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Pretoria Peace Agreement: Broken Promises, Betrayed Tigray

8 min read.

In the face of the Ethiopian government’s failure to comply with the provisions of the Pretoria Peace Agreement, the TPLF must urgently seek to have the accord amended and demand its enforcement.



As a Tigrayan, I Choose Peace over War, Justice over Impunity
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A year ago, on 2 November 2022, the government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (GoE) and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) signed a Permanent Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (CoHA) in Pretoria, South Africa. Every Western country including the USA welcomed the agreement that was meant to put an end to the two-year civil war raging in the country. Signed not only by the parties to the conflict but also by an African Union (AU) panel of mediators, with the US government acting as guarantors, the agreement is, however, failing to fulfil even the most basic promises it made. Although the AU has reported that the disarmament of Tigray forces has been largely accomplished, and that Tigray has formed an Interim Regional Administration (TIRA) as per the Agreement, the flawed “Transitional Justice” system and the federal government’s failure to restore Tigray territories and protect Tigray civilians from Eritrean hostilities have undermined the very essence of the agreement. For these reasons, unlike Western and UN envoys, Tigrayans believe that the Pretoria Agreement has not delivered what it promised.

While the cessation of hostilities has been achieved, Tigray may soon become a battleground for another round of war between the two dictators, Abiy Ahmed and Isaias Afwerki. Tigray authorities have been forewarned not to be part of such a war unless Tigray’s interests are put in jeopardy and self-defence becomes the last resort. The Pretoria Agreement has also failed to protect the people of Tigray from suffering atrocities and there is overwhelming evidence that genocide is being committed. The protection of civilians in the context of armed conflict, including the proscription of assaults on civilian entities, constitutes a foundational precept within the domain of humanitarian law, thus qualifying as jus cogens norms. Regrettably, the Pretoria Agreement, while acknowledging the imperatives of cessation of hostilities in general, fails to include a detailed clause for the protection of civilians in the event signatories to the agreement revert to conflict. Furthermore, it inadequately outlines mechanisms for the imposition of accountability upon those individuals responsible for perpetrating attacks against civilians.

A year after the signing of the agreement, the Eritrean and Amhara forces have still not withdrawn from Tigray, rendering impossible the return of Tigrayan IDPs to their homes and their land, and the return of their property. The need for unobstructed humanitarian access and the reconstruction of Tigray has largely been disregarded, and the federal government appears to lack the motivation to reconstruct war-torn Tigray. The Ethiopian government’s demands – mainly the disarmament of the TDF – have progressed; federal authority has been restored in Tigray and the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) has been recognised as the only legitimate armed force in Ethiopia and its deployment in Tigray accepted.

While almost all the provisions of the CoHA assert status quo ante by restoring federal authority and allowing the ENDF’s return to Tigray, they fail to expressly order the withdrawal of Amhara forces and the return of all Tigray territories, as provided under the 1995 Ethiopian Constitution. Article 10 of CoHA only states that “parties commit to resolving issues of contested areas in accordance with the Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia”. It fails to directly address the issue of Western Tigray or other areas of Tigray now under the control of Ethiopian, Amhara, and Eritrean forces. This is of critical importance because Western Tigray constitutes the only corridor that offers Tigray access to the outside world, and has therefore been used as a military chokepoint to deny Tigray its links to international borders, and hence access to supplies. Western Tigray is also an economic corridor for agricultural cash crop production.

As outlined in the agreement, the government of Ethiopia pledged to address disputes concerning “contested territories” in line with the constitutional principles enshrined in the Federal Constitution of Ethiopia. This commitment entails the restoration of Tigray territories to their pre-November 2020 status and the reinstatement of Tigray administrations, in accordance with Article 10(4) of the agreement, until a lasting resolution is reached in line with the constitutional principles governing the peaceful resolution of interstate land disputes. It has been a year since the agreement was signed, and during this time, the Ethiopian government has not demonstrated a robust commitment to the restoration of Tigray territories and administration. The Ethiopian government’s failure to restore the Tigray territories stands as an egregious breach of the agreement. This non-compliance not only violates explicit clauses but grievously undermines the territorial integrity and sovereignty of one of the signatories, Tigray (as outlined under Article 8 of the 1995 Ethiopian Federal Constitution) that the accord was designed to reinforce. The Federal Government of Ethiopia’s breach of this landmark accord justifies an immediate amendment and a renegotiation of the terms of the agreement.

The CoHA deal establishes a Monitoring, Verification, and Compliance Mechanism to operate under AU auspices through a Joint Committee and Team of African Experts. As currently formulated, the verification mechanism will not take off, let alone fly and land, unless reconstituted as a joint UN-AU project that allows for the full participation of the UN, the EU, and the US.

As the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia (ICHREE) has already been terminated, the flawed transitional justice framework is now a smokescreen for impunity. As a signatory to the agreement, the TPLF has the legal and political imperative, through Article 15, to demand urgent amendments, incorporate a provision for an international accountability mechanism, and explore alternative avenues for enforcement. In the face of both legal and moral imperatives, immediate action is not an option; it is a necessity. The Pretoria Peace Agreement currently lacks robust legal provisions within the context of the international legal framework to ensure the safety and protection of the Tigray region. Given these circumstances, I believe that amending the agreement to incorporate explicit provisions in this regard would be a commendable course of action.

The Federal Government of Ethiopia’s breach of this landmark accord justifies an immediate amendment and a renegotiation of the terms of the agreement.

The “Transitional Justice” system of the Pretoria Agreement is fraught with deficiencies, most notably lack of impartiality and competence, and absence of political will – three indispensable attributes of any credible judicial mechanism. The overwhelming rejection of the Transitional Justice system by the nearly one hundred global Tigrayan civil societies that was palpably evident during the UN’s ICHREE mandate extension hearing, bears testament to a crisis of confidence in its impartiality. Tigrayans abroad and at home do not trust that justice will be served through the “Transitional Justice” system conceived at Pretoria because this mechanism defeats a basic tenet of natural justice – Nemo judex in causa sua (no one should be judge in their own case). The “Transitional Justice” system was proposed by the Ethiopian government, its proceedings to be overseen by the Ethiopian government within a politically charged judicial framework, yet the subject of the probe is the Ethiopian government and its Eritrean and domestic allies. The litany of failures and legal insufficiencies plaguing the existing accountability framework in Ethiopia render an international mechanism not just desirable, but absolutely necessary. An international mechanism would operate free from domestic political pressures, thereby offering an unbiased platform capable of conducting impartial investigations. Tigrayans and friends of Tigray must make renewed efforts to demand justice in a concerted manner.

Furthermore, the idea of self-determination holds a paramount position, especially in the context of ethnic federalism as is the case in Ethiopia. This principle encompasses the right of ethnic and political groups to decide their political status and actively engage in the advancement of their economic, social, and cultural well-being. An issue of great significance in Tigray revolves around the Tigrayan population’s pursuit of self-determination. Regrettably, the Pretoria political accord, which was signed between the TPLF and the federal government of Ethiopia, fails to acknowledge Tigrayans’ legitimate aspirations for self-governance. Furthermore, it overlooks the diverse voices within Tigray, as the TPLF was the sole signatory of the agreement on the Tigray side.

Grounds for amendment

Often, failure to comply with treaty commitments, changes in circumstances, and unexpected situations may necessitate an amendment to peace accords. The main objective of such an amendment is not to renege on the promises made but to reinforce the original obligations as failure to adapt to the accord could lead to a dissatisfied party abandoning the agreement, risking further atrocities.

In the context of a peace treaty that breaches a peremptory norm of international law, such as a disregard for the principles of international human rights law and humanitarian law, serious concerns arise regarding its legitimacy and compliance with fundamental international legal standards. The Pretoria Agreement is deficient in upholding the aforementioned fundamental tenets, as it lacks the incorporation of a mechanism guaranteeing the independent and impartial investigation of grave breaches of international law and non-repetition of the core crimes. It also neglects to recognise the innate right to self-determination of the Tigray people and fails to provide robust safeguards for the protection of Tigray civilians from existing and potential threats.

The Pretoria Peace Agreement currently lacks robust legal provisions within the context of the international legal framework to ensure the safety and protection of the Tigray region.

Abiy Ahmed has begun his mobilisation to “secure Ethiopia’s access to a sea or port”, but there exists a substantial risk of the Ethio-Eritrean conflict resurfacing. In light of the disarmament of the Tigrayans and the sale or transfer of war equipment, this raises the question of whether the Abiy regime can be relied upon in the event of war in Tigray.

The way forward

In light of the foregoing, it is evident that by invoking Article 15 of the Pretoria Agreement and international legal principles, the TPLF must demand an amendment to Article 10 of the Agreement and the enforcement of the rest of its provisions. This amendment request should comprehensively address the critical deficiencies observed in the agreement, including the establishment of an independent and impartial mechanism for the investigation of core international crimes, such as war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide; reaffirming the inherent right to self-determination for the Tigray people; providing robust and reliable protections for Tigray civilians, both in the present and in anticipation of future threats.

Moreover, the deliberate economic apartheid that has been imposed on Tigrayans throughout the more than two years of war has severed their lifeline. Nearly all of Tigray’s infrastructure has been decimated, unemployment has reached unprecedented levels, there is no conducive environment for investors, and Tigrayans continue to face restrictions on their right to engage in business and employment throughout Ethiopia. Given this deadlock, the agreement should include explicit provisions to address the economic challenges that Tigrayans are enduring.

The Ethiopian government’s glaring non-compliance with the Pretoria Peace Agreement demands immediate action. Armed with the legal and moral mandate provided by Article 15, the TPLF must act decisively to amend Article 10 and other relevant provisions of the Agreement while also demanding its enforcement. The introduction of an independent international investigative mechanism stands as the missing linchpin, capable of rescuing the accord from its current state of impotence and offering a beacon of hope for the realization of true justice for more than one million Tigrayans. Given the federal government’s failure to restore Tigray territories and protect the safety of Tigrayans, a prompt amendment to certain relevant clauses is needed to establish a framework for addressing these issues. TPLF’s request for such an amendment is legally sound and aligned with the core principles of international law, thus fostering a more just and equitable resolution within the confines of the Pretoria Agreement.

Abiy Ahmed has begun his mobilization to “secure Ethiopia’s access to a sea or port”, but there exists a substantial risk of the Ethio-Eritrean conflict resurfacing.

An unenforceable peace treaty such as the Pretoria Peace Agreement that is lacking the political will and legal mechanisms can be challenging. To render it enforceable, both parties may need to renegotiate and clarify the terms, establish mechanisms for compliance, and possibly involve international organizations to oversee and mediate the process. Effective enforcement of the agreement could reinforce consideration of other peace agreements that the Ethiopian government has signed with other groups, including OLF, ONLF, and other political and military groups in the country. It is crucial to ensure that the treaty aligns with international law and is legally binding for all parties. Despite being a legal document, the Pretoria Peace Agreement fundamentally embodies a political accord. The effective execution of political concessions in such agreements is contingent upon the political will of all stakeholders. Should the TPLF or the Transitional Interim Administration (TIRA) choose to implement the flawed “Transitional Justice” initiative while the Pretoria Agreements promises remain unfulfilled, this would constitute a monumental historical misstep.

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Esayas Hailemarim is a seasoned legal professional. He began his legal journey at Haramaya University College of Law in Ethiopia, where he earned his first law degree. Before relocating to the United States, where he obtained a second degree in law from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, Esayas gained invaluable experience serving as a prospective court judge in Ethiopia. He can be reached:


Being Black in Argentina

What does Javier Milei’s presidential victory mean for Argentina’s black and indigenous minorities?



Being Black in Argentina
Photo: Argentinian President Elect Javier Milei. Image credit Mídia NINJA CC BY 4.0 Deed.
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On November 19, Javier Milei secured the presidency of the Republic of Argentina with 56% of the vote. However, his victory is expected to significantly impact a specific segment of the country.

During my six-month exchange in Argentina’s Venado Tuerto (pop. 75,000) in 2016, I encountered someone of shared Black ethnicity on the street only once. A person whom many locals incidentally mistook for me—along with a Cuban Black girl, the only black person like me in the whole high school. As insignificant as a census of this small city’s population may seem, it effectively illustrates a sobering reality: the presence of Black people in Argentina is sparse, and their numbers have dwindled over time.

Hay más por otros lados, acá no llegaron” (There are more of them elsewhere, they have not arrived here) is a rhetoric prevalent among many Argentines, but the reality is quite dissimilar. Contacts between Argentina and Black people, particularly of African descent, date back to the 16th century transatlantic slave trade, when West and Central Africa people were brought by Spanish and Portuguese settlers to the coastal city of Buenos Aires, only to be sold and moved mostly within the Río de la Plata, present-day Argentina and Uruguay. In “Hiding in Plain Sight, Black Women, the Law, and the Making of a White Argentine Republic,” Erika Denise Edwards reports that between 1587 and 1640 approximately 45,000 African slaves disembarked in Buenos Aires. By the end of the 18th century, one-third of Argentina’s population was Black.

What, then, became of the Black African population in Argentina? Some attribute their decline to historical factors such as their active involvement in conflicts including the War of Independence against Spanish colonists (1810-1819) and the war with Paraguay (1865-1870), in which Black men often found themselves on the front lines, enduring the brunt of the attacks, or even choosing to desert and flee the country. These factors intersect with a gradual process of miscegenation and interracial mixing, leading to a progressive whitening of the population—both in terms of physical attributes and ideology.

Adding to this complex mix, political rhetoric comes into play. Influential Argentine leaders, such as Domingo Faustino Sarmiento in the 19th century, idealized white Europe not only as a model for overcoming the country’s socio-economic challenges but also as a narrative that implied the absence of Black people in Argentina, thereby erasing an integral part of the nation’s history.

Doing so has shrewdly allowed a country to avoid reckoning with its past of slavery and navigate the complexities of its presence, using the escamotage that there are no race-related issues in the country because there are no Black people. This assertion is incorrect for several reasons beyond those mentioned above. First, despite being imperceptible to the naked eye, there is a small but existing population of Afro-descendants in Argentina. Nevertheless, in my second stay in Argentina, this time in Buenos Aires, it became more apparent to me how a certain nationalistic current, in the footsteps of Sarmiento, proudly makes itself of this consistent lack of Black heritage. Comparing itself favorably to neighboring countries, this current boasts a notion of white supremacy in Argentina, which celebrates the Italian immigration from the 19th and 20th centuries as the foundation of national identity, while largely overlooking the historical legacy of African bodies that predates it.

As a result, even in a cosmopolitan capital city such as Buenos Aires, a significant portion of the white Argentine population based its identity on my opposite—not knowing that as an Afro-Italian, my Italian citizenship actually made them closer to my blackness and African roots than they wanted. Asserting that there are no racial concerns in Argentina is misleading. It amounts to the invisibilization of racial discrimination in a country where those who deviate from the preferred prototype, including Indigenous communities such as Mapuche, Quechua, Wichi, and Guarani, experience limited access to education and social services, and are disproportionately prone to experience poverty than their white counterparts.

Even within everyday discourse in Argentina, the assertion is refuted: many are labeled Black despite not matching the physical appearance associated with the term. The expression “es un negro” might refer to everyone who has darker skin tones, grouping them into a specific social category. However, beyond a mere description of physical attributes, “es un negro” delineates a person situated at various margins and lower rungs of society, whether for economic or social reasons. The appellation is also ordinarily used in jest as a nickname for a person who, of “black phenotype,” has nothing. The label “morocho” seems to be the most appropriate appellation for dark-skinned people in the country.

Argentine white supremacist identity is often matched by a certain right-wing political ideology that is classist, macho and, to make no bones about it, xenophobic. In the 2023 elections, such a systemic structure takes on the face of Javier Milei. The Argentine’s Donald Trump claimed in 2022 at the presentation of his book that he did not want to apologize for “being a white, blonde [questionable element], blue-eyed man.” With false modesty, the demagogue took on the burden of what it means in the country to have his hallmarks: privilege, status, and power.

Milei’s need for apologies should not revolve around his connotations but rather the proposals presented during his election campaign and outlined in his political program, which include the dollarization of pesos and the removal of government subsidies. Besides assessing if these actions would really benefit the vulnerable economy of the country, it’s worth questioning why it’s the middle-class, often white population that stands to suffer the least from such policies. They can afford to transact in dollars, weather an initial depreciation of their income, and provide for their children’s education without relying on government subsidies. In essence, they can do without the limited benefits offered by the Argentine state, given their already privileged positions.

The election of this politician not only adversely affects Black minorities, but also targets apparent minorities whom this divisive ideology seeks to erase, including Indigenous populations and the poorest segment of society—the current Argentinian “blacks”—who significantly enrich the Argentine populace. In such a scenario, one can only hope that the world will strive for a more consistent record of their existence.

This post is from a partnership between Africa Is a Country and The Elephant. We will be publishing a series of posts from their site every week.

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Risks and Opportunities of Admitting Somalia Into the EAC

The process of integrating Somalia into the EAC should be undertaken with long-term success in mind rather than in the light of the situation currently prevailing in the country.



Risks and Opportunities of Admitting Somalia Into the EAC
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The East African Community (EAC), whose goal is to achieve economic and political federation, brings together three former British colonies – Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania – and newer members Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan, and most recently the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Somalia first applied to join the EAC in 2012 but with fighting still ongoing on the outskirts of Mogadishu, joining the bloc was impossible at the time. Eleven years later, joining the bloc would consolidate the significant progress in governance and security and, therefore, Somalia should be admitted into the EAC without undue delay. This is for several reasons.

First, Somalia’s admission would be built on an existing foundation of goodwill that the current leadership of Somalia and EAC partner states have enjoyed in the recent past. It is on the basis of this friendship that EAC states continue to play host to Somali nationals who have been forced to leave their country due to the insecurity resulting from the prolonged conflict. In addition, not only does Somalia share a border with Kenya, but it also has strong historical, linguistic, economic and socio-cultural links with all the other EAC partner states in one way or another.

Dr Hassan Khannenje of the Horn Institute for Strategic Studies said: ”Somalia is a natural member of the EAC and should have been part of it long ago.”

A scrutiny of all the EAC member states will show that there is a thriving entrepreneurial Somali diaspora population in all their economies.  If indeed the EAC is keen to realise its idea of the bloc being a people-centred community as opposed to being a club of elites, then a look at the spread of Somali diaspora investment in the region would be a start. With an immense entrepreneurial diaspora, Somalia’s admission will increase trading opportunities in the region.

Second, Somalia’s 3,000 km of coastline (the longest in Africa) will give the partner states access to the Indian Ocean corridor to the Gulf of Aden. The governments of the EAC partner states consider the Indian Ocean to be a key strategic and economic theatre for their regional economic interests. Therefore, a secure and stable Somali coastline is central to the region’s maritime trade opportunities.

Despite possessing such a vast maritime resource, the continued insecurity in Somalia has limited the benefits that could accrue from it. The problem of piracy is one example that shows that continued lawlessness along the Somali coast presents a huge risk for all the states that rely on it in the region.

The importance of the maritime domain and the Indian Ocean has seen Kenya and Somalia square it out at the International Court of Justice over a maritime border dispute.

Omar Mahmood of the International Crisis Group said that ”Somalia joining the EAC then might present an opportunity to discuss deeper cooperation frameworks within the bloc, including around the Kenya-Somalia maritime dispute. The environment was not as conducive to collaboration before, and perhaps it explains why the ICJ came in. Integrating into the EAC potentially offers an opportunity to de-escalate any remaining tensions and in turn, focus on developing mechanisms that can be beneficial for the region.”

Nasong’o Muliro, a foreign policy and security specialist in the region, said: “The East African states along the East African coast are looking for opportunities to play a greater role in the maritime security to the Gulf of Aden. Therefore, Somalia joining the EAC bloc will allow them to have a greater say.”

Third, Somalia’s membership of the Arab League means that there is a strong geopolitical interest from Gulf states like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. However, Somalia stands to gain more in the long-term by joining the EAC rather than being under the control of the Gulf states and, to a large extent, Turkey. This is because, historically, competing interests among the Gulf states have contributed to the further balkanisation of Somalia by some members supporting breakaway regions.

On the other hand, the EAC offers a safer option that will respect Somalia’s territorial integrity. Furthermore, EAC partner states have stood in solidarity with Somalia during the difficult times of the civil conflict, unlike the Gulf states. The majority of the troop-contributing countries for the African Union Mission to Somalia came from the EAC partner states of Uganda, Kenya and Burundi. Despite having a strategic interest in Somalia, none of the Gulf states contributed troops to the mission. Therefore, with the expected drawdown of the ATMIS force in Somalia, the burden could fall on the EAC to fill in the vacuum. Building on the experience of deploying in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, it is highly likely that it could be called upon to do the same in Somalia when ATMIS exits by 2024.

The presence of the Al Shabaab group in Somalia is an albatross around its neck such that the country cannot be admitted into the EAC without factoring in the risks posed by the group.

According to a report by the International Crisis Group, the government of Somalia must move to consolidate these gains – especially in central Somalia – as it continues with its offensive in other regions. However, Somalia may not prevail over the Al Shabaab on its own; it may require a regional effort and perhaps this is the rationale some policymakers within the EAC have envisioned. If the EAC can offer assurances to Somalia’s fledgling security situation, then a collective security strategy from the bloc might be of significance.

Somalia’s admission comes with risks too. Kenya and Uganda have in the past experienced attacks perpetrated by Al Shabaab and, therefore, opening up their borders to Somalia is seen as a huge risk for these countries. The spillover effect of the group’s activities creates a lot of discomfort among EAC citizens, in particular those who believe that the region remains vulnerable to Al Shabaab attacks.

If the EAC can offer assurances to Somalia’s fledgling security situation, then a collective security strategy from the bloc might be of significance.

The EAC Treaty criteria under which a new member state may be admitted into the community include – but are not limited to – observance and practice of the principles of good governance, democracy and the rule of law. Critics believe that Somalia fulfils only one key requirement to be admitted to the bloc – sharing a border with an EAC partner state, namely, Kenya. On paper, it seems to be the least prepared when it comes to fulfilling the other requirements. The security situation remains fragile and the economy cannot support the annual payment obligations to the community.

According to the Fragility State Index, Somalia is ranked as one of the poorest among the 179 countries assessed. Among the key pending issues is the continued insecurity situation caused by decades of civil war and violent extremism. Furthermore, Human Rights Watch ranks Somalia low on human rights and justice – a breakdown of government institutions has rendered them ineffective in upholding the human rights of its citizens.

Somalia’s citizens have faced various forms of discrimination due to activities beyond their control back in their country. This has led to increasingly negative and suspicious attitudes towards Somalis and social media reactions to the possibility of Somalia joining the EAC have seen a spike in hostility towards citizens of Somalia. The country’s admission into the bloc could be met with hostility from the citizens of other partner states.

Dr Nicodemus Minde, an academic on peace and security, agrees that indeed citizens’ perceptions and attitudes will shape their behaviour towards Somalia’s integration. He argues that ”the admission of Somalia is a rushed process because it does not address the continued suspicion and negative perception among the EAC citizens towards the Somali people. Many citizens cite the admission of fragile states like South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo as a gateway of instability to an already unstable region”.

Indeed, the biggest challenge facing the EAC has been how to involve the citizens in their activities and agenda. To address this challenge, Dr Minde says that ’’the EAC needs to conduct a lot of sensitisation around the importance of integration because to a large extent many EAC citizens have no clue on what regional integration is all about”. The idea of the EAC being a people-centred organisation as envisioned in the Treaty has not been actualised. The integration process remains very elitist as it is the heads of state that determine and set the agenda.

The country’s admission into the bloc could be met with hostility from the citizens of other partner states.

Dr Khannenje offers a counter-narrative, arguing that public perception is not a major point of divergence since “as the economies integrate deeper, some of these issues will become easy to solve”. There are also those who believe that the reality within the EAC is that every member state has issues with one or the other partner state and, therefore, Somalia will be in perfect company.

A report by the Economic Policy Research Centre outlines the various avenues through which both the EAC and Somalia can benefit from the integration process and observes that there is therefore a need to fast-track the process because the benefits far outweigh the risks.

EAC integration is built around the spirit of good neighbourliness. It is against this backdrop that President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has extended the goodwill to join the EAC and therefore, it should not be vilified and condemned, but rather embraced.  As Onyango Obbo has observed, Somalia is not joining the EAC – Somalia is already part of the EAC and does not need any formal welcoming.

Many critics have argued that the EAC has not learnt from the previous rush to admit conflict-plagued South Sudan and the DRC. However, the reality is that Somalia will not be in conflict forever; at some point, there will be tranquillity and peace. Furthermore, a keen look at the history of the EAC member states shows that a number of them have experienced cycles of conflict in the past.

Somalia is, therefore, not unique. Internal contradictions and conflict are some of the key features that Somalia shares with most of the EAC member states. The process of integrating Somalia into the EAC should, therefore, be undertaken with long-term success in mind rather than in the light of the situation currently prevailing in the country.

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The Repression of Palestine Solidarity in Kenya

Kenya is one of Israel’s closest allies in Africa. But the Ruto-led government isn’t alone in silencing pro-Palestinian speech.



The Repression of Palestine Solidarity in Kenya
Photo: Image courtesy of Kenyans4Palestine © 2023.
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Israel has been committing genocide against the people of Occupied Palestine for 75 years and this has intensified over the last 30 days with the merciless carpet bombing of Gaza, along with raids and state-sanctioned settler violence in the West Bank. In the last month of this intensified genocide, the Kenyan government has pledged its solidarity to Israel, even as the African Union released a statement in support of Palestinian liberation. While peaceful marches have been successfully held in Kisumu and Mombasa, in Nairobi, Palestine solidarity organizers were forced to cancel a peaceful march that was to be held at the US Embassy on October 22. Police threatened that if they saw groups of more than two people outside the Embassy, they would arrest them. The march was moved to a private compound, Cheche Bookshop, where police still illegally arrested three people, one for draping the Palestinian flag around his shoulders. Signs held by children were snatched by these same officers.

When Boniface Mwangi took to Twitter denouncing the arrest, the response by Kenyans spoke of the success of years of propaganda by Israel through Kenyan churches. To the Kenyan populous, Palestine and Palestinians are synonymous with terrorism and Israel’s occupation of Palestine is its right. However, this Islamophobia and xenophobia from Kenyans did not spring from the eternal waters of nowhere. They are part of the larger US/Israel sponsored and greedy politician-backed campaign to ensure Kenyans do not start connecting the dots on Israel’s occupation of Palestine with the extra-judicial killings by Kenyan police, the current occupation of indigenous people’s land by the British, the cost-of-living crisis and the IMF debts citizens are paying to fund politician’s lavish lifestyles.

Kenya’s repression of Palestine organizing reflects Kenya’s long-standing allyship with Israel. The Kenyan Government has been one of Israel’s A-star pupils of repression and is considered to be Israel’s “gateway” to Africa. Kenya has received military funding and training from Israel since the 60s, and our illegal military occupation of Somalia has been funded and fueled by Israel along with Britain and the US. Repression, like violence, is not one dimensional; repression does not just destabilize and scatter organizers, it aims to break the spirit and replace it instead with apathy, or worse, a deep-seated belief in the rightness of oppression. In Israel’s architecture of oppression through repression, the Apartheid state has created agents of repression across many facets of Kenyan life, enacting propaganda, violence, race, and religion as tools of repression of Palestine solidarity organizing.

When I meet with Naomi Barasa, the Chair of the Kenya Palestine Solidarity Movement, she begins by placing Kenya’s repression of Palestine solidarity organizing in the context of Kenya as a capitalist state. “Imperialism is surrounded and buffered by capitalistic interest,” she states, then lists on her fingers the economic connections Israel has created with Kenya in the name of “technical cooperation.” These are in agriculture, security, business, and health; the list is alarming. It reminds me of my first memory of Israel (after the nonsense of the promised land that is)—about how Israel was a leader in agricultural and irrigation technologies. A dessert that flowed with milk and honey.

Here we see how propaganda represses, even before the idea of descent is born: Kenyans born in the 1990s grew up with an image of a benign, prosperous, and generous Christian Israel that just so happened to be unfortunate enough to be surrounded by Muslim states. Israel’s PR machine has spent 60 years convincing Kenyan Christians of the legitimacy of the nation-state of Israel, drawing false equivalences between Christianity and Zionism. This Janus-faced ideology was expounded upon by Israel’s ambassador to Kenya, Michel Lotem, when he said “Religiously, Kenyans are attached to Israel … Israel is the holy land and they feel close to Israel.” The cog dizzy of it all is that Kenyan Christians, fresh from colonialism, are now Africa’s foremost supporters of colonialism and Apartheid in Israel. Never mind the irony that in 1902, Kenya was the first territory the British floated as a potential site for the resettlement of Jewish people fleeing the pogroms in Europe. This fact has retreated from public memory and public knowledge. Today, churches in Kenya facilitate pilgrimages to the holy land and wield Islamophobia as a weapon against any Christian who questions the inhumanity of Israel’s 75-year Occupation and ongoing genocide.

Another instrument of repression of pro-Palestine organizing in Kenya is the pressure put on Western government-funded event spaces to decline hosting pro-Palestine events. Zahid Rajan, a cultural practitioner and organizer, tells me of his experiences trying to find spaces to host events dedicated to educating Kenyans on the Palestinian liberation struggle. He recalls the first event he organized at Alliance Français, Nairobi in 2011. Alliance Français is one of Nairobi’s cultural hubs and regularly hosts art and cultural events at the space. When Zahid first approached Alliance to host a film festival for Palestinian films, they told him that they could not host this event as they already had (to this day) an Israeli film week. Eventually, they agreed to host the event with many restrictions on what could be discussed and showcased. Unsurprisingly they refused to host the event again. The Goethe Institute, another cultural hub in Kenya that offers its large hall for free for cultural events, has refused to host the Palestinian film festival or any other pro-Palestine event. Both Alliance and Goethe are funded by their parent countries, France and Germany respectively (which both have pro-Israel governments). There are other spaces and businesses that Zahid has reached out to host pro-Palestine education events that have, in the end, backtracked on their agreement to do so. Here, we see the evolution of state-sponsored repression to the private sphere—a public-private partnership on repression, if you will.

Kenya’s members of parliament took to heckling and mocking as a tool of repression when MP Farah Maalim wore an “Arafat” to Parliament on October 25. The Speaker asked him to take it off stating that it depicted “the colors of a particular country.” When Maalim stood to speak he asked: “Tell me which republic,” and an MP in the background could be heard shouting “Hamas” and heckling Maalim, such that he was unable to speak on the current genocide in Gaza. This event, seen in the context of Ambassador Michael Lotem’s charm offensive at the county and constituency level, is chilling. His most recent documented visit was to the MP of Kiharu, Ndindi Nyoro, on November 2. The Israeli propaganda machine has understood the importance of County Governors and MPs in consolidating power in Kenya.

Yet, in the face of this repression, we have seen what Naomi Barasa describes as “many pockets of ad hoc solidarity,” as well as organized solidarity with the Palestinian cause. We have seen Muslim communities gather for many years to march for Palestine, we have seen student movements such as the Nairobi University Student Caucus release statements for Palestine, and we have seen social justice centers such as Mathare Social Justice Centre host education and screening events on Palestinian liberation. Even as state repression of Palestine solidarity organizing has intensified in line with the deepening of state relations with Apartheid Israel, more Kenyans are beginning to connect the dots and see the reality that, as Mandela told us all those years ago, “our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of Palestinians.

This post is from a partnership between Africa Is a Country and The Elephant. We will be publishing a series of posts from their site every week.

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