This Weeks Edition includes topics:
- The 29th African Union Heads of State and Government summit….
- … preceded by the AU Executive Council meeting….
- …. the 4th AU Panel on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment…
- …and the General Assembly of the Organization of First Ladies of Africa
- … Summit decisions include new initiatives to end aids, an African Internet domain
- Djibouti asks for AU observers along its border with Eritrea
IGAD Ministers start preparation for a High-level ARCSS Revitalization Forum
- Somalia: the 57th anniversary of independence
- The US classifies Eritrea at the lowest level for human trafficking
- The Oakland Institute continues to encourage anti-development activity in Ethiopia
Africa and the African Union
The 29th Assembly of the African Union Heads of State and Government held its deliberations on Monday and Tuesday this week (July 3-4). The theme of the Summit was “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investments in the Youth,” and it was attended by more than 4,000 people, including the Chairperson of the AU Commission, the Deputy Chairperson, AU Commissioners, Heads of State and Governments, Foreign Ministers and Ambassadors of the 55 African Union member states, as well as representatives from the diplomatic corps, the international community, civil society, private sector and invited guests. (See article)
The 31st Ordinary Session of the African Union’s Executive Council, under the theme of the Summit, “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investments in the Youth” was held on Friday last week (June 30) at the African Union Headquarters, in Addis Ababa. The meeting was chaired by HadjaMakaléCamara, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Guinea and both the AU Commission Chairperson, MoussaFakiMahamat and the Deputy Chairperson, Kwesi Thomas Quartey, attended. (See article)
The IGAD Council of Ministers held an Extra-Ordinary session on Sunday (July 2) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, under the Chairmanship of Dr.WorknehGebeyehu, Ethiopia’s Foreign Minister, the current Chairperson of the Council, and discussions focused on the situation in South Sudan and the recent developments over the border dispute between Djibouti and Eritrea.
Foreign Ministers of AMISOM troop contributing countries met for a briefing on the joint AU-UN AMISOM review on Monday (July 3) at the sidelines of the 29th AU Summit and discussed on ways of enhancing engagement with traditional and non-traditional doners፡ US, EU, GCC,Turkey and China among others. The troop contributing countries affirmed their commitment to AMISOM and the peace and stability of Somalia, however, the forum stated because of lack of resources AMISOM has been forced to withdraw earlier than expected, and if this is to happen AMISOM has to draw its own exit strategy.
The 4th Africa Union High Level Panel on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment was held on the margins of the 29th AU Summit under the theme “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investments in Youth: Empowering Young Women and Girls”. (See article)
The 19th Ordinary General Assembly of the Organization of First Ladies of Africa (OAFLA) was held on Tuesday (July 4) under the theme: “Building on 15 years of engagement to harness the demographic dividend of Africa through promoting the needs of adolescents and their access to youth-friendly health services”. The assembly elected the First Lady of Ethiopia, Roman Tesfaye, as President of the Organization of African First Ladies against HIV/AIDS (OAFLA). (See article)
The African Union has decided to erect statues for former Ethiopian leaders, the late Prime Minister MelesZenawi and Emperor Haileselassie in honor of their contributions to the AU and its precursor the OAU.
President MulatuTeshome met the President of the Republic of Ghana Nana Akufo-Addo on Tuesday (July 4) at the National Palace. President Mulatu highlighted the fact that the two countries were key players in the anti-colonial struggle and the establishment of the AU and its precursor the OAU and further underlined the need to strengthen the existing excellent relations through economic cooperation and sharing of experiences and best practices.
Prime Minister Hailemariam discussed with Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the State of Palestine on Tuesday (July 4, 2017) on the margins of the 29th AU Summit in Addis Ababa. The Prime Minister said Ethiopia is keen to see the problem between Israel and Palestine be solved peacefully through dialogue and discussions.
Prime Minister HailemariamDessalegn, held talks with Sudan’s Premier Bakri Hassan Salehon on Tuesday (July 4, 2017), on the margins of the 29th AU Summit here in Addis Ababa; the two parties reiterated the need to further strengthen the long-standing Ethio-Sudananese ties with more concrete and practical cooperation.
Prime Minister HailemariamDessalegn, who met South Sudanese First Vice-President,Taban Deng Gai on Tuesday (July 4) in Addis Ababa on the side-lines of the 29th AU Summit underscored that Ethiopia will continue to work for the peace and stability of South Sudan under the IGAD framework.
Prime Minister HailemariamDessalegn met with Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Abdel al-Jubeir on Tuesday (July 4) in Addis Ababa on the margins of the 29th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union. The two sides agreed to continue to work together to enhance their bilateral ties thereby ensure mutual benefits to the peoples of both countries.
Deputy Prime Minister DemekeMekonnen received the Vice President of the Republic of the Sudan, Hasabo Mohammed Abdul Rahman at his offices on Tuesday (July 4).Both sides described the high-level commission meeting as a key platform to strengthen the bilateral relationship, which they said was instrumental to advance the on-going projects of regional integration, including power connectivity, road and railway networks as well as ports. In connection, they have agreed to convene the next high-level commission meeting very soon.
Foreign Minister Dr. Worknehmet with the Foreign Minister of the Republic of the Sudan, Mr. Ibrahim Ghandour on Monday (July 3) at the sidelines of the 29th AU Summit, and underscored thatEthiopia and the Sudan have the most productive and efficient bilateral ties, adding that the political ties between the two countries have reached the highest possible level in the history of their relationship.
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. WorknehGebeyehu held discussions withPrime Minster of Somalia, Hassan Ali Khayre on Monday (July 3). Minister Workneh noted the close and enduring partnership between Ethiopia and Somalia, while also emphasizing that it was a strategic imperative to further strengthen the relationship as both countries have had converging views on a wide range of issues and more or less share similar backgrounds.
Dr. WorknehGebeyehu met with his Nigerian counterpart Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama on Friday (June 30) in Addis Ababa; thetwo sides discussed ways of cooperation on areas of transport and aviation industry and exchanged views on bilateral, regional and international issues of mutual concern.
Foreign Minister Dr. Workneh held talks with his Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Hassan Shoukry, on Saturday (July 1) on the margins of the 29th AU Summit. Both Ministers have agreed to further deepen their ties and hold Joint High-Level Commission very soon.
Foreign Minister DrWorkneh, meeting his Zimbabwean Counterpart Mr. SimbarasheMumbengegwi on the margins of the 29th AU Summit here on Sunday (July 2) said the relationship between Ethiopia and Zimbabwe has been characterized with historic solidarity, which he said is based on Pan-African ideals.
Ethiopia and the Republic of Botswana signed the final version of the General Cooperation Agreement on Sunday (July 2), which aimed at deepening the bilateral ties, enhancing cooperation in a range of sectors including aviation, trade and investment, tourism and initiating institutional partnership as well as facilitating the full play of Joint Ministerial Commission (JMC). The agreement was signed by Foreign Minister Dr. WorknehGebeyehu and Dr. PelonomiVenson-Moitoi, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Republic of Botswana.
Dr. Workneh met with his Angolan counterpart Mr. Georges RebeloChicoti on Friday (June 30) in Addis Ababa and discussed ways of cooperation on areas of transport and aviation industry and exchanged views on bilateral, regional and international issues of mutual concern.
Foreign Affairs Minister Dr. WorknehGebeyehu met with Burundian Minister of External Relations and International Cooperation, Alain AimeNyamitwe, on Saturday (July 1)on the margins of the 29th AU Summit. Dr.Workneh underlined that the cooperation between Ethiopia and Burundi is important as the relation between the two countries is one based on common understanding and shared interests.
The Minister has also requested his Burundian counterpart to facilitate frequent consultations with Ethiopia and called for the Government of Burundi to ratify the Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA).
State Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia Mrs. HirutZemene met with State Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Sudan, Ambassador Atta AlMannanBakheet on Saturday(June 1) at the sidelines of the 29th AU Summit; she noted the growing multi-fold cooperation between Ethiopia and the Sudan, including in the political, economic, social and cultural fields.
The House of People’s Representatives (HPR) on Friday (July 07) unanimously approved over 320.8 billion birr budget for the 2010 Ethiopian fiscal year (2017/18).
The Foreign Ministry of the People’s Republic of China has extended financial support to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia with the view to assisting the latter’s capacity building activities. Ethiopia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr.WorknehGebeyehu and Chinese Ambassador to Ethiopia La Yifan witnessed the signing of the handover certificate in Addis Ababa on Wednesday (July 5).
The US State Department has classified Ethiopia in Tier 2 in its latest human trafficking report. The report said Ethiopia was making significant and increasing efforts since the previous year although it did not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. However, it had assisted in the interception of more than 30,000 people vulnerable to trafficking and convicted 640 traffickers. It had made “robust efforts” to prevent and raise awareness on trafficking and trafficking-related crimes through community conversations projects and media campaigns as well as training officials.
The World Heritage Committee meeting in Krakow (July 2 -12) has decided to remove the Simien National Park from the List of World Heritage in Danger in recognition of improvements in the park management andmeasures taken to reduce overgrazing and visitor impact. The Simien Park was placed on the danger list in 1996 because of the impact of new road, excessive cattle grazing, agricultural encroachment and a drop in the numbers of the Walia ibex, andSimien fox.
The IGAD Council of Ministers held an Extra-Ordinary session on Sunday (July 2) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and took note of the briefing by the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Djibouti on the recent development regarding of the border dispute between Djibouti and Eritrea that has been triggered as a result of the evacuation of Qatari forces from the area.(See article)
The latest US State Department Report on Human Trafficking has placed Eritrea in its third category of states, Tier 3. This third level identifies governments of countries that do not fully meet minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do improve their record of attempts to bring human trafficking to an end. (See article)
Opposition leader RailaOdinga has pledged to concede defeat should he fairly lose the August 8 presidential election in Kenya for which 8 candidates are standing. It will be Mr.Odinga’s fourth attempt to become president. In 2013 he lost against presidentUhuru Kenyatta who is bidding for a second and final five-year term. Last month, President Kenyatta called on other candidates to commit themselves to maintain peace and accept the decision of Kenyans in August.
President Mohamed Abdullahi on Wednesday (July 5) chaired the first meeting of the National Security Council set up in April. The Council brings together leading members of the Federal and State governments including the presidents of Puntland, Jubaland, Southwest, Galmudug and Hirshabelle states, army and security chiefs, and the Ministers of Security and Defense. The two day meeting discussed national security, the fight against terrorism and the establishment of a national army of 18, 000 soldiers drawn from all states.
The 57th anniversary of the formation of the Republic of Somalia in 1960 was celebrated on Saturday (July 1). (See article)
The UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in its latest report on Tuesday (July 4) that the estimated number of people in Somalia displaced by drought had risen to 761,000 since November 2016 after the rains failed for the third year in a row. This included 22,000 displacements in the first three weeks of June. 44% of the total are being hosted in Baidoa (174,000) and Mogadishu (161,000).The UN says donors have scaled up their response and US$600 million has been made available or pledged since January.
There were reports this week that the former Al-Shabaab deputy leader, Sheikh MuktarRobowAbu Mansu, recently taken off a terrorist list by the US Government, is in discussions with the Somali government over possible surrender. Sheikh MuktarRobow withdrew from Al-Shabaab activity in 2013 after disagreements with then leader, Ahmed AbdiGodane. Shariff Hassan, the President of Southwest State, welcomed the removal of Sheikh MuktarRobow from the US wanted list.
The IGAD Council of Ministers held an Extra-Ordinary session on Sunday (July 2) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, under the Chairmanship of Dr. WorknehGebeyehu, Ethiopia’s Foreign Minister, the current Chairperson of the Council, and discussed ways and means of expediting the preparation of the High-Level Revitalization Forum of all parties to the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (ARCSS). (See article)
The UN Security Council renewed the mandate of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) on Thursday last week (June 29) for another year. The Council also endorsed the recommendations of the AU Chairperson and the UN Secretary-General for restructuring UNAMID in two six-month phases and reducing its numbers. UNAMID currently has an authorized ceiling of 15,845 troops and 3,403 police; by the end of the year the numbers will be reduced to 8,735 troops and 2,500 police
Two former U.S. envoys to Sudan, Ambassadors Princeton Lyman and Donald Booth have called on the US Congress to support the five-track engagement plan with the Sudanese government over the permanent lifting of US sanctions against Sudan. President Trump is expected to decide on whether to maintain or to remove the economic sanctions by the middle of next week. The five-track process includes progress in the fight against terrorism and the Lord’s Resistance Army, Sudan’s role in the peace process in South Sudan, Sudan’s own peace and the humanitarian situation in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states. Reports from Washington say the CIA FBI and the U.S Army all strongly back the lifting of sanctions.
The 29th African Union Heads of State and Government summit….
The 29th biannual African Union summit opened Tuesday last week (June 27) at the AU Headquarters in Addis Ababa with the meeting of the Permanent Representatives Committee (PRC) of the African Union. The Permanent Representatives Committee prepared the agenda of the summit with recommendations for consideration by the AU Executive Council of Foreign Ministers, which held its 31th Session at the end of last week (June 28 – 30). The Assembly of the African Union Heads of State and Government held its deliberations this week and commenced its deliberations on Monday and Tuesday this week (July 3-4). The theme of the Summit was “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investments in the Youth,” and it was attended by more than 4,000 people, including the Chairperson of the AU Commission, the Deputy Chairperson, AU Commissioners, Heads of State and Governments, Foreign Ministers and Ambassadors of the 55 African Union member states, as well as representatives from the diplomatic corps, the international community, civil society, private sector and invited guests.
The Chair of the AU Commission, Mr. MoussaFakiMahamat, used the opportunity of his first remarks to the Assembly of Heads of State and Government, to highlight actions undertaken since his Commission assumed office in March this year. As a first step since his election, he reported on a review of program, initiated by all departments. This had been followed by a retreat of the Commission to prioritize and align its objectives for 2017 and 2018. The launch of the reform of the AU, he noted, was a major area of consideration for the Commission. Mr. Faki paid tribute to the wisdom and Pan African commitment of the current Chairperson of the African Union, President Alpha Condé of Guinea, and to President IdrisDebyItno, the immediate past Chairperson of the Union and to President Paul Kagame of Rwanda who is leading the AU reform process, for the provision of concrete recommendations and guidance for implementation.
On issues of Peace and Security, the AU Commission Chairperson said silencing the guns by 2020 was an important agenda of the African Union. He said that in order to deal with conflicts, the AU Commission had decided to give priority to prevention and anticipation. In this connection, he called upon the regional groupings and mechanisms to intensify their activities in close cooperation with the relevant bodies of the African Union. He called for closer alignment between the decisions made by the AU and their implementation. Mr.Mahamat also spoke about the partnership between the African Union and the United Nations, especially cooperation in peace and security, as well as the partnership with the European Union on issues of peace and security and the fight against terrorism and radicalism, as well as economic, democratic and electoral governance issues. Humanitarian action in solidarity with the victims of drought, famine and forced displacement, he said, must be another area of immediate action. Mr.Faki also highlighted the need to provide extra attention to some strategic development issues, such as implementing integral projects for the benefit of African people. The Chairperson also underscored the imperative for the continent to speak with one voice.
Addressing the AU Heads of State and Government at the opening ceremony President Alpha Condé of the Republic of Guinea and Chairperson of the African Union, called for a new era of self-reliance to drive development and end poverty on the continent. The Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mrs.Amina Mohammed, stressed the importance of the youth agenda and commended the theme of the year 2017. She said, “Investing in our youth will reap dividends for our future”. She also commended African countries for welcoming and integrating refugees, into local communities, emphasizing that this should be emulated throughout the world. Mr. Mahmoud Abbas, President of the State of Palestine and Chairperson of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) Executive Committee also addressed the opening session, thanking the African Union for the continued support to achieve a Palestinian state living side by side with the state of Israel as an independent state with distinct borders. He appealed to African countries to continue their strong stand with people of Palestine to achieve lasting peace in the region. President Mugabe presented a $1 million cheque to the AU, proceeds of donation of cattle pledged towards increasing the capacity of the African Union Foundation and an encouragement for the AU to be self-financing. The original pledge of 300 cattle by President Mugabe was expanded when his initiative got overwhelming support from local farmers, who contributed enough cattle for auction to raise $1 million.
In its deliberations, the Summit took decision on how to tackle ongoing security threats in Somalia, Mali and South Sudan, as well as the need for predictable funding and AU reform. During the closing ceremony, two Commissioners were sworn into office: Ms. Agbor Sarah MbiEnow Anyang of Cameroun who was elected to the post of Commissioner for Human Resources, Science and Technology and Mr Victor Harison of Madagascar who was elected Commissioner for Economic Affairs. In addition, 3 members were elected to the African Union Advisory Board on Corruption and another 4 as members of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights. At the closing ceremony of the Summit, the Heads of State also decided to erect monuments to two former Ethiopian leaders, Emperor Haile Selassie and the late Prime Minister MelesZenawi in honor of their contributions to the Organization of the African Unity and to the African Union.
… preceded by the AU Executive Council meeting….
The 31st Ordinary Session of the African Union’s Executive Council, under the theme of the Summit, “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investments in the Youth” was held on Friday last week (June 30) at the African Union Headquarters, in Addis Ababa. The meeting was chaired by HadjaMakaléCamara, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Guinea and both the AU Commission Chairperson, MoussaFakiMahamat and the Deputy Chairperson, Kwesi Thomas Quartey, attended.
In his first address to the Executive Council the AU Commission Chairperson thanked “the Government of Ethiopia for offering to host the present session which should have been held in another Member State as per tradition. This mark of generous hospitality of the Government and people of Ethiopia deserves our high appreciation”, he added.
The Commission Chairperson focused on 4 main issues: the priorities of the African Union; progress in institutional reform, the need to speak with one voice and the challenges of linking decisions reached and implementation. In terms of priorities, he said peace and security of the continent was at the top of the agenda. Recalling his own visits to Somalia, South Sudan, the Sahel and the Lake Chad basin, Mr.Mahamat pledged to continue to support war-torn countries in their struggle to resolve and overcome their crises. He also highlighted the need for new approaches to promote peace, calling for dialogue, reconciliation and the search for consensual solutions as the only path to peace.
With reference to the theme of the year, Mr.Mahamat said that African youth are hungry for action and they wanted results. “In all the countries I have visited,” he said, “the fears of women and young people are most heart-breaking”, adding that the AU must make decisions that translate this urgent social need into concrete action. Other priority areas highlighted by the Chairperson as needing attention included economic and political governance, investment and migration. The Commission Chairperson underscored the importance of giving the African Union the capacity to deal with its challenges. Noting President Kagame’s report on the progress made towards implementing the institutional reforms of the AU, the Chairperson expressed his anticipation of visible changes in line with the report’s recommendations. He noted that Agenda 2063 of the African Union actually addressed many of the issues noted in the report.
Mr. MoussaFakiMahamatreiterated his call for Africa to speak with one voice. Referring to the election of the AU endorsed candidate, DrTedrosAdhanom, to the post of Director General of the World Health Organization, he noted: “Several events have shown that whenever we have maintained our unity and spoken with one voice, we have won victories”. In his final remarks on the issue of the relationship between AU decisions and the willingness to implement them, the AU Commission Chairperson said firmly: “Either we take decisions and adopt the texts to apply to them or we defer the adoption of these decisions until we are ready to implement them”.
Other speakers included the acting Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa DrAbdallaHamdok who noted the timeliness and relevance of this year’s theme in shaping the social, political and economic development debate of the continent. The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Guinea, Mrs. HadjaMakalCamara, thanked the AU Commission Chairperson for outlining the key focus areas for the Executive Council and stressed the need for the Council to accelerate implementation of AU financing and of the continental free trade area to expedite Africa’s self-reliance.
During its three day deliberations (June 30-July 2) the Executive Council also discussed the AU budget, heard and reviewed various reports and prepared the agenda of the 29th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Heads of States and Governments of the African Union.
…. the 4th AU Panel on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment…
The 4th Africa Union High Level Panel on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment was held on the margins of the 29th AU Summit under the theme “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investments in Youth: Empowering Young Women and Girls”. The AU Commission Chairperson, MoussaFakiMahamat, opened the panel, welcoming participants and paying tribute to a number of African icons, including Dr. BabatundeOsotimehin,Mrs. Haja Jeanne Martin Cisse and Ambassador Fatoumata Sire Diakite, all renowned for their leadership and activism in the arena of gender equality and women empowerment. Mr. Faki said himself stood on the shoulders of his predecessor, Dr. NkosazanaDlaminiZuma, who laid a solid foundation by making gender equality and women’s empowerment central to the AU development agenda.
Mr. Faki noted security and stability are fundamental for any society to realize economic development. Both these conditions, he said, had direct and long-term effects on the creation of a safe and stable environment for state and non-state actors to collaborate actively in achieving the vibrant economies that provide the basis for development. Therefore, the incidence of conflict in some parts of the continent was a major concern. He said it was very important for the Commission to undertake high-level visits to countries in conflict to observe for itself the impact on people, and explore with the authorities of member states the opportunities that exist for ending conflicts and “silencing the guns”. He said he had witnessed how these conflicts and insecurities had disproportionately affected women and girls. He stressed ending conflict in the continent should be given priority.
The Chairperson emphasized that Africa had continued to make significant strides in the pursuit of gender equality and empowerment of women in the political sphere as well as in public and private sectors. He said African policy-makers and high-level decision-makers had become increasingly sensitized to ensuring that women’s voices and contributions were heard and integrated into policy-making at national level. He commended and recognized the demonstrable efforts in different member states in progressively improving women’s representation in all arms of government.
The Chairperson underlined that gender equality and empowerment could not be achieved without the equal, full and effective participation of women and young people at all levels of decision-making. He said the reality was that women and girls faced more difficulties and barriers than young men and boys. If these challenges were not resolved, there was a real risk the gains made in the empowerment of women in Africa could be reversed. The Chairperson noted they mad up 50% of Africa’s population, the majority below the age of 30. They were the continent’s greatest resource and it was this group that would define the future and shape the continent’s destiny. This was why the African Union had recognized the critical role of the youth and framed the theme for 2017 “Harnessing the democratic dividend through investment in youth”. He said that addressing these goals would require strategic partnerships based on the principles of dialogue. He called on participants at the panel to support and collaborate with different partners on concrete strategies and projects to respond to the needs of the youth and empower women and gender equality.
The Commission Chairperson noted some of the critical issues affecting the continents’ young generation. These included: finding creative and practical ways of harnessing gender dividends, ways of tackling high levels of youth unemployment specially the unemployment of women, implementing strategic action against gender based discrimination and segregation, addressing the root causes of the irregular population movements and reversing migration and practical strategies to counter violent extremism. In concluding his remarks, the commissioner also reassured his listeners that the AU Commission would work together with all concerned bodies to advance gender equality and men’s empowerment, and ensure that women and youth, especially young women and girls were at the center of the development agenda of the African Union.
…and the General Assembly of the Organization of First Ladies of Africa
The 19th Ordinary General Assembly of the Organization of First Ladies of Africa (OAFLA) was held on Tuesday (July 4) under the theme: “Building on 15 years of engagement to harness the demographic dividend of Africa through promoting the needs of adolescents and their access to youth-friendly health services”. The assembly elected the First Lady of Ethiopia, Roman Tesfaye, as President of the Organization of African First Ladies against HIV/AIDS (OAFLA). First Lady Roman will serve OAFLA as President from 2017 – 2019. The First Lady of Burkina Faso, Madame AdjoaviSika KABORE, was elected as Vice President.
The AU Commissioner for Social Affairs Ms. AmiraElfadilMohamed, underlined that systematic and integrated approaches were needed in all four of the demographic dividend pillar: health and wellbeing; employment and entrepreneurship; education and skills development and rights and good governance. This was necessary to turn the current youth bulge into an economic dividend for Africa. According to the Commissioner, sustainable and affordable access to maternal and child health care, HIV testing and counseling and immunization services would ultimately result in young people meaningfully contributing to the socio-economic development of their society, thereby enabling them make the right informed decisions about their health. She said: “The youth of our continent need to be guaranteed social and economic development if they are to contribute to their nations’ and continents’ economic development.”
In light of the extreme urgency to take action for children, Ms. Elfadil called upon development partners to support a joint AU and OAFLA Campaign to “Eliminate New HIV Infections in Children and Keep Mothers Alive” as part of the Start Free, Stay Free, AIDS Free Collaborative Framework to accelerate the end of the AIDS epidemic among children, adolescents and young women by 2020.
Addressing the Assembly of First Ladies, Mrs. Roman Tesfaye, First Lady of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and elected president of OAFLA, emphasized that harnessing the demographic dividend of Africa was crucial for economic transformation. To realize this, she said, it was necessary to consolidate and scale up best practices within a country and across all nations to ensure access to education for every child and youth on the continent and prevent avoidable death. Referring to the African Union Roadmap of Demographic Dividend, she stressed it was high time that African nations put in place favorable policies and increase youth targeted investments. She called for the commitment of the First Ladies to lift and break the barriers faced by African youth in accessing and utilizing reproductive health information and services.
The subsequent dialogue highlighted the need for adolescent-friendly access to health services, and the need to support the implementation of the AU Roadmap to Harness the Demographic Dividend, and for partners to coordinate their efforts towards harnessing the Demographic Dividend and support OAFLA commitments. Currently, OAFLA has over 40 active African First Ladies as members, each leading their national chapters to undertake important and necessary work in the areas of HIV and AIDS, and in empowering women and children.
… Summit decisions include new initiatives to end aids, an African Internet domain
Among the decisions adopted at the Summit was the AIDS Watch Africa Strategic Framework to bolster the work of AIDS Watch Africa, the highest level continental vehicle for joint action, advocacy and accountability towards ending AIDS, TB and Malaria. During the meeting the leaders endorsed the Emergency Catch-up Plan to accelerate the HIV response in West and Central Africa and endorsed the 2 million community health workers initiative that will build and create decent jobs while harnessing their capabilities in a seamless integrated health system. President Condé, the President of Guinea and Chairperson of the African Union and AIDS Watch Africa, said: “We have a historic opportunity to end AIDS, TB and Malaria in this generation due to advancements in science, technology and improved delivery systems at the community level. Let us mobilise community workers, transform our health systems, build resilience and contribute to better health outcomes through increased investments in health.”
The new AIDS Watch Africa strategy seeks to further mobilise and sustain high level leadership and commitment and galvanise all stakeholders and actors to form partnerships to end AIDS, TB and Malaria by 2030. Ending the three diseases is critical to the achievement of the bold aspirations of Agenda 2063. A key element of the strategy is to generate and disseminate strategic, culturally sensitive information to partners and others to spark action at the international, regional, national and grassroots levels. The new strategy further seeks to strengthen accountability by Member States for measurable results and impact at the grass-root level.
The creation of DotAfrica is an African initiative created by Africans for Africans and the worldwide audience of companies, organisations and individuals interested in, associated with and connected with the African community and markets. It is expected “to bring the continent together as an Internet community under one umbrella and create an opportunity to forge a unique online identity which will associate products, services and or information with the continent and the people of Africa.” The objective of the launch was to mark the commencement of the DotAfrica operational phase by setting up a road show at the AU headquarters. DotAfrcia was conceived in 2000 when some African internet professionals argued that DotAfrica should be operated by Africans for the benefit of the entire continent.
The African Union Commission and the United Nations Population Fund met on Saturday (July1) to discuss joint action to accelerate the implementation of the African Union Roadmap to Harness the Demographic Dividend through Investments in Youth. The Roadmap is built around four pillars: of employment and entrepreneurship, education and skills development, health and wellbeing and rights, governance and youth empowerment. It offers clear action and deliverables to harness the demographic dividend. The Commissioner for Social Affairs, Amira El Fadil, said: “ “Harnessing the demographic dividend through investments in youth is the key to achieving the bold aspirations of Agenda 2063. We need to implement the key deliverables in the Roadmap and transform education and skills development, health and wellbeing, empowerment as well as employment and entrepreneurship as we march towards inclusive economic growth and sustainable development.” During the meeting, the Commission also highlighted the need for continued engagement in the Campaign for Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa, the Campaign to end Child Marriage that seeks to keep girls out of early marriage and in school and the need to fast track the implementation of the Addis Ababa Declaration on Sexual Reproductive Rights and Health.
“Harnessing the demographic dividend requires that we all work together to fully implement the Addis Ababa Declaration on Population and Development in Africa. We are committed to support the African Union in its efforts to address sexual and reproductive health and rights, child marriage, female genital mutilation and other practices that violate women and child rights and impede their role in transforming our societies” said Dr. Natalia Kanem, the interim Executive Director of UNFPA. According to the UN World Population Prospects the continent’s population reached 1.2 billion in 2015 and is projected to reach 1.7 billion in 2030 and more than double by 2050, to 2.5 billion and 3 billion in 2063. Its share of the global population will increase from 16 per cent in 2015 to more than 29 per cent in 2063. About 46% of the 1.3 billion increase in Africa’s labor force over the period 2015-2063 will be young people aged 15-34, averaging a growth of 12.1 million a year. This offers a potential for economic growth spurred by the increased labor income and increased savings. However, to harness this potential there is a need for the development and implementation of sound policies in education, health, including family planning and the creation of an enabling macroeconomic environment as well as facilitation of job creation and access to decent employment and increases in the productive workforce that can lead to higher growth and rising income. Harnessing the demographic dividend presents an opportunity to build resilience of young people and also address the root causes of many of the key challenges facing Africa including forced migration, radicalization and violent extremism.
Djibouti asks for AU observers along its border with Eritrea
Two weeks ago on June 14 the 450 Qatari troops deployed along the Eritrean/Djibouti borders were withdrawn and Qatar announced that it would no longer continue to mediate the border issue between the two countries. Qatari troops were deployed in 2010 after Qatar mediated a ceasefire between Eritrea and Djibouti, pending a final agreement between the two countries. The Qatari involvement followed Eritrean incursions into Djibouti territory at RasDoumeira in April 2008 and four days of intense clashes in June during which a dozen Djibouti troops were killed and dozens injured.
Given the past history between Eritrea and Djibouti there was immediate concern that the Qatar withdrawal might lead to a resumption of conflict on the border. The problems have not been confined to 2008. RasDoumeira and RasDoumeira Island have been a source of tension between the two countries since the mid 1990s, when Djibouti accused Eritrea of shelling the area, and Eritrea put out a map showing these areas as part of Eritrea. Tension between the two countries flared up in 1999 when Eritrea accused Djibouti of supporting Ethiopia after President Ismail Omar Guelleh tried to mediate between Eritrea and Ethiopia during the war Eritrea started in May 1998 when it invaded Ethiopian territory. More recently, Djibouti has also accused Eritrea of hosting, arming and training Djiboutian rebels.
Following the Qatari withdrawal, Djibouti said that Eritrean forces had moved into the gap left by the Qatari forces for a day but had then retreated. Djibouti Foreign Minister Mr. Youssouf said: “In the beginning, there were a limited number of Eritrean troops in the disputed areas. But then they pulled back.” Asmara did not deny the claim but merely issued a statement, on June 17, which said: “The government of Eritrea has so far refrained from issuing any statement, primarily because it is not privy to and has not, to date, obtained any information on the withdrawal from the party concerned: that is the State of Qatar.” Djibouti’s Foreign Minister said “The Qatari forces left on short notice without really preparing the ground. Leaving the status quo was not in the best interest of both countries.”
The Chairperson of the AU Commission, MoussaFakiMahamat, called for calm. He said the Commission was ready “to assist Djibouti and Eritrea to normalize the relationship and promote good neighbourliness within the framework of the relevant and current AU instruments.” The Chairperson asked both countries to “exercise calm and restraint”. He sent a fact-finding mission to the border. It was allowed into Djibouti, but the AU Commissioner said Eritrea denied permission for it to access Eritrean territory. He said subsequently that that he planned to send the AU Commissioner for Peace and Security to Eritrea.
Following the withdrawal of the Qatar force and its announcement that it was no longer going to mediate between Eritrea and Djibouti, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Tayé-Brook Zerihoun, provided a briefing to the Security Council on June 19. Following the meeting, Council President, Ambassador SachaSolíz, Permanent Representative of Bolivia, which held the presidency of the Council for the month of June, said that members of the Council welcomed the intention of the African Union to deploy a fact-finding mission, and looked forward to working with the AU to maintain an atmosphere of calm and restraint. At a news conference on Monday (June 21), Ambassador Soliz said that council members supported the African Union initiative to deploy a fact-finding mission to the border and that all parties should work to “maintain an atmosphere of calm and restraint.” He said that the members of the Council called on the parties to resolve the border dispute peacefully, in a manner consistent with international law, and said the Council would welcome the consideration of future confidence-building measures. It would continue to follow the situation closely.
The IGAD Council of Ministers held an Extra-Ordinary session on Sunday (July 2) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and took note of the briefing by the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Djibouti on the recent development regarding of the border dispute between Djibouti and Eritrea that has been triggered as a result of the evacuation of Qatari forces from the area. Djibouti’s Foreign Minister said Djibouti has made it clear it would like to see “diplomatic solutions” to resolve the dispute, and on Monday (July 3) it urged the African Union to support its efforts to negotiate a settlement of the dispute through a demarcation of the border with Eritrea. Djibouti agreed that the only way to resolve border tensions was through peaceful means. Djibouti’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Mohamed SiadDoualeh was also quoted as saying: “We urge Eritrea to resolve the border dispute peacefully with Djibouti, as we’ve always said as a matter of priority and in a manner consistent with international law.” At the same time, Djibouti, remembering what happened in 2008, has made it clear that military solutions cannot be ruled out
Eritrea’s ambassador to the African Union, Araya Desta, said his government didn’t want to take any land from Djibouti, adding, “the last time, we had some skirmishes. It was unnecessary.” During the AU Summit, Eritrea reaffirmed its stance over maintaining Qatar as the sole mediator in its dispute with Djibouti. Ambassador Araya said Qatar should continue its role of peace-broker in the dispute even after the withdrawal of its peacekeepers from the area.
In its communiqué, the IGAD Council of Ministers noted the latest developments, and urged the African Union to champion the cause of peace and fill the vacuum created by the withdrawal of Qatari forces, expedite the demarcation and delimitation of the border of Doumeira and the Island of Doumeira in order to avoid any escalation of conflicts between the two countries in the future. IGAD decided to remain actively seized of the matter.
One of the more frequent errors in considering the UN sanctions on Eritrea, an error assiduously encouraged by Eritrea, is that the UN Security Council sanctions, imposed in 2009, were imposed solely because of the reports of Eritrean support for Al-Shabaab and other extremist groups in Somalia. Since the Somali Eritrean Monitoring Group, in the absence of being allowed to investigate in Eritrea, has failed to find any ‘conclusive’ evidence of such activity over the last two or three years, Eritrea and its supporters have argued that it is time to lift the sanctions.
In fact, however, the support for Al-Shabaab was only one part of the Security Council’s reasons for imposing the sanction’s regime on Eritrea. There were two other, equally important, elements to the decision for sanctions. One was the continued Eritrean support for armed opposition groups in the region and the repeated effort to destabilize Eritrea’s neighbours. In the case of Djibouti, for example, Eritrea has persistently supported, armed and funded an armed anti-government movement, based in southern Eritrea, the Front for the Restoration of Unity and Democracy (FRUD Armé). President Guelleh says this is a movement raised and maintained by Eritrea. It recruits its members by kidnapping young Afars in Djibouti and taking them back across the border. Similarly, Eritrea has funded, armed and trained members of several anti-Ethiopian movements, dedicated to armed efforts to overthrow the government and deeply involved in terrorist activities. Several of these have, indeed, been declared terrorist organizations following repeated attacks on civilian targets. These activities have continued unabated and there has been no indication of any Eritrean change in policy.
The other factor for the imposition of a sanctions regime was Eritrea’s attack on Djibouti in 2008 and Eritrea’s subsequent behavior. Despite the ceasefire in 2010, Eritrea continued to refuse to acknowledge that its troops had crossed the border, and appeared determined not to acknowledge it held Djiboutian prisoners. It also refused to reveal what had happened to Djiboutian troops missing in action since June 2008. It was not until March last year that Qatar persuaded Eritrea to release four Djiboutian prisoners who had been held for eight years, and then only after two of those detained had managed to escape and given details of their incarceration. Eritrea said these four were the last prisoners it held, but it continued to refuse to give any details about another dozen Djiboutian soldiers missing in action. Eritrea has also consistently refused to acknowledge the 17 Eritrean prisoners that Djibouti has held since the fighting.
This latest activity following the Qatar withdrawal, as well as its continued support for anti-government groups in Djibouti, and Ethiopia, underlines the fact that there has been no indication of any positive change in Eritrean policy towards its neighbours or in its use of belligerence and aggression as a central element of foreign policy.
IGAD Ministers start preparation for a High-level ARCSS Revitalization Forum
The AU Summit, the IGAD Council of Ministers held an Extra-Ordinary session on Sunday (July 2) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, under the Chairmanship of Dr.WorknehGebeyehu, Ethiopia’s Foreign Minister, the current Chairperson of the Council, and discussed ways and means of expediting the preparation of the High-Level Revitalization Forum of all parties to the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (ARCSS).
The Session was attended by the Foreign Minister of Djibouti, Mahamoud Ali Youssouf; Yusuf Garaad Omar of Somalia; Ibrahim Ahmed Ghandour of Sudan; and Sam Kutesa of Uganda; Ambassador Catherine Mwangi of Kenya, and Dr. Martin EliaLomuro, Minister of Cabinet Affairs, for South Sudan. Also attending was Festus Mogae, former President of Botswana and Chairperson of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission, (JMEC), Ambassador TewoldeGebremeskel, Peace and Security Director of IGAD, and Ambassador Ismail Wais, IGAD Special Envoy for South Sudan.
In its deliberations, the Council of Ministers recalled the 31st Extra-Ordinary Summit of IGAD held in Addis Ababa on June 12th, and its recommendations to the Council of Ministers to convene and facilitate a High-Level Revitalization Forum of the parties to the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan, including estranged groups, to discuss concrete measures, to restore a permanent ceasefire, to realize full implementation of the Peace Agreement and to develop a revised and realistic timeline and implementation schedule towards a democratic election at the end of the transition period in collaboration with relevant stakeholders. The Summit mandated the IGAD Council of Ministers to urgently convene and facilitate this forum.
On that occasion last month, the IGAD Summit had heard a report by the Chairperson of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission, and briefings from invited representatives. It strongly reiterated the relevance and need for full implementation of the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (ARCSS) signed in August 201. This, it firmly underlined, remained the only viable way forward to bring about peace and stability and create the basis for a democratic political system in South Sudan. It called upon all parties to take urgent steps to revitalize the full implementation of the ARCSS. The Summit in June also welcomed the launching of the national dialogue by President Kiir in May and urged the Transitional Government of National Unity to make the process all-inclusive, genuine and transparent.
In that context, the Centre for Peace and Justice in South Sudan at the weekend urged the African Union and regional leaders to adopt the new approach aimed. The Centre expressed support for the revitalization of the 2015 peace agreement, stressing that the initiative would pave way for peace and stability in the country. It welcomed the decision to convene a high-level revitalization forum to discuss concrete measures to restore a permanent ceasefire and achieve full peace implementation in South Sudan. It urged leaders to use their power by making sure the guns were silenced and bloodshed ended in the country. It said: “What the country needs now is to stop the on-going war. It has displaced million internally, and two million fled the country to seek safety as refugees in the neighboring countries such as Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, and DRC.” It said any attempt to exclude any of the armed opposition [factions] would again take the country back to war and citizens to suffering and continuation of hunger, famine, worsening the humanitarian situation nationwide.
In their meeting on Sunday (July 2) the Council of Ministers heard a statement from the Chairperson of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission and his recommendations on how to conduct the revitalization process. It went on to approve the guideline for the Council of Ministers to carry out the decisions of the 31st Extra-Ordinary Summit of IGAD and the accompanying Indicative Implementation Matrix of the High-Level Revitalization Forum for the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (ARCSS). It decided to work with all stakeholders in order to ensure this High-Level Forum would take place in accordance with the approved Guideline and Implementation Matrix.
The Ministers agreed to engage all parties to conflict in South Sudan to unilaterally and collectively take urgent steps to draw a revised and realistic plan and time line to compensate for the delay in the full implementation of ARCSS and so revitalize the overall peace process. They called upon all parties to the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan, including estranged groups, to seize this opportunity to revitalize the Agreement, renounce violence and to develop and submit concrete proposals for consideration at the Revitalization Forum. The Council called upon IGAD partners, including the AU, the UN, the EU, the International Partners Forum, the Troika, China and all others, to support the High-level Revitalization Process. The IGAD Council of Ministers itself decidedto remain actively seized of the matter.
Meanwhile, in a meeting with South Sudan’s First Vice-President, Taban Deng Gai, on Tuesday (July4) on the side-lines of the AU Summit, IGAD Chair Prime Minister Hailemariam emphasized that Ethiopia would continue to work for the peace and stability of South Sudan under the IGAD framework. He said: “Ethiopia strongly believes that the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (ARCSS) signed between the Government and the Opposition in 2015 charts the way forward to bring enduring peace, stability and democratic order in the country.”
At the Summit last month in Addis Ababa, IGAD had welcomed the declaration by President Kiir of a unilateral ceasefire and called upon the armed opposition groups to reciprocate. It had condemned in the strongest terms the continued violence and armed conflict perpetrated by government forces as well as all other armed groups in South Sudan and emphasized that all armed opposition groups in South Sudan also shared full responsibility for the humanitarian consequences of the conflict and human rights violations taking place in South Sudan. IGAD underlined its commitment to collaborate with the AU and the UN to take all necessary measures to hold individuals and groups committing human rights violations to be accountable. It called for a definitive timeline for full deployment of the Regional Protection Force, and expressed concern over obstacles facing humanitarian agencies. It reiterated IGAD Member States would continue to maintain common positions on the resolution of the problems of South Sudan.
The IGAD Council of Ministers will convene its next meeting in Juba, the Republic of South Sudan in two weeks’ time to advance the High-Level Revitalization Forum.
Somalia: the 57th anniversary of independence
The 57th anniversary of the formation of the Republic of Somalia in 1960 was celebrated on Saturday (July 1). In his speech on the occasion, President Mohamed Abdullahiwho has clearly laid out his government’s priorities: tackling corruption, boosting economic development, providing public services, resolving the problems of security and of the drought as well as resolving the problems of federal and state governments, also took the opportunity to call for a renewal of the unity talks between Somalia and Somaliland.
Ethiopia’s Foreign Minister, Dr.WorknehGebeyehu congratulated Somali Prime Minster Hassan Ali Khayre on the anniversary when they met in Addis Ababa on the margins of the AU Summit. Dr.Workneh underlined the close and enduring partnership between Ethiopia and Somalia, while also emphasising that it was a strategic imperative to further strengthen the relationship as both countries have had converging views on a wide range of issues and more or less share similar backgrounds. The two sides reaffirmed their commitment to work closely in a bid to strengthen cooperation on bilateral and regional issues. They also agreed to harness their trade potential for the mutual benefit of their two peoples. Prime Minister Khayre, who emphasized the need to promote people-to-people ties, also underlined the significant role Ethiopia had been playing in the process of maintaining peace in Somalia. He called for Ethiopia to continue its strong engagement in the process of portraying the reality of the new Somalia to the world.
The Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Somalia, Michael Keating, the head of the UN Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) also spoke of the opportunities, and the possibilities, but also warned that the celebration should not be taken for granted. He urged all Somalis to seize the moment of opportunity and work towards peace and stability. The challenge, he said, was “to garner strong and inclusive leadership, as well as meaningful commitment and cooperation, from the people who have the power and influence to make a difference. “ Mr. Keating said, “Personal agendas must not undermine collective progress,” He urged all national leaders, whether in the public or private sectors, to work together.
Indeed, there were still many challenges looming for the President, his government and the leadership of the federal states over the next 12 months. He said long-standing disputes over resources and boundaries continued to divide communities, and hundreds of thousands of people had been displaced by the twin ravages of drought and terrorism. At the same time, he emphasized, “The hurdles facing the nation will be overcome, and Somalia can count on the international community for its broad and steadfast support, now and in the future.” Mr. Keating said agreements needed to be reached through the constitutional review on fundamental issues like resource and revenue sharing. He said: “There will be differences and disputes, but these can be addressed if there is a collective commitment by the nation’s leadership to work together for the common good. This will also be the best basis for confronting Al-Shabaab and reducing levels of violence.”
He reiterated that the international community, led by the UN, stood ready to work closely with Somalia leadership and help it promote the state-building process and consolidate the peace and promote the development of the country. It was ready to support the federal and state initiatives to promote justice and human rights, step up humanitarian aid efforts, and develop more transparent and accountable institutions. He said: “The UN and international partners are working closely with federal and state authorities to promote justice and human rights, step up humanitarian aid efforts, and develop more transparent and accountable institutions,… the UN looks forward to working with all Somalis who share these goals in a spirit of goodwill, inclusivity and solidarity.” He praised the government for its strong commitment to bring peace, stability, accountable institutions and economic growth to Somalia, adding, “I urge all leaders, whether in the public or private sectors, to work with them to deliver results. The more they do so, the more the international community can support Somalia.” Mr. Keating said the challenge ahead was how to translate the positive politics and the enormous potential of the country into tangible benefits for all Somalis, particularly the millions of women, men and children living in poverty and deprivation. The president currently faces a formidable set of challenges in meeting the expectations of the Somali people for the new federal government to respond to the country’s worsening drought crisis and avert another famine, and to resolve the security situation.
The US offered its best wishes on the occasion, commending the Federal Government of Somalia “for the advances made in the political process and security sector reform, as well as for its efforts to meet the urgent needs of its people caused by the on-going drought. “ The statement said the US hoped the government would “complete the constitutional review and lay the groundwork for a resilient country with a durable federal structure.” It said, “a spirit of reconciliation must undergird this state-building process as Somalia moves forward to reclaim a brighter future,” and added that the United States looked forward to strengthening its partnership with a Somalia “that is advancing toward a more peaceful, democratic, and prosperous future.”
The US classifies Eritrea at the lowest level for human trafficking
At the end of last month, the US State Department published its latest Report on Human Trafficking. The report describes this crime as “an assault on human dignity” and calls for those involved to be penalized accordingly. It points out that while governments cannot undo the pain and indignity victims suffer, they can seek to right those wrongs through official acknowledgment and prosecution, conviction and sentencing traffickers and those complicit in human trafficking. To do this, it emphasizes that a government must hold human traffickers accountable and address the needs of victims, and this requires “stringent and comprehensive human trafficking laws, strong law enforcement and prosecutorial capacity funded with adequate resources, and an informed judiciary.“
Countries are categorized in three tiers. The first tier is for the governments of countries that fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The second level is for countries that do not fully meet the minimum standards but are making significant efforts to comply with those standards including commitments to take additional steps over the next year. The third level is for the governments of countries that do not fully meet minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so. Eritrea is, once again, placed in this third category.
The report for each country looks at the efforts to curb human trafficking, its prosecution of offender and at attempts at protection and prevention as well as giving a “trafficking profile” and offering recommendations. It says the Government of Eritrea does not meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making efforts to do so. The government continues to subject its nationals to forced labor in the citizen militia and compulsory national service and that many citizens are forced to serve for periods of indefinite duration under harsh conditions. Senior Eritrean officials claim many Eritrean nationals are currently serving prison sentences in Eritrea for the crime of trafficking, but the government has not reported any investigations, prosecutions, or the identification and protection of any victims, despite claiming security forces were empowered to investigate trafficking. It didn’t carry out any training for anti-trafficking activities. In fact the report concludes, the authorities “continued to demonstrate a lack of understanding of the crime [of human trafficking] regularly conflating it with transnational migration or smuggling.”
The report says the government provided “negligible” anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. It also noted the numerous reports that government officials, including military officers, have been and are complicit in human trafficking, adding that there were no government reports of any investigations into any allegations. Nor, it says, did the government report any efforts to identify or protect trafficking victims. Overall, the report indicates, the Eritrean government made minimal efforts to prevent trafficking. Indeed, the report also claimed some Eritrean diplomats provide travel documents and legal services to Eritrean nationals in exchange for bribes or inflated fees, potentially facilitating their subjection to trafficking. The report states firmly: “Some Eritrean military and police officers are complicit in trafficking crimes along the border with Sudan.”
The report’s profile for Eritrea identified it as a major source country for men, women, and children subject to forced labor, adding, “to a lesser extent, Eritrean adults and children are subjected to sex and labor trafficking abroad.” It says the government’s labor policies and national service policies seriously increase the vulnerability of Eritreans to trafficking abroad. In this connection, it noted the compulsory citizen militia set up in 2012, requiring medically fit adults up to age 70 not currently in the military to carry firearms and attend military training or participate in unpaid national development programs.
The report says working conditions “are often harsh and sometimes involve physical abuse,” and despite the official policy of banning persons younger than 18 from military conscription, children younger than 18 are often detained and sent to Sawa, the national conscription training centre. Eritrean children are subjected to forced labor, including forced begging, and some women and girls are subjected to sex trafficking within the country. There are other factors that increase vulnerability to traffickers including the government’s strict exit control procedures and limited issuance of passports and departure visas. Unaccompanied minors were particularly at risk of being subjected to violence and exploitation in order to escape indefinite national service and forced labor.
Eritrean women and girls who have travelled to the Gulf States for domestic work were highly vulnerable, and had subsequently been subject to sex trafficking. Some had also been subject to sex trafficking in South Sudan, Sudan, and Israel. The report noted international criminal groups sometimes kidnapped vulnerable Eritreans living in or in proximity to refugee camps, particularly in Sudan, and transported them primarily to Libya, where they were subject to human trafficking and other abuses, including extortion for ransom.
All this supports the details provided in last year’s report of the UN Human Rights’ Council’s Commission of Enquiry into human rights abuse in Eritrea. The Commission concluded that the regime in Asmara could be responsible for crimes against humanity.
Not surprisingly, the report provides a comprehensive series of recommendations, calling for the Eritrean authorities: to enact and enforce an anti-trafficking statute that criminalizes all forms of trafficking, including sex trafficking and forced labor; to cut the length of active national service to 18 months and cease the use of threats and physical punishment for non-compliance; investigate allegations of conscripts being forced to perform duties beyond the scope of national service and hold accountable those responsible; exclude children younger than 18 at Sawa training academy from participation in activities that amount to military service; ensure victims and their families are not punished for crimes committed as a result of being subjected to trafficking or for fleeing government-sponsored forced labor; extend existing labor protections to persons performing national service and other mandatory citizen duties; and with assistance from international organizations, provide training to all levels of government, including law enforcement officials and diplomats, to identify and respond to trafficking crimes; and provide protective services to trafficking victims.
The Oakland Institute continues to encourage anti-development activity in Ethiopia
The Oakland Institute has a history of opposition to the government of Ethiopia, consistently offering support to opposition elements in the Diaspora. It also makes no secret of its aim to try to persuade the US and international organizations to halt all aid to Ethiopia as part of its efforts to bring about government change. This is despite (or perhaps because of) the country’s long record of extensive pro-poor policies, exceptionally impressive economic development and its commitment to a green carbon-free economy. The Institute continues to make claims of “land-grabbing” and “forced displacement” despite the repeated failure of independent investigations to provide any evidence for this on the scale the Institute alleges. It has even resorted to suggesting there will be more violence when the state of emergency comes to an end later this month. Recent articles, “A fire under ashes” and “The numbers say the Ethiopian economy is doing very well; reality says many Ethiopian Citizens are not”, dismiss the Government’s Commission of Inquiry, totally ignore all government’s efforts to respond to the legitimate issues raised during the protests last year. They also suggest “protests will resume once the emergency measures are lifted”, as well as attacking the international community for supporting Ethiopia. They claim this sends a message “that the Ethiopian government can continue its crackdown on democracy and people without consequences”, and offering a picture of “a region spiralling out of control.”
Much of this is based on the repeated inaccuracies that the Oakland Institute is so fond of disseminating. Ms. Mittal, the founder and executive director of the Oakland Institute, which describes itself as “an independent think tank for international policy matters”, has been re-repeating her claims that the entirely ‘peaceful’ demonstrators last year were by “people [who] have been forcibly removed from their land to clear those lands for sugarcane and cotton plantations.” Quoted in an article from the Institute at the end of last month, and ignoring geography, facts and the reality, she even alleged that because of associated displacement there were “widespread protests last year that led to more than 36,000 people being arrested. So, you have every political opposition leader behind bars, you have no freedom of press, you have people being arrested for challenging the government’s plan to take over their land with no compensation, ” while the country’s “newspaper editors and indigenous leaders have all been locked up” and charged as “terrorists.”
Every part of this statement is quite simply wrong. The government has been involved for months in discussions with most of the opposition parties, of which they are a significant number, involving the possibility of improving the possibilities of opposition representation in the Federal and Regional assemblies as well as some proportional representation. Does Ms. Mittal know how many parties are registered in Ethiopia and at national and regional levels? Ethiopia actually has a vibrant and often highly critical press – it is clear Ms. Mittal hasn’t bothered to visit Ethiopia or to read (online) the Reporter (English and Amharic), Fortune and Capital, all of which can be and often are very outspoken. The demonstrations were in origin about local government problems related to good governance, and complaints about corruption and similar issues. They were, as the government itself admits, quite legitimate complaints about a significant number of issues of governance. The problem was that in a considerable number of cases the demonstrations were taken over by people looking to take advantage, either on the personal level, pillaging public and private buildings, including banks and hotels, or for political purposes, destroying plantations and factories providing hundreds of jobs, and deliberately causing violence as well as exaggerating the numbers of people injured or killed.
Of equal concern is the way the Oakland Institute continues to repeat its own exaggerations and falsehoods. It still continues to put its name to claims that government forces killed hundreds at the Irrechaa celebration in Bishoftu in October last year, when, in fact, it is now quite clear that 55 died in the tragedy caused by a stampede. No one died from the actions of security forces. It was, of course, after that terrible tragedy that Diaspora opposition elements called for five days of violence and destruction. This made it clear there were external elements involved in the disturbances, elements determined to try to make political capital out of the disturbances.
It was true that under the state of emergency the security forces were given greater powers, social media and diaspora news outlets were controlled. Over 20,000 people, detained for involvement in demonstrations that turned violent, were given courses in citizens’ rights and responsibilities and in lawful civil activity. The Oakland Institute did manage to note the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission report in April 2017 had concluded that 669 peoples lost their lives in last year’s violence, nearly seventy of whom were members of the security forces, but it largely ignores the explanations of the disturbances. The demonstrations were certainly violent at times and included the throwing of grenades and shootings as well as destruction and pillaging of property. They were certainly not always peaceful, The Commission’s report found that much of the violence resulted from the activities of opposition groups and certainly from the encouragement of violence by diaspora-based media outlets such as the Oromo Media Network and the television station ESAT. From this, the Commission concluded the use of force by security officials in many instances was “proportionate.” It also found in a number of cases that the force used was “disproportionate”, and it called for judicial action to be taken against those responsible. The report was endorsed by Parliament. The Oakland Institute, of course, dismissed the report. Since it did not agree with the Institute, it automatically regarded the report as unacceptable.
Political dissent, despite the claims of Ms. Mittal and the Oakland Institute, is not a criminal offense, though inciting subversion or encouraging terrorism is. These is a very real difference. Underlining its ignorance of the Ethiopia judiciary and indeed of the actual facts, the Institute claimed MereraGudina, chairman of the Oromo Federal Congress opposition party, was arrested after returning from a trip to Brussels in November 2016 because he spoke to the European parliament about the current state of emergency. No, he wasn’t. His case is currently sub-judice, but he was arrested for meeting publicly with the leader of an opposition group that has been declared a terrorist organization by the Ethiopian parliament. This is, indeed, a group, based in Eritrea and very publicly committed to armed struggle against the government. It has carried out dozens of terrorist activities in northern Ethiopia in the last decade including bombing of hotels and other civilian targets, blowing up buses and numerous cross-border kidnappings to seize people for its ‘armed struggle’. Eritrea, of course, also claims to be at war with Ethiopia and it has continuously armed, supported and funded this group in its activities for several years.
It should not be necessary to remind an organization such as Oakland Institute that among human rights are food, shelter, water and housing as well as democracy and freedom of the press. Ethiopia is very conscious of the need for all of these, and of all of the rights involved in the Sustainable Development Goals, as they were in the Millennium Development Goals. It really is time that Ms. Mittal and Oakland Institute removed their blinkers and looked at the real world rather than confined themselves to listening to the imaginary world of government opponents who have been living abroad for thirty or more years and who have little or no understanding of what has been achieved and of how things have changed and are steadily changing for the better.
The first half of the headline, “The numbers say the Ethiopian economy is doing very well”, is, of course, accurate, as a whole raft of recent reports by international, African and other independent bodies have underlined. The second half of the headline “Reality says many Ethiopian citizens are not” also underlines a truth. Ethiopia still has a long way to go. The average per capita GPD has risen from just over $300 a year to nearly $800, but the per capita GDP still has a long way to go to catch up Kenya and to reach the country’s aim of a middle-income state. The good news is the amount of effort the country is continuing to put into its pro-poor policies with some 70% of the budget tied to these policies as well as the massive effort going into the development of industrial parks to provide jobs and export earnings and to other policies geared into genuine and realistic development policies. It is a cause for celebration that Ethiopia has grown to be Africa’s third-largest economy, that it is one of the fastest growing, if not the fastest growing economy in the world and its projected Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will be $78 billion this year. Equally important is its commitment to resolve the problems of climate change and to green industrialization. These developments have been underlined by the opening of the Addis Ababa to Djibouti electric rail link and the other major developments in industry, irrigation and energy. Not surprisingly, in addition, Ethiopia has been attracting a significant amount of foreign direct investment.
Equally, unsurprisingly, it has been continuing to attract criticism from its political enemies, among them Oakland Institute. In fact, Ms. Mittal and the Oakland Institute make no secret of their wider aims. She argues that it is time to stop development aid: “we have to question the whole development paradigm”, she says. Ignoring the reality on the ground, she wants to see “international institutions such as the World Bank stop promoting very harmful development strategies which deliberately profit a few corporations” while a nation’s people are “starving.” To try to employ this argument for Ethiopia ignores the very clear and well-publicised budgetary concentration on pro-poor policies, policies that have made a very significant impact on poverty levels. Of course, there is a long way to go, and not every policy has worked as intended, but for Ms. Mittal to support, indeed to propagate, the kind of inflammatory rhetoric that is fed to her by opposition sources in California and elsewhere reveals her political naivety as well as her lack of knowledge of the actuality of development in Ethiopia and, indeed, of the reality of the progress being made today.
In fact, despite the efforts of the Oakland Institute, Ethiopia has continued to improve steadily in many key Social Progress Indicator categories including access to water, nourishment, health, movement and education. The criticisms of information flows and expression are largely ill-informed and based on criticisms from ignorance. Ethiopia’s strategic investment and development partners can actually point to significant developments at all levels, as, for example, in all the Millennium Development Goals. All this is totally ignored by Ms. Mittal and the Oakland Institute. It offers an entirely different paradigm, supported by fact not fiction, of Ethiopia’s remarkable progress and development.