A Week in the Horn 28.05.2021

News in Brief

Africa Day-A Landmark Anniversary

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam should be an opportunity for cooperation

The Lamu Ports become Operational

On the U.S. Decision to Impose Visa Restrictions on Ethiopian Officials (Press Statement)

Africa and the African Union

The African Union’s Economic, Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC) Secretariat on Tuesday (May 25), on Africa Day, launched the Young Africans Writing Contest (YAWC). The Young Africans Writing Contest (YAWC) is an ECOSOCC initiative in collaboration with ACCESS Bank, Zambia that aims to bridge the gap between African Youth and the African Union.

In commemoration of the 58th Anniversary of the establishment of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) on the 25th of May 1963, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia issued a statement on Tuesday (May 25). The day was a milestone that gave new impetus to the anti-colonial struggle of the African people, the statement said. (See Statement)

Ethiopia

President Sahle-Work Zewde launched on Wednesday (May 26) the Second Phase Women Entrepreneurship Development Project that aims at benefitting more than 160,000 women. The World Bank has provided 100 million USD to implement the project, it was learned. Launching the project, President Sahle-Work Zewde said the first phase project was instrumental in enhancing women’s economic participation in the country.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed held a discussion on Saturday (May 22) with the business community, academic and religious leaders from the Tigray and Amhara regions on ways to rehabilitate the displaced people in Tigray. “Our meeting today regions is aimed bridging divides for a common goal of rehabilitating our people displaced in the Tigray region before the onset of the rainy season,” Abiy wrote on his Face-Book

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Monday (May 24) said that Ethiopia’s water, irrigation and energy sector has prioritized to meet the basic needs of its citizens during the past three years. “Our Vision For Prosperity milestones of the past three years in the water, irrigation and energy sector is aimed at enabling a dignified life to our citizens by meeting basic needs,” the prime minister wrote on his Face-Book.

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Ministrer Demeke Mekonnen said Ethiopia has every right to use its water resources without harming the riparian countries in order to alleviate the power shortages of its citizens and improve their living standard. The Deputy Premier made the remark on Saturday (May 22) at a webinar organized by the Ethiopian Embassy in Ottawa, Canada, in collaboration with the Coalition for GERD in Canada.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Demeke Mekonnen on Tuesday (May 25) conferred with UK’s Special Envoy for Famine Prevention and Humanitarian Affairs Nick Dyer on a range of topics of common concern in the Tigray region. During the discussion, Demeke briefed the special envoy on the wide range of rehabilitation and reconstruction works in the region, including humanitarian supports to those in need.

In his message on the commemoration of Africa Day on Tuesday (May 25), Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Demeke Mekonnen said, “Congratulations on the 58th anniversary of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), a symbol of unity for all Africans.” As Africa Day is celebrated every year, “our country’s commitment to keep its independence and dignity will have a bright historical significance at the continental level,” he siad.

In his weekly media briefing on Tuesday (May 25) Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Dina Mufti said the decision to impose visa restrictions on Ethiopian officials by the U.S is not a reflection of the historic relations existing between the two countries. Ethiopia and the U.S. have had 120 years of diplomatic relations and they have had close cooperation in fighting terrorism and working towards regional peace and stability, he noted.

Ethiopia and Brazil have held their second bilateral political consultation meeting on Friday (May 21) covering a range of bilateral, regional, and multilateral issues of common concern. State Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia, Redwan Hussien, and his Brazilian counterpart, Kenneth Da Nobrega have led the meeting. During the meeting the two sides have reflected on the performance of signed agreements during the first consultative meeting in 2018 and further assessed new venues of cooperation.

Ethiopian Ambassador to Sweden and other Nordic countries, Deriba Kuma has held a virtual meeting on Saturday (May 22) with Head of the Horn of Africa and West Africa Department of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Elisabeth Schwabe-Hansen. The Ambassador particularly emphasized the enhanced humanitarian relief efforts that the government is undertaking in the Tigray region.

In a recent article by Foreign Policy, Egypt’s Ambassador to Washington, Mr. Motaz Zahran, claims filling the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) without an agreement would result in a major crisis that will drive social and economic instability in his country. This is the same rhetoric that we heard last year and found to be nowhere near to reality as Egypt’s High Aswan Dam continues to be the highest it has been in modern times. (See article)

The Port of Lamu which is part of the LAPSSET Corroder project was officially operationalized on May 20, 2021. Accompanied by ambassadors, ministers, county Governors, President Uhuru Kenyatta launched the Lamu part mega project. On the occasion, President Uluru Kenyatta said the opening of the first birth will act as an assurance to those who have doubted the project. President Uhuru who underscored the contributions of the commissioning of the birth as a milestone to transform the region by depending on regional integration invited shipping lines and cargo movers to come and start using it as we await the opening of berth number two and three in July and October, respectively. (See article)

Ethiopian Ambassador to Kuwait Hssen Taju presented his Letters of Credence to the Kuwaiti Amir, Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah in a ceremony held at the Bayan Palace on Monday (May 24). Ambassador Hassen conveyed to the Amir the greetings and best wishes of President Sahle-Work Zewde to Government and People of the State of Kuwait.

Ethiopia, along with Côte d’Ivoire, is elected as the Member of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Committee of the 1970 Convention. The election was conducted during the Sixth Meeting of the State parties to the 1970 Convention which was virtually held on from 25 -26 May 2021.

The Attorney General (AG) of Ethiopia issued on Friday (May 21) a summary of efforts to ensure accountability regarding violations of international humanitarian law and other legal norms in Tigray region. The report indicated that measures are being taken by the government to investigate atrocities and bring perpetrators to justice during and before the conduct of law enforcement operation in the region.

State Minister for Economic Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs H.E. Tsion Teklu held talks on Thursday (May 27) with Mr. Mohammed Abdiker, IOM Regional Director for East and Horn of Africa, on addressing the multifaceted problems related to the issue of irregular migration in the east and the horn of Africa. During their discussion, Ms. Tsion gave briefings on the efforts made by the government of Ethiopia and concerned bodies to repatriate Ethiopian migrants stranded in various Middle Eastern countries.

Ethiopia and Sweden have held their bi-annual bilateral virtual consultations on Thursday (May 27) focusing on the relationship between the two countries, development cooperation, and the current situation in Ethiopia and the region. State Minister for Political Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia, Ambassador Redwan Hussien, and Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden, Robert Rydberg led the discussions. The consultations widely covered issues on the humanitarian support in Tigray, the negotiations over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, and the upcoming general elections in Ethiopia.

United States Senator James Mountain Inhofe opposed the visa restrictions imposed on Ethiopia by the Biden Administration. He tweeted that on Wednesday (May 26) “Ethiopia needs our support as they work to end the sectarian violence.” Jim Inhofe, a Senator from Oklahoma, is in complete opposition against the U.S decision to impose visa restrictions on Ethiopians on the top of economic and security assistance.

The Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia issued a statement on Tuesday (May 25) expressing its disappointment over the US’ decisions to impose visa restrictions on Ethiopian officials. It says, the government of Ethiopia finds it unfortunate to learn about the decision by the United States to continue exerting undue pressure on Ethiopia by imposing visa restrictions on Ethiopian officials. This is in addition to its previous decisions to restrict economic and security assistance to Ethiopia, the statement noted. (See Statement)

Eritrea

Eritrean nationals in Ethiopia and Italy enthusiastically celebrated the 30th Independence Day anniversary on Tuesday (May 25) under the theme “Resilient: As Ever”. Speaking at the occasion held at the Eritrean Embassy in Addis Ababa organized by the Eritrean Embassy and Eritrean Permanent Representative at the African Union Economic Commission, Mr. Semere Russom, Eritrean Ambassador in Ethiopia, said that despite the threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions that go with it, Eritrea has registered encouraging achievement in various sectors and is standing in firm ground.

Djibouti

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Thursday (May 27) arrived in the Djiboutian capital on a state visit to the strategic Horn of African nation. Al-Sisi met his newly-reelected Djiboutian counterpart, Ismail Omar Guelleh, and discussed bilateral and regional issues, including the Ethiopian renaissance dam on the Nile.

Djibouti’s Salaam African Bank (SAB) is making inroads into the East African banking market after acquiring Kenya’s Uwezo Microfinance Bank (Uwezo MFB) at an undisclosed fee. The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) announced Thursday that Djibouti’s largest lender by branch network acquired 100 percent shareholding of Uwezo MFB effective March 25, 2021 “This follows CBK’s approval on December 24, 2020 under Section 19(4) of the Microfinance Act and approval by the Cabinet Secretary for the National Treasury and Planning on January 12, 2021, pursuant to Section 19(3) (b) of the Microfinance Act,” the banking regulator said in a statement.

Kenya

With the launch of the first berth of the Lamu Port, Kenya has set its sight on the share of businesses at the port of Djibouti. East African Community and Regional Development Cabinet Secretary Adan Mohammed said on Thursday (May 27) a team of experts has been assembled to market Lamu in Ethiopia. He said the State was also keen to have a different body other than Kenya Ports Authority to run the port amid reports that global terminal operators were keen to run the facility.

Somalia

Somalia will hold national elections within two months, the country’s government said on Thursday (May 27) after President Mohamed Abdullahi and regional leaders reached an agreement on a framework for the poll. The deal, reached after six days of talks in the capital, Mogadishu, ends a political impasse caused by Abdullahi’s reversal of a decision to extend his mandate without holding a vote as scheduled in February.

The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) has welcomed the agreement reached by Somali leaders to pave wave for the delayed presidential and parliamentary elections. The deal was penned in Mogadishu by Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble, leaders of five federal member states and governor of Banadir Regional Administration, following four days of consultative talks on the electoral process. “This swift breakthrough, reached after only 5 days of dialogue, underscores the political maturity of the Somali leaders, and the importance of consensus building, goodwill and compromise in settling political differences,” IGAD said in a statement.

Six villages in Somalia’s Middle Shabelle region have been taken back from al-Shabaab terrorists, the country’s military said on Wednesday (May 26). The liberated villages are War Dhagah, War Isse, Gaal Leef, Qoordheere, Jilable, and Ali Fooldheere, located just outside the town of Jowhar, the administrative capital of Somalia’s Hirshabelle state. Jowhar is a strategic agricultural town that is some 90 kilometers (55 miles) from Somalia’s capital Mogadishu.

South Sudan

South Sudan supports the ongoing tripartite negotiation on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) under the leadership of the African Union (AU), South Sudan Ambassador to Ethiopia James P. Morgan said on Wednesday (May 26). Ambassador P. Morgan told the media that as a resource shared by the basin countries, the Nile River should be equally utilized by all nations of the region without hindrances.

Sudan

The Spokesperson for the Secretary-General of the United Nations António Guterres has issued a statement on Thursday (May 27) in which he welcomed the start of peace talks between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – North Abdelaziz al Hilu faction mediated by South Sudan in Juba. The statement indicated that United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) is represented at the talks by Special Representative Volker Perthes.

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Africa Day-A Landmark Anniversary

Today marks the 58th Anniversary of the establishment of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) on the 25th of May 1963, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This day is historic for our continent, as Pan-African Solidarity found organizational expression on this day. This is a day on which the leaders of 32 independent African States came together in Addis Ababa and signed the Charter of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). This was a milestone that gave new impetus to the anti-colonial struggle of the African people. Even though independence was achieved with a heavy price, at the end of it, colonialism was defeated, never to return to Africa. This chapter of our bitter struggle, spearheaded by the OAU, came to a conclusive end with the demise of the Apartheid system in South Africa in 1994.

After this historic achievement, African leaders launched an extensive organizational reform designed to stimulate socio-economic development and continental integration. This phase was crowned with the formal launching of the African Union (AU) in Durban, South Africa in June 2002.

Ethiopia and its people are honoured and privileged of the responsibility bestowed upon them by the African people to host both the OAU and the AU and will continue to do everything in their power to live up to the great responsibility entrusted to them.

Ethiopia is proud to have been considered as an inspiration and a beacon of freedom and justice. But, Ethiopia’s centuries-old independent existence as a sovereign State was never complete without the independence of the rest of our Continent-Africa.

That was why Ethiopia had been so deeply engaged in the anti-colonial struggle in Africa, politically, financially, diplomatically, and militarily.

Today, Africa is politically free and in charge of its own destiny, but we have a long way to go to ensure our economic, social, and political freedom within the current global order. Partnership with all global actors is desirable for Africa when it is based on the principles of mutual respect and win-win outcomes.

Despite the challenges, including the Covid pandemic, Africa is better positioned to discharge its responsibility of making Africa a better place to live for its children. Our continental Roadmap of Agenda 2063 remains a realistic aspiration as long as our individual sovereignty is anchored on our Pan-African solidarity as encapsulated in the Constitutive Act of the African Union.

Ethiopia has through the years faced challenges to her sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity by external forces. It has defeated all such attempts through sheer will, determination, and principled stance of its people and leaders. And in the anti-colonial struggle, it has been an inspiration for all the peoples of Africa in their fight for self-determination and independence.

Today, we are again being tested as Ethiopians and Africans if we will succumb to the pressures of external forces and give up our right to determine our own future, as we see it.

There is no doubt that we in Ethiopia will once again overcome these challenges together with our African brothers and sisters.

Ethiopia will continue with its time-tested commitment to spearhead the task of finding African solutions to African problems. It is only then, that we in Africa will be taken seriously as a continent that decides its own destiny.

Long Live Africa Day!

Spokesperson Office

25 May 2021

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The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam should be an opportunity for cooperation

In a recent article by Foreign Policy, Egypt’s Ambassador to Washington, Mr. Motaz Zahran, claims filling the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) without an agreement would result in a major crisis that will drive social and economic instability in his country. This is the same rhetoric that we heard last year and found to be nowhere near to reality as Egypt’s High Aswan Dam continues to be the highest it has been in modern times.

The tripartite negotiation among Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan that has been going on and off for many years is now at a stage that being pushed to the public with all kinds of pretext that has nothing to do with water shortage in the Nile Basin or the supposed negative impact of GERD on downstream countries.

Why has getting an agreement among the three countries been difficult?

At the core of the disagreement is a water allocation issue that is bundled in GERD negotiation. As a country who produces 86% of the total Nile flow, Ethiopia says its share should be something more than 0% and vehemently opposes a water allocation scheme being pushed by Egypt and Sudan using a single project. The 1959 colonial agreement that completely disregards any of the upper riparian states and allocates all 100% of the water to just Egypt and Sudan is being pushed relentlessly on Ethiopia in these ongoing GERD negotiations. Different covers are being used including “drought release”, “prolonged drought”, “historical right”, etc., plus what the two downstream countries call their must haves: “binding agreement” on those releases. Binding Ethiopia to 0% allocation today and in the future would force Ethiopia to be responsible for any climate change or any upstream water use change. This will deny the country any consumptive use including basic water supply for its people. More than 66 million of Ethiopians (about 59% of its population) lack basic access to water according to the world bank. This colonial agreement is so bad that even Sudanese scholars do not agree with it. Dr. Salman M. Salman, a former Sudanese world bank legal Lead Council called it “the worst agreement Khartoum could have signed”. Many independent experts see the problem with this agreement starting from its title “…full utilization of the Nile.” This is at the expense of the rest of the Nile basin countries who are responsible for the “full” supply of the Nile water. Even more so at the expense of Ethiopia who generates 86% of the total Nile flow. Egypt is trying to impose this unfair, unsustainable water allocation by any means including threatening to use “all options” and declaring  “no one can take a drop of water from Egypt”. GERD, a single project, on a single basin is used as an instrument to enforce this colonial agreement and deny Ethiopia’s right to use its own water resources to lift its people from darkness. Most Americans remember what it means a few days of electric failure this winter with what happened in Texas and neighboring states. Imagine 65 million people (almost the combined population of Texas and California) living in a constant state of darkness.

Playing the drought card

Contrary to hydrologic science and data on the ground, Egypt has portrayed itself and created a media persona as a country that is pretty much in drought every other year. If one asks when that country was in drought the last time, one will have to go to the 1980s even to find something slightly close to drought and much of it was avoided by storage they had at High Aswan Dam. On the other hand, the 1980s are when Ethiopia got the worst of it and was a poster child of famine because of nonexistent water storage capacity in the country. When the GERD negotiations started, Egypt defined a hydrological drought to be any Blue Nile flow that is below the historical median. We are not aware of this kind of arbitrary, science-defying drought definition in either peer reviewed journal articles or in any credible hydrologic textbooks. By their nature, drought and floods are extremes that should not be defined using central tendency statistics such as median. It appears to us this is a definition of drought created with a sole purpose of forcing Ethiopia to deliver forever an average flow of 49 billion cubic meter to downstream countries, leaving it 0% for the country that produces 100% of the Blue Nile flow. Contrary to the public drought persona Egypt has portrayed for the last several years, research shows Egypt has a flooding issue more than drought. A simple Google trend search will show on average there are 20 million more flooding issues than drought as related to Egypt in the past five years, for example. This is supported by the continued rise of High Aswan Dam (HAD) storage over the last 20-years and the ever increasing shallow groundwater level that would not allow even a moderate rainstorm to seep into the ground, resulting in flooding in major cities. Even with significant diversion to Toshka projects, significant agricultural land reclamation projects and expansion using billions of Nile water, HAD has been sitting at a 20 year high for the last two years. In fact, as recently as last month (April 2021 is the most recent satellite data available), the level of HAD for April is the highest it has been in 30 years! Just a year ago, Egypt was saying that Ethiopia’s filling without agreement would result in the loss of 50% of agricultural lands, if done in five years or 33% loss of agricultural land, if done in seven years. We now know that Ethiopia stored 4.9 BCM last year and Egypt continues to hold record water levels in its massive reservoir.

Ambassador Zahran also claims in his article that unilateral filling of GERD could lead to a water shortage in Egypt of more than 123 billion cubic meter and that for every billion cubic meter shortage, it would result in 290,000 people losing their job, destruction of 321K acres of cultivated land, $150 million in food imports, and $430 million loss of agricultural production. That is an estimated 36 million jobs lost! This is not only a blatant scare tactic but “these estimates seem exaggerated” as appropriately called out by their own scholars’ assessment. It is important to note that on average the Nile river flow goes up or down by 17 billion cubic meters, much more than what Ethiopia plans to hold this year, 13.5. Despite the claim of this much damage with one billion cubic meter, Egypt’s own inefficient water use is very well documented by their own academics. Only agricultural improvement could save the country as much as 16 billion cubic meter. Estimated loss from finished water by their own account is at least three billion cubic meters in 2019. It appears to us rather than cooperatively working with other basin countries and improve efficiency on the use of limited resources, Egypt has decided to push for exclusive use of the Nile water through what their experts called it “circuit breaker” on other countries like Ethiopia: restrict Nile water use by upstream countries to zero percent and force the colonial era agreement for which Ethiopia is not even a party.

Share the water, share the drought!

One of the major contended points in the negotiations between Egypt and Ethiopia is the priority of dam filling between the High Aswan Dam (HAD) and the GERD after an extended drought. Egypt insists the task of water supply during periods of drought and its management be solely on Ethiopia. There is no single international precedent on a transboundary river one could cite that requires an upper riparian state which generates 86% of the total flow to have 0% share and be forced to be a drought mitigation instrument. International examples tell us water and drought sharing is what is sustainable like that of the Colorado River basin. The Colorado River is shared by both upper and lower basin states in the US and Mexico. Not only did they share the water, but they also agreed to share the drought. For example, the 2019 agreement among the US States and Mexico (Minute 319) stipulates drought sharing mechanism through a cut from their pre-allocated share, if Lake Mead level reaches 1075 feet (currently at 1084 feet). In fact, for the first time in the basin’s history, we could be seeing this drought sharing through cuts from that of Nevada, Arizona, and Mexico this summer.

Cooperative outlook

GERD’s benefit for both Sudan and Egypt is well documented. For Sudan, flood control alone would be a game changer. Who would forget last year’s devastating flood that killed more than hundred people and left 500,000 more homeless? At the time, Sudan’s Irrigation Minister Yasser Abbas couldn’t have said it better: “If the GERD was complete, Khartoum would not have suffered such a wave of floods.” A highly circulated recent study by Sudanese researchers estimates annual increase of US$1 to US$2 billion in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the next 40 years. This is based only on increased electricity generation and agricultural production expansion because of regulated year-round GERD release that Sudan will enjoy. Of note in this estimate is a benefit for rural Sudanese households of between US$21 – US$37 billion. For Egypt, extra storage in a cooler Ethiopian highland helps the country meet its demand at times of drought. When GERD is filled, along with the High Aswan Dam, the two will combine for the largest over year storage in a single river basin in the world. Given the expected warming of climate in the future, water storage at cooler altitude will benefit everyone. Even at current temperature, the estimated evaporation loss at HAD last year was 16 billion cubic meters. This is expected to significantly increase in a warm future climate. In addition to warming, if the Eastern Nile basin were to effectively adapt to climate change, changes in rainfall variability and the ensuing variable river flow would dictate building additional water storage in the Ethiopian highlands beyond GERD. A 2017 Nature study by Egyptian and Sudanese scholars put this needed additional storage to be at least twice that of GERD.

Given current excellent hydrologic conditions, with observed rainfall at 200% to 400% above normal in the Blue Nile basin in the last month accompanied by great upcoming summer outlook, GERD filling this summer will have no significant impact to downstream countries. If anything, it will help Sudan from flooding like those witnessed last year. This should encourage the parties to get to a first filling agreement relatively easy. There are many independent experts that found it problematic to push for a “binding agreement” for the GERD’s operation as Egypt and Sudan are insisting without addressing the underlying water allocation issue. For example, the EU while supporting the African Union’s (AU’s) leadership notes the first filling can be addressed to everyone’s satisfaction and adds “the operations after the filling need further discussions to reach a water sharing arrangement, as occurs in all river basins.”  Reaching a first filling agreement will also help these countries build confidence and take on the more challenging task of water allocation in the Nile basin next. Accepting the basic premise that both upper and lower riparian states have the right to utilize the water of the Nile is a necessary condition. It will allow creative technical solutions which will figure out how and when.

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The Lamu Ports become Operational

The Port of Lamu which is part of the LAPSSET Corroder project was officially operationalized on May 20, 2021. Accompanied by ambassadors, ministers, county Governors, President Uhuru Kenyatta launched the Lamu part mega project. On the occasion, President Uluru Kenyatta said the opening of the first birth will act as an assurance to those who have doubted the project. President Uhuru who underscored the contributions of the commissioning of the birth as a milestone to transform the region by depending on regional integration invited shipping lines and cargo movers to come and start using it as we await the opening of berth number two and three in July and October, respectively.   

Apart from connecting the three countries this grand project eventually connects Dakar, Senegal in West Africa. It has also the potential to facilitate exit inputs and outputs out of the hinterland of Africa. When the LAPSSET project was conceived and commissioned over ten years ago, many people doubted the success of the construction and operationalization and that has to come to rest, President Uhuru noted.

Ambassador of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia to Kenya, Meles Alem on his part congratulated the people and Government of Kenya for the official launching of the first birth that took place in the beautiful and authentic Lamu. With the completion of this project Ethiopia witnessed the commitment and capability of the Kenyan Government to complete projects and resilience of the Kenyan youth to make the dream come true, Meles elaborated.

Meles said that it is of utmost significance to bear in mind the fact that Ethiopia strongly believes in the multifaceted and strategic importance of LAPSSET, as it is a game changer regional mega infrastructure project that spurs development in the region and beyond.

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On the U.S. Decision to Impose Visa Restrictions on Ethiopian Officials (Press Statement)

The Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia finds it unfortunate to learn about the decision by the United States to continue exerting undue pressure on Ethiopia by imposing visa restrictions on Ethiopian officials. This is in addition to its previous decisions to restrict economic and security assistance to Ethiopia. In this regard, the Ethiopian Government would like to state the following points:

This decision came at a time when the Ethiopian Government has been engaging positively and constructively with the U.S. administration on issues of common concern. This was the spirit with which the Ethiopian Government welcomed the new U.S. Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, Mr. Jeffrey Feltman, who met and held extensive consultations with senior government officials, including the Prime Minister.

It also sends a wrong signal at a time when Ethiopia is gearing up to hold national elections, which is expected to usher in a new political dispensation in the country. The 6th National Election would pave the way for an inclusive dialogue once a new government assumed office. Hence, at this important juncture, the Ethiopian government was expecting support and understanding and not such kind of ill-advised measures to unnecessarily overshadow the elections.

Ethiopia attaches great importance to its historic and friendly relationship with the United States which has stood the test of time. That is why the government finds it extremely regrettable that the implications of the visa restrictions and other related measures taken earlier will seriously undermine this longstanding and important bilateral relationship.

What is even more saddening is the tendency by the U.S. administration to treat the Ethiopian Government on an equal footing with the TPLF, which was designated as a terrorist organization by the House of Peoples’ Representative two weeks ago. There is nothing more revealing than this to understand the misguided approach by the administration.

The Ethiopian government has been consciously working to promote national dialogue through a series of engagements with wider sections of the Ethiopian society not because it was pushed from outside, but because it believes that this is the right thing to do to build the necessary national consensus in the country and chart out a better way forward. But it should be understood that the government cannot be compelled to sit down and negotiate with the TPLF, which has already been labeled as a terrorist organization, and any sort of attempt to resuscitate the terrorist group would be counterproductive and untenable.

As the Ethiopian Government has made it clear, time and again, the attempt by the U.S. administration to meddle in its internal affairs, is not only inappropriate but also completely unacceptable. Ethiopia should not be told how to run and manage its internal affairs.

As far as alleged human rights abuses committed in the Tigray region are concerned, the Ethiopian government is fulfilling its commitment to hold those responsible accountable. The Federal Attorney General’s Office has announced the outcome of its investigative work and the important steps taken towards ensuring accountability and justice. The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission and the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) have already embarked on their joint independent investigation. Upon the invitation of the Ethiopian government, the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) is also undertaking its investigations.

Furthermore, the Ethiopian government has not only demonstrated its willingness and commitment to work with the international community to respond to the humanitarian crisis in Tigray, but it has also provided full and unhindered access for humanitarian actors to operate in all parts of the region. It’s been doing all it can by mustering its meager resources and that of partners to reach out to all people in dire need of urgent assistance. The humanitarian actors operating on the ground know full well that the challenge at hand is related to issues of capacity and additional resources and not so much about access.

After the series of engagements with international partners, including the U.S., and the tangible progress made in addressing some of the prevailing challenges, the decision by the U.S. administration to impose visa restrictions and other measures is not only regrettable but will also seriously harm and undermine the constructive spirit of engagement and the significant gains achieved on the ground, not to mention the centuries-old people-to-people relationships.

If such a resolve to meddle in our internal affairs and undermining the century-old bilateral ties continues unabated, the government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia will be forced to reassess its relations with the United States, which might have implications beyond our bilateral relationship.

The Ethiopian government will not be deterred by this unfortunate decision of the U.S. administration. It will continue its relentless efforts to overcome current challenges and lead the country on the path of lasting peace and prosperity. No doubt, the task ahead is daunting, but with the support and unity of our people, we remain confident that we shall overcome our difficulties and realize the hopes and aspirations of generations of Ethiopians for a peaceful and prosperous Ethiopia.

Spokesperson Office

25 May 2021

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