How events in Ethiopia will influence the Horn of Africa

Namhla Matshanda, University of the Western Cape

Reforms currently sweeping through Ethiopia under the new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed have implications for the relationship between Ethiopia and its neighbours. Ethiopia is seen as the de facto leading state in the region. But it has a history of clashing with neighbouring states.

The current reforms have the potential to bolster Ethiopia’s leadership role in the region. And an Ethiopia that is perceived as a unifying force could lead to more stability.

Peace in the Horn of Africa could depend on how Ethiopia handles its reforms process
Peace in the Horn of Africa could depend on how Ethiopia handles its reforms process.


Two recent announcements stand out: the normalisation of relations with the northern neighbour Eritrea and the signing of a peace deal with the Ogaden National Liberation Front, a separatist movement that has sought self-determination for the Somali region of Ethiopia.

The reasons these two developments are so important is that the tension between Ethiopia, Eritrea, and the Ogaden National Liberation Front have each contributed to instability in the region. The peace deal brokered between Ethiopia and Eritrea will not only affect internal tensions within Ethiopia. It’s also likely to signify a new chapter in the politics of the region.

For its part, the peace accord with the Ogaden National Liberation Front will end a long-standing conflict with the Ethiopian state. This conflict has shaped Ethiopia’s relationship with its Somali region, as well as Ethiopia’s relationship with the Republic of Somalia. The Somali region of Ethiopia is one of nine regional states under the current ethnic federal system in Ethiopia. It is mostly inhabited by Somali-speaking people.

Territorial statehood

Tensions – both within Ethiopia and between Ethiopia and its neighbours – are rooted in history. The formation of Ethiopia’s Empire state in the late nineteenth century was shaped by the absorption of smaller kingdoms in the south, east, and west of Shewa.

Shewa was Ethiopia’s political centre located north of the current capital Addis Ababa. By the late 19th century the incorporation of these territories was almost complete. By this time the capital had been moved to Addis Ababa.

This incorporation of territories is how the idea of the modern “Ethiopian state” emerged. But this imposition of state power on the new territories was contested. It has been the root cause of much of the country’s internal upheavals.

The importance of territory in Ethiopian statehood was further demonstrated by the 1952 incorporation of Eritrea as an Ethiopian province. Most Eritreans resisted the occupation and took up arms. The occupation was followed by nearly 30 years of conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrean liberation movements.

Ethiopia has also been in conflict with neighbouring Somalia since Somalia gained independence in 1960. Shortly after its independence, the new government in Mogadishu began to prioritise clan loyalties as it formed a new centralised state. This pitted various clans against each other and widened the chasm between clan loyalty and nationality.

The foreign policy objectives of the new Somali Republic were influenced by the level of influence it enjoyed in the Somali-inhabited regions of its neighbours. This included the Somali region of Ethiopia.

Eventually, the push and pull between the republic and its diaspora contributed to the rise of a separatist narrative within the Somali-inhabited regions. This spawned organisations such as the Ogaden National Liberation Front. The front is a separatist rebel group fighting for the self-determination of Somalis in Ethiopia’s Somali region.

Conflict and territory

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s Ethiopia was mired in conflicts that challenged its territorial integrity. One was the Ethiopia/Eritrea war.

Self-determination was at the core of the conflict between the Ethiopian government and Eritrean liberation movements. Throughout the conflict it was viewed as a civil war since Eritrea was regarded as a province of Ethiopia.

Similarly, the tension between Ethiopia and the Somali separatist movements was triggered by the Somali belief that their territory belonged to the Somali Republic.

These conflicts led to regional instability.

Ethiopia taking centre stage

Ethiopia has been on a path of reform since 1991. In the intervening years it has become the most economically dominant country in the region. This has cemented its leadership position. The current political reforms can be seen as part of a process of redefining Ethiopia’s role in the broader East African region – and the continent.

The governing Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front and the Ogaden National Liberation Front have been in peace talks since the early 1990s. The unsuccessful talks were accompanied by low-intensity conflict that severely affected the region.

That could be about to change. Thanks to Abiy Ahmed’s reform efforts, the front announced a unilateral ceasefire in August 2018, and by September peace talks had begun with the Ethiopian government and a peace deal was signed. There is cause for optimism that the deal will last because of the current leadership in Addis Ababa.

The peace deal with Eritrea has already had a number of positive outcomes that could contribute to regional stability.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and President Isaias Afwerki have met several times to announce concrete evidence of the peace deal. Abiy also recently hosted his Eritrean and Somali counterparts to cement regional ties.The Conversation

Namhla Matshanda, Lecturer, Political Studies, University of the Western Cape

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Preparing for future Ebola outbreaks in Zambia

By Moses Michael-Phiri

[BLANTYRE CITY, MALAWI] Zambia has begun training healthcare workers in provinces that border the Democratic Republic of Congo so that rapid response teams have the necessary skills to prepare and respond to an Ebola outbreak.

The effort follows continuing outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the threat it poses to neighbouring Zambia. The outbreak has resulted in 106 deaths out of 162 confirmed cases as of last week (2 October), according to the WHO.

“We do not want a repeat of the tragedy that hit the Western part of our continent in 2014.”

Victor Mukonka, Zambia National Public Health Institute

Building capacity to prepare and respond to health emergencies is critical,” says Victor Mukonka, a public health expert who is also director of the Zambia National Public Health Institute (ZNPHI). “We do not want a repeat of the tragedy that hit the Western part of our continent in 2014. The trained rapid response teams at all levels assures a good response capacity for any community and we encourage all member states to take up this strategy.”

The Ministry of Health through the ZNPHI trained 216 health workers in North-Western and Copperbelt provinces last month (1-8 September) while 86 were trained in the Northern and Luapula provinces on 13-18 August.

Those trained include environmental health officers, doctors, nurses, public health officers, pharmacists and laboratory personnel.
Ebola in DRC Infographic 2
There is a need to strengthen surveillance and collaboration between the two countries because of increased cross-border movements, says Nathan Bakyaita, Zambia WHO representative, in a statement from the WHO Africa region.

Mazyanga Lucy Mazaba Liwewe, head of ZNPHI’s health information system, tells SciDev.Net, “The focus of the training is to… have necessary health information on Ebola for risk communication, infection prevention, specimen collection and referral, surveillance as well as clinical case management.”

According to Ante Mutati, a provincial surveillance officer for Luapula and a training participant, as frontline healthcare workers they are to educate the other team members on how to tackle Ebola outbreaks.

Mukonka calls for the need to collaborate to fight the preventable scourge affecting the continent by tapping existing platforms and in a multi-sectoral manner, taking into account the comparative advantage each sector and each country has.

“It is important that Africa takes ownership and leads in addressing matters of health and other determinants affecting the continent,” he tells SciDev.Net.

This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa English desk.


This article was originally published on SciDev.Net. Read the original article.

J. Peter Pham Named as Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa

The U.S. Department of State distributed this press release earlier today.

Press Statement
Heather Nauert
Department Spokesperson
Washington, DC
November 9, 2018

Peter Pham Africa Great Lakes Special Envoy Secretary Pompeo is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. J. Peter Pham to serve as the United States Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa. Dr. Pham will be responsible for coordinating the implementation of U.S. policy on the cross-border security, political, and economic issues in the Great Lakes region, with an emphasis on strengthening democratic institutions and civil society, as well as the safe and voluntary return of the region’s refugees and internally displaced persons.

Dr. Pham serves as Vice President and Director of the Africa Center at the Atlantic Council. He brings to the Department vast Africa experience as the former vice president of the Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa (ASMEA) and editor-in-chief of its quarterly Journal of the Middle East and Africa; an associate professor of Africana studies at James Madison University, where he was director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs; and on the Senior Advisory Group of the U.S. Africa Command.

Dr. Pham will assume the work previously undertaken by Senior Coordinator for the Great Lakes, Ambassador Larry Wohlers. U.S. ambassadors to the countries of the Great Lakes region remain charged with the conduct of bilateral relations. Dr. Pham will work in close coordination with the Assistant Secretary for African Affairs and our ambassadors in the region to further the Department’s work toward lasting peace, stability, and economic prosperity in the Great Lakes region.

Bolsonaro’s victory is likely to see Brazil scale down Africa interests

Amy Niang, University of the Witwatersrand

His first son is a senator for the state of Rio do Janeiro. His second son a municipal councillor in the city of Rio, and his third is a federal deputy for the state of São Paulo. And he himself has served seven terms as deputy and as member of several political parties.

Yet Jair Bolsonaro, the favourite candidate for Brazil’s upcoming runoff presidential elections, likes to present himself as a new man who operates outside of the “system”.

The rhetoric of a new man, untainted by the culture of corruption that prevails among the political class, is a powerful device. It’s succeeded in folding the interests of disparate social categories into those of seasoned right wing politicians.

File 20181024 71011 p1gf7n.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Brazilian presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro on the campaign trail in Rio.
FEF-EPA/Marcelo Sayao

Bolsonaro is candidate for the Social Liberty Party. He’s the author of incendiary pronouncements, happily racist, misogynist and homophobic. The former army captain has managed to coalesce eclectic crowds whose commitment to democracy depends on the exclusion of entire sections of Brazilian society. He has colossal support among Brazil’s prolific evangelical communities. These have re-purposed their religious fervour to passionate hate and the demonising of adversaries.

Bolsonaro assuages the fears of a middle class that feels it’s lost privilege. He also confirms their aversion for Brazil’s internal “others” – namely black Brazilians and various Indian communities. In fact, he promises to keep privilege spaces of university education, residential suburbs and commercial spaces free from poor people.

For Bolsonaro, the choice Brazilians have to make is rather simple: it’s either “prosperity, freedom, family and God” – in other words him, or “the path of Venezuela”. In other words Fernando Haddad’s Workers’ Party.

In the first round of elections, Bolsonaro’s party secured 46% of the total vote. Haddad’s Workers’ party secured 29%. Haddad is routinely the victim of his opponent’s foul mouth. Bolsonaro is a slavery-denialist, who claims that the Portuguese never set foot in Africa and that Africans themselves “delivered” slaves to Brazil.

Needless to say his views on Africa are narrowly informed by the prism of Brazil’s uneasy, strained and unresolved racial question. As a result, his government can be expected to scale back Brazil’s engagements with the continent.

The end of Lula’s Africa moment?

Bolsonaro is expected to turn threats by the current administration to close Brazilian embassies in Africa into policies. Cutbacks on scholarships for African students are also expected.

At home he’s expected to put further restrictions on immigration and to withdraw into national priorities. These include Brazil’s economic doldrums, its fractured society, the high levels of crimes and more crucially the economic recession.

The only area where a Bolsonaro government policy might intersect with previous policy could be the military cooperation and the trade in military equipment.

If little is known about Bolsonaro’s views on foreign policy in relation to Africa, his running mate, General Hamilton Mourão, has been very clear. During a recent speech he criticised Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff’s South-South diplomacy claiming that it had resulted in costly association with “dirtbag scum” countries (African) that did not yield any “returns.

Africa was the centrepiece of Lula da Silva’s geopolitical aspirations for Brazilian status in an expanded and reformed multilateralism. In eight years of his presidency he visited 27 African countries over 12 trips.

But Brazil’s Africa moment had already began to fade under Rousseff. The election of Bolsonaro is likely to signal the beginning of the end of Africa-Brazil relations as we know them. It could even mean the end of the five country grouping known as BRICS as he has promised to review Brazil’s participation in the coalition.

Brazil’s relations with Africa have been particularly strong with the Lusophone countries of Mozambique, Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, and Sao Tome and Principe. Angola in particular became a springboard in Brazil’s expansion into the South Atlantic beyond the Lusophone world.

Lula da Silva sought to institutionalise the new Global South framework in the form of a biannual Africa South America Summit and also through the India, Brazil South Africa Dialogue Forum. He doubled Brazil’s diplomatic presence in Africa between 2000 and 2010. By 2010 there were 39 embassies. Over the same period, 18 African embassies opened in Brasilia.

These various initiatives fed a momentum in Brazil’s rise to global prominence. Brazil was for instance able to get José Graziano da Silva elected Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation with the strong support of African countries.

Beyond punctual strategies, Brazil’s engagement with Africa served to enhance its global standing and to buttress Brazil’s ambition to become a leading voice of the Global South.

Economic strategies

Brazil’s economic strategies took an expansionist pattern similar to that of other emerging powers. They targeted resources-rich and fast growing economies. Main export destinations were Egypt and Nigeria. Imports come mainly from Algeria and Nigeria.

Between 2000 and 2013, trade between Brazil and Africa expanded from $USD4.3 to USD$28.5 billion. But it dropped by USD$12.4 billion in 2016 following economic recession and political upheaval in Brazil.

Brazil’s economic engagement with Africa is not without its problems. For instance, the infrastructure giant Odebrecht is at the heart of Operação Lava-Jato (Operation Car War) which exposed the largest corruption scandal in the history of modern democracy. It involved over 200 leaders across the political and business sectors and over USD$2 billion.

Under Bolsonaro, economic ties can be expected to take a different turn. Institutions such as the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation can be expected to grow in prominence in Africa as he makes a big push for agro-business expansion. This will come with its own set of problems, notably pollution caused by fertilisers and attendant health risks. That, however, is unlikely to deter him.The Conversation

Amy Niang, Senior Lecturer in International Relations at Wist University, Visiting Professor at the University of Sao Paulo, University of the Witwatersrand

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Press Release – Africa Adaptation Initiative: A Response to Africa Biggest Challenge

This will be an opportunity to consider the most effective measures to help close the Adaptation Gap in Africa, which experts estimate to be between USD 7 billion and 15 billion per year by 2020, increasing thereafter

LIBREVILLE, Gabon, September 19, 2018/ — The first Africa Adaptation Initiative (AAI) Partners ( Roundtable Meeting will take place on Monday 24 September 2018, from 10.30 a.m. – 11.30 a.m. in New-York at the UN Secretariat Conference Room 5, in margins of 73rd UN General Assembly (UNGA).

Gabon Ali Bongo Ondimba Africa Adaptation InitiativeThis is jointly hosted by the Gabonese Government, on behalf of the African Union’s Committee of Head of State on Climate Change (CAHOSCC) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Over 40 leaders including Mrs Patricia ESPINOSA, UNFCCC Executive Secretary, Mr Eric SOLHEIM, UNEP Administrator, Josefa Leonel Correia SACKO, African Union Commissioner, Pierre GUISLAIN, Deputy President of the African development Bank (AfDB), countries and organizations, have confirmed to participate to this important meeting.

This will be an opportunity to consider the most effective measures to help close the Adaptation Gap in Africa, which experts estimate to be between USD 7 billion and 15 billion per year by 2020, increasing thereafter.

While all African countries are investing significant domestic resources in their own response to climate change, through their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), there is still a significant gap that requires international support in terms of finance, technology development and transfer and capacity building.

Every day African countries have to face the negative impacts of climate change on agriculture, water, access to natural resources, and millions are struggling to adapt to the harmful effects coastal erosion, floods, desertification and the devastation of disasters caused by extreme weather events. These multiple consequences of climate change make adaptation the priority for Africa.

Ali Bongo Ondimba 2014As the current chair of CAHOSCC and the AAI Champion, the President of Gabon, H.E. Ali BONGO ONDIMBA, has firmly taken the lead in the drive to accelerate action on climate change adaptation in Africa, working with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to mobilize through this roundtable $ 5 Million to support the 3 years AAI work programme.

“Africa, with its means, is deploying all its energy to fight the cancer of modern development that is climate change.This must therefore also lead our partners to mobilise their efforts relentlessly, in accordance with commitments that are continually repeated but still insufficiently implemented. I therefore invite all our partners to join the transformation train to boost Paris’ momentum and turn our words into deeds. For as I have said since Paris. The cost of inaction will be greater and heavier than that of action”, said H.E. Mr. Ali BONGO ONDIMBA, President of The Gabonese Republic, Coordinator of Committee of African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Africa Adaptation Initiative.