What the recent bilateral talks tell us about U.S.-Ethiopia relations

Annette C. Sheckler 11/06/09

A great deal has been written predicting a shift in the United States’ relationship with Ethiopia under the new Obama Administration. After yesterday’s bilateral talks between Ethiopian Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, these dire predictions can finally be put to rest. It is clear that Ethiopia and the United States share fundamental values and interests in democratization, economic growth and development, and the security and military matters that affect not only the region but the security interests of the United States as well.
Democracy, as Americans understand it, is a core American value and most agree that democracy-building should be a core value of U.S. foreign policy. However, there is a great deal of debate today, particularly within the Democratic Party, as to, tactically, how the U.S. should pursue this foreign policy goal. While there is general agreement within the Democratic Party to repudiate the blunt force of the Bush Administration’s democracy-promotion (especially through regime-change), there are differences between those who favor a more traditional, quiet diplomacy and those who question whether American democracy can—or should—be exported abroad.
What seems clear in this debate is a recognition and acknowledgement of the context of democracy-promotion, which ideally, will shape and drive a foreign policy agenda with more substance than form. In the words of President Obama, he said that he wanted to promote democracy abroad “through a lens that is actually delivering a better life for people on the ground and less obsessed with form, more concerned with substance.”
And this is where the Ethiopian government and the Obama Administration appear to be in agreement in terms of democracy-promotion. No one can reasonably argue against the challenges of advancing democracy in a country with a legacy of bad governance, crippling poverty, a fractious political culture and hostile neighbors, just to name a few of the major challenges. All in all, Ethiopia lives in a bad neighborhood that will get worse before it gets better. In the meantime, the Government of Ethiopia is actually, quoting President Obama, “delivering a better life for people on the ground and less obsessed with form, more concerned with substance.”
What is also clear is the agreement between Ethiopia and the United States concerning “good aid” and “bad aid.” “Bad aid” perpetuates dependence, erodes institutions and can increase rent-seeking and corruption. “Good aid” is a long-term investment in breaking the cycle of dependence, building institutions and lays the groundwork for sustainable growth. Initiatives such as the U.S. Global Hunger and Food Security Initiative that address agricultural production share the core economic principles laid out in the Ethiopian Government’s Agricultural Development-Led Industrialization.
Finally, the United States and Ethiopia see what is real in the Horn of Africa as opposed to what we want it to be. Somalia is a failed state. Eritrea is a failed state. Al Shabab is a threat not only to the Horn of Africa but to the United States as well. Eritrea provides major support to al Shabab. These are facts. The close military and security cooperation between Ethiopia and the United States is crucial to Ethiopia, to the region, to the continent, to the United States and to the global community.
Does this mean that there will not be disagreements between Ethiopia and the United States? Of course not—both are sovereign states with national interests that may, at times, diverge.
The bottom line, however, is clarity about the U.S. Government’s views towards Ethiopia under the new Administration. Let us congratulate both delegations on a job well done.

33 Days to Copenhagen — Progress, Stalemate, and a Game-Changer?

By Jan von der Goltz

As negotiators gather in Barcelona for a final round of preparatory talks for the Copenhagen meeting and as Germany’s “Climate Chancellor” Angela Merkel (the rare world leader with a PhD in quantum chemistry) addresses a joint session of Congress, there is no mistaking the fact that time to Copenhagen is running out fast. This blog reviews recent good news on the negotiations, acknowledges the road blocks that have rightly galvanized attention, and asks whether there is a possibility for a change in dynamics.


Indonesia deserves praise for its bold plan to cut emissions by 26 percent below business as usual (BAU) by 2020 without international support, and by 41 percent with support. The goal is ambitious, but Indonesia’s National Action Plan is a good starting point, and a study by McKinsey has already pinpointed opportunities for reducing emissions by more than one-third below BAU.

More good news may be in the making, as India prepares to unveil “a domestic cap-and-trade programme, [where] the cap will be on energy intensity, not carbon.” Similarly, President Hu of China reaped kudos for his pledge to reduce emissions intensity by a “notable margin” by 2020. Some worry that the goal, to be specified during the bargaining process, may come to be about 20 percent intensity reduction, not quite enough to chart a path to stabilization. Yet, the International Energy Agency sees China reducing its energy emissions by 12.5 percent below BAU by 2020 with a portfolio of actions already under discussion, and the WWF’s Beijing climate chief Yang Fuqiang told a German newspaper that such actions might even imply a 17–22 percent reduction below 2005 levels. This puts China in the neighborhood of the 15–30 percent decrease necessary to avoid warming more than two degrees Celsius. China, India, and other major developing-country emitters have also made a real concession toward enhancing emissions monitoring.
The EU has at last opened the discussion on funding and proposed making €50 billion ($74 billion) per year available in public funds to developing countries by 2020, with an immediate €5¬7 billion in “fast-start” funds. While Europe was immediately chastised for failing to nail down its own contribution, it has at least begun discussing allocation formulas that would have it contribute about half of the total sum.

Finally, in the United States, the joint initiative of Senators Graham (R-SC) and Kerry (D-MA) appears to promise progress on climate legislation. The Obama administration has also made some headway, arguing that weak action would hamstring the country in the race for leadership on clean technology.

… and stalemate

At the same time, agreement remains elusive on the core questions of burden sharing: funding and the allocation of emission cuts.

The United States’ refrain remains that there can be no agreement without commitments by major developing-country emitters, and that it can only join a ‘bottom-up’ scheme in which all countries specify domestic initiatives without generating international treaty obligations.

U.S. insistence on (and EU support for) this approach has profoundly dismayed developing countries. At the same time, the United States urges understanding for the obstacles its own legislation faces in Congress, especially given the current preoccupation with health-care legislation.

But international sympathy has been limited. Observers have been quick to point out, for instance, that Senators Baucus’ (D-MT) concern that “[his home state Montana] cannot afford the unmitigated effects of [the Kerry-Boxer] climate change legislation” sits awkwardly with the Environmental Protection Agency’s estimate that the bill would cost U.S. households all of $100 per year. And besides, competing priorities of great human importance are seen to be the rule, not the exception.

Many, however, agree that the world would stand little to gain if the Obama administration were to ignore Congress’s misgivings. As India’s Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh has pointed out,

“The US is making small steps [on climate change]. Remember, without the US there will be no international agreement. So there is no point in hectoring or beating up on them like the Europeans seem to be doing.”

Yet, with action in Congress before Copenhagen unlikely, and developing countries yet unwilling to agree to the bottom-up approach, all but every global leader has been busy lowering expectations for Copenhagen. The emerging consensus was articulated by Ramesh, who called on his colleagues to “clinch those elements of the deal that we can clinch. … Then we can come back to Copenhagen in the summer of 2010 to clinch the larger agreement.”

Is there scope for a game-changer?

The prize question of the negotiations has long been whether the Obama administration has an ace up its sleeve and can put something new on the negotiating table. Yet, the administration seems to have determined that it must go with whatever Congress legislates and that it must clinch an agreement that does not require a (67-vote) treaty majority in Congress. Beyond this, it tries to leverage its limited flexibility—chiefly in technology cooperation—through bilateral negotiations.

Meanwhile, the EU and Japan have already staked out progressive positions and have little more leverage (short of imposing trade sanctions, as France and Germany have threatened). This really leaves only one potential game-changer, a yet bolder commitment from China or India.

In this respect, the most intriguing recent development was the debate in India following the leak of a memo from Environment Minister Ramesh to the Prime Minister. Ramesh suggested that India adjust its tough negotiating stance in its own national interest. He proposed that India ease off its opposition to the bottom-up framework (while retaining differences in the type of action different countries take), propose its own actions without guarantee of funding from developed countries, and permit external verification. This, he argued, would both help limit climate impacts on India’s vulnerable economy and enhance India’s international reputation (India has been increasingly portrayed as a less helpful player than China, despite its much lower emissions).

The proposal was met with acerbic commentary from parts of the Indian media and commentators like the Centre for Science and Environment’s Sunita Narain With little backup from his own party, Ramesh was attacked from the left and the right, with the Hindu nationalist BJP’s general secretary calling the proposal “[the governing coalition’s] Diwali gift to the United States and other developed countries at the cost of India’s poor.”

The future of India’s stance is unclear. Both Ramesh and the Prime Minister have since re-stated India’s original position. Yet, Singh also has taken steps to build domestic consensus on moving to a revised stance.

A bold move of the type advocated by Ramesh remains the most obvious contingency that could change the negotiating dynamics. Some suggest that such decisive action would come in exchange for influence in the IFIs or the Security Council. Whether there is such an explicit quid pro quo or not, what seems clear is that some developing countries are weighing the possibility of doing more on climate than they are ethically obliged to do. There are real costs to such a stance, and it is for developing countries alone to decide whether it is worth considering. Yet, the moment clearly holds a rare opportunity for conspicuous leadership of the kind that re-makes international systems.

Bravo AEUP, CUD, EDP and EPRDF for a Historic Leap into a well-ordered Democratic Society

Adal Isaw


October 30, 2009

Although the many questions that pertain to a democratic life may be universal, some leaders and thinkers have explored the same questions in a unique, powerful and timely fashion. Such leaders and thinkers have served as benchmarks—for those of us who’re faced with similar inquiries to the same set of the many questions that a democratic life poses. The questions faced by the leaders of AEUP, CUD, EDP and EPRDF might have not been uniquely attributed to them, but their recent civil engagement for a needed political action to produce a lifesaving national document is unique, powerful and timely.

These Ethiopian leaders have explored and produced a desperately needed national document, at a time when Ethiopia is at a crossroad bombarded by many years of abject poverty and detractors that work overtime to cease its existence. Ethiopia has won and those with other plans in their political playbook are served with another tacitly conveyed binding national document; the time for actions and reactions prone to violent and backward public discourse is over. It should further be noted, by producing a document for the peaceful democratization of Ethiopia, these leaders of AEUP, CUD, EDP and EPRDF have become the needed benchmarks for all future pallbearer young generation of Ethiopians.

It’s now incumbent up on us Ethiopians, to contrast and compare the fruitful and exemplary political engagement of AEUP, CUD, EDP and EPRDF with those for whom the historic national document is waiting to be signed on time—before the 2010 Ethiopian Parliamentary Election. More than anything else, it’s now the responsibility of peace and democracy loving Ethiopian Diaspora— to come to terms and see this national document for what it is. It should not expect for gimmicks to bubble or for a theory of conspiracy to flourish; period.

The arduous collective work to propagate for the peaceful democratization of our beloved country has begun. And it is up to the Ethiopian Diaspora—to either make it its duty to propagate the peaceful democratization of Ethiopia or, to go on tangent and openly stay hostile to a lifesaving national document that no civil and democratic nation and institution will say no to. Ethiopia has won big; because, the mere intent in this binding document disarms the few hostile voices of democracy and democratization in Ethiopia—without a single shot to the air.

These Ethiopian leaders have disarmed the naysayers with plain and simple words of democracy and peace, thereby lowering the threat level that might have existed otherwise endangering the livelihood of Ethiopia and Ethiopians. Thus, the binding national agreement in and itself has become a historic leap of political action—to civilly pave the boulevard to reasoned political dialogue which is essential to well-ordered society.

The political cooperation between these disparate Ethiopian political parties should continue and continue for one very simple reason; the work they can do together to better Ethiopia and Ethiopians is infinitely greater than the interest they garner by paying homage to their political and ideological convictions. It is the interest of Ethiopia that brought these otherwise disparate political parties to work together in the first place, and, this same interest should make them come together time again, whenever our country is faced with problems that need a united Ethiopian effort to answer.

You see; unlike physical science problems which, when answered are answered once and for all, political problems of the kind we have in our beloved country, manifest a unique open-ended quality. Each “answer” to a given political problem entails a new set of problems, and as a result, the duty of creating a decent and humane political order is never done with. With this in mind, this type of exemplary political work should continue to enable Ethiopia tackle the bigger and harsher impending and imminent problems with a united fist.

The unison shown by these Ethiopian leaders of different parties to sign the binding code of conduct has propelled Ethiopia one less a threat away to democratization. But more than anything, while it has given Ethiopians the needed sigh of relief from fear of the unknown, it has unambiguously broken the remaining political backbone of the violent prone self-exiled-opposition into unsalvageable pieces. Those who were eager to see nothing but disorder and blood have been served a notice that no matter how contentious their political thoughts are, nothing will deter AEUP, CUD, EDP and EPRDF from working together to democratize Ethiopia peacefully.

Ethiopia’s endurance is paying!!!


On the Upcoming National Elections [2010] and Beyond:

By Tesfaye Habisso

“ The key element in the exercise of democracy is

the holding of free and fair elections at regular

intervals enabling the people’s will to be expressed.”

[Universal Declaration on Democracy, IPU Members

in 1997]

Ethiopia’s brief experiment in democracy and its attempt at installing good/ democratic governance in a multiethnic, multicultural and multilingual society of ours since the last 18 years or so, I am afraid, has not yet been as successful when compared to its noteworthy achievements in the areas of transport infrastructure development, economic growth (GDP), and the provision of social services (condos for the urban poor; potable water, health clinics, schools, roads, etc for the rural peasants). Based on vast available literature on the subject of democracy, one can discover that the domination of the political system by one party [EPRDF since 1991], the multiethnic, multicultural and multi-religious makeup of the society, the prevalence of an ethnically dominated party system, abject poverty, and the difficulty of adopting democratic values, rules and procedures as well as a culture of tolerance among political elites that have inherited a legacy of political power changing hands through the barrel of the gun and not via peaceful, competitive and free, fair and credible elections, etc. are some of the major factors that can be mentioned as major impediments to our democratisation efforts and struggles yesterday, today and in the years to come. Owing to these factors, the pace and progress of the democratisation process and the successful transition to and consolidation of democracy in our country has so far been full of fits and starts, the periodic elections often marred by violence and public disorder resulting in accusations and counter accusations of vote rigging and fraud by the losers in the periodic elections, often targeting the ruling party and government. Thus, the procedural quality of electoral democracy surrounding the conduct of regular free, fair and credible elections, the respect for political rights, such as the right to vote, to form political parties and to compete in elections, the respect for civil liberties, such as the freedom of expression and association, and the extent to which the government is accountable, responsive, transparent and respectful of the rule of law still leaves a lot to be desired.

Many scholars forcefully argue that the ongoing democratisation process cannot succeed and a democratic political system cannot become consolidated unless the principal political elites in the society agree upon the rules of the game of that system and are willing to abide by those rules. The basic rules of a democratic system are to allow for full and unhindered contestation and participation. Elite support for democracy is often the product of agreements between all or some key political parties and leaders. A comprehensive elite settlement takes place if all the paramount political groups in the society participate in the agreement. A comprehensive settlement will most likely provide for full political contestation since the principal political groups will be able to contest power in the resultant political regime. Such elite agreements have two important consequences: they create patterns of open but peaceful competition among all major elite factions and they transform unstable political regimes into stable regimes, in which forcible power seizing no longer occur and are not widely expected. In essence, an elite settlement transforms disunified elites into “consensually unified elites”. Consensually unified elites “operate stable, politically representative regimes,” where “government positions pass peacefully among different persons and factions”, usually through “periodic, competitive, and binding elections”.[Burton and Higley, “Elite Settlements”, American Sociological Review 52, June 1987, p. 297]. A regime transition that results in a long lasting democracy is likely to be the product of an elite settlement, while a regime transition that leads to a failed democracy is likely to be devoid of a settlement.

Be this as it may, the process of becoming a democracy is most often fraught with more problems and challenges than is usually acknowledged. According to Donald L. Horowitz, “…democracy is exceptional in severely divided societies, and the claim has repeatedly been advanced that democracy cannot survive in the face of serious ethnic divisions. At least since John Stuart Mill pronounced in Representative Government that democracy is “next to impossible in a country made up of different nationalities”, a respectable body of opinion has subscribed to such views.” [Donald L. Horowitz, Ethnic Groups in Conflict, University of California Press, 1985, p. 681]. In a similar vein, Francis Fukuyama, in his book, “The End of History and the Last Man” states: “…democracy is not likely to emerge in a country where the nationalism or ethnicity of its constituent groups is so highly developed that they do not share a sense of nation or accept one another’s rights. A strong sense of national unity is therefore necessary prior to the emergence of stable democracy, just as it preceded the emergence of democracy in countries such as Britain, the United States, France, Italy and Germany. The absence of such a sense of unity in the Soviet Union was one of the reasons why stable democracy could not emerge prior to that country’s break-up into smaller national units.” [Ibid, The Free Press, New York, 1992, p. 216] Political experience has unambiguously shown that in poor multiethnic or plural/heterogeneous societies, for instance, transitions to democracy have proved to be mostly rocky and violent, and this often gives rise to warlike nationalism and violent ethnic conflicts. In such societies a peaceful transition to democracy is exceptional, and the certainty that democracy will prevail is in question. Democratic movement in the first place was born out of a unique set of conditions prevalent in the Western world. Some of the ingredients necessary for the evolutionary birth of a democratic order are believed to be: (1) industrialization; (2) rise in literacy levels; (3) abundance of resources; (4) isolation from negative outside influences and (5) political theoreticians whose vision spans the past, present and future and who have a grasp of the physical disciplines required in that particular age [http://www.hujra.com/democracy_not_work.hym]

For many scholars, democracy is a delicate flower that requires a host of social and institutional prerequisites. One scholar suggests that democracy requires a populace endowed with nine psychological traits, among which are tolerance, realism, flexibility, and objectivity, and further, that the country must have economic well-being, economic equality and an educated citizenry [Carl Cohen, Democracy, Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1971]. Another political scientist names seven conditions necessary for democracy, including a “strong concern for the mass of people” and “high social mobility” [Alfred De Grazia, The Elements of Political Science, New York: Alfred Knopf, 1952, pp. 546-547]. Robert Dahl describes three essential conditions for a multiparty democracy to function; these are: (1) extensive competition by contestants including individuals, groups or parties for government; (2) political participation that provides the choice for the electorate to select candidates in free and fair elections; and (3) civil and political liberties that enable citizens to express themselves without fear of punishment [Robert Dahl, Democracy and Its Critics, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989, p. 221]. In his evaluation of the “third wave of democratisation” of the seventies and eighties, the American political scientist Samuel P. Huntington concludes that states become particularly susceptible to democratisation when they have reached a certain minimal level of social and economic development [Samuel P. Huntington, The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century, Norman, 1991, p. 59ff].

Most often democracy has come to be equated with mere superficial and easily recognizable mechanical processes, the most recognized of which being regular elections. Elections are indeed a necessary but by no means a sufficient condition for the completion of a democratic transition. The mere casting of a vote does not make a democracy even when the elections are indeed free and fair [Silindiwe Sibanda, Poverty and Democratic Participation: A Pyramidal Construct of Democratic Needs, The Center for Advanced Studies of African Society, Cape Town, South Africa: http://www.dpmf.org/poverty-silindiwe.html]. It is believed that a country has completed the transition to democracy when “the government resulting from election…has the de jure as well as the de facto power to determine policy in many significant areas.” [Linz and Stepan, “Toward Consolidated Democracies”, pp. 14-33]. Whatever the case, a democratic transition is a long and difficult process that may take many decades to complete. Even if the country has transitioned to a democratic political system, the journey towards stable democracy is not secure and completed.

Then, at what moment does a successfully democratising state become a mature democracy? When can its democracy be termed consolidated? Some scholars use the “two turnover rule” to define “democratic consolidation”, that is a democracy is considered consolidated when power has changed hands twice as a result of free and fair elections. Others say that democracy is considered consolidated when it is “the only game in town”, that is when no significant political party or group seeks to come to power by means other than winning a free and fair election. Others measure the degree to which the country has achieved the institutional and legal characteristics of a mature democracy, using indicators such as competitive politics, regular elections, broad participation, constraints on arbitrary use of executive power, free speech, and respect for civil liberties, including minority rights. Once a country has completed a democratic transition, it is left for that democracy to be consolidated, a necessary condition for a lasting democratic regime.

According to Linz and Stepan, a “consolidated” democracy is a “political regime in which democracy as a complex system of institutions, rules, and patterned incentives and disincentives has become, in a phrase, the only game in town.” Haggard and Kaufman state, “a democratic consolidation is a process through which acceptance of a given set of constitutional rules becomes less directly contingent on immediate rewards and sanctions and increasingly widespread and routinized. Consolidation is essentially a more important process than transition. A government may be able to transition to democracy, but if it does not consolidate said democracy, it may relapse into authoritarianism or other non-democratic forms of government. Additional factors must be in place if a democracy is to be considered “consolidated”. First, the conditions must exist for the development of a free and lively civil society. Second, there must be a relatively autonomous political society. Third, throughout the territory of the state all major political actors, especially the government and the state apparatus, must be effectively subjected to a rule of law that protects individual freedoms and associational life. Fourth, there must be a state bureaucracy that is usable by the new democratic government. Fifth, there must be an institutionalised economic society [Haggard and Kaufman, The Political Economy of Democratic Transitions, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995, p. 15].

Today, as we talk of the upcoming fourth national elections in 2010, I think the aforementioned challenges should be taken into account when re-examining and re-assessing our heretofore efforts to realize a functioning and stable democracy in Ethiopia. Furthermore, a few salient points regarding democratic elections must be raised and discussed/debated now in order to avoid the re-occurrence of some of the ugly and dreadful features that we witnessed in the electioneering exercise during the past decade or so in our newly democratising country, more so in the aftermath of the 2005 national elections. In our case, we can boldly assert that we have not yet moved far enough from the politics of confrontation, acrimony and hostility that has bedevilled the national political arena for a long time, reminiscent of the politics of the Ethiopian students movements of the 1960s and 1970s. It is believed that Ethiopia could build upon its manifest potential and significantly transform its democratisation and developmental prospects if its principal political parties were to pursue a more constructive and responsible approach to politics. The prevailing political stalemate, it can be argued, does not derive from any fundamental divergence amongst the major political parties but remains associated with the increasingly confrontational style and language of their politics. The prevailing political divisions, often of an incendiary nature, have their roots in the country’s troubled political history and the heterogeneous nature of the nation’s ethnic makeup (comprised of over 83 ethnic groups, “nations, nationalities and peoples” as the FDRE Constitution defines them). The divisive potential of such differences should not be underestimated but they do not impinge upon the contemporary debates on development strategy, democracy and improved/democratic governance.

Therefore, the urgent task for the incumbent government and party is to create conducive conditions to promote mutual trust and confidence between political groups and organizations which are committed to peace and democracy, and interested to be parties to the political process. This can be done when political freedoms are not proscribed, political space open and conducive for all political parties, and when all of us show in words as well as in deeds that we are committed to respect the verdict of the people and that we are not in any way entitled to impose our will by force or pressure on the people. Belief in and commitment to the principle that the people are the ultimate arbiters of policy matters is fundamental in building trust and confidence. Where all political groups and organizations accept to be bound by the results of the ballet box, it is only natural to recognize their rights to articulate and propagate their programmes their own way, and thus the need for sufficiently permissive political space for all contestants of political office. And where this right is fully recognized and respected, there is no legal or material/moral justification for any group to resort to armed conflict or any confrontation.

Over the last decade or so, it cannot be denied that opposition political parties have not been given free reign to organize and operate, except perhaps during the 2005 national and regional elections campaign period only. Instead, these parties were confined to their headquarters, invariably located in Addis Ababa. This non-conducive political environment has to give way to an open, transparent and conducive political situation where political space can provide freedom to all opposition parties to organize and operate freely without infringing the freedom of others in the political arena. After all, politics, the activity of resolving a delimited set of matters that are public and common, takes place not in the imagination, nor merely in human minds, nor in any random place, but in spaces duly constituted for such as activity. Because its concerns are by definition public and common, its activity must take place in a public common place, and all opposition politicians committed to peaceful and constitutional competition must be provided this public space without any constraints.

Yes, democracy has its own rules. It can survive and flourish in our country only when all of us commit ourselves to play by the rules of the game: contestation and participation. It so happens that those who play by the rules of the game are those who not only understand its true meaning and substance but are also confident of themselves and their political objectives, and the political goal which gives one confidence is that which addresses itself to the true needs of the peoples of Ethiopia for democracy, peace and prosperity. After all, elections are peaceful competitions to serve the people and be ready to shoulder the immense challenges of extricating our peoples from the quagmire of abject poverty and under-development, helplessness and hopelessness, and surely not a struggle for self-enrichment and other selfish ends.

Yes, the 2010 national and regional legislative elections are fast approaching and the election season will soon overwhelm us. If we are not careful, soon legions of eager politicians representing different political parties, independent office seekers and their acolytes will be scurrying here and there engaging in all manners of conduct and for some of them, all manners of misconduct, in their energetic pursuit of office. People will soon be claiming that their opponent, whom heretofore we all thought was a relatively honourable person, now sits at the left hand of the Devil. But the real issue is, for what purpose is the party candidate running or being fielded and the independent candidate taking part in the election drama? Being in politics for the sake of politics is pitiably selfish. One should only engage in politics if she/he believes that she/he has the necessary education and capability and seeks to move to a more elevated and productive plane—that of democratic governance. And democratic governance implies dedicated, efficient and quality public service free from corruption and discrimination. A politician who is not capable of good/democratic governance is like getting into a new car that has no engine. While it looks good, it gets you nowhere. Thus, we should ask all potential politicians—party candidates as well as independent office seekers--, “Are you a politician because you have something to contribute or are you involved because you are looking for a secure employment or for something to take away for your own selfish ends and interests? Are you there because you like the sound of the title “Honourable MP” and because the sound of sirens has become an intoxicant to your ears? Or are you seeking office so that you can help our elderly folks get the necessary old-age care, help the adults and the youth find work to feed their families their daily bread and because you feel unequalled exhilaration when you see healthy, well fed children smile as they walk, books in hand, on their way to school?” Now that the election season is soon to overwhelm us, we all have a choice to make. Will our politics be small and selfish or will it be visionary, and will it be beneficial to those whom we purport to serve?

These are some of the vexing questions before us all, political parties and independent candidates. These questions are freighted with great importance. Thus, may we answer them with all the wisdom we can summon? Because Ethiopia is a recently minted democracy, our responsibility to hold fair, free and credible elections acceptable to all contestants in the nation’s political arena peacefully and bring good, democratic governance to our people is indeed acute. We may not face any greater collective responsibility for the remainder of our lives. In an older, well-established democracy, the relevant institutions and political culture have had time to root themselves in the social fabric of these societies. In such a situation, where the people err by electing bad leadership, the nation or community can endure because democracy has become a way of life. The dividends that have previously bestowed have built a reservoir of goodwill to see the people and this noble concept through the lean years.

When a democracy is young, as in our country, however substandard, flawed elections or a period of poor governance can give a mortal blow and wreak havoc to the democratic experiment. The ugly aftermath of the May 2005 national and regional parliamentary elections is a glaring example in this regard. The process of democratisation is not much different than the growth of a human being. Hardship an adult can endure may be fatal to an infant. We, as leaders of our State and communities, are the appointed guardians of a precious infant, Ethiopia’s democracy. Like any decent parent, we must place the survival and well being of that child above our own narrow interests. No decent parent feeds himself/herself until he/she can eat no more but let his/her child starve.

We as elected officials, we as government officials, we as community leaders and stalwarts, are among Ethiopian democracy’s founding fathers and mothers. Let us be as good parents to democracy as to the children of our own flesh, fibre and blood. Let us not let democracy be orphaned. When democracy is new, that is precisely when it must prove itself to the people, to the poor masses. If it does not produce noticeable fruits in the form of bread and butter—basic necessities of life such as shelter, clothing, food, healthcare, education, etc.-- and a modicum of safety, security, employment and freedom, the population, because it does not have a deep grounding in this form of government, may well decide the tree is barren and turn to something else that appears to have a more immediate yield. Cynicism, demagoguery, mistrust and selfishness creep in where faith and hope should reside. In such an atmosphere, democracy may be in jeopardy.

Here I will say something that at first seems to contradict what I have said before and that is, Ethiopia’s history indicates that it can survive for some time without democracy. In fact, democracy is the sole guarantee for Ethiopia to survive as one nation of many nations—a multi-nation federal state. However, history—and the large gulf that separates Ethiopia’s reality from its potential—is conclusive proof that a country cannot flourish in the long term without embracing political democracy and the economic empowerment of the individual and the group/community that democracy implies. This thing called democracy is a complex, and at times, an ungainly animal. From afar, it looks like an inefficient form of governance; but up close, it is the most practical one.

Under a dictatorship, it is easier to render and implement decisions. One person—a dictator/ leader—and his cabal say yes or no, do or don’t. Matters are settled by a decree with lightning speed. Arbitrariness is the backbone of such an arrangement. No need to engage a legislature or the populace at large or worry about the courts and the legality of what is proposed. The minute a despot speaks, the matter is over. The grave danger of this type of governance/government is that, over time, it leads to total oppression, widespread malfeasance and worst of all, the misdirection of our country’s future. Above all, a developmental state such as ours, or any other state for that matter, cannot function without an efficient, effective and ethical bureaucracy; it cannot deliver the necessary goods and services to the general public in time. With government of such a capricious and closed nature, you reap that which you sow.

On the other hand, constitutional democracy and its associated checks and balances are the best form of government because they recognize the flaws in the human character. If we were all saints, government would be unnecessary, as social theorists contend. No, democracy does not work because we are angels and saints. It is necessary because it is the form of government that best restrains the demon in us all. That demon goes by many names—ambition, greed, self-interest, patronage, cronyism, ethnocentrism, corruption, are just a few names.

Just having the democratic forms and institutions are inadequate in themselves. The people with whom these institutions are entrusted must contain the values of democracy in their hearts and minds. A constitution is but a piece of paper and a piece of paper, no matter how special the words inscribed therein, is easily shred. The real constitution that begets good, democratic governance is not found in the piece of paper, it is found in the spirit and thoughts and philosophy that gave rise to what was written. What I am saying is that, for the constitution to be real and genuine it must be written in your mind, your heart, and your behaviour.

Moreover, seeking the welfare of the masses must be the primary step, the motivating force to any meaningful structure or conduct of government. For good/democratic governance and democracy to take hold, the answers to two questions, “Why do you run for office” and “Why will the people elect you” must be the same. Dissatisfaction and trouble reign wherever and whenever the answers are different. If you run for office because you wanted to enrich yourself but the people elected you because they thought you would bring them better social services, surely, some sections of the population/community will be disappointed. Something has to yield in this situation because you cannot serve two masters—you must either serve them or yourself. Either you will have to change your ways or they will have to accept your self-aggrandizement but both cannot get what they want. Where there is such a fundamental discord between the elected official(s) and the electorate, contention will be your pardon. Conversely, where there is general harmony of interests, you have established the essential foundation for good governance.

You as political leaders of the State can and must be the primary example of good governance to the people. The people may not always be in contact with national officials, but, if you do your work properly, you must be in close contact with your community. By doing your jobs, you not only become the best exemplar of grassroots democracy you become democracy’s protector.

In order to serve this vital function, you must have a vision for your State, your Zone, your Woreda, your village community. If you do not have a vision or a capability as well as sufficient time and energy and vigour for improving or serving your community, you should seriously think about pursuing another vocation. This one may not be for you. Of course, state and local government cannot do everything but you must work with and for the people to bring them the vital services within your mandate to deliver. What the people need from you is not shrouded in mystery. It is easy to discern their needs and concerns provided you care enough about those who elected you. They are looking for improvement in health care for their families, education for their children, better infrastructure, economic growth and employment; safety and security. They want to enjoy their hard-won constitutional rights, freedoms and liberties.

As I said before, you cannot do all of these yourself. But you do have some funds and manpower to address some of their concerns. To the extent you control assets, set your budgets to meet the social service priorities of your community. Move around your State, your Community; take time to express your vision for improving it to your people; let them express their ideas and concerns to you. Listen to their cries, discern their concerns and needs. Some of their ideas will be good, don’t tarry in accepting these ideas. Embrace their good ideas to refine and improve your thinking and your programmes. Accepting someone else’s ideas is not weakness. It is wisdom. If you do follow this tack, your supporters will continue to give you support. Those who once opposed you, will begin to think better about you. Those who hated you, will begin to respect you. Just by listening with an open ear and honest heart, you have taken an important step toward good governance that uplifts the spirit and well-being of the entire community.

In this regard, remember not to shun or harass and persecute your political opposition. Do not mistake electoral politics for military warfare. These people are your fellow nationals and your political opposition not your mortal enemies. Only one person can win an election. But if the election is done fairly and credibly, we all stand to gain something from it. However, if we turn elections into a form of warfare, there is no true winner or loser. We all suffer in the end. Even the so-called winner loses. Given the sharpness of the electoral warfare, even the winner cannot quickly divorce himself from the combative spirit that governed during elections. Once a person gains power by any means, he becomes convinced that his opponent will try to steal that power by any means. This type of victory is no victory at all. This type of psychology is not conducive to good governance and the progress of democracy. In such a situation, a person sleeps with one eye open and one foot on the floor. No matter how high or soft the bed, no one can find comfort in such an arrangement. Thus, it is better to make peace after the elections and the best way to obtain post-election peace is never to engage in pre-election warfare. Better a person erect and live in a modest house in peace than build a large mansion only to destroy half of it.

Remember that your political opponents are human beings with brains and reason. They cannot be wrong on all issues all the time no more than you can be right all the time. Your opponents are entitled to respect and dignity. Listen to them, give them adequate political and economic space as well as proper support, financial and other. Do not starve or humiliate them. Always remember you are not perfect. Even the good decisions you make are not perfect and have their flaws. Often the solutions of today’s problems are the parents of tomorrow’s challenges. No one has a monopoly on truth and knowledge. Accept in good faith the constructive criticism of your political opponents.

The concept of loyal or legal opposition is central to any functioning democracy. It means that all sides in a political debate, however deep their differences, share the fundamental democratic values of freedom of speech and faith, and equal protection under the law. It means, in essence, that all parties in a democracy should be equally committed to the basic values, rules, and procedures of democracy. Parties that lose elections step into the role of opposition—confident that the political system will continue to protect their rights to organize and speak out. In time, their party will have a chance to campaign again for its ideas and programmes, and the votes of the people. Political competitors do not necessarily have to like each other, but they must tolerate each other’s legitimacy. The right of the minority (opposition) does not depend on the goodwill of the majority (ruling party). The losers in an election must not be, or feel, threatened. On the contrary, they must feel comfortable to continue participating in public life.

Finally, the holding of free, fair and credible elections rests on the shoulders of the National Electoral Board or Commission of Ethiopia. Although the support and cooperation of the whole people and government as well as all political parties and the latter’s supporters in the nation’s political arena are required, the responsibility of the Electoral Commission for conducting a peaceful, free and fair election should be duly emphasized. In many newly democratising countries, most complaints that arise during post-elections are attributed to shoddy elections conducted by partisan, ineffective, unprofessional and unscrupulous election officials or commissioners of questionable integrity and their support staff from the top to bottom following their superiors' instructions, often resulting in unnecessary violence and bloodshed. Many election observers and monitors forcefully contend that 50% or more of such election-related bickering, showdowns and other related problems can/will be satisfactorily resolved if the National Election Board or Commission is governed by unquestionable professional ethics, independence, impartiality and the highest code of conduct in its responsibility of effectively and efficiently managing and conducting free, fair and credible elections acceptable to the electorate and all competing parties participating in the periodic elections, and in the security forces (army, police, militia, etc.) remaining aloof and non-partisan. Even mere perceptions that the Board or Commission is not highly independent, professional/ capable or impartial enough to conduct free, fair and credible elections in the country or that the security forces are interfering in favour of the ruling party would send shockwaves across the political marketplace, forcing the competitors in the political arena especially the losers in the elections to challenge or question the credibility of every election results and judge them as unacceptable and to resort to all sorts of violent methods to reverse or change the outcome, besides launching endless accusations and smear campaigns to tarnish the democratic election. Such undesirable outcomes must be avoided as far as possible by rectifying or doing away with all possible weaknesses, shortcomings and deficiencies, real or imagined, that surround the functioning of National Election Board and the security forces of the country before the campaign period begins and crafting comprehensive settlements between all or the principal political elites in the nation’s political marketplace regarding the rules of the game that will be meticulously observed and respected by all parties during voters’ registration and the campaign period as well as before and after the polling day, from voting to observation to vote counting and declaring the election results, etc. As the saying goes, “A stitch in time saves nine.” Last but not least, let us all protagonists and their supporters in the power competition insure that our campaigns will be absolutely peaceful and that no single Ethiopian injures his body or loses his/her life in the upcoming national elections whatever the cause or the outcome. This must be our solemn oath to our people who have suffered so much senseless death and destruction in the recent past in the name of democratic and peaceful elections in their modest attempt to elect their political leaders who are supposed to bring them peace, security, service delivery and prosperity and surely not death and destruction. How long do we seek to make our poor citizens sacrificial lambs for our selfish ends? This brutality must end once and for all. As signatory of numerous international, continental and regional declarations and charters on democracy, human rights and democratic elections, let us rise as a nation to meet or fulfil the expectations of the international community, the African Union and above all our peoples by making the 2010 national elections free, fair and credible, and move beyond that objective to build genuine democracy and good governance in Ethiopia. Now that we, opposition parties and the ruling party, have agreed upon and signed a lasting code of conduct for the upcoming elections and those beyond, let us all endeavour to diligently and meticulously translate this historical document to practice and make all Ethiopians happy and contented of the outcome, now and in the future. For God and our country! Amen.


By BAN Ki-Moon

885 words

Two weeks ago, I visited the Arctic. I saw the remains of a glacier that just a few years ago was a majestic mass of ice. It had collapsed. Not slowly melted -- collapsed. I travelled nine hours by ship from the world’s northernmost settlement to reach the Polar ice rim. In just a few years, the same ship may be able to sail unimpeded all the way to the North Pole. The Arctic could be virtually ice-free by 2030.

Scientists told me their sobering findings. The Arctic is our canary in the coal mine for climate impacts that will affect us all. I was alarmed by the rapid pace of change there. Worse still, changes in the Arctic are now accelerating global warming. Thawing permafrost is releasing methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. Melting ice in Greenland threatens to raise sea levels.
Meanwhile, global greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise.
I am therefore all the more convinced we must act -- now.

To that end, on September 22 I convened a special summit on climate change at the United Nations for some 100 world leaders -- history’s largest-ever such gathering of Heads of State and Government. Their collective challenge: transforming the climate crisis into an opportunity for safer, cleaner, sustainable green growth for all.

The key is Copenhagen, where governments will gather to negotiate a new global climate agreement in December. I will have a simple message to convey to leaders: The world needs you to actively push for a fair, effective and ambitious deal in Copenhagen. Fail to act, and we will count the cost for generations to come.

Climate change is the pre-eminent geopolitical issue of our time. It rewrites the global equation for development, peace and prosperity. It threatens markets, economies and development gains. It can deplete food and water supplies, provoke conflict and migration, destabilize fragile societies and even topple governments.

Hyperbole? Not according to the world’s best scientists. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says global greenhouse gas emissions need to peak within ten years if we are to avoid unleashing powerful, natural forces that are now slipping out of our control.
Ten years is within the political lifetime of many attending the summit. The climate crisis is occurring on their watch.

There is an alternative: sustainable growth based on green technologies and policies that favour low emissions over current carbon-intensive models. Many national stimulus packages devised in the wake of the global economic downturn feature a strong green component that creates jobs and positions countries to excel in the clean energy economy of the 21st century.

Change is in the air. The key lies in a global climate deal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit global temperature rise to a scientifically safe level. A deal to catalyze clean energy growth. Most urgently, an agreement must protect and assist those who are most vulnerable from inevitable climate impacts.

What is needed is political will at the highest levels – Presidents, Premiers and Prime Ministers – that translates into rapid progress in the negotiating room. It requires more trust among nations, more imagination, ambition and cooperation.

I expect leaders to roll up their sleeves and speak with – not past – each other. I expect them to intensify efforts to resolve the key political issues that have so far slowed global negotiations to a glacial pace. Ironically, that expression -- until recently -- connoted slowness. But the glaciers I saw a few weeks ago in the Arctic are melting faster than human progress to preserve them.

We must place the planet’s long-term interests ahead of short-term political expediency. National leaders need to be global leaders who take the long view. Today’s threats transcend borders. So, too, must our thinking.

Copenhagen need not resolve all the details. But a successful global climate deal must involve all countries, consistent with their capabilities, working toward a common, long-term goal. Here are my benchmarks for success.

First, every country must do its utmost to reduce emissions from all major sources. Industrialized countries have to strengthen their mitigation targets, which are currently nowhere close to what the IPCC says is needed. Developing countries, too, must slow the rise in their emissions and accelerate green growth as part of their strategies to reduce poverty.

Second, a successful deal must help the most vulnerable to adapt to the inevitable impacts of climate change. This is an ethical imperative as well as a smart investment in a more stable, secure world.

Third, developing countries need funding and technology so they can move more quickly toward low-emissions growth. A deal must also unlock private investment, including through carbon markets. Fourth, resources must be equitably managed and deployed in a way that all countries have a voice.
This year at Copenhagen, we have a powerful opportunity to get on the right side of history. It’s an opportunity not only to avert disaster, but to launch a fundamental transformation of the global economy.
Strong new political winds now fill our sails. Millions of citizens are mobilized. Savvy businesses are charting a cleaner energy course. We must seize this moment to act boldly on climate change. It may not come again anytime soon.
Change is in the air. Let’s seal the deal on a better future for us all.

Somalia – the new axis of conflict

The nature of the intractable civil war in Somalia is undergoing a change, adding an
ideological, sectarian dynamic to the confl ict. For the fi rst time in modern Somalia,
Sufi groups under attack are taking up arms and effectively fi ghting Al-Shabaab with
popular support on the rural plains of central Somalia. This new axis of confl ict,
where Islamist fi ghters are battling one another along religious lines, has the potential
of changing the confl ict dynamics in the long run.
Somalis are generally pragmatic and moderate Sufi Muslims.They do not
share the strict, Saudi-inspired Wahhabi interpretation of Islam of the hard-line
Al-Shabaab group.1 Historically, loosely organized Sufi groups rarely entered
the political arena, with the exception of the anti-colonial wars in the 20th
century.2 Over the last two decades of civil war, characterized by a lack of central
government, Sufi leaders had managed to steer clear of clan and political wars, but
this pragmatic and moderate approach came to an end when Al-Shabaab fi ghters
began desecrating their religious shrines in the south of the country late last year.3
An impressive example is Al-Shabaab’s policy in the port city of Kismayo. In
December 2008, the group targeted Sufi sites, among them ancient graves of clerics
and other prominent Sufi s – sites Al-Shabaab deemed un-Islamic. As Sufi scholars
increasingly felt discriminated against and targeted because of their religious
practices, they saw themselves in a religious zero-sum identity confl ict and decided
to take up arms.
A clear, but limited challenge
Recently, Al-Shabaab fi ghters were able to launch two particularly prominent
attacks in their battle against the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the
African Union (AU) troops in Mogadishu. On 7 May, Al-Shabaab fi ghters attacked
the TFG only a few blocks away from Villa Somalia, the presidential palace,
thereby showing the apparent weakness of the TFG. On 17 September, Al-Shabaab
successfully attacked the main AU military base with two car bombs in the capital,
killing 17 peacekeepers.
Until very recently, the main Sufi resistance group, Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jama’a
(ASWJ), has been militarily active only in the central Somali region of Galgaduud,
where the major local clans and sub-clans (Habir Gedir, Dir, and Marehan) as well
as Sufi sheikhs have put their support behind ASWJ. While having more armed
fi ghters than Al-Shabaab, they are not as well trained, as ASWJ fi ghters are drawn
from the clan militias which generally lack formal military training. Nevertheless,
the group was able to defeat Al-Shabaab in two strategically crucial towns
connecting southern and northern Somalia. From 1 November until 16 December
2008, ASWJ successfully engaged in fi erce fi ghting with Al-Shabaab in the town
of Guraceel. On 25 January, ASWJ openly engaged Al-Shabaab militias in intense
fi ghting, reportedly killing at least 35 people and injuring more than 60 others in
Dhusamareeb. Subsequently, ASWJ succeeded in driving Al-Shabaab insurgents
out of several towns of the region. In their place, the Sufi movement has established
its own incipient local administration, liaising with UN offi cials and patrolling the
locality. Grassroots support and local clan-backing has allowed this new movement
to transform rapidly from a civil to a military force.4 In addition, ASWJ has openly
come out supporting the new president of the TFG, Sheikh Sharif Ahmed.5 More
recently, ASWJ is reported to be active also outside the Galgaduud region, and have
taken over two towns in the Gedo region in accordance with the TFG.6
It is, however, important to acknowledge that ASWJ is still a small part in
the equation of the fi ght between the TFG and Al-Shabaab. While the religious
opposition to Al-Shabaab and its radical interpretation of Islam is wide and deep in
Somalia, it has not been able to organize itself politically or military on a broader
level. Furthermore, ASWJ itself lacks a political vision and, thus, fi nds it diffi cult to
sustain its rule in the areas it controls.
Al-Shabaab - strengths and weaknesses
It appears that the accomplishments of ASWJ imply two realities. First, the severe
Wahhabi governing methods of Al-Shabaab, which echo those on view in Pakistan’s
Swat Valley and includes stoning and amputations, elicit little local support. In fact,
the same could be observed of all radical Islamic groups in Somalia since the 1990s.
Al-Shabaab gained their performance legitimacy in setting up Islamic courts and
bringing law and order to the areas under their control, giving them strong support
in parts of the country. However, popular resistance to the insurgency today is
reported more frequently and conducted more openly. For example, on 26 March,
hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets in protest against a ban on the sale of
the narcotic Khat. In reaction, Al-Shabaab further intensifi ed its strategy of coercion
and intimidation of the Somali population by carefully selected assassinations and
arrests of clan elders, several of whom have been murdered. In the latest high profi le
assassination, Omar Hashi Aden, the Minister of National Security, was killed along
with 30 other people in a large-scale suicide car bomb in Beletwyne on 19 June,
leading to a strong condemnation by a broad cross-section of Somali society.7
Second, the wide territorial dominance of the jihadists is perhaps more a function
of the lack of any countervailing force than an indicator of any innate strength. In
this sense, Al-Shabaab is benefi ting particularly from the weakness of the other
groups, fi rst and foremost the TFG. As Roland Marchal put it, “Al-Shabaab may
not be so powerful militarily speaking, but it is the smartest to keep the warfare in
conditions that are suitable for its low membership and its lack of popular support”.8
In fact, the movement should be weakened considerably since two of its main
political pillars have been removed by the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops and
the introduction of Sharia law by the new government. Facing a foreign enemy,
segmentary lineage societies close their ranks and overcome their internal splits and
rivalries to fi ght a common enemy. No doubt, this coherence falls apart as soon as
the common enemy disappears. In part, this dynamic is causing popular support to
wane for Al-Shabaab.9
Nevertheless, Al-Shabaab is still able to recruit and attract considerable backing
in certain areas for various motives. Besides ideological reasons, religious or
nationalistic, the movement is also attractive for economic survival as Al-Shabaab
has the means to pay their mainly young fi ghters. In addition, the movement
represents a means of empowerment and certainly provides the ground for sheer
power-seeking people to further their political stance.10
At the same time Al-Shabaab is increasingly becoming aware that they are
increasingly alienating the population in areas they administered according to an
overtly strict reading of Sharia law. Contrary to the perception of Al-Shabaab as
a mere ideology driven movement, it did prove its ability to change its political
strategy in a pragmatic way in order to regain ground: Trying to consolidate its rule,
Al-Shabaab quite successfully adopted a new approach in the city of Baidoa by
building its economic, social and educational infrastructure and holding talks with
traditional clan leaders.
The TFG is attempting to take matters into their own hands. On 21 June it signed an
agreement with Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jama’a in which it agreed to cooperate in political,
security, humanitarian and development areas. At the same time, the TFG appointed
a former offi cial of the Hizbul Islam insurgent group, which fought alongside Al-
Shabaab, Sheikh Yusuf Mohamed Siad Inda’ade, as state defence minister.11 But this
does not constitute a break through in their battle over power with Al-Shabaab.
A closer look at the fi ghting between Al-Shabaab and Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jama’a
shows how fl uid clan loyalties can be in Somalia. For now however, none of these
attempts and changes in the dynamics of Somalia’s civil war have been able to
fundamentally change the current stalemate between the TFG and the insurgent
groups, prolonging the ongoing war.
Georg-Sebastian Holzer
is a Research Assistant at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced
International Studies (SAIS) in Washington, DC. He focuses on confl ict management
with a regional specialization on the Horn of Africa.
1. For a short overview about the Al-Shabaab movement see: Paula Christina Roque,
‘Somalia: Understanding Al-Shabaab’, ISS Situation Report, Institute for Security
Studies, 3 June 2009.
2. Roland Marchal, ‘Islamic Political Dynamics in the Somali Civil War’, in Alex de
Waal (ed.) Islamism and Its Enemies in the Horn of Africa, Indiana University Press
2004, pp. 114-145.
3. Mohamed Mohamed, ‘Somali rage at grave desecration’, BBC 8 June 2009 http://
4. ‘Ahlu Sunna Takes Control of Provincial Town’, Shabelle Media Network,
29 January 2009; UN Security Council, ’Report of the Secretary-General on the
situation in Somalia’, 9 March 2009.
5. ‘Islamist Group Supports President Sharif’, Shabelle Media Network, 13
February 2009.
6. ‘Islamist Forces Join Government Troops in Bakol Regio’, Shabelle Media
Network, 27 March 2009; ‘Ahlu Sunnah Take Trade Town Along Kenya Border’,
Garowe Online, 17 August 2009; ‘Ahlu Sunnah Capture Second Town in Gedo
Region’, Garowe Online, 19 August 2009.
7. UN Security Council,’Report of the Secretary-General on the situation in
Somalia’, 20 July 2009.
8. Email correspondence by the author with Roland Marchal, 30 July 2009.
9. Stephanie McCrummen, ‘In a changing Somalia, Islamist forces see support
wane’, Washington Post, 7 August 2009.
10. Ken Menkhaus, ‘Violent Islamic Extremism: Al-Shabaab Recruitment in
America’, Hearing before the Committee on Homeland Security, US Senate, 11
March 2009.
11. Recent events show that the pragmatic alliance between Al-Shabaab and Hizbul
Islam is dissolving. See, e.g. ‘Somalia’s al Shabaab rebels declare war on rivals’,
Reuters, 30 September 2009.

Leader comes and goes but why?

Leader comes and goes but why?

Zeru Hagos 06/24/09

Why are leaders replaced? Take for example PM Meles. Yes PM Meles has been the top leader for his organization for a while now. But, during his time EPRDF has been transformed from a well oiled fighting machine to a formidable organization that won three successive elections. Under EPRDF Ethiopia has become truly a developing country and an aspiring democratic country! Yet, more is to come and more than ever a strong progressive and articulate leadership is needed. Who ever holds a majority seat in parliament in the coming election the next government will have a daunting task to navigate the country from becoming victim of the economic turmoil the world is in today to a proactive one. And if EPRDF becomes the majority seat holder who is there to lead than PM Meles and his team who have showed resilience and true statesmanship to garner world praise! So why change?

The next government will have a daunting task to manage the turmoil that is engulfing the Horn region from Eritrea to Somalia. The Sudanese referendum that will surely split the country in to north south will certainly require an adept government in Ethiopia to manage the dicey situation there. And the biggest challenge of all, for the coming government will be to earn respect from all EPRDF member organizations in order to pass legislation. It is clear that the parliament is becoming more vibrant and may not tip toe to party disciplines when issues come to the floor. Take the current uproar with the Amhara delegation about the population census! The Census bureau has to visit its counting procedures to find any weakness simply because Amhara MPs who are EPRDF members did not like the result.

If EPRDF chooses a new leader out of the non veteran EPRDF circle, who ever he/she may be will have a daunting task to convince the old guards in each front for their support. I see an erosion of camaraderie if the new leader is a former Derge functionary! For such person to take power at the top while long time EPRDF members who gave it their all are side tracked, is simply an additional burden EPRDF can do without. Thus, why would EPRDF want to change leadership at the top today? And why is Ethiopia’s constitution under pressure from Westerners who want to see leadership change to mirror their way of government?

If leadership change is a must no matter what the situation is then why did EPRDF fail to adopt such language in its internal rule and the country’s constitution for this long? Who really benefits a leadership change today? Not tomorrow but today? Tomorrow I agree there must be for no one is immortal!

Would EPRDFites be happy to see Meles and his government replaced? Would anyone be pleased to see Meles alone go and everybody else remain as is…if so what has Meles done for such treatment? Would a new prime minster solve any issue if he is to continue PM Meles government policy as is? If not which policy do we expect the new prime minister to change? Why can’t Meles continue if no policy change is needed? These are questions I have but I am sure there are more.

I personally think PM Meles, unless his medical condition is forcing him to take it easy, like a good soldier that never says I am tired, must continue for another term or at the very least serve a transitional two to three year time so the new leader is not overwhelmed before he /she gets in to the office. That way Ethiopia’s enemy from far and near will know for the next few years things will remain the same. The huge economic infrastructure development and the Sudanese referendum will be over by then and hopefully there will also be a closure with the Somalia and Eritrean issue.

Some say Ethiopia is ready for an Afar, Oromo, Somali and e.t.c prime minister! Ethiopia has been ready for any competent and pragmatist and farsighted leader since God knows when! There was no tomorrow set aside for an Oromo prime minister by the Ethiopian people. Only a dysfunctional opposition and a confused, “aderby” supporters of EPRDF will advocate for such today! The notion that a prime minister who is an Oromo or a Wolayita or Sidama or an Amhara will solve the perception of TPLF dominance is a false one! The perception is simply created by the opposition to break down the EPRDF! Otherwise an opposition that never recognizes OPDO, ANDM and SEPDM as an organization cannot be interested to see a prime minister out of them! EPRDF should choose its next leaders regardless of race creed and religion!

If a new prime minister or an EPRDF leader is to emerge it should be done based on merits and after a genuine discussion. The discussion should be on what is good for EPRDF and the country not what is good for foreign agents! The merits should be valued against tenacity during trying moments, farsightedness and awareness of geo politics! Above all the new leader should be one who has earned great respect among rank and file members of the EPRDF. For the road ahead is still bumpy and when push comes to shove these rank and file members will come handy! No one certainly wants Kinjit type experience when tough times come! Kinjit leaders and supporters run tail behind to Washington DC leaving behind the country and innocent followers cold dry! Can you imagine a weak and unpopular leader leading the country during events like election 2005 aftermath!

Our Ethiopia needs a stable and progressive government, we should tell Westerners we really are ahead of schedule to become like them considering it took them 200 years to be where they are! After all it took them 200 years to be where they are and still their democratic aspiration is still in progress like ours is!

So why would EPRDF replace Meles today? Do they [EPRDF] not see the situation Ethiopia is in today?

Meles for Mo Ibrahim Prize: The Prize for Achievement in African Leadership1

Meles for Mo Ibrahim Prize: The Prize for Achievement in African Leadership1

(First appeared in December 2006 and updated June 23,2009)

By: Mulu GS


Mr. Zena Marcos, I argue that PM Meles Zenawi is not a liability to EPRDF. From my perspective, he is rather the best asset. However, now that he has repeatedly hinted to relieve himself from the daunting job of premiership it is important that we rationally support him to bid for Mo Ibrahim Prize. It could be an impetus for positive thinking and for reassessing his future role in the political development of Ethiopia. The main aim of this article is not to debate with Zena, it is rather to open an intellectual debate on this issue of stepping down from a government position. For starters though, I argue that he qualifies for the prize. I will forward my points for why I believe he deserves it, but first the major points in the prize:

i. It gives a total of $5m prize for Africa's most effective head of state- award winning leaders $5m (£2.7m) over 10 years when they leave office, plus $200,000 (£107,000) a year for life.

ii. The main objective is to remove corruption and improve governance.

iii. It involves one of the best universities in the world -Harvard University will assess how well the president has served his or her people while in office.

iv. It is supported by the world’s best people ever- Nelson Mandela, former US President Bill Clinton and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

Now back to my arguments. The gist of my argument is that Meles deserves to work towards getting the Mo Leadership Prize by the end of his term given he transfers power peacefully. As we all do, whenever there is a prize announcement in academic competition or any other competition we try our best to win. We write our applications and essentially nominate our selves and present our work to achieve it. It is not any different here. If the bylaws of the Prize are to nominate oneself by writing an application statement then he should do it. If it is by third party nomination, then we should support his nomination.

Why does Meles deserve this prize? I will give a few highlights that I think are sufficient to demonstrate why he deserves this prize. First and foremost, he is one of the very few leaders in the world who has successfully transformed himself from a second year medical student to a fighter, commander/leader, head of state, economist and intellectual, and from a communist to an architect of developmental state. He has passed through challenges-jungle life, within party fights (the 1984 and the 2000) and the recent election fights with people who have grave hate towards him and his people. Shortly, he is tested!

On the other hand he is a very disciplined man. He values family- sticking to his “amin” first wife and is a family man. He has been seen accompanying his daughter to a high school graduation despite the hectic nature of being head of government. He has made conversations and letter exchanges with school children at several levels. These are characters that everyone envies. After all, we all know how much key role this type of character plays in the USA elections.

He also has other qualities. As far as my knowledge is concerned he is the only leader in the history of Ethiopia who fluently speaks English, Amharic, and Tigrigna. He probably is the only leader who has achieved the highest ladders of education while in office. If the recent news is true he might get a PhD very soon. That would probably make him the first leader to achieve a PhD while in office. He has demonstrated to friends and foe how brilliant he is in articulating the issues that are fundamental for economic development o African countries. His nomination to the Blair African Commission, His recent role in the China-Africa partnership, his recent invited speech in the EU development conference, the prizes and honorary doctorates he has been getting, the recent invited speech at the G20 summit and the invitation to the forthcoming G8 meeting clearly show the high regard he is winning from the international community. He has had a key role in influencing the World Bank and IMF aid policy for the Third World countries. His recent manuscript on the developmental state is, simply put, a great addition to the debate on the possible strategic solutions to the problems of developing countries (especially Africa). What makes it more interesting is that his background is from the poor like one of us.

I am not ignoring the fact that there are those who would like us to believe that he is a monster. There are those who accuse him for every single bad that has happened during his reign. Some called him Grazianni, some Hitler, some worse than Mengistu. And there are some moderate critics who do not like his style of communicating his goodwill to the Ethiopian people and who think he is arrogant. However, history tells us that nobody even Jesus Christ, would pass from this kind of labeling and bashing. I am not saying that he did not make mistakes, probably a lot, but that is part of what being human is. I wonder how many people would volunteer to be leaders of this very poor country and be able to surpass the infinite expectation of Ethiopians of all walks of life.

Some of the shortcomings that I share with my fellow Ethiopians have to do with EPRDF’s handling of the Eritrean issue (I am not against the principle of self determination enshrined in the constitution). My problems are mainly with the fact that why Meles and other leaders of EPRDF were not forthcoming in explaining the rationale for their handling of Eritreans and the Eritrean issue. The monstrosity of the Eritrean regime towards Ethiopians and especially Tigrayans starts from the road blocking of relief food by Shabia during the 84 famine which for any sane person is unforgettable and intolerable. In fact, I do not forget how Meles in his own words described this horrendous event in one of the Yekatit 11 anniversary speeches. Add to this all that happened to Ethiopians who lived in Eritrea which is opposite to what the Eritrean on the Ethiopian side have been enjoying. I am still waiting to hear any justification for this. Frankly, he does not take all the responsibility but as a leader he gets a fair share of the blame.

The debate on whether Meles should stay beyond his current term or not has been in both directions. There are those who nicely argued that having Meles Zenawi stay for one or more terms can be advantageous. For instance, Getachew Mequannent3 gives three reasons, which all make sense (1) he has increasingly become self-conscious of his reputation and this means that he will be pushing ahead with policy reforms and the democratization process, (2) he has spent years learning and accumulating political and diplomatic experiences, which are assets and (3) he has a natural ability for sharp articulation of development issues and this will promote a good image of Ethiopia. Getachew argues that in many cases what matters in politics is not a change of leadership, but a commitment to working towards reducing poverty which Meles has been doing. There are also others who have beautifully argued otherwise. For instance, Mekonnen Kassa4 argues that by peacefully transferring power Meles can leave behind a great Ethiopian legacy for the first time in thousands of years of our existence. Similarly, Belihu Aychilim argued that, “even for those who support most ideas behind the present government, the devolving of power from Meles to another fresh blood is a matter of credibility and renewal of commitment to the EPRDF. It is important to be assured that EPRDF could handle change and continuity without having to narrowly rely on a single individual and clique. Meles should take the road less traveled - which is always the difficult path.”

I do like both sides of the debate and frankly I am torn in between. However, if he has enough of public service, the key to be eligible to the Mo Prize is going to be the peaceful transfer of power to his successor. And I pray to God to help him in this respect.

1 http://www.moibrahimfoundation.org/mif_prize.html

2 http://www.aigaforum.com/Commentary_on_should_PM_Meles.htm

3 http://www.aigaforum.com/Reflection_on_Meles_Zenawi_s_Possible_Retirement.htm

4 http://www.aigaforum.com/Meles_comment.pdf

Multiple Crises Affecting Development

By:-Eyasu Solomon

The ongoing global financial and economic crisis has the potential to usher in a period of a global recession that may seriously undermine all countries’ process of economic growth and transformation, and also jeopardize efforts to widen economic and social opportunities and improve the livelihoods of ordinary people everywhere. In particular, the crisis may put a brake on and also reverse efforts in developing countries and by the international community to assure development gains from trade, promoting achievement of internationally agreed development goals including the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015. The crisis has triggered a slowdown in global economic growth that is manifesting itself in a demand-driven fall in international trade exacerbated by the deficit of
credit and trade finance; falling commodity prices; declining remittances; contracting foreign direct investment (FDI); and the potential of declining official development assistance (ODA). These effects have been superimposed onto the ongoing global food crisis, volatile energy prices, and climate change challenges. The aggregate impact is such that most developing countries are being heavily hurt through declining exports, rising unemployment, and thus falling family incomes, bringing millions of people back into poverty or aggravating the conditions of those in extreme poverty. This has given rise to the most significant challenge facing the global community today – how to focus on buttressing development and poverty-reduction efforts globally and in developing countries, and on setting in place the conditions that will avert future crises and facilitate a sustainable process of economic transformation for all countries.
By virtue of globalization, the moment the financial crisis hit the real economy and became a global economic crisis, it was rapidly transmitted to many developing countries through a contraction in trade finance and a slowdown in demand affecting bilateral trade flows. These transmission channels were particularly visible in sectors composed of global production and supply chains.
As most developing countries are heavily dependent on developed country markets, the slump in demand from latter due to the crisis has had an adverse impact on the former.
The world economy is currently facing a severe global crisis that spilled from financial sector to the real economy in the last quarter of 2008, leading to steep falls in industrial production and a rapid decrease in international trade, and to a slowdown in foreign direct investments and potentially in development assistance. The crisis has brought about a slump in economic growth in most countries, and has been accompanied globally by increases in unemployment. The current global crisis – preceded by the food crisis, volatile energy prices and climate change challenge – is a major blow to attaining the MDGs for developing countries. Addressing the dampening impact of the crisis on international trade and investment to restore growth, and reviewing development policies and partnerships to create sustainable practices and greater resilience to future shocks, must be key priorities in the multilateral agenda.
Most developing countries are now closely linked with the global economy by trade and foreign direct investment flows, and their economies are more sensitive to falling international demand (and
conversely to expanding demand). The degree of exposure and integration of developing countries’ economies to external markets has greatly increased in recent years. Developing countries’ exports on average accounted for more than half of their gross domestic product (GDP) in 2007, up from about a quarter of GDP in 1995.
The ongoing reduction of trade and investment flows is starting to restrain the development prospects of developing countries. They are currently seriously hurt through falling commodity prices, demand driven drops in exports exacerbated by the deficit of credit and trade finance, capital outflows, declining remittances, and contracting investment. The prospects are more dire for export-oriented developing countries, especially those with a small domestic economy, where the reduction in international demand is more likely to raise unemployment. In some developing countries, workers are shifting out of dynamic export-oriented sectors into lower-productivity activities. Potentially, all these effects could bring millions of people back into poverty.
The decrease in merchandise trade appears to be affecting all developing regions and most types of goods. Moreover, South–South trade, which has been the most dynamic component of world trade for over a decade, is declining too, especially intra-Asian trade. The quick contraction of developing countries’ manufacturing trade is largely due to today’s highly globalized production and marketing schemes. Among the most affected sectors are automotive products, office and telecommunications equipment, and electronics, as well as textiles and clothing.
Many commodity exporters, particularly those in West Asia, Africa, and countries with economies in transition that benefited from the commodity price boom with considerable terms-of-trade gains, are now facing the downside of their commodity dependence, manifested in a substantial shrinking of export revenues. More than 90 developing countries earn at least 50 per cent of their exports from commodities (47 of them being non-fuel commodity exporters). Most developing countries are now closely linked to the global economy by trade and FDI flows. As a consequence of the crisis, the significant reduction of these flows is starting to restrain their development perspectives. Developing countries are currently seriously hurt through falling commodity prices, demand driven drops in exports exacerbated by the deficit of credit and trade finance, capital outflows, declining remittances, and contracting investment. The prospects are more dire for export-oriented developing countries, especially those with a small domestic economy, where the reduction in international demand is more likely to curtail their exports and raise unemployment. As observed in some developing countries, workers are increasingly shifting out of dynamic export oriented sectors into lower-productivity activities (and moving out of urban areas back into rural areas).
UNCTAD currently estimates world merchandise trade to fall between 6 and 8 per cent in 2009. Exports from developing countries and countries with economies in transition could potentially decline in the range of 7 to 9 per cent in volume, in 2009. Developed countries’ exports are projected to decline by up to 8 per cent this year. The trade contraction in value would be much greater.
The crisis is also spreading to trade in services and to service sectors in general. Maritime transport is particularly affected, as are tourism and construction services. There is also a growing reduction in the employment levels of migrant workers from developing countries. This is expected to lead to a further fall in remittance inflows to developing countries, which began to slow down in 2008. Conversely, trade in ICT-enabled services appears to be less influenced by the economic downturn, as companies see the offshoring of services as one method of enhancing their competitiveness.
The crisis has translated into a sharp decline in FDI inflows, both for developed and developing countries. UNCTAD estimates that global FDI inflows declined by 15 per cent in 2008. An outright decline in FDI inflows to developing countries is very likely in 2009. FDI flows to financial services, automotive industries, building materials, intermediate goods and some consumption goods are among the most significantly affected, but so is FDI into activities ranging from the primary sector to non financial services. FDI outflows from the South are also set to slow down, but to a lesser degree than those from the North. Thus the share of developing countries in global FDI outflows continues to rise, highlighting an increasing presence of transnational corporations (TNCs) from the South.
Multilateral policy responses are required to achieve a sustained global economic recovery. These need to address developing countries’ concerns and enable them to continue to grow through trade, investment, remittances, aid, and technological innovation. Strategic intervention by governments is also required to provide new directions in order to achieve the United Nations MDGs.
At the international level, restoring trade finance and mitigating the risk of increased protectionism are immediate challenges. Concluding the World Trade Organization (WTO) Doha Round on balanced and pro-development terms will help, as well as harvesting some of the key development deliverables such duty-free and quota-free treatment for least developed countries (LDCs). Maintaining and increasing ODA, including through aid for trade, will be important too, especially to build and strengthen productive capacities of developing countries, and related trade-efficiency and facilitation infrastructure.
At the interregional and regional levels, expanding and diversifying South–South cooperation is a viable solution to support and to increase developing countries’ trade and investment performance.
The crisis offers opportunities for strengthening South–South trade and investment linkages, including through reshaping the existing production supply chains (and creating more regional demand).
Available policy instruments such as the Global System of Trade Preferences among Developing Countries (GSTP) and more comprehensive and effective regional trade and investment agreements should be consolidated and enhanced.
At the national level, the crisis has made it timely to review development strategies so as to make them more sustainable against future external shocks, focused on delivering broad-based and inclusive development, and responsive to the imperatives of preserving the environment, while also providing new economic opportunities. Developing countries need to continue to address income inequality and to invest more in education, training, trade-adjustment assistance, health care, community development and tax policy. The role of the state in promoting development has increased in light of the crisis, and there is a need to reflect on how this role can be effectively articulated.
A major challenge for developing countries is to continue to attract foreign investment during the crisis to stimulate economic activities, especially for such investment that serves long-term development goals and enhances competitiveness. Public investment programmes can help. Public–private partnerships are also important. Bilateral and regional investment agreements can encourage FDI. However, national efforts to maintain and attract foreign investment must not result in “race to the bottom” policies.
The United Nations – and in particular UNCTAD – has a special role to play in monitoring the impact of the crisis on trade and development, suggesting coping policies and measures, and building a new consensus on sound and suitable strategies at the national, regional and global level. Given the global span of the crisis, inter-agency collaboration will be crucial.
These impacts are being combined with the effects of the ongoing food crisis, volatile energy prices, and the climate change challenge
1). Many
developing countries are also dependent on ODA, which may shrink during the crisis. Potentially, the aggregate of all these effects could bring millions of people back into poverty,2 and worsen the conditions of those presently living in extreme poverty. This threatens to stall and reverse many years of efforts to achieve internationally agreed development goals, including the MDGs.
The global crisis and its lessons will be subject to extensive in-depth analyses as it progresses. There are many challenges to be addressed, but there are also policy areas which countries can develop – nationally and globally – to sustain trade and development. One challenge is to analyse specific development implications of the crisis, and suggest policy proposals to cope with its detrimental impacts in the short term and rethink development policy for the medium-to-long term. Significantly, signs are emerging of fundamental shifts in the way market economies operate and in the role of governments in economic activities. The crisis affecting development may require rethinking of the whole economic and social paradigm that has prevailed over the last decades and has nurtured the process of liberalization and globalization. It may involve the articulation of ideas on trade and trade-related policies and sectors that have shown some resilience to the crises and can serve as a bulwark on which to restore confidence, build recovery and foster inclusive development. For the moment, however, it is still too early to assess the real depth of the crisis and its likely duration, and also the effectiveness of the mitigating measures being undertaken by various governments.
Countries are responding to the global crisis. At the national level, some countries, both developed and developing, have undertaken national stimulus packages to mitigate the detrimental impact, especially by providing credit, supporting affected domestic industries, and promoting jobs. At the level of the G20, leaders of the G20 countries met in London in April 2009 and pledged to undertake and promote measures to restore credit, growth and jobs in the world economy. At the global level, the United Nations General Assembly has agreed to convene “a United Nations conference at the highest level on the world financial and economic crisis and its impact on development” from 1 to 3 June 2009. This provides an opportunity for the United Nations as a whole to reflect on the causes of the crisis, assess the impacts on all countries, and suggest adequate responses to avoid a recurrence of the crisis and to restore global economic stability. The preparatory process and the conference will draw upon the report of the Commission of Experts of the President of the General Assembly on Reforms of the International Monetary and Financial System. These, and other initiatives, are indicative of the commitment of countries and the international community to comprehensively addressing the crisis and preventing it from ushering in a sustained period of global recession.

Chinese Investment in Ethiopia: Developmental Opportunity or Deepening China’s New Mercantilism?

Asayehgn Desta (Ph.D), Sarlo Distinguished Professor of Business

Economics, Dominican University of California


Contrary to Western debt and assistance marked by various forms of economic and political overtones, China, using the South-South Cooperation, is in the process of bestowing a mix of loans with generous terms, debt forgiveness, infrastructure development, and other assistance to African nations so that they could be relieved from Western cultural, political, and economic hegemony. African governments have appreciated and responded enthusiastically to this new source of bottom-up, multiple, bilateral investment, trade, and aid because China has professed a willingness to ignore the political, conditional terms that characterize Western assistance.

China’s deepening involvement across Africa can be viewed from two perspectives. The protagonists of political warfare theory argue that China’s policy in Africa is a nonviolent instrument of grand strategy. It involves coordinated activities that could precipitate in tangible effects on intended targets such as economic aid and development assistance, as well as training, equipping, and arming military and security forces to achieve political and economic influence. The South-South development cooperation school of thought, on the other hand, views China’s increased aid, trade, and investment in Africa as a means to foster Africa’s self-sufficiency and sustainable development in the 21st century.

Therefore, the empirical part of this study will attempt to advance the understanding and rationalization of the various Chinese investments in Ethiopia. More specifically, the central motive of this study was to investigate if the Ethio-Chinese investments indicate a win-win strategy. The South-South cooperative win-win ventures are supposed to bring proportional benefits through trade flows, foreign domestic flows, technology transfer, and integration in global value chains, in addition to aid flows, which otherwise the partners would not have access to before entering into these relations. The four case studies seriously challenge the argument of political warfare theorists that China’s investment in Ethiopia would perpetuate underdevelopment through exploitation, extraction, and destruction of Ethiopia’s resources and industrial capacity. Except for the negative environmental externalities caused by the Sino-Ethiopian investments, the case studies have demonstrated that Ethiopia has substantially benefited from the Chinese cooperative investments. The Chinese investments in Ethiopia are not complementary but appear to be aligned very closely with the South-South cooperative strategies and goals.

(The entire manuscript can be obtained from the author.)

Summary and Conclusion

As the Chinese economy booms, Chinese multinational corporations are embarking on an acquisition drive to capture the oil, natural resources, and unexploited markets of Africa to sustain its rapid economic growth. Based on the current Chinese investments and co-development projects existing in Africa, supporters of Chinese investment in Africa argue that the recent increase in Africa’s gross domestic product is because of Chinese investment. The roads, bridges, and dams built by Chinese firms in Africa are low cost, good quality, and completed in a fraction of the time. Unlike the Western investments in Africa, the Chinese state-owned enterprises provide human and capital assistance to Africa without any conditionality.

Critics on the other hand argue that China has shipped entire workforces across to Africa for many of its projects. In addition, China has flooded the African markets with cheap consumer goods and devastated the local textile and other consumer product industries. In addition, some of the Afro-pessimistic intellectuals argue that yet there is little evidence whether China’s renewed, and most probably lasting involvement in Africa will serve the continent better than the decades of aid from Western governments, which have scarcely delivered on their promises. Lumumba-Kasongo argues that under the pretext of the SSC model China has introduced the “Beijing Consensus,” which is to a large extent based on China’s self-representation as Africa’s help-mate rather than the “Washington Consensus,” “which is the dogma of White House, Pentagon, the Bank, International Monetary Fund, and multinationals representing the interest of big private business (2007).”

Contrary to the two diametrically opposed perspectives of the Chinese engagement in Africa as presented above, the point of view of Holstag (2006) is eclectic. According to Holstag, China’s vision on its economic relations with Africa is beckoned with sweet carrots largely tailored to derive goodwill and permit it to do business suavely (2006).

The three perspectives of the Chinese engagement in Africa are very instructive. But in order to have a clear picture, the three points of view need to be rigorously analyzed from the point of view of an actual African country. For example, for the last five years, Ethiopia has achieved a high and sustained rate of growth. The presence and conduct of China’s foreign direct investment in Ethiopia since 2000 is fast becoming one of the fronts in reshaping Ethiopia’s economic architecture. Given the fact that Ethiopia has been the major beneficiary of Chinese investment and cooperative development projects, the question that needs to be pondered is: can some of Ethiopia’s spectacular growth rate be attributed to the Chinese investments? More specifically, have the Chinese cooperative investment footprints enabled the Ethiopian economy to master highly valued technology and generate productive employment or have the various Chinese investments destined Ethiopia’s economy to be dependent on the Beijing Consensus model?

The Chinese investors seem to have carefully engineered their entry strategy into Ethiopia. With considerable oscillation and no discernible trend before 1991, China devised trade and biddings on government sponsored contractual projects, mainly infrastructural landscape, to gain access and expand into Ethiopia’s downstream resources. With a wave of privatization and structural reforms that gained momentum in Ethiopia spurred a flurry of various types of foreign direct investments that originated from the Southern Countries (i.e., China, India, South Africa, etc.). For example, from 1992 to 2005, Chinese investments in Ethiopia got organized under the wholly owned type of organizational structure (i.e., 86 percent wholly-owned compared to 12 percent in joint-ventures) in order for Chinese companies to acquire upstream assets (See Table 3). In recent years, the presence and conduct of China’s foreign direct investment in Ethiopia is fast becoming one of the prominent features of the Ethiopian economic landscape either by infrastructure in exchange for access to natural resources or by denoting Chinese development assistance or providing favorable lending and capital contribution.

However, though Ethiopia intends to use Chinese cooperative investment as means of enhancing its regional development, the inflow of Chinese investment has not been equally shared. Geographically, most of the Chinese Cooperative investments are located within the Addis Ababa and Oromia Regional State. While 78 of the wholly owned Chinese companies are located in the Addis Ababa Regional Zone and about 9 percent are situated in the Oromia Regional State, without any significant catching up by the other regional zones. In addition, of the 103 joint-venture companies, 53 percent are situated within the Addis Ababa region while 30 percent are reside within the Oromia Regional State. In addition, 22 percent of the small- and medium-size state-owned Chinese Enterprises operating in Ethiopia are fully operational while the remaining 78 percent (647/828) are partially or yet to be fully implemented. To fully implement the various investments, the Chinese investors have employed 44 percent (52,714/119,670) as full-time workers and 56 percent (66,956/119,670) as temporary workers.

Ethiopia’s main objectives for allowing Chinese investment to operate in country are to have access to high technology, to increase employment, to acquire know-how, to increase foreign exchange through export, and to benefit from both backward and forward linkages. Thus, the four Sino-Ethiopian Cooperative Investment case studies given above are analyzed in terms of their effects on 1) Ownership and Human Capital 2) Production Management and Operations, 3) Export effects 4)Technological Transfers 5) Efficiency 6) Foreign Exchange effects7) Local Content requirements and spillover effects, and 8) Environmental effects of the Sino-Ethiopian investments. However, since the analysis is based on four case studies, it needs to be underlined that the results of these case studies are anecdotally based and are not sufficient to generalize about characteristics of the entire Sino-Ethiopia Cooperative investments. Also, it needs to underlined that host countries will not be able to capture the full benefits associated with foreign direct investment until they reach a certain threshold level in terms of educational attainment, provision of infrastructure services, local technological capabilities, and development of local financial markets, thus the analytical outcome of this study needs to considered tentative.

In terms of ownership and human capital, most of the Chinese investments are wholly owned. When Chinese enter a joint-venture or create a wholly owned subsidiary, they send experienced managers or top specialists from abroad. Based on the four case studies, while the CEOs of the three wholly owned Chinese companies are Chinese, the CEO of the Sino-Ethiopia Associate Africa joint-venture company is an Ethiopian. Given the Chinese investors in Ethiopia are unfamiliar with cultural makeup of the local situation and the Ethiopian labor laws that pertain to wages, holidays, housing and other benefits, in the solely owned Chinese firms and the joint venture firm, Ethiopian employees seemed to be in charge of the human resources management. In view of this, it can be assumed that there exists a smooth cross-cultural communication within the enterprises and between the enterprise and its external suppliers and customers.

The process of inviting foreign investors to developing countries is a means to increase the valued-added exports of the host country. Based on the Sino-Ethiopia Associate Africa pharmaceutical joint venture company, it is possible to argue that both partners handle the international marketing sector. Since the Chinese marketing officers are well versed in some aspects of the international marketing, they might have trained local employees in export management and foreign marketing strategies. Also, it is possible that local firms could have acquired international marketing techniques by hiring some of the Ethiopian workers who might have left the Sino-Ethiopian joint venture to start their own businesses. Nevertheless, since the three wholly owned enterprises mostly produce for the domestic market, it is very likely that they might have facilitated some type of interaction with local suppliers and domestic customers. It is likely that the wholly owned enterprises mostly produce for the Ethiopian domestic market and have done little to integrate Ethiopian products to the global value chain. Thus based on the three cases, it is possible to ascertain that the Chinese wholly owned companies don’t seem to act as a platform for exports and their goal is to seek for themselves efficiency in their production process by taking care of Ethiopia’s factors of endowment. The wholly owned Sino-Africa produces leather products that are designed to compete in the international market—it does not seem to crowd out the low quality local products. The Sino-Ethiopia pharmaceutical joint venture enterprise is of higher quality base and is more efficient; therefore, it is complementary and generates foreign exchanges indispensable for the country. Nonetheless, since the Ethiopian employees do not receive the necessary training in international marketing know-how, the leather products seem to be totally dependent on the Chinese joint venture partners in order to promote and distribute their products in overseas markets. In addition, as argued by GebreEgzibher, “The major types of products exported to China are agricultural products which are unprocessed or semi-processed. These include skins, leather and leather products, oil seeds, pulses, coffee, and tantalum. The bulk of leather, skin, and hides are semi-processed. Ethiopia has huge potential in other products which are allowed to be exported to China. These include coffee, natural gum, bee wax, edible oil, horticultural and textile products, precious stones, and other organic products.” (2006)

Typically, the Chinese PLCs arrive in Africa with their work force. In line with this, the project managers, engineers, and technicians working in Ethiopian government project contracts and wholly owned enterprises are mostly Chinese. Even in the Sino-Ethiopia Associate Africa joint firm, research and product design is forged in the headquarters rather than basing it on an equity ratio to include the Ethiopian partner. In terms of efficiency, since more than 50 percent of input materials executed by the Sino-Ethiopian firms come from China, it is very difficult to ascertain the contribution of efficiency to the new products made by the Sino-Ethiopian investments.

Most of the foreign exchange generally used for the Chinese investments in Ethiopia originates from the China’s EXIM and China’s development banks. For instance, Export-Import Bank of China has been granting long-term and short-term loans to companies investing abroad to purchase Chinese equipment and technology necessary to build factories abroad (Zhaoxi, 2009). Thus, the projects in Ethiopia have enabled it to conserve the foreign exchange, which it could have spent on establishing these projects, and helped it to acquire the necessary foreign exchange by selling some of the Sino-Ethiopian investment products in the overseas market.

While the dependency school theory views foreign investment from developed countries at the core of the world economic system as harmful to the long-term economic growth of developing countries out in the periphery, other studies seem to demonstrate that foreign direct investors can potentially benefit domestic firms through spillover effects. Spillover effects are therefore regarded as a very important conduit through which foreign direct investment promotes economic growth in the host country. Though the spillover effect of FDI on the productivity growth of local firms does not occur automatically (See, JBIC, 2002), based on the incentives given by the Ethiopian Government to Chinese investors, the four case studies utilize local content. Adhering to backward linkages, the Chinese investors purchase their factors of production from local suppliers. In addition, since they mostly sell their outputs in the domestic market, they have contributed to forward linkages. The four case studies act in creating complementary activities rather than “crowding out” domestic firms. In short, the Sino-Ethiopian foreign investments have forced local firms to restructure themselves to be more competitive and adequately fulfill the domestic demand, thereby maintaining their market shares. Thus, the Chinese investments have contributed to positive productivity spillovers to the Ethiopian economy.

Since the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, the environmental and social dimensions of foreign investment have become a matter of intense controversy between certain home and host countries. For example in Ethiopia, to attract the Chinese investors, the Ethiopian government seems to covertly relax the enforcement of the environmental standards. The Chinese contractual-based projects, wholly owned, and the joint venture cases analyzed in this paper are by and large operating in ecologically sensitive regions. They are facing serious environmental problems because the Ethiopian Government seems to have prioritized its short-term economic growth over the achievement of environmentally sustainable economic growth in the long run. Ethiopian environmental protection officers at each level of the political system do not seem to fine Chinese investors for their transgressions or for negatively imprinting their environmental footprints on the country, or they fail to encourage the Chinese investors to adopt production techniques that are less harmful to the Ethiopian environment. Unlike other international financial institutions, the Chinese investors and financiers (such as the Export-Import Bank of China) fail to undertake their environmental guidelines when lending the concessional loans as part of the country’s official development assistance program (See, Bosshard, 2008). Undoubtedly, Chinese investments in Ethiopia are an indispensable part of the economic system (they have contributed to infrastructural development, provide capital, new technologies, modern management know- how, and enhanced demonstration effects). Nonetheless, little or no attention is paid by the Ethiopian Government to check the environmental implications of most of the undertaken Sino-Ethiopian investment case studies.

It needs to be underlined here that host countries will not be able to capture the full benefits associated with foreign direct investment until they reach a certain threshold level in terms of educational attainment, provision of infrastructure services, local technological capabilities and development of local financial markets. As an essential element of avoiding economic and social disparities among the different regions, the Ethiopian government needs to enhance the attractiveness of Ethiopia’s hinterland and other relatively neglected regions by 1) undertaking fundamental infrastructural development (i.e., electricity, water, good transport, and telecommunications), 2) improving and encouraging labor mobility to the undeveloped regions by creating schools, hospitals, parks, etc., 3) create local development agencies to promote FDI in each region. In short, further work is necessary to untangle the effects of social responsibility, to enforce environmental safeguards, to train local labor, and to transfer the technology of the Chinese cooperative investments into the Ethiopian economy.

Though anecdotally focused, the modest contributions upon which we hope other researchers will build is that more case studies need to be collected to analyze if Chinese investments in Ethiopia are politically motivated or are meant to fulfill the ideals of the SSC investments. Nonetheless, based on Lummumba-Kasongo’s argument that according to the win-win approach theory, the SSC ventures are supposed to induce “…liberal economic cooperation through trade flows (export and import relations), foreign domestic flows, technology transfer and integration in global value chains, and aid flows, should bring proportional benefits, which otherwise the partners would not have access to before entering into these relations” (2007); it is possible to ascertain that in the short term Ethiopia has substantially benefited from the Chinese cooperative investments. Thus, the argument of the proponents of political warfare theory—that China’s investment in Ethiopia would perpetuate underdevelopment through exploitation, extraction, and destruction of Ethiopia’s resources and industrial capacity—needs to be challenged at this juncture. As outlined by China’s politico-diplomatic “African Strategy,” it is quite obvious that China has shown its strategic interest in Africa and has particularly mapped out its interest in Ethiopia. Except for their significant negative environmental effects it is perpetuating on the Ethiopian soil at this juncture, it possible to assert that China’s investment in Ethiopia is closely aligning with the SSCs stated goals. In assessing the environmental impact, it should be noted that some of the negative externalities could have been easily corrected if the Ethiopian authorities had proactively asked the Chinese enterprises to adhere to the Chinese domestic environmental policy (See, Bosshard, 2008). Thus, the tentative conclusion we can arrive at from the four case studies is that by using its new standards of economic diplomacy China is slowly gaining ground in Ethiopia. Nevertheless, it looks farfetched to make assertions like the proponents of “New Mercantilism” school of thought—that “China’s rise confirms the current position of African countries: that of a commodity supplier and a modest consumer’s market” (Holslang, 2006).


Bosshad, P. (2008). “China’s Environmental Footprints in Africa.” China in Africa Policy. China in Africa Project of the SA Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA), No. 3, April 2008.

GebreEgziabher, T. “The Developmental Impact of China and India on Ethiopia with Emphasis on Small Scale Footwear Producers.” Development Policy Research Unit, Johannesburg, South Africa (October 18-20, 2006).

Holslag, J. (2006). “China’s New Mercantilism in Central Africa.” African and Asian Studies, Vol. 5, No. 2, 15-16.

Lumumba-Kasongo, T. (2007). “China-Africa Relations in the Post-Cold War Era: Dialectics of Rethinking South-South Dialogue.” CODESRIA Bulletin, No. 1 & 2, 8-16.

Zhaoxi, L. (2009). “China’s Outward Foreign Direct Investment.” Chinese Multinationals, Jean-Paul Larcon [ed], Singapore: World Scientific Publishing, Co. Pte. Ltd., 49.