investment in the first half of the current fiscal year (2017-2018). Commissioner Fitsum Arega noted this was 22% higher than the same period of the previous year. Indeed, FDI has been one of the fast-growing areas of the economy. Last year’s growth stood at over 27%, almost double the amount of the year before.

Dr Aklilu underlined the importance of the Ethiopian Investment Commission. This was, of course, established to provide services investors needed. A testimony to its effectiveness and the other work to encourage and assist investors could be seen in the industrial parks, provided with buildings, water, roads, power, banks and customs offices. This, he said, was a real example of the way the country was working to ease the burden of investors. In addition, outside the industrial parks, the regional state investment bureaux were working to provide better services for investors as quickly as possible.

Dr Aklilu emphasized that the government had priorities for foreign investment, and the top priority was manufacturing, very important to facilitate development. Ethiopia’s vision, he said, was to have a large manufacturing economy by 2025. So, it was giving priority to the manufacturing of textiles, garments, leather, agro-processing, pharmaceuticals, construction materials and other related areas. Foreign investors were expected to invest in these areas and to fill needs which would generate employment and transfer technology. He pointed out that Ethiopia believed it could operate the banking and telecom sectors effectively itself, and indeed that local banks, for example could provide the sort of competition that might improve efficiency and increase job opportunities. Competition was already increasing in local banking. He added that, “When we think we lack capital and technology we will consider allowing foreign investors in this area.”

Ethiopia’s growth over the last 15 years had been in double figures and it had established consistent and positive images in the case of agriculture products, investing in infrastructure, education, health and so on. It was a long journey of development and any problems would not reverse the effort to become a prosperous country. The recent violence did not stop development nor the inflow of FDI. Companies came from India, the USA, Europe, China and other countries. Investors, he said, know that Ethiopia’s development continues. It had institutions and internal systems to identify problems and creates dialogue with the public when problems occur. He believed the country would address the challenges and keep the momentum for development moving.

Dr Aklilu spoke of the importance of increasing export earnings, noting the government was giving loans to local investors to promote their investment in industry, providing loans for 70% of their projects. He said the number of companies exporting products was growing. Ethiopia had good access to the USA through AGOA as well as to Europe and Asia and was now working with COMESA to expand trade in Africa. It had bilateral preferential trade agreements with more than 50 countries. Another asset was Ethiopian Airlines and its international links. That was on the market side. It did need to work to strengthen exports, notably in agriculture. The government was doing a lot to improve agriculture, he said. This included increasing the number of extension agencies across the country, to provide information to farmers to improve production, as well as cooperative agents to improve market access. Agricultural institutes at federal and regional levels were conducting research to adopt technology on improving seeds. Equally, Dr Aklilu noted there was still room to improve efficiency to attract more investors to do a better job in exporting coffee, sesame, oilseeds, meat, live animals and other agricultural products.

Dr Aklilu noted that Ethiopia had benefited greatly from Chinese investment. He said it helped Ethiopia access international markets, increase productivity, and bring jobs. Chinese investors often worked with local investors through joint ventures. They also helped to improve technology. In response to a question over Ethiopia’s debts, he emphasized that it was normal for developing countries to take on debt and Ethiopia was doing it in a way to benefit the country and it did assess the risks beforehand. He said the country had the same policies in working with China as with investors from Turkey, Japan, India, the USA, the UK, Germany and other European countries.


Ethiopia marks 7th anniversary of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

Ethiopia celebrated the 7th anniversary of the commencement of the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on Monday (April 2). The celebration was held at Guba, in Benishangul Gumuz Regional State, where the dam is being constructed. Speaking at the event, attended by high-level government officials, artists and invited guests, Engineer Azeb Asnake, Chief Executive Officer of Ethiopian Electric Power, said the GERD’s power- generating capacity has now reached 6,450 MW following the design upgrading underway twice, which upon completion will be the largest in Africa. She added that, upon completion of the projects at Genale Dawa, Koischa, Alutho Geothermal, Korbeti and Tulu Moye and Rapi Waste to Energy Project, the country will be able to produce some 10,000 megawatts of electric power.

Etenesh Mekuria, State Minister of Water, Irrigation and Electricity, underlined once again that the construction of the dam would not be a threat to the lower riparian countries, rather it would improve the unity of the states concerned. The government remains totally confident that GERD will play a major role in regional integration, for the benefit of the peoples of all the riparian countries and is committed to find a win-win solution for all countries. Equally, the State Minister stressed the dam would create not only electric power but also cement national unity and battle against poverty.

The construction has been a truly national effort. Last week, the Foreign Ministry Spokesperson noted that the Diaspora had bought US56 million worth of bonds to help finance the Dam, as well as several hundred million dollars from the public at home. The total cost of construction is estimated at 4.7 billion dollars. It is worth underlining that in addition to purchasing bonds, local framers have planted 4 billion tree seedlings around the dam to protect the ecosystem. The Spokesperson also noted that the government had helped form an association, Ethiopian International Professional Support for Abay* (EIPSA), bringing economists, engineers and water experts of Ethiopian origin to provide technical expertise on the Dam project. Associated projects are also going ahead. A high-voltage electric transmission line, built by State Grid of China Electric Power Equipment and Technology Co., at a cost of 1 billion dollars, has been inaugurated in preparation for the GERD’s full commissioning to be operational.

The Ethiopian Grand Renaissance Dam (GERD) shows that Ethiopia is on the right track to implement its ambitions of accelerating national development to eradicate poverty, achieve economic well-being and attain the status of a middle-income country by 2025. The GERD will be the largest hydropower dam in Africa and the tenth largest in the world with its 1,780-meter width and 145 meter height. Its completion will change the face of East African power infrastructure. It will have the potential to generate 6,450 MW, equivalent to the combined power of four nuclear reactors.

GERD will also provide cheap and abundant electricity to the booming manufacturing sector of the country. The demand for electricity is currently growing by more than 20% each year. According to the Office of the National Council for the Coordination of Public Participation in the Construction of the GERD, electricity generation from the Dam is planned to start this year. Two turbines, each with the capacity to generate 375 MW, have already been installed and are waiting to test electricity generation. Another additional effect of the Dam has been the creation of job opportunities for about 9,000 Ethiopians and 260 foreign nationals who are participating in the construction of the dam and substantially expanded infrastructure in the region.


Al-Shabaab attacks in Lower Shebelle at weekend driven off…

The UN Security Council last week extended the mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) for another year, until March 31, 2019. Recalling resolution 2158 and the statements of Somalia’s President on the situation in the country, the Council underscored the importance of the Mission’s support to the Somali Government‑led political process as well as the importance of its support to the federal Government of Somalia. It reaffirmed its respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity, political independence and unity of Somalia, and underscored the importance of working to prevent destabilizing effects of regional crises and disputes from spilling over into Somali. It also requested continued support for the Government’s efforts to implement the country’s National Strategy and Action Plan for Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism in order to strengthen Somalia’s capacity to prevent and counter terrorism.

The Security Council also strongly condemned recent attacks by the terrorist group al‑Shabaab, expressing serious concern at the ongoing threat posed by the group, as well as the presence of affiliates linked to Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, Da’esh) and associated individuals, groups, undertakings and entities. It reiterated its determination to support efforts to reduce that threat. Welcoming the resolution’s adoption by the Security Council, the representative of Somalia said that, while there might be nuanced differences in how the Council members assessed the current situation, they were united in recognizing the important role that the United Nations would continue to play in promoting peace and stability in the country. At the same time, the representative urged UNSOM leadership to refrain from “sensationalizing” political trends.

The need to continue to work to reduce the threat was underlined last weekend when al-Shabaab launched heavy attacks on three Forward Operating Bases of AMISOM and two Somali National Army barracks in Qoryoley, Bulomarer and Golwein towns in Lower Shabelle region on Sunday (April 1).

Somali Military Force Commander, Abdullahi Ali Anod, gave details of the repulse of the attackers on the Somali barracks at Bulomarer town. He said, “Our forces killed 66 of the terrorists who attacked Bulomarer town and an unknown number of them were wounded during the battle.” He also noted that three vehicles which had been used to transport militants were destroyed. He said: “They were transported by three vehicles. One of them, which was loaded with explosives, came close to our base before it was detonated by the guards at our camp, the others were also destroyed.” An assortment of weapons was recovered from the defeated militants by the Army’s 26th Brigade, including 12 AK47 rifles and 20 Rocket Propelled Guns. Four Somali troops were injured in the attack.

AMISOM also reported on the attacks on its bases in Lower Shabelle region, and said its forces had killed thirty terrorists and recovered a cache of weapons from the militants. A Ugandan army spokesperson said AMISOM casualties had been four killed and six wounded. Giving details of the attack, he said it started in the morning when two suicide car bombs exploded at the entrance to the heavily fortified base in Bulomarer, an agricultural town in Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region. Nearly 100 fighters firing propelled grenades and machine guns attacked the base occupied by the Ugandan soldiers.

In a statement, AMISOM said its forces repulsed the attacks on its bases in Quoryole, Bulomarer, and Golwein town. AMISOM said: “The troops fought off and successfully repulsed the terrorists who had launched simultaneous attacks on Forward Operating Bases in Quoryole, Bulomarer, and Golwein. The militants were dealt a heavy blow, with at least 30 of them put out of action, following the intense fighting. Eight vehicles which ferried the terrorists, including two Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Devices, were destroyed and an assortment of weapons recovered.”

The Special Representative of the Chairperson of the AU Commission for Somalia, Ambassador Madeira, on Tuesday (April 3) praised the AU troops in Lower Shabelle region for the gallantry they displayed during the attacks at the weekend. AMISOM lost four soldiers in the fighting and six others sustained injuries, the statement added. Ambassador Madeira said: “We honor our brave soldiers, who are resolute in continuing to neutralize the insurgents in order to restore peace and stability in Somalia.”

Meanwhile, elsewhere Somali forces and AMISOM troops have been active in the last two weeks in the Hiiraan region. General Ahmed Mohamed Teredicio, commander of 52nd Brigade of the Somali Army said the forces had killed 120 al-Shabaab fighters in fierce fighting. Somali troops, backed by AMISOM forces, have captured several villages between Beled Weyne and Bula-Burde to reopen and secure the road linking the two towns. The commander applauded the collaboration between the army and residents in the region saying his forces had been given tip-offs by locals. The governor of Hiiraan, Ali Jeyte Osman, confirmed the recapture of several villages and noted that government forces had confiscated weapons and a vehicle following the fighting.


…while an AU/UN funding mission visits Mogadishu

The Special Envoys on Funding Consultations for the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), visited Mogadishu on Sunday (April 1) to discuss sustainable funding for peace operations in Somalia. Ramtane Lamamra, Algeria’s former minister of foreign affairs, and Jean-Marie Guehenno, former UN under-secretary-general in charge of Peacekeeping Operations, are the Special Envoys from the African Union and the United Nations respectively. The Envoys’ assessment visit to Somalia is part of ongoing consultations on peace support operations for AMISOM, spearheaded by the African Union and the UN. Upon completion of their assessment, the Envoys will submit a report, which will inform decisions of the African Union Commission and the UN, on the level of funding and provision of logistical support to AMISOM.

UN Envoy Guehenn stressed: “It is very important that the gradual shift from AMISOM to the Somali authorities happens in a way that doesn’t jeopardize all the efforts that have been made so far.” He acknowledged the presence of a multiplicity of actors who are supporting security and peacebuilding programmes in Somalia and highlighted their importance towards the achievement of sustainable peace. In the coming phase, he said, “the coordination between all these actors is more important than ever and it is of course a very sensitive issue. During their visit, the Special Envoys met with President Mohamed Abdullahi, Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khayre, the AU and UN Special Representatives for Somalia, Francisco Caetano Madeira and Michael Keating, ambassadors accredited to Somalia from the Troop Contributing Countries to AMISOM, and European Union officials. Discussions focused on achieving a smooth transition of security responsibility from AMISOM to the Somali security forces.

The AU Special Representative for Somalia, Ambassador Madeira, expressed concern that unpredictable funding to AMISOM, might have far reaching implications on Somalia. “It is no longer an issue of charity. Supporting the Somali National Army or AMISOM is not charity at all. Success of security in Somalia, in all its aspects, is success for everything, including international business.”

The quest for predictable funding for AMISOM was discussed yet again at an AU Peace and Security Council meeting in February. AMISOM has been consistently supported by UN logistic support and by the EU from its African Peace Facility. Other bilateral donors, including the UK, the US and China, have provided ad hoc support, but the lack of predictability has affected AMISOM’s operations. The Security Council has continued to refuse to consider deploying a UN force in Somalia as conditions remained “inappropriate”, though it also requested that the Secretary-General keep the benchmarks for deployment under review. And with the UN Security Council continuing to reject a series of requests by the AU to use UN assessed contributions to fund AMISOM, funding has always been a concern for AMISOM. The problem was underlined by the decision of the European Union in January 2016 to place a cap on the amount it would pay for AMISOM troop allowances, a decision that disappointed the Troop-Contributing Countries (TCCs), Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda. However, in view of al-Shabaab’s regional threat, they have continued their support for, and involvement, in AMISOM, despite concerns over “lack of international support” for the Mission. Various efforts by the AU to secure alternative funding have not been successful.

The UN Security Council last July approved a phased withdrawal of AMISOM forces with 2,000 troops to leave Somalia by October this year and the Mission reduced to 20,626 uniformed personnel by end of the year. The AU Peace and Security Council also endorsed a new concept of operations in mid 2016, to allow for AMISOM to begin a drawdown in 2018, to be complete in 2020, later pushed to 2021. The calculation is that this will allow Somalia to hold elections in 2021 and extend its security force capacity. The first phase of this was the withdrawal of 1,000 troops by the end of last year and their replacement by 500 police and increased security responsibility for Somali security forces. Plans to continue the withdrawal, however, do depend upon predictable, and sufficient, funding. They also relate to the needs of the Somali security forces, which are currently affected by a number of still unresolved problems, including shortages of weapons, irregular payment and other difficulties. The lack of predictable funding and the failure to provide the necessary force enablers and multipliers remain major impediments to an effective AMISOM withdrawal.

Concern over the speed of the planned shift in security responsibilities was raised at a meeting of the TCCs at the beginning of last month in Kampala. It warned that the current plans for the draw-down of AMISOM forces could adversely affect AMISOM operations and erode the security gains already made. African Union Commission chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat said, “A premature withdrawal is likely to undermine the gains made over the last decade, at a great human and financial cost,” adding that predictable financing for AMISOM is what would “make it possible for the Somali national security forces to take over primary security responsibility from AMISOM.”

Somali President Mohammed Abdullahi pointed out that collaboration between AMISOM and the Somali National Army had registered some very real successes, but equally: “I believe we have a long way to go. We need to put together a sound strategy in order to effectively fight against al-Shabaab and defeat them.” He told the meeting, “I believe if we continue to collaborate with the help of EU and the international community to continue funding this operation, we will be able to defeat al-Shabaab in a very short order.”

This was underlined last year by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General to the AU, Haile Menkerios, when briefing the Security Council on co-operation between the UN and regional entities. He called for greater support for AMISOM, warning that a lack of funding could endanger hard-won progress in the country. He pointed out: “We continue to hear passionate appeals from the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council and the AU Commission that the issue of predictable, flexible and adequate funding for AMISOM needs to be addressed urgently.”


The UNHCR’s Ethiopia Country Refugee Response Plan for 2018

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees on Wednesday (April 4) issued the Ethiopia Country Refugee Response Plan for 2018. This provides an integrated response plan for January to December 2018 for the nearly 900,000 refugees from Eritrea, Sudan, South Sudan and Somalia currently living in Ethiopia.

The UNHCR emphasizes that refugee flows to Ethiopia continued during 2017, with 109,851 persons seeking safety and protection within the country’s borders. At the start of 2018, it says, Ethiopia was hosting 892,555 thousand refugees, forced to flee from their countries of origin for various causes including insecurity, political instability, military conscription, conflict, famine and other problems. Ethiopia is now one of the largest refugee asylum countries world-wide.

The refugees come from some 19 countries, but the majority arrive because of “conflict in South Sudan, ongoing political instability in Eritrea, and continuing conflict and drought in Somalia.” The majority are located in Tigray Regional State and the Afar, Benishangul-Gumuz, Gambella and Somali Regional States. The report points out that the latter are some of the least developed regions in the country and they suffer from “harsh weather conditions, poor infrastructure with few roads, low administrative capacity, a high level of poverty and poor development indicators.” The report notes that environmental problems in the Afar and Somali regions, with their small nomadic populations, make it challenging to provide services.

The report identifies the South Sudanese as the largest refugee population in Ethiopia, totalling 421,867 persons at the close of 2017. Renewed violence in Upper Nile, Jonglei and Unity States, increasingly affecting border areas, resulted in 75,447 new arrivals seeking asylum in 2017. The majority were accommodated through the expansion of Nguenyyiel Camp in the Gambella Region, and in a new camp at Gure Shembola Camp established in May 2017 in the Benishangul Gumuz Region.

Somalis, the UNHCR says, constitute 28.3% of registered refugees, a total population of 253,889 individuals. There were 6,696 new arrivals during 2017, fleeing generalized instability and a third failed harvest. They have been placed in five camps in the Somali Regional State.

Eritrean refugees, at the end of 2017, numbered 164,668, with 25,265 new arrivals crossing into the Shire and Afar Regions during the year. Since 2000, thousands of Eritreans have fled forced involuntary open-ended military conscription, arbitrary arrest and detention without trial, compulsory land acquisition by the state and other systematic human rights violations. Some have also left to join relatives who have already fled the country and are now living in Ethiopia. Since 2014, the UNHCR calculates the average monthly arrival to the camps in the Tigray region has been 2,300, with seasonal peaks during the Eritrean dry seasons in October and March. It says the high number of unaccompanied and separated children is of particular concern. Children account for 39% of the total refugee population in the Tigray camps, of whom 25% arrive unaccompanied or separated from their families.

Ethiopia has an open-door policy for refugees and allows humanitarian access and protection to those seeking asylum. In 2004, a National Refugee Proclamation was made on the basis of the international 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, and its 1967 Protocol and the 1969 OAU Convention. These, together with the international human rights treaties Ethiopia has ratified, provide the framework for refugees in Ethiopia. Last November, the Government also formally launched the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF). This, in effect, aims to implement the nine pledges made at the Leaders’ Summit on Refugees in September 2016 in New York.

Through these pledges, Ethiopia seeks to: expand its out-of-camp policy; provide work permits to refugees; increase enrolment in primary, secondary and tertiary education; provide access to irrigable land for crop cultivation; facilitate local integration in instances of protracted displacement; earmark a percentage of jobs within industrial parks to refugees; and provide access to vital events documentation to facilitate increased access to basic and essential social services. Planned amendments to the 2004 Refugee Proclamation will enable refugees to become more independent, better protected and have greater access to local developments.

All this, as the UNHCR notes, involves “an improved and sustainable response that goes beyond mere care and maintenance”. It combines wider support to host communities, encouraging peaceful coexistence and the greater inclusion of refugees within the country’s own national development plans. Indeed, the Ethiopia Country Refugee Response Plan now envisages improved coordination mechanisms to ensure further timely and effective protection and solutions for refugees.

The UNHCR says collective engagement of the Government and development actors “will help to ensure that the needs of refugees are actively considered in the development agenda, and that complementary services are provided to refugees and their host communities.” However, the Response Plan also notes carrying out such commitments will inevitably have to be based on increased funding, a scaling-up of equitable responsibility-sharing between UN Member States.

And the needs continue to grow. The UNHCR anticipates that continued refugee arrivals will mean that Ethiopia will be hosting nearly 920,000 refugees by the end of 2018, mainly from South Sudan (485,000), Eritrea (130,000) and Somali (230,000). Given the current international climate of decreasing humanitarian and development financing, the UNHCR underlines that “bold financial commitments”, to help cover “essential humanitarian services and a sustainable solutions-based response”, will be needed to carry out the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework transformational agenda.


*Abay = the Nile

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