This official Ethiopian announcement about the peaceful resolution of issues between Ethiopia and Djibouti is interesting, since Addis Ababa has not take the same path with Eritrea. The Ethiopian government has refused to abide by the Algiers agreement – which ended the catastrophic border war – and accept the ruling of the international boundary commission without further discussion.
A meeting of the Ethiopia-Djibouti Joint Border Commission was held on Thursday and Friday last week (November 26-27) in Dire-Dawa, Ethiopia. Mr Ibrahim Osman, Mayor of the Dire-Dawa City Administration, opened the meeting stressing the readiness of the Ethiopian delegation to have candid and fruitful deliberations for the mutual benefit of both countries. He emphasized that Ethiopia attached particular importance to the long-standing ties of brotherhood, understanding and cooperation with Djibouti. It was particularly keen to further enhance these “exemplary relations”. He noted that the “ever growing infrastructural integration [between Ethiopia and Djibouti] is an indication of the level of economic interdependence and can be taken as a model for regional integration in the IGAD region.”
The Ethiopian Delegation was led by Ambassador Solomon Abebe, Director General of African Affairs at Ethiopia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Djiboutian delegation was led by Sirag Omar Abdoulkader, Secretary General of the Ministry of Interior of Djibouti. Overall, the two-day Joint Border Meeting focused on seven major areas: the activities of the Joint Border Sub-Committees, movement of peoples and goods, cross-border bus transport, illegal migration and human trafficking, security issues, human and animal health, culture and youth affairs and agriculture.
On the activities of the Joint Border Sub-Committees, both sides agreed that these committee meetings were not being conducted as agreed during the previous meetings of the Joint Border Commission. Both sides agreed to instruct the sub-committees to conduct their meeting every 15 days and submit their reports regularly to their respective authorities.
The second major issue was movement of peoples and goods. This revolved around four elements: pastoralists, tourists, cross-border trade and illicit or contraband trades. The agreed minutes of the discussions revealed that the spirit of cooperation on the movement of pastoralists was without problem and encouraging. There was also agreement on the need to give due attention and remain vigilant to fight terrorists and extremists together as well as exchange information regularly. Equally, both sides agreed that the participation of community elders was pivotal to resolving local incidents harmoniously. The agreement also incorporated a decision that these elders should attend the next meeting of the Commission. Referring to tourist movements, the Joint Border Commission agreed that there has been a “smooth movement of Djiboutian tourists according to the mutual understanding reached during the previous meetings of this commission.”
During the First Ethio-Djibouti Joint Ministerial Commission Meeting held in February this year in Djibouti, the two sides exchanged officially signed lists of export and import products acceptable for cross-border trade. The Joint Border Commission, on the basis of this agreement, stressed the importance of the implementation of the trade protocol. This, it said, was necessary to meet the expectations of the people residing in adjacent areas of the common border. Both sides also agreed to establish a Joint Border Trade Committee to oversee this activity. With reference to contraband trade, the Ethiopian side recognized the impact on both countries of such crimes as the “siphoning” off of a few illegal fuel trucks from Ethiopia and the sale of the fuel in Djibouti markets. The Joint Border Commission agreed to redouble controlling mechanisms to prevent this. Concerning cross-border public transport, the Joint Border Commission called for continued implementation of policy and agreed to report on the issue to the next High-Level Joint Commission meeting. Workneh Gebeyehu, Ethiopian Minister of Transport, signed an agreement with Djibouti’s Minister of Infrastructure and Transport, Moussa Ahmed Hassan, in February to commence a public transport service between the two countries. The agreement was one of a number signed during Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn’s official visit to Djibouti in February this year.
The Ethiopian side informed the meeting that Ethiopia had set up a body at the highest level, chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister, to deal with the problem of illegal emigrants crossing the Djibouti border. It had also set up a Special Task Force under the Ministry of Justice to deal with the matter. The Ethiopian delegation also pointed out that “there are Committees established at the Federal, Regional, Zonal and Woreda levels to tackle the menace and hunt down illegal human traffickers and bring them to justice.” The delegation noted that 35 illegal traffickers had recently been arrested and brought to justice. They had received sentences of between two and twenty-five years imprisonment.” The Djiboutian side agreed to cooperate in tackling the problem.
The Joint Border Commission assessed the on-going and expanding co-operation between the military and security bodies of the two countries as successful. It underlined the importance of this continuing in the same spirit and with the same dedication.
The Commission also considered the importance of closer monitoring of food and drug transactions, and the moves to establish a technical committee on livestock trade. It stressed the value of strengthening the relationship between the two countries in the field of culture and youth in the border regions, through the conduct of cultural shows, sport activities and exchanges of experience. It agreed to formulate and forward a draft document on implementation of such activities.
After the signing of the agreed agenda items by the two heads of delegation, the Commission also agreed to hold the 23rd Ethio-Djibouti Joint Border Commission meeting in Nikhil in the Republic of Djibouti.