NATO PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY’S FACT-FINDING MISSION TO TIGRAY: A LOOK BACK INTO ITS OBSERVATIONS

14 Oct

By Keffyalew Gebremedhin

Who organized NATO Parliamentary Assembly delegation’s first ever visit to Ethiopia and why? They say its purpose was to assess the impact of the 2008 financial crisis on Ethiopia, although their fact-finding mission actually is related to peace and security in the Horn of Africa region. The question as to who organized it, the answer is the World Bank.

That visit took place as planned from 25-29 October 2010. During this visit, field visit was undertaken to Tigray. The choice of Tigray could be due to the potential of open conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Interestingly, this visit did not get coverage on the Ethiopian media, at least, I have not come across one. By accident, I stumbled upon the press release that I have attached herewith from the NATO Parliamentary Assembly own website. The delegation was composed of 15 members, some of whose names have been listed in the World Bank summary below. One would find the observations of the parliamentarians about Ethiopia, its progress, its future and its obstacles and its leadership interesting and penetrating.

A World Bank communique from October 2010 states:

“On October 25-29, the World Bank’s Country Office in Ethiopia hosted a visit of the Sub-Committee on Transatlantic Economic Relations of the NATO-Parliamentary Assembly. The Sub-committee is producing a report on the impact of the global financial crisis on developing countries, and as part of this work asked the World Bank to host a visit to Ethiopia. The NATO-PA sees clear links between global and local security, with the latter being dependent on financial, social and food security – in other words development. The delegation, co-led by John Sewel, member of the British House of Lords and Hugh Bayley, member of the British House of Commons, visited World Bank supported Productive Safety Net Projects in Tigray, seeing efforts undertaken to reverse environmental degradation and increase food security. MPs from France, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain were also part of the delegation, which met with national and regional Government representatives; the Speaker of Parliament; with Ethiopian academia, civil society and the private sector; with key donor countries present in Ethiopia, as well as with the African Union.”

On 11 November the NATO Parliamentary Assembly put out the following summary statement about the delegation’s fact-finding mission to Ethiopia.

“11 November 2010 – DANGEROUS SITUATION IN SUDAN DISCUSSED DURING GROUNDBREAKING VISIT TO ETHIOPIA

From 25-29 October 2010, members of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly’s Sub-Committee on Transatlantic Economic Relations, with the support of the World Bank, visited Ethiopia—the first ever NATO PA visit to that country. The purpose was to learn how Ethiopia has been affected by the global economic crisis and its approach to development, but also to discuss the formidable security challenges in that region of Africa, including the very tense situation in Sudan.

The visit began with a field visit to Tigray to discuss a program designed to increase food security for some of the most vulnerable people in Ethiopian society and to adopt a proactive developmental approach to food security rather than one premised on humanitarian food relief. That program, The Productive Safety Net was developed with the support of the World Bank. The idea is that rather than relying on systems designed to hand out food every time famine strikes, the goal should be to work closely with the people in affected areas to deal with the sources of famine including land degradation, recurrent drought, population pressures, subsistence agricultural practices, and the lack of employment opportunities. [emphasis added]

The delegation observed how the Ethiopian government and local officials with strong support from the World Bank and donor nations are implementing this program. Particularly vulnerable people are being paid to restore denuded hill sides, stabilize land so that it is not washed down deep and destructive gullies during the rainy season, adopt new agricultural techniques, expand rural education, develop vital water preservation and water harvesting techniques and provide social safety nets so families are not tempted to sell off productive assets like cows and plows when times are hard. Members saw how properly conceived, co-ordinated and funded development strategies which engage people directly can make a great difference in the lives of entire regions of a vulnerable country. In the view of sub-Committee Chairman, John Sewel, improved food and human security directly translates into greater strategic stability. Such approaches, he noted, are essential to the security interests of allied nations. [emphasis added]

The political situation in Ethiopia was also discussed. According to some analysts who met with the delegation, Ethiopia ’s leadership is compact, coherent and effective – more so than many other African countries. Yet efforts to suppress dissent, ingrained suspicions of private markets, and an insistence on controlling economic processes creates real vulnerabilities over the long-term.[emphasis added]

The grave security situation in the region was also discussed. Ethiopia is the key power broker in what is one of the most dangerous, complicated and unstable corners of the world. Somalia to its East is a failed state under threat from an Islamic rebellion that is linked to Al Qaeda. Piracy poses a daunting problem, and there are signs of links between some pirates and Al Shebab. Meanwhile various factions in Mogadishu are at war with each other while Eritrea and some Arab and Islamist groups are funneling funds and weapons to Al Shebab.

Ethiopian parliamentarians and western government representatives in Addis Ababa expressed serious concerns to the delegation about the situation in Sudan. The reigning assumption seems to be that the south will indeed vote for independence in a referendum that will be held this January. A concerted diplomatic effort is underway to encourage leaders on Northern Sudan to accept the results of that referendum. Yet all sides seem to be bracing for an outbreak of violence.

Finally the delegation met with the Secretary General of the African Union, Mr. Jean Ping who outlined the work of the AU in peacekeeping and peace making. Mr Ping reiterated the AU’s strong opposition to Al Shebab which he characterized not only as a regional but also a global threat. He discussed the strong support the EU has extended to the AU and its co-operation with NATO on a range of mutual security challenges.

DETAILED DISCUSSION

SUB-COMMITTEE ON TRANSATLANTIC ECONOMIC RELATIONS

1. From 25-29 October, members of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly’s Sub-Committee on Transatlantic Economic Relations, with the support of the World Bank, visited Ethiopia – the first ever NATO PA visit to that country. The purpose was to learn how Ethiopia has been affected by the global economic crisis, explore its approach to development, and discuss the formidable security challenges in that region of Africa, including the very terse situations in Sudan and Somalia.

I. FIELD VISIT TO TIGRAY

2. The visit began with a field visit to Tigray to discuss a program designed to increase food security for some of the most vulnerable people in Ethiopian society and to adopt a proactive developmental approach to food security rather than one premised on humanitarian food relief. That program, The Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP) was developed with the support of the World Bank. The idea is that rather than relying on programs designed to hand out food every time famine strikes, the goal should rather be to work closely with the people in affected areas to deal with the sources of famine including land degradation, recurrent drought, population pressures, subsistence agricultural practices, and the lack of employment opportunities.

3. The delegation observed how the Ethiopian government and local officials, with strong support from the World Bank and donor nations, is implementing this program. Particularly vulnerable people are being paid to restore denuded hillsides, stabilize land so that it is not washed down deep and destructive gullies during the rainy season, adopt new agricultural techniques, expand rural education, develop vital water preservation and water harvesting techniques and provide social safety nets so families are not tempted to sell off productive assets like cows and ploughs when times are hard. Members saw how properly conceived, coordinated and funded development strategies which engage people directly can make a great difference in the lives of entire regions of a vulnerable country. In the view of Sub-Committee Chairman, John Sewel, improved food and human security directly translates into greater strategic stability. Such approaches, he noted, are essential to the security interests of Allied nations.[emphasis added]

4. Government officials who met with the delegation reported that much of Tigray is now under the PSNP program. Steering committees and food security task forces are established at both the regional and the woreda (local administrative units) levels. There thus is a strong degree of local control over these efforts, and an effort is made to engage women in the program’s governance. Peasant associations also play a leading role in shaping local programs. All of this gives the PSNP a bottom up dimension which analysts suggest has been the key to its success.

5. As members saw during the two-day field visit, there has been a visible improvement in the quality of public works in the region. Water catchment and treatment, hillside restoration, reforestation, and gulley management have helped restore arable land, increase harvests and create some buffers against the impact of both drought and heavy rains (which, ironically, are also a great problem in these arid lands). The delegation visited villages that were harvesting food crops that previously had never been grown in the region. The employment dimension of the PSNP has eased social and economic tensions in the region and there are educational programs linked to it that work with very poor people on issues ranging from crop management to aids prevention.

6. This program has shifted the approach away from a humanitarian strategy that only gathers momentum after a crisis has begun to one focused on development and prevention strategy that reduces dependence and raises incomes. Improved resource management is also creating new employment opportunities in vulnerable areas. Of course, other development and social programs are underway in the region. Ethiopia’s population has been expanding at a very high rate, and family planning strategies are being implemented to reduce very dynamic population growth. The population will double over the next 25 years, and this will put enormous pressures on water and food supplies. Needless to say, it is a highly sensitive issue in the country, and the regime actually delayed publishing census numbers at one point. The state has worked both to increase public family planning education and to make contraceptives more widely available.[emphasis added]

7. Land ownership issues were also discussed extensively over the week. The state owns all the land in Ethiopia, although farmers and businesses can lease land for very long periods of time and these leases can be inherited. Farm animals can be privately owned and water harvesting infrastructure is communally owned.

8. Government officials are, of course, very concerned about global warming and the country is indeed vulnerable. Streams have dried out, dried top-soil has been eroded and this has compelled authorities to deal with the challenge in a comprehensive manner. Authorities expect that global warming will shift the rainy season and already it has begun to start ever later in the summer. Water harvesting becomes essential when climate variability increases.

9. The delegation also met with Ethiopian parliamentary leaders to discuss both development and security challenges in the region. These politicians stressed how important the partnership with the World Bank has been and the positive role that it has played in bolstering food security in the region. For Ethiopian politicians, the fight against poverty remains the central security challenge but there are also grave concerns about the stability of Ethiopia’s neighbors. But here as well, poverty seems to be a catalyst for more serious security challenges. The parliamentarians who met with the delegation equated poverty reduction in the region with building a more stable security environment.[emphasis added]

10. The delegation met with members of parliament at a moment when Ethiopia’s government has been subject to tough international criticism for authoritarian political practices and for silencing the political opposition. The parliamentarians who met with the delegation suggested that their ambition is to build up the democratic process although they did not discuss the problems confronting democratic rule in that country including the recent arrests of key opposition figures. Rather the fact that the parliament scrutinizes all development aid and loan projects was presented as evidence of democratic deliberation.[emphasis added]

II. THE VIEW OF WESTERN DEVELOPMENT SPECIALISTS AND DONORS OPERATING IN ETHIOPIA

11. Ethiopia is one of the world’s largest recipients of IDA concessional funding, although in terms of per capita allocation it is not one of the leaders. With 85 million people the country receives about $10 per person annually. The World Bank has a portfolio of 25 projects in the country and roughly half of the allotted funds have been disbursed. The level of disbursement is quite high compared to many other developing countries, and this is because the government is relatively efficient and some programs have the character of sector budget support (which tends to disburse quickly). Once it commits to projects, they move forward quickly and are administered in a competent fashion. Half of what the Bank spends is dedicated to infrastructure projects like roads, electricity transmission and distribution, drinking water, irrigation, and land management. It also underwrites some basic services like education, healthcare, agricultural extension programs and the PSNP which the delegation saw in action in Tigray. The Bank has found that working in partnership with other donors on some projects can be highly rewarding and effective although it does require close cooperation and coordination.

12. According to some analysts who met with the delegation, Ethiopia’s leadership is compact, coherent and effective – more so than many other African countries. Yet its willingness to suppress dissent, ingrained suspicions of private markets, and an insistence on controlling economic processes creates real vulnerabilities which could have serious consequences over the long term. Time and again, the term “brittle” was used to describe the regime. It has few fall-back positions and has alienated opposition figures as to create a climate of suspicion and potential unrest. The government scores very well in terms of advancing its development agenda and has had much success in this regard. It is far less accomplished in terms of governance and human rights, and it tends to treat civil society and its potential representatives with genuine suspicion.[emphasis added]

13. The regime, however, has shown a capacity for renewal and has brought younger leaders into its ranks. The prospect of career advancement encourages young people to join the ruling party and begin careers as administrators. Many of these young people are being brought in from regional governments. Some of these new leaders are talented and they help bring a degree of competence to state administration and a potential degree of pluralism within the ranks of the governing elite. But their margins for manoeuvre are quite limited. If anything, the party’s inclination to exercise control over key elements of civil society, including the economy, has increased in recent years. This can create a kind of bunker mentality which decreases flexibility and flies in the face of regime claims that it is moving toward greater democracy and openness. Ethiopia’s development partners sometimes see their task as to encourage the leadership to emerge from this bunker and to re-examine some of the policies to which it has been strongly wedded but which, from the view of outsiders, do not appear to make a great deal of sense.

14. A number of non-Ethiopians who met the delegation noted that by African standards, the level of corruption in Ethiopia is quite low. This too has reinforced the power of the state and helped the country’s compact leadership act with a relatively high degree of competence. But that leadership’s insistence on maintaining control over the key levers of the national economy as well as the lack of alternation in power is very likely to lead to an increase in corruption over time. Some insiders in Ethiopia recognize this particular danger.

15. The structural problem posed by authoritarian rule is thus daunting. A number of people the delegation met suggested that the leadership is enamoured with the Chinese model and remains convinced elements of that model might work in Africa. The key difference with China, however, is that the Chinese economy is highly competitive, and inside the ruling Communist party of China there are intense debates about the direction of the country. Neither is the case in Ethiopia. One positive development has been the regime’s capacity to concede a degree of regional autonomy, although it has done this by building up regional party structures. This has allowed the ruling party to move away from its roots in Tigray and bolster their legitimacy in other regions of the country and with other ethnic and religious groups. That said, the country is sitting on a religious fault line that has so far been contained. There are nonetheless concerns about radical Islam and of external funding for fundamentalist movements. Some have expressed concern about Islamic charities underwritten by sources in Arab countries and promulgating a Salafist interpretation of the Koran.

16. The government rules in a kind of commando fashion rather than building up strong governance institutions. This leads to a personalization of politics which raises important questions about the long-term sustainability of the current order. Ministers get involved in micro-managing policy – a practice that cannot be continued if the country does move to a higher level of development. There will be increasing pressures to open the system up, but the ruling party is very reluctant to do so. It recognizes the need for capacity-building as such, but has yet to fully fathom that it will also have to increasingly cede some decision-making to civil society and autonomous actors in it. Western donors seem intent on pointing out that doing so can be of great benefit to Ethiopia as a whole and will help galvanize rather than impede its development.[emphasis added]

17. China is also playing a direct role in Ethiopia in terms of direct investment there. IT is an important player in Telecoms and has also assumed a central role in the hydroelectric sector. It launches into projects quickly often without undertaking the environmental and social impact studies that Western donors require. The Ethiopian government also wants to move quickly and so has few problems with the Chinese approach. China, for example, is funding a large and controversial hydro-electric dam that other development banks will not touch because of its potentially adverse social and environmental impacts. This has generated a degree of resentment and distrust among other donors in the region. It is clear that China’s development strategies are closely tied to its broader strategic ambitions, but it does sometimes seem to recognize that it needs to mind its broader reputation as a responsible global actor.

18. A number of NGOs have been focusing attention on the adverse impacts of a range of Chinese development projects. China is under pressure to better align its approach to development in Africa with other donors and there are hopes that they will eventually find a way to work with the donor coordination group in Ethiopia. Coordinating aid policy with the Chinese remains particularly difficult for Western aid donors not only because China does not participate in the DAC but also because it uses different kind of aid and development categories that often blur aid and Chinese business and strategic interests. The problem today is that China is seen as a player than can undercut the concerted efforts of the donor countries to ensure that large projects are sustainable, economically justifiable and that their social and environmental impacts are positive.

19. Human Rights Watch has recently produced a very critical report of the human rights situation in Ethiopia which, among other things, suggested that Western aid policies have helped entrench the regime. Several of the Western representatives the delegation met with suggested that there are elements of truth to the report although it understates the successes the government has had particularly in terms of poverty alleviation. That said, some Western governments have altered their aid policy in the country, with the British, for example, no longer providing direct budgetary support to the Ethiopian state.[emphasis added]

20. The notion of the Washington Consensus is anathema to the ruling elite, which harbours deep suspicions of the private sector. It is highly reluctant to cede control to large firms, and this is an issue that often comes up among Western donors. It could also be a barrier to the achievement of the government’s ambitious growth targets. Although this view of the state’s attitudes was challenged by representatives of the Ethiopian Chamber of Commerce, other experts with whom the group met suggested that there were insiders and outsiders in the business community and that only insiders were able to flourish because of connections to the ruling elite. The feeling among Western diplomats is that if greater room for manoeuvre were extended to Ethiopia’s private sector, the economy would really begin to take off, but the regime is now too controlling to contemplate ceding that control. The government fully intends to develop the national industrial base, but its policies are more amenable to bolstering food security than triggering a national industrial revolution. All of this said, the regime has advanced a number of successful policies which have allowed it to make great progress in terms of meeting several of the key MDGs. Its image sometimes obfuscates these achievements.

21. The view of the international community’s representatives in Addis is that what happens in Ethiopia is of great importance for the region and for the rest of Africa. It is a large country in terms of size and population. It is playing an pan-African representational role, it is a regional power and now hosts the African Union in which it also plays a central role in continental politics. President Meles is also heading NEPAD and the country’s health minister is playing a global leadership role in HIV and Malaria issues. In short, it is taken seriously, and the donor community, as well as Western governments, do consult with each other to discuss the broad parameters of Ethiopian economic and political developments and, where appropriate, to forge common positions and arguments to take up with its leaders. The EU also plays a key role in coordinating aid programs among its members and in many respects, the UN does the same thing with its 24 agencies. Many of the county’s most important development projects are funded through pooled finance.[emphasis added]

III. MEETING WITH NGOS

22. The delegation also met with a range of NGOs and charity groups that are working in Ethiopia. These groups work on a broad range of issues including child welfare, water access, climate change, disease control and prevention, family planning and population issues, poverty alleviation and women’s issues. Many also conduct development advocacy with the government itself. These groups often work very closely together, and there are vehicles for collaboration, information exchange and coordination of effort. Many of these groups have international links as well. They are in active dialogue with representatives of the state and coordinate their efforts with Ethiopian development officials. These groups must register with the state and they are often directly engaged and consulted on state-led development projects. Those charities which receive more than 10% of their funding from abroad are restricted in terms of the political advocacy role that they can play, and this is a source of some concern among development specialists who claim that these voices are important and should not be silenced.

23. The number of NGOs operating in Ethiopia has soared from roughly 70 in 1991 to nearly 5,000 today. They operate at local, regional and national levels and this does create a problem of coordination. Today a number of these groups feel threatened by declining resources. Much of their funding comes from international sources and many indicated that the global economic crisis would reduce the resources available for development projects carried out in the country.

24. The Ethiopian economy has enjoyed strong growth in recent years, although it is growing from a very low base. Between the 1950s and the 1970s it underwent virtually no development as such. The recent growth has encouraged the national leadership to lay out a very ambitious development agenda now embodied in a five-year “Growth and Transformation Plan”.

25. Some economists think this plan, in fact, is too ambitious and premised on a number of overly optimistic assumptions. Ethiopian growth in recent years has hovered near 11% and the savings rate has been roughly 9% of GDP. When China took off in the 1980s, its saving rate was 40% and it was investing at a very high rate. Unless Ethiopia experiences a very large increase in productivity, its current savings rate will be insufficient to underwrite the kind of growth it anticipates. Simply put, the numbers do not add up. Ethiopian legislators suggested that the goal was to bring private savings up to 20% of GNP and to attract new foreign investment. But they also argued that the Chinese paradigm was not fully relevant to their own model.

26. There are concerns that if the country is unable to meet the targets laid out in the plan, the regime will be tempted to fudge the numbers and claim that achievements have been made when they have not been. This could distort economic and development policy. A number of donors have suggested that the Ethiopian government consider opening up its banking sector by allowing foreign banks to operate in the domestic market.

27. Population growth rates have fallen from an estimated 2.9% in 1996 to roughly 2.6% in 2007. This is still quite high and is understood as posing a real development challenge. There are efforts now underway to work on population and family planning at the local levels. Women’s education is key to this effort, as is access to education. Both have increased substantially over the past decade. Enrolment levels in elementary school were once 30% but now stand at about 90%. Healthcare coverage is also expanding, according to parliamentary representatives, and this was confirmed by other experts with whom the delegation met. In fact, the country is on track to meet the Millennium Development Goals in health and education as result of these efforts.[emphasis added]

28. The financial crisis did not have a direct impact on Ethiopia largely because the country’s banking sector is under-developed and not engaged in the kind of risky operations that has left so many Western banks vulnerable. The food and energy crises prior to the financial crisis were, in fact, more consequential. The country was compelled to import food at higher prices during a period of water shortages in 2008. This undercut Ethiopia’s exports and balance of payments. Ethiopian parliamentarians suggested that the country is working to make itself self-sufficient in food, and is doing this by promoting small but intensive farms as well some extensive commercial farming.

29. Water thus poses a key challenge for Ethiopia and the government has very ambitious plans to harness several key river systems for electricity and irrigation. The government maintains that current limits on its rights to use the waters of the Nile are an archaic remnant of the colonial era and it does not recognize those limits. Egypt, maintains that the 60 year-old treaty defining Nile access rights remains binding and these legal differences could pose problems. Members of parliament were at pains to suggest that these river basin issues could be a source of integration rather than tension. But Ethiopia’s ambitions for tapping into the Nile could lead to serious tensions in the region, particularly with Egypt which adamantly defends the status quo, of which it is the greatest beneficiary. Currently only 3% of Ethiopia’s farm land has access to irrigation and the goal is to raise this number to 15%. This is very ambitious and it will need to increase its access to water to achieve it.[emphasis added]

IV. MEETING AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ADDIS ABABA

30. The delegation also met with leaders of Addis Abba University which is one of Africa’s largest and oldest universities. It too is expected to play a role in the country’s development agenda and is now revamping many of its structures and curriculum with this aim in mind. It has assumed a mission to build capacity across the board in the country, in part, by raising the number of Ph.D. and MA graduates in the country. These scholars are then expected to move into teaching in the country’s regional universities. The school has developed partnerships with universities across the world and is bolstering it own resources to carry out its missions. The university currently has 65 Ph.D. programs, 1100 Ph.D. students and 9000 MA students. Biotechnology and material science are among the key priorities, as are studies designed to prepare graduates to cope with water, bio-diversity and food security matters. A number of OECD countries are providing support to the school, which generally charges no tuition fees, at least for Ethiopian students. Its great challenge is resources and it is still not fully staffed.

V. THE REGIONAL SECURITY SITUATION: THE ROLE OF THE EU AND THE AU

31. The European Union has established a close working relationship with the African Union and has had an office in Addis for two years which is dedicated to helping manage this relationship. The EU sees this partnership as an important political relationship and recognizes that the AU, in part, sees the EU as a potential model of integration for the African continent. The two might be described as sister organizations, although the EU is obviously much further down the road in terms of fostering economic, political and security integration among its members.

32. The EU is working particularly closely with the AU on peace and security matters, but it is also collaborating on issues related to climate change, governance, infrastructure, migration, norm setting and even cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal. The mission also deals with regional groups in Africa and tends to bilateral relationships as well. The AU, however, is a key interlocutor at the strategic level.

33. In terms of peace and security, there are several key objectives from the EU perspective: ensuring consultation with the EU on critical conflicts, defining procedures for joining forces with the AU when necessary, and cooperation between the EU’s Political and Security Committee (COPs) and the AU’s Peace and Security Council. The EU has had some concern about AU troop behaviour in Somalia and is particularly adamant that these forces abide by their own rules of engagement. The EU provides support for non-lethal aspects of these forces, whereas the UN makes no such distinction. There has been some criticism that the EU has trained forces outside of Somalia and limited itself to maritime deployments. It is patrolling in the Gulf of Aden and has links to the American task force and the Naval Standing Force operating there. It is also working with Russian, Chinese and Indian forces on those waters. This alone will not solve the piracy problem, and it is difficult to train forces fully out of the country. This was a criticism launched by Ethiopia’s President Meles. There has also been a tendency among EU states to earmark money for peacekeeping in Somalia when the situation calls for something quite different there. Development assistance is also often seen as a priority, but development will not begin without some modicum of security. There has also been a degree of reluctance among European states to lend support to Somaliland, although it is the most stable part of the country. The government in that region pays its police and military regularly and possesses structures for controlling those forces. This is not the case in Mogadishu.

34. The EU’s key priority with regard to the AU is capacity building. The EU has provided longterm financing toward this end, and is financing a number of projects within the AU. Its African Peace Facility, is helping to finance AFSOM and the EU is paying the daily allowance for soldiers detailed in it. The United States is supporting it on the equipment side so the two roles are very complementary. The African Peace Facility is drawing from resources in the European Development Fund. The Euro 700 million in support the EU has extended is bolstered by bilateral contributions. The EU is also supporting the development of the African Standby Force. There are restrictions on the kind of support and aid the EU can provide, and in those areas where it is unable to provide support, its member states can fill the gaps. EU aid is covering a whole spectrum of capacity for the AU’s peace and security architecture from prevention to post conflict management. Conflict prevention remains a particularly compelling priority and so much effort and resources are targeted on mediation efforts.

35. The EU has also supported the AU military exercise ‘Amani Africa’. This has been a great success and despite concerns that a number of countries would not fully participate, there has been a surprising degree of support among African states for it. Fifty-three countries took part in this exercise and did so with a common doctrine, a joint force and a common control system. This, in itself, represents quite an accomplishment. This exercise was just ending when the NATO PA delegation arrived in Ethiopia, and reports were that it had been a surprising success.

36. The grave security situation in the region was also discussed in several fora over the course of the week. Ethiopia is the key power broker in what is one of the most dangerous, complicated and unstable corners of the world. Somalia to its east is a failed state under threat from an Islamic rebellion that is linked to Al-Qaeda. Piracy poses a daunting problem, and there are signs of links between some pirates and Al-Shabaab. Meanwhile, various factions in Mogadishu are at war with each other, while Eritrea and some Arab and Islamist groups are funnelling funds and weapons to Al-Shabaab. Indeed, Somalia has become something of a playground for external actors, although none exercises decisive influence over that chaotic situation. Several speakers suggested that there is no naval solution to the problem of piracy and that deeper change is needed to deal with this challenge in a comprehensive fashion. At best, the problem can be contained but even this is proving difficult. Piracy itself has become a big business and profits from these “businesses” are, for example, turning up in property markets both in Addis and in Nairobi.

37. Several NATO member countries are contributing to police training efforts in Somalia and/or supporting African Union forces there. This has proven a very delicate and difficult task, particularly as some of these trained forces have subsequently switched sides and begun to work against the Somali government. The AU mandate for Somalia has not been properly gauged. Forces are being trained for peace-keeping, but the challenge lies in peace-making and there is a clear need for forces to defend against the attacks of Al-Shabaab.

38. There has been renewed interest in the Somaliland region which remains a bastion of stability and which has carried out democratic elections without problems. Increasingly, it is assuming the profile of a new state and there is at least the potential that the region could have two new countries carved out of the current status quo. Officials in Somaliland, however, do not want to be compared with Southern Sudan precisely because the latter situation is generally seen as far more unstable.

39. Ethiopia’s problems with Eritrea are essentially frozen and little is being done to foster dialogue and reconciliation between the two. The border issue is seen as intractable, and each side is waiting for the other to collapse. Eritrea is supporting Al-Shabaab in Somalia, as well as some armed groups in Ethiopia. Kenya has always been a stable border state for Ethiopia as well as a rival for regional influence. But unrest there in 2008 greatly concerned the political establishment in Addis, and made the real vulnerabilities of the region all the more apparent.

40. Ethiopian parliamentarians and Western government representatives in Addis expressed serious concerns to the delegation about the situation in Sudan. The reigning assumption seems to be that that the south will indeed vote for independence in a referendum that will be held this January. A concerted diplomatic effort is underway to encourage leaders in Northern Sudan to accept the results of that referendum and to work out an oil-sharing arrangement with the south. But all sides seem to be bracing for an outbreak of violence. One parliamentarian noted that the government’s position is that there should be a united Sudan and that Ethiopia would support a process to conclude a united Sudan agreement. Western officials suggested that while the Ethiopians feel that the situation in Somalia is generally manageable, a war in Sudan would not be and they are deeply concerned about the situation there as a result. Other Ethiopians recognize that South Sudanese independence now seems inevitable but worry greatly about what this might trigger and how it will affect Ethiopia. The African Union’s Secretary General has noted that all African countries have a north and a south and there are concerns about a precedent. If, as expected, the referendum for independence passes in the south, the north and the south would still have to negotiate the terms of a “divorce” and this too would be a process fraught with risks, particularly in light of oil deposits in the south.

41. According to Western diplomats in Addis, the AU has shed its old reservations about non-interference and has become more of a protagonist in defining a security structure for the continent. It has contributed troops to UNAMID in Sudan and AMISOM in Somalia. It is also preparing a standby force of 25,000 troops. Each region of Africa has agreed to contribute troops and resources to the force but this is progressing rather slowly. A number of NATO countries are providing bilateral support to the AU and the AU is comfortable with this arrangement.

42. Several speakers told the delegation that the smell of war is in the air and all sides are preparing for it. The Ethiopians are engaged in concerted diplomatic activity to stem the tide of war. One speaker suggested that the United States and China must also begin to use their influence to restrain all sides in Sudan and to work for a peaceful settlement of the outstanding disputes. This will not be easy given the myriad of armed groups with different stakes in the outcome. Khartoum is again financing groups that are making the situation on the ground both volatile and very complex.

43. The delegation also met with the Secretary General of the African Union, Dr. Jean Ping who outlined the broad structure of the African Union and its mission to build an African continent free from fear and free from need. He discussed its work in advancing peace and security, development, shared values in democracy, good governance and human rights and strengthening capacity across the continent to secure these ends. The AU has developed a parliamentary dimension as well as an executive secretariat, a commission on anti-corruption, a civil society forum and a number of other bodies designed to achieve the broad aims of the Union.

44. He discussed in some detail the work of the AU in peacekeeping and peace-making and noted that the AU has developed an early warning system to help it cope with impending crises at an early stage. It is developing the African Standby Forces to help in this area. The Amani exercises were the first to engage these forces. The African Union has also shown a willingness to use these forces as it did when a security crisis began to unfold in Cameroon. The AU also intervened in Somalia and did so with EU financial support. This was a far more complex mission than the one in Cameroon. There was active fighting and many soldiers were killed. Dr. Ping suggested that instead of a ceiling of 8,000 troops, that ceiling should have been set at 20,000. Ethiopia ultimately decided to withdraw its forces from Somalia and the AU has replaced some of these, again with the EU and the UN financing the effort. Dr. Ping indicated that the AU needs equipment, arms and air transport to carry out its mission properly. Currently Algeria and NATO are helping to transport these troops and this support has been critical to the conduct of regular troop rotations needed, among other things, to help protect the government in Mogadishu. Dr. Ping suggested that the situation there is bordering on anarchy and poses a threat to continental stability.

45. Dr. Ping reiterated the AU’s strong opposition to Al-Shabaab which he characterized not only as a regional but also a global threat. He indicated that many in its ranks are not African and that there is a clear attempt to import an extremist ideology into Africa and to use Somalia as a base of operations. It is also engaged in drug-trafficking through the port of Kismayo which it controls. Dr. Ping suggested that Kismayo should be blockaded and a no fly zone placed over it. The AU has asked for South Africa’s help on this front and is also seeking to expand its own mandate. The AU’s objective is to strengthen the government’s hand in the face of this challenge. He discussed the strong support the EU has extended to the AU and its cooperation with NATO on a range of mutual security challenges.

46. The AU is also very concerned about Sudan and Dr. Ping said the outlook there does not look good. Initial reports that the results of the referendum would be respected now seem to have been optimistic. There are signs today that this is not the case, and outstanding border questions could become the trigger for a large conflict. These issues need to be worked out very quickly and if they are not solved, then Sudan is moving inexorably toward war. He noted that the United States is playing a very critical role in mediating discussions about the border around Abyei, the oil rich region.

47. The AU is also seeking to encourage greater trade among its members. Commercial exchange on the continent is hampered both by protectionism and poor infrastructure. The AU is working to facilitate the construction of the kinds of infrastructure that would encourage this trade. Open trading regimes are also important, but they are not sufficient given the lack of physical links among the countries of Africa.

48. Finally, Dr. Ping discussed the role of the African Union Parliament. He mentioned that each member parliament nominates a delegation to this body. Currently that Assembly does not have formal powers like, for example, the European Parliament. But this could evolve over time.

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