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REGIONAL POLITICS

Ethiopia has steered Igad well, more needs to be done

With the AU, Ethiopia-led Igad assisted reconciliation and understanding ofSudanese stakeholders after the fall of President Omar al Bashir.

In Summary

• Under Ethiopia’s leadership and in collaboration with member states, Igad has addressed crucial peace and security matters.

• In an effort to re-establish a sovereign government in Somalia, Igad in its fourteenth attempt succeeded and helped in forming the Transitional Government of President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed.

Ethiopia PM Abiy Ahmed hands over the chairmanship of Igad to his Sudanese counterpart, Abdalla Hamdok, in Addis Ababa on November 29, 2019.
IGAD: Ethiopia PM Abiy Ahmed hands over the chairmanship of Igad to his Sudanese counterpart, Abdalla Hamdok, in Addis Ababa on November 29, 2019.
Image: COURTESY

Igad has been transformed from an organisation that merely focused on drought and disaster during its inception in 1986 to one dealing with regional peace and development.

It is now one of the eight recognised AU building blocs.

During the 13th Ordinary Igad Summit in Addis Ababa on November 29 last year, Sudan was elected to take over the chairpersonship from Ethiopia.

Reflecting on some of Ethiopia’s achievements and the challenges during its decade-long leadership would serve as a springboard in shaping Igad's future activities under other countries' chairmanship.

PEACE AND SECURITY

Under Ethiopia’s leadership and in collaboration with member states, Igad has addressed crucial peace and security matters.

In an effort to re-establish a sovereign government in Somalia, Igad in its fourteenth attempt succeeded and helped in forming the Transitional Government of President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed.

Although al Shabaab still poses a substantial threat to Somalia and the region, it is undeniable that under Amisom, where Igad member states are the major troop contributors, the country has stabilised and continues to fight the insurgents. 

Under Ethiopia’s chairpersonship, Igad made lengthy negotiations to make the two major conflicting parties in South Sudan — the government and SPLM/A-IO — sign the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan in August 2015.

When the Transitional Government of National Unity established in April 2016 entered into a crisis, Igad stepped in to help revitalise the peace agreement.

Following a Cessation of Hostilities Agreement, which was signed on December 21,  2017, the signing of September 2018 R-ARCSS caused the fighting in South Sudan to significantly recede and hundreds of refugees and internally displaced people returned to their villages.

With the AU, Igad assisted the reconciliation and understanding of the Sudanese stakeholders after the fall of President Omar al  Bashir. The signing of the political and constitutional declaration and the formation of the Transitional Civilian Government on August 21 last year was exemplary.

The reconciliation between Ethiopia and Eritrea to end the deadlock has not been confined to the two states. A significant process of normalisation between and among all the countries of the Horn of Africa has started to unfold.

A new phase in relations between Djibouti and Eritrea opened, with the two countries agreeing to normalise their ties. Somalia and Eritrea have also re-established diplomatic relations. These developments have contributed to advancing regional peace and stability.

Noting the importance of forging a regional framework to manage situations in the strategically important areas of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, the Igad Task Force on the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden has moved progressively in forging common positions and developing a comprehensive regional plan of action through a knowledge-led, policy-oriented research.

The Declaration of Principles on the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, an instrument for the work of the Task Force’s concretisation on the matter, was adopted by the 13th Igad Summit.

SOCIOECONOMIC FRONT

The regional organisation has designed important programmes to improve the lives of the people in health, climate resilience and economic integration.

Igad's Drought Disaster Resilience and Sustainability Initiative, the Igad Biodiversity Management Programme, the Regional Pastoral Livelihoods Resilience Project, the Drought Resilience and Sustainable Livelihoods Programme and the Igad Environment Impact Assessment Policy Framework can be cited as the most notable achievements.

Although its implementation has been slowed for various reasons, one of the most important programmes for economic and social integration during Ethiopia’s chairmanship was the Minimum Integration Plan. Development of the Igad Sustainable Tourism Master Plan 2013-2023 (launched in 2013) and its domestication in Ethiopia and Kenya was another development. It was also made possible to design the Igad Regional Infrastructure Master Plan that was linked to the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa Strategic Framework, based on the shared vision for Africa’s infrastructure by 2040 and in line with the EU-Horn of Africa Initiative.

In the health sector, the provision of HIV-Aids services was made possible in identified cross-border sites, in the refugee and IDP camps, while an Igad Cancer Centre of Excellence was launched in Addis Ababa.

The creation of a Regional Consultative Process on Migration and a mechanism to coordinate with key stakeholders and development partners was also initiated to address migration governance and strengthen regional cooperation and dialogue.

Igad also formulated a regional gender policy framework and strategy that has been instrumental in mainstreaming gender issues in all of its priority areas.

Economic integration was set out as the major step on the Igad Minimum Integration Plan for 2016-20 but a common understanding and a coordinated move towards this end still remains to be ironed out among member countries.

Over the past 11 years, achievements made for interconnecting the region through infrastructural projects such as roads, electricity, ports and railway are commendable. However, the need to align trade and other policies among member states for the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement is now evident.

Ethiopia also proposed a new Igad structure, which was adopted by the 13th Ordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government. This will support the region’s determination to move towards a more strengthened cooperation for peace and development.

INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION

Under Ethiopia’s chairpersonship, Igad has transformed its cooperation with the AU, the United Nations, the European Union and partners from far and wide.

On peace and security, it has been at the forefront in creating understanding and support of its endeavour to fight extremism and terrorism, bring peace to Somalia, South Sudan, the Ethio-Eritrea conflict and Sudan.

In this endeavour, it has gained considerable support and understanding from the AU, the UN, and other major partners. It has also forged strong cooperation with international partners in matters of climate resilience, migration, and cross-border regional cooperation.

Igad’s programmes got considerable financial and technical support in this regard.

CHALLENGES

The major challenges faced in the region were characterised by lack of sustainable peace and security environment that could have otherwise enabled Igad to focus more on economic and social cooperation.

Efforts to solve peace and security challenges in Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Ethiopia and Eritrea need to be consolidated and followed through.

Though considerable gains have been registered in tackling violent extremism and terrorism, particularly in fighting al Shabaab, it leaves more room for regional cooperation not to regress on gains achieved so far and even find a lasting solution to the problem. These efforts need support from international partners.

Other challenges include extreme poverty, income inequality, governance problems, corruption, election-related disputes and violence, radicalisation and violent extremism, transnational threats and organised crime, the proliferation of small and light weapons, as well as migration, smuggling and human trafficking.