IGAD: A Regional Organization or a Forum Run by Ethiopia?

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Recently I came across an article with a title ‘Ethiopia Refuses to Abdicate IGAD Chairmanship.’

I was intrigued by the data presented and the assertions made in the article regarding Ethiopia’s unjustifiable domination of the regional body. Hence, I wanted to check its veracity by referring the Communiqués issued by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) since its revitalization in 1996. What I discovered made me seriously doubt the validity of referring IGAD a ‘regional organization.’ 

Since Ethiopia took the Chairmanship in 2008, each of the Communiqués adopted by the IGAD Heads of State and the Ministers of Foreign Affairs begins with the following identical paragraphs:

“The IGAD Assembly of Heads of State and Government held its Extra-Ordinary Summit on….under the Chairmanship of H.E…Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, and the current Chairperson of the IGAD Assembly.”

.“The Extra-ordinary Meeting of the IGAD Council of Ministers was convened on….The Council was chaired by H.E. … Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and the current chair of the IGAD Council of Ministers.

The phrase ‘current chair’ featured in these Communiqués is a misnomer. For all intents and purposes, Ethiopia has transformed its Chairmanship to a permanent status. In the seventeen years of the revitalized IGAD, the Heads of State and Government held twenty-two Summits. Out of these eleven were held after 2008, Ethiopia chaired all of them.

 

SESSION

DATE and VENUE

CHAIRED BY

1. 22nd Extra-Ordinary Summit 24 May 2013, Addis Ababa Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn
2. 21st Extra-Ordinary Summit 3 May 2013, Addis Ababa Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn
3. 20th Extra-Ordinary Summit 27 January 2012, Addis Ababa The late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi
4. 19th Extra-Ordinary Summit 25 November 2011, Addis Ababa The late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi
5. 18th Extra-Ordinary Summit 4 July 2011, Addis Ababa The late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi
6. 17th Extra-Ordinary Session 30 January 2011, Addis Ababa The late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi
7. 16th Extra-Ordinary Session 23 November 2010, Addis Ababa The late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi
8. 15th Extra-Ordinary Session 5 July 2010, Addis Ababa The late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi
9. 14th Extra-Ordinary Session 9 March 2010, Nairobi The late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi
10. 13th Extra-Ordinary Session 29 October 2008, Nairobi The late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi
11. 12th Ordinary Session 14 June 2008, Addis Ababa The late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi
(Table – 1) Chairmanship and Venue of IGAD Summits, June 2008-May 2013

 

The record of the Council of Ministers, the second most important policy-organ, is equally appalling. So far the Council has held 48 Sessions, out of these 24 took place since 2008 and were chaired by the Foreign Ministers of Ethiopia.

 

SESSION

DATE and VENUE

CHAIRED BY

1. 48th Extraordinary Session 24 May 2013, Addis Ababa Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom
2. 47th Extra-Ordinary session 2 May 2013, Addis Ababa Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom
3. 46th Extra-Ordinary Session 23 January 2013, Addis Ababa Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom
4. 45th Ordinary Session 11 July 2012, Addis Ababa Former Foreign Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn
5. 44th Extra-Ordinary Session Information  not available Ethiopia
6. 43rd Extra-Ordinary Session Information  not available Ethiopia
7. 42nd Extra-Ordinary Session 26 January 2012, Addis Ababa The then Foreign Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn
8. 41st Extra-Ordinary Session 21 October 2011, Addis Ababa The then Foreign Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn
9. 40th Extra-Ordinary Session 24 August 2011, Addis Ababa The then Former Foreign Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn
10. 39th Extra-Ordinary Session 28 June 2011, Malabo, Equatorial Guinea The then Former Foreign Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn
11. 38th Extra-Ordinary Session 23 November 2010, Addis Ababa The then Former Foreign Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn
12. 37th Extra-Ordinary Session 22 September 2010, New York Former Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin
13. 36th Extra-Ordinary Session 15 June , Addis Ababa 2010, Addis Ababa Former Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin
14. 35th Extra-Ordinary Session 8 March 2010, Nairobi Former Foreign Minister Seyoum
(Table – 2) Chairmanship and Venue of IGAD Council of Ministers Sessions (June 2008-May 2013)

 

In general, thirty-five sessions of the IGAD policy-organs, amounting to half of all the sessions held since the revitalization of IGAD in 1996, were chaired by the leaders of a single Member State: Ethiopia. Moreover, Ethiopia has had a disproportionate advantage in terms of hosting IGAD meetings. Since June 2008, it hosted in Addis Ababa all but two IGAD Summits, and sixteen out of the twenty-four sessions of the Council of Ministers. [1]

Given the fact that, in the last 6 years Ethiopia has single-handedly hosted and chaired virtually all meetings of the IGAD policy-organs, we can safely conclude that IGAD has shifted from being a Regional Organization into a forum run by one of its member States. In terms of form and substance, it is difficult to differentiate IGAD from the Tana High-Level Forum on Security in Africa (THLF).

The THLF is run by its creator Professor Endrias Eshete, an Advisor to the Ethiopian Prime Minister with the rank of a Minister, and has the mission of hosting annual retreats for African leaders and prominent personalities in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia.

In both cases, Ethiopia plays host, sets the agendas and chairs the deliberations. The participation of others is no more than an attempt to give ‘regional/African face’ and legitimacy to the forums and the decisions they make.

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[1] Information regarding the venues and dates of four sessions of the Council is not available.

Written By:  Samuel Tsehaye

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