Ethiopia is pursuing a foreign and security policy with regional security complex perspective. Some argue that Ethiopia aspires to be a hegemonic state in the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) regional security complex. Hegemony has both positive and negative connotations. Ethiopia’s economic growth, counterterrorism strategies, peacekeeping and peace building efforts in the IGAD regional security complex can be taken as a strategy to ensure mutual peace and security and prosperity, writes Leulseged Girma.
Ethiopia, founder of League of Nations/United Nations and the Organization of African Unity (OAU)/African Union (AU), the second most populous and landlocked country in the turbulent Horn of Africa, has been elected as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for a two-year (2017-18) stint. The UNSC is the UN organ that is concerned with national, regional and international peace and security matters. In an election that was conducted on the 28th of June 2016, Ethiopia, replacing Angola, won the hearts of 185 countries (more than 97 percent of the votes) except Eritrea, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Egypt and Qatar (ESSEQ) as usual suspects, according to some sources. Although the less than three percent voice of the ESSEQ seems to be trivial, it carries an imperative message to Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa. Ethiopia’s new seat at the UNSC concurs with Egyptian and Senegalese seats that will come to an end by December 31, 2017.
The “no war, no peace” situation between Ethiopia and Eritrea and Ethiopia’s front position behind the sanctions made by the UNSC forced Eritrea to oppose Ethiopia’s candidature that was unanimously nominated by the AU to represent Africa at the UNSC. In a round table discussion at Zami Radio (FM 90.7), Zerihun Teshome, a political analyst, explained that Saudi Arabia and Qatar aspire to reproduce Sunni religious ideology in the Horn of Africa and the Red Sea. This Sunnization project is expressed through an effort to control Eritrea’s and others’ ports of the Horn of Africa in which Ethiopia critically scrutinizes the movement by the two countries as a matter of national security. Egypt considers Ethiopia as its historical enemy for sharing its intentionally and politically misconceived “historical right”. Senegal is known for its effort to unseat the AU headquarters from Addis Ababa. Ethiopia is expected to scientifically identify and sort out these differences with these countries in a diplomatic and diplomatic way only and taking national security as a forefront issue. In that regard, the major task should be bridging differences.
Save the above-mentioned facts, Ethiopia managed to secure the seat by capitalizing its political, socio-economic, cultural and historical past. Some of the main factors behind Ethiopia’s election at the UNSC can be narrated as important distinctive features.
Patriotism and Pan-Africanism
Ethiopia’s Adwa victory in 1896 was an attempt to halt colonialists’ “the Scramble for Africa” and continues to be an inspiration for Africa’s post decolonization development agendas. Ethiopians, led by Emperor Menelik II, graciously defeated part of European colonial army, Italian army, in Ethiopia’s domain. The late Donald Levin, in his writings, expressed the situation as a historic event in which a European power was irretrievably defeated by a non-white nation. This victory was used as a seed bed for inspiring pan-African movements in Africa and other parts of the world in the post-Adwa era. It became severe and humiliating for the Italians. The victory was also characterized as a manifestation of unity in diversity of Ethiopia’s “nations, nationalities and peoples” although kept down by rulers until 1991. It was the first national project that was initiated to defeat an enemy irrespective of language, religion, ethnic, and socio-political differences. As historian Ayele Bekerie expressed it very well, Ethiopians came together to preserve and expand freedom at hand and “inspired the colonized and the oppressed throughout the world to forge ahead against their colonial masters”. Ayele is of the view that Adwa is the result of brilliant and courageous leadership and willing people to defend their country. It is evident that many African countries chosen Green, Yellow and Red colors for their national flags.
As mentioned earlier, Italy’s defeat became a base for pan-Africanism which wiped away European colonialism once and for all from the continent. It is pan-Africanism that resulted in the establishment of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in Ethiopia. The OAU strived and became successful in decolonizing Africa and extricating apartheid from South Africa. Ethiopia scored significant contributions in both cases. The Imperial, Derg and Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) regimes have imprinted their contributions throughout the life of the OAU/AU. Headquartered in Addis Ababa, the AU is now the leading pan-African organization that strives to bring a prosperous, peaceful and united Africa.
As a political settlement project, Ethiopia embarked on establishing normative, institutional and collaborative frameworks that are compatible and mutually supportive since 1991. These are represented by laws and policies, legislative, judiciary and executive organs and the synergy among them. This political settlement initiative resulted in the setting up of a political and socio-economic architecture comprised of the above frameworks. Nations, Nationalities and Peoples come together through an EPRDF-led effort and reached a consensus to establish a federal democratic republic based on the 1995 FDRE Constitution. The country was thought to disintegrate twice—when the EPRDF-led fighting controlled Addis Ababa and when the 1995 promulgated constitution granted the right to self-determination up to secession. The country deployed a holding together federalism for more than two decades and employed various economic growth strategies to bring about developmental changes in a condensed stint.
The main architect of Ethiopia’s federalism, the late PM Meles Zenawi, once said that Ethiopia embarked on a mission of realizing unity in diversity and designed a democratic federalism framework to accommodate diversity of various kinds. Meles said: “Democratic Federalism has played a vital role in our economic success by empowering every citizen and every community to contribute to our development and to benefit from it in a fair and equitable manner. Our system of governance has contributed to the success by consolidating peace and stability in our country and paving the way for all of us to join hands in rebuilding our nation”. Meles believes that democratic federalism together with developmental state, which is a work in progress, will take Ethiopia to the desired level. It is through these two pillars that Ethiopia is registering marvelous economic growth which is being witnessed by supra-national international organizations.
Democratic Developmental State
Ethiopia has undergone a contextualized transplantation of the developmental state model from economies collectively referred to as the Asian tigers. It has now possessed the vision, leadership and capacity to bring about a positive transformation of society within a condensed period of time. Samuel Assefa (PhD), former Ambassador to the US, underlines that accelerated development is not an option but a national imperative. Mentioning Joseph E. Stiglitz, Nobel Laureate and professor of Economics at Columbia University, Professor Andreas Esheté, PM’s Special Advisor, believes that developmental state favors the poor and its achievements will suffice to legitimacy. That is the characteristics of a developmental state with developmental structure and role which can be expressed through stability and commitment. Ethiopia has not only taken the ideals of the developmental state from successful countries but also blended it with democracy to ensure sustainability of economic development. The late PM Meles Zenawi is always remembered in theorizing the democracy-development nexus in this regard. The goal of Ethiopia’s democratic developmental state is to bring about equitable growth and structural transformation using state resources. The Government of Ethiopia holds major development projects and prevents capture by specific groups. This is against the neo-liberal thinking.
The current overriding project, which is underway, is a national project against poverty. Jeffrey D. Sachs, a well-known economist, in his book The End of Poverty, mentioned that Ethiopia is on its way out of the poverty trap. President Barack Obama, giving his witness to Ethiopia’s economic growth, expressed Ethiopia as “one of the fastest-growing economies in the world and one of the largest economies in Africa”. In the words of Yinager Dessie Belay (PhD), Commissioner of the National Planning Commission, Ethiopia has “a conducive business environment, political stability, sound economic policies, macroeconomic stability, abundant natural resources, a trainable workforce, low-cost energy and, above all, a sizable and captive market.” Ethiopia has managed to register double-digit economic growth for more than a decade. Even in 2015/16 fiscal year, where drought affected the lives millions of Ethiopians, the Government of Ethiopia declared that the growth is set to be 8.5 percent. No famine was observed during this drought time and this can definitely be taken as the manifestation of Ethiopia’s economic growth as it has been acclaimed internationally.
Geopolitical Importance, Peacekeeping Missions and War on Terrorism
Ethiopia, as Robert Kłosowicz coined it, is “the island of stability within the destabilized neighborhood”. Ethiopia is the number one country to host a larger number of refugees that have come from Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan and other places. Instabilities in these countries affect Ethiopia’s internal matters including security and environmental degradation. That is why Ethiopia is pursuing a foreign and security policy with regional security complex perspective. Some argue that Ethiopia aspires to be a hegemonic state in the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) regional security complex. Hegemony has both positive and negative connotations. Ethiopia’s economic growth, counterterrorism strategies, peacekeeping and peace building efforts in the IGAD regional security complex can be taken as a strategy to ensure mutual peace and security and prosperity. Building infrastructure for economic integration and building a huge dam for the provision of electricity to neighbors and beyond cannot be taken as an aspiration of being hegemonic rather it is an intervention for shared growth and peace and security in a security complex.
In his presentation at the Chatham House, Tedros Adhanom (PhD), Minister of Foreign Affairs, said that Ethiopia has redefined its national interest since 1991. Ethiopia’s Foreign Affairs and National Security Policy and Strategy identified the major threats to its survival. It recognizes poverty and underdevelopment as major threats and this can be eased through public participation in a democratic system. According to Tedros, Ethiopia’s diplomatic strategy prioritizes economic development and democracy in order to maintain viability. Therefore, fighting poverty and building democracy are the main prerequisites to national security. Tedros reiterates that Ethiopia recognizes regional and international security complexes through massive regional infrastructural development and international peacekeeping. He affirms that the building of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and major infrastructural developments aimed at connecting the peoples of Africa and facilitate trade definitely contribute to the formation of a united, prosperous and peaceful Africa by 2063. Mitigating terrorism and achieving sustainable development goals require a concerted international effort regardless of geography, ideology, religion and level of economic development. Ethiopia has a very pragmatic foreign policy which is expressed through strong relationships with the whole of Africa, the US, Russia, China, India, Brazil, the EU, Middle Eastern countries and Asian countries. Ethiopia is the main actor in fighting terrorism and extremism in the Horn of Africa region.
Ethiopia has a very capable and a much disciplined military personnel. Mehari Taddele Maru (PhD), an international consultant on African Union affairs, outlines the main secret to Ethiopia’s counterterrorism success. Mehari calls this secret as “Ethiopian Doctrine”. The doctrine includes supremacy of politics, trust building, community participation through alleviating poverty and unrest, and mobile military command posts that requires the participation of the community. These strategies make Ethiopia’s counterterrorism efforts very successful. Knowing this major capability, the West has chosen Ethiopia as its major ally in counterterrorism and counter-insurgency efforts. When President Obama visited Ethiopia in 2015, he said that “Ethiopia is a major contributor, as well, to UN peacekeeping efforts; it contributes more troops than any other country in Africa. And we’re working together to improve the ability of Ethiopian peacekeepers to respond rapidly to emerging crises, before they spiral into widespread violence”. All in all, Ethiopia is in the process of building its predictive, preventive and responsive capabilities at all levels.
Ethiopia’s membership at the UNSC concurs with conditions of instability in many parts of the world especially in the Horn of Africa and the Middle East. Tedros said that this extraordinary election result is the outcome of the respect the world shows for Ethiopia. Ethiopian PM Hailemariam Dessalegn also said that Ethiopia will utilize its non-permanent seat at the UNSC to ensure Africa’s benefit in crucial agendas. Ethiopia is expected to highly influence the agenda setting role.
The UN Charter explains that the UN has four purposes—to maintain international peace and security; to develop friendly relations among nations; to cooperate in solving international problems and in promoting respect for human rights; and to be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations. The UNSC is the main decision-making organ of the UN bestowed with “maintaining international peace and security whenever peace is threatened”.
Ethiopia, at the UNSC, has the opportunity and capacity to propose and implement for a peaceful settlement of conflicts, mediation, contribute to peacekeeping missions, sanctions, embargoes, restrictions, bans, and military actions if the worst comes. Matters of Africa will be high on the agenda as Ethiopia is fully represented in the January 2016 AU General Assembly. Threats such as terrorism, inter- and intra-state conflicts, unconstitutional change of governments, rogue states, and their repercussions must be considered as high priorities.
Ethiopia should seek a viable solution to solve the stalemate with Eritrea. Some people think that Ethiopia should oust the Isaias Afewerki regime while being at the UNSC. But Ethiopia knows the consequences of destroying the Asmara regime through military measures. It has the capacity to do that but the security vacuum that will be created after the demise will be undesirable. It is very important to note that actions taken by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Libya resulted in a stateless and unstable post-Gaddafi Libya. In addition, the country has become a fertile ground for Islamist-jihadi groups. Therefore, Ethiopia is expected to seek an international diplomatic solution while being member of the UNSC.
Another problem that should be resolved in collaboration with the international community is seeking for sustainable solutions in Somalia, South Sudan and beyond. Maintaining the peace and state-building processes in Somalia and South Sudan have been challenging tasks for the horn countries, IGAD, the African Union and international community. They are challenged by undying terrorism, civil war and shortage of funding for peacekeeping missions. As the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) are currently funded by the European Union (EU), the realization of Brexit directly affects peace and security of Somalia, South Sudan and the Horn of Africa. The problem lies on Africa’s foreign aid dependency syndrome for its own peace and security matters. This will continue for some time to come until the continent devises and implements its own “African Solutions for African Problems” strategy using its own resources.
The EU has already curtailed 20 percent of its grant to AMISOM’s before the realization of the Brexit project. The shift was influenced by France who wants to take the 20 percent to the French influenced African areas. The 20 percent cut by the EU influenced Ugandan troops to withdraw from Somalia. This will be exacerbated by Britain leaving the Union. As the United Kingdom is the third largest contributor of European Union Development Fund, Brexit inevitably will have a significant shadow on Somalia’s overall political and economic development strategy. AMISOM is the main force that strives to extricate Somalia and the Horn of Africa region from Al-Shabaab. Weakening AMISOM is tantamount to encouraging Al-Shabaab and other Islamic-jihadi groups. The EU and other international partners should note that Syria’s situation should not be repeated in Africa. It is clear that politically ungoverned spaces are safe havens for terrorists. Unless the AU and IGAD renegotiate with the EU on AMISOM’s maintenance during the Brexit transition period, Somalia will be in a slippery slope that might severely affect the Horn of Africa region and beyond. The AU and IGAD should look for other funding mechanisms including persuasion of the United States, China and the UK itself to fill the gap and devising own funding mechanism.
The UN reauthorized AMISOM May 31, 2017 and it intends to handover the security challenges to the Somali security forces when the appropriate time comes. The presence of Ethiopia for the next two years will help the UNSC to make appropriate decisions regarding the handover or capacity building of the Somali forces since Ethiopia has firsthand experience on Somali soil. Ethiopia is also at the forefront in fighting terrorism in the Horn of Africa and it can influence the resolutions of the UNSC by way of getting maximum benefit to make the whole region peaceful and contribute to international peace. Ethiopia is directly involved in the capacity building of Somalia in both political and military settlements. Ethiopia can play a critical role while being a member of the UNSC.
The Brexit quagmire can also severely affect South Sudan’s transition to restoring peace besides the warring parties that are as main sources of setbacks. The EU supports the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Committee (JMEC) and UNMISS. As Brexit is expected to slow down economic growth in Europe, the continent will undoubtedly cut its assistance to South Sudan’s transition to democracy and post-conflict reconstruction and development efforts. JMEC and UNMISS should be fully funded to effectively reverse the situation in South Sudan. South Sudan is at the brink of collapse without these two important monitoring and peace operation organs. As things are extremely delicate in South Sudan, the process to heal the wounds should be closely scrutinized by international bodies. Again, the AU and IGAD should review the progress and find the mechanisms to identify and fill the gap together with international donors. Recognizing the destruction of the grass when two elephants fight, the UNSC called for neighboring countries to reverse the situation and maintain the Transitional Unity Government just after Salva Kiir and Riek Machar started a new clash at the beginning of July 2016. Ethiopia can play a significant role in this respect.
Boko Haram is also a huge problem for Nigeria and beyond. The world should scale up its efforts through financial and technical assistance to the military forces of Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon. Ethiopia, as a representative of African countries at the UNSC, of course with Egypt and Senegal until the end of 2017 and the new comers in 2018, should work on the destruction of this brutal group. Libya should also be at the forefront of the UNSC’s agenda. It needs a continuous follow-up to restore peace and wipe out terrorists in that country. Algeria, Mali and Egypt are also places that need urgent attention with regard to terrorism and political violence. Burundi should also be added on the list. Public discontent for that matter in all parts of Africa should be resolved by strengthening state-society relation through respecting and implementing international and African born democracy and human rights instruments. Political violence, civil war, insurgency, border conflicts, sectarian strife, corruption, xenophobia, and other forms of conflicts still pose threats to Africa and the world. Ethiopia, in this regard, can also play with regional blocks for the ratification and implementation of important instruments the lack of which poses threats to peace and security elsewhere in Africa.
The Syrian crisis is at the top of the list for a long period of time. Its death toll and displacement figures are now on the rise. The number of actors in the war makes it complex even for the political science discipline. This huge problem requires the simplification of national, region and international complexities. The superpowers, regional powers, Syrian government, non-state veto players comprised of opposition groups and Islamic-jihadi actors make the complexity. “Assad has to go” and “Assad should stay in power” proponents cannot bring an equation to yield a peaceful Syria. The solution lies on the discussion of and proposal of viable solutions that will benefit the Syrian people. Other than Syria, the situations in Iraq, Yemen, Ukraine and other places require contextualized peace deal equations. Ethiopia can play a role in deriving these equations.
Ethiopia is expected to influence the end of all the conflicts as much as possible using its seat at the UNSC. This is the maximum opportunity for Ethiopia to show its commitment to international peace and security at the highest level. This takes a lot including close working relationships with the ESSEQ group.
Ed.’s Note: Leulseged Girma Haile (MA in Middle Eastern Geopolitics and BA in Community Development) can be reached at [email protected]. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of The Reporter.