Initiative for National Dialogue (Concerned Ethiopians Group – CEG)

Letter to the Editor-in-Chief of HornAffairs

In July 2018, I participated in a discussion devoted to science and technology for social, economic and political development of Tigray. This forum was organized by The Global Society of Tigrean Scholars (GSTS), one of the biggest and independent society of scholars dedicated to paying back its dues to the community. I believe groups like GSTS, by widening intellectual and scientific dialogue, can make a unique contribution to our country and region.

In this meeting, as in many other meetings, the two questions that I am frequently asked came up. The first: How do we get out of the current political quagmire Ethiopia is in? My answer was, we need to urgently have institutionalized, inclusive, broad-based National Dialogue and Reconciliation.  And the second, a follow-up to my answer was:  Why have I and other highly qualified experts of my kind, kept quiet while we have such an idea?

The fact is that I have not been quiet at all. Not only myself, many have also gone out to publicly demand such a process National Dialogue and Reconciliation. Taking effectiveness into account, some of us went discretely to request for such process and even submitted to the government concrete proposals. Nothing substantial came of these initiatives.

To name one, from 2011, I was highly involved in an initiative under the name Concerned Ethiopians Group (CEG) whose aim was to serve as an independent, neutral but discrete facilitative group of prominent Ethiopians working towards an institutionalized, inclusive, broad-based National Dialogue.  The goal of the CEG was to help all forces in the effort to achieving a stable, prosperous and democratic Ethiopia. It was hoped that such dialogue could feed into some policy options and reforms of existing legal and institutional frameworks and policies. CEG’s assumption in 2011 was that if unabated through broad-based consultations for enhanced legitimacy, the latent political crisis, simmering underground, would at some point erupt, creating security problems that could cause a paralysis within the ruling party EPRDF, the security sector, and indirectly the country.  Now, the threat we wanted to avert has taken an ominous detour leading to more bloodshed and instability.

Our country, is in transition. Transitions are often characterized by uncertainty, unpredictability and volatility of situations. Transitions also present ‘policy dilemmas’ that need well-crafted policy interventions to determine a new course of events. Most importantly, if seized aptly, the current crises present an opportunity for preventing Ethiopia from taking a grave route of fragmentation but also turning towards prosperity, democracy and stability.

I understand that initiatives for National Dialogue are currently proliferating and, at a time when Ethiopia desperately needs such deliberations and policy options for action. From the outset, I would like to associate myself with those striving to bring sustainable peace in Ethiopia, between Ethiopia and its neighbours including Eritrea and the entire Horn of Africa. It is my opinion that only dialogue, truth and reconciliation can bring peaceful settlement of the differences among many of our political forces on the future of Ethiopia. A peaceful Ethiopia will first benefit the peoples of Ethiopia and then the region. All democratic progressive Pan Ethiopianists should contribute their share to make these efforts productive.

In the same vein, after almost eight years of a discrete initiative for National Dialogue, the various on-going initiatives as well as the recurring questions mentioned earlier, I write this letter to request you to publish this basic constitutive document for National Dialogue that I drafted in 2011. The document was deliberated by the members of CEG (both in the country and abroad) and distributed to few high-ranking officials of government and leader’s opposition parties both within and outside the country. For the sake of privacy, the names of the members of CEG are deleted from the document. Suffice to say that the CEG was composed of prominent Ethiopians drawn from all sections of Ethiopian societies: religions, ethnicity, ages (youth) and gender (women) and that were acceptable and able to talk to all actors and political forces vital to the National Dialogue.

It is my sincere hope that this and other similar documents may serve as an additional input for those who are now attempting to setup and run a process similar to that of CEG.

Mehari Taddele Maru (DLS)

Addis Ababa

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Basic Document

Initiative for National Dialogue: (Concerned Ethiopians Group – CEG)

Version 1.0 

Dr. iur. Mehari Taddele Maru

October 2013

I. Brief Introduction

The implications of the recent protests in Oromia and Amhara regional states should not be taken lightly and dismissed. If unabated through broad based consultations for enhanced legitimacy to govern, it can take a threatening detour, more bloodshed and instability. But equally, and most importantly, if seized, the current crises present opportunity for deep learning and preventing Ethiopia from taking grave route of fragmentation but also turning towards prosperity, democracy and stability.

Presented to the Concerned Ethiopians Group (CEG), this basic document aims to bring reasonable conceptual clarity and decision points for a gradual but progressive process of National Dialogue in Ethiopia.

By offering a general description of the objectives and mix of methodological approaches to be employed for a National Dialogue in Ethiopia, it lists tasks the CEG will perform in the 2005 Ethiopian Year (2013-2015). A plan with specific phases and activities to be performed by CEG are detailed. Furthermore, to help speed up the implementation of this plan, the document provides the selection criteria for the membership of CEG, and it’s working structure.  It also lists the founders and current members of CEG and potential members to be vetted. To ensure tolerance, civilized dialogue within the CEG, and smooth procedure in the execution of the plan, it has included the code of ethics.

II. General Description of CEG

The CEG is a coming together of Ethiopians who are independent of the current political parties but l concerned on current state and potential trajectories of the country.  The CEG’s aim is to  provide a participatory, inclusive, diverse and pluralistic platform for national dialogue on key national issues causing, triggering or accelerating recent and long standing political instability in Ethiopia.

As a team, the CEG will be impartial facilitative group in its collective role without prescribing to any political position except the need for dialogue, tolerance to diversity of opinions and other identity markers and respect and commitment to the ideals of human rights and pluralistic society.

The Dialogue will be organized and facilitated by the CEG, supported by focal points that will connect CEG to political forces and societal organizations of all strands inside the country and abroad. This includes political parties, and the civil society at large and in particular faith-based organizations, think tanks, CSOs, and the academia etc.

III. The End State CEG: a stable, prosperous and democratic Ethiopia

The end state of the National Dialogue is to see a stable, prosperous and democratic Ethiopia. The CEG aims to contribute to this end state through facilitation of National Dialogue that could feed into reforms of and/or options to existing normative and institutional frameworks and policies.

IV. Methodology of the CEG

The methodology the CEG proposes with build on existing good will and interest for dialogue to focus on current significant national issues and progressively focus on issues and opportunities that may arise in the future.  The proposed Methodology for the National Dialogue has the following principles and steps:

1/ Effectiveness and Impact:  selection of the methodology CEG will take is primarily based on achieving effective National Dialogue and successful End State. The CEG need to identify national issues constituting potential agenda items for the National Dialogue. It shall formulate and define the key problems in clear, simple and general manner. If addressed, such key agenda items should have multiplier effects on many problems the country is currently facing or may face in the future.

2/ Sequencing and Soft Entry Points: the CEG will focus on the soft beginnings to ‘test the waters’ and avoid unnecessary ‘stirring’ of emotional reactions that could potentially forestall the initiative. CEG need to take a soft approach that creates the necessary political endorsement, comfort level as well as legitimacy and acceptance of the CEG by all stakeholders. Thus, in commencing this initiative, the efforts need to be exerted to win the political will for National Dialogue and trust on the CEG of all major political forces. The Soft Beginnings will focus on national issues and steps that are not expected to elicit immediate rejection of the initiative by any ‘vital’ political forces within and outside Ethiopia. Examples, Proportional Representation Electoral System (piloting 2018 Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa Elections), Language and Education Policy, Oromiffa as second optional working language etc.

3/ Progressive Phased Approach and Flexibility: in order to avoid haste that could create more political misunderstanding, the National Dialogue will be progressively incremental in action. Phases of implementation will offer the CEG and key participants in the National Dialogue to be pragmatist but also progressive. Phased approach allows CEG and political forces to revise their courses of action based on an evaluation of the implementation of the respective phases. This would help control the process, scale-up positive aspects and address any shortcomings and risks in the initiative as it progresses. Hence, there will be rounds of consultations that will increase the number of invited focal points, connectors and political forces. With increasing frequency of the meetings and the trust level, the initiative will move from relatively easier issues to the hardest National Dialogue agenda items based on their importance. This will be guided by principles 1 and 2 above.

Hence, in phase I, CEG will consolidate itself with formalized selections of members, and deliberation on this background paper and other issues. The formulation of the national questions to be addressed by the National Dialogue and the number of personalities that will be invited to the first rounds of consultations. The number of invitees   will gradually increase starting with small core participants drawn from vital political forces that sever as focal points (connectors).

To begin the consultations and National Dialogue, a greenlight will be sought from the highest possible government officials. The identification and persuasion of individuals in the vital political parties to support National Dialogue and the CEG will immediately start after a meeting with the Government. Focal persons will be selected from all political forces and other influential actors who could be open for National Dialogue and later on when circumstances allow influence their respective constituencies and leaderships. These focal points will be called and consulted in series of one-to-one meetings with CEG or/and in platforms the CEG will facilitate. The questions and issues that will be addressed will be expanded and detailed later on Phase II and III during deliberations with focal points from the vital political forces.

4/ Confidentiality and Discreteness in Engagements: CEG will conduct its Phase I and Phase II in discrete consultations with very few personalities and without any media pronouncement. Moreover, selected focal points and connectors could be asked to avoid consulting with their wide constituency until Phase II and possibly in Phase III. This could be changed if need arises and consensus is reached to go public among the political forces approached and consulted or the CEG decides.

5/ Working with Champions and Addressing Barriers for the National Dialogue: Identification of the potential champions and barriers including personalities that may actively or passively support, actively block, and delay the initiative is important. Once the potential champions and blockers and barriers are identified, CEG need to approach the champions to gain their active support and seek solutions through which the blockers can be softened (if possible persuaded), and barriers can be removed. One such solutions could be to have prior separate consultations with these potential blockers. Both champions and blockers can be among highest authorities within the governments, leaders in the political parties, and key media personalities etc.

6/ Considering both willingness and capabilities of actors to be approached: Many personalities in the governments, opposition parties and civil society may have the willingness to support National Dialogue but may lack the power to turn their will into action. While they can be helpful champions to the CEG in the later phases, nonetheless It is important to consider not only the willingness of focal points to engage and encourage National Dialogue but also their relative power to influence the political willingness and space in the country, particularly their respective constituency.

7/ High level of Integrity: Given the polarization and risk aversion that characterize the Ethiopian political space both domestically and, in the diaspora, any initiative such as CEG’s will gain significant public, governmental and media attention, which could be positive and/or negative. It is highly likely, CEG will perhaps face intense public scrutiny and media criticism. Accordingly, the CEG need to be prepared for such scenarios and contingencies. One such eventualities could take the form of attack on the personality, ethnicity or political stands of the member(s) of the CEG or/and on the motives CEG. Such criticisms may come from the extreme ends of the ruling party or/and opposition parties and their media organs. Therefore, it will be important for CEG to ensure highest possible tolerance and resilience even to unfounded criticisms, meet highest possible personal integrity in words and deeds. For this, CEG needs strong discipline, rules of procedure for its meeting and engagement. Furthermore, CEG need to observe the code of conduct and rules of procedure for meetings.

8/ Building trust: With the aim of building trust among the different political forces, the CEG, in its composition, conduct and approach needs to address the relevant concerns including from the government, ruling party, opposition parties within and in the Diaspora as well as civil society.

9/ Creating Safe and Enabling Venue for actors to participate:  the CEG may in the future (particularly in Phase III) design venues and platforms that are considered neutral, safe and enabling for all key political forces to participate. Such venue could be inside Addis Ababa, in the country and if found necessary expanded to other countries.

10/ National ownership— It is critical to ensure complete Ethiopian ownership through full commitment, engagement, deliberations, recommendations and decisions on the pace, process and outcomes of the National Dialogue. This means preventing undue influence from external actors including governments and donors with potential incompatible agenda to the purpose of the National Dialogue.

V. Key National Agenda/National Questions

In addition to other issues of national concern that could be added by the CEG and other key actors later on, the CEG and National Dialogue will focus on the following key agenda items and national questions:

1/ Democracy and constitutionalism:

a) Electoral System– Electoral laws (proportional representation vs first-past- the post system), and independence, integrity of electoral governance bodies;

b) Amendments of laws and reform in the practices related to Civil Society Organizations, Anti-Terrorism law, Press Law, Political Party regulations;

c) Reform Constitutional Democratic Institutions– in order to expand political space for tolerant and pluralistic societies including the independence, impartiality and constitutional standing of Democratic Institutions such as Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, Ethiopian Institution of Ombudsman, Civil Society Registration Agency, Electoral Management Bodies, the House of Peoples’ Representatives, and the House of Federation, etc;

d) The Judicial system– impartiality, independence and daring nature of the Judiciary, including appointment and integrity of judges, court presidents and the judicial administration, and corruption in the court system;

e) Constitutional protection of minority right and ethnic security dilemmas that significant ethnic communities face in the current political dispensation reinforcing undemocratic political mobilizations and platforms based on ethnic or religious markers fortifying ethnically exclusive political actions;

f) The Media– independence, rights and responsibility of the media both within and outside the country including public, private, traditional and new social media outlets;

g) Culture of Tolerance and Pluralism– over all transformative public engagement that helps in addressing the following:

* Politics of intolerance and zero-sum game;

* Politics of fear, politics of resentment, politics of hate;

* Lack of intergenerational and intra-generational conversations on political culture and other values of tolerance and pluralism.

2/ Ethnic Identity and Federalism:

a) Conflicts based on recognition and status of ethnic identities as nationalities;

b) Conflicts based on administrative status as Zone, Woreda;

c) Conflicts based on administrative borders;

d) Conflicts based on water and land ownership;

e) Referenda on identities;

f) Questions related to Addis Ababa/Finfinne;

3/ Land Governance:

a) Youth Landlessness;

b) Development Projects, Displacement and Livelihoods;

* Transportation;

* Urbanization— Urban renewals, integrated master plans

* industrial parks, sugar industries etc;

* Beneficiations with local community

c) Self-rule and federalism;

d) Overlapping with identity questions;

4/ Corruption and Integrity in Public Service:

a) Culture of Corruption in Public Service (land related services, construction tenders, local administrative services, judicial and justice administration etc);

b) Federal Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission;

c) Federal Auditor-General;

5/ The Youth Question:

a) Unemployment;

b) Disempowerment;

c) Migration;

d) Low skills/irrelevant skills;

e) Intergenerational disconnect;

6/ Religion and State:

a) Religious based conflicts;

b) The questions of the Ethiopian Muslims;

c) Terrorism and Extremisms;

7/ Education and Language Policy: 

a) Education Quality;

b) Federalism and Language Policy;

c) Optional Federal Working Languages;

8/ Inclusive Socio-economic Development and Poverty Reduction: 

a) Drought and famine, resilience and social security;

b) Socio-economic development;

c) Inclusivity of development (trickle effect vs distributional benefits);

d) Environmental protection and climate change;

e) Natural resource governance;

9/ Military and Security Sector and Constitutionalism

a) ENDF and Constitutional Civilian Control;

b) ENDF and Economic Activities;

c) Non-partisanships in NISS, Federal Police and Regional Police Forces

VI. Phases and Specific Tasks for CEG

The CEG will perform the following specific tasks in phases with suggested timeline:

Phase I: Consolidation the CEG and Methodology for the National Dialogue (by January 2013)

1) Deliberation and determination of the methodology of the National Dialogue including this background paper;

2) Drafting and adopting a Selection Criteria and Code of Conduct for CEG (see below)

3) Selection of new additional members (See list below);

4) Preparing a final list of members of CEG and inviting the members;

5) Identifying major national questions requiring deliberations in National Dialogue and formulating them in a general manner;

6) Preparing a list of small groups of personalities (rough draft list attached) from all strands of political perspectives and forces that are assumed (could be persuaded) to support the aim of CEG group and could help facilitate links and serve as focal point to larger political organizations that will be invited to participate in the expanded consultation under phase II.

7) Crafting core tasks for the focal points.

Phase II: Consultations with Key Persons from all Political Forces (by August 2014)

1) Initiating informal contacts (through members of the CEG);

2) Invite the focal points for a meeting;

3) First round consultations with key leaders of the government, ruling and opposition parties and other potential supporters;

4) Identifying major national questions requiring deliberations in National Dialogue and formulating them in a general manner;

5) Consultations on methodology of the National Dialogue and adoption of a Matrix for National Dialogue Phase III;

6) Preparatory activities for Phase III including format, modalities, venues and Rules of Procedure for the National Dialogue Forums.

Phase III: National Dialogue Forums (Beginning September 2014)

1) Dialogue capability building through short training courses, retreats for deliberation and planning, facilities secretariat support;

2) At apt time, encourage parties to inform and consult with their constituencies

3) Establish a strong linkage and briefing sessions with religious organizations, similar initiatives, academia, think tanks, traditional organizations etc

4) Organize Rounds of National Dialogue Platforms in Addis Ababa, and aboard.

5) Issue an official documentation of the Result and Reform Recommendations of the Platforms.

VII. Membership of CEG

7.1) Criteria for Selection for Members of CEG

The success of National Dialogue will heavily rely on personal integrity, the public image and tireless efforts of the CEG collectively and personally of its members. Selection of the membership need to take the following qualities into account:

a) Inclusiveness and Representation of Diversity: composition of the CEG members shall be drawn from all cross section of Ethiopian societies: religions, ethnicity, ages (youth) and gender (women);

b) Acceptability to political forces vital to the National Dialogue—members should be acceptable and able to talk to all actors and political forces vital to the National Dialogue;

c) Impartiality (different from neutrality)—lack of perceived or actual bias by CEG to run a balanced deliberation process that treats all actors fairly;

d) provides safe space and opportunity to express views

e) Principle of Tolerance: broad and open mindedness to listen to all strands of political positions; facilitate constructive dialogue and encourage innovative solutions fit with the purpose of the National Dialogue

f) Integrity:

g) Confidentiality:

7.2) Current Members of CEG

With potential expansion, currently, the CEG has the following members, with chair, deputy and secretary to be elected by the CEG: [NAMES WITH HELD FOR THE SAKE OF PRIVACY].

7.3) Potential Members

In order to ensure religious, gender, and ethnic diversity; and age, geographic and professional inclusiveness, the following has been identified as potential members to be considered by CEG:

VIII. Rules of Procedure and Code of Conduct for CEG Meetings

a) The meetings of the CEG need to be formalized and must have standing dates and venues.

b) The CEG must elect a chairperson, a vice chairperson and a secretary who will collaborate closely in ensuring the CEG runs smoothly and effectively, particularly in conducting regular meetings and follow-up of the timely and effective implementation of assigned tasks.

c) The chairperson, and in his absence the deputy, shall chair the meeting and ensure an orderly procedure of meeting.

d) The chairperson in consultations with the Chair, Deputy, and Secretary shall communicate about the meetings and prepare agenda items.

e) The Secretary shall keep the major decision points in the form of minutes of the meetings and communicate the same to the members of the CEG on timely manner.

f) The chairperson, deputy chairperson and the secretary shall follow the implementation of the decision points of each meeting.

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Brief Biography of Dr. Mehari Tadelle Maru

A graduate of world class universities: Harvard and Oxford; and a former fellow of very prestigious academic programmes (such as Edward George Mason, Max Planck, Shell, Partnership for Peace) at Harvard and Oxford Universities, the Max Planck Institute and the NATO Defense College, Dr Mehari holds a Doctorate of Legal Sciences (PhD) from JL Giessen University, Germany, an MPA from Harvard, USA, and an MSc from the University of Oxford, UK, as well as an LLB from Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia.

Extensive Pan-African Work Experience Work

With more than 17 or so years of management and professional working experience in the African Union (AU), Addis Ababa University and other think tanks with programmes on peace and security, governance and management, humanitarian and migration issues, Dr Mehari Taddele Maru is is IGAD Lead Migration Expert and Member of Technical Committee of Tana Forum. He was Chief Strategist for IGAD South Sudan Mediation, a Lead Member of the AU High Level Advisory Group on Humanitarian Affairs. He also serves as Adjunct Assistant Professor at Addis Ababa University teaching at Institute for Peace and Security Studies (IPSS), Institute for Federal Studies (IFS), Visiting Professor and Senior Fellow at the NATO Defense College (NDC), Nigerian Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Ethiopian Peace Support Training Center, the UN Institute for Economic Development and Planning (Senegal), and the African Center for Strategic Studies (USA).

As high-level professional staff of the AU Commission, Dr Mehari was Programme Coordinator and Legal Expert at the African Union Commission. He has also served as Chief Strategist and Consultant for the AU and Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) departments of Peace and Security, Political Affairs and Social Affairs. He drafted AU various blue print policy documents on migration, peace and security, governance, and humanitarian effectiveness, including AU Border Governance Strategy, Common African Position on Humanitarian Effectiveness, Common African Position on Migration and Development, AU Commission Initiative Against Trafficking (AU.COMMIT), and AU Migration Action Plan (2008-2012). He has also reviewed the AU-EU partnership. He currently developing the Framework for AU-RECs cooperation on African Governance Architecture (AGA), and resource person for the Pan African Migration Forum.

Similarly, as a chief strategy consultant to the IGAD including on peace and security and migration, Dr Mehari prepared the Review Report of the IGAD Monitoring and Verification Mechanism of South Sudan and facilitated several South Sudan peace consultations. Furthermore, Dr Mehari drafted the IGAD State of the Region Report, the IGAD Peace and Security Strategy 2020, the State of Peace and Security in IGAD, and prepared the Review Report of the IGAD Monitoring and Verification Mechanism of South Sudan and facilitated several South Sudan peace consultations. As migration consultant to IGAD, he has designed the IGAD Migration Action Plan (IMAP), the Migration Priorities programme for East and Southern Africa and developed the Action Plan and re-drafted the IGAD Protocol for Free Movement of Persons.  He also serves as Strategy Consultant to AU on border governance, to GIZ on African Governance Architecture and as IGAD Chief Strategist.

Closely working with the AU Commission, Dr Mehari also served Programme Head for Conflict Prevention and Risk Analysis at the Institute for Security Studies, and Director for University Reform at Addis Ababa University including serving as member of Policy and Strategy committees.

Dr Mehari has also served as resource person to the IGAD-UN High Level Dialogue, Institute for Peace and Security Study, The Tana Security Forum, the African Peace Support Trainers Association (APSTA), West Africa Network for Peace-building (WANEP), the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC), the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), Deutsche Gessallschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the Life and Peace Institute (L&PI), the Enough Project, and Not on Out Watch. Dr Mehari also served as the African expert for the review of the Africa-EU partnership on Migration, Mobility and Employment as well as higher Education.

Briefings Policy Organs of AU, RECs and UN

As Member of the AU High-level Advisory Group, Programme Coordinator and Programme Head and due to his extensive knowledge and broad expertise on African peace, security and governance, migration and displacement, Dr Mehari has been invited to make presentations at high level decision and policy organs of AU, RECs and UN, namely the Peace and Security Council, the Permanent Representatives’ Committee, AU and IGAD ministerial councils, Regional Economic Communities and the UN Human Rights Council’s Intergovernmental Working Groups. His work has been officially presented, recognized and cited in various decisions of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government and Council of Ministers and Ministerial Conferences.

Management Experience 

Well-trained in both qualitative and quantitative, as well as strategic management methods including popular tools such as Result-based Management (RBM), Value-based Management (VBM), Scenario Building and Foresight Planning, Dr Mehari has wide-ranging experience in performance evaluation, and foresight about future trends and scenarios planning for emerging threats and risks. He has conducted numerous institutional and strategic reviews of several programmes and institutions including African Peace Support Trainers Association, West Africa Network for Peace Building (WANEP), the IGAD Monitoring and Evaluation Mechanism (MVM), AU-EU Partnership etc.

Publications

Published by the globally respected legal and academic publisher (Eleven International Publishing based in The Hague, Netherlands), his recent book entitled The Kampala Convention and Its Contributions to International Law’, examines the African Union Convention on the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons (known as the Kampala Convention), which entered into force on 6 December 2012. With a foreword by Dr Francis Deng, the leading scholar in the field and the Former Under-Secretary General and Special Adviser of the United Nations Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide, and an introduction by AU Commissioner of Political Affairs, the book analyses in great depth the provisions of the Kampala Convention in relation to the governance of migration, peace and security, and international law in Africa. He has also published several articles in reputable international and African journals. Read details at http://meharitaddele.info

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Dr. Mehari Taddele Maru

Dr. Mehari Taddele Maru, who is International Consultant on African Union affairs and Research Fellow at the NATO Defence College.