Analysis: Ethiopia: Security as a basis for development and cooperation

One of the central objectives of Ethiopia’s Foreign and National Security Policy is to resist external threats. Inevitably, foreign and security policies should be formulated to ensure national security, to strengthen national efforts to overcome the dangers of conflict or disturbance arising within and around the country’s territories. A prime internal focus must, in fact, be on economic strategies to realize rapid and sustainable growth to positively affect the lives of all segments of society, fully utilizing all available opportunities. In this sense, analyzing and minimizing threats is one major factor in ensuring the process of rapid economic and social development.

Ethiopia’s security priorities are therefore devised from this perspective, as a core element in helping to build national and regional security in the widest sense. On the regional level, Ethiopia pursues policies with its neighbors based on core principles of mutual respect, mutual benefit, reciprocal trust and common interest. These are manifested in cooperation with countries on security issues of mutual interest, and these include anti terrorism and sub-regional conflict management, among them the problems between Sudan and South Sudan, and the situation in Somalia. Ethiopia is involved in efforts to solve these problems bilaterally as well as multilaterally through IGAD and the AU. The aim is to ensure peace throughout the region.

Equally, Ethiopia has responded positively to the situation between South Sudan and Sudan in sending peacekeeping forces to Abyei where it has been able to largely stabilize the area to the extent, indeed, that it is unlikely to continue as a potential source of conflict. During its just-ending term as chair of IGAD, Ethiopia has also been successful in encouraging and coordinating the activities of IGAD member states in support of the Transitional Federal Government in Somalia and now the new Federal government of Somalia, in
collaboration with other interested parties, particularly the United Nations. Ethiopia has made, and continues to make, every effort to encourage IGAD member states, the African Union and the United Nations to take a strong unified position to ensure peace in Somalia. It has encouraged, and continues to encourage, the struggle against Al-Shabaab terrorism and make significant diplomatic efforts to strengthen the human and material resource base of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).

All these efforts have had considerable success. AMISOM’s forces have been increased to nearly 18,000 troops and Al-Shabaab forces have been expelled from Mogadishu, Kismayo and from many of its strategic strongholds by the joint efforts of AMISOM forces together with TFG forces, allied militias and some Ethiopian troops. Ethiopian forces became involved at the request of the Somali Government and with the approval of the African Union and the United Nations. They
successfully cleared several areas and liberated Belet Weyne and Baidoa from Al-Shabaab. At the same time, Ethiopia has strongly encouraged, and continues to encourage, the necessity of providing meaningful support to the political process in Somalia and to the new Federal Government. Significant progress has been made, with the National Constituent Assembly approving the draft of the country’s provisional constitution; members of the new parliament chosen; a Speaker and a new President elected; a Prime Minister appointed and, now, a cabinet chosen.

Moreover, the IGAD Joint Committee on the Grand Stabilization Plan for Southern Central Somalia, covering the promotion of political reconciliation, the establishment of a local administration, development of integrated national security capacities, the
establishment of the rule of law, and the delivery of necessary assistance to communities in need, has launched its work. With the IGAD Joint Committee currently including four new committee members appointed by the federal government of Somalia. And chaired by Somalia, this task is now effectively owned by Somalia.

Despite the successes achieved in Somalia, problems of terrorism and sub-regional conflict inevitably have a negative impact on
development. In this regard, it has to be noticed that there is only one country which has made deliberate attempts to use them to be disruptive or as a threat to development: this is Eritrea. Eritrea, indeed, continues to promote religious extremism in the region, offering financial support, military training, the provision of arms and other logistic and intelligence assistance to extremists, terrorists and other opposition elements. A central part of this policy is the deliberate effort to promote destabilization in Ethiopia, interfering with Ethiopia’s efforts to beat poverty through the encouragement of religious extremism and narrow ethnic sentiment. A parallel intent is the effort to inhibit progress towards the democratic developmental state which, by definition, involves the separation of state and religion, and the promotion of religious tolerance.

Early this year, there was an attack on tourists in the Afar Regional State in which five people were killed and others kidnapped. Those responsible came from a rebel group based inside Eritrea and were supported by the Government in Asmara. Some of these elements include groups in Somalia which have had financial and logistical support from Eritrea. Eritrea has not confined its disruptive efforts to these groups. It has continued, and extended, this strategy, recruiting, organizing, training and arming various different forces throughout the Horn of Africa. It has provided direct and close command and guidance for these forces, aiming to affect the peace and security of Ethiopia, Somalia, Djibouti and indeed the entire sub-region. It is a tribute to Ethiopian government policies and to the way that the other countries of our sub-region are moving ahead with a shared vision to realize national prosperity and regional peace, security and interconnectivity, that this sort of activity has been confined to Eritrea. Indeed, it has been possible to effectively limit the impact of Eritrea’s disruptive actions. Nevertheless, the attack on tourists in the Afar Regional State, the appearance of an Al Qaeda cell, and the way some opposition parties have offered protection for terrorists underlines the seriousness of the threat, both in Ethiopia and the region. It emphasizes the need for continued precautions.

These have to operate on several levels. Ethiopia has repeatedly offered to resolve its differences with Eritrea in bilateral round-table discussions, anywhere and anytime. At the same time, it has made it clear it will use its legitimate right to defend its sovereignty and will take proportional, restrained and calculated measures against terrorist groups operating from Eritrea. Indeed, it has also underlined that any Eritrean provocation will not be left unanswered. Equally, Ethiopia has continued to pursue diplomatic efforts to encourage the international community to take more serious action to limit the activities of the regime in Eritrea and help dissuade it from its repeated attempts at regional destabilization.

All this has helped minimize possible damage from Eritrea and its surrogates. It has also helped Ethiopia to continue to achieve impressive growth rates for the last consecutive nine years. In 2011, the growth rate was 11.4 % as opposed to the prediction of 6 to 7 percent made by a number of global financial institutions. The double digit rate has been maintained since 2003. Another reason is certainly the achievement of a level of regional security conducive to achieving the country’s objectives of rapid and sustainable development, democracy and good governance, through the building of institutional capacities. Ethiopia’s diplomatic activities will continue to aim at eliminating, or reducing, any external security threats that might detract from its efforts to identify and exploit market opportunities, attract investment and solicit technical support, grants and loans to finance its development.

In the same way, national security efforts will continue to work to widen the number of partners that can help promote a regional and global atmosphere to assist peace and security, internally and externally across the Horn of Africa and more widely. The success of this policy can be seen in the progress achieved over the last two decades. In the years to come, Ethiopia’s activities will similarly aim to ensure security within its territories and across the region, for the benefit of its people and for the mutual interest of its neighbors. In its security policies Ethiopia will continue to give prime attention, among other things, to the common dangers of extremism and terrorism as it discharges its responsibilities for the achievement of peace and stability both internally and in the Horn of Africa.

* Originally published on – on December 2012, titled “Security as a basis for development and cooperation”, authored by “Hassan Molla” – with a desclaimer that the article “do not
necessarily reflect the views of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia”.
Items from MFA are re-published here with a permission to do so without implying endorsement.

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