All Africa 23 October 2014
Dr. Tedros Adhanom, Ethiopia’s Foreign Minister and Chair of the IGAD Council of Ministers, delivered a key note address at the Conference on IGAD Economies and Federalism, co-organized by the Horn Economic and Social Policy Institute (HESPI) and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).
Dr. Tedros Adhanom; UNECA Deputy Executive Secretary, Dr. Abdalla Hamdock; Ambassador Mohammed Afey, IGAD Special Envoy to Somalia; and Ambassador Ahmed Abdisalam, Somalia’s Ambassador to Ethiopia made opening remarks at the opening session of the three-day conference. HESPI managing director, Dr. Ali Issa Abdi said the conference was the first of its kind despite the fact that federalism had been on the political agenda of Somalia for a long time. He noted that many in Somalia believed that federalism would break up the country by ‘balkanizing’ the nation while many others believed it was the panacea to Somalia’s intractable problems of governance and its previous state collapse. He said the debate between the two sides had been acrimonious and far from civilized.
It was, however, important to have a sober discussion to reconcile differences. Ambassador Ahmed Abdisalam underscored the role of experts in helping Somalis come to common understanding on issues of federalism through a dialogue based on ‘nuanced understanding’ of the subject, though he also emphasized that “the expert’s role is facilitating the discussion , discussing the way forward is solely the task of the people of Somalia”. Ambassador Mohammed Afey noted that that pluralism continued to be a subject that even western countries still grappled with.
He hailed Ethiopia’s bold steps in recognizing self determination and federalism in its constitution, pointing out that peace and stability had followed the coming into force of the constitution. Referring to the IGAD-led process in Somalia to lead to a federal state, he said “Somalia is a federal state: what remains is full implementation, “and he called on Somali MP’s to expedite the establishment of the Boundary Demarcation Commission. Dr. Abdalla Hamdock highlighted the changing narrative of the Horn of Africa with its rapid economic development and the increase of FDI while emphasizing the need for underpinning consolidation of these gains. Dr. Tedros Adhanom, in his keynote address, underlined that Somalia was making a good progress in removing the threat of Al-Shabaab and in consolidating local administrations in newly liberated areas. Speaking about the experience of federalism in Ethiopia, he said federalism was a blessing to Ethiopia because it had brought both peace and economic development.
The key factor in this, he said, was ownership, adding that “ownership brings commitment and hence positive results. ” He said Somalis must take ownership of their common destiny. A federalism prescribed from the outside cannot work as it can not endanger commitment to uphold it. He also talked about the need to put Somalia’s interest beyond individual or group interest to end to the nation’s problems. Citing the goal set by the forefathers of the Organization of the African Unity, he said “if we can dream big there is no reason that the Horn can be a country that in our venture to build a united Africa” He also highlighted that Ethiopia’s policy is grounded on having a strong neighbors and strong region. The conference will deliberate on governance, federalism .fiscal federalism in the context of Somalia.