Our online weekly magazine ‘A Week in the Horn’ is just out

A Week in the Horn                                                                                 

Ethiopia is still performing well despite challenges says the Prime Minister

State Councillor of the People’s Republic of China, Yang Jiechi, visits Ethiopia

Foreign Minister Dr Workneh at the Fifth Africa CEO Forum in Geneva

UN Security Council reiterates: no military solution possible in South Sudan

Somalia: a briefing for the UN Security Council …

…and Somalia’s Prime Minister names his new cabinet

IGAD’s Council of Ministers’ meeting on drought, Somalia and South Sudan

A briefing on Ethio-Egyptian relations for young Egyptian diplomats

The inaugural meeting of the African Economic Platform in Mauritius

A new report on abuse and violation of women’s rights in Eritrea

 News in Brief

 Africa and the African Union

The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) will hold a Special Summit on “Durable Solutions for Somali Refugees” on 25th March 2017 in Nairobi. It will bring together IGAD Member States, the international community and other stakeholders to durable solutions for Somali refugees as well as promote sustainable reintegration of returnees in Somalia. More than two million Somalis have been displaced in one of the world’s most protracted of humanitarian crises, 1.1 million people internally displaced and nearly 900,000 as refugees in the region. The summit will be preceded by a special session of the IGAD ministerial committee on Friday (March 24) bringing together ministers responsible for interior, security and refugee affairs from the region.

The inaugural meeting of the African Economic Platform was held this week in Port Louis, Mauritius, and (March 20-22). The Platform focused on innovative ways and means to increase Africa’s prosperity and foster greater integration, increased socio-economic development and enhance confidence and the commitment of Africans as owners and drivers of Agenda 2063. (See article)

The World Bank has announced $57 billion in financing for sub-Saharan Africa over the next three fiscal years. $45 billion will come from the International Development Association for 448 projects that are already underway. The package will also feature an estimated $8 billion in private sector investments from the International Finance Corporation, and another $4 billion from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. World Bank president Jim Yong Kim said this represented an unprecedented opportunity to change the development trajectory of the countries in the region.

On an official visit to the African Union in Addis Ababa at the end of last week, the EU Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica, announced a support package of €165 million to address the multiple crises in the Horn of Africa region. €30 million to protect women and children at risk and treat  alarming levels of malnutrition, diseases and water and sanitation in South Sudan; €70 million is for South Sudan refugees in neighboring countries; and €65 million to respond to the serious droughts in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya.

The IGAD Council of Ministers held a consultative meeting on Friday (March 17) at AU Headquarters. Chaired by Dr. Workneh Gebeyehu, Ethiopia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Chairperson of the IGAD Council of Ministers, the agenda covered the humanitarian situation in the IGAD region due to drought emergencies and cases of famine, as well as regional peace and security issues in Somalia and South Sudan. (See article)

Ethiopia

Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn held talks with visiting State Councilor of the People’s Republic of China, Mr. Yang Jiechi, on Monday (March 20). Mr. Jiechi also paid a courtesy call on President Dr. Mulatu Teshome. (See article)

Prime Minister Hailemariam chaired the Ethiopian Tourism Transformation Council which held its 4th regular meeting on Wednesday (March 22), introducing the Amharic version of the new tourism brand ‘Ethiopia, Land of Origins’ – ‘MidreKedemt.  Opening the meeting, Dr Hirut Woldemariam, Minister of Culture and Tourism, highlighted the need to modernize the country’s tourist industry.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Workneh Gebeyehu led an Ethiopian delegation including Dr. Yinager Dessie, National Planning Commissioner, Dr. Aklilu Hailemichael, State Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Mebrhatu Meles, State Minister of Industry, and Fitsum Arega, Commissioner of the Ethiopian Investment Commission to the Fifth Africa CEO Forum in Geneva  this week to discuss themes of Industrialization in Africa and strengthening financial institutions and economic growth as well as participate in a session on ‘Doing Business in Ethiopia’. (See article).

The Minister of the Government Communications Affairs Office, Dr. Negeri Lencho met with India’s Information and Broadcasting Minister Venkaiah Naidu in New Delhi on Tuesday this week (March 21).They agreed to strengthen cooperation in communication and outreach. India will provide full support for capacity building in communication and journalism through the platform of Indian Institute of Mass Communication.

 State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mrs. Hirut Zemene, participated in the UN Security Council debate on South Sudan this week on Thursday (March 23). (See article)

State Minister Dr. Aklilu Hailemichael met with Reme Mareshaux, Director for African and the Indian Ocean at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development on Friday (March 24, 2017) and discussed ways of deepening cooperation on bilateral relations and pressing regional issues.

Ambassador Taye Atske-selassie, Ambassador of Ethiopia to Egypt, briefed young Egyptian diplomats on the major functions of diplomacy and the relationship between Ethiopia and Egypt. (See article)

The China-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) said on Thursday (March 23) that it had approved 13 new applicants to join the bank, including Ethiopia, bringing its total membership to 70. This is the first time AIIB has welcomed new members since its inception. The approved applicants include eight non-Asian countries and five regional members.

Ethiopia has inaugurated the third integrated agro-industrial park being developed within the framework of the Program for Country Partnership for Ethiopia, a United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) program. This is at Yirgalem in the Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s Regional State and will focus on agro-industries to drive rural industrialization. It is expected to create around 134,000 new jobs.

FAO Ethiopia this week produced a drought response plan and priorities for 2017 for Ethiopia, requiring US$20 million to save livestock-based livelihoods, diversify livelihood opportunities for refugees and host community members, support crop production, and strengthen coordination, information and analysis in the agriculture sector. This will support the livelihoods of 1 million farming, agro-pastoral and pastoral households.

The World Food Program donated US$ 0.6 million worth laboratory equipment and vehicles to the Ethiopian Strategic Food Reserve Agency on Tuesday (March 21), to help to shape a new and modern food security reserve. The WFP is also training 61 staff on quality and pest control training.

Eritrea

Foreign minister, Osman Saleh, met with Egyptian Foreign Minister, Sameh Shoukry, on Sunday (March 19) in Cairo. Discussions covered the security of the Red Sea area; the latest developments in Yemen, Somalia and southern Sudan; and coordination between the two countries in international forums. Mr. Shoukry said Egypt was keen to continue negotiations with the Nile Basin countries to reach a common formula regarding the Nile Basin Initiative. He asserted Egypt’s willingness to strengthen bilateral relations with Eritrea in all areas.

The President of the National Union of Eritrean Women, Ms. Tekea Tesfamichael,  led the Eritrean delegation to the  61st session of the Commission of the Status of Women held in New York (March 13-24). The externally-based NGO, the Human Rights Concern Eritrea, published a report on “Women’s Rights’ Violations in Eritrea” on International Women’s Day on March 8. (See article)

 Kenya

At a joint news conference in Nairobi, President Kenyatta and visiting Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi announced the opening of two border posts in Dobley-Liboi and Mandera-Bulahawa. They agreed to meet regularly to monitor the progress of bilateral relations in the context of a reactivated Joint Commission of Cooperation.  Direct flights are to be re-launched between Nairobi and Mogadishu within two weeks. They also agreed to scale up the war against terrorism. President Kenyatta said Kenya plans to establish a technical training institute for youths currently in refugee camps to enhance technical skills necessary for their rehabilitation. He said: “If Somalia prospers, so does Kenya. If Somalia is peaceful, so is Kenya.”

President Kenyatta visited a Kenya Defence Forces’ camp at Dhobley in Somalia on Saturday last week (March 18). A Presidential spokesperson said the President wanted “to appear in person to show his support for the very important work our men and women in uniform do to secure our country”.

 

Somalia

President Mohamed Abdullahi appealed to the international community this week for help to avert an approaching famine. Speaking on a video link he told the UN Security Council: “Almost half of my people are facing acute food shortages and about 15 percent are facing famine.”  He said that the death of livestock was destroying livelihoods; cholera was on the rise and the rainy season was approaching. More than 6 million people needed assistance, and an international appeal for $825 million was only 32% funded.

The UN Security Council, after being briefed by Michael Keating, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Somalia and the head of the UN Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) told the UN Security Council on Thursday (March 23), extended the mandate of the UN Office in Somalia until June 16. (See article)

President Mohamed Abdullahi arrived in Nairobi on Thursday (March 23) for a state visit at the invitation of President Uhuru Kenyatta. A Presidential Spokesperson said areas identified by the Kenya-Somalia Joint Commission for Cooperation included security, trade and investment, civil aviation, education and agriculture, as well as resource sharing and development, livestock, fisheries, tourism and  immigration. During his visit President Mohamed will also attend the IGAD Extraordinary Summit on “Durable Solutions and Effective Reintegration of Somali Refugees” in Nairobi on Saturday.

Somalia’s Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire announced the names of his proposed new cabinet on Tuesday (March 21).  The list of ministers now has to be approved by Parliament before they can formally assume their posts. (See article)

The United Nations’ Central Emergency Response Fund on Tuesday (March 21) released an emergency loan of $22 million to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) for use for Somalia. FAO said the funds would go to provide immediate help for rural communities that have been hit particularly hard by the drought. The head of the OCHA, Stephen O’Brien, said the loan would bridge a crucial funding gap.

­Kuwait’s International Islamic Charity Organization (IICO) announced on Tuesday (March 21) that local charities had joined forces to deliver aid worth US$50 million to Somalia. Speaking at a press conference to launch a media campaign for the aid program, IICO Chairman and Advisor at the Amiri Diwan, Dr. Abdullah Al ­Matouq said that IICO had launched an urgent relief program to provide comprised food and medical aid. He also noted that it was in the process of putting together an economic aid package to lift Somalis out of penury.

A delegation from the African Union Peace and Security Council arrived in Somalia on Thursday (March 23), to assess the level of progress made in defense and security institutions, especially in building a national army. Ambassador Ntshinga Ndumiso, the Chairperson of the Peace and Security Council, who met with Prime Minister Khaire, said their consultations would cover the efforts of partners who were providing capacity building support to the Somali National Army.

Puntland President Abdiweli Mohamed Ali said on Monday this week (March 21) that Puntland was in on-going discussions with DP World Ltd over developing the port of Bosasso. President Ali was in Dubai the previous week.

Somaliland’s Vice-President Abdirahman Sayli’i on a visit to Abi Dhabi signed an agreement on Sunday (March 19) to allow a UAE military base at Berbera.

South Sudan

President Salva Kiir, at a meeting with Ambassador Berhane Gebre-Christos, a special adviser to Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam, commended South Sudan’s growing relations with Ethiopia, stressing that the two countries should strengthen economic and trade cooperation. President Kiir said South Sudan attached great importance to the bilateral ties between the two countries, which had shown considerable progress in recent months.

UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, warned that the situation was “man-made” and was “not going to improve”. He said on Tuesday (March 21) that the security situation in South Sudan was “very worrisome.” (See article)

 The UN Security Council was briefed on Thursday (March 23) by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, former President Festus Mogae, Chairman of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission for South Sudan, and Betty Sunday, Coordinator for the Women’s Forum on Peace and Political Processes in South Sudan. (See article)

Norway’s foreign minister, Borge Brende, on Tuesday (March 21) described the crisis in South Sudan as “man-made”, and said solutions must include an agreement with armed opposition groups. He called for a worldwide ban to stop “the flow of weapons” into South Sudan. Norway is one of the Troika countries along with the US and the UK.

South Sudan’s Minister of Petroleum, Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth and Equatorial Guinea’s Minister of Mines and Hydrocarbons, Gabriel Mbaga Obiang Lima signed a Memorandum of Cooperation on Tuesday (March 21) to provide the basis for exchanging information and for collaboration between their national oil companies Nilepet and GEPetrol.

The Minister of Information said on Wednesday (March 22) that a technical committee would review recently announced increases in tax collection and fees for work permits for foreign nationals. The increased charges sparked strong complaints from NGOs who claimed they affect humanitarian work and expressed fears of donors being discouraged from providing funding.

The Great Ethiopian Run Association has announced that it is planning to hold the first ever Great South Sudan Run in Juba on April 8. It will be held under the theme “Fund raising for famine and poverty fighting” with the aim of assisting humanitarians in helping South Sudanese affected by the current famine. Ambassador James Morgan, South Sudan’s envoy to Ethiopia said it would help promote peace and support the government’s efforts to bring unity and reconciliation.

UNOCHA said last week that the number of South Sudanese refugees in Sudan has now reached 332,000, of whom nearly 25,000 arrived in February. Over 65% of the refugees in Sudan are reportedly children. The UNHCR said at the weekend that with at least 1.6 million South Sudanese having fled to neighboring countries to escape famine, fighting and drought, South Sudan was the world’s fastest-growing refugee crisis. The UNCHR said more than 2,800 people on average were arriving in Uganda every day and about 86% were women and children.

Sudan

Sudan’s Foreign Ministry has set up a committee to look into possible options concerning the disputed area of Halayeb triangle and the related area of Shalateen. It is to develop a road map to explore ways to evict the Egyptians from the area through diplomacy. Last April, Egypt refused a demand by the Sudanese government to hold direct talks on Halayeb or refer the dispute to the International Court of Arbitration.

Following a phone conversation on Tuesday (March 21), Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour and Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukry agreed to hold their next political consultation meeting in Khartoum next month. They stressed the need “to respond with utmost wisdom to the irresponsible handling of relations by some media outlets and social media users”. They also said they would move forward with the implementation of cooperation programs adopted during the recent meetings of the Egyptian-Sudanese Higher Committee headed by the two Presidents.

The new United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) acting head of mission and force commander, Major General Tesfay Gidey Hailemichael of Ethiopia arrived in Abyei on Tuesday (March 21) to assume his duties. He succeeded Major General Hassen Ebrahim Mussa, who completed his assignment on 17 February 2017.UNISFA is tasked with monitoring the border between Sudan and South Sudan and facilitating the delivery of humanitarian aid. It is authorized to use force in protecting civilians and humanitarian workers in the disputed oil-producing area.

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Ethiopia is still performing well despite challenges says the Prime Minister

In his first bi-annual briefing for fiscal year 2016-2017 (2009EC) to the House of People’s Representatives on Thursday (March 16), Prime Minister Hailemariam said that despite the local and international challenges facing the country, the overall performance of the nation had been promising.

The Prime Minister said that since the State of Emergency declared on October 9 last year had largely met its objectives, a directive had been prepared to allow for a move away from the implementation of the provisions of the State of Emergency back to the regular process of law enforcement. He said a preliminary assessment by the Command Post of the State of Emergency indicated that normalcy had returned to the country. However, although relative peace and stability had returned to the country, the possibility of incidents that could be threats to peace and stability in some areas had still not been totally eliminated. In a few areas, he said, some illegal activities had taken place, including robberies, smashing of vehicles, disruption of the teaching-learning process by creating havoc in some schools, and grenades thrown at a few individual’s houses or at compounds of institutions. So, the Prime Minister said, more efforts would be made to ensure sustained peace and stability, conducting additional public consultations and implementing of corrective measures.

The Prime Minister said the Government had conducted a public survey which had indicated that a significant element of the population thought that an extension to the proclamation of the State of Emergency would help to ensure sustainable peace and stability. According to the survey, 82% of the people who responded wanted the State of Emergency to be continued either in part of completely. He said: “The government will decide to cancel or extend the State of Emergency based on the study and the decision of State of Emergency inquiry board”.

Turing to the economy, Prime Minister Hailemariam said the achievements registered in the first half of the fiscal year in agriculture; manufacturing and other industries had been better than in the same period of the previous year. In his six-month government report, he made it clear that the El Niño-induced drought in 2015-2016 had affected the economy, particularly the agriculture sector. However, economic development indicators for the current fiscal year showed that the nation could make up the losses sustained over the previous fiscal year. The harvest from the main meher harvest was expected to show an increase of 9%; and if irrigation facilities were extended, the agriculture sector could register a growth rate of 12%. A higher growth rate in the agriculture sector could have a positive impact on the entire economic development, the Prime Minister insisted.

.In the manufacturing sector 18.4% growth had been registered and construction was showing a performance growth of 25%. The different measures to keep inflation to single figures had been successful in keeping it below 8% percent. This has helped the country’s economic development to continue on an even level. The Prime Minister said steady growth in government and private investment and developments in agriculture and manufacturing areas had contributed to the continuous growth of the national economy.

The Prime Minister said the average economic growth during the first Growth and Transformation Plan (2010-2015) was 10.1%. The projected growth for the last fiscal year had been projected to be 11% but only 8% overall had been achieved. Similarly, the agricultural sector had been growing at 7% on average over a number of years, but because of the El-Nino phenomenon it had fallen to 2.3% last year. This year, the industry and service sectors are expected to show a growth of 20.6 % and 10.2% respectively, and the Prime Minister added, “This year’s economic growth will also be expected to make up the decline seen last year.” Export performance, he said, had shown a 4.2 % decline in the first six months of the year compared to the same period last year. He cited price falls in global agricultural products, the value of Birr against international currencies and a decline of interest in the country’s agricultural products as factors associated with this.

The Prime Minister underlined the efforts being made to deal with the current drought in some parts of the country. The government, he said, had over several years, increased strong resilience to confront drought and other natural disasters. He also noted that IGAD member states were now working in collaboration and consultation with one another to tackle the currently appalling levels of drought throughout much of the region. This was another element in the way Ethiopia had been working to consolidate its diplomatic relations with its neighbors in particular and in the sub-region in general. Prime Minister Hailemariam said, “We have been striving tirelessly to sustain peace and security in our region and beyond,” adding, “relations with neighboring countries like Sudan, Djibouti, Kenya, South Sudan and Somalia are growing more than ever before.” He emphasized that Ethiopia would continue to broaden its diplomatic base with other African countries by continuing to play an active role in IGAD and the African Union.

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State Councillor of the People’s Republic of China, Yang Jiechi, visits Ethiopia

State Councillor of the People’s Republic of China, Mr. Yang Jiechi, arrived in Addis Ababa for a one-day visit on Monday (March 20). During his visit, State Councillor Jiechi met with Prime Minister Hailemariam and paid a courtesy call on President Dr. Mulatu Teshome.

State Councillor Jiechi’s visit was aimed at consolidating the bilateral and multilateral cooperative relations between Ethiopia and China. In his meeting with the Prime Minister, Mr. Jiechi noted that the China-Africa Forum held in Johannesburg in 2015 had laid a solid foundation for strengthening relations between China and Africa as well as China and Ethiopia. He said China viewed Ethiopia as a key partner in Africa and that Ethio-Chinese ties provided an exemplary model for other countries in Africa. He said that, in accordance with the Production Capacity Cooperation Framework Agreement that was signed between the two countries, Ethiopia has begun to see results in the completion of the Ethio-Djibouti Railway and the Hawassa Industrial Park. To develop the capacity of Ethiopians in management of essential infrastructure, Mr. Jiechi said China was ready to sign an Exchange of Notes covering human resource development for the China-Africa Railway Academy and the Meles Zenawi Leadership Academy in the near future.

Prime Minister Hailemariam underlined Ethiopia’s appreciation of the global role China was playing and its contributions to Ethiopia’s economy. He emphasized that the direction of the bilateral ties was geared towards the development of infrastructure, essential to transform the country from an agrarian to an industrial economy. The Prime Minister appreciated China’s readiness to share experiences and expertise in such areas as the development of industrial parks and on railways. He was particularly impressed that the Hawassa Industrial Park had been built in just nine months and that only a few months later it was exporting goods worth US$50 million.  Referring to the railway academy, he said Ethiopia needed China’s expertise to train more engineers and train operators as it had limitations in this area. As regards multilateral cooperation, the Prime Minister affirmed that Ethiopia was committed to work together with China on the reform of the Security Council, and noted that Ethiopia was keen to collaborate on international issues of common interest.

President Dr. Mulatu told State Councillor Jiechi that Ethiopia attached great importance to its relations with China, noting that mutual respect and understanding was the basis for the relationship between the two peoples and the two governments. The President briefed the State Councillor on the current political, social and economic situation of Ethiopia and they discussed the opportunities and challenges facing Africa today. The State Councillor told the President that China was impressed with the vision of Ethiopia’s leadership and by their blueprint for the development of the country. He recalled the ten cooperation plans proposed by President Xi Jinping at the FOCAC Summit in Johannesburg and appreciated the fact that Ethiopia was utilizing all available opportunities arising from these. Mr. Jiechi welcomed the fact that the comprehensive strategic partnership of China and Ethiopia was moving towards a higher level.

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Foreign Minister Dr Workneh at the Fifth Africa CEO Forum in Geneva

African CEO’s and dignitaries meet in Switzerland, Geneva on March 20, 2017 to deliberate on themes of Industrialization in Africa, Strengthening financial institutions and Economic growth, where Over 1,100 participants from 42 countries, including 40 ministers and two heads of state had participated in this year’s edition of the Africa CEO Forum. This year, the discussions focused on ‘Building the New African Economy’; ‘The 2017 Industry Outlook’; and ‘The Future of African Leadership’. The Forum also held parallel sessions ‘Doing Business’ in five selected African States including Ethiopia. Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Workneh Gebeyehu led an Ethiopian delegation which also included Dr. Yinager Dessie, National Planning Commissioner, Dr. Aklilu Hailemichael, State Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Mebrhatu Meles, State Minister of Industry, and Mr. Fitsum Arega, Commissioner of the Ethiopian Investment Commission as well as other officials.

The Forum offers a unique platform for facilitating thought-provoking and forward-thinking discussions, as well as unique opportunities for business development, strategy refinement and improving the overall competitiveness of African businesses. This year, the concept of rethinking the African ‘business model’ to remain relevant in a changing and competitive environment set the tone.  Amir Ben Yahmed, Founder and President of the Forum also announced the launch of the African CEO Barometer, an initiative aimed at measuring the confidence in African CEOs and the expectations and prospects of key leaders in the African private sector. Published on the occasion of the Africa CEO Forum, the Barometer is based on a survey of more than 1,000 active African CEOs across the continent and will be renewed annually. Attendees of the Forum in particular members of the private sector called on their respective governments to improve the business climate and to fight against fraud and corruption, which they made it clear they considered more important than any other measure. The Forum awarded Mohammad Dewji, Group CEO of MeLT from Tanzania the prestigious CEO of the Year and Anta BabacarNgom Bathily of Sidma Young CEO of the Year.

During a panel discussion dealing with the kind of economic model Africa should use to ‘Build the new African Economy’, Dr Workneh Gebeyehu said, there needs to be African solution for African Problems. He emphasized that to solve economic and social problems in Africa it was particularly necessary to invest in energy provision and that, he said, is why Ethiopia was concentrating so much effort in investing in energy-harnessing structures. He also shed light on the way Ethiopia was achieving its economic successes, noting that even in a free market, the government still has an important role to play in intervening in some areas. There was a need for the right mix of market forces and State intervention, he said. He emphasized that in developing countries such as Ethiopia, infrastructure including power supply, telecom services, the construction of schools, and roads, could not be provided to the rural poor without appropriate State intervention. Dr. Workneh also answered questions on what made Ethiopia’s economic system successful, the role of the State in the economy and the general developmental state structure. On the same panel, Roberto Azevêdo, Director General of WTO, emphasized that countries could and should choose their own economic growth path; WTO, he said, could not force countries to liberalize their economy system.

On the second day of the Forum, Tuesday (March 21), Dr. Workneh opened the session on “Doing Business in Ethiopia,” a key sideline event. Welcoming the panelists, he noted the numerous business and investment opportunities in Ethiopia. Among these, the Minister described Ethiopia as one of Africa’s fastest growing non-oil economies. He underlined the political and social stability in the country, and noted the country’s tariff and quota free access to the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), with its 19 member countries and over 400 million people, as well as AGOA, which gives Ethiopia access to the American market. Ethiopia, he noted, with around 100 million people is now the second largest domestic market in Africa and its population also implies the availability of an abundant skilled and affordable labor. The country is strategically located   at the crossroads of Africa, Europe and the Middle East. It is constructing a series of industrial parks, 12 additional ones will be finalized soon. The government has invested massively in infrastructure with nearly 50% of GDP spent on infrastructure development. This includes the construction of a national and regional network of roads, railways, telecommunication and electricity supplies. One example of this is the recently completed Ethiopia-Djibouti railway. The rapidly expanding renewable energy sector uses wind, solar, hydro, geothermal and bio-fuel will enable the country’s power production to reach more than 17,000 MW in the next 5 years providing environmentally friendly energy and a cheap source of power for our industries and the region. Dr. Workneh also noted that the Government of Ethiopia had prioritized strategic sectors of investments, which he said included agribusiness, leather production, textiles and garment, horticulture, energy, construction, pharmaceuticals as well as food and drinks.

The panelists included Dr. Yinager Dessie, Minister of the National Plan Commission speaking on the Ethiopia’s Economy Outlook and the Second Growth and Transformation Plan; Dr. Mebrhatu Meles, State Minister of Ministry of Industry, with a presentation on  Integrated Agro Industrial Parks,  a New Investment Prospect of Ethiopia; Engineer Azeb Asnake, CEO of Ethiopian Electric Power, on the flourishing energy sector; and Mr. Fitsum Arega on Ethiopia as An Emerging Economy, the fast development of the private sector and the conducive investment climate of Ethiopia. In addition to these officials, Mr. Zemedeneh Nigatu, of Ernest and Young, Mr. Daniel Gad, CEO of Omega Farms and Mr. Harsh Kothari, CEO of Mohan Group of Companies, spoke on their investment experience in Ethiopia.

During the Forum, Dr. Workneh also met and held discussions with  a number of CEOS, including  Issad Rebrab, CEO of the Algerian CEVITAL industrial group and  Eddy Pirard, incoming President and Chief Executive Officer of Japan Tobacco International.

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UN Security Council reiterates: no military solution possible in South Sudan

At a press conference in Juba on Tuesday this week (March 21),  out-going Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations,  Hervé Ladsous, and his newly appointed  successor, Jean-Pierre Lacroix,  presented a grim picture of South Sudan’s civil war, blaming both government forces and rebels for the declining humanitarian situation, drawing attention to the millions made homeless and starving because of the violence. Mr. Ladsous highlighted that the number of people fleeing the country showed no signs of slowing and had in fact significantly increased. He said there was only limited consolidation of peace, a worrying decline in the humanitarian situation and extensive ongoing violence. Mr. Ladsous called attention to the importance of the 2015 peace agreement signed by President Salva Kiir and opposition groups in August 2015. Earlier, Mr. Ladsous said he had had a candid meeting with President Kiir. Among the topics discussed were the importance of peace and the challenges to humanitarian action, including impediments to getting clearance for NGOs as well as the numbers of aid workers killed or injured.  Mr. Ladsous reiterated that the economic decline and high inflation combined with disrupted harvests and livelihoods continued to worsen the food security situation. He emphasized that the situation was “man-made” by the several years of fighting. It was not, he said, going to improve currently as it was now the crop planting season and all the farmers had been displaced or were seeking refuge in neighboring countries. He said: “You cannot hope that a solution will come by the use of weapons, the solution has to be political.”

Mr. Ladsous did note that the first elements of the UN Security Council-mandated Regional Protection Force should be deployed to Juba “in the next few weeks.” The Security Council Resolution 2304 in August last year authorized deployment of another 4,000 or so troops to expand the existing 13,000 UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) force. South Sudan originally accepted the deployment of the protection force but later rejected and then finally accepted it again in January 2017.  According Mr. Ladsous the Regional Protection Force units will comprise Bangladeshi, Nepalese, and Rwandan troops, and these will then be followed by Ethiopian forces and troops from other countries. Once deployed to Juba, the Force will free a number of UNMISS units to “the countryside to better protect the civilians,” he said. Mr. Ladsous noted, however, that the main responsibility for protection remains with the Government of South Sudan: “We cannot have one blue helmet behind every single South Sudanese citizen. The responsibly to protect its own citizens is that of the Government. And we are here to support, to facilitate, and to help the Government of the sovereign country of South Sudan.”

The numbers of South Sudanese leaving the country to avoid conflict and looking for aid and assistance continued to rise. Uganda was now hosting over 800,000 South Sudanese refugees, and Ethiopia is also witnessing a significant upsurge in refugees from South Sudan, which is causing a significant strain for humanitarian service delivery. At the end of last week, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said that since the beginning of the month March over 600 South Sudan refugees a day were crossing the border into Ethiopia, driven by the ongoing conflict and food scarcity. Its statement said: “A famine produced by the vicious combination of fighting and drought is now driving the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis.”  It added: “The daily arrival rate to Ethiopia has significantly jumped from 199 persons in February to 660 so far in March”. Overall, between March 1 and March 11, a total of 7,258 South Sudanese refugees arrived in Ethiopia’s Gambella region. Of these, 3,967 arrived in the week of March 6-11, representing a daily average arrival rate of 660 people.

The UN Security Council was briefed on Thursday (March 23) by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, former President Festus Mogae, Chairman of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission for South Sudan, and Betty Sunday, Coordinator for the Women’s Forum on Peace and Political Processes in South Sudan. The Security Council then issued a Presidential Statement expressing its deep alarm at the situation in South Sudan. It condemned reported human rights violations and abuses in South Sudan, expressing deep alarm at the reports of gender-based violence and recruitment of child soldiers. It reiterated its call to all parties to immediately adhere to the ceasefire as called for in the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict. It condemned any restrictions and attacks on humanitarian personnel and their facilities. It underscored the pressing need for accountability for any human rights violations, noting that a political solution which included the voices of women was essential.  It called on all parties to the conflict to fully cooperate to advance peace. It also called for unconditional support of all efforts by the United Nations, African Union and Intergovernmental Authority for Development and the immediate removal of obstacles to United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).  It expressed its intent to review progress no later than 30 April.

In his briefing, Secretary-General António Guterres warned the Council not to underestimate the dangers of South Sudan’s trajectory and to act with one voice to pull it “back from the abyss”.  He said all the optimism that had accompanied South Sudan’s birth some six years ago had been shattered by internal divisions and the irresponsible behavior by some leaders. He said: “A country that had seen a brief glimmer of hope for a better future has plunged back into darkness.  We have to do everything in our power to change this.”  Fighting, he said, had internally displaced some 1.9 million people, while 1 million were on the verge of famine and at least 7.5 million,  the majority of the country, now depended on assistance; but  despite such suffering, the Government continued to impede aid deliveries, he added.

Festus Mogae, Chairman of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission, for South Sudan, said that, whether by design or default, a war was being waged around the country.  “This insecurity and armed violence is a direct result of the perception and reality of political exclusion from the peace process,” he stressed.  Only when all South Sudanese acknowledged that their interests were addressed could peace return. Betty Sunday, Coordinator for the Women’s Forum on Peace and Political Processes in South Sudan, said the security threats for South Sudanese women were extreme, citing incidents of rape and other forms of violence.  The peace agreement could not be allowed to die, as it contained provisions for women to take up their role in determining a peaceful future.

Council members expressed concern over the widening famine, condemned the fighting and called for an immediate cessation of hostilities.  Several expressed support for the President’s national dialogue and the establishment of a hybrid court to hold accountable those who had committed or ordered atrocity crimes.  Senegal’s delegate urged South Sudan to support efforts to establish the court, while Ethiopia pressed the Government to conduct the national dialogue in an all-inclusive manner.

Mrs. Hirut Zemene, State Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia,  declared that “saving people’s lives through urgent international humanitarian response has become a matter of utmost priority” against the backdrop of South Sudan’s famine, intercommunal violence and deepening economic crisis.  Unhindered humanitarian access was critical, she stressed, welcoming President Kiir’s commitment to restore freedom of movement to UNMISS and humanitarian actors. She called genuine and inclusive dialogue, as well as the full implementation of the 2015 Peace Agreement, and urged the Government to conduct the national dialogue in an all-inclusive manner.  The continued and collective commitment of IGAD, the African Union and the United Nations was also critical, she said, as was the support of the Security Council to those efforts.  She reiterated her firm conviction that unity on the part of the Council would make “headway for peace” possible in South Sudan.  Noting that progress made in the deployment of the Regional Protection Force, was also critical, Mrs. Hirut expressed the hope that all South Sudanese parties would rise up to tackle the enormous challenges facing their country.

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Somalia: a briefing for the UN Security Council …

Michael Keating, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Somalia and the head of the UN Mission in the country (UNSOM) told the UN Security Council on Thursday (March 23) that while Somalia faced a number of “daunting difficulties” after decades of conflict, there was also a new momentum for fresh political engagement with the recent electoral process. He said the new Government and Parliament now had an opportunity to use the goodwill to reboot efforts to build a functional and inclusive Federal State.

Mr. Keating underlined the seriousness of the humanitarian crisis: over six million Somalis, half the total population, were now in need of assistance. Nearly three million, mainly women and children, require immediate life-saving support, including growing numbers of displaced people living in miserable conditions. He noted that access remains a challenge, including in Al Shabaab-controlled areas, but the scope for responding to the crisis was far better than it had been in 2011, with improved cell phone coverage, expanded money transfer options, better data on needs and expanded operational capacities.  Humanitarian partners, he said, were scaling up the response including private sector action and cash programs in affected areas. More people were now being reached with food aid, nutritional support, health care services and access to safe water. Much, much more, however, was needed. The Famine Prevention Operational Plan wanted $825 million to reach 5.5 million people by June. The plan is currently only 32% funded. More resources were urgently needed by the end of March to enable partners to reach affected people before it is too late. He said the results of the electoral process, accepted as legitimate by all stakeholders, and the smooth, peaceful transfer of power, was making efforts to respond to the ongoing drought and the possible specter of famine much easier. He said politicians, business people, civil society and members of the Diaspora, were all taking responsibility and working to respond to the humanitarian crisis.

The elections had, indeed, created a sense of hope. The new parliament, Mr. Keating said, was more diverse, younger and female than any before. The elections had been largely peaceful and were not derailed by Al Shabaab. AMISOM and Somali security and intelligence forces did a great job protecting electoral sites. The presidential election was conducted transparently and the whole process had generated widespread goodwill.  Mr. Keating quoted Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam: “Somalis have made history and set a great example to countries emerging from conflict.” He noted that the President and Prime Minister had committed themselves to improvements in public financial management, transparency and accountability, including vigorous steps to fight corruption. Somalia needed to start attracting serious investment and generate domestic revenues. This required greater institutional capacity and agreement between government and the private sector. Taxes should be collected by the state with assurance that funds will be accounted for and used to provide basic services, including security and the rule of law. It will not be easy and it needs support to clear Somalia’s arrears and move towards debt relief.

Mr. Keating emphasized that eliminating the scourge of terrorism remained another pressing issue. He said a multi-pronged approach, embedded in a political strategy, was needed to degrade and dismantle Al-Shabaab. Equally, building a trusted security apparatus acceptable to all Somalis was essential. This would offer a major opportunity to build and consolidate the Federal State, and it needed to be approached as such, not just as a military undertaking.  He said the essential first step was a political agreement between the Federal Government and Federal Member States, supported by parliament, Government, and civil society, on shared security architecture, embracing both army and police. This could provide the basis for more coherent international support to Somalia, and a cornerstone for joint planning with the African Union on AMISOM’s future. AMISOM, he said was still the centerpiece of a comprehensive approach to security, but it would not stay forever. For now, however, it remained the backbone of security and its presence was essential to build the Somali Security Forces. He said a precipitate AMISOM drawdown could be disastrous. So, he urged the Council to focus on finding the funds to maintain AMISOM’s presence and to enable a sufficient level of security in the run up to the elections in 2020. He pointed out that the AU and UN were jointly reviewing the future of AMISOM shortly and review, along with the results of the Strategic Assessment Mission, should help the Council decide on the way forward for AMISOM, including use of assessed contributions.

Mr. Keating also spoke about the need to advance the constitutional process and to strengthen conflict resolution efforts through the inclusion of all sections of society, including women, youth, minorities and business, in the peaceful resolution of conflicts. He stressed the need to improve the human rights situation and said he was “particularly concerned about attacks on journalists and the increase in sexual violence against internally-displaced women and members of minority clans.”  He, therefore, underlined the need to strengthen the human rights protection capacity in the country as well as fully implementing the Human Rights Due Diligence Policy.

After the briefing, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution to extend the mandate of the UN Office in Somalia until June 16. It said it looked forward to the report of the review of the UN presence in Somalia, deferred until after the electoral process.

 

…and Somalia’s Prime Minister names his new cabinet

Somalia’s Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire announced the names of his proposed new cabinet on Tuesday (March 21).  The list of ministers now has to be approved by Parliament before they can formally assume their posts. President Mohammed Abdullahi has already asked Parliament to speed up approval of the cabinet, which he said is required to quickly embark on its duties of serving the people and nation.

The Prime Minister named Mahdi Ahmed Guled as Deputy Prime Minister and among the 27 ministers, former BBC Journalist and Ambassador to the UN, Yusef Garad Omar, has been appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.  Former Foreign Minister and Election Commission Chairman, Dr. Abdirahman Duale Beyle, is named Finance Minister.  The former Somali Ambassador to Kenya, Jamal Mohamed Hassan is appointed Minister of Planning, Investment and Economic Promotion. Dr. Maryan Qasim, formerly Minister for Human Development and Public Services, has been given the new Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management. Abdirashid Abdullahi Mohamed, former Governor of the Bay region is Defense Minister. Other appointments include Iimaan Abdullahi Ali, as Minister of Religious Affairs; Abdi Farah Saiid, Minister of Interior, Federal Affairs and Reconciliation; Abdirahman Hoosh Jibril, Minister of Constitutional Affairs; Mohamed Abukar Islow Dualle, Minister of Internal Security; and Hassan Hussein Hajji, Ministry of Justice.

It is a cabinet largely of technocrats and includes a number of those who were ministers in the previous cabinet. In addition to the 27 ministers, the Prime Minister has also appointed another forty deputy and state ministers. Fifteen of the ministers, deputy and state ministers are also members of the federal parliament. Six women have been given ministerial posts.

The Prime Minister also announced on Tuesday that the President, the Prime Minister and all cabinet ministers will be required to declare their property and be subject to an audit when leaving office. He said, “We will require everyone to declare their property, whether in cash or fixed assets and at the end of service, an audit will be conducted to ascertain if there was any embezzlement of funds. This will start with the President and the Prime Minister. Article 111C of the Provisional Constitution calls for the establishment of an Anti-Corruption Commission with a mandate ‘to promote integrity, accountability, and proper management of public matters and property.’ President Mohamed Abdullahi in his pre-election campaign pushed for a strong anti-corruption agenda.

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IGAD’s Council of Ministers’ meeting on drought, Somalia and South Sudan

Earlier, the IGAD Council of Ministers held a consultative meeting on Friday (March 17) at AU Headquarters. Chaired by Dr. Workneh Gebeyehu, Ethiopia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Chairperson of the IGAD Council of Ministers, those attending included the Foreign Affairs Ministers of Djibouti, Mohamoud Ali Youssouf; of Somalia, Abdisalam Hadji Omar; of Sudan, Professor Ibrahim Ghandour; and of Uganda, Sam Kutesa; as well as the Principal Secretary of Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, Dr. Ambassador Monica Juma; and IGAD Executive Secretary Engineer Mahboub Maalim. The agenda covered the dire humanitarian situation in the IGAD region due to drought emergencies and cases of famine as well as regional peace and security issues in Somalia and South Sudan.

In a statement issued by IGAD, the ministers expressed serious concern about the drought emergencies currently affecting well over 20 million people and the cases of famine. They acknowledged the likelihood of further deterioration in the humanitarian situation because of the low rainfall forecasts for the coming months. This could lead to further collapse of agricultural production. The Council called for enhanced support by the international community to complement efforts at national and regional level.

The Council noted with serious concern the lack of progress in the implementation of the Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (ARCSS), the continued violence across the country and also the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding as a result of the high-levels of insecurity, coupled with serious limitations of access by humanitarian agencies to the affected populations. The Council underlined its unanimous support for the national dialogue process initiated by the Transitional Government of National Unity. It called on the Government to ensure that the national dialogue was all-inclusive. It further called on all parties to the conflict to agree on a cessation of hostilities to pave way for a speedy implementation of the Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict.

In this context, the Council underlined the importance of expeditious deployment of the Regional Protection Force (RPF) and requested the Government to complete the facilitation required for deployment. The Council also emphasized the need for strong international support for this deployment. The Council also reaffirmed that it pursued a common and unified position on regional matters related to peace, security and humanitarian affairs particularly on the current situation in South Sudan and accorded the highest priority to address all outstanding issues in unison.

On Somalia, the Council praised the successful conduct of the recent elections as a milestone achievement. It underlined the critical need for continued support to AMISOM and strongly advised against any decrease in support from the international community, as that would have a direct bearing on the security situation in the country. The Council emphasized the need to strengthen the Somali security apparatus as a sustainable solution to the security of Somalia.

The Council recalled the pledges made at the Brussels and Istanbul conferences on Somalia and appealed to those concerned to honor their pledges. It further called for support from the international community to invest in infrastructural development of Somalia to assist towards socio-economic recovery. The Council agreed to adopt a common position in anticipation of the London Somalia Conference in May.

The Council underlined the leading role that IGAD has played and would continue to play in bringing about peace and security in South Sudan in collaboration with partners, particularly the AU and the UN. It also considered regional issues of migration and refugees as well as security and humanitarian concerns in South Sudan and Somalia in anticipation of the March 23 briefing on South Sudan to the United Nations Security Council and the March 25 IGAD Summit on Somali Refugees.

The IGAD Executive Secretary also suggested the convening of Summit of IGAD Heads of State and Government on the IGAD resilience agenda in June to showcase what the region has been able to achieve, in particular through sustained investments in building resilience in the borderlands.

Later the same day (March 17), the IGAD Foreign Ministers and their representatives from Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda held a meeting with the visiting High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the EU Commission, Ms. Federica Mogherini, at African Union Headquarters. The meeting, co-chaired by Dr. Workneh and Ms. Mogherini, discussed the humanitarian situation in the region and the political and security developments in Somalia and South Sudan. The consultations covered common security concerns related to migration and violent extremism. It agreed on the need for closer collaboration, and Ms. Mogherini reiterated the EU’s continued commitment to its partnership with IGAD.

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A briefing on Ethio-Egyptian relations for young Egyptian diplomats

 At a meeting coordinated by Dr. Heba El-Marasi, Director of Egypt’s Institute of Diplomatic studies, Ethiopia’s Ambassador to Egypt, Taye Atske-selassie, gave a briefing to twenty five members of the graduating class of Egyptian diplomats on the major functions of diplomacy and the age-old relations between Ethiopia and Egypt.

Drawing on his own experiences, Ambassador Taye said that the life of a diplomat might look exciting, satisfying and fulfilling but, he said, it is rather daunting and at times difficult. Indeed, a diplomat may often be confronted with a stark choice between the rational thinking of the individual and the collective interest of the institution. However, the reality on which all political leaders can agree is that the function of a diplomat is to “control chaos and anarchy”, or to put it more diplomatically, to manage the clash of interests and values. A diplomat’s task, in fact, is to look ahead and work for the common good. In other words, Ambassador Taye emphasized, there is more benefit in working through cooperation than concentrating on divergent interests that may encourage unnecessary divergences. He added that these things are often easier said than done, but as long as diplomats take the guidance of our leaders and work calmly, patiently and with perseverance getting a satisfactory result is tenable.

Turning to Ethio-Egyptian relations, Ambassador Taye said that people often emphasized that Egypt and Ethiopia had no common borders. In terms of the physical map on a wall that might be true, but it was otherwise highly misleading as Ethiopia and Egypt had so much in common to share and cherish together. “We are”, he said, “one because we are tied forever together by the magnificent river Nile.” In addition, both countries enjoy one of the oldest of bilateral relationships. Ethiopia and Egypt were founding members of the United Nations. Emperor Haile Selassie and President Gamal Abdel Nasser, along with other great African leaders, played major roles in founding the Organization of African Unity, precursor of the African Union, in a spirit of pan Africanism. Even religion demonstrates a significant role in linking Egypt and Ethiopia. The Bible devotes 80 verses to Egypt and mentions Ethiopia 40 times; the Koran refers to Egypt 5 times and Ethiopia on 30 occasions.

Ambassador Taye noted that Ethiopia had started building the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) to satisfy its growing demand for electricity. It is not being built to harm the interest of the lower riparian countries. Indeed the Dam has a lot to contribute to downstream countries, providing an increased and consistent flow of water, resolving problem of siltation, significantly reducing evaporation and providing cheaper electricity both to downstream countries as well as to other neighboring countries. Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan, Ambassador Taye underlined, had signed the Declaration of Principles on GERD. This outlined the principle of cooperation based on common understanding, mutual benefit, good faith, win-win solutions and the principle of international law. It also outlined the principle of cooperation in understanding upstream and downstream water needs in all their various aspects. In sum, the purpose of GERD is for promotion of trans-boundary cooperation and regional integration through the generation of sustainable and reliable energy.

In conclusion, Ambassador Taye’s message to the young diplomats was that “our relationship is not a coincidence; but a destiny we should cherish. The best chapters in our relationship are not only determined by meetings and speeches; they also grow from the trust and love of our peoples.” The Egyptian diplomats will be traveling to Ethiopia at the end of the month to exchange experiences with young Ethiopian diplomats at a similar level. They will be the third such group of diplomatic trainees from Egypt to visit Ethiopia.

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The inaugural meeting of the African Economic Platform in Mauritius

As part of the African Union Assembly’s commitment to implement the continent-wide Agenda 2063, the AU Commission has been tasked to convene, every year, the African Economic Platform to provide a strategic dialogue between the political, business and academic leadership of the continent on Agenda 2063 and other issues of economic transformation. The AU Commission has conceptualized the African Economic Platform as a forum for frank engagement and discussion among African leaders from different spheres of society to reflect on how to accelerate Africa’s economic transformation through collaboration, cooperation and joint ownership of Africa’s continental goals. It is intended to undertake constructive multi stakeholder dialogues around common themes for Africa; establish multi-country multi-sector priorities and plans for common action with clear mechanisms for follow up; work with African leaders to remove policy obstacles for doing business in Africa, increasing investment attractiveness of the continent, implementing strategies for economic diversification and industrialization, and domestic and other resource mobilization; advocate the removal of barriers that hamper communication and the flow of goods, people and services across the continent, create common platforms to articulate common African positions on global affairs and increase global awareness of Africa’s emerging role in world affairs; leverage the potential of the African Diaspora to participate in Africa’s integration and development; drive efforts to mobilize domestic resources and implementation of policies for inclusive growth.

The inaugural meeting of the African Economic Platform, attended by a number of Heads of State and Government, was held this week in Port Louis, Mauritius, (March 20-22), and in welcoming the occasion, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, said in a press release what characterized Africa’s population was that it was a young population with more than half being women and girls. He said “we can reach for more, do much more, do it faster and more inclusively, to ensure the structural transformation of African economies to make shared prosperity a reality.” He said: “it is very important that we invest in this young resource, our people, especially in health and education”, and give them the skills especially in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics “so that they can innovate and drive our transformation.” He stressed the need for mobilization of resources so when young people produce innovations they would be able to commercialize them; equally those who want to be entrepreneurs would be able to start up their businesses; and those with small businesses would be able to expand. He said that the AU pledge in Agenda 2063 was to use the diversity that is our strength as a force for peace and democracy, to transform our economies, and to eradicate poverty and create a better life for all Africans. The Commission Chairperson also noted that the Summit of the African Union in Kigali reflected on the importance of the Continental Free Trade Area and the free movement of people in the context of promoting intra-African trade and investment, industrialization, tourism, and agro-processing as well as services, and developing Pan African businesses more generally.

 The themes of discussions at the meeting included “Skills Development’; ‘Expanding Opportunities for Intra African Trade”; “Industrialization and Regional Value Chains’; and ‘Free Movement of Peoples.’ The plenary sessions covered: Made in Africa, through Regional Value Chains; the Continental Free Trade Areas and expanding opportunities for Intra African Trade, Business and Investments; Competitiveness of the African private sector, building Pan-African enterprises; and African skills revolution and reaping its demographic dividend, and empowering youth for employment, innovation and entrepreneurship.

The meeting ended with a resolution calling for efforts to be focused on mobilizing resources to make the continent self-reliant. They asked the African Union to transform itself into a more dynamic and result-oriented mechanism to facilitate the implementation of agreed projects to concretize the continent’s development agenda. In a statement issued at the end of the Platform, participants agreed that it might be difficult to realize Agenda 2063 aiming as it does for attainment of a Pan African Vision of an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens. They recommended the institutionalization of the African Economic Platform by bringing together the different stakeholders as a means to achieve a prosperous continent by engaging Africans to produce African solutions for African issues through identification of the best ways and resources to achieve inclusive growth and sustainable development. They called for uniform legislation to abolish export of raw natural resources without value addition; to make African borders tariff-free to allow free movement of goods and people to facilitate intra-African trade to ensure natural resource were not abused or plundered. They underlined their commitment to support of private sector development and facilitation for small and medium scale enterprises, classified as the engine for innovation and entrepreneurship that could ignite development of industrialization, job creation and economic transformation. They described as shameful that so many Africans were dying in the high seas in efforts to seek survival in Europe and other countries due to instability at home. They resolved to tackle issues of peace and security on the continent and urged development partners to support African initiatives to facilitate projects that would provide skills and job opportunities for the youth in Africa.

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A new report on abuse and violation of women’s rights in Eritrea

 Just over two weeks ago on International Women’s Day (March 8), the NGO Human Rights Concern Eritrea (HRCE) issued a new report on “Women’s Rights’ Violations in Eritrea”. Human Rights Concern Eritrea is obliged to operate outside Eritrea in its efforts to research and report on violations of human rights in the country. It is a member of the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Network and has submitted reports to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on the status of human rights in Eritrea. Its latest report on violation of women’s rights in Eritrea was based on research carried out over six months in co-operation with refugees in the Horn of Africa and Europe.

In a preliminary background section, the report points out that Eritrea is ruled by a government that functions without a constitution or a parliament, and has been under the control of President Isaias since 1991; the sole permitted political party is the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ); there is no independent civil society or human rights organization, and no freedom of speech and dissenting opinion is allowed inside the country. In sum, the regime rules in spite of lack of elections and without any legitimacy of authority.  Under such conditions, the rights of its citizens will not be and are not respected. The report notes that Eritrea did ratify the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, in 1995, and this commits the government to uphold international standards on the rights of girls and women. However, “it has nevertheless systematically violated this convention [and] the government has not taken steps to protect or ameliorate living conditions of girls and women.  Instead it has acted atrociously towards them.”

The body of the report examines the widespread and variety of violations suffered by women and girls in Eritrea. These include: psychological abuse, systematic sexual harassments and rape, detention and torture or ill-treatment, forced labor, and their inability to study and work in their preferred schools and professions. The report is based on research, face-to-face and telephone interviews of women who have been victims of these violations within existing institutional and policy structures in Eritrea. It underlines that the institutions of the women’s union, the education system, and the military are the three key state agencies responsible for the grave human rights violations. These, it says, carry out and reinforce government policies of indoctrination, family separation, and systematic sexual abuse of girls and women.

It notes that Eritrean women played “a pivotal role during the armed struggle for independence”, both by direct involvement and in support for those fighting. They participated fully in the struggle and earned their position in Eritrean society through hard work and persistence. However, it says, after independence, women returned from the armed struggle to face a society reluctant to accept the equality their service merited, the vision of social justice was extinguished, and promises of equality were “betrayed”. They are now marginalized by the regime. During the armed struggle, women comprised 25% of the fighters; today they only hold three out of 18 cabinet positions. “Eritrean women, like all Eritreans, became victims of the dictatorial regime.”

The report is critical of National Union of Eritrean Women (NUEW), an organization created during the struggle, in 1980, to promote, protect and advocate for women’s rights. It says from its inception it was used as a political and propaganda tool by the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front and its successor organization, the single ruling party, the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice. It argues that it has never been an independent entity, depending on allocations from the government and with its activities strictly monitored. All board members, it says, are loyal followers of the regime, most union officials are appointed through nepotism and have to maintain absolute loyalty in all they do and say.  The NUEW provides political propaganda for laundering the image of the PFDJ, pressures women to send their children for compulsory and indefinite national service, infiltrates Eritrean communities throughout the country and in the Diaspora, and reports back to PFDJ officials and the national intelligence service. Equally, the Union has done nothing to address accusations by girls and women of sexual and physical abuse by high-ranking military officers and others.

The report also emphasizes that the Ministry of Education’s summer work programs for upper secondary school students in Ministry of Agriculture’s selected villages and community work in remote locations has “exposed many young and under-age girls to sexual harassments and abuse”.  It notes that such programs are not, in themselves, a violation of human rights, but in Eritrea these are not voluntary and the aim is not to benefit students or communities but to keep youngsters away from the cities and prevent protests or demonstrations.  In fact, since 2006, all grade 11 students have to attend the Sawa Military Training Center, to complete their final year of secondary education, before being taken into National Service. Sawa itself, the report notes, is a very difficult place to live, particularly at such a young age, and it is much worse for women, especially when there is lack of adequate sanitation and hygiene. Poor weather conditions, coupled with the intensive military training, expose young women to serious physical and psychological hardships. The report points out that if any student fails to attend military training, it is the parents who are detained and/or fined. This usually affects wives as husbands tend to be in indefinite National Service, have left the country, or have already been ‘martyred’. The family will also be denied any services until they reveal the whereabouts of and missing children.

National Service was meant to last for eighteen months for each conscript. However, since 1998, it has been extended as infinitum. Two years ago, some senior government officials were promising that the National Service would be cut back to the original 18 months. This has not happened, but some demobilization, mostly of women, has taken place, though there has been no relaxation in the widespread policy of using National Service conscripts at low wages for cheap labor in government and party companies. In this context, the report notes that after the completion of the military element of the training, women are often deliberately assigned to duties in military shops and canteens where they can be easy targets for many forms of abuse.

Overall, the report emphasizes, being forcibly conscripted into the military “disrupts the life of women beyond repair, since they are usually forced into becoming the sex slaves of depraved military officers.” Many suffer sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, and many die from lack of appropriate treatment. The report says “Eritrean military officers are notorious for the sexual and physical abuse of young women, which goes unpunished under the banner of National Service.” As of January 1 this year, the report notes, completion of National Service has became a requirement for marriage, and officials, priests, or sheikhs have been ordered not to permit any marriage unless the couple can produce certificates of National Service active participation or completion.

Getting an exit visa, the report says, “is a rare privilege”, adding, “People must pay a large sum of money to bribe officials in order to be able to leave the country. The only other means of obtaining a visa is through a close relative among immigration officials”. If a woman claims her husband is living overseas and that she wants to join him, the husband must show the relevant Eritrean Embassy the certificate to prove he has been paying 2% of his annual income to the Embassy. Equally, women below the age of 28 are only allowed to obtain an exit visa five years after their marriage, even if their husbands pay the 2% levy. No child above the age of five is permitted to leave.

The report also looks at prison conditions in the country’s 300 prisons, describing these as “appalling”, with 70-150 people detained in one cell, or in most cases, a metal shipping container. It says are many underground cells, in which the temperature reaches unbearable levels and hygiene conditions are dreadful. Many prisoners suffer from severe malnutrition and do not receive proper care. Many die in prison due to the harsh conditions. Receiving proper medical treatment in the prisons is a rare privilege, due to the overwhelming number of prisoners and lack of appropriate facilities.

It notes that only women who have completed their national service can obtain land. With men forced to remain in the military indefinitely, and no pension plans, women have no source of income after they reach the age of retirement. In addition, with the continual rise in the cost of living, including rent and household commodities, it is more and more difficult for women to rely on savings even if they have any. As a result, many fall into destitution and are forced into begging. This leads to arrests and payment of 20,000 Nakfa fine to be released from jail. Those who cannot raise the fine, the report suggests, are forgotten in prison where many die because of the harsh conditions and lack of medical care. The report emphasizes that since the 1990s there has been a significant rise in the number of unplanned pregnancies particularly since the introduction of the students’ forced summer work program and national service. In the past, traditional laws provided for the issue of children born outside wedlock; today the government claims to have replaced the traditional system by DNA paternity tests for cases of rape; this, the report says, is rarely used.

The report concludes that Eritrean women are being sexually and physically abused on a significant scale. It continues: as “gender-based abuse appears to be sanctioned at the very highest level, the miseries endured by Eritrean women seem unrelenting and will continue until the regime is held accountable.” It calls on the world to take action to protect the Eritrean people, and especially Eritrea’s women, from further hardship and violations, and to become pro-active in identifying and bringing perpetrators of abuse to justice. It wants the UN to recognize the Eritrean government’s serious violations of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and take “appropriate measures to bring the situation of women in Eritrea into conformity with the relevant international human rights treaties and standards.” It wants the Government of Eritrea immediately to end all assignment of children under the age of 18 to the military training camp at Sawa, to become proactive in safeguarding female conscripts from abuse, and take action against perpetrators of harassment and abuse. It wants an end to compulsory military service from the secondary education system, and a prohibition of torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of female conscripts in national service. It wants improved sanitary conditions for female conscripts, close monitoring of the treatment of women in detention and action against anyone implicated in sexual abuse or torture of female conscripts. It would like to see much closer control to prevent of underage conscription, the removal of the requirement for national service as a prerequisite to marriage, and policies to ensure the welfare of the elderly and other vulnerable members of society, including victims of rape, single mothers and women forced into prostitution. It also stresses that it would like the UN Special Rapporteur for Eritrea to continue to investigate the government’s treatment of girls and women and report abuses to the UN Human Rights Council, the General Assembly and other appropriate UN bodies.

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