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A Week in the Horn(15/09/2017)

News in brief

A call for Ethiopia's New Year 2010 to be a year of peace, unity, and development

The Prime Minister underlines need for more effective and competitive economic diplomacy

The opening of 72nd Regular Session of the UN General Assembly

UN Security Council briefed on the 11th Annual Joint meeting of UNSC-AUPSC…
…and on the continuing need for AMISOM in Somalia….

A Somali Army base on the Kenyan border briefly overrun by Al-Shabaab

September 18 – a bleak and dismal anniversary for Eritrea

 

News in Brief

Africa and the African Union

The 72nd Regular Session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA 72) opened at UN Headquarters in New York on Tuesday this week (September 12). The General Debate will cover the theme, "Focusing on People: Striving for Peace and a Decent Life for all on a Sustainable Planet" and the 72nd session agenda will also be looking at other issues including education, environmental conventions, social development, trade, gender and human development, technology, innovation, water, sanitation, and peace and security. (See article)

Ethiopia's Permanent Representative to the United Nations Security Council, Ambassador Tekeda Alemu, on Tuesday this week (September 12) briefed the Security Council on the 11th Annual Joint Consultative Meeting of UNSC and the African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC), held last week in Addis Ababa. Ethiopia holds the Security Council Presidency this month. (See article)
The United Nations Day for South-South Cooperation was on Tuesday (September 12). It celebrated the economic, social and political developments made in recent years by regions and countries in the south and highlighted UN's efforts to work on technical cooperation among developing countries. South-South cooperation is a manifestation of solidarity among peoples and countries of the South that contributes to their national well-being, their national and collective self-reliance and the attainment of internationally agreed development goals, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It encourages a broad framework of collaboration among countries of the South in the political, economic, social, cultural, environmental and technical domains. Developing countries share knowledge, skills, expertise and resources to meet their development goals through concerted efforts.

The UN Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2375 (2017) on Monday (September 11) imposing additional sanctions measures on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea after  the latest ballistic and nuclear tests in defiance of relevant security Council resolutions. Ethiopia, holding the SC's presidency this month said there was no military solution to the crisis in the Korean Peninsula and expressed hope that the resolution and the unity among Council members would facilitate search for a comprehensive diplomatic solution. Ethiopia's representative said all efforts should be made to make sure that this happens sooner rather than later because the alternative to a peaceful resolution of the crisis was, to put it mildly, hardly a viable option.

The United Nations Security Council strongly condemned the "heinous and cowardly" terrorist attack that took place on Monday (September 11) in Sinai, in which at least 18 policemen were killed and 3 were injured. The Council members "expressed their deepest sympathy and condolences to the families of the victims and to the Government of Egypt, and wished a speedy and full recovery to those who were injured."  Council members reaffirmed that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constituted one of the most serious threats to international peace and security, and underlined the need to bring perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of these "reprehensible acts of terrorism" to justice.

Ethiopia

President Dr. Mulatu Teshome in a New Year message on Monday (September 11) called for the forthcoming Ethiopia year to be a year in which people worked together for the realization of the country's development goals. The President urged consolidation of efforts to sustain the country's rapid economic growth and stressed the importance of activities to help the eradication of poverty and the realization of the goals set in the five-year Growth and Transformation Plan. (See article)

Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn in his New Year message called on all Ethiopians to continue their strong commitment to achieve the country's development goals. He said the government's priorities for the New Year (2010 in the Ethiopian calendar) included modernizing agriculture, developing industry, strengthening small and medium enterprises, and attracting Foreign Direct Investment. He also noted the extensive efforts to create an abundance of job opportunities in urban areas and the policy empowering women to participate and benefit in the overall development of the country. (See article)

Prime Minister Hailemariam underlined the importance of adopting a more creative and competitive approach in the areas of business and economic diplomacy to the country's Ambassadors and other senior officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday this week (September 12).  He was briefing Ministry's officials on the Government's efforts to sustain the country's economic growth. He said they should find new ways to attract foreign direct investment, potential investors and fast-track technology transfer under the guidelines set out in the second Growth and Transformation Plan.

Foreign Minister, Dr. Workneh Gebeyehu, received the credentials of five ambassadors this week. Ambassador Brita Wagener of Germans and Ambassador Torbjorn Pettersson of Sweden presented their credentials on Thursday (September 14) ; Ambassador Rebecca Amuge Otengo of Uganda, Ambassador Sonja Hyland of Ireland and Ambassador Nguyen Kim Doanh of Vietnam presented their credentials on Wednesday (September 13).

Dr. Workneh held talks with the Head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Mr. James Reynolds on Wednesday (September 13). During the discussions Dr. Workneh described ICRC as a guardian of International humanitarian laws and noted Ethiopia's sustained commitment to the implementation of the Law. T he two sides agreed on the need to strategically undertake joint programs based on the Framework Agreement signed in April 19, 2016 that aimed at helping expand the mandate of the ICRC.

State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mrs. Hirut Zemene welcomed the newly appointed European Union Ambassador for European Union, Ambassador Johan Borgstam on Wednesday (September 13). She emphasized that the Government of Ethiopia attached significant importance to its relations with the European Union and said it was looking forward to strengthening the strategic partnership with the European Union on key areas of cooperation, including migration, terrorism, job compact, EU-Africa relations. Ambassador Borgstam commended Ethiopia's Open-Door Policy for refugees from neighboring countries, adding that the European Union is open for further discussion and collaboration with Ethiopia in all areas of engagement.

The Tripartite National Committee on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam met on Thursday (September 14) in Atbara in Sudan to discuss the initial report by the two French consultancy firms, BRL and Artelia, tasked with assessing the possible impact of the dam on downstream countries.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein in his address to the 36th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday (September 11) welcomed the lifting of the State of Emergency in Ethiopia last month, and said he looked forward to measures to improve human rights protections, ensure accountability for violations and address root causes of social discontent.

Djibouti

The opposition Union for National Salvation, a seven-party opposition coalition formed in January 2013, announced on Tuesday (September 14) that its leader, Ahmed Youssouf Houmed, had died in the French town of Quimper where he was undergoing medical treatment. 

Eritrea     

Monday, September 18, is another bleak and dismal anniversary in Eritrea. It is the sixteenth anniversary of the arrest of the G15, eleven leading ministers and political figures, including some of President Isaias' one-time closest associates. Nothing had been heard of them since their disappearance and most are believed to have died from appalling treatment and lack of medical treatment. (See article)

The Cabinet of Ministers held a meeting at State House on Saturday (September 9) to review progress in education and health. Total school enrollment for 2016-17 was over 740,000 with overall female student enrollment around 43%. The Cabinet discussed ways to enhance the quality of education, the expansion of technical and vocational schools, and wider application of information technology, and to enhance the Ministry of Education's ongoing internal review. It also reviewed efforts to expand health facilities across the country. President Isaias also briefed the Cabinet on recent diplomatic developments regarding simmering tensions and trends in the wider Horn of Africa Middle Eastern region.  

The US State Department has imposed visa sanctions against Eritrea for failing to take back deported citizens from the U.S. The U.S. Embassy in Asmara announced on Tuesday this week (September 12) that it will stop issuing business and tourism visas to citizens, subjects, nationals, and residents of Eritrea, with limited exceptions. Eritrea opposes any forced repatriation of its nationals back to Asmara.

Kenya

Security officers conducting the ongoing multi-agency security Operation Linda Boni in Lamu County have discovered and destroyed three key Al-Shabaab hideouts. Operation Director Joseph Kanyiri said the hideouts were discovered and destroyed through efforts by the Kenya Defence Forces and National Police Service officers. They had been used by Al-Shabaab to launch attacks in the area. Mr. Kanyiri said the operation to hunt militants in the forest was still going on but he was confident that the identification and destruction of the three hideouts this week would help bring peace and stability in the area.

Somalia

President Mohamed Abdullahi visited the UAE Military Training Centre in Mogadishu on Sunday (September 10).  He toured the centre and viewed its facilities, built and supported by the UAE to train the Somali National Armed Forces. In a speech to the trainees, he stressed that the UAE was playing a prominent role in rebuilding the Somalia armed forces and expressed his gratitude to the UAE for its continuous efforts in supporting the security and stability of Somalia, equipping the national army, and rebuilding the nation. 

President Mohammed Abdullahi said at the weekend that the ongoing UN arms embargo remained a major impediment to Somalia's efforts in dealing with insecurity and ensuring the stability of the country. He said the government was determined to ensure the national army was sufficiently equipped to deal with the security challenges facing the country.

Minister for Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, Maryam Qasim, on Thursday last week called on foreign relief agencies to team up with local organizations to deliver assistance to recipients. She told a conference in Mogadishu the federal government was working to institutionalize national disaster management to promote effective disaster preparedness and called for greater involvement of local non-governmental organizations and the private sector in the funding and assistance to vulnerable groups in order to foster a culture of resilience and safety in communities. The conference brought together local and international organizations engaged in delivering humanitarian aid to drought victims.

Michael Keating, Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), briefed the UN Security Council on a video link from Mogadishu on Wednesday (September 13). Other speakers included the Special Representative of the African Union Commission Chairperson for Somalia and Head of AMISOM, Ambassador Madeira, and the Somali Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Abukar Dahir Osman. (See article)

The town of Bulo Hawa in Gedo region close to the border with Kenya and a Somali army base nearby were briefly overrun by Al-Shabaab on Monday (September 11). (See article)

A total of 105 Somali National Army (SNA) troops concluded a nine-month long infantry course on combat skills and landmine clearance on Monday (September 11). The training by the EU Training Mission (EUTM) was as part of ongoing efforts to strengthen the capacity of Somali security forces. Brigadier General Pietro Addis, Commander of the EUTM in Somalia, said the mission would continue" to prepare new troops to secure Somalia, trained, motivated, capable and an accountable army to ensure the country's security responsibility." AMISOM, the UN and Bancroft Global Development worked alongside EUTM to conduct the training.

EU NAVFOR Force Commander, Rear Admiral Fabio Gregori, visited Mogadishu to meet international partners from the United Nations Assistance Mission to Somalia, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, and military partners including the US, last week. He also met with representatives from EU Member States to provide an update on the situation at sea. EU NAVFOR warships conduct patrols in the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean and ensure that no vessel transporting humanitarian aid, or logistics for AMISOM, travels unprotected along the Somali coastline.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees said this week that a total of 70,202 Somalis from Dadaab refugee camp and 1,899 others from Kakuma refugee camp and Nairobi, had been assisted to return to Somalia since the launch of the voluntary repatriation program in December 2014. It also said another 17,478 registered refugees were willing to return to Somalia.

The three-day Mogadishu Book Fair opened on Wednesday this week (September 13). This third annual book fair promotes books, reading, culture and heritage by bringing together Somali intellectuals, authors, scholars, poets, booksellers and exposing the public to a mix of Somali and international literature. It also serves as an important marketplace for young up-and-coming authors. The program provides book launches, book signings, exhibitions and photography, poetry recitals, guest lecturers from outside, films and documentaries, panel discussions, and traditional entertainment

South Sudan

South Sudan was one of the main items of the agenda at the Joint UN Security Council and AU Peace and Security Council meeting on Friday last week (September 8). The UN Special Representative to the AU, Haile Menkerios, briefed the joint meeting, on the efforts of the AU and IGAD to revitalize the Peace Agreement. The Councils' members supported efforts to revitalize the peace process, expressed concerns over the humanitarian situation and the numbers of refugees fleeing the country.

UK Minister for Africa, Rory Stewart, called for an end to the bloodshed in South Sudan following a visit last week to Juba and the Upper Nile state capital, Malakal. He said: "It is vital that we now work with the international community and all armed parties to commit to a peace process, and to tackling the underlying causes of conflict to break this vicious cycle of violence so that no more innocent lives are lost." He held talks with First Vice President, Taban Deng, and UN Special Representative of Secretary General, David Shearer, and members of the South Sudan Council of Churches.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said in his address to the 36th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday (September 11) there was a very critical need for accountability for violations in South Sudan. He said the country was "quite simply" being destroyed. In addition to the appalling levels of violence and sexual violence by all parties to the conflict, he said, he was also concerned by reports of arbitrary detention of people perceived to be critical of the Government. It was essential that all South Sudanese be allowed the space to express their views freely without fear of reprisal.  He repeated his insistent warning that the Hybrid Court for South Sudan must be established, as detailed in the Peace Agreement. 

Rebel General Thomas Cirilo, who set up the National Salvation Front (NAS) earlier this year, has rejected a presidential offer of amnesty. He said that rather than extending him an amnesty, Salva Kiir should be the one to seek amnesty from the suffering people of South Sudan.

Sudan

The Sudan People's Liberation Movement/North (Abdel-Aziz al-Hilu) said a delegation from its faction of the SPLM-N had discussed the humanitarian situation in the Two Areas with US, British and Norwegian officials and aid groups including the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) as well as the AUHIP in Addis Ababa. A statement this week said the meetings were held August 28 to September 5.

A delegation from the Pan-African Parliament (PAP), the legislative body of the African Union, started a visit to North Darfur last week to assess the situation ahead of its meeting with the U.S. Congress to discuss the full lift of sanctions imposed on Sudan. The PAP has formed a committee to discuss Sudan's sanctions with the U.S. Congress and will meet with the US Congress members at the end of the month. The US administration is involved in a five-track engagement process over the permanent lifting of sanctions including the fight against terrorism, Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army, Sudan's role in the peace process in South Sudan, Sudan's own peace and the humanitarian situation in Darfur region, the South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.

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A call for Ethiopia's New Year 2010 to be a year of peace, unity, and development

In his New Year message, President Dr. Mulatu Teshome called for the forthcoming year to be a period in which citizens worked in harmony for the realization of the country's development goals. The President urged the need to consolidate efforts for the sustainability of the country's rapid economic growth. He stressed that activities to help the eradication of poverty and the realization of the goals set in the five-year Growth and Transformation Plan needed to continue to get special attention. Indeed, to realize these, the country needs to work on improving its competitiveness at global level, the President said. He called for the introduction of up-to-date systems and technologies in the agriculture sector and for extensive improvements in the value chain. This would help accelerate the structural transformation in the coming years. President Dr. Mulatu underlined that the national agenda for development was the responsibility of all citizens, and he urged everybody to help prevent and avoid destructive activities.

On New Year's Eve, Sunday (September 10), Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn told the nation: "Since the beginning of the third Ethiopian millennium, we are in the process of defeating our long rooted arch-enemy, poverty. We will continue to do so". The Prime Minister was addressing thousands of Ethiopians gathered at the Millennium hall to celebrate the start of the Ethiopian New Year, 2010. Recalling that the country has witnessed an average of 10% growth over more than the past decade, Prime Minister Hailemariam said all Ethiopians should continue with their strong commitment to achieve the country's development goals. He pointed out that modernizing agriculture, developing industry, strengthening small and medium enterprises, and attracting Foreign Direct Investment were among the government's priority areas for the New Year. The Prime Minister underlined the extensive efforts being carried out to equip youth with up-to-date technologies while creating an abundance of job opportunities in urban areas. He emphasized the policy of empowering women and making them active participants and beneficiaries in the overall development of the country continued to be a major priority.

The Prime Minister spoke of the activities aimed to maintain and expand the multi-party system and enhance the democratization process. These, he stressed, would be continued and developed. The government, continuing its in-depth evaluation, would work to root out poor governance and rent-seeking attitudes and behavior wherever they were to be found. He noted that Ethiopians had always managed to maintain their unity even during times of adversity, and he urged the public to continue to strengthen their culture of peaceful coexistence and harmony throughout the country. Prime Minister Hailemariam expressed his wishes for 2010 to be a year of peace, unity, and development for all Ethiopians. .

In his speech, the President, as usual, announced pardons for 697 prisoners in connection with the Ethiopian New Year.  Regional administrations also gave pardons for the New Year for prisoners who had showed regret for their actions and met the requirements for pardon. In Tigray Regional State, for example, 957 prisoners were released; the Amhara Regional State administration released 1,918 prisoners, and the Southern Nations, Nationalities and People's (SNNP) Regional State pardoned 3,099 prisoners and reduced the sentences of some others.

The Minister for the Government Communication Affairs Office, Dr. Negeri Lencho, told a press conference that preparations had been made to cope with any challenges and continue Ethiopia's growth in the New Year. He said the Government attached prime importance to carrying out successful work in the New Year, integrating peace, unity, democracy and development. The Minister noted that the ten day celebration launched on August 30 as a prelude to welcoming the New Year on Monday, September 11, had contributed greatly to inspiring the people to embrace peace and enhanced development in the New Year. He said the government would strengthen its strategy of solving problems before they arise. He also noted that the Government was working to improve the economic growth of the country, completing the major development projects, attracting more investment and coping with emergencies, including drought. He emphasized that the Government would be intensifying the ongoing fight against corruption in the New Year and he urged the public to do their part in assisting the Government's New Year plans. Dr. Negeri wished all Ethiopians a New Year of peace and health.

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The Prime Minister underlines need for more effective and competitive economic diplomacy

Following the annual Conference of Ambassadors, Consul Generals and Director-Generals of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which was wrapped up over the weekend, Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn held discussions with participants on Tuesday (September 12).  He briefed the Ministry's officials on the Government's noteworthy efforts to sustain the country's remarkable economic growth over the previous fiscal year, noting that despite some of the negative problems of the last year in some parts of the country, the economic performance had remained highly effective.

The Prime Minister praised the success of the Ministry in expanding the country's influence in bilateral and multilateral diplomatic spheres. Equally, he underlined the need to adopt a more creative and globally competitive way of doing diplomacy in the areas of business and economic diplomacy. He said this would involve a deeper commitment of Ethiopian diplomats assigned abroad to find new ways of attracting foreign direct investment, of searching for potential investors and for fast-tracking technology transfer under the guidelines set out in the second Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP-II). He reminded senior diplomats of the importance of finding ‘anchor investors' who would focus on selective areas like light manufacturing industries, leather and leather products, animal husbandry and agriculture as well as fruit and vegetables.

Prime Minister Hailemariam added that building up the human resources and institutional capacity of the ministry, providing research-based economic diplomacy as well as knowledge and technology transfer and communication and public diplomacy to reinforce the dynamism that are needed to effectively implement national priorities in foreign relations is compulsory. He underlined the importance of forging strategic links between the Ministry, sector bureaus and other pertinent stakeholders. The Ministry should work closely with other high-level and research institutions. There was a need for communication; public diplomacy was essential in order for scholars, traders and investors to understand the external relations of the country.

He made it clear that Ethiopia, under the umbrella of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), would toughen up its efforts of maintaining peace and security in the Horn of Africa. He noted that Ethiopia was working closely with Djibouti and Sudan and stressed that South Sudan and Somalia remained countries to be given due attention in respect to Ethiopia's role in regional peace and stability. Ethiopia, he added, remained neutral in dealing with the current situation in the Middle East.

Foreign Minister Dr. Workneh Gebeyehu noted that the Ministry had identified the gaps that needed to be filled and the strengths that needed to be properly exploited to best achieve the Ministry's goals and serve the national interest of the country. Dr. Workneh noted the Ministry had already embarked on implementing studies sponsored by the Ministry taking into account realities on the ground along with best experiences of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of other countries. Representatives of different Ethiopian Embassies abroad pledged to put the country's diplomacy into top gear.

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The opening of 72nd Regular Session of the UN General Assembly

The 72nd Regular Session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA 72) opened at UN Headquarters in New York on Tuesday this week (September 12). The General Debate is covering the theme, "Focusing on People: Striving for Peace and a Decent Life for all on a Sustainable Planet" as well as looking at a wide variety of other issues including education, environmental conventions, social development, trade, gender and human development, technology, innovation, water, sanitation, and peace and security.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres addressed the opening of the session. Commending the Assembly's President Lajčák's experience, vision and wisdom, he welcomed the choice of theme for the year, and said he looked forward to working together in all areas. Noting the serious threats facing the world today, ranging from the proliferation of nuclear weapons to global terrorism, from climate change to inequality, he said:  "We also face major challenges, from migration to the unintended consequences of technological advances, such as cyber attacks.  People around the world are rightly demanding change and looking for Governments and institutions to deliver." He underlined the importance of reform: "We all agree that the United Nations must do even more to adapt and deliver. That is the aim of the reform proposals that this Assembly will consider." 

The Secretary-General emphasized that one key change, within and beyond the United Nations, must be to empower the world's women and girls.  The Secretary-General said people were rightly demanding change. This was the basis of the reform proposals that were under consideration. The United Nations, he said, must do more to support Member States and produce better results for the people it served. He said he had just launched a road map for achieving gender parity throughout the United Nations, at all levels.  He appealed to member states to put forward women candidates for vacancies, adding that parity at the United Nations would improve performance at the UN. He concluded by stressing that despite today's conflicts and the grinding daily impact of poverty, he remained convinced that this was far more an era of transformational potential, and called on the 72nd session of the General Assembly to "take bold steps to seize those opportunities as we continue to serve "we the peoples".

Addressing the Assembly for the first time in his capacity as President of the General Assembly, Miroslav Lajčák (Slovakia) said his tenure would be a "year of firsts". He called upon Member States to come together to help people striving for peace and a decent life. Following his election Mr. Lajčák identified  six overarching priorities for his tenure: making a difference in the lives of ordinary people; prevention and mediation for sustaining peace; migration; political momentum for the Sustainable Development Goals and climate; human rights and equality, including equal opportunities for genders; and the quality of events organized by the Assembly Presidency. He noted that the session would see negotiations for the first intergovernmental compact on migration and the signing of the first agreement on the elimination of nuclear weapons. It would also be a year of follow-up in regards to maintaining the momentum in implementing and financing the Sustainable Development Goals and ensuring continued work on the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. He said, "We must follow our commitments from yesterday with actions now," warning against relegating reports, events and resolutions of the past to United Nations archives.

President Lajčák has described United Nations reform as critical. The Organization today, he said, looked very different from the body established in 1945.  The United Nations had evolved over the years, and much of that change was to be seen through the Assembly's revitalization process. Equally, the United Nations must now continue to contribute a fresh outlook. He went on to say that the work of the United Nations could often be complex but he recalled that above all the United Nations had been created, first and foremost, for the people of the world, adding, 

"The people who need the United Nations the most are not sitting in this Hall today." He said it would be impossible to choose one priority for the United Nations to focus on this year. Most Member States, he said, didn't have large representations in New York and smaller States in particular, struggled to stay on top of the busy calendar.  It was necessary, therefore, he said, to streamline the agenda.  Stressing the importance of treating every speaker with dignity, President Lajčák also said he would remain committed to transparency.

A number of events have been taking place in parallel to the opening of the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly, including Global Goals Week 2017 and Climate Week NYC 2017.

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UN Security Council briefed on the 11th Annual Joint Meeting of UNSC-AUPSC…
Ethiopia's Permanent Representative to the United Nations Security Council, Ambassador Tekeda Alemu, who holds the Security Council Presidency this month, on Tuesday this week (September 12) briefed the Security Council on the 11th Annual Joint Consultative Meeting of UNSC and the African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC), held last week in Addis Ababa.
Ambassador Tekeda said that the purpose of the Council's visit to Addis Ababa was to strengthen partnership and enhance cooperation between the United Nations and African Union in the areas of peace and security. The meeting was undertaken within the framework of cooperation between the United Nations Security Council and African Union Peace and Security Council under Chapter VIII of the Charter of the United Nations. The 11th Annual Joint Consultative Meeting offered a platform for the two Councils to exchange views covering three country specific issues as well as regional affairs: the situations in Somalia, South Sudan, and the Lake Chad Basin. According to Ethiopia's Permanent Representative, the discussion demonstrated that there were many points of convergence between the two Councils especially on most aspects of the situation in South Sudan and with regard to some of the issues concerning Somalia and the Lake Chad Basin.
Expressing their concern on the continued violence and suffering of the South Sudanese people, both councils urged parties to the conflict to respect the ceasefire and implement the 2015 Agreement. They commended the leading role played by IGAD to help stabilize the country and expressed support including for IGAD's latest initiative to revitalize the 2015 Peace Agreement. While also underlining that there was no military solution to the problems in South Sudan, the two councils urged parties to commit themselves to a peaceful dialogue. They called for the urgent deployment of the Security Council-authorized Regional Protection Force.
On Somalia, Ambassador Tekeda said both Councils recognized the key role played by AMISOM in degrading the capability of Al-Shabaab and underlined the importance of supporting the capacity of Somali National Army so that it could take over from AMISOM. In this regard, he added, the two councils called for concerted efforts among the UN, AU and sub-regional countries to help address the fragile situation and bring lasting solution in Somalia.

On the Lake Chad Basin, the two Councils commended the crucial role being played by the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) and the resulting progress achieved thus far in fighting Boko Haram.Taking note of the regional dimension of the security threats and their cross-cutting nature, the councils also emphasized the need to address the underlying causes of conflict in the sub-region, including challenges resulting from climate change, underdevelopment and unemployment. Both councils called for an integrated approach to address existing security threats in the sub-region.

The Joint Consultative Meeting was also preceded by an informal meeting between members of the two Councils, co-chaired by Ethiopia's Permanent Representative and the Chairperson of the AU Peace and Security Council, the Permanent Representative of Botswana to the African Union. The informal session focused on three thematic issues: partnership between the UN and AU; funding for African peace and security activities; and post-conflict peace building.

Both the informal meeting and the 11th Joint Consultative Meeting provided opportunities for the members of the two Councils to exchange views on matters related to peace and security in Africa. Ambassador Tekeda described the meetings as "very useful". They enabled the Security Council delegates to better understand the position of the African Union on some of the issues of great importance to the work of the Security Council. Equally, he added, it provided an opportunity to explain and witness diverging views on a number of areas including the issue of funding the AU peace support operations. He said: "Here, one noted, justified or not, the deep disappointment of the African side with respect to what in their view has been a huge deficit in burden-sharing whose effect has been to give short shrift to the sacrifices by the African side".

Ambassador Tekeda said the members of the Security Council delegation had also held "extremely useful" discussions with Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam. These, he said, covered the latest developments in the peace and security issues in the Horn of Africa, focusing in particular on Somalia and South Sudan.

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…and on continuing need for AMISOM in Somalia

The Security Council fresh from its meetings in Addis Ababa last week and the discussions with AU Peace and Security Council on Somalia as well as other issues, was briefed this week on Somalia by Michael Keating, Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM). Speaking on a video link from Mogadishu on Wednesday (September 13), Mr. Keating emphasized the necessity of predictable funding for AMISOM as a "top priority" to prevent reversal of hard-won gains in Somalia. AMISOM still had an indispensable role to play in protecting progress as the national security forces were not yet ready to shoulder full responsibility. Addressing security issues and the continuing threat from Al-Shabaab required vigorous implementation of the National Security Architecture Agreement and of the Comprehensive Approach to Security. International partners had started working on this but there was still much to be done. Government forces were not yet ready to replace AMISOM and he called for the lifting of the embargo on heavy weapons.

Mr. Keating said ongoing efforts, as well as the peaceful transition of power in early 2017, had created a sense of hope and a moment of political opportunity.  "But", he added, "the honeymoon period is now over," pointing out the formidable immediate and long-term humanitarian, economic, security and political challenges that persisted. Mr. Keating highlighted both the immediate and the long-term challenges in Somalia, calling for practical support and political encouragement for the Somali leadership, both at the Federal and the state levels. He said the worst of the famine threat had been averted but it remained imperative for Somalia to escape "the vicious cycle of recurring weather-related shocks."

There were a number of pressing issues among them the way political problems could become complicated by ill-defined relationships between the various branches of the State. He mentioned that politicians and power brokers were threatening impeachment and no-confidence votes in several areas. Certainly, however, the working relationship between the President and the Prime Minister, as well as the determination of the federal Government to deliver "tangible economic and security benefits" for the population at large, was very encouraging. Equally, it was very necessary that the Federal Government managed situations in such a way as to prevent any threat to the progress on core objectives for the stability of the state. He underlined that completing the constitutional review was a critical task for the successful holding of elections in 2020-2021. He said the legislative framework and agreement on the electoral model were urgently needed, and this would help dispel scepticism on whether Somalia could move away from the "4.5 model" to universal suffrage.

Economic progress was dependent upon success in reaching a political settlement between the Government and the private sector, as well as on Government policies and capacities to implement them. He said a critical requirement was raising revenues, whether from domestic sources or from concessional finance. He noted the Prime Minister's appeal for immediate budget support to allow the Government to deliver on jobs and security, and to strengthen relations with Federal Member State. There was, he said, a UN-World Bank collaboration to devise a "surge support" package for public works, and he urged partners to follow the European Union, Norway and Sweden's lead to use the Recurrent Cost and Reform Financing Facility for this.

Mr. Keating highlighted the Federal Government's achievements in passing priority laws, drafting national strategies on pressing issues and improving the security sector.  The worst of the famine had been averted, he said, because the international community had contributed $1 billion to address needs and reach more than 3 million people. However, key issues must still be resolved, with the next step being a national conference to be held in October. This should agree on a two-year master plan and on preparations for the elections expected in 2020 and 2021.  Overall, a united Security Council and international solidarity providing practical support for Somalia's leadership was essential, he said, emphasizing that a sustainable transitional plan must ensure a smooth handover of security responsibilities.

Others agreed. The Special Representative of the African Union Commission Chairperson for Somalia and Head of AMISOM, Ambassador Madeira, also speaking on a video link, emphasized predictable and sustainable funding was central to AMISOM's continued presence in Somalia and its ability to honor its obligation to ensure effective operations to destroy Al-Shabaab, protect civilians, support the delivery of humanitarian assistance and ensure a smooth transition from AMISOM to the Somali security authorities. He said AMSIOM was holding AMISOM-UNSOM joint training sessions, tackling child recruitment by terrorist groups and working with the Federal Government and international partners on the national security architecture and a new security pact.  Referring to AMISOM's exit strategy, Ambassador Madeira said an experts' conference had addressed the handover of security responsibilities and the wthdrawal of 1,000 AMISOM troops before the scheduled drawdown in December. The conference had also discussed a possible contingency plan for early withdrawal, should financial support dry up.

The Somali Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Abukar Dahir Osman, noted the government was striving for lasting security and stronger democratic institutions.  To that end, it was sparing no effort in fighting terrorism, corruption and poverty.  Its overall vision was a strong and cooperative federal union that would work for all Somalis.  The formation of a new National Security Council marked a step closer to that objective, he said. Emphasizing that security remained paramount for the Government, he expressed confidence that its forces, working with AMISOM, could defeat Al-Shabaab in the "next couple of years".  However, he said, the long-standing arms embargo imposed on Somalia severely restricted the Government's ability to procure heavy weapons.  "The time has come for Somalia to be able to get access to qualitatively better weapons," he said, and he asked the Council for a clearly defined road map that would lead to a full lifting of the embargo. Noting that AMISOM would withdraw by 31 May 2018, unless predictable and sustainable funding was in place, he said the Somali National Army and the security forces were not yet ready to take over.  AMISOM's premature withdrawal might be a recipe for disaster, he warned, emphasizing that it was crucial to finance the Mission beyond May 2018. 

Somalia was, of course, also one of the main items on the agenda at last week's joint UNSC and AUPSC meeting in Addis Ababa. According to reports of the meeting there was a considerable convergence of views among the members of both Councils on recent progress in Somalia, including the elections and the peaceful transfer of power. Some members, speaking on behalf of the Security Council, however noted that serious challenges remained. Al-Shabaab continued to pose a serious threat to Somalia and it was critically important for the Somali government and Federal Member States to adhere to the commitments regarding security, political reform, and development made during the London Somalia Conference in May. They also underlined the need for sustainable, predictable funding in tandem with improvements in accountability and oversight and command and control. The terrorist threat in Somalia was identified as a cross-regional threat. It required multi-faceted action. Addressing the root causes of terrorism, human rights and development and the development of a strong national police were all important to the stabilization of the country. Members underlined the critical role AMISOM had played in advancing peace and security in Somalia as well as sacrifices the troop-contributing countries had paid. They strongly emphasized that more support was needed to ensure that it would be able to continue to protect the fragile stability that had been achieved. There was general agreement on the importance of AMISOM for stability and security in Somalia. There was also agreement over the necessity that Somali security forces needed to be ready to take on security responsibilities for the country before AMISOM left. There was less agreement over how this should be achieved and the sort of UN support needed in order to build up the capacity of the Somali security forces.

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A Somali Army base on the Kenyan border briefly overrun by Al-Shabaab

Using its usual tactics of detonating a suicide car bomb and then trying to storm the base, Al-Shabaab briefly overran a Somali army base a few kilometers outside the town of Bulo Hawa in Gedo region on Monday (September 11). A vehicle-borne improvised bomb exploded at the entrance to the main military post, followed by a coordinated attack by militants from several directions. Al-Shabaab fighters also detonated explosions at the police station and government offices before looting shops and destroying buildings in the Bulo Hawa town.

The first attack targeted the military base, a few kilometers outside the town and then after the troops were forced to evacuate their wounded and fall back, Al-Shabaab attacked the town itself. They detonated explosives at the main police station, and then targeted the town's district headquarters as well as detonating explosives at the mayor's office. Al-Shabaab stole vehicles and weapons before withdrawing as the government forces, with Kenyan support, advanced back to the town. Al-Shabaab later claimed they had released 35 prisoners from jail. According to the police, the prisoners were released at the beginning of the attack to prevent them being killed by Al-Shabaab.

Bulo Hawa is only a few kilometers from the Kenyan border town of Mandera, and Kenyan security forces at Mandera, just four kilometers away, were put on standby alert as soon at they heard the sound of explosions and gunshots from the Somalia side of the border in the early hours of the morning. Bulo Hawa residents said there had been fierce fighting before the army units had been forced out of the base. Kenya's North Eastern Regional Coordinator Mohamud Saleh said they had feared there would be a spillover into Kenyan territory. The Kenyan official said later the town had been "badly destroyed and looted by the terrorists," adding that Al-Shabaab had "destroyed government offices and looted shops as they escaped the town. The militants also blew up the police station and a phone mast, before retreating." He noted that seven Somali troops were in hospital in Mandera.

While the fighting was going on, Kenyan troops provided artillery support for the Somali forces and launched military helicopters to provide bombardment of Al-Shabaab positions. With Kenyan support, the Somali government forces rapidly regained control of the town within a few hours. Somalia army officials said on Tuesday that they were back in full control of the town.  One officer said: "We managed to chase the militants out of the town. We lost some of our soldiers but we also killed a number of their fighters while others escaped with injuries." 

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September 18 – a bleak and dismal anniversary for Eritrea

Sixteen years ago next Monday (September 18), President Isaias arrested eleven leading ministers and political figures, including some of his onetime closest associates. This group, known as the G-15 because they were originally part of a group of fifteen leading officials, had signed a couple of open letters critical of President Isaias's actions a few months earlier. Three members of the G15 were abroad and escaped arrest; one retracted his participation.

The arrested members of the G15 were Petros Solomon, former Minister of Defense and Minister of Maritime Resources; Haile Woldetensae, former Foreign Minister and of Education; Brigadier General Estifanos Seyoum, former Director-general of Inland Revenue; Major General Berhane Gerezgiher, former Commander of the Armed Forces; Berakai Ghebreselassie, former Minister of Information and Education; Saleh Idris Kekya , former Minister of Transport and Communication; Mahmoud Ahmed Sherifo, former Foreign Minister, Minister of Local Government and Chair of the Electoral Law Drafting Committee; his wife, Aster Fissehatsion, former regional Head of Personnel; Hamed Himid, a Director in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Germano Nati, former regional Director of Social Affairs; and Major General Ogbe Abraha former Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, Minister of Trade and Industry and of Labor and Social Welfare. All were members of the People's Front for Democracy and Justice's central committee and of the National Assembly.

The group had signed open letters to President Isaias in May and August of 2001 calling for convening the provisional National Assembly and the central committee of the single ruling party, the People's Front for Democracy and Justice, which Isaias in his capacity as President and as head of the party had refused to do. They called for President Isaias to respond to the draft constitution and the law, and allow the legislative and executive branches to perform their legal functions. They called for protection of human rights, freedom of expression and political discourse, formation and freedom of action of civic organizations, the dismantling of the Special Military Courts, for long-term prisoners to be brought before a regular court of law, and the independence of the judiciary to be guaranteed.

Their own fate and subsequent events have consistently underlined the accuracy of their criticisms.

None of G15 were ever changed or tried, and none have been seen again, though they were known to be detained in a specially built prison, Eiraeiro, in one of the most inhospitable regions of Eritrea.  Reports from former prison guards provided some detail of their treatment, kept in solitary confinement under appalling conditions and denied medical treatment. Any survivors are believed to be physically or mentally affected and in poor health. In fact, the only two of the G15, Haile Woldetensae and Petros Solomon, are still believed to be alive.

The President and other Government officials have largely refused to talk about the G15. In one of his very few public references, President Isaias told the National Assembly, at its final meeting, that the G15 had committed "treason by abandoning the very values and principles the Eritrean people fought for". He apparently identified these values with himself and his personal rule. In 2010 when questioned about the G15 detainees by a Qatari journalist, the President responded: "By God, I do not know about this issue. This issue can be forgotten."  He went on: "I say we are not prepared to be dragged, and lured, and speak on this subject. This issue is a subject matter of States, the forces that are trying to create a crisis in this country. We do not waste our time talking about this issue, which is trying to lure us into things we do not want to be lured to."

The way the G15 have been treated appears to be no different from thousands of other except, possibly, in degree. A UN Commission of Enquiry into Human Rights Abuses in Eritrea, which reported for the UN Human Rights Council in July last year, concluded there were "reasonable grounds" to believe that crimes against humanity had been committed in Eritrea since 1991, that Eritrean officials had engaged in a persistent, widespread and systematic attack against the country's civilian population since 1991, and that they had committed, and continued to commit, crimes of enslavement, imprisonment, enforced disappearance, torture, other inhumane acts, persecution, rape and murder. The Commission also noted the absence of a constitution, an independent judiciary or democratic institutions. It heard no plans to hold national elections. It also found that the "gross human rights violations it documented in its previous report persist, including arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, torture, killings, sexual and gender-based violence, discrimination on the basis of religion and ethnicity, and reprisals for the alleged conduct of family members." It also emphasized that many of those subjected to enforced disappearance in the past remained unaccounted.

The Commission did note that there had been some increased engagement with the international community, but it emphasized that this offered "no evidence of progress in the field of human rights." It pointed out that human rights violations were cited as the main motivating factor for departure by the large numbers of Eritreans fleeing the country – up to five thousand a month.  It noted that Eritreans continued to be subjected to indefinite national service and that previous promises of limiting this were not carried out: "Conscripts are drafted for an indefinite duration of service in often abusive conditions, and used as forced labor." It noted political power and control were concentrated in the hands of the President and a small circle of loyalists, and added that it had reasonable grounds to believe that the top levels of the National Security Office and the military were responsible for most cases of arbitrary arrest, enforced disappearance and torture. Military commanders, it added, were responsible for abuses committed under the military service program and at the borders; the leadership of the party and the military also benefitted from the use of conscripts as forced labor.

In June this year, a report from the UN Special Rapporteur on Eritrea, found that nothing had changed since the conclusions and detailed findings of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea a year earlier. The Special Rapporteur noted that the Government of Eritrea had made no effort to address any of human rights concerns highlighted by the Commission of Inquiry, had shown no willingness to tackle impunity with regard to perpetrators of past or ongoing violations, and still refused point blank to allow the Special Rapporteur access to the country.