A Week in the Horn

2 Mar 2018

 

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Africa and the African Union

The Commissioner for Economic Affairs of the African Union, Victor Harison met Minister of Foreign Affairs of Venezuela, Jorge Arreaza, on Saturday (February 24), in Addis Ababa. The Foreign Minister briefed the Commissioner on the situation in Venezuela, in view of the upcoming presidential elections planned for this April; and the meeting also provided an opportunity to exchange views on the partnership between Africa and South America and how best to revive it.

The European Union and the UN Development Program (UNDP) signed an agreement for an integrated cross-border initiative this week on Wednesday (Feb 28) to address drivers of conflict and instability between Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. The there-year project of 10 million USD was signed by Erik Habers, Head of Cooperation in the EU Delegation to Ethiopia, and Lamin Manneh, UNDP Director of Regional Service Center for Africa, and was aimed at strengthening regional policy frameworks, structures, and protocols for cross-border cooperation between national and local governments as well as building capacities of communities, local governments and civil society so they may fully engage in processes for development planning.

The African Union Commission held the Regional Workshop on Accelerated Domestication of the AU Malabo Declaration by Member States and Regional Economic Communities this week, in Lusaka, Zambia. The AUC through the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) had been supporting countries to implement the decisions of the AU 2014 Malabo Declaration on Africa Accelerated Agricultural Growth and Transformation (3AGT), by adapting them into country specific National Agriculture Investment plans.

 

Ethiopia

Ethiopia commemorated the 122nd anniversary of the victory of the Battle of Adwa on Friday (March 2). Adwa marked the defeat of Italy’s efforts to conquer Ethiopia but it became a symbol of African valor and resistance, both in Africa and in the Diaspora, underlining the growing sense of unity among Africans and people of African descent, and becoming a driver for the Pan-African vision of freedom. (See article)

President Dr Mulatu Teshome met with Miroslav Lajčák, the current President of the United Nations General Assembly at the National Palace on Wednesday (February 28, 2018). President Mulatu reiterated the fact that Ethiopia is a country committed to the efforts of the international community in peace building, refugee management and the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals. Mr Lajčák, lauded Ethiopia’s ongoing efforts in the maintenance of international peace and security through regional and International arrangements, for hosting tens of thousands of refugees from neighboring countries and its achievements in the SDGs.

President Mulatu received letters of Credence of six newly appointed Ambassadors to Ethiopia at the National Palace on Wednesday (February 28). The Ambassadors include: Ambassador Mark Ramsden of New Zealand; Ambassador Hoon-min Lim of the Republic of Korea; Ambassador Helena Maria Rodrigues Fernandes Malcata of Portugal; Ambassador Zurab Dvalishvili of Georgia; Ambassador Dusko Stojanovic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Ambassador Jihanbindra P. Aryal of Nepal. While appreciating the efforts of the governments of those countries to further enhance their relations with Ethiopia, President Mulatu stressed ways of bolstering economic cooperation as well as ways of cooperating in the areas of peace and security.

Foreign Minister Dr Workneh Gebeyehu met with the President of the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly, Miroslav Lajčák in Addis Ababa, on Thursday (March 1), and the major topics of discussion include the current security situation in Africa, Ethiopia’s commitment to the peace and security agenda of the UN, Ethiopia’s track record of implementing the SDGs, the impending challenge of illegal migration and the long overdue UN Security Council’s institutional reforms.

Foreign Minister Dr Workneh Gebeyehu received his Venezuelan counterpart Jorge Alberto Arreaza Montserrat on Saturday (24 February 2018). Dr Workneh noted Ethiopia’s keenness to enhance its bilateral ties with Venezuela in a number of areas, including cooperation in aviation diplomacy, tourism, the oil industry, media and education. The working visit of the Venezuelan Foreign Minister to Ethiopia was aimed at enhancing the diplomatic relations between the two countries and furthering cooperation in various fields.

The United Nations Human Rights Council started its High-Level Segment of the 37th Session on Monday (February 26) in Switzerland, Geneva. Ethiopia’s high-level delegation was led by State Minister for Foreign Affairs Mrs Hirut Zemene. (See article)

State Minister Hirut met with Stavros Lambrinidis, European Union Special Representative for Human Rights on Tuesday (February 27), on the side-lines of the 37th Regular Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. State Minister Hirut briefed the Special Representative on the current situation in the country and further called for continued Strategic Engagement on human rights and governance to further heighten EU-Ethiopia ties. Lambrinidis commended the Government of Ethiopia for its efforts to forge major reforms in the country; and the two sides further discussed progress and challenges and areas for potential improvements and future cooperation.

State Minister Hirut met the High Commissioner for UN Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on Tuesday (February 27), and expressed Ethiopia’s commitment to its international obligations and briefed the High Commissioner on the current situation in Ethiopia, as well as its participation in the 37th council session.

UN Secretary General António Guterres commended the Government of Ethiopia for its intention to continue governance reforms in the country following Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn’s submission of his letter of resignation. The United Nations highlighted that the recent decision by Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, to resign, “allows further political reforms to take place in the country aimed at widening democratic space,” while also noting that the step is a prominent element towards governance reforms. The Secretary General António Guterres further welcomed the recent release of detainees in the country. (See article)

A high-level Ethiopian delegation led by State Minister Hirut attended the 3rd Ethio-Switzerland Bilateral Political Consultation held in Bern, Switzerland on Wednesday (February 28). The two sides reiterated their commitment to expedite their bilateral cooperation and held talks on multilateral relations and regional issues and agreed to establish a Joint Parliamentarian Council to give further impetus to the ongoing exchanges of experiences on Federalism and governance. State Minister Hirut also gave briefings on the current situation in Ethiopia. (See article).

State Minister Hirut met the Vice President of the Republic of South Sudan, Taban Deng on Tuesday (February 27), on the side-lines of the United Nation’s High-Level Segment of the 37th Session of the Human Rights Council. The two sides discussed the two Revitalization Forums that were held in December 2017 and February 2018; Mrs Hirut assured Deng that IGAD would continue committing itself to moving forward the ongoing Process in a bid to bring about viable and long lasting peace in South Sudan. While urging the need to continue the dialogues under the Revitalization framework, the Vice President stressed his Government’s readiness to continue participating in the dialogues in good faith.

State Minister Hirut, during her meeting with Morocco’s Minister of State in Charge of Human Rights, Elmostapha Ramid on Tuesday (February 27), noted the opening of an Ethiopian Embassy to Morocco and showcased her country’s commitment to further deepen its ties with Morocco, adding that the recent high-level exchanges between the two countries are giving further impetus for the ever growing ties.

State Minister Hirut met with her Norwegian Counterpart, Mr Andun Halvorsen on Tuesday (February 27). Mrs Hirut noted Ethiopia’s keenness to further enhance the bilateral ties to a new level and stressed the importance of mapping out new areas of cooperation between the two countries.

The Ministry of Culture and Tourism announced a project worth 260 million birr aimed at making the historic Adwa Mountains a tourist attraction. The project covers developing the mountains, building lodges, promoting the site and setting up a venue for the annual celebration of the anniversary of the Battle of Adwa.

According to a report by the Ministry of Youth and Sports, issued on Monday (Feb 26), more than 880,000 job opportunities that targeted Ethiopian youth were created during the past six-month period. The reported job opportunities were created as part of the Ethiopian government’s job-creation initiative during the first half of the current Ethiopian [year].

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) has produced an “in brief” report laying out some of the key achievements and deliverables of the Ethiopian Humanitarian Fund (EHF) over the course of 2017. (See article)

The Ethiopian refugee agency (ARRA) reaffirmed its open-door policy for refugees from neighboring countries. The agency, in a statement issued on Monday (February 26), noted that although the country presently shelters more than 900,000 refugees, it would continue to maintain its open door policy towards refugees and “continue to receive new arrivals from several of its neighbors, notably from South Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea, Sudan and Yemen.”

General Director of the Ethio-Djibouti Standard Gauge Railway Share Company, Tilahun Sarika, said on Tuesday (February 27) that the Ethio-Djibouti railway service, which opened on January 1, 2018, had started to show a favorable performance and economic benefits were seen by both nations. He added, “The citizens from these two territories are a single society; the peoples of the two countries have been living together in harmony and the railway service will further enhance these common bonds.”

 

Djibouti

Mohamed Abdallah Mahyoub, a senior member of President Ismael Omar Guelleh’s Union for a Presidential Majority (UMP) and campaign spokesman is reported to have said that the ruling party had won 58 out of 65 parliamentary seats.

 

Eritrea

FIFA’s President, Gianni Infantino met with President Isaias Afwerki on Friday (February 23) during a working visit to Asmara. Infantino also met with the Eritrean Commissioner for Sports and Culture, Ambassador Zemede Tecle and toured UNESCO Heritage sites.

 

Somalia

Somalia’s Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire had ordered police and intelligence agents to immediately intensify security in Mogadishu on Thursday (March 01), following al-shabaab’s attack on Friday. Prime Minister Khaire said, “Security is the utmost priority…We will not tolerate the killing of our people. We will not be demoralized by one or two explosions. It’s important you end insecurity in Mogadishu.”

Two car bombings and subsequent gunfire on Friday, February 23 shattered a-several months-long period of calm in Mogadishu. The two explosions, one near the Presidential palace and the other one close to the popular Dorbin hotel left at least 45 people killed. The first incident began when a vehicle breached a security checkpoint outside the presidential palace before being blown up. The attack was followed by a subsequent gun battle between the presidential palace guards and the militants, the unrest lasted for nearly three hours. The second blast which took place near the hotel when a parked car exploded, killed and injured several young people. (See article)

Following al-Shabaab’s recent twin bomb attack in Mogadishu, the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the Somali government pledged to complement each other in the fight against the terrorist group. This was underlined during a joint briefing held on Tuesday (February 27) by the Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission (SRCC) for Somalia, Ambassador Francisco Madeira, and the Minister of Interior, Federal Affairs and Reconciliation, Abdi Mohamed Sabriye. Ambassador Madeira strongly condemned the twin car bombings in Mogadishu and said, “AMISOM strongly condemns this attack and reiterates its resolve to continue working side-by-side with Somali National Security Forces to free Somalia from violent extremism and terrorism.”

In a statement issued on Saturday (February 24), Secretary-General Antonio Guterres strongly condemned al-Shabaab’s recent attacks in Mogadishu. The Secretary-General expressed his profound condolences to the families of the victims and to the people and Government of Somalia, and commended the response of the Somali security forces and AMISOM. He also reiterated “the full support of the United Nations to the Somali authorities in their fight against terrorism and their pursuit of a peaceful and stable Somalia.”

The United Nations Security Council condemned the two terrorist attacks in Mogadishu on Tuesday (February 27). The Council commended the swift response of Somalia’s security forces, AMISOM and other first responders. They thanked the African Union and the Government of Somalia for opening an investigation into an incident between AMISOM’s Quick Reaction Force and NISA near the KM4 checkpoint. The Council further reaffirmed that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security.

The AMISOM Troop Contributing Countries to Somalia met in Kampala, Uganda this week on Thursday (March 1) and discussed the security situation in the country. The meeting, which is expected to review the report of experts on AU military operations, brought together Army Chiefs of Burundi, Djibouti, Kenya, Somalia and Uganda, as well as African Union officials.

The Somali security forces had retaken control of Moqorki town in Central Somalia from al-Shabaab on Wednesday (February 28), after militants of the terrorist group, who controlled the town since 2016, were forced to flee.

Somali women legislators resolved to work together in parliament to push for laws targeting the protection of the rights of women, children and marginalized groups. The legislators, from both the House of the People and the Upper House, made the resolution this week on Wednesday (February 28) at the end of a three-day workshop, organized by the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).

 

South Sudan

Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Bintou Keita told the UN Security Council on Wednesday (February 28) that a review of the United Nations peacekeeping operation in South Sudan required reaching a political solution to the ongoing conflict, which he said, was the most effective way to protect civilians. He added “A sustainable political resolution of the conflict is also the only avenue to chalk out a viable exit strategy” for the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), further urging a renewed focus on supporting political processes.

South Sudan’s Presidential Advisor Tut Kew Gatluak met with Sudan’s First Vice-President and Prime Minister Bakri Hassan Salih and discussed arrangements to open border crossings between the two countries. Gatluak told reporters on Monday (February 26) of the ongoing arrangements to open the border crossings between the two countries, stressing his country’s readiness to open the crossings and promote trade exchanges with Sudan.

In its latest humanitarian bulletin for South Sudan published last week, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimated that 7 million people – more than one in two across the country – will need humanitarian assistance in 2018. (See article)

 

Sudan

The second Sudanese-Ethiopian Military Strategic Forum commenced in Khartoum on Monday (February 26), and an Ethiopian delegation headed by the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Ethiopian Armed Forces, General Adam Mohamed met with the Deputy Chief of Staff of Sudan’s Army Ground Forces for Training, Lieut. Gen. Shams al-Din Kabbashi Ibrahim; the forum discussed a number of issues covering political and security domains as well as other areas of common concern.

Sudan and Norway agreed to strengthen oil and gas cooperation within the framework of the “Oil for Sustainable Development” protocol signed between the two countries. This came following a meeting between Sudan’s Minister of Oil and Gas Abdel-Rahman Osman Abdel-Rahman and the Norwegian delegation on Tuesday (February 27).

The consultative meeting of the Committee of Intelligence and Security Services of Africa (CISSA) opened in Khartoum on Monday (February 26), with plans to develop a plan for fighting against illegal migration and dismantling human trafficking networks.

 

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Ethiopia celebrates the Battle of Adwa: a stunning victory for Africa

Ethiopia commemorated the 122nd anniversary of the victory of the Battle of Adwa on Friday (March 2). Adwa, the battle marking the defeat of Italy’s efforts to conquer Ethiopia, was not just a victory for Ethiopia but also a victory for Africa, and one with lessons for today. It allows today’s new generation to draw lessons for the maintenance of sovereignty, development, commitment to overcoming poverty, and achieving Ethiopia’s renaissance. It is being celebrated colorfully all across the country this week and most notably, in the town of Adwa, in the presence of President Dr Mulatu Teshome, Minister of Culture and Tourism, Dr Hirut Woldemariam, other high-level government officials, residents and patriots, representatives of the African Union and invited dignitaries. In his key note speech, President Dr Mulatu Teshome underlined the fact that the Battle of Adwa showcased a timeless lesson that Ethiopians, despite their differences, do not compromise when it comes to defending their country’s sovereignty. This, he said, was an important lesson to the current generation in the sense that “We as the sons and daughters of the gallant Ethiopian patriots should prioritize national interest over personal interests.” The President further stressed that all things are made possible only when there is peace and stability in the country, further underlining that everyone has a responsibility to promote the country’s peace and stability.

The Battle of Adwa was of huge significance for Ethiopia and for Africa. It meant that the age of continental invasion by the then European colonial powers could not be completed. Ethiopia remained independent, a sovereign and un-colonized African country, an example and a model for the rest of the continent. It provided an inspiration for African countries in the subsequent struggles for independence, and it was not mere chance that African countries chose Ethiopia to be a permanent host of the African Union.

The war began with the treaty of Wuchale, an agreement signed between Ethiopia and Italy in 1889. Later, a dispute arose over the interpretation of the Italian and Amharic versions of the document. The Italian language version of the disputed Article XVII of the treaty stated that the Emperor of Ethiopia was obliged to conduct all foreign affairs through Italian Authorities. This would in effect make Ethiopia a protectorate of the Kingdom of Italy. The Amharic version of the article, however, stated that the Emperor could use the good offices of the Kingdom of Italy in his relations with foreign nations if he wished. When the Emperor made it clear he would only accept the Amharic version, Italy decided to impose a military solution to force Ethiopia to abide by the Italian version.

Forces that came together from all over Ethiopia fought at Adwa. Emperor Menilek declared, “Enemies have now come upon us to ruin our country and force us to change our religion. Our enemies have begun advancing and digging in to the country like moles. With the help of God, I will not give away. Today let the strong fight on my side; and let the weak pray in our favor!” Empress Taytu was as determined to resist Italian claims. After the disagreements over article XVII, she told the Italian envoy, Antonelli “We have also made it known to the powers that the said article, as it is written in our language, has another meaning. Like you, we also ought to respect our dignity. You wish Ethiopia to be presented before the other powers as your protectorate – this shall never be.”

The battle itself was brief. It had been preceded by several other clashes in the previous few months, with Ethiopian forces winning a victory at Amba Alagie in December 1895 and forcing an Italian garrison at Mekelle to surrender in January 1896. The fighting at Adwa itself, however, barely lasted a morning. It started at dawn and by 12 noon it was all over, with over 7,000 Italians killed and 2,000 or so wounded and 3,000 prisoners; Ethiopian losses were estimated at 4,500 killed and 8,000 wounded.

It was a major victory and a turning point not just for Ethiopia but for Africa and for the African peoples in the Diaspora. A victory in which all the nations, nationalities and peoples of Ethiopia participated, it allowed Ethiopia to retain its independence and start its own development. The Italian invasion united all Ethiopians against the colonizing forces. It was a scenario that was repeated again in 1935 when fascist Italy tried to reverse the defeat of Adwa and, once again, brought out all Ethiopians to fight their common enemy. The way the generation that won Adwa protected their country from foreign invaders and gave their lives to realize their vision of a free and sovereign Ethiopia, continues to offer a lesson for future generations. Their success provides an object lesson for the current generation. It remains an appropriate lesson for younger generations to protect and keep the country from its enemies, to put aside their differences and cooperate. They have the responsibility of fighting poverty and backwardness. This doesn’t demand the sacrifice of one’s life. It does demand every effort to maintain fast and sustainable economic growth, to realize the renaissance of the country. It calls on everyone, regardless of age, gender, religion or ethnic origin, to stand together for national interests.

Adwa also compelled Europeans to reconsider their attitudes towards Africans. It forced them to accept Ethiopia’s sovereignty and freedom, obliging them to open Embassies in Addis Ababa and become involved in bilateral relations. Most importantly, it became a catalyst for further struggles by other peoples against their white colonizers and Ethiopia became emblematic of African valor and resistance, a bastion of prestige and hope to thousands of Africans who were experiencing the full shock of European conquest and were beginning to search for an answer to the myth of African inferiority. African-Americans saw the victory as justification of their own self-worth. It was one of the primary reasons for the “modern global rise of a Pan-African vision of freedom.”

In the final analysis, Adwa symbolized a victory of the African people, both in Africa and in the Diaspora, and underlined the growing sense of unity among Africans and people of African descent. It has always resonated in the heart of black people as a symbol, demonstrating defiance to colonialism, to exploitation and to foreign domination. The first major victory of non-white peoples over a European army, it negated the then widespread belief that Africans were no match for European colonizers. Adwa was a constant reminder of the possibility of defeating the oppressor and a real source of inspiration to oppressed colonial peoples and to the Diaspora of black Africans, struggling to free themselves from slavery and subjugation. It rejected the myth of the ‘civilizing mission’ of colonizers who claimed it was ‘right and proper’ to colonize ‘savage and barbarous’ Africans. Indeed, Adwa showed that these ‘savage barbarians’ were the true defenders of the virtues of freedom, equality and human dignity.

Adwa was and remains a redeeming moment for black people. It stands with the gallant Zulu resistance by Shaka in the 19th century and the Mau Mau in Kenya fifty years ago as one of the major symbols of resistance. It was a victory that inspired Marcus Garvey, William Du Bois and Martin Luther King and other great freedom fighters that led the Back to Africa and Civil Rights Movements in America. Today, the spirit of Adwa can still provide a springboard for the African Union’s “Pan-Africanism for the African Renaissance”, for the emergence of a new Africa, an Africa free to decide its own destiny. Adwa certainly belongs to Africa, as well as to Ethiopia where it provides the basis for the youth of the country to develop their own winning spirit drawn from the example of the courage and determination shown by their grandfathers.

 

UN Secretary-General welcomes Ethiopia’s intention to continue governance reforms

 UN Secretary General António Guterres commended the Government of Ethiopia for its intention to continue governance reforms in the country following Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn’s submission of his letter of resignation. The United Nations highlighted the recent decision by Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, to resign, “allows further political reforms to take place in the country that aimed at widening democratic space,” while also noting that the step is a prominent element towards governance reforms. The Secretary General further welcomed the recent release of detainees in the country.

Describing Ethiopia as a valued partner in peace and security, development, humanitarian and human rights issues in the Horn of Africa and the African continent, the United Nations pledged to continue to support the Government and people of Ethiopia in implementing reforms that would enhance governance, stability and development.

The United Nations also took note of the recent declaration of a state of emergency and stressed the importance of avoiding actions that would infringe on the human rights and fundamental freedoms of citizens, the peace, security and stability of the country, or impact on the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

It is to be recalled that security disruptions in some parts of the country had posed threats to the constitution and the constitutional order that could not be contained through the regular law enforcement mechanisms and this had necessitated the recent declaration of State of Emergency. As Foreign Minister Dr Workneh underlined during the briefing session to the diplomatic community in Addis this past week, the State of Emergency was targeted at “maintaining the wellbeing of the public, protecting economic installations from destruction and safeguarding the country’s peace and security” as well as “protecting the constitution and the constitutional order, ensuring the security and stability of the country and protecting the freedom of movement of citizens.”

Indeed and of course, the overall implementation of the State of Emergency Proclamation, as well as the measures taken for its implementation, will be monitored by the Inquiry Board established under the Proclamation. The Inquiry Board will be composed of Members of Parliament and legal experts appointed by the House of People’s Representatives; and its main duty will be to watch the legality of measures taken and make sure they comply with Human Rights laws.

 

The high-level segment of the UN’s 37th regular session of Human Rights Council

 The Human Rights Council held its thirty-seventh regular session from Monday to Wednesday this week (February 26-28) in Geneva. Ethiopia’s high-level delegation was led by State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mrs Hirut Zemene.

Opening the session, Vojislav Šuc, President of the UN Human Rights Council, said that 98 dignitaries were participating in the High-Level segment of the Human Rights Council. He also welcomed 12 delegations from Least Developed Countries and Small Island States, including a number which had no permanent representation in Geneva. Mr Šuc paid tribute to the late Asma Jahangir, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran and called him a towering representative of the force of civil society.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres welcomed the adoption of a resolution by the Security Council demanding a cessation of hostilities throughout Syria for at least 30 days. He stressed that he expected the resolution to be immediately implemented and sustained. He also underlined the importance of ensuring the immediate, safe, unimpeded and sustained delivery of humanitarian aid and services, evacuation of the critically sick and wounded, and the alleviation of the suffering of the Syrian people. Eastern Ghouta could not wait, he said; it was high time to stop that hell on earth, the Secretary-General emphasized, reminding all parties of their absolute obligation under international humanitarian and human rights law to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure at all times. Efforts to combat terrorism, he said, did not supersede those obligations.

The Secretary-General also singled out the plight of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, noting that they were one of the most discriminated against populations in the world; and the Rohingya community desperately needed immediate, life-saving assistance, long-term solutions and justice. The Secretary-General commended the work of the outgoing High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein of Jordan noting that he had shown tremendous courage in highlighting human rights concerns in all regions of the world.

Miroslav Lajčàk, President of the seventy-second session of the United Nations General Assembly, noted that the current session of the Human Rights Council presented an opportunity to reflect on the body’s role in setting and reinforcing norms. Norms laid out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, he said, had paved the way for the expansion of the international human rights system, including the creation of the Human Rights Council. He stressed that the Council must not only focus on normative functions. Work on the ground through its relevant mechanisms, such as the Universal Periodic Review process and its Independent Experts, had tangible effects on the ground. And those mechanisms demonstrated that when norms and laws were violated action would be taken. He emphasized that it was necessary to also consider the role of the Council in reinforcing the work of other United Nations bodies. The impact of the Council could be felt across all pillars of the Organization, he said. Particular relevance must be placed on the link between human rights and peace. He said the United Nations must do more to prevent conflict and emphasized that human rights played a vital role in that prevention.

Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, warned that oppression had become fashionable again and fundamental freedoms were in retreat in every region of the world. He warned that it was the accumulation of unresolved human rights violations that would spark the conflicts that could break this world, not a lack of gross domestic product (GDP).

Addressing the Council on Tuesday (February 27) State Minister Hirut noted that considerable changes have taken place in her country with regard to the promotion and protection of human rights since her appearance at the 36th Session of the HRC in 2016. Mrs Hirut, recalling that Ethiopia stands high among those countries continuing to perform exceptionally well in sustaining fast economic growth, also noted that its achievements had not been without challenges.

However, the State Minister emphasized, the demand for better governance, wider democratic space and effective delivery of basic services had not fallen on deaf ears. It had, indeed, prompted extensive reform measures to address these issues. She mentioned a number of Government measures ranging from amendment of the electoral law and ongoing efforts to make changes in anti-terrorism proclamations to the pardoning of individuals including some leaders of opposition parties, journalists, and others.

The State Minister expressed the Government’s readiness to accept the findings and implement the recommendations of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission concerning the violence that was witnessed along the border areas of Oromia and Somali Regional States few months ago.

With reference to the reinstatement of the State of Emergency last week, the State Minister emphasized that this was crucial to ensure the installation of law and order on the one hand and to allow the continuation of the wide ranging political and democratic reform the government has begun to undertake.

During the three-day session, senior officials from around 100 states and international and regional organizations underlined human rights issues of national and international interest and concern. Other highlights of the session included the discussion of the human rights situation in Syria and Burundi with the respective Commissioners of Inquiry, a dialogue with the Commission of Human Rights on South Sudan, and an examination of the human rights situation in Myanmar with the Fact-finding and Special Rapporteur. Children’s Rights, especially in the context of violence and armed conflict, also featured strongly on the Council’s agenda.

 

The 3rd Ethio-Switzerland bilateral political consultation

Ethiopia and Switzerland on Wednesday (February 28) held their 3rd round political consultation in Bern, Switzerland during which the two sides carried out an extensive exchange of ideas on how to take their ties to a new high. The High-Level delegations, led by Ethiopia’s State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mrs Hirut Zemene and State Secretary for the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland, Mrs Pascale Baeriswyl, focused on bilateral as well as multilateral matters in two separate discussions.

The first session of the dialogue started with State Minister Hirut’s briefing on the current situation in Ethiopia. She noted that as countries invest heavily in education, health, infrastructure and other socio-economic services, the demand of the youth for shared and equitable economic growth as well as better political space will increase. This was exactly what had engendered a political reform agenda and human rights issues, including the engagement of the political parties in the democratization process of the country and the release of prisoners in Ethiopia. She emphasized that anti-corruption efforts had been redoubled and measures to reform inefficient institutional working systems had been set in motion. Noting the move by the Government of Ethiopia as praiseworthy, State Secretary Mrs Baeriswyl underscored the need to keep reform inclusive to ensure the sustainable growth of the country and make best use of the recently reinstated State of Emergency.

Switzerland is Ethiopia’s seventh largest export destination and their total trade volume in 2017 amounted to USD 171 million, with the trade balance highly in favor of Ethiopia (USD 52.14 million). Ethiopian Ambassador to the Permanent Mission in Geneva, Ambassador Negash Kibret urged the need to establish an Ethio-Swiss Business council to further propel business ties to a new level. Mrs Baeriswyl noted she agreed on the urgent need to establish the Business Council and stressed the need to further scale up their collective endeavors to utilize the many possibilities that lay untapped between the two countries.

Mrs Laurence Roth, Deputy Head of Bilateral Financial Relations, explained Switzerland’s readiness to sign the agreement on Avoidance of Double Taxation with only a few procedures left to finalize. Mrs Hirut encouraged the Swiss side to expedite the process and expressed her hope that the Agreement would be signed as early as the beginning of the summer. The Draft Agreement on the Avoidance of Double Taxation has been exchanged between the two countries and two rounds of negotiations between the relevant authorities have been held.

The two sides noted with satisfaction that, after a series of discussions, Ethiopian Airlines would be able to start direct flights three times a week linking Addis Ababa and Geneva, from June 3, 2018. On the occasion of the inaugural flight, Ethiopia’s Permanent Mission in Geneva is planning to organize a business forum and tourism promotion event. The start of this connection will be a milestone in the ever-growing ties between the two countries.

Ethiopia and Switzerland have signed an agreement on scientific and technological cooperation though implementation has been weak. The Ethiopian side noted its Science and Technology Ministry was very keen to reinforce collaboration with Swiss institutions in areas such as technology-transfer, human resource capacity-building, research and development and similar areas. Stressing its readiness to expand relations in these areas, the Swiss side invited Ethiopia to the 3rd International Congress on Vocational and Professional Education and Training, due to be held from in Winterthur, Switzerland (June 6-8).

State Minister Hirut praised the Government of Switzerland for extending its assistance to help Ethiopia tackle the drought in some parts of the country last year. Switzerland allocated 27.2 million Euros for projects to be implemented over the next four years (2018- 2021), focusing on agriculture and food security, health, governance and humanitarian aid.

With regard to migration issues, Ambassador Pietro Mona, Ambassador for Development, Force Displacement and Migration, noted the Swiss Government was glad to see the efforts of Ethiopia, and other partner countries and institutions, in designing the “Jobs Compact”. This aims to build three industrial parks that could create about 100,000 jobs, and of these 30% would be earmarked for refugees, to help tackle the migration crisis.

Switzerland is also a partner of Ethiopia in Federalism and Governance. Recalling the visits made by members of Ethiopia’s House of Federation and of the Ministry of Federal and Pastoralist Affairs on a number of occasions, Mrs Hirut commended the Swiss Government for its willingness to share its experiences in Federalism and expressed her hope that this would continue. The two sides agreed to establish a Joint Parliamentary Council to give further impetus to ongoing exchanges of experience on Federalism and Governance.

At the second session of the Consultation, the two sides concentrated on multi-lateral relations and regional issues. As a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, the Ethiopian side has shared its experience and the detail of its activities at the UNSC. Switzerland has never been elected to a non-permanent seat of the UN Security Council and its decision to stand for candidacy in 2023/2024 will be its first time.

Co-operation with IGAD, Switzerland-AU-Ethiopia ties and other issues were also tabled for consultations. Switzerland increased its engagement in the IGAD region through the Cooperation Strategy Horn of Africa 2013-16, and a growing number of Swiss Government organizations such as the Swiss Development Cooperation have launched cooperation initiatives with IGAD across various aid modalities, financing methods and sectors. A Framework Agreement on partnership and cooperation between IGAD and Switzerland was signed in 2014. The Agreement provides cooperation between Switzerland and IGAD in the Horn of Africa in areas of food security, migration, peace and security, and institutional capacity building as well as in the field of science.

 

Al-Shabaab’s deadly attack in Mogadishu last week

Two car bombings and subsequent gunfire on Friday, February 23 shattered a several months-long period of calm in Mogadishu. The two explosions, one near the Presidential palace and the other one close to the popular Dorbin hotel left at least 45 people killed. The first incident began when a vehicle breached a security checkpoint outside the presidential palace before being blown up. The attack was followed by subsequent gun battle between the presidential palace guards and the militants in which the unrest lasted for nearly three hours. The second blast which took place near the hotel when a parked car exploded, killed and injured several young people.

The bombs came a day after the Somali government had issued a “terror warning” about the possibility of explosives-laden vehicles in the capital. Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for both of the attacks. Abdiasis Abu Musab, al-Shabaab’s military operations spokesman, in a statement released through pro-al-Shabaab channels, claimed that they were targeting government security forces and have killed 35 government soldiers and lost five of their fighters. The claim as usual made no mention of the fact that most of the casualties were innocent civilians. Despite any al-Shabaab claims to the contrary, the normal target of most of its indiscriminate attacks are innocent civilians. Al-Shabaab has carried out regular attacks since it was pushed out of the capital by AMISOM and Somali National Forces several years ago. The deadliest attack, in October last year, killed over 500 innocent people including dozens of children.

Announcing a major security crackdown Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khayre ordered police and intelligence agents to immediately intensify security “one hundred percent” in the capital of Mogadishu after the attacks. He said: “Security is the utmost priority…We will not tolerate the killing of our people. We will not be demoralized by one or two explosions. It’s important you end insecurity in Mogadishu.” Briefing the media after a security meeting, Prime Minister Hassan Khayre and Security Minister Mohamed Abukar Islow, said the security forces were under instructions to launch a massive security operation in the city starting on Sunday (February 25) to rid Mogadishu of all terror elements. They also directed the security forces “to deal with the public in a humane way and the terrorists brutally”. Security forces were warned against wrangling or clashes between the various units. The Minister called for collaboration and a coordinated approach. He said, “We have also asked the security forces to obey their commanders and take instructions without fail.”

Ambassador Francisco Madeira, the Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, who said the incident was under investigation by both the government of Somalia and AMISOM, offered his “deepest condolences to the families of the victims of this senseless attack, which was aimed at creating terror among the population.” He said, “AMISOM strongly condemns this attack and reiterates its resolve to continue working side-by-side with Somali National Security Forces to free Somalia from violent extremism and terrorism.” Ambassador Madeira commended the bravery and professionalism of the Somali National Security Forces and AMISOM, who succeeded in neutralizing five al-Shabaab elements involved in the attacks.

And at a joint press conference on Tuesday this week (February 27), Ambassador Francisco Madeira, and the Federal Minister of Interior, Federal Affairs and Reconciliation, Abdi Mohamed Sabriye, pledged to complement each other in the fight against al-Shabaab. Ambassador Madeira said: “I wanted, as I’m surrounded by my Force Commander, my Police Commissioner and my colleagues who deal with issues of security and policy, to reaffirm that AMISOM and the Somali national security forces represented by NISA, the Somali National Army (SNA) and all other forces by the ministry of defense, ministry of interior and AMISOM are one. All are united in a common purpose (which is) defeating al-Shabaab.”

 

The work of the Ethiopian Humanitarian Fund in 2017

 The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) has produced an “in brief” report laying out some of the key achievements and deliverables of the Ethiopian Humanitarian Fund (EHF) over the course of 2017. It is also preparing a more formal annual report. The Ethiopian Humanitarian Fund is led by the UN Humanitarian Coordinator and managed on her behalf by OCHA. It is a mechanism to provide rapid and targeted disbursement of pooled donor resources to UN and NGO humanitarian partners working in areas acutely affected by crisis and to support national service provision at point of delivery. EHF allocations are made primarily in support of agreed priority gaps in the response, as established by the Inter-Cluster Coordination Group and endorsed by the Humanitarian Country Team.

The report noted that 2017 was the biggest ever year for the EHF, with $104.4 million received from eight donors (Ireland, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, South Korea, UK and US). There was also a carryover of $22 million, received at the end of December 2016. Of this, over $94.2 million was allocated, supporting 124 multi-sector projects, with the highest investments in the nutrition, WASH, health and agriculture sectors respectively, covering nearly 18% of the total non-food needs identified in the 2017 Humanitarian Requirements Document (HRD). Somali regional state received the largest funding ($42.8 million) followed by Oromia regional state ($21.6 million).

Overall, the EHF partnered with 32 organizations including International NGOs, UN agencies and National NGOs. The proportion of funding provided to NGOs was slightly higher than the allocation provided to UN agencies, although the number of projects supported by the NGOs is significantly higher, 98 projects of NGOs as compared to 26 projects of the UN. This is due to the nature of projects that the UN implement including support to national pipelines.

The “in brief” report notes the Fund’s major deliverables. These included provision for 230,806 severe Acute Malnutrition cases and 326,764 Moderate Acute Malnutrition children as well as providing 695,980 people with access to safe water; 117 and 57 water schemes rehabilitated and constructed. It covered the establishment or rehabilitation of 2,116 Outpatient Therapeutic Programme and 253 Stabilisation Centres and allowed for nearly 400,000 people to have access to Mobile Health and Nutrition Teams and other health facilities and equipment. In addition, the EHF covered the feeding and treatment of over 500,000 head of livestock and tens of thousands of Emergency Shelter/Non-food Item kits. $10.6 million was provided specifically to support conflict-induced Internally Displaced Persons, with additional support provided through other sector-specific interventions in drought-affected woredas housing new conflict IDPs.

 

UNOCHA says 7 million people in South Sudan will need humanitarian assistance in 2018

In its latest humanitarian bulletin for South Sudan published last week, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimated that 7 million people – more than one in two across the country – will need humanitarian assistance in 2018. It noted that, as the conflict in South Sudan enters its fifth year in 2018, the humanitarian crisis has continued to intensify and expand the trajectory of the country’s people and their outlook on the future. The compounding effects of ongoing fighting, widespread violence and a deteriorating economic situation force the people to flee their homes and undermine their access to basic needs.

OCHA said aid agencies provided humanitarian assistance and protection to over 5.4 Million people in need in south Sudan, out of a total of 6.2 million people initially targeted under the 2017 Humanitarian Response Plan, adding that, in the same year, a total of US dollar 1.19 billion was received by humanitarian partners out of US dollar 1.64 billion originally requested by the HRP. Accordingly the three best-funded sectors were the Food Security and Livelihoods (US $ 467 million), Nutrition (US$101 million) and Water and Sanitary Health WASH (US$50 million).

It noted that in the first half of 2017, hunger and malnutrition reached unprecedented levels after famine was declared in Mayendit and Leer in February, with some 100,000 people facing starvation there and a further one million people classified as being on the brink of famine. UNOCHA said even if early warning and robust humanitarian actions could stop localized famine by June 2017, currently 5.1 million people, 48% of the total population, are classified as severely food insecure, with 20,000 in humanitarian catastrophe status in the country.

The report added that hunger and malnutrition have escalated on an unrelenting course and the situation also worsened compared to the same period in 2016, with surveys showing malnutrition rates in most communities well above the World Health Organization’s emergency threshold 15%, and more than 30% of the population are malnourished in several counties. It said more than 1.1 million children under the age of five are forecast to be malnourished in 2018, including nearly 300,000 malnourished; who remain at a heightened risk of death.

It further noted that with different forms of humanitarian response during 2017, more than 2 million people were provided with access to improved water sources, almost 2 million people benefited from child protection and gender-based violence (GBV) services, as well as mine awareness education, and nearly 900,000 people were assisted with emergency shelter and vital non-food items, including blankets, hygiene kits and mosquito nets.

The report further stressed that 900,000 children under the age of five, and pregnant and lactating women with Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) and Moderate Acute Malnutrition (MAM) were assisted with emergency nutritional assistance, and around 400,000 children were supported with access to education in emergencies through established, rehabilitated or constructed learning spaces. Over 2.5 million were provided with health assistance and more than 600,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) were assisted with camp coordination and camp management services. More than 200 humanitarian partners were supported with logistics services, including transportation of aid workers and cargo.

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