Military samples for the Juba International Trade Fair
Last week, reports appeared in the international and Sudanese press claiming that Ethiopia had sent a plane-load of heavy weaponry and ammunition to Southern Sudan . This followed earlier speculation that the Ukrainian ship, the M.V. Faina, captured by Somali pirates last month, had been carrying tanks and other arms intended for delivery to South Sudan through Kenya . These reports claimed Ethiopia was now providing weapons to Southern Sudan . The reality was very different; it was not even a matter of exaggeration, but of inaccuracy. The Ethiopian plane went to Juba with samples of products from the Ethiopian defense industry to display at the Juba International Trade Fair, opened by Vice-President Salva Kiir. The samples of equipment included one BM21 and three Kalashnikovs, a machine gun or two and a few shells as well as spare parts for vehicles and small arms, some military uniform samples and civilian clothing fabric. The quantity and quality of the equipment made it quite clear it was intended for the trade fair. It was, indeed, inspected by a UN team monitoring the ceasefire in southern Sudan . In fact, all the material that went to Juba was brought back to Ethiopia at the end of the trade fair in which more than 40 firms and companies from Ethiopia took part, as well as the Djibouti Port Authority and a number of Ugandan firms. [Ethiopian Embassy London]
The NBI has two sub-programs. One is the Shared Vision Program (SVP), the other a Subsidiary Action Program (SAP). The SVP is a Nile basin-wide grant funded program involving collaborative action, exchange of experience, and trust and capacity building. The other sub-program, the SAP, aims to realize multi-country ‘win-win’ investment projects aimed at economic growth, poverty reduction and reversal of environmental degradation. Egypt , Ethiopia , and Sudan make up the Eastern Nile Subsidiary Action Program (ENSAP), while Burundi , DRC, Egypt , Kenya , Rwanda , Sudan , Tanzania , and Uganda participate in the Equatorial Lakes Subsidiary Action Program (NELSAP). ENSAP's Technical Regional Office (ENTRO) is headquartered in Addis Ababa ; the NELSAP in Kigali . [Ethiopian Embassy London]
Prime Minister Meles received a French delegation led by Mme. Anne-Marie Idric, French State Minister for Foreign Trade, on October 9th. They exchanged views on bilateral, regional and global economic issues of common interest. Mme. Idric briefed the Prime Minister about two major French investment projects in Ethiopia . The first is a wind-powered electricity generation scheme capable of generating 120MW, the agreement between the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation and the French company Vergnet Groups, was signed during Mme. Idric's visit. The cost is expected to be over 200 million euros. The first phase will be commissioned within sixteen months and the whole is scheduled to be finished in three years. It is the first project of its kind in Ethiopia and will help to ease the growing demand for power as well as bolster the ability to make power links with neighboring countries. The second project, which Mme. Idric announced to the Prime Minister, was a 300 million euro cement investment. Prime Minister Meles wholeheartedly welcomed the news, declaring that these two projects shattered the ceiling that had appeared to have been reached in the economic relationship between France and Ethiopia . He noted that the cement investment would certainly contribute to addressing the serious shortage that currently confronts Ethiopia 's fast growing economy. He emphasized that this was, in fact, the second largest French investment in Ethiopia in over 100 years, the largest in fact since the establishment of the Ethio-Djibouti Railway Line at the turn of the last century. The Prime Minister expressed his optimism that the two projects would open a new chapter in Ethio-French economic relations, underlining the importance of a follow up. Mme. Idric assured the Prime Minister that President Sarkozy took a personal interest in the implementation of the wind-power project. She told the Prime Minister that the two projects would indeed only constitute a beginning, assuring him that more is yet to come. The current French cooperation agreement for the period 2006-10 is worth USD 52.73 million and covers priority sectors such as water and sanitation, education, capacity building and governance. In terms of trade, France is an important destination of for Ethiopian coffee and for clothing. Ethiopia also receives a growing number of tourists every year from France . A number of private investment projects are at different stages of implementation, including the Karafi Accor Hotels. With this warm and growing economic relationship, it is incumbent for the appropriate bodies on both sides to ensure these two latest projects are fully realized and to explore all possible new opportunities for furthering economic ties. [Ethiopian Embassy London]
Aims of the Nairobi meeting; more AMISOM troops arrive
As current chairperson of IGAD, Prime Minister Meles has begun to send out invitations for the IGAD meeting on Somalia , to be held in Nairobi , October 27-29. It had originally been intended to hold the meeting in Baidoa, the seat of the Somali Transitional Parliament, but Kenya had offered Nairobi . Those invited include the Heads of State and foreign ministers of all current members of IGAD ( Djibouti , Kenya , Somalia , Sudan and Uganda ); Eritrea , of course, suspended its participation from IGAD last year. Others invited to attend include the Chairman of the AU Commission, the Special Representative for Somalia of the UN Secretary-General, Mr. Ould-Abdullah, and the IGAD Partners Forum, of which the Italian Ambassador is the local chair, as well as, of course, the leading members of Somalia's Transitional Federal Institutions, including the President, the Prime Minister, the Speaker of the Parliament and all the members of the Somali Parliament. The decision to hold an IGAD summit on Somalia was taken by IGAD ministers attending the UN General Assembly in New York and endorsed by the AMISOM troop-contributing countries. In an interview with the BBC's Somali Service this week, Ethiopian Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Tekeda Alemu, explained the main point of the agenda will be to look into the problems currently hindering the creation of an effective government in Somalia . These have been causing serious concern in recent weeks because there are only ten more months before the Transitional Charter comes to an end, and once the transitional period ends there would be no party with any recognition. There is, he said, the necessity to talk to TFG officials and parliamentarians frankly, to pin them down on what they are now prepared to do to implement all the things they have so conspicuously failed to do since 2004. Indeed, the IGAD ministers in New York loudly expressed the deep frustration felt by everybody at the performance of the TFG and the members of the TFIs.
The State Minister noted that there had been a lot of talk as to whether this Nairobi meeting was contradictory or complementary to the Djibouti process bringing the TFG and opposition together. He emphasized that the IGAD ministers had made it absolutely clear that they had no interest in undercutting the Djibouti process held under UN auspices, but rather to complement the activities of Mr. Ould-Abdullah. Mr. Ould-Abdullah’s office announced yesterday [16th Oct] that the UN and the World Bank are organizing an international donor’s conference for Somalia , to take place early in 2009 in Stockholm to raise resources for a one year recovery program. One of the issues raised about the Nairobi meeting was whether or not the opposition would be attending. The State Minister said this had not yet been discussed but he thought it could not be ruled out. He noted that the Djibouti talks between the TFG and the opposition were on-going. So far, they had led to the establishment of joint committees and the process was continuing. A mixed delegation from the High Level Political and Joint Security Committees this week attended a seminar in Cape Town on political and security affairs. Surprisingly, Mr. Ould-Abdallah has now announced that these committees will be holding their third round of talks in Djibouti on October 25 and 26. As all the participants would be expected in Nairobi , it appears UNPOS has made a mistake. It makes no sense for the two meetings to be held back-to-back in different places. No doubt the committee meetings are important but they could certainly take place after Nairobi without difficulty, and keeping Djibouti as a venue would be a sensible course of action. A postponement would also allow for the possibility that Nairobi might include further opportunities for TFG/Opposition talks, though in what form or under what modalities would have to be discussed. The Ethiopian State Minister made clear that the Nairobi meeting would have nothing to do with any extension of the Transitional Charter whatever suppositions might have been made. Any amendments to the Charter could only be made by consensus between the TFG and the opposition.
Meanwhile, last weekend [11th-12th Oct] and early this week another Burundi battalion of 850 troops for AMISOM finally arrived in Mogadishu . They flew in from Bujumbura to join the other Burundi battalion which has been deployed in southern Mogadishu . This brings the number of Burundi troops to 1,700, and raises the AMISOM force to just over 3,400. This increase in the numbers of AMISOM forces could have led to a real improvement in the security situation but political difficulties have meant these opportunities have not been properly taken. Some two weeks ago Al-Shabaab fighters were driven out of the Bakara market by the local population, though latest information suggests some might now be returning. Retreating from there to Medina district, Al-Shabaab units were also ordered out by a population tired of Al-Shabaab excesses and maltreatment of the civilian population. Similarly, last month, an attempt by Yusuf ‘Indhe Adde’, a leading member of the extremist elements, to attack a police station in Karan district of Mogadishu was driven off with heavy casualties, by local militia forces and the local population. When Al-Shabaab attempted to close Mogadishu airport last month, there was strong popular opposition. Within a week or two, when it was obvious that Al-Shabaab was unable to make good its threat and that almost all Mogadishu elders and businessmen were against it, an Al-Shabaab spokesman unconvincingly announced they were thinking again about the idea for humanitarian reasons. It is on the basis of these activities that political progress might have been expected. Unfortunately the TFG has continued to remain paralyzed. It is this which explains why the Nairobi meeting is so critical.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Meles, answering questions in Parliament in Addis Ababa, said Ethiopian forces remained in Somalia at the behest of the Somali people, of the African Union, if not always publicly, and of the international community. Ethiopia had responded because its national interests would benefit. In the face of a clear and present danger, Ethiopia had acted swiftly to dislodge those riding on the horse of al-Shabaab. It would do so again if al-Shabaab threatened to take power. Prime Minister Meles told parliamentarians that the Government had been evaluating developments in Somalia . It would withdraw its forces if it did not leave a security vacuum, but this must be contingent upon the behavior of the TFG. What was in the interest of Ethiopia and the Somali people was a viable Somali state, capable of maintaining peace and security. Indeed, the Prime Minister added, support of the international community and a sense of responsibility by the Somali political leadership were essential to sort out Somali political differences and effect reconciliation among the various stakeholders. Should Somali political leaders muster the will and preparedness to run a functioning state with robust support from the international community, he said, Ethiopia could continue to help the process for some time. A definitive decision would be taken in coming months.