Monday, February 9, 2015

Ethiopia's Policy towards the AU: Unique contributions and special responsibilities?

Ethiopia's Policy towards the AU: Unique contributions and special responsibilities?
Dr.iur. Mehari Taddele Maruand Abel Abate

Needless to say, as discussed elsewhere in detail by the authors,Ethiopia has well articulated foreign and security policy calledthe Foreign Affairs and National Security Policy and Strategy (FANSPS). Its substantive anchor on development and stability and geographic focus on the Horn of Africa and Egypt reflects divergence from previous regimes desired state of development in Ethiopia, the assessment of the state of affairs of Ethiopia and the means (including diplomacy) necessary to move from the current to the desired state of affairs. A policy towards African and the Horn of African countries may echo the applicability of the general considerations of Ethiopian policies towards the AU. Notwithstanding, Ethiopia’s detailed policies towards the Horn of Africa, and to that matter the entire Africa are not a substitute to Ethiopia’s policy towards AU. Firstly, AU, like any multilateral regional governance institution, constitutes more than a summation of the member states. The AU is not the summation of individual states. Legally and substantively, a coming together of the distinct members states, AU represent a third body expressing an overlapping continental normative, institutional and procedural framework to address commonly shared human security challenges. AU, norms, institutions and procedures, do not readily aggregate the preferences of each member states, rather they look for an overlapping consensus as stated in the AU Constitutive Act and its various decision and policy making, and implementation organs. Thus, AU offers opportunities to countries like Ethiopia to influence, shape and impact continental policies that has a bearing internally and regionally. The prepared seizes opportunities more readily than those ill-equipped. Second, Ethiopia has been the AU headquarters hosting the most powerful and vital organs of the AU, and the Pan African community. This entails in the wording of FANSPS, ‘a special responsibility.’In this regard, the most substantive statement in FANSPS,reads:
Ethiopia all along steadfastly championed the cause of Africa and Africans dating back to a time when it stood virtually alone. There has never been a time when Ethiopian governments shied away from taking up their responsibilities towards Africa. It can also be said that there was hardly any occasion when Ethiopia was refused political and diplomatic support from Africa when it was needed.

This emphasises on historical support of the OAU/AU to Ethiopia’s interest, not on to ensure AU’s continued and robust support to Ethiopia in the future. Formulated in the negative, the FANSPS focuses on the absence of diplomatic obstructions emanating from the AU organs during time when Ethiopia was invaded by Eritrea could not constitute a grand strategy as it lacks long-term intent. In contrast to its clearer and proactive policies on IGAD and its member countries, and on the Nile Basin riparian countries, FANSPS does not bestow the necessary emphasis on the AU. Indicative of the minimalist policy position, FANSPS focuses on responding to threats andlacks adequate foresight and strategy for predicting, preventing vulnerabilities, seizing and developing opportunities.

Thirdly, indeed Ethiopia has hugely sacrificed its national interest in many occasions in support of Pan Africanism, however, only with general principles and ad hoc reactions dictated by dynamic circumstances. In spite of being the seedbed for Pan Africanism, the principal force for the establishment of the OAU, and the host of the AU for five decades, Ethiopia lacks a self-contained comprehensive policy toward the AU that clearly articulates its national interest and how to strategically pursue these interests in the AU. Despite the absence of a full-fledged and self-contained policy, throughout the past five decades, Ethiopia’s commitment, overall direction and contributions have been that of continuity and consistency.

Addis Ababa: The Diplomatic Hub of Africa

Since May 1963 (de jure since July 1964), Addis Ababa has served as the Headquarters of the OAU. In the earliest times of the OAU, Ethiopia provided not only land and buildings for the AU in Addis Ababa, but also offered all the human and physical facilities that the OAU required. In 1963, Nigeria, and in the early inception of the AU, Senegal and later on Libya under Colonel Muammar Qaddafi, attempted to move the seat of the OAU/AU from Addis Ababa.

The AU rules governing the hosting of AU summits designated Addis Ababa as the headquarters of the AU, and agreed Addis Ababa to host the January/February summit every year. However, individual member states could apply to host the June/July summit. The rotation of the June/July summit was originally devised to reduce the pressure from Colonel Qaddafi as a compromise deal to have two summits per annum and the rotation of the June/July to allow member states such as Libya to host summits.

As Africa’s diplomatic centre, Addis Ababa hosts the most important of all AU organs and Pan African institutions. Chief among these include, the AU Commission, the Permanent Representatives Committee (PRC) of the all AU member states, the Peace and Security Council (PSC), and the Committee of Intelligence and Security Services in Africa (CISSA). Other Pan African institutions include the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), UN office to AU, the Eastern African Brigade Headquarters, and Eastern African Standby Force Logistic Base, Pan African Chamber of Commerce, IGAD programmes such as Conflict Early Warning and Response Mechanism (CEWARN), IGAD Security Sector Programme (ISSP), and Liaison Offices of the Regional Economic Communities (RECs). Other accredited diplomatic representations to the AU include the United States, the European Union, China, India, Brazil and the United Nations agencies and other international multilateral and humanitarian organizations. While the US and EU have two heads of missions –a bilateral Embassy to Ethiopia and a multilateral Permanent Mission to the AU, China and other countries are considering establishing separate missions to the AU. On average, Addis Ababa also serves more than 1100 meetings annually, related to Pan-African issues. During the January AU regular Summits, Addis Ababa hosts an average of 7200 delegates, and more than 40 heads of state.

Addis Ababa’s Special Responsibility for the AU

In the words of FANSPS, Ethiopia's opportunity to host the AU comes with a special responsibility for the organization.Nonetheless, what constitutes ‘special responsibility’ is not defined in the FANSPS or any other policy document. Ethiopia regularly pays its assessed contribution (for 2014, USD 1.8 million) based on the country's GDP. Ethiopia is one of eleven AU Member States that has not only fully paid its contributions for 2014, but also one of the five that usually makes advance payments.Traditionally, Ethiopia, not necessarily for the sake of the OAU or AU, has provided a secure and enabling environment for the OAU and AU. Exemplary in many ways, these, however, do not constitute ‘special responsibilities’ of Ethiopia to the AU.  

A consequence of the absence of a policy in regard to the AU, despite putting forward some of its prominent ministers and diplomats as candidates, so far, Ethiopia has failed to assume any visible, influential professional and elected posts at the AU Commission. In a bid to offer leadership to the AU Commission, Ethiopia unsuccessfully proposed several candidates (including to the posts of commissioner of peace and security in 2012, and political affairs of the AU Commission in2003). Due to a weak nomination process and nearly non-existent campaigning strategy, unlike other significant countries, Ethiopian candidates were destined to fail.

Conclusion and Recommendations

Signifying the genuine commitment of Ethiopia to the causes of the OAU/AU, regardless of their diametrically opposed internal policies, successive rulers of Ethiopia have continued to pursue the same policy on the OAU and AU. Ethiopia’s approach to the AU (during Emperor Haile Selassie, Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam, and EPRDF and the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and Prime Minister Haile Mariam Desalegn) is characterized by continuity throughout many decades albeit in the significant changes in the internal underpinnings of Ethiopia foreign policy.

While the Pan-African positions promoted by the three regimes were equally solid, nevertheless, their policies foundations and ambitions in relation to the AU were unambiguously divergent. While the regimes of Emperor Haile Selassie and Colonel Mengistu were outward looking and excessively externalized Ethiopia's internal problems, the current regime is extremely inward looking. Emperor Haile Selassie and Colonel Mengistu were outward looking, and excessively externalized and reduced Ethiopia's domestic problems to what they termed ‘historical enemies’, and thereof using OAU to mitigate these external threats. Rooted in its ideological beliefs about the root-causes of Ethiopia’s internal troubles and perceived solutions, for the EPRDF, the AU and the IGAD remains another platform for solving regional challenges that affect Ethiopia’s internal governance and development problems. Consequently, unless directly affecting Ethiopia’s developmental agenda, Ethiopia’s current approach to the AU and continental affairs is unambitious and self-restraining. It is narrow as well as ad hoc. For this reason, Ethiopia has no grand strategy regarding the AU.

For Ethiopia, a country with a population of 90 million, projected to reach 120 million in the next 20 years, a strategy that proactively deals with its challenges with foresight is not only vital for Ethiopia’s economic transformation, peace and stability, but also critically important for the peace and security of the entire region.  Extreme poverty, internal political stability, economic development and regional integration, security in water, energy, food and climate change, the Nile River Basin, access to the sea and port services, as well as transnational threats dictate the need for grand strategy towards AU and even IGAD.

Thus, in order to maintain and increase Ethiopia’s influence in the AU, in addition to and beyond the personal capacity of its leaders, Ethiopia needs strategic long-term policies and institutions anchored inwardly not only to protect, but also promote its interest at the AU level. Enough has been changed to demand a grand strategy for Ethiopia regarding the AU. FANSPS needs a fundamental rethinking and reorganization to ensure Ethiopia benefits from the AU. Less concerned about ideological positions, grand strategies on the AU would detail how Ethiopia should make use of the AU in fostering peace, security, prosperity and stability.Anchoredwithin the inward looking foreign policy along the lines of the national interest of Ethiopia, such a grand strategy to the AU need to be an outward looking pursuing multilateralism in vigorously promoting economic and integrative opportunities and dealing with threats proactively.Such a strategy would take Ethiopia’s history, large population, strategic geographic location, military strength and economy, but primarily on mega trends that will define Ethiopia in the future.

Ethiopian Defense Force: Efficiency for less

Abel Abate Demissie 

About a year ago, I paid a visit to Somalia, the war-torn Horn of African nation which hasn’t seen a functional government since the beginning of the 1990s. I had the privilege of visiting several government offices and had numerous meetings with residents of Mogadishu, the capital. During my visit Somali leaders and elders would, on many occasions, convey their appreciation of the Ethiopian troops. Many officials believe that Ethiopian troops are the only forces who are able to defeat Al-Shabab and that it is precisely the Ethiopian forces that the Al-Shabab fears the most. This view is shared by many foreign observers and diplomats. In May 2014, Alexander Rondos, the EU’s special representative for the Horn of Africa, had reportedly said that ‘’The Ethiopian [troops] scare the hell out of everybody…because they deliver”. His remark was made during a conference organized by the European Security Round Table under the auspices of the Presidency of the EU Council.
From 2010 onwards Al-Shabab has undertaken several attacks in Uganda, Kenya, Somaliland and Djibouti. The group’s attack on 11 July 2010 in Uganda, which left 74 dead and 70 injured, is registered as one of the deadliest in recent years. Al-Shabab also claimed responsibility for the suicide attacks in Djibouti on 27 May 2014 which led to the killing of a Turkish national and wounded several foreign soldiers. The semi-autonomous entity Somaliland has also suffered. On 29 October 2008, six suicide bombers attacked several targets in the capital Hargeisa killings more than 30 civilians.
However, among the neighboring countries of Somalia, Kenya suffered the most. On 22 November and 03 December 2014 alone, Al-Shabab killed 64 civilians in the northern part of Kenya which is mainly inhabited by Kenyan Somalis. The Westgate mall attack in Nairobi, on 21 September 2013, which led to the killings of 67 individuals, is registered as the single deadliest attack in Kenya. Since the launching of Operation Linda Nchi in October 2011, not less than ten major terror attacks have taken place in different parts of Kenya resulting in hundreds of civilian casualties and many more injuries.  
Ethiopia – Al-Shabab's number one enemy - has been under the persistent threat of attacks by the group. But the country has managed to evade potential attacks so far. In 2014, the United Nations Somalia-Eritrea Monitoring Group (SEMG) report revealed that Al-Shabab and the Ethiopian separatist rebel group the Oromo National Liberation front (ONLF) appear to have formed a logistical cooperation. The report further said that Eritrea’s support for ONLF intensified with the ultimate goal of destabilizing Ethiopia, its arch enemy since the bloody border war between 1998 and 2000.
However, Ethiopia argues that Al-Shabab has no capacity to launch attacks within its territory.  Speaking to Reporter, a local newspaper, on 3 December 2014, Ambassador Dina Mufti, the Spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia, was quoted as saying that "even if Ethiopia was to be targeted by Al-Shabab, the group has no strength or capability to carry out attacks inside the country like the ones it recently carried out in Kenya."
Yet, on several occasions, Ethiopia announced that it has foiled Al-Shabab’s attempts to launch attack within its territory. On 5 December 2014, the Kenyan daily newspaper The Standard reported that a joint operation involving Ethiopian and Kenyan security forces in the border areas of the two countries led to the arrest of three suspects and the capture of more than 100,000 mobile phone cards from three different countries. The operation also recovered sophisticated telecommunication gadgets - all traced to the Al-Shabab’s terror cell. Back in December 2013 the Federal Police in Ethiopia announced it had arrested five suspects in soccer match bomb plot in Addis Abeba.
On 26 March 2013, Ethiopia’s National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) also announced that it had thwarted Al-Shabab’s attempt to launch an attack in Dollo Ado, a border area where hundreds of thousands of Somali refugees are being sheltered. According to NISS, the group was planning to seize foreign officials and take them across the border into Somalia for ransoms from their institutions and their families.
Credit where it’s due
There might be several explanations on why Al-Shabab has not been successful in attacking inside Ethiopia, at least so far. However, it would be difficult to not give due credit to the efficiency and effectiveness of the Ethiopian military and security apparatus.
The battle hardened military and security apparatus, which has evolved from the armed struggle period and fought several wars with the military Dergue regime, Eritrea, as well as several domestic insurgent groups, is very effective in tackling different kinds of threats from its inception. Its modus operandi is also based on proactive strikes. Further, Ethiopia is among a handful of countries in Africa to have an effective control of peripheral areas. Beyond this, Ethiopia has managed to have the hard-to-govern bordering areas of Somali territories largely tamed. Apart from this, the Kebeles, which are the lowest unit of Ethiopian administration, in peripheral areas of the vast Somali regional state are organized in such a way that they could easily identify and track a threat. The last point to be mentioned is the role of the Leyou police. The Leyou force is a regional police force which was created in 2008 after the ONLF massacred more than 70 Ethiopians and Chinese workers engaged in mineral exploration in the Ogaden region. The Leyou police are composed of ethnic Somalis who know the terrain and the culture of the region. These Somalis have proved themselves successful in thwarting Al-Shabab and the ONLF from having any meaningful operation in the region particularly and the country generally.
The 1998 Eritrean aggression against Ethiopia can be considered as the game changer on the ruling EPRDF’s policy towards boosting the military and security apparatus. Ethiopia, which initially anticipated to live in peace with all of its neighbors and demobilized much of its troops, had paid dearly during the Eritrean aggression in 1998. It took several months and lots of amount of money for the country to revamp the military and repel Eritrea’s attack. Consequently, the country started to modernize its military and security apparatus both in terms of quality and quantity.
The paradox
Many defense statistics indicate that the country is among the top three militaries in Africa. According to Global Fire Power (GFP), Ethiopia is the third in military strength (following Egypt and Algeria) and 40th in the world. The GFP also estimates that the country acquired over 560 tanks and 780 armored vehicles, 183 multi-launch rocket systems (MLRS), 81 aircrafts and 39 helicopters. But the irony is that the country managed to be in this position while spending less than two percent of its GDP on the military. According to, Ethiopia is 116th in the world in terms of military spending. The 1.2 per cent military spending by Ethiopia is very low compared with its neighboring and regional countries including Eritrea (6.3 percent and 8th), Djibouti (3.8 percent and 27th), Egypt (3.4 percent and 33rd), Sudan (3.0 and 41st) as well as Kenya (2.8 percent and 47th).
It is also important to note that with a total of 12, 247 troops (4 395 troops in the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and 7, 852 in UN missions, Ethiopia is the biggest troop-contributing country in the world and the third biggest contributor to the UN peacekeeping missions.

Much of the utilities to the peace-keeping mission ranging from bullets to heavy armored vehicles, tanks and helicopters are also produced by the National Defense, which runs the Military Industry’s business called Metals and Engineering Corporation (MeTEC), initially worth US$ 500 million.  The long term vision is to enable the military to cover its expenses on its own and generate income to the country. In addition to this, the Ethiopian National Defense Forces, through its university, the Defense University, enrolls thousands of students and members of the army every year to different degrees.

To sum up, the success of the Ethiopian National Defense Force mainly lies on its investment on skill development of its troops as well as its attention to modernize its military hardware based on domestic products. Therefore, it would not be farfetched assumption to consider ENDF as a classic example of developing an efficient military without making it the burden on the national economy.