Congratulations to President Barack Obama
Security Council support for UN Peacekeepers in Somalia
Somalia’s presidential election next week ; speculation on Somalia’s future
30,000 Eritrean refugees in northern Ethiopia
An AU/UN meeting on UNAMID
Human Rights Watch : World Report 2009
Professor Hassan Makki and extremism in the Horn of Africa
Following the historic inauguration of President Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States of America and the first African American to be elected to that office, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi sent a message of congratulation expressing the best wishes of the peoples and government of Ethiopia, and of himself, to President Obama for his well-being and success. The ceremony, attended by millions of Americans gathered in Washington, was watched by millions more people from all over the world, including most of Ethiopia. It was a truly historic ceremony, and President Obama’s speeches in his successful campaign, as well as his inaugural address have earned him, and his country, goodwill the world over. In his message, Prime Minister Meles noted “We have all followed closely the long campaign for the presidency, not only because of your close links to Africa, but also because of your inspirational messages that have galvanized so many in the United States”. The Prime Minister added, “Your achievement in this historic election represents a milestone in the history of your great country…a nation with which Ethiopia has always had strong ties of friendship.” The Prime Minister said he was confident the election of President Obama would provide a new opportunity for the people of the United States to forge ahead towards further prosperity and peace. He said he was looking forward to a productive working relationship with the new administration. Indeed, Ethiopia and the United States have enjoyed close and friendly relations based on mutual respect and partnership for over a century. Ethiopia is confident that this will be further strengthened during the Obama Administration. For its part, it remains fully committed to strengthening the close ties between the two countries.
Last Friday, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1863 (2009), expressing its intention to establish a UN peacekeeping operation in Somalia, and renewing its authorization of the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) for a further six months. The Resolution calls on Secretary-General, Ban ki-Moon, to develop, by April 15th, a mandate for the proposed UN mission to replace the current AU force. The deployment of the proposed mission would, however, be subject to a further decision of the UN Security Council, to be taken on June 1st. The Resolution noted that the mandate for the proposed force should take into account the need to facilitate humanitarian assistance and access, maintain liaison with all parties to the Djibouti Agreement, provide security to protect and assist the institutions of a future Unity Government, monitor the implementation of the cessation of hostilities under the Djibouti Agreement, ensure the security of UN personnel and assist in the effective re-establishment of Somali security forces. It also requests the Secretary-General to establish a trust fund for AMISOM’s financial support and to hold a donor’s meeting for this purpose as soon as possible. Renewing authorization of AMISOM for another six months, the Security Council requested the African Union to reinforce AMISOM to its original projected strength of 8,000.
The Resolution reaffirmed that the Djibouti Peace Agreement represented the basis for resolution of conflict in Somalia and welcomed its guiding principles for the establishment of a Unity Government and an inclusive Parliament. It called on member states to contribute personnel, equipment and other resources to AMISOM as well as assist in building up the capacity of the Somali Government at federal, state and local levels. The Resolution requires the Secretary-General to advise urgently on the implementation of his plans to help the TFG and the ARS develop a coherent joint Transitional Security Force and Police, some 15,000 in all. The Resolution stresses the need for the Secretary-General’s Special Representative to co-ordinate all UN activities in Somalia in support of the efforts to establish peace and security, and immediate contingency planning for the deployment of UN offices and agencies into Somalia. Without mentioning names, the Security Council also demands that all states in the region refrain from any action that might exacerbate instability in Somalia or the Horn of Africa, and reiterates its intention to take measures against those that try to block a peaceful political process, or “who undermine stability in Somalia or the region.”
One of the sponsors of Resolution 1863 was the United States which was earlier pushing for deployment of a peace-keeping force in Somalia as soon as possible. Following the US Presidential elections, the new US Ambassador-designate to the United Nations, Ms. Susan Rice said she supported elements of the resolution, including those aimed at strengthening AMISOM’s resources. She did, however, note that the new US Administration would have to take a “very careful and close look” at whether to support a UN force in six months time. Ms. Rice added that she thought a multi-faceted approach was needed in Somalia to deal with emergency relief, political reconciliation and with “terrorist challenges” effectively.
In Addis Ababa last weekend, the AU Peace and Security Commissioner, Mr. Ramtane Lamamra, chaired a meeting of representatives of the African Union Commission and Ministers of Defense of AMISOM troop-contributing countries to discuss recent political and security developments in Somalia and the status of the build-up of AMISOM forces. The meeting was attended by the international partners on Somalia as well as by representatives of the TFG, the opposition ARS, and the IGAD Facilitator on Somali peace and reconciliation as well as representatives of the five permanent members of the Security Council, the European Union, the three African members of the Security Council, Italy, Norway, the Organization of Islamic States, and the Arab League. The meeting was briefed on the progress made in putting in place the mechanisms for the expansion of the parliament as stipulated in the Djibouti Agreement. The meeting encouraged Somali political groups to show unity of purpose and ensure that political developments moved the peace and reconciliation process forward. The security situation following the Ethiopian withdrawal was reviewed and the meeting was told there had been a significant reduction of threat in Mogadishu. Participants, however, stressed the need to urgently address provision of the required logistical support for a joint TFG and ARS security force, and the need for further consolidation of AMISOM was underlined. The meeting was told additional battalions for AMISOM will be deployed in the near future. The partners expressed their satisfaction at the political and security progress and at the commendable work undertaken by AMISOM despite the still trying environment in Mogadishu, reaffirming their commitment to its support. The meeting was encouraged by Resolution 1863, and the references to the provision of necessary support to AMISOM as preparation for the UN to take over.
The Peace and Security Council itself also held a meeting on Somalia this week, at ambassadorial level. Its 167th meeting in Addis Ababa, on Wednesday, was briefed by the AU Commission, by representatives of the TFG, and by Ethiopia, (in its capacity as chair of IGAD,) as well as by representatives of IGAD Secretariat and the United Nations. Ambassador Sahlework Zewde, Ethiopia’s Ambassador to the African Union, underlined the need for seriousness from Somali parties as the owners of the peace process, and emphasized the importance of proper handling of the political situation to retain the legality of the TFG. She also informed the council that IGAD would convene a Council of Ministers meeting on Somalia on the 27th January, in the margins of the forthcoming AU Summit. The briefings to the Council emphasized the need for a successful expansion of the Transitional Federal Parliament and presidential election, noting the fact that al-Shabaab was losing ground, and its activities were currently limited to minor terrorist incidents. In a statement, the council encouraged Somali parties to continue to demonstrate the political will required for the success of the reconciliation process, and called on member states and the international community as a whole to continue to extend their support to the process. The council also welcomed the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1863 (2009).
Meanwhile, preparations are pushing ahead for the Somali Presidential election, and after the resignation of President Abdullahi Yusuf from the TFG last month, the effort to elect a new leadership in Somalia appears to be on track. The election is now expected to take place in Djibouti on Monday after the enlarged Parliament is sworn in. Candidates for the top job have been announcing their readiness to compete. So far 12 candidates have appeared among them the current Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein, former Prime Minister Professor Ali Mohammed Gedi, Ambassador Hassan Abshir Farah (a former prime minister of the TNG), and Ambassador Azhari (one time ambassador to the US). A number of others are also expected to announce their candidature. Yesterday, interim President, Sheikh Aden Madobe, and Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein ‘Adde’ arrived in Djibouti from attendance at the Arab League Summit in Kuwait. They are working together to ensure a smooth transition and the enlargement of the Transitional Federal Parliament in accordance with the provisions of the Transitional Federal Charter. Starting yesterday, MPs who were in Baidoa are being air-lifted to Djibouti. There were concerns whether enough MPs would be available in Djibouti to make amendments to the Transitional Federal Charter, to validate the enlargement of the parliament. The opposition ARS, for its part, has divided the 200 MPs allotted to it under the Djibouti Agreement along the same 4.5 clan formula used for the original appointment of the members of the Transitional Federal Parliament.
As might be expected, the withdrawal of Ethiopian forces from Somalia has inevitably led to international and media speculation about Somalia’s future, much of it gloomy and frequently erroneous deductions. Indeed, an Economist article a couple of weeks ago suggested that the Ethiopian departure might mean that Somalia would fall “back into the abyss”, though it did add a question mark. For the Economist, Ethiopia’s move meant that it would no longer be taking responsibility for Somalia, but, surprisingly, it did not go on to identify exactly why this would be the case. It noted that there was still little sign that the AU was persuading African states to honor their pledges and get more troops on the ground (though there are in fact 3,500 not 2,900), and that American and European governments were only prepared to take action against pirates, but little more. It did not underline that this added up to a very significant failure by the international community. It noted that in the last two years Ethiopia had demonstrated its ability to respond firmly to any threat of a full-scale invasion and the resurrection of the Somali irredentism which convulsed the whole region in the 1960s and 1970s. Its intervention in December 2006 very quickly got rid of what was a very clear and immediate threat. However, the failure of Somali politicians to take advantage of the possibilities subsequently available to create a functional government and the lack of international support for the Transitional Federal Institutions seriously weakened the impact of Ethiopia’s subsequent efforts on behalf of peace and stability in Somalia over the last two years. In fact, as is likely to become apparent in the near future, Ethiopia did a substantial job in keeping down the amount of violence.
Professor David Shinn of George Washington University, a former US Ambassador to Ethiopia, equally failed to underline the significance of the failure of the international community, preferring to see Ethiopia as having been a major part of the problem for the last two years. Professor Shinn remains pessimistic that moderate Somalis, “who just want a return to some sort of stability”, would prove able or willing to come together. He doubts whether the moderates will be strong enough to succeed, apparently believing Al-Shabaab is in the best position to take advantage of Ethiopia’s withdrawal because it is “well-armed and well organized”. This view is shared by Time Magazine which regards Ethiopia’s withdrawal as a gamble, comparing it to the US’s planned drawdown of forces in Iraq.
Indeed, it is sometimes difficult to see where commentators on Somalia are coming from. Gamal Nkrumah in a recent article, “Ethiopian exodus” in Al Ahram Weekly On-line (January 15-21), is another case in point. Mr. Nkrumah seems to believe that Ethiopia bowed to popular Somali pressure to withdraw or beat a hasty retreat. Not exactly the same thing, of course, and in any case totally at odds with Ethiopia’s reasons for withdrawal. Mr. Nkrumah claims it is common knowledge that Ethiopian forces were in Somalia to fight a proxy war on behalf of the United States. No, it isn’t. It is in fact common knowledge it is not true ; in most cases, indeed, it’s more a question of the pot calling the kettle….. In fact, Mr. Nkrumah appears to have little knowledge of what is actually happening in Somalia, talking about the Council of Islamic Courts, which no longer exists under this name, and Al-Shabaab as expected to fill the political vacuum in the wake of the Ethiopian withdrawal. They aren’t. It has been moderate Islamic forces, supporters of the Djibouti Agreement, oddly not mentioned by Mr. Nkrumah, which have been taking over the previous Ethiopian bases. Mr. Nkrumah does note, as Ethiopia has consistently pointed out, that the international community has dragged its feet over Somali national reconciliation, adding that “even the US-led International Contact Group has been unable to resolve the Somali political impasse” though unwilling to try might be a better choice of phrase than “unable to resolve”.
Mr. Nkrumah’s belief that Ethiopia’s withdrawal will “accentuate the political clout of the militant Islamists and curb the influence of moderates” may be shared by other commentators, but there is little evidence that it is accurate. It seriously exaggerates the strength of the extremists at present, a fact or rather a reality not unrelated to what Ethiopia has contributed over the last two years. A rather more accurate point is Mr. Nkrumah’s assertion that it would be in the best interests of Somalia “if the professionals return to their homeland and technocrats are permitted to once again conduct the business of running the country in peace. The interests of Somalia will be best served when trust is rebuilt in the Somali political system.” This is certainly true, and as Ethiopia has underlined for the last two years, it needs the full co-operation of the international community and the complete concurrence of Somalis.
Most recently, it has been the turn of Stephanie McCrummen in the Washington Post : “With Ethiopian Pullout, Islamists Rise Again in Somalia” (22.1.2009). Ms. McCrummen starts by seeing Al-Shabaab as the biggest threat to the TFG and to what she calls “moderate Islamists seeking to become part of it”. She spends much of her article looking, gloomily, at the various divisions among the “moderates”, at what she calls the effect of the Ethiopian intervention in scattering the leadership of the Islamic Courts, and some of the fluid political alliances that have appeared in recent months. The conclusion, however, takes a different line. Shabaab, Ms. McCrummen emphasizes, is also showing signs of internal divisions, of fragmentation. So, in the end, the most viable political alternative appears to be a UN, and US-backed agreement which involves moderate Islamist leaders. In other words, the Djibouti Agreement which Ms. McCrummen doesn’t actually mention in her article.
Last weekend a delegation from embassies and NGOs based in Addis Ababa visited two refugee camps for Eritreans at Mayayni and Shimalba in Tigrai Regional State. The delegates, from the EU, the US and Canada, and from UN organizations, including UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP, WHO, and the IOM, as well as other NGOs, spent three days at the camps and at an asylum screening centre between January 14-16. Shimalba camp was set up in May 2004, and Mayayni last year, to provide shelter for the thousands of Eritreans who have been fleeing from mandatory and continuous military service, religious and other forms of persecution and human rights violations. The refugee camps currently hold over 30,000 refugees, 16,000 in Shimalba alone, and the numbers are increasing at an average monthly rate of 900 men, women and children. Similar numbers have been crossing into Sudan. The deputy director of the Administration for Refugees and Returnee Affairs (ARRA) said the aim of the visit had been to let donors see the situation on the ground to encourage the provision of more help and support for the refugees. With the numbers continuing to increase steadily, more assistance from the international community is becoming necessary. The delegation noted that the ARRA, together with international organizations, had been very active in providing protection and security for the refugees, but promised to do more to help. The refugees appealed to the delegation to encourage the international community to provide additional financial and material assistance as well as to improve resettlement quotas for Eritrean refugees in western countries. They also asked the international community to condemn forced repatriation of refugees by some governments to Asmara without consent.
Ms. Susana Malcorra, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Department of Field Support was in Addis Ababa this week to visit AU Headquarters and discuss issues relating to the deployment and operations of the United Nations – African Union Hybrid Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), as well as the strengthening of the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM). On Monday, Ms. Malcorra attended the third meeting of the African Union Commission, the United Nations and the Government of Sudan’s Tripartite Coordinating Mechanism for UNAMID, set up last year. She confirmed to the meeting that UNAMID had successfully achieved 60% deployment of its proposed troop level by the end of last month. Additional troops are expected in March and more later in the year. Ms. Malcorra ascribed this achievement to the positive spirit of engagement of all the parties involved. She also underlined that deployment of the required number of troops was only a prelude to the main task of bringing peace and security to Darfur. The African Union Peace and Security Commissioner, Mr. Ramtane Lamamra, said that the Tripartite Mechanism’s work reflected the high priority given to such a complex and difficult peacekeeping mission as UNAMID. A memorandum of understanding was signed between the Government of Sudan and UNAMID to enable UNAMID to make more effective use of Sudanese airfields and speed up the remainder of the deployment process.
During her visit, the UN Under-Secretary-General also met with officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In a meeting with Mr. Desalegn Alemu, Acting Director-General of International Organizations, in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ms. Malcorra thanked the Government of Ethiopia, a major troop contributor to UNAMID, for fulfilling its commitment so promptly, making it possible for UNAMID to successfully achieve its current levels of troop deployment. She noted that Ethiopia had always been at the forefront in peace negotiation initiatives in regional conflicts and in contribution of troops for peacekeeping operations, and welcomed Ethiopia’s role in the efforts being made within the UN and AU frameworks to bring lasting peace to conflicts in Africa in general and in Eastern Africa in particular. Ms. Malcorra also thanked the Government for its assistance in the establishment and operation of the UNAMID Office in Addis Ababa.
It is a commonplace for countries criticized by Human Rights Watch to complain about HRW’s reports, as indeed HRW is always quick to emphasize. And indeed, HRW appears to assume, for that very reason, that none of the complaints are justified. In fact, however, it doesn’t mean that the criticisms may not be merited. All too often, and far more than HRW is prepared to admit, they are. This is, in part, because of HRW’s acknowledged failures to investigate on the ground, or because, on occasions, it has certainly failed to evaluate the origin and political affiliation of the sources that it used. It might be noted that using multiple sources is no guarantee of accuracy if all actually come from the same politically engaged organization. This is of particular concern in conflict situations, in civil war or armed struggle against a government.
Another major difficulty with HRW’s reports is that, in some cases, it has clearly decided in advance of its investigations that a government has a poor human rights record and that nothing it does, or has done, can improve this. As a result, HRW is prepared to believe any, and all, allegations against that government, even when there is no reliable or even actual evidence of specific abuse. Equally, in these circumstances, it is prepared to ignore any, and all, efforts such a government might make to improve its human rights record. It disregards any facts that might appear to mitigate or contradict its own views and allegations. It apparently assumes that any government statements that have the temerity to try and contradict its own views must automatically be invalid. Even when a government produces undisputable and independent evidence that dispute HRW’s allegations, HRW will immediately dismiss these as ‘partial’, refusing to accept that its own actions and reports are frequently deserving of a similar claim. The point is not so much the inaccuracy of HRW’s allegations, or even perhaps its aims and intentions, though its double standards must often remain a matter of concern. It is the failure to identify accurate sources and accurate facts, or in many cases even to try to do so, and the automatic assumption that “opposition sources” are more reliable than “government sources”. It is in fact a fundamental, and very obvious, methodological flaw, underlined in this case by HRW’s failure to visit either Ethiopia, or Somalia, in recent years. HRW, time and again, makes false assumptions on the basis of misconception, ignorance and inaccuracy as the independent investigation of alleged abuses in the Somali Region, commissioned by the Ethiopian Government, makes clear.
It seems clear that HRW often makes up its mind in advance, or even in defiance, of the evidence. Again and again, HRW fails to indicate that it is reporting unsubstantiated, unproven or at the least controversial or disputed allegations. To assert “credible reports” in these circumstances is hardly sufficient when there are significantly more credible reports asserting precisely the opposite. It might be noted that contrary to HRW’s claims, the Ethiopian Government does not reject international cooperation in this area with a view to improving human rights in Ethiopia or anywhere else in the world. HRW has consistently failed to demonstrate that it is prepared to carry out open-minded and unprejudiced investigations in Ethiopia. Despite this, the Government has made it quite clear that it would still be prepared to co-operate with HRW but this must depend upon HRW proving it will listen to the evidence available even when it contradicts its own preconceptions. HRW’s comments on the 2005 multi-party elections in Ethiopia, for example, make it quite clear that HRW at no point considered this as the democratic development that it was for all other observers. Even in advance of the actual vote, HRW was issuing a report claiming the election could not be considered fair, a verdict that no other observers agreed with. Before the local elections last year, HRW did exactly the same thing. In both cases, the timing of the reports, shortly before the polls, seemed to demonstrate intent to affect voting. If not deliberate, it was, at the very least, quite extraordinarily careless and incompetent.
Similarly, in its comments on the recently passed Charities and Societies Proclamation, HRW continues to allege this is part of a deteriorating environment for civil society. It is very hard to see how HRW can have reached this conclusion independent of opposition allegations which often use similar phraseology. In the first instance as HRW could easily have verified there is very little new in the law which is actually based upon articles 402 to 482 of the present civil code dating back to the imperial era. The proclamation does little more than update and systemize the regulations to allow for regular evaluation of foreign NGOs. It is hard to escape the conclusion that HRW’s main complaint is that it, and other organizations involved in advocacy, will be subject to registration and regular evaluation of the kind that is normal in their own and many other countries. They will not be prevented from operating, only encouraged to be transparent. A similar degree of apparently deliberate misunderstanding appears in HRW’s comments on the new media bill (which HRW grudgingly qualifies as promising to reform “some of the more repressive aspects of the previous legal framework”). It is, after all, normal for any government to keep the right to impound publications on the grounds of national security ; criminal penalties for libel or defamation are certainly not unusual.
Again and again, HRW’s comments appear to start from a specific anti-Ethiopian Government position, highly critical of a human rights record which it claims is marked by steadily increasing intolerance of political dissent or independent criticism, an appellation by which HRW appears to dignify itself. It consistently, and apparently deliberately, refuses to look at any of the very substantial evidence to the contrary, not least the multi-party democratic elections of 2005 and 2008. It persistently puts the worst interpretation on every action and on any legislation even when this view is clearly erroneous and inappropriate. For HRW to say Ethiopia “is conducting an all-out assault on any kind of independent criticism” is obvious rubbish, as it must know if it bothered to follow the output of the Ethiopian media. Equally, whatever one may think about political impact of the arrest of the opposition politician that it has so vociferously complained about, there are genuine legal reasons for this action which HRW has clearly not bothered to investigate. The pardon, following conviction, was granted to W/zo Birtukan Midekssa after she had expressed remorse for her actions, and promised to respect the law and the constitution. Her denial of this removed the legal premise on which the pardon was granted. To ignore this would have serious implications for the integrity of the legal system, the very basis of human rights in Ethiopia. It was something that no judiciary could have accepted.
Similarly, even the most superficial analysis of the Charities and Societies law makes it clear that independent human rights work has not been “outlawed”, only regulated. There is nothing in the law to demonstrate intent to ban civil society organizations from engaging in works of advocacy, including human rights. Nor are groups based outside country, like HRW, barred from human-rights related work. There is, however, a requirement that they should be regulated and registered (not, as claimed, licensed). The fact is that NGOs will no longer be able to operate merely to please themselves. Despite HRW’s assertions, regulation is not outlawry.
One could go on at length, but this is not meant to be a catalogue of criticism. It is rather a plea for Human Rights Watch to try and live up to its own aims and intentions, to look at the evidence available, improve its methodology and act in the balanced and unbiased way in which an international human rights body of its reputation should operate.
Ethiopia is fully aware that the stability of its neighbors and the nature of its relations with them have tremendous impact on the success of internal policies, on the result of its war on poverty and on ensuring sustainable economic development which remains the core of its foreign policy. Globalization has made this all the more valid today than ever before. Peaceful coexistence and good neighborly relations are an imperative if a country’s endeavors are to be successful. Ethiopia’s foreign policy has been informed by these fundamental principles for the last seventeen years. They are not shared by everybody. Professor Hassan Makki is currently head of the Center of Research and African Studies at the International University of Africa in Khartoum. His center’s publication, Dirasat Ifriqiyya, is a pulpit for sermons of doom and gloom about the Horn of Africa in general and Ethiopia in particular. Dr. Hassan also writes op-ed pieces for the Arabic daily, Al Raay Alam, a private newspaper that makes a habit of demonizing Ethiopia while praising Eritrea unstintingly. Much of what Dr. Hassan writes is not the stuff of serious scholarship. Most of his articles are full of factual inaccuracies, gross contradictions, and the sort of sloppy analysis that smacks of muddled thinking. Dr. Hassan prides himself on being a prominent Islamic scholar and often prefers to be addressed accordingly. His sympathy with NIF extremists is all too clear ; his attitude towards southern Sudanese borders on downright racism. Of greatest concern, perhaps, have been his diatribes against Ethiopia, blaming it for everything that he might think has gone wrong either in the Sudan or the whole sub-region.
His mendacious accusations are far too numerous to raise here, but two common threads run through Dr. Hassan’s obsessive mudslinging. First, Dr. Hassan is very clear about his vision for a united Islamic movement in the entire sub-region and the negative role, he claims, Ethiopia has always played in derailing this process. Whether writing about conflict between and/or among the Sudan, Eritrea and Ethiopia or in Somalia, Dr. Hassan sees a conspiracy against Islam concocted and spearheaded by “Christian Ethiopia”. In its December 28, 2008 issue, Al Raay Alam newspaper carried an article by Dr. Hassan claiming peace in Somalia is unachievable because Ethiopia “which represents a Christian entity surrounded by an Islamic environment from outside and Islamic trend from within” sees a peaceful and unified Somalia as a threat. Dr. Hassan has for a long time advocated an Islamic movement for the entire region and claims the only challenge to this comes from “Christian Ethiopia”. He acknowledges Ethiopia actually has more Muslims than the Sudan, but believes they are oppressed, and, indeed, that despite their numbers Ethiopian Muslims are not Muslim enough. Indeed, in an Article published in Dirasat Ifriqiyya, entitled “Eritrean Ethiopian Conflict (1997-1998) : An analytical point of view”, he asserts “Ethiopian Muslims are abundant in quantity but not in quality.” He wants them to get back their usurped position so they can represent a “cornerstone of stability and peaceful coexistence in the region.” Dr. Hassan appears entirely unaware that much of Ethiopia embraced Islam long before the rest of the world even heard about it and that Muslims and Christians lived in harmony for centuries. Ethiopian Muslims need no liberator from outside, much less a racist professor masquerading as a consummate cleric.
The second point that Dr. Hassan repeatedly makes relates to his belief in collusion between Ethiopia and the West against Sudan and Islam dating back to the early 1990s. He seems to be convinced that the US has always sought to scuttle the rise of Islam in the Horn of Africa by creating an axis made up of Ethiopia, Eritrea and Uganda against Sudan. In his article on the Ethio-Eritrean Conflict, he delights in the eruption of hostilities between the two ‘American Satellites’ : “Alas, the era of dreams & longing for integration has elapsed forever [because] the experience of peaceful coexistence [between Eritrea and Ethiopia] has collapsed for good.” For Dr. Hassan, “Christian Ethiopia” may act on its own, but it also being used, along with others, by the US to challenge the expansion of Islam in the region. Similarly, he claims the West is supporting Ethiopia with an agenda based on the annulment of the activities of the Somali National movements and because “western states wanted the Somali issue to remain a western partnership with Kenya and Ethiopia.” While asserting “Christian Ethiopia” has reason to work against the expansion of Somali Nationalist movements, Islamic or otherwise, he also seems to suggest that it is doing the West’s bidding in Somalia. Logic is not Dr. Hassan’s strongest point.
Indeed, it raises the question as to what exactly Dr. Hassan is driving at, whose bidding is he doing and whose agenda is he promoting ? Ethiopia believes its national interest is better served in the context of neighborly relations based on peaceful coexistence, mutual respect and benefit as well as regional cooperation to ensure stability. Significant results have been achieved in this regard with all our neighbors except Eritrea. Ethiopia has consistently made efforts to resolve conflicts between and within neighbors in an amicable manner. Our support for the CPA in Sudan has always been consistent and solid whatever Dr. Hassan would try to have us believe. Our efforts to aid the peace making process in Somalia is something we have paid dearly for. Today, Ethiopia enjoys excellent relations with Sudan, with Djibouti, and with Kenya and is doing its level best to promote peace efforts in Somalia. The areas of cooperation range from economic relations, the expansion of infrastructure and transport facilities all the way to working together on regional security, peace and stability. There have been setbacks. Despite the best of intentions and some magnanimous gestures, Ethiopia’s efforts to build peaceful neighborly relations with Eritrea have made no progress. Peaceful relations with Eritrea have been elusive in the face of continued bellicose posturing by the leadership in Asmara and its obsession with the use of violence towards its neighbors. The attempt on the life of President Hosni Mubarak certainly created a misunderstanding between Ethiopia and Sudan. Ethiopia did everything in its power to resolve it in a responsible and civilized manner. The fact that we overcome the crisis long ago and today have a very good relationship with the Sudan government bears witness to the success of Ethiopia’s foreign policy towards its neighbors.
We certainly believe in the sincerity of President Omar al Basher’s recent remarks on his government’s foreign policy ; that Sudan conducts a policy “based on trying to befriend all countries and strengthening relations particularly with African Neighbors including brothers in Chad.” We are also mindful of the potential harm some elements can do to our relations if they are not held in check. The agenda against Ethiopia revealed by Dr. Hassan’s writings and behavior suggests there are those who would do anything to achieve their objectives. It is with this in mind that we call upon concerned authorities not to allow the likes of Professor Hassan Makki’s repeated anti-Ethiopia campaigns and that of others, whose bidding he appears to be doing, to affect policy making at any level. It was, after all, people like these who created the problems between Sudan and Ethiopia in 1995.