This seminar started with opening remarks by Ambassador Olusegun Akinsanya, Regional Director of the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), Addis Ababa Office. He highlighted the missions and activities of the ISS and then briefly introduced the current political and security situation in Somalia. Subsequently, Mr Berouk Mesfin, a senior researcher at the ISS Addis Ababa Office, chaired the seminar and introduced the two speakers and the scope of their presentations.
The first speaker, Abdihakim Aynte, who is an independent analyst from Mogadishu, Somalia, delivered a presentation entitled â€˜Challenges and Opportunities for Somalia`s Post-Transitional Government`. Mr Aynte started his presentation by explaining that the election of a new president on 10 September 2012 by 275 Members of the Somali Parliament was a milestone for Somalia. It was the result of a long process run by Somalis and the international community. The speaker indicated that the main objective of the post-transitional government led by President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud would be the improvement of the security situation inside and outside Mogadishu. He pointed out that Somalia was still facing enormous challenges, including dysfunctional government institutions, chronic instability, a lack of financial resources, terrorism and piracy.
Mr Aynte went on to discuss the key priorities of the new government. The first priority would be to restore and rebuild government and security institutions that could facilitate the provision of basic services to citizens. He added that the terrorist group known as al-Shabaab still represented a serious and enduring threat. Despite its withdrawal from the strategic port of Kismayo, al-Shabaab still controls a considerable amount of territory and has adopted guerrilla-style hit-and-run tactics, which are considered to be even more dangerous than conventional warfare. Moreover, the stabilisation of the areas liberated from al-Shabaab control should be addressed through the setting up of viable local government units.
The speaker also affirmed the need to tackle quickly the lack of financial resources and the related need to establish anti-corruption programmes. Mr Aynte said that the incoming president needed to accept the Join Financial Management Board that had been envisaged at the London Conference. These initiatives would facilitate a more effective rebuilding of government institutions, including the National Security Agency, the National Army and numerous other political institutions.
Mr Aynte concluded by stating that â€˜Somalis are not only tired of piracy, warlordism and statelessness but also of the international community`. He indicated that the international community should strive to support the rebuilding of a more inclusive and effective government by genuinely letting this government own and drive the political process.
The second speaker was Getachew Reda, the Director of Public Diplomacy and Communications of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia. His presentation was entitled â€˜The Role of Ethiopia in Somalia`s Peace Process and Stabilisation`. Mr Reda stated that the Ethiopian government supported the new post-transitional government. He underlined the fact that Ethiopian involvement in the Somali peace process was borne out of the firm conviction that peace and stability in Somalia is a crucial element to ensure peace and stability within Ethiopia. Moreover, he made it clear that the primary document on Ethiopia`s foreign relations and national security pointed out that, without ensuring peaceful regional conditions in Somalia and the Horn of Africa, Ethiopia would never succeed in its fight against poverty and in its attempt to bring about a political system that could accommodate its diverse ethnic groups.
Mr Reda remarked that Ethiopia had given its full political and security support to Somalia but continuously monitored events there. On the one hand, Ethiopia has hosted several negotiations between Somali political actors, offering them a space to come together in order to create a functioning state and build a lasting peace. On the other hand, most of Ethiopia`s relations with Somalia have been over-securitised, for obvious reasons. For instance, the statelessness of Somalia meant that extremist elements could easily organise themselves in Somalia and infiltrate Ethiopia to carry out deadly attacks.
The speaker reviewed the support that Ethiopia had offered to Somalia during the past six years, including sending troops at a great cost to Mogadishu in 2006 and in strategic areas of central and south Somalia in 2011. He emphasised that Ethiopia`s relations with Somalia would not change in this new period of the post-transitional government. Hence, Ethiopia will continue to provide support to Somalia`s institutions independently of the personnel and political groups that come into power.
Mr Reda said the neutrality and principled position that Ethiopia had displayed in the Somali conflict had begun to be reflected even in the Western media which, for the first time, was not questioning the role of Ethiopia`s intervention in Somalia. He indicated that Ethiopia`s military presence in Somalia would be gradually reduced, since Ethiopia assumed that AMISOM with its added numerical strength would be more than capable of dealing with security issues in vacated areas.
With regard to Puntland and Somaliland, Mr Reda said that Ethiopia had arrangements with the Puntland administration that dealt with security issues. Moreover, Ethiopia`s key interest in Somaliland is using the Berbera corridor as an alternative port. With a more stable and peaceful Somalia, Ethiopia could use not only Berbera but the rest of Somalia`s ports as well. The speaker concluded by stating that Ethiopia would never have any particular candidate to impose on Somalia because it felt that that it was only through the ownership of Somalis themselves that lasting peace could be achieved in Somalia. The seminar was closed by Ambassador Akinsanya, who talked of the significance and timeliness of the courses offered by the newly established African Centre for Peace and Security Training (ACPST).
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