News in Brief
The law enforcement operation in Tigray and the media: Lessons learnt By Demeke Mekonnen (FDRE Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs)
Let’s give dialogue a chance to settle the dust in Ethiopia-Sudan boundary issue
The end of UNAMID’s mandate in Darfur and Reflections on Ethiopia`s Role
With US Troops Out, Somalia Security Remains a Big Concern
Africa and the African Union
Yesterday, 31 December 2020, marked the end of the mandate of the United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID). It was formally established through the adoption of resolution 1769 by the United Nations Security Council in 2007, under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. The mission took over from what was then the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) on 31 December 2007, with a mandate to protect civilians, facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance, mediate between the Government of Sudan and non-signatory armed movements on the basis of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD), and support to the mediation of community conflict. What was Ethiopia’s role in UNAMID? (See article)
The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) has awarded medals and certificates to Ugandan soldiers for their outstanding role in ensuring a safer and stable Somalia. The soldiers from Battle Group 28, serving under AMISOM were awarded medals at a ceremony presided over by the AMISOM Force Commander. Lt. Gen. Diomede Ndegeya and attended by the Contingent Commander of Ugandan troops in Somalia, Brig. Gen. Don William Nabasa. Under the command of Col. Wilberforce Sserunkuma, the soldiers will soon rotate out of the mission, having completed their tour of duty, and will be replaced by Battle Group 31, commanded by Col. Francis Aragmoi.
Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Ethiopia, Demeke Mekonnen has published a reflective piece on the Ethiopian Herald Newspaper, regarding Ethiopia’s experience in dealing with the international media during the periods of the law enforcement operation in Tigray. He also talked about the impact of misinformation and disinformation by social media trollers on the operation and what his Ministry expects from Ethiopians regarding the use of media/and social media in defending the country’s sovereignty. (See article)
The relief and the emergency activities managed by Tigray Interim Administration is going well despite the rampant baseless disinformation, CEO Dr Mulu Nega said on Thursday (December 31). In an exclusive interview with ENA, Tigray Interim Administration CEO Mulu Nega said his administration is progressing well to achieve all the priorities set in the short and long term plans of the region. He stressed that there is very huge demand in humanitarian assistance. But “the relief and the emergency activities are going well in the region.” The CEO stated that the administration “has already started providing food for the needy population at all levels, and we have agreed with the responsible federal government sectors to speed up and strengthen the activities because people should get food and all basic necessities.”
The Ethiopian Government has vowed to strengthen its ongoing efforts to peacefully resolve the border issue with Sudan. Despite ease of tension along the border now, the government will reinforce its efforts to peacefully resolve the problem, said Ambassador Dina Mufti, Spokesperson of the Ministry of the Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia. In his bi-weekly press briefing on Tuesday (December 29), Ambassador Dina said that Ethiopia has no interest to enter into war with Sudan in the border conflict masterminded by conflict profiteers. However, “it is impossible to say that some Sudanese Government officials are not involved in the problem,” he said.
Russian ambassador to Ethiopia Evgeny Terekhin has welcomed the completion of the law enforcement operation in Tigray regional state. In his New Year message sent to The Ethiopian Herald, the ambassador also expressed his country’s solidarity with Ethiopia to rebuild damaged infrastructure in the region. “We certainly welcome the completion of the military phase of the operation, which was conducted with the least possible number of civilian victims and casualties,” he said. “I take this opportunity to express solidarity with the Ethiopian government’s plans to reconstruct the region as quickly as possible.” According to the ambassador, Russia takes the position that the situation in Tigray is a purely internal affair of Ethiopia and its people.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs has launched on Wednesday (December 30) a social media campaign that aims to promote the good qualities of Ethiopia and assuage the effects of the misguided media narrative that dominated the air for the last couple of months. Trending under the phrase “Rising Ethiopia”, the two-month campaign targets all Ethiopians and the Ethiopian Diaspora, it was learned. Besides mobilizing Ethiopians living abroad for a common good, the campaign will also introduce Ethiopia’s investment potentials to the international community and build up Ethiopia as an emerging tourism destination. Key themes will anchor the campaign in different phases, including tourism, culture, Diaspora business, investment and flagship projects and charities, according to the ministry.
Ethiopia and Algeria announced keenness to bolster their trade relations in a discussion held on Tuesday (December 29) between Ethiopian Ambassador to Algeria, Nebiat Getachew and Algeria’s Minister of Trade, Kamel Rezig. During the discussion, both sides stressed the need to further enhance trade relations between the two countries. Ambassador Nebiat noted that there is conducive opportunity for both Ethiopian and Algerian business community to exchange goods and services for the mutual benefit of the peoples of both countries. The Algerian Minister further pointed out the importance of establishing and activating Ethiopia-Algeria Business Council with a view to increasing trade relations between the two countries.
Ministry of Mines and Petroleum revealed on Tuesday (December 29) that it has opened 22 mining and 5 petroleum sites as well as 3 service areas for investors. Briefing journalists, Mines and Petroleum Minister Takele Umma said the potential areas for mining and petroleum have passed the exploration stage. Laboratories, drilling, and refinery services are the other potential investment areas currently opened to market, he added. The potential areas in the mining sector include deposits of iron ore, gold, phosphate, potash, marble, coal, gemstone, limestone, chlorine, sodium chlorine, among others.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Tuesday (December 29) called on the public to continue with the precautionary measures aimed at tackling the spread of COVID-19 as the cases continue to surge in the country. “As COVID19 cases continue to surge and our intensive care units operate at maximum capacity, it is imperative that we do not lose sight of precautionary measures,” the premier pointed out in his Facebook. “Save your life; save someone else’s life and support our health workers by wearing a mask”, he urged. Coronavirus cases in Ethiopia have reached 123,145 since the first Coronavirus outbreak in the country reported in March 2020, according to the Ministry of Health.
Tourism Ethiopia announced that it has launched special investment incentives at seven different Ethiopian tourist destinations. The destinations provided with special incentives are Abjata Shala Lakes, Bale Mountains, Wonchi Lake, Geralta Mountain, Semein Mountains, Nech Sar Park, and the Ert Ale active volcano. Tourism Ethiopia Director-General, Sileshi Girma, told ENA on Tuesday (December 29) that the agricultural activities carried out for over 3,000 years in Ethiopia have not lifted the people out of poverty. He pointed out that the special incentives include tax exemption for 5 years and duty-free import.
National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) has called on local civil organizations to observe the forthcoming 6th General Election. NEBE announced that it has prepared a guideline for licensing and monitoring local civil society organizations observing the election. The guideline for licensing and monitoring local civil society organizations interested to observe elections, was prepared in accordance with the powers of the Ethiopian Constitution, Political Parties Registration and Electoral Ethics Proclamation No. 1162/2011, and the National Electoral Board Establishment Proclamation No. 1133/2011.
Eritrean refugees in two camps in the Tigray Region of Ethiopia received a month’s worth of food supplies through a joint distribution by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and Ethiopia’s Agency for Refugees and Returnee Affairs (ARRA). In coordination with Federal authorities, a convoy of 18 trucks delivered nearly 250 metric tons of corn soya blend, grains, pulses and vegetable oil to local humanitarian partners for distribution to 13,000 Eritrean refugees in Mai Ayni camp. Another nearly 240 metric tons of food were delivered to Adi Harush refugee camp to support 12,170 refugees there. WFP, UNHCR and ARRA provided monitoring support during both distributions. Distributions began shortly after the food reached the camps, organized by ARRA, with support from WFP and UNHCR. They were completed on Saturday (December 23).
A national task force established by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (Ph.D) has taken over the security enforcement operations in Metekel Zone of Benishangul-Gumuz State, according to Lieutenant General Asrat Denero. The task force that comprises of high ranking officials from the government and national army has fully commenced its law enforcement operation in the area. Head of the Security Forces, Lieutenant General Asrat said the hunt for suspects who participated in the killings of civilians has been continued, adding that the perpetrators will soon be brought to justice.
In a congratulatory New Year message addressed to the people of Eritrea and its Defense Forces, President Isaias Afwerki said: “2020 was a year marked by formidable crisis in the annals of the history of human kind. This stemmed from the calamitous COVID-19 pandemic in addition to cumulative global and regional upheavals.” He further said that the Eritrean people succeeded in combating and overcoming the plethora of successive challenges that it faced in the past 80 years principally because of the values of – clarity of vision, patience, resilience, mutual compassion, and sell-confidence that it possesses. These innate values, he said, have been tasted again in 2020; only to become more robust and luminous. The president concluded his message affirming that Endeavors for sustainable development and progress in 2021 will yield – with higher readiness – desired results.
The Ethiopian Construction Works Corporation has signed a contract with the Djibouti Ports Corridor Road SA to build 80 km Daguru-Dikhill road project worth over $43.7 million. The agreement was signed on Thursday (December 31) by CEO of the Corporation, Engr. Yonas Ayalew, and Djibouti Ports Corridor Road SA Director-General Abdi Ibrahim Farah. It was signed in a virtual ceremony held to ensure the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended physical distancing due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. Of the total length, 35 km will be constructed with asphalt concrete, while the remaining 45 km is gravel road maintenance. According to the agreement, the construction of the road will be completed within eight months.
Ethiopian Ambassador to Djibouti, Berhanu Tsegaye held discussions with Mr. Aboubaker Oumer Hadi, Chairman of Djibouti Ports International Free Trade Zone on Sunday (December 28) where major agreements were reached to hone the capacity of the road & port operation as well as parking terminals. The two sides agreed on ways of commencing the remaining 80 km of the road in the shortest possible period. The Ambassador and the Chairperson also exchanged views on ways of improving the capacity of port services by connecting the DMP (Doraleh Multi-Purpose Port) and SGTD (Djibouti Container Terminal) to the Ethiopia-Djibouti railway. They have agreed to establish a connection at the Horizon oil terminal from the Djibouti side and the oil depot at Awash from the Ethiopian side to the Ethio-Djibouti railway.
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres announced on Wednesday (December 30) the appointment of Anita Kiki Gbeho of Ghana as his new Deputy Special Representative for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM). Ms. Gbeho succeeds Raisedon Zenenga of Zimbabwe, who has been appointed Assistant Secretary-General and Mission Coordinator of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), and to whom the Secretary-General is grateful for his dedicated service and contribution to the work of the United Nations in Somalia.
A two day national conference on peaceful elections and freedom of expression, bringing together key stakeholders in the electoral process has concluded on Friday (December 29) in the Somali Capital, Mogadishu, with the adoption of a declaration to ensure peaceful elections and enhance safety of journalists. The conference – organized by the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) and the Political Affairs Unit of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) with the support of the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) and Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA) – is part of wider efforts aimed at ensuring peaceful elections in the upcoming polls. Somalia will soon hold both parliamentary and Presidential elections in which the people will elect their leaders.
The much-awaited Somalian elections have been pushed again to a new date by the country’s electoral commission. The Federal Electoral Implementation Team (FEIT) which last week said that the Upper House elections will begin on Dec. 26, 2020 released a new election time table stating that from Jan. 7-14 next year, the election of the Upper House members will kick-off. The electoral commission also noted that Jan. 5 was set as the deadline for the registration of all candidates of the Upper House.
The governor of Benadir region and the mayor of Mogadishu, Hon. Omar Mohamud Mohamed (Omar Filish), met with the British Ambassador to Somalia, Ben Fender. During the meeting, the Uk Ambassador to Somalia and The governor of Banadir region, discussed on how UK Government could support the Banadir regional administration with issues related to the development of the city and security sector. The meeting was attended by the director of conflict resolution, stabilization and peace building, unit for Banadir region Ahmed Mohamed Asseir (Dhubow).
The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) has on Tuesday (December 26) launched a campaign to combat hate speech and promote peaceful elections in the upcoming presidential and parliamentary polls. Flagged by the Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism in the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS), Osman Abukar Dubbe, the campaign was organized in partnership with the political unit of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA), and the Federal Government. This campaign came at the right time as it follows a series of hate messages that have in the recent past dominated both the mainstream and social media from different political actors. Somalia is soon preparing to hold parliamentary and presidential elections.
South Sudan has announced that it is working with the Global Alliance for Vaccines (GAVI) to acquire vaccines for COVID-19 in January 2021 following a rise in cases. Speaking to reporters in Juba on Wednesday (December 30), the director-general of preventive health services in the Ministry of Health, John Rumunu said they are preparing to acquire COVID-19 vaccines from GAVI, months after the first case was officially confirmed in April this year. “The global vaccine initiative will pay the initial cost of the vaccine trials. The timeline expected is January,” he remarked.
In a joint Christmas letter, Church leaders called on South Sudanese officials to do more to restore peace and security. Pope Francis, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Church of Scotland moderator Martin Fair, reminded President Kiir and his First Vice President of their commitments made at the Vatican in April 2019 to implement the revitalized peace agreement and to work tother for peace in South Sudan. Also, they reiterated their commitment to making a joint visit to South Sudan.
The United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo praised the bill passed last week by U.S. congress that reinstated Sudan’s sovereign immunity. The bill which was signed into law by President Donald Trump was a product of the agreement between Khartoum and Washington on compensation for victims of certain terror attacks. The $335 million deal covers the 1998 twin embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania as well as the 2000 USS Cole attack near Yemen and the assassination of USAID employee in Khartoum on 2008 new years eve.
The Charge d’Affaires of the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS), Stephanie Khori, was briefed Monday on the implementation of the Juba peace agreement ahead of the formal inauguration of the political mission activities in Sudan. Khouri met with the Sovereignty Council member Mohamed Hassan al-Taishi who was also the government chief negotiator for Darfur track in the Juba process for peace in Sudan. Speaking to the press after the meeting, Khouri said she was briefed about the implementation process of Juba agreement and the priorities of the transitional government during the next stage.
The Council of Partners for the Transitional Period has urged government components to present their nominees for ministerial positions and state governors. A new government is to be formed in Sudan to include the armed groups that signed the Juba peace agreement, last October. The council was briefed by the Quartet, which is tasked with the follow up of the new cabinet’s formation, about the ongoing discussions on this respect, said Mariam al-Mahdi, the Council spokeswoman in a statement released on after a meeting on Sunday (December 27) evening.
A coordination of Internally Displaced People (IDPs) in Darfur called to hold sit-ins in the displacement camps to protest the exit of the hybrid peacekeeping operation from the western Sudan region. On 22 December, the United Nations Security Council unanimously approved the withdrawal of the UNAMID as of 31 December 2020. The UNAMID will be replaced by a political mission to support the transitional mission to implement the Juba peace agreement and to achieve the goals of the transition in Sudan before general elections.
The law enforcement operation in Tigray and the media: Lessons learnt
It has been two months since the TPLF clique has launched its onslaught on the Ethiopian Defence Forces stationed in Mekelle. What they call ‘a pre-emptive lightning’ attack has unveiled the true nature of the group both to the international community and the people of Ethiopia.
Ethiopians have observed how the group gradually morphed from being the ‘friends of the oppressed’ into evil incarnate during the group’s grip on power for almost three decades. However, the unwarranted strike not only took the nation by surprise but shock it to the core given the detail of the project that mercilessly butchered the unsuspected soldiers as well as hundreds of civilian people in Mai-Kadra town.
It was not that hard for Ethiopian’s to adjust their understanding of the group and to what extent it debases itself in its cupidity and lust for power.
But it was extremely hard, if not impossible, to change the minds of the international community that the clique stupefied with its propaganda for almost three to four decades. Thus, we were not that much surprised to observe renowned media outlets succumb to the group’s propaganda and kept on philosophizing on why and how the government started the war.
They prefer to stick to their narrative that the government used the law enforcement operation as a pretext to attack the group and weaken the federal governing structure than digging to find facts on the ground. Thanks to one of the members of the junta who officially gloated on their own media the clique’s success in the pre-emptive attack of the Northern Command, the world seems to understand who the belligerent side was.
The junta has been active in leading an orchestrated mainstream and social media campaign that perpetuates lies and seems to impair some members of the international community’s ability to pass informed decisions on the matter.
Sensing the government’s and the people of Ethiopia’s uncompromising attitude to protect the country’s sovereignty, the clique had launched rockets to cities in the Amhara region and neighbouring Eritrea in its desperate attempt to cover up its criminal deeds under the guise of ‘regionalized’ war.
Due to the inflated self-image that it has portrayed in the minds of the international community, the group wanted to sell the message that it was not a group of thugs under a ‘wanted list’ by the government but a legitimate group that can stand on equal footing with the federal government of Ethiopia and the Eritrean government.
The trick seemed to have worked for a while when the international community urged and sometimes ‘pressurized’ the Ethiopian government to sit for negotiation with the criminals.
I have seen the impact of the cliques’ propaganda during my tour in Europe leading an Ethiopian delegation and met as well as brief the Leaders on the objectives of the law enforcement operation. Although they understood what was going on the ground, they also seem to have been bought into some of the clique’s intentionally exaggerated and distorted narratives propelled by disproportionate coverage of the issue by the mainstream media and social media accounts of well-known people and trolls too.
It took quite a time to make the leaders really understand that the group had been playing victim while it was the belligerent, summarily kill people, displace them and loot their property while implicating it on the federal government.
Our delegation’s efforts were successful although some statements issued by the European Union seem to indicate the presence of remaining undercurrents which, we suspect, are the influence of the clique’s propaganda.
Just like in Ethiopia, in most of the neighbouring countries that I visited recently, the mainstream and social media penetration is relatively low compared to the developed nations. Thus, it would be very hard to get leaders that are easily deceived by the sheer volume of information on the media, which may or may not be true.
This was helpful to the delegation that I led to these countries since they were not victims of prejudices regarding the objectives of the law enforcement operation in Tigray. Their direct or indirect experience with the junta, during its time at the wheel, might have also contributed a lot in sympathizing with the law enforcement measure taken against the TPLF clique.
The success of the diplomatic efforts of Ethiopia and its genuine and friendly attitude towards its neighbours has already been manifested during the recently held IGAD’s 38th Extraordinary Assembly.
We believe that the media are there not just to inform but to influence policymakers too. But unless the media remains to be ‘the marketplace of ideas,’ in its true sense, then relevant stories tend to be stifled and the true nature of things left to be uncovered.
A casual observation of social media messages, for instance under the heading #Ethiopia on Twitter, at any given moment, will tell you how an organised and orchestrated group stifles the free flow of information by releasing a cumbersome amount of lies almost on every second.
If such lies are accompanied by the mainstream media, which already suffer from selective perception in dealing with some issues related to the law enforcement operation, then one can find potent weapons to attack the truth.
Yes, in the absence of information and access to facts, journalism suffers. But when ample information and evidence are provided and reveal the naked truth on issues of the law enforcement operation, the government and people of Ethiopia expect a fair, if not objective, report from seasoned media outlets.
Yes, no access to banking, telecommunication and transport and other services is a news story. But how is that not newsworthy when evidence is provided on the responsible bodies who disrupted such services in the first place? And above all, doesn’t the restoration of communication and electric lines qualify as a news story? To my knowledge, no media has made a report on the video that was provided by the Ethiopian Telecommunication office at Mekelle showing how some people cut the lines before the government announced the capture of Mekelle.
No one also reported the TPLF clique-led bank robberies that made resuming banking services difficult in the region. There was no mentioning of the destruction on infrastructure which includes the destruction of Axum Airport.
Despite the continued misrepresentation in the media, we are really deep into forming a new administrative structure in the Tigray region. The interim government of Tigray has been busy restoring normal administrative services in the region by forming responsible bodies that are deemed to fit to serve the public.
Leaders of competing political parties even get the chance, for the first time in decades, to serve the public and voice their opinions on things that matter in the region.
The interim government has been mobilizing the public from the grassroots level and engaging all people from all walks of life to participate in the process of normalizing life in the region. People in Tigray deserve peace and they are eventually getting it. Isn’t that good news? But true to form, some media outlets have never considered this as a legitimate agenda for coverage.
The ‘good news doesn’t sell media outlets,’ seem to be unhappy with the unexpected demise of the TPLF clique. The main news actors, whom the Ethiopian government is hunting for criminal deeds, are no more in the scene.
The reality on the ground now is relative peace in the region and remarkable joint efforts of the federal government and the interim government of Tigray to rehabilitate affected people and displace ones in addition to rebuilding public goods that were demolished by the irresponsible criminal clique.
The media seem to reverberate with unfounded statements by some international organizations and aid agencies, which sometimes amount to outright infringements on the sovereignty of the country. Echoing and magnifying every accusation, including those forwarded by international agencies and their leaders is a far cry from Ethical journalism.
Reporting some sporadic incidents in the Tigray region as manifestations of protracted insurgencies wouldn’t also help anyone. What makes us free all here is to respect the public’s right to know the truth that should not be hampered by hidden agendas and vested interests of various bodies.
As I write this, people in the Tigray region are enjoying the fruits of peace and tranquillity and have started to exercise their rights, such as entertaining pluralistic views regarding politics or anything else for that matter, for the first time since the change in the political dispensation two and half years ago.
The TPLF clique, for decades, have been trying to persuade the people of Tigray, other Ethiopians and the international community that the fate and the wellbeing of the Tigrean people are intertwined with the fate of the TPLF. In a sense, it amounts to say that the Tigrean people are one and the same with the TPLF. How on earth is this humanly possible? And yet some people, including some elements in the international community, seem to buy this propaganda.
Following the capture of Mekelle by the federal government forces, the opposite of what many have feared to occur has happened. Now people are free, people have realized that the fate of the Tigrean people cannot be tied to the life span of a political party, which proved itself criminal at the end of the day.
People and professional journalists should carefully consume the social media messages of the privileged few Tigreans who happen to live abroad. Their lies, and sometimes genuine information formulated on unfounded fear, should not confuse the international community on the true needs of the public in the Tigray region.
Talk to people in the streets of Mekelle or anywhere in Tigray, they will gladly tell you that they are happy for not sacrificing their lives to the selfish needs of the TPLF clique who did almost nothing to the betterment of the Tigrean people during their nearly 30 years stay in power.
The government in concert with pertinent local and international partners has been providing the affected community in Tigray with all the needed humanitarian aids in addition to carrying out coordinated activities to sustainably rehabilitate the people.
I have observed that some Ethiopians who live abroad and those of Ethiopian origin are countering the false media narratives of TPLF sympathizers and reckless statements by some politicians and ‘scholars’ in Europe and the US. Some Ethiopians have gone to the extent of petitioning against statements made by our partners in Europe that failed to paint the true picture in Tigray. I appreciate all of these initiatives but a lot remains to be done.
Although the truth finally prevails, we should not idly wait for it to arrive. We should strive, at least, to minimize the damage that the lies inflict on the image of our country and our people. While thanking those compatriots who relentlessly try to disseminate the truth about the situation, I would like to remind all that you don’t need to be well versed to write complicated issues in defending the sovereignty of your country.
You can at least tweet unceasingly on the positive things of your country. You may have to prefer group efforts to individual ones to exert maximum pressure. Remember, we are now in a different time where technology is dramatically shifting the meaning and works of diplomats.
In a sense, with social media at hand, every Ethiopian living abroad is his country’s diplomat. The new diplomacy along with the traditional ones impersonated through our diplomats in various missions should work in tandem for exerting maximum pressure to keep our country’s integrity and well-being intact.
The way the media portrays the federal government’s law enforcement operation and the orchestrated heinous and inimical messages of some social media trolls is a wake-up call to our Ministry.
It has reminded us of the need to undertake institutional level transformation on using social media platforms in addition to the mainstream ones. We are now giving training to our staffers to make them fit the requirements of the new age diplomacy.
We have also been working with social media users who relate their works in various languages and subject matters to address audiences who are fragmented in line with age, language and other interests. Building media institutions that are well versed with the application of the new age communication platforms should also be the assignment of the government to dwell serious time on.
Let’s give dialogue a chance to settle the dust in Ethiopia-Sudan boundary issue
Ethiopia and the Sudan, as geographically contiguous countries, are sharing common history, religion, culture, and tradition. The two countries have enjoyed a longstanding bilateral relation, peaceful co-existence, and cooperation in various fields.
Both countries have developed peaceful ways and means of resolving misunderstandings and conflicts. Translating the strong political, diplomatic, and people to people relation that exists between the two countries into more strategic cooperation would accelerate the economic integration and bring about more economic and social benefits to the peoples. In this regard, the realization of cooperation projects in the pipeline, such as railway networks developments, port services, as well as enhancing the capacity of already existing projects including electricity transmission lines, facilitation of border trade that involves and benefits communities at the grass-roots level, will be crucial to further strengthen the strong fraternal relations between the two countries. Besides, this in turn contributes to maintaining and promoting peace and stability in the border areas.
The recent development and encroachment by the Sudanese army and militia deep into Ethiopian territory has violated the status quo in the border area and resulted in the plundering of agricultural products of Ethiopian farmers, distraction of their camps, and obstructing them not to harvest their farms. Furthermore, many civilians have been killed, wounded, and displaced. It is Ethiopia’s firm conviction that dialogue is the only way to address the boundary issues between the two countries and bring a lasting solution.
The second High-Level Political Committee meeting that was held in Khartoum from 22-23 December 2020 was aimed at addressing the current situation along the common boundary of the two countries and exchanging views on pending boundary issues. Accordingly, the High-Level Political Committee discussed issues regarding the current situation and reactivation of the various mechanisms established to tackle the long overdue border issues. Although there was a problem of convergence on priorities, the High-Level Political Committee agreed to continue their engagement and be seized of the matter during its 3rd meeting to be held in Addis Ababa in which both sides agreed to communicate the next meeting date through the diplomatic channel.
The boundary between Ethiopia and Sudan was delimited by the Treaty of 1902 signed between Ethiopia and the then colonial master of Sudan, Great Britain. However, the demarcation was carried out in the absence of Ethiopia’s representatives and official credentials by the Ethiopian government. It created questions of fairness and consistency with the treaty that delimited the boundary. As a result, regardless of the issue concerning the validity of Gwynn’s demarcations, the two governments in the 1972 Exchange of Notes agreed to study the problems resulting from settlement and cultivation by nationals of either nation in the territory of the other with a view to finding an amicable solution.
In line with the 1972 Exchange of Notes, both governments set up a Joint Special Committee to deal with problems arising from settlement and cultivation and submit a final report recommending an amicable solution to the High-level political committee. Therefore, in order to proceed to the actual re-demarcation process by the Joint Boundary commission and Joint Technical Boundary Committee, the pending task of the Special Committee needs to be finalized.
Ethiopia strongly believes that dialogue and constructive engagements are the only avenues that both countries must follow. The current problems associated with the common boundary issues could be resolved by using relevant mechanisms established by the two governments. In this regard, the Government of Ethiopia is reiterating its desire and firm commitment to finalize the re-demarcation process through those jointly established mechanisms.
The end of UNAMID’s mandate in Darfur and Reflections on Ethiopia`s Role
Yesterday, 31 December 2020, marked the end of the mandate of the United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID). It was formally established through the adoption of resolution 1769 by the United Nations Security Council in 2007, under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. The mission took over from what was then the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) on 31 December 2007, with a mandate to protect civilians, facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance, mediate between the Government of Sudan and non-signatory armed movements on the basis of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD), and support to the mediation of community conflict.
Since its deployment thirteen years ago, UNAMID has been exerting every possible effort to discharge its mandate as the first and only hybrid mission. As the mission prepares to exit, all the men and women who served under this joint AU-UN mission in the quest for lasting peace and stability in Darfur should be commended for all their indefatigable efforts. Particularly, all those, including Ethiopian peacekeepers, who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the service of peace in Darfur deserve a special tribute.
Ethiopia has indeed been a major troop contributing country to UNAMID and its contribution included a medium transport company, an infantry battalion, an engineering unit, and a multi-role logistics company. Ethiopia had also deployed tactical helicopters to provide rapid response capability to the Mission. Ethiopian peacekeepers have, of course, been well recognized for their commendable role in effectively carrying out their mandates to protect civilians and facilitating the delivery of humanitarian assistance to internally displaced people under extremely challenging conditions.
Following the special report of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission and the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the recommendations contained therein, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2559 last week, deciding to end UNAMID’s mandate on 31 December 2020. This decision was made based on developments related to the peace process and the progress made by the transitional Government of Sudan in its quest to address the conflict in Darfur.
Therefore, over the coming six months, UNAMID will wind down its activities with a gradual withdrawal of its personnel and assets as well as the closure of its team sites and offices. The new United Nations Integrated Transitional Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS), which was established under resolution 2524 adopted by the Security Council in June this year with a broader mandate covering the whole of Sudan will continue to support the Transitional Government in addressing the country’s security, political and economic challenges together with the UN Country team.
As a country that facilitated, in close cooperation with the African Union, the peaceful resolution of the political crisis in the Sudan, Ethiopia has indeed been committed to support and accompany the transitional government as it continues to strive to implement the political agreement and ensure a democratic transition to meet the needs and aspirations of the Sudanese people. Over the years, the government and people of Ethiopia and Sudan have developed exemplary and multifaceted relations and cooperation. The hope and expectation on the part of Ethiopia is for this friendly relation to continue to be sustained and further strengthened.
However, the latest development along the border between the two countries does not reflect the good neighborly and friendly relation that has existed between Ethiopia and Sudan. The demarcation of the border between the two countries is indeed a longstanding issue, which requires the exercise of greater wisdom and foresight in the search for finding a mutually acceptable political solution. Resort to military action will only serve to erode mutual trust and confidence and aggravate the situation, thus undermining the friendly relations between the two countries. This is undoubtedly not in the interest of both Ethiopia and Sudan, which are going through important political transition processes that rekindled a new sense of hope for peace and democracy in the region. It is important to rein in those actors in the Sudan who are pushing for military means to settle the issue. Furthermore, it is absolutely critical that every effort is made to guard against the exploitation of this sensitive issue by other external actors who are hell bent on driving a wedge between the two countries. Ethiopia firmly believes the only way to resolve the border issue is through dialogue by reactivating the existing bilateral mechanisms. That is why it stands ready for dialogue and remains hopeful that Sudan will do the same without further delay.
With US Troops Out, Somalia Security Remains a Big Concern
The President of the United States Donald Trump early December 2020 announced to fully pull-out US troops operating in Somalia by 15 January 2021. The presence of more than 700 strong US troops in Somalia and the targeted airstrikes against the extremist group al-Shabab is believed to have contributed a lot in reducing the violent attacks and in restricting the movement of the group.
Besides weakening the attacking capabilities of al-Shabab, the US troops in Somalia played an important role by training the military and Special Forces of the Federal government of Somalia and providing intelligence and logistics supports to security forces. With series of increasing attacks by al-Shabab observed recently, withdrawal of US troops may boost the attacking appetite and create fertile grounds for the steady revival of the terrorist group, posing serious security threats both for Somalia and for the sub-region.
Although US department of defence stated that troops will be repositioned from Somalia to neighbouring countries to allow cross-border operations, that may not be as effective as operating from within the country. Repositioning may mean provision of less training facilities to Somalia security forces and minimal engagement and cooperation in terms of intelligence exchange and logistics supply, negatively impacting the strength and operating capabilities of Somalia security forces.
Withdrawal of troops from Somalia, including the planned drawdown of the AMISOM peacekeeping force should be based on the strength and operating capabilities of National Security Forces of Somalia and readiness to take-over security responsibility for the country. With untimely withdrawal of forces, the international community may risk backslide in the security and stability of Somalia.
Al-Shabab, a terrorist organization in Somalia, began in 2006 as a splinter group of the Islamic Courts Union of Somalia and later established links with Al-Qaida branch operating in East Africa and other extremist groups. Since then, it has undertaken series of suicide bombings and violent attacks against government and security officials and personnel, civilians, both public and private institutions and infrastructures and inflicted enormous damages. It has become and remains a serious security concern not only to Somalia but also to the East African Region and to the world at large.
In other developments, with Somalia federal elections approaching, political confrontations on issues of divergence among the competing parties have become a matter of concern for the international community. This may aggravate the already volatile security situation and create loophole for extremist groups to exploit the opportunity, further complicating and delaying the election process. All stakeholders should be encouraged to resort to dialogue and round table discussions to resolve any pending issues and play their positive role for the successful completion of the upcoming elections.