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The Ethiopian Powder Keg Is a Regional Threat

Samantha Maloof

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When governmental forces killed at least 9 civilians in last week’s security operation in Ethiopia’s Oromia region to enforce the country’s state of emergency, popular outrage at the government reached new levels. Even if the killings were later labelled an “accident” due to wrong intelligence, and although apologies were sent to the families, these actions did little to calm the storm already brewing in the country. While the Horn of Africa has seen continual strife for years, the events that have been unfolding in Ethiopia risk spreading instability far beyond the country’s borders. The world should pay attention.

Tensions in Addis Ababa have been running high ever since a state of emergency was imposed on February 16th after the surprise resignation of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. The government stated the state of emergency  was intended to protect the constitution and safeguard stability, but the main opposition party, the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), fiercely rejected the decree as null and void after evidence of vote rigging in the procedures emerged.

The OFC, and indeed Ethiopia’s wider population, has good cause to be suspicious of the governments’ motives. After all, Addis Ababa has harnessed measures like this for nefarious reasons before. A state of emergency was declared for the first time in 25 years in the country in 2016, when anti-government protests rocked the Oromia region. Protesters of the Oromo ethnic group demanded greater autonomy and an end to the economic marginalization perpetrated by the ruling Tigrayan ethnic group. In response, former PM Desalegn eventually imposed emergency laws because “the situation posed a threat against the people of the country.” In reality, however, both emergency periods were used as a ploy to crack down hard on dissent.

International observers now fear widespread human rights abuses under the guise of ’protecting stability’, as the emergency measures severely curtail freedom of speech and assembly rights. They bar the distribution of writings that could incite violence – though what constitutes “inciting” tends to be arbitrarily defined by the authorities. And with its sweeping new powers, the military is authorized to suppress any form of opposition.

No wonder, then, that the recent killings are not regarded as the accidents the authorities want to make them seem. While peaceful protests in Oromia and the capital continue, where shops have shut down and public transport has stopped, Ethiopia’s population is more divided than ever. Next to the ethnic divisions paralyzing national politics, Ethiopia’s economy has ground to a halt, further widening inequalities between ethnic groups.

This is all bad news. Not only is Ethiopia the Horn of Africa’s economic engine, but its US-allied military plays a significant role in regional peacekeeping and the fight against terrorism. Should Addis Ababa spiral further into chaos, the glue that has been keeping a war-torn region together would melt away and instability would rapidly spread to Ethiopia’s neighbors, especially South Sudan and Djibouti.

Mired in civil war since 2013 following its split from Sudan, South Sudan is heavily reliant on Ethiopia’s peacekeeping forces and its diplomatic heft. Addis Ababa is the main contributor to the various UN security forces in the country and has played a key role in guaranteeing the August 2015 Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan.

The chaos that would ensue in South Sudan if refugees and possibly even armed groups from Ethiopia were to be added to this volatile mix is hard to imagine. Besides the nearly daily massacres, South Sudan is already unable to feed its population, the majority of it internally displaced people. As of March 2018, more than 5.3 million people are in dire need for food assistance while 204,000 are seeking refuge in UN camps. With ceasefires routinely ignored, stability is unlikely to take hold any time soon.

Another country whose fate hangs in the balance is pocket-sized Djibouti. Much like South Sudan, the port nation is vitally dependent on foreign resources to sustain its economy and its people. Ethiopia provides most of Djibouti’s electricity, fruits and fresh water and is responsible for keeping the country’s ports busy. Since Ethiopia is a landlocked country 100 million strong, Djibouti’s ports are an essential part of its trade. As such, any conflict in Ethiopia threatens the supply lines that have thus far saved its diminutive neighbor from collapse.

Despite its semblance of stability, Djibouti’s iron-fisted ruler Ismail Omar Guelleh, has become increasingly volatile. In power since 1999, Guelleh has stepped up its suppression of human rights and dissent, while doing precious little to raise the fortunes of the country’s impoverished population. While shining new buildings dot the landscape in the country’s capital, most locals live in squalid suburbs lacking access to clean water or economic opportunities. Observers worry that an external shock to the country could reignite long-silenced protests in one of Africa’s poorest countries.

Much of Djibouti’s woes are its own doings. Other than Ethiopia, Guelleh has found an ally in China, which is playing a major part in keeping the Djiboutian economic engine going. While Beijing has poured $14.4 billion into its foothold since 2015, Guelleh has been eager to show his gratitude. In February, the government seized  the Doraleh Container Terminal, previously run by Dubai’s DP World, in an apparent favor to China. Such preferential treatment isn’t doing Guelleh any favors with the local population, already unhappy about the Chinese presence.

Though Djibouti seems unlikely to revolt as long as China is watching over it, even Beijing won’t be able to hold back the tide if Ethiopia collapses and the ensuing instability inevitably adds fire to notoriously fragile South Sudan.

Given the magnitude of the stakes, Ethiopia’s emergency laws have therefore become a pan-African problem. They are not just a threat to Addis Ababa, but to the entire region, which relies heavily on the country for trade and aid. Unless Ethiopia’s government changes its ways, abolishes the state of emergency and allows for free and fair elections to be organized, Addis Ababa might well be the spark that lights the fuse on the Horn of Africa.

Samantha is a freshly minted graduate in International Relations based in Cairo, currently working as a research assistant in a small think tank looking at development and inequality in Africa

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AMU’s failure: Morocco and Algeria disagreement

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To the most people who believe in the vision of rivalry and dreamt of regional power within their spheres of influence, the best idea of being a regional hegemon is creating a region union over a neighboring country. Meanwhile, AMU, in general, can bring North African countries altogether as one unified Arab regional power.

Almost 30 years from its creation of AMU, the Arab Maghreb Union was born in 1989 in Marrakech, Its creation was one of the most important integrations Arab regional Union. Its members are aimed to work together in order to enhance their common cooperation in term of security, social, economic and geopolitical. Yet, this idea of building this regional integration union at the beginning is to enforce regional cooperation and strengthen neighboring relations, At the same time; the geopolitical issues among neighboring countries such as Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania, Libya, and more importantly Western Sahara issue lead to different perspectives and interpretations of the continuation of AMU which undermine some AMU’s member foreign policy.

So far the issue of Western Sahara also played a very crucial issue in making AMU shakable and unsustainable. Therefore, if Algeria and Morocco would stand together to make their issues away of AMU then, the Arab regional union would dawn again.

Due to this, the significant failure of the Arab Maghreb Union is surely based on Morocco -Algeria conflictual relations. The Kingdom of Morocco pushed and tired harder several time to dissolve and evaporate their traditional dispute through sending dozens of diplomatic invitations to settled down for a real dialogue in order to overcome their issues concerning Western Sahara and territorial borders.

First of all, let’s make a short briefing about this regional conflict in the Arab Maghreb Union. this AMU was built weak and will die weak and feeble. After several calls from Morocco to Algeria, the Algerian government rejected Moroccan initiative letters to dissolve issues but Algeria made it clear for not collaborating or even though willing to respond, that means Algeria merely responsible for not cooperating to resolve regional issues as one of AMU members as well its one of the reasons through failure of Maghreb Union. Secondly, other AMU members felt that Algeria went far to help in sustaining AMU work effectively as it was built for, because most of the five Maghreb members are going to switch their ways to solve their issue by its own or seek for other African countries to cooperate with for example: currently Morocco start cooperating and connecting deeply with other African countries such as Ecowas regional group. In addition, Morocco, along with Tunisia and Mauritania which are seeking to follow Moroccan vision into Africa in order to diversify their national interests. However, Libya it’s an isolated case in AMU member because Libya currently live a very chaotic civil war and it’s hard to be seen more stable or peaceful in the upcoming years so far. Therefore, Algeria would remain itself isolated and unique.

The lack of regional cooperation and ineffective integration among non-Maghreb countries would cost less economic collaboration. Some recent statistics show the Maghreb region loses approximately 500 billion US dollars every year as a result of mismanagement of trade restrictions and legislative. The absence of commerce and trade marketing supplementary, the reflecting similarities in the frames of trade marketing and low export variety have also had great negative collisions on intra-Maghreb trade marketing. For instance, the supplementary of Libyan and Algerian exports with the imports from other Maghreb states is still very down. The kingdom of Morocco and Tunisia act actively much better as they are more advanced in the field of exportation than their neighbors which depend on products related on mineral and hydrocarbon.

As noted. despite economic bilateral relations between the Kingdom of Morocco and Tunisia stays low potential, the scope of their under trading progress has decreased. The Agadir free trade regional agreement has improved ease up trade and opened opportunities for trading investment even though the benefits from this expansion still low. Comparing with the rest of the Maghreb region, this slow improvement in trademarking and commerce moves the Moroccan and Tunisian proficiency experience in profitable level. So far the trademarking rolls between Libya, Mauritania, and Algeria are inconsiderable. Their substantial dependence on raw material, natural resources, and hesitation to involve in intra industry trade make it more complicated to increase trade marketing share among them even if they are willing to.

In term of trade marketing, Libya Mauritania and Algeria show the least their moves into regional commerce. Algeria’s trading with the rest of AMU members stays very low and weak, with its imports and exports reaching only 25 percent and 12 percent of their potential. In contrast, the Kingdom of Morocco has increased its export and import potential to all Maghreb states, except Algeria where Morocco ‘s exports have extended approximately 4 percent of their potential in the year 2015. additionally, Algeria’s exports to the Kingdom of Morocco have not reached 10 percent of their potential. Basically, the kingdom of Morocco is not willing to rely on Algerian extensive hydrocarbon products in which the kingdom needs to turn its pure phosphate into fertilizers.

This is quite superficial regarding the AMU failure and Western Sahara dispute forms the major impediment to the creation of AMU. It highlights the lack of sufficient cooperation between Morocco and Algeria since the so-called “Sand War” to put an end to their intricate relations. Western Sahara dispute basically pushes both states into regional rivalry and also represented a good political opportunity for Algeria and Morocco to set up their regional and superintendence supremacy.

Yes, as the King of Morocco pointed out in his last annual speech in African Union Summit: the failure of AMU is a tremendous failure of entire Arab Maghreb countries, also he noted ” we are very disappointed to see that the Maghreb Arab Union is the least integrated region in the African continent, if not in the entire world.” Hespress Newsmedia. If we do not immediately act, by following the example of neighboring African sub-regions, the Maghreb Union will destroy in its chronic insufficiency to reach up to the spirits of its creation.

The rise of Islamist groups in the Maghreb region made Morocco and Algeria rethink about their political strategy and reshape their foreign policy errors. Back to Algeria’s civil war in (1992-3) which dive Algerian society into a huge disaster, pushed it away from the Western Sahara conflict. In Morocco, the Islamic political Justice and development party (PDJ) rising success because of its great social interaction in Moroccan society.

Literally, the rise of Islamic groups, therefore, highlights the emergence both of plural political speech and awareness of states and arrival of violence, in the form of non- state actor or extremist acts, laid by the failure of political communities.

According to this, the western Sahara issue can’t be taken as the main interpretation of the failure of the regional integration strategy project in North Africa. Indeed, it declares the inefficiency of the countries in the region to set up a regular structure in sense of accumulating shared interests and collective profits.

In the end, Algeria’s deficiency holds serious security indications and suggestions for EU and the US. if it is incapable in doing many necessary reforms, it may give opportunities for extremists groups and non state actors to undermine the country, it’s hydrocarbon supplies to the Mediterranean countries, and safety of foreign investment in the region. Even though this might be a big loss at the current time. In fact, Algeria’s lack of political reforms has an influence on the other members of AMU in their efficiency, capacity, and productivity to promote mutual economic strategies. Thus, the International observers noticed by a terrorist threat and energy insecurity increasing Arab regional integration in North Africa, as its pushing the AMU’s foreign partners to cooperate and work hard through that case.

The real challenges to the AMU in the upcoming decades, the Kingdom of Morocco will sustain and upgrade its existence in the regional organization until finding its new partners across the AMU and develop its measured political and economic capacity out of unified Maghreb Union.

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South Sudan-India: Diplomatic Relations and Economic Partnership Potential

Abraham Telar Kuc

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During the Sudan civil wars in fifties, sixties, seventies, eighties and nineties India maintained some kind of unofficial diplomatic relations with the Southern Sudan region; when His Excellency President Fakruddin Ali Ahmed the President of Republic of India visited in 1975 what was then the regional and the current capital of Republic of South Sudan, President Fakruddin was welcomed by the entire population of Juba city whom turn up in thousands for his reception. The Indian President addressed then Southern Sudanese citizen, Southern Sudan regional’s government officials, communities’ leaders, non-state actors and the members of People’s Regional Assembly based in Juba.

Although India did not take a side in supporting anyone from the warring parties of Sudan civil wars and despite not having any formal diplomatic presence in then Sudan’s southern region; but there was unofficial diplomatic communication between India and then Sudan People’s Liberation Army and Movement in eighties and nineties during the civil war era, through its diplomatic missions in D.R. Congo, Kenya, Uganda and other African’s countries India manage to establish a good impression among South Sudanese leaders and citizens which currently led to a very smooth ties with no any kind of  political and  ideological differences from the past.

As one of the world new emerging powers India showed its interest on developing diplomatic and economic ties with South Sudan long time ago; in 2005 Honorable Edappakath Ahamed the Indian Deputy Minister for External Affairs attended the signing ceremony of peace agreement between the Sudan warring parties in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, two years later in October 2007 the Indian government opened its Consulate in Juba which making it one of the first foreign diplomatic missions in the regional government capital. India welcomed South Sudan referendum results and recognized the independence of Republic of South Sudan and sends to Juba a very high level delegation led by His Excellency Mohammad Hamid Ansari the Vice President of India to attend the 9th July Independence celebrations and followed by the upgrading of Indian Consulate in Juba to the Embassy level after seven month of the Africa and world’s newest independent state.

South Sudan, Indian relations did not only end in their bilateral ties; but India extended its bilateral engagement with South Sudan to its role within the international community and the United Nations in particular where its participated in the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) by the biggest and largest contingent plus civilian officials, police officers and personnel and other civilian contractors.

With India willing to have a positive influence role in South Sudan; the Indian government’s Ministry of External Affairs been providing a good number of fully sponsored scholarships for South Sudanese undergraduate and postgraduate students in Indian universities and other higher learning institutions for the past years offered by the Indian Council of Cultural Relations; the commitment of India in helping and enhancing the specialized profession skills for South Sudanese staffs and employees both in government, independent public and private sectors through the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) which is also a government  fully funded training programs under the Indian’s Ministry of External Affairs in collaboration with the Indian Embassies around the world, and the program aims is to provide capacity building and enhancing skills for developing  and under developing countries around the globe in different Indian higher learning, institutes, training centers and government institutions, hundreds of South Sudanese benefited from Indian’s ITEC training program and I myself am one of the beneficiaries of Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation program where I was offered a diploma of Development Journalism from Indian Institute of Mass Communication sponsored by Indian’s Ministry of External Affairs and facilitated by the Indian Embassy in the Republic of South Sudan.

There is no clear statistics and records on trade exchange and economic partnership between South Sudan and India. India is investing limitedly in South Sudan oil sector through India’s Oil and Natural Gas Commission and it’s largely involving in importing oil, teak and timber from South Sudan which is also exporting consuming stuffs, food items, household goods, medical and pharmaceuticals, electronics and other needs from India. Some Indian bossiness persons and private sector are operating different size companies involving in printing, internet providing, construction, borehole drilling, oil sector consultancy and services, own hotels and supermarkets and other form of bossiness; despite the trade and economic engagement between the two countries, but bilateral commercial exchange between them can be describe as a poor comparing to other countries investments including some Asian nations.

More recently in the international order and relations between nations the diplomatic and political influence on commercial relations, trade exchange, economic partnership and international trade in general is gaining more acceptance in direct foreign investments as an impact of diplomatic, bilateral and multilateral relations. With the two countries developing a deeper diplomatic ties and seem to be moving slowly to some level of diplomatic and political cooperation for more economic strength which could have a positive impact on South Sudan and India bilateral trade; Indian companies in the ICT, pharmaceuticals and medical serveries, oil and gas, finance and banking, housing and construction sectors like Reliance Industries, Tata Group, Bajaj Group, Bharti Airtel Communications and other investment corporates, the mentioned Indian companies, corporate and sectors has the potential and good investments opportunities in South Sudan as a result of strong diplomatic ties between the two countries.

Therefore South Sudan and India should use their good ties on boosting and strengthens economics of the two countries for more common economic benefits through exploring new economic partnership potentials.

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Influential Opportunities for South Sudan Diplomacy

Abraham Telar Kuc

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Since its exiting in the international relation system; diplomatic approaches plays a very unique and crucial role in nations’ efforts to achieve their political agenda and goals and to promote the countries’ image, conducting and managing state relationships within the international arena. Diplomacy as a practice of human interaction has been an historic channel of conducting dialogue between civilizations, countries and their neighbors, allies and other independent political and economic bodies and entities.

After the independence the Republic of South Sudan became the United Nations and African Union newest member in 14 and 28 July 2011 respectively; currently South Sudan has secured its membership in all UN agencies or UN affiliated organizations and other international bodies, in the regional level South Sudan is a member of Intergovernmental Authority on Development known as (IGAD), the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR);and regardless of its  recent membership in the East African Community; South Sudan is either applied or is in the process of applying to the former British colonies union known as the Commonwealth of Nations. and  as a result of Egypt, Morocco, Gulf states and  some Arab countries encouragement;  the government of South Sudan recently admitted  that it has applied for observer status in the Arab League based in Egyptian capital Cairo; and despite being non majority Muslim country South Sudan is maybe seeking the membership of  Organization of Islamic Cooperation( OIC) based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia where Uganda, Mozambique and other twenty seven African nations are member states out of it fifty seven members; adding to all this international and regional ambitions South Sudan have the intention for applying for a very important regional organization which is non-other than the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa or COMESA which is s the largest regional economic group in Africa with 19 member states including many bordering countries to South Sudan  and the headquarter of the organization is based in Lusaka, Zambia.

The grouping between countries and geographical regions by political, economic or trade criteria have been a strategic tool for countries to handle some social-economic, trade and developmental challenges or issues that are facing them in different aspects. Political and economic or trade regional blocs benefits are not limited in its great role in enhancing the self-reliance and economic growth to the members state; but it has a very tangible benefits in term of political and diplomatic influence. In the modern international relations countries joins regional blocs and groups as a geopolitical struggle for political and economic influence which aim to achieve national agenda and boost their economic and other national interests and to increase their political and economic influential role in the international affairs.

South Sudan diplomacy should use and take advantage of the strategic geopolitical location of the country being a member state of different international and regional political cooperation and economic integration blocs as well as bordering physically or geographically and by economic status some powerful and strongest regional blocs; South Sudan also has other advantages like been a Multilanguage country as South Sudan bordering  English, French, Arabic and Kiswahili speaking countries which should give the country a very effective diplomatic strength in it regional and international engagement through bilateral, regional and multilateral relationships. butting in consideration the foreign policy goals  of South Sudan government; there are many regional economic integration and political cooperation blocs that are potential institutional network can be use as influential tools to implement and achieve South Sudan’s diplomatic agenda and national interests; There are six economic integration, trading area, customs union, common market, economic and monetary union and political cooperation blocs that South Sudan should bea very effective member state to benefit from its economic and trading powers and take advantage of its diplomatic and political influential role in national, regional and international affairs; and this major regional organization which South Sudan could emerge to be the strongest members in it are:

1-The International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR)

Is an inter-governmental organization of the countries in the African Great Lakes Region, was established on the recognition to political instability and conflicts in this region and the blocs aim to promote regional integration, security, sustainable peace, political stability and  economic development in the African Great Lakes Region.

With its headquarters based in Burundi capital Bujumbura, The organization is composed of twelve member states, namely: Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Republic of South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania and Zambia.

2-The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD)

Was created in 1996 to replace the Intergovernmental Authority on Drought and Development that was founded in 1986 to deal with issues related to drought and desertification in the Horn Africa, The main aims is to assist and complement the efforts of the member States to achieve strategic goals through increased cooperation, food security and environmental protection, peace and security, economic cooperation and integration in the region.

The member States of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development are: Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan and Uganda.

3-The East African Community (EAC)

Is a regional intergovernmental organization of six partner States: the Republics of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, the United Republic of Tanzania, and the Republic of Uganda, with its headquarters in Arusha, Tanzania; And it’s considered as one of the fastest growing regional economic blocs in the world, the EAC is widening and deepening co-operation among the Partner States in various key spheres for their mutual benefit. These spheres include political, economic and social integration.

4-The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA)

Was formed in December 1994 to replace the former Preferential Trade Area (PTA) which had existed from the earlier days of 1981; the main focus of (COMESA)is to form a large economic and trading union that is capable of overcoming some of the barriers that are faced by its individual states.

COMESA is formed by  twenty one member states which are Tunisia, Eswatini (Swaziland), Rwanda, Burundi, the Comoros, Libya, Seychelles, Somalia, Djibouti, Egypt, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritania, Sudan, Zambia and Zimbabwe, Eretria, Ethiopia, DR Congo and  Mauritius.

5-The Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS)

Is an organization for promotion of regional economic co-operation in Central Africa region, and it aims to achieve collective autonomy raises the standard of living of its populations and maintains economic stability through harmonious cooperation. Its initial goal is to promote exchange and collaboration among the members and give an institutional and legal framework to their cooperation.

ECCAS is made up of Gabon, Cameroon, the Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, Congo Brazzaville, Equatorial Guinea, Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Angola and the island nation of Sao Tome and Principe.

6-The Nile Basin Initiative (NBI)

An intergovernmental partnership of  Nile basin countries established on 22 February 1999, to provide a forum for consultation, coordination and cooperation among the Nile basin States for the sustainable management and development of the shared Nile basin water and related resources. The Initiative is composed of eleven countries namely Burundi, DR Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. With Eritrea participates as an observer.

Economic integration and political cooperation grouping between countries in a certain region and the world became a very important channel and tool   to build partnerships, relationships and influential diplomacy regionally and internationally; with diplomacy as key player in building, maintain and benefiting from this initiatives and blocs. South Sudan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation has a very crucial role in making up a foreign policy that focusing on securing national interests to pursuit the economic strength and political influence within these regional blocs.

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