Ethiopia‟s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Workneh Gebeyehu left on a two-day visit to Kenya on Wednesday (March 08) at the invitation of Ambassador Dr. Amina Mohamed, Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs and International Trade of the Republic of Kenya. During his stay, Dr. Workneh held discussions with Dr. Amina Mohamed on bilateral, regional and international issues of common interest. He also paid a courtesy call on President Kenyatta and delivered a special message from Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn. Dr. Workneh was accompanied by Ambassador Girma Temesgen, the Director General for Neighboring Countries and IGAD, Ethiopia‟s Ambassador to Kenya, Ambassador Dina Mufti, and other senior officials of the Foreign Ministry. The Ethiopian delegation attended a working dinner hosted by Ambassador Dr. Amina Mohamed, on Wednesday, with both sides looking at issues to be tabled for later discussions, and giving particular emphasis to the areas of cooperation in which Ethiopia and Kenya have shown substantial progress.
In the discussions with Ambassador Dr. Amina Mohamed, the two sides covered a range of bilateral and regional issues of common interest, including the implementation of the Special Status Agreement; Joint Boarder Development Programs; the establishment of a One-stop Border Post; issues of peace and security cooperation under the AU and IGAD; and the Northern Corridor framework. Dr Workneh underlined the century-old relationship between the two countries and peoples, emphasizing that Ethiopia welcomed its excellent relationship of cooperation with Kenya and attached great importance to its ties with Kenya. He said that Ethiopia viewed Kenya as its most trusted ally within the region.
Ambassador Dr. Amina Mohammed, also underlined the historic ties between the two countries, stressing Ethiopia and Kenya had close and solid relations covering wide areas of cooperation. This had provided immeasurable opportunities which had indeed been well exploited, she said, but the way was also open for much more. Raising the importance of progress in implementation of signed agreements, Ambassador Amina noted the need for a strengthened Monitoring and Evaluation mechanism to identify challenges and opportunities in carrying out and agreements reached. The two Ministers agreed to ensure their governments continued their unwavering support for the peace processes currently under way in the region.
In the communiqué issued at the end of the visit, the two Ministers noted with satisfaction the progress achieved in various projects including the road linking Nairobi to Addis Ababa, the Lamu, South Sudan, Ethiopia (LAPSSET) Project, the construction of power transmission lines. They welcomed Ethiopia‟s membership of the Northern Corridor Integration projects.
Dr. Workneh stressed that Ethiopia’s priority was relations with neighboring countries, including Kenya, for the peace and security and overall development of the region. He said: “we are two inseparable nations in conveying a common interest in international, continental and sub-regional fora.” Commending Kenya‟s role in IGAD, Dr Workneh said IGAD is one of the most effective Sub-Regional organizations and its effectiveness could be measured practically in its role in pacifying the region. The communiqué commended the Government of South Sudan in its efforts for an inclusive National Dialogue as a tool to restore lasting peace and stability, and agreed on the need to support the full implementation of the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan, signed in August 2015. It also welcomed the election in Somalia and agreed on the need to continue to assist the government to strengthen state institutions and support its fight against Al-Shabaab. They agreed to support economic empowerment through setting up infrastructures. The Ministers agreed on the necessity of holding more negotiations with the EU over the 20% reduction in its support for AMISOM.
Dr. Workneh referred to the Special Status Agreement signed five years ago and designed to lay down a really solid foundation to the relationship and even considered as a first step towards moving to full economic cooperation. It stipulated that both sides could open offices in each other’s territory for facilitation of trade, investment and tourism, information sharing and liaison. It provided for the establishment of a joint task force of financial experts to explore opportunities to create a favorable environment for trade and investment. However, the Agreement has yet to be implemented. The communiqué welcomed a proposal to establish Trade and Commercial Offices in each other‟s territory at the earliest opportunity, to facilitate trade and exchange information on trade issues.
Ethiopia and Kenya are, of course, already working closely on a number of joint development programs in different areas, including road infrastructure, the building of an oil pipeline, port developments, natural resources development and power connectivity. Another point has been the agreement to establish a one-stop border post to facilitate the free movement of people, goods and services, to permit the free movement of commercial vehicles and transit cargo, and to work towards progressive tariff concession. When implemented as planned, this will provide a platform for moving towards economic integration between Ethiopia and Kenya and more widely in the region.
Dr. Workneh noted both sides had been working to resolve cross-border problems arising from cattle rustling and use of water points and grazing lands. The cross border areas are generally characterized by poor infrastructure and weak service provision, low literacy and high poverty levels and a lack of resources. As a result they have become a source of tension and even conflict. Organization of community-led peace programs have helped to reduce incidents of violence, improving trust among local communities. The comprehensive cross-border integrated Program for Sustainable Peace and Socio-economic Transformation can be expected to foster peaceful co-existence, expand trade and development, and encourage environmental protection in Kenya’s Marsabit County and Ethiopia’s Borena and Liban Zones.
The drought was, of course, mentioned not least because the situation is likely to worsen. A timely response to prevent famine is very necessary. Dr. Workneh pointed out the recent joint Mogadishu Declaration warned of the severity of the problem and called for regional cooperation and international collaboration for an effective response. Ethiopia and Kenya need to address this urgently and further develop an effective response mechanism. Part of this, he pointed out, should involve the effective use and development of natural resources.
In this context, Ethiopia welcomed Kenya‟s clear stand on the fair and equitable utilization of natural resources, including the Nile water, by all countries of the Nile Basin. It appreciated the role played by Kenya on the Nile issue and the signing of the Cooperative Framework Agreement. Dr. Workneh emphasized the importance of ratification of the CFA. He said that once this had been done there would be unprecedented opportunities to use its advantages for the betterment of all the peoples of the region. Ethiopia, Rwanda and Tanzania had already ratified the Cooperative Framework Agreement. He encouraged Kenya to initiate the process of ratification as a matter of urgency. The communiqué noted that the Ministers “agreed to continue their active roles in “realizing the objectives of the Cooperative Framework Agreement.”
The Ministers underlined the importance of further enhancing existing ties in a spirit of good neighborliness based on mutual respect and interest to the benefit of both peoples. They emphasized the value of continued exchanges of high-level visits, and the Joint Ministerial and the Joint Border Commission meetings to consider issues of common concern. The Ministers agreed to hold the 36th Joint Ministerial Commission meeting in Addis Ababa in June, and that this should be preceded by the 3rd Joint Technical Committee meeting on the Special Status Agreement.