France reviews ties with Horn of Africa nations
By Our Contributor
February 6, 2004
The French Parliament held a day-long symposium on February 2, 2004, in the French Parliament on the theme of the "Strategic Stake of The Horn of Africa region in this Period of Globalization."

The symposium was organized by the Green Party of France (whose leader Noel Mamere is the member of the Foreign Relations Commission of the French Parliament) and the periodical called Les Nouvelles d'Addis, which had been reporting on Ethiopia for some years now. The meeting was first welcomed and addressed by Noel Mamere himself.

The participants to the conference came from the government and opposition of the Sudan, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somaliland, and Eritrea. There were many French experts, NGO representatives, international journalists and radio stations, researchers such as S. Pausewang (the Norwegian who has written extensively on Ethiopia) and nationals of the Horn countries. The EPRP was invited and was represented by woizero Ghennet Girma.

The EPRDF was represented by its ambassador, Weizero Shalewerk

The Eritrean embassy refused to send an official delegation but sent on the sly a French man and an Eritrean woman to present its positions.

The Djibouti government sent an embassy attaché to defend its views.

The foreign minister of Somaliland, Edna Adan Ismail, the widow of the late Somaliland president Ibrahim Egal, was also present to call for an international recognition of Somaliland.

There was no official Sudanese government delegation but the meeting was addressed by phone from Nairobi by the SPLA and an NDA delegate was present at the conference.

There were three round-table groups on Cultural diversity and globalization, on peace and lasting development and on democratization, power and the opposition.

The discussion on the peace processes in the Horn generally agreed that though despots rule all countries and democratization is necessary there can be no global solution to the problems and all problems must be addressed in their specificity. As regards the Ethio-Eritrean border demarcation some experts condemned the EPRDF for accepting the Algiers agreement in the first place while other said the Hague court decision to which Meles Zenawi had agreed should be implemented. Most said that the war drums being beaten by both Isaias and Meles are actually ploys to get international attention while both are not ready and willing to wage war against each other. The EPRDF ambassador refuted the Eritrean's allegation and she was supported by none other than the French ambassador to Asmara, Gerard Sambrana, who boldly stated that the disaster that Eritrea is facing now is mainly a consequence of the political and economic policies of Isaias Afewerki.

Introducing EPRP delegate Ghennet Girma, the French Green party's president of the Transnational commission, Mr. Patrick Farbioz, said that he felt honored by the presence of the EPRP that had paid huge sacrifices struggling for democracy and he remembered his young days when he had taken part in demonstrations in support of the EPRP. Ghennet Girma amply explained the bankruptcy and disaster of the TPLF/EPRDFR rule and gave the audience an overview of the UEDF's objectives and activities. Norwegian scholar Siegfried Pausewang denounced the fake democracy of the Weyane by explaining in detail the plight of the peasantry, the repression against dissent, the rigged elections, etc. Djibouti opposition leaders. Mohamed Kadamy for FRUD and Daher Ahmed Farah for the MRD also exposed the tyranny of the Gelleh dictatorship.

The Sudanese opposition NDA delegate criticized the Sudanese government and the SPLA peace deal as non-inclusive and a result of an arbitrary pressure by the Bush administration, which is trying to get the votes of the American Christian, Right who support the SPLA. The meeting also discussed in detail the ongoing rebellion by the people of Darfur (Western Sudan) and the Sudan government's futile but bloody attempt to militarily suppress it.

Somaliland foreign minister hailed the close relations that Somaliland has with the Weyane and Djibouti, denounced the Puntland leader as a bandit (puntland and Somaliland are on a verge of war over terror), claimed Somaliland was illegally joined to the part of Somali colonized by Italy back in July 1960 and painted a golden picture of conditions in Somaliland. She denied that Somaliland authorities have deported Ethiopian refugees.

One representative of the Eritrean opposition arrived late but he did not address the assembled.

A spokesperson of the Sudanese SPLA addressed the meeting by phone from Nairobi.

The meeting rejected the conception of finding one global solution for the problems of the Horn and expressed its skepticism on the peace talks of Somali warlords in Nairobi.

Almost all agreed that the main problem of the region that all the regimes are despotic and democratizations need to be actualized.

A similar meeting but this time including all the opposition forces of the Horn and linked to the Social Forum move against globalization is planned.

EPRP's Ghennet Girma gave interviews to local and international newspapers and radios.

The fact that such a meeting has taken place in the French parliament has indicated the increasing French and European Union interest in the development in the Horn of Africa region.

It is to be noted that the EPRP has a longstanding relation with the major political parties in France and that no less than two conferences of Ethiopian opposition parties have taken place in Paris, France.