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Issue 394

Front Page

News Headlines

Weapons Supplied To Somalia Government By The US Are Sold In Mogadishu Markets

The Shortest Man In Somaliland Leaves For Norway

Somaliland Parliament Says Suspension Of Voter Registration Illegal

Tostan Holds Conference On Women’s Genital Mutilation

UN Agencies Launch Next Round Of Child Health Initiative In Somaliland

An Interview With Ambassador Marika Fahlen, Sweden’s Special Envoy For The Horn Of Africa

Somalia Tells All Visitors To Seek Government Approval

Somaliland Government Controlled Media Used To Incite Extremism

Local and Regional Affairs

A CALL FOR DIALOGUE: To Hold A Free, Fair And Peaceful Presidential Election

East Africa: Ethiopia Takes Part in First East African Independent Producers Forum

Somalia Mosque Victims Belonged To Southern Punjab

Kenyan Court Drops Charges, Clears Way For Canadian Woman To Return Home

Al Shabaab Reportedly Beheads 4 Christians, Rips Gold Teeth From Locals' Mouths

2 Somali Women, Children Die In Fire

3rd Man Pleads Guilty In Missing Somalis Case

Man Gets 23 Years In Killing Of Somali Restaurant Cook

Athens Police Attack Somali Protesters

Libyans Kill 20 Somali Prisoners

Somalia: The Trouble with Puntland

Somali Insurgents Reject Government’s Olive Branch

Amnesty International Calls For Accountability And Safeguards On Arms Transfers To Somalia’s TFG

Eastern Africa Standby Force To Be Ready Next Year

Somali Islamists Pull Teeth From "Sinners": Residents

Communiqué: Conference With Former Senior Somali Military And Police Officers

Clinton And South African Discuss Somalia

Tribute To Ali Marshal


Western Countries Encourage Piracy By Paying Ransom

Features & Commentary

Somalia: The Center Cannot Hold

Incredible Journey of Somali Human Right Activist Waris Dirie – The Movie

Escape From Somaliland

Without Free Movement, East Africa Will Keep Marking Time

Clinton's Africa Trip Highlights Importance US Attaches To The Continent

What Was Siyad Barre's Relation To A Fundamentalist Christian Group?

Legal Brief On The Suspension Of The Voter Registration List

Mandela – Poem

AT THE MERCY OF SOMALI PIRATES: Hansa Stavanger Crew Describe Hostage Ordeal

Where Camels Once Trod, A Train Crosses Australia

Update: Independent Diplomat Responds

US Misguided In Moving To Arm Somalia, Say Analysts

President Isaias's Encounter With The Financial Times

Somalia: The Trouble With Puntland – Report

International News


Woman Who Tried To Kill Ford Released From Prison

A Short Guide To Tools For Citizen Journalists

Australian Camels Facing Slaughter

UN Human Rights Expert Sounds Alarm On Draft Media Laws In Venezuela

Poll Shows Afghan Vote Headed For Second Round

Bristol's World Cup Bid Brings Communities Together . . . On The Football Field


A Crucial Week For Somaliland: A Time For Action

Building Bridges For Somaliland University Student Outside And Inside The Country

Why I Fear For Somalia

Africa’s Best-Kept Secret “Somaliland” Is In Need For A Change!

Lost Faith In The System

Somalilanders Around The Globe: Vote For Change

Where There Is No Donor

Al-Shabaab: “The” Number One Enemy Of Islam And Somali People

President Riyale And The Election Commission Are The Reason Of The Election’s Bone Of Contention

President Isaias's Encounter With The Financial Times

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, August 15, 2009 – The Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), in its “A Week in the Horn” report of August 7, 2009, raised issues concerning Somalia: the US, the EU and Eritrea, President Isaias's encounter with the Financial Times, Al-Jazeera again deliberately ignores Ethiopia's Somali Regional State development, VVIP Satellite Connectivity Launched, “Au Revoir” for Ambassador Gurjit Singh, Getting the Nile Story Right and Desalegn Alemu: an obituary and a tribute. 

Somalia: The US, the EU and Eritrea

On Tuesday, United States Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, arrived in Kenya on the first leg of an eleven day African tour taking her to South Africa, Angola and the DRC as well as Liberia and Cape Verde. Secretary Clinton is not going to Somalia but yesterday she met with President Sheikh Sharif of Somalia in Nairobi. Secretary Clinton took the opportunity to emphasize that the US would expand its support for the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in Mogadishu, and discussed what the international community could do in support of President Sheikh Sharif's efforts to stabilize Somalia. She noted earlier that the presence of Al-Shabaab and terrorist elements in Somalia posed a threat to Kenya and to the stability of Africa. The US has reportedly already provided some $40 million worth military assistance to the TFG, and assisted in the logistics for deployment of AMISOM. Last week, a third Burundi battalion for AMISOM arrived in Mogadishu bringing AMISOM numbers to 5,100 out of the projected 8,000. Several other countries have pledged forces, including Ghana and Sierra Leone, but these like any further troops from Uganda recently offered by President Museveni, depend upon the provision of logistics and training. The country better placed to provide these is the United States.

In a joint press conference with President Sheikh Sharif after their meeting, Secretary Clinton took the opportunity to warn that Eritrea's actions in support of the Somali opposition were now unacceptable: “It is long past time for Eritrea to cease and desist its support of Al-Shabaab and to start being a productive rather than a destabilizing neighbor.” She added “We are making it very clear that their actions are unacceptable. We intend to take action if they do not cease.” Secretary Clinton pointed out that Al-Shabaab wanted to obtain control of Somalia to use it as a base to infiltrate surrounding countries and launch attacks even more widely. If Al-Shabaab obtained a haven in Somalia, she said, “it would be a threat to the United States.”

Eritrea itself continues to refuse to contemplate any changes in its policy towards Somalia, or towards the region. Last week, President Issayas' intransigence was underlined when speaking to an EU parliamentary delegation in Asmara. This was headed by former EU Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Affairs, Louis Michel, now a European MP. Mr. Michel had been persuaded to visit Asmara in expectation of a softening in Eritrean policy towards the international community, and the region. During his time as Commissioner, Mr. Michel had a relationship regarded as better than most with the President. Indeed, when President Issayas visited Brussels in May 2007, Mr. Michel as the then European Commissioner, ignoring Eritrea's notorious human rights record, said he was “very, very honored to receive him”, and described President Issayas as “a key partner in the search for a comprehensive solution to a range of conflicts across the Horn of Africa, from Darfur to Somalia”. To the disappointment of those, in Brussels or Asmara, who organized Mr. Michel's latest visit, President Issayas offered no indication of any possible changes in policy towards his neighbors. He repeated his nonsensical claim that Eritrea is the only country concerned for the best interests of the Somali people, alleging the Somali people had suffered from numerous interventions by foreign powers including the US. As usual he excluded Eritrea's own interventions in support of the TFG's opposition and Eritrea's support for extremism in Somalia. And despite the detailed evidence to the contrary, he continued to try and deny any Eritrean involvement in Somalia. Eritrea even argues that Somali problems have nothing to do with extremism and are the responsibility of what it calls the “illegality” of the internationally accepted Government of Somalia. Eritrea's Minister of Information, Ali Abdu Ahmed, in an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat this week, said a major part of the problem was the actions of IGAD whose members, particularly Uganda, he described as “shameful”. The origins of the crisis in Somalia, he added, lay with the activities of the US in the region. 

Meanwhile, the relevance of Secretary Clinton's remarks about Al-Shabaab was underlined this week by the announcement of the arrest of members of a terrorist cell including several Australian Somalis in Melbourne, Australia. The group had apparently been intending to attack military barracks in Melbourne because of the role Australia is playing in the fight against Al-Qaeda. The Australian authorities have reportedly been concerned in recent months because some Australian Somalis, including one or two of those now arrested, have travelled to Somalia for training in Al-Shabaab terrorist camps. Typically, Eritrea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday dismissed these reports as “a futile attempt to create a fabricated story”. The Eritrean Foreign Ministry even suggested the whole account was no more than an invention by the CIA, intended to mislead public opinion and members of the US Congress.

President Isaias's encounter with the Financial Times 

President Isayas gave an extensive interview (73 minutes) to the Financial Times (FT) news paper on 21 July 2009. Sanitized excerpts of that interview have been published by various media outlets since then. But reading through the whole text gives an insight into why many things are going so badly wrong in Eritrea. An opening polemical response as to why he provides support to the extremists in Somalia is quite revealing in this regard. He says that since there is no State in Somalia, he does not understand why Somalia should be called a "Failed State" in the first place. Furthermore, he argues that Somaliland and Puntland should be more of concern to the international community than the extremists whom he glamorizes as resistance fighters against the Transitional Federal Government (TFG). This may not be surprising given that the UN Security Council (UNSC) currently is considering imposing punitive sanctions on Eritrea for providing every possible support to the extremists in Somalia. He has been trying every trick in the book to dodge the sanctions, first at the AU summit in July and now at the UNSC. However, the UNSC appears to be unimpressed by the rhetoric coming from Asmara. President Isaias, however, continues to try to get out of his current predicament through verbal gymnastics.

As international law works its way slowly but surely to force Eritrea to behave like a normal State and stop its support for extremism and terrorism, the practical response from Asmara seems to suggest that President Isayas is determined to continue his association and partnership with extremism, heading, of course, towards a collision course with international legality. Rumor has it that some of his close confidants are listed by the UNSC committee for sanctions. Those who are on speaking terms with him do not seem to have succeeded to persuade him to change course even at the eleventh hour. In the mean time, some of the things that President Isayas said to the Financial Times sound desperate. For instance he insists with confidence that there are no foreign fighters in Somalia and those who were killed and shown on TV screens simply happened to be light skinned Somalis. He also takes his argument one step into the extreme by saying that terrorists are everywhere and therefore should not be seen as special when it comes to Somalia. So far the Eritrean Government seems to be the only Government which has an official and public policy of supporting extremism and terrorism, not necessarily because it shares their ideology, but because they are a handy instrument to destabilize countries in the region. 

When he was asked how he envisages an alternative process, he said that the various regions, including the Kismayo group, should be involved in the next process. But Kismayo is controlled by Al-Shabaab, and the whole world knows what Al Shabaab stands for. In the meantime, however, he also insists that president Sheik Sharif’s government should be delegitimized since his participation in his capacity as president of the TFG will not be acceptable to Al-Shabaab. Isaias's reaction when the Financial Times addresses Sheik Sharif as President is quite hysterical. He adamantly insists that Sheik Sharif is not President and he is not even one of the players, and says that he knows each and every person involved in Villa Somalia now, and that he can not recognize them as a government. 

Eritrea apparently is the only UN member State officially supporting and defending extremism and terrorism. The reaction of the Foreign Ministry of Eritrea on 5 August 2009 to the news report about the arrest of Al-Shabaab and Al-Qaeda members while planning a suicide attack on a military barrack in Australia is a vivid illustration of this official policy. According to the Ministry's official statement the claim that AL-Shabaab is a group that has close links with Al-Qaeda and keen to establish an extremist regime in the Horn of Africa "is a sheer act of tell- tale by the CIA and collaborators aimed at misleading public opinion in a deceptive manner". Such is the official position of the regime with which the Horn of Africa has to grapple with. 

Responding to the Financial Times question as to why Eritrea is isolated, President Isaias said that everybody who have once disagreed with him are now changing. Elaborating his point a little down the line, he argues that the U.S. has a flawed policy on Eritrea and should take steps to improve relations with Eritrea and not the other way around. 

When asked about freedom of the press in his country, President Isaias resorted to criticizing other countries and said that the people in his country are freer than others and blames the lack of professionalism of journalists for their failure to portray Eritrea as a beacon of freedom of the press. But the most bizarre response came when asked about his definition of democracy. President Isaias's self explanatory answer is worth quoting here "In Europe; you have standards but we can not believe it is democracy, Europe should mind its own elections.

Only 18% vote in some countries. Special interest groups are grabbing everything and corruption is at its top. These are normal symptoms of democracy. What is democracy about? Corrupt officials have made life difficult for everyone.... We (the Eritrean Government) have learnt a lot and it is not relevant to talk about this (democracy) now." This quote could indicate the kind of thinking the Government of Eritrea has about democracy and good governance and what is at the root of the current malaise in Eritrea. In previous interviews President Isayas used to explain the absence of elections, the absence of constitution, the curtailment of press freedom and the like in terms of his conflicts with his neighbors, particularly Ethiopia. Now he seems to publicly confirm that he does not believe in these things and therefore, being unnecessary for the Eritrean people, they should be postponed forever. This indeed is a stark reminder of the nature of the leadership in Asmara. It should also be underlined that the absence of constitution and the attendant institutions of governance in Eritrea are at the heart of the problem in that country. President Isaias has no interest to tolerate any criticism, the stark proof being the imprisonment, incommunicado for close to a decade, of his senior former comrades known as the G-11. A recent detailed report on an Eritrean Diaspora website (assena.com) indicated that nine of the eleven detainees have already died in custody. The report includes such details as cause of death, date of death, date of capture etc of the prisoners. Considering the fact that no dictator in history succeeded to establish a fool proof system, it should not be surprising if this secret was leaked by his own entourage.

Al-Jazeera again deliberately ignores Ethiopia's Somali Regional State development

Yesterday, Al Jazeera's Riz Khan programme, not for the first time, ran a discussion on the Somali Regional State of Ethiopia. The arguments, and the situation in the Regional State, were largely pre-judged by the use of the question of whether the Somali Regional State might be the next Darfur, and by the choice of discussants, two of whom were Dr. Gregory Stanton, founder and president of Genocide Watch and president of the International Association of Genocide Scholars, and Ms. Fowsia Abdulkadir, described as an independent researcher and human rights activist, but who would herself make no secret of her links to the Ogaden National Liberation Front. The third discussant, who did provide a somewhat better response, was David Shinn, a former US ambassador to Ethiopia and co-author of A Historical Dictionary of Ethiopia.

Indeed, the preamble to the programme might have been written by the ONLF itself. It claimed a separatist war is taking place far from media headlines around the world, that it had claimed thousands of lives and was being called the next Darfur by some. It said the conflict had escalated following the Ogaden National Liberation Front's (ONLF) attack on a Chinese-run oil exploration camp, alleging that this attack had resulted in the death of 74 Ethiopian "guards" and Chinese workers. In fact, 74 people were killed in this unprovoked dawn attack, nearly all being Ethiopian Somali workers, either asleep or lining up for breakfast. Those brutally killed in this murderous attack by several hundred ONLF fighters included women and children, and the attack was a typical, if unusually serious, terrorist attack by the ONLF. The ONLF have a history of killings and assassinations of police and civilian officials, of planting mines on roads, or throwing bombs into public gatherings. Indeed, if there are any genocidal activities going on the region, the main perpetrators must be the ONLF who have also targeted clan elders and leaders from clans opposed to it, killing and kidnapping hundreds in the campaign of terror it first launched over a decade ago.

The terrorist atrocity of April 2007 led to a series of successful operations against the ONLF in which many of ONLF fighters, including a majority of those trained and armed in Eritrea, were captured or killed. Many of those captured have since been rehabilitated. Fighting largely came to an end by November 2007, though there were a few small further clashes last year. Since then the region has been mainly peaceful despite some ONLF claims to the contrary. Those that have visited the region, which Genocide Watch, for example has not, can testify to the lack of conflict and the amount of development going on, despite continuing humanitarian difficulties following two years of poor “gu” rains. In fact, even during 2007 when there was some fighting, as well as a serious humanitarian problem, the continuing development of the region, totally ignored in this programme, was not impeded. That Al Jazeera and the likes of Mr. Stanton were not the least interested in this aspect of the region was clear in the manner the questions were framed. Also no wonder callers that clearly have a positive story to tell were cut off mid-sentence.

Certainly, development in the Somali Regional State has been less than it should have been in an ideal world – one reason has been the ONLF's efforts to disrupt the activities of the Regional Government. Nevertheless, in the last two or three years there has been impressive progress, with the completion of Jijiga University, and of the Godey Agricultural Institute, the five other colleges, a significant number of schools and health centers, the building of Bodh-‘ano dam, and the international airport, all-weather roads linking the main center, increased electrification of most urban areas and a substantial expansion in telecommunication services. 

There has also been impressive political development in the Regional State with successful state elections in 2000 and 2005, as well local elections in February 2004 which provided for elected councils in almost all districts; significantly the original 41 districts in 1994/5 have risen to 55 as additional sub-clans have claimed their own districts. Some years ago, the administration institutionalized guurti, elders’ councils, at regional and district level. These have contributed markedly to the levels of local participatory democracy in the region. Increased development for the region and the beginning of real expansion of administration and financial devolution into the districts and even down to the local kebele level, the lowest level of administration, means that the Somali Regional State has made real progress in democratic progress and development.

It is thus mind-boggling why Al-Jazeera chose this time to resuscitate a conflict long since been essentially resolved. True, ONLF has largely existed in the headlines of the likes of Al-Jazeera than in the fields of Ogaden. But it defies reason how drawing a hyperbolic parallel with another conflict in the region is believed to work in the interest of peace and development for the people of the Somali Regional State. 

VVIP Satellite Connectivity Launched

A VVIP Satellite Connectivity project installed in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the FDRE with the assistance of the Indian government was jointly inaugurated by Ato Seyoum Mesfin, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Mr. Gurjit Singh, Ambassador of India to Ethiopia on August 6, 2009. The ceremony was attended by State Ministers and Director Generals of the Ministry, officials from the Embassy of India, invited guests including the Director General for the Ethiopian Information and Communication Technology Development Agency (EICTDA) and representatives of Telecommunications consultants India Limited (TCIL), who were involved in the implementation of the project.

VVIP is an acronym that stands for Very Very Important Persons and is a project intended to facilitate easy communication among African Leaders. This project is part of the Pan African e-Network project envisioned by H.E. Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, former President of India, to set up a network that would connect all 53 nations of the African Union. The Pan African e-network project is aimed at connecting all the members of the African Union by a satellite/fiber optical network which will provide Tele-Education, Tele-Medicine and the VVIP connectivity.

The Tele-Education and Tele-Medicine projects are satellite network projects aimed to connect universities with learning centers and specialty hospitals with medical institutions in remote areas. Similarly, the VVIP Connectivity is a video conferencing system that is installed in different African Union member states to allow their leaders to communicate with each other in real time. Currently, twenty African countries are connected with each other but so far only Ethiopia and Djibouti are tested and proved operational. The technology allows members to hold meetings or conferences, via audio and video transmissions. The major advantage that accrues from such video conferencing is its cost effectiveness as it minimizes travel and other related costs. It also allows as many people to participate as needed and allow them to extract relevant information even if they may not have physically attended a conference.

The total cost of this project is estimated at 50,000 USD, which is covered by the Government of India with the exception of miscellaneous expenses covered by the Ministry itself. A demonstration of the technology was made on the occasion during which officials from the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Djibouti were able to communicate in real time.

“Au Revoir” for Ambassador Gurjit Singh 

Ato Seyoum Mesfin, Minister of Foreign Affairs hosted a luncheon on 6 August 2009 to bid farewell to Mr. Gurjit Singh, Ambassador of India to Ethiopia. State Ministers and Director Generals of the Ministry, Indian Embassy officials and other invited guests attended the occasion which was held in the Ministry's premises. During the occasion, Ato Seyoum Mesfin paid tribute and expressed thanks to the contributions made by the departing Ambassador to promote bilateral relations. Ato Seyoum said that Ethio-India relations are firmly rooted on a strong foundation and go a long way back. Ambassador Singh utilized the existing foundation to revolutionize the relationship, add new vigor and take it to a higher level. Ato Seyoum mentioned that there is no government office that the Ambassador had not knocked and no stone he left unturned to radically elevate relations in all sectors. Ambassador Singh's contribution to strengthening political relations, stimulate economic relations particularly his efforts to double trade volume, increase Indian investment to over 4.2 billion USD during his stay and secure concessional loans for rural electrification and expansion of sugar industry were cited as exemplary.

Ambassador Singh's contribution to promote cultural and social relations also merited mention. Ato Seyoum recalled how the Ambassador organized various activities to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Ethiopia and India. The Ambassador introduced India to Ethiopians by organizing cultural activities such as photograph exhibitions in memory of Mahatma Gandhi, the Minister said. He further said Ambassador Singh had initiated various workshops on capacity building for different Ethiopian institutions. Ato Seyoum underlined that the Ambassador was an exceptional friend to Ethiopia, proactive and an indefatigable and hard working partner. Finally, Ato Seyoum expressed his hope that the Ambassador will continue his friendship and relationship with Ethiopia and hence his preferring to use the French phrase "Au Revoir" instead of "farewell", when he bid him good bye. 

Ambassador Gurjit Singh, on his part, thanked the Minister for his kind words and said that the achievements which have been credited to him were made possible because the government of Ethiopia was responsive, showed political commitment and preparedness to engage with him to further enhance bilateral relations. Ambassador Gurjit Singh also said that he would not have exerted any less effort if he was posted in any other country but feels that he was lucky as he had a worthy partner in the Ethiopian government and received support at all levels. He also noted that the strong foundation existing between the two countries helped him to conduct an "experiment" in aggressively promoting relations, creating a niche for Indian business presence in Africa which activities have contributed to the fact that he is taken as a model in the Ministry of External Affairs of India. He thanked all for the mutual support and confidence shown to him as these are always a strong basis for undertaking such initiatives.

Getting the Nile Story Right

The majestic Nile River is a natural wonder flowing thousands of kilometers and passing through ten countries. It is the source of numerous civilizations over the centuries, of life and livelihood for millions, inspiring many writers and explorers. It is no surprise that the river and the relationship among the riparian states attract significant public interest and numerous commentaries in academic journals and the media alike. Regrettably, many of these have contributed to the mistrust and mutual suspicions engendered by the colonial heritage and its long standing iniquities. A break from this unsustainable past history only appeared recently with the meaningful and inclusive effort for a mutually collaborative effort that began in 1999 with the establishment of the Nile Basin Initiative-NBI. After long decades of confrontation, the new transitional arrangement raised hopes and expectations among the citizens of all the riparian countries that their countries would be able to create partnerships capable of unlocking the potential for an all-rounded development of the Nile Basin and its region.

The NBI was specifically designed to build confidence among the riparian states through a wide variety of instruments, including wider involvement by the larger public in the Nile Discourse and mutually designed and implemented collaborative projects, and these programs and projects have certainly helped to enhance understanding between riparian states. The NBI structures have also been expected to create a solid foundation for a permanent basin-wide organization, and it was expected that a lasting institutional and legal framework would be achieved through a Cooperative Framework Agreement. Negotiations for this landmark instrument have been going on for more than ten years. The discussions were made possible through the assistance provided by development partners of the riparian states, and high-level negotiators from the Nile basin countries agreed on most of the cardinal principles necessary for the governance and utilization of the trans-boundary river. 

The underlying premise of these long discussions has been constant: theories of the absolute sovereignty of states over natural resources located in their territories and any claims to natural rights or historical prior-use rights would have to give way to more modern thinking, to arrangements for equitable use and cooperation over natural resources. This anticipated a win-win approach to the final result, in which all those negotiating in good faith would be able to advance their interests while at the same time addressing the concerns and interests of all other parties. Ethiopia has certainly been convinced that a positive outcome of these negotiations is possible. Its preoccupation has been to make sure all use of the river should be equitable and sustainable while never denying other countries legitimate use of the River. Equally, this meant new legal structures and institutions must be set up. Although not a concept widely shared originally, it guided negotiations until they reached the question whether a new treaty should replace all previously existing agreements and arrangements whoever and whatever these covered. Ethiopia and the other upper riparian states asserted that the new arrangements proposed new, just and all-inclusive, instrument. This has proved a sticking point and no agreement has been reached with the two lower riparian states in the Nile Basin, Egypt and Sudan. These two states have continued to insist their own bilateral agreements and those from colonial times are still relevant and should take precedence. Egypt has even introduced a new element into the discussion, the idea that the proposed Cooperative Framework Agreement should recognize what Egypt calls ‘historical rights.’ For the other states in the NBI, the upper riparian states, this new proposal appears likely to negate everything that has been achieved over the last ten years of negotiation. They have, therefore, rejected any such move and resolved among themselves to sign the agreed text of the Cooperative Framework Agreement, negotiated in good faith during the last decade.

The upper riparian countries (Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda) signed the Cooperative Framework Agreement in Kinshasa on 22 May 2009 at an Extraordinary Meeting of the Nile Basin Council of Ministers convened by the then Chairperson of the Council, Mr. Jose Endundo, Minister of Environment, Nature Conservation and Tourism of the DRC. The hope was that Egypt and Sudan would come to realize the advantages of signing the Agreement and would resolve any continuing differences over the validity of ‘existing agreements’ within six months of the establishment of the agreed Nile River Commission. In a subsequent move which effectively consolidated the decision agreed at Kinshasa, negotiators from the riparian states met on 3rd July in Nairobi to fine-tune the Agreement, making it ready for ministerial signatures as of 1 August 2009. However, at the next ministerial meeting in Alexandria, Egypt, July 27-28, the Council of Ministers decided to provide a period of six months for further reflection and consultation. This would allow Egypt and Sudan, the two downstream countries, to evaluate their position in refusing to sign the Cooperative Framework Agreement, and put off a decision on the points of difference until after the establishment of the Nile River Commission. This delay is also necessary for the seven countries that have already decided to sign the Agreement, allowing them, as well as Egypt and Sudan, to analyze the implications of signing the Cooperative Framework Agreement for the Nile.

In this context, it might be noted that nothing in the decisions reached at Alexandria implies that one side or the other has actually secured any advantage. There have been media reports, quoting an Addis Ababa University professor, suggesting the decisions at Alexandria represented a loss for Ethiopia and a gain to Egypt and Sudan; others quoted a Sudanese delegate in Alexandria claiming the result was a victory. Media in Egypt have long advocated the rhetoric of “historical rights”. Some have wrongly claimed that Ethiopia and other countries have adopted positions allegedly in favor of Egyptian interests. Such reports distort the reality and advocate a win-loss scenario and a zero sum calculation. Ethiopia and six other upper riparian states agreed to the six month period of reflection because they are determined to try to ensure that whatever has been gained from the Nile Basin Initiative should not be needlessly lost. They have demonstrated courage and intent that an inclusive approach based on the principle of “One Nile, One Vision” might still be possible while maintaining the decisions taken at Kinshasa and Nairobi. Given the long history of discourse on the future of cooperation over the Nile, six months is a period well worth spent on reflection and consultation. Ethiopia itself remains guided by its commitment to establish a basin-wide legal and institutional framework which will ensure equity for all the riparian states. It believes this is best found with the necessary balance provided by the Cooperative Framework Agreement. 

Those who wish to speculate on the future should realize that the period of competition and mutual distrust has now been left behind by the entire region. The countries of the Nile basin have had their share of discord in the past, but any return to those days is not an option at this stage of globalization and technological transformation. It may be true that some of the publicly reiterated position might appear irreconcilable at face value, but the real problem is any zero-sum calculation that fails to consider the countless joint efforts made to implement the Nile Basin Initiative. This must be the turning point in the negotiations over the utilization and management of the Nile River. The dangerous effects of climate change and environmental variability are now palpable in the riparian states. There is demonstrable food insecurity and environmental degradation. It is now imperative that equitable and sustainable use of the Nile should be firmly grounded in a proper legal instrument of lasting impact. Such a collaborative legal and institutional arrangement on a permanent basis is the only guarantee for securing the interests of all riparian states. The alternative cannot be contemplated seriously by any genuine political leader.

Desalegn Alemu: an obituary and a tribute 

Desalegn Alemu, Acting Director General for International Organizations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs suddenly passed away on Monday, August 3rd. He was 43.

Desalegn was born on January 15, 1966 in Addis Ababa and graduated from Addis Ababa University in 1989 with an LLB. After serving at the former Children Home Service of Ethiopia as a Legal Officer and Acting Legal Service Head for three years, he joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in January 1994. His diplomatic career took him to the Ethiopian Embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel, where he served as 1st Secretary and later as Counselor. On return to Addis Ababa he worked in various capacities until taking over the Department of International Organizations. 

The entire staff and management of the Foreign Ministry have been shocked and saddened by Desalegn's untimely and unexpected death on the way to hospital. He was known for his immense commitment, professionalism and enthusiasm, trademark qualities that he was demonstrating in a meeting to his colleagues only three days before he died. Desalegn was noted for his active and visible involvement at every level of service, playing an important role in the recent reform and restructuring of the Ministry. He will always be remembered for his exemplary commitment to public service. He was an invaluable and hard working colleague and could always be depended upon to deliver more than was expected or required. He had risen rapidly through the ranks of the Ministry by sheer excellence, a demonstration of the concrete results of hard work, leading by example with an impressive schedule of work, and encouraging others by his own constant enthusiasm. On a personal level, he was always generous with his time and help, always attentive to the difficulties and problems of colleagues whether in his own department or elsewhere.

His colleagues would like to express their fullest condolences to his wife and his three young children; they themselves remain grateful for the support and messages of sympathy expressed by the staff and management of other Government offices, Embassies and International Organizations in Addis Ababa., and in particular by the offer from the Ambassador of India to Ethiopia of a full scholarship at an Indian educational institution for the eldest son of Ato Desalegn. Desalegn will be sorely missed by his many colleagues and friends in the Ministry, and his lively character and dedication will long be remembered.

Source: Walta Information Center, Monday, 10 August 2009



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