Although the Horn of Africa has seen some positive developments in recent years, internal conflict, weak governance and historically strained relations between neighbours persist. Fragile political transitions and peace processes are taking place against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is affecting the entire region politically, economically and socially and adding to the existing burdens of climate change, terrorism and migration, as well as multiple humanitarian challenges, including infectious diseases, locust infestations, drought and floods.
Ireland, together with its UN and EU partners, is strongly committed to the Horn of Africa, through our political, development and humanitarian efforts and we will remain closely engaged in the region in the context of our upcoming tenure on the UN Security Council. Minister Coveney discussed the Horn of Africa with fellow EU Ministers during a high level event in July and stressed that the region must remain a priority on the EU’s agenda.
Ireland supports the efforts of the EU and the UN in taking a multi-pronged approach to the Horn of Africa, including continued support for the important work of the African Union and IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development), which play a key role in regional peace and security.
I am deeply concerned by the outbreak of armed conflict in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, including the reported atrocities and ethnic profiling, and the humanitarian consequences. Ireland is actively supporting the efforts of the EU and wider international community to de-escalate the situation, including through engagement with the African Union which has appointed three Special Envoys. Minister Coveney has called for an immediate cessation of hostilities, and the commencement of a national dialogue to de-escalate tensions. Minister Coveney has also condemned the reported atrocities and identity-based attacks. It is essential to ensure that the human rights of all Ethiopians are upheld. I am gravely concerned by reports that Ethiopia’s federal military has said civilians should protect themselves from heavy artillery, in advance of a planned assault against the regional capital. I urge all parties to the conflict to respect international humanitarian law. Ireland is also a longstanding humanitarian supporter of the wider Horn of Africa region. In the context of the Tigray crisis my Department has reallocated €416,000 for the humanitarian response within Ethiopia and €500,000 to assist refugees in Eastern Sudan.
South Sudan continues to endure an ongoing crisis, in large part the consequence of civil war. While the ceasefire is largely holding between the main opposition parties, following the formation of the unity government last February, I am concerned that sub-national violence and human rights abuses continue to cause immense harm to civilians, with the UN reporting that over 1,000 people have been killed and more than 400 abducted in the last six months. The situation is very fragile with key aspects of the peace deal still to be implemented, including the creation of a unified army, local governance and transitional justice measures. Ireland continues to monitor the situation closely, including via our Embassy in Addis Ababa and via the EU Delegation in Juba.
Just over one year on from the signing of the power sharing agreement between the military and the opposition, Sudan’s fragile transition is proceeding amid significant challenges including COVID-19, difficulties accessing international funding, an economic state of emergency and severe flooding. On 3 November 2020, I was able to speak with the Acting Foreign Minister of Sudan to reiterate Ireland’s continued strong support for the transition and to announce additional support for Sudan’s response to floods. In an historic step, on 3 October the Government of Sudan signed a peace agreement with key armed groups, which the EU witnessed. In June 2020, then Minister of State Ciarán Cannon represented Ireland at the high level Sudan Partnership Conference hosted by Germany, the EU and Sudan, and announced Ireland’s contribution of $500,000 to the World Bank Trust Fund for Sudan, to provide cash transfers for vulnerable families.
Despite Somalia’s recent progress in peacebuilding and state building, volatility and risks remain high and tensions between the Federal Government and Federal Member States remain a cause for concern. While recent consensus reached on the electoral model for upcoming elections is welcome, it is disappointing that the model is far from the ‘one-person one-vote’ elections that the international community, including the EU, advocated for. The security context in Somalia remains deeply fragile and Al Shabaab is still capable of complex attacks. Al Shabaab has also developed sophisticated revenue-raising capabilities that make it an increasingly competitive actor within Somalia. Ireland is concerned by other developments in Somalia including the ousting of the former Prime Minister in July and recent regressive legislative proposals which will impact efforts to prevent sexual and gender based violence. Ireland has raised these concerns at the most recent session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva and in discussions with the Government of Somalia.
The EU engages actively in the region through political dialogue, its Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions (EU NAVFOR Operation Atalanta, EUCAP Somalia, and EUTM Somalia), and development and humanitarian cooperation. Ireland has been an active contributor to EUCAP in Somalia, to which there are a number of Irish deployees including the current Head of Mission. Ireland, through the EU, also supports the efforts of the African Union led peacekeeping mission, AMISOM, to stabilise Somalia.
Through regional and bilateral programmes and the Trust Fund for Africa, the EU is providing over €3 billion to the Horn of Africa (2014-2020) which focuses on supporting economic opportunities for young people. Ireland has pledged over €15 million to the Trust Fund for Africa.
Ireland also supports the office of the EU Special Representative to the Horn of Africa, Alex Rondos, whose mandate is to contribute to regional and international efforts to achieve lasting peace, security and development in the region.
Ireland is also a longstanding humanitarian donor to the Horn of Africa, having provided over €222 million in humanitarian assistance to the region since 2012 and we are also a significant contributor to the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) which countries in the Horn benefit from. With humanitarian needs likely to remain acute throughout 2021, Ireland remains committed to providing humanitarian assistance where it is needed most in the Horn of Africa.