Fortune News | Mar 13,2020
Jul 24 , 2021
By SAMUEL BOGALE ( FORTUNE STAFF WRITER )
All Ethiopian diplomats, barring ambassadors and heads of finance, have been instructed to report back to Addis Abeba by mid-August 2021.
They are called back to attend a reorientation, which is set to take place at the end of next month. Though it is not unusual to have this meeting, this time around it coincides with the growing backlash against the ongoing situation in Tigray, where there is a developing humanitarian crisis and active conflict continues even following the unilateral ceasefire declared by the federal government.
The meeting next month will focus on the redeployment of diplomats and missions, hoping to save foreign currency spent in running embassies. Last year, the annual meeting of ambassadors and officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) was held at Kuriftu Resort in Bishoftu Town, Oromia Regional State.
The meeting ran for two weeks under the theme ”Our Diplomacy for Sustainable Peace, National Prosperity and Common Interest.”
"This year's meeting is expected to be different as there is a plan to make huge reforms," said a source working at the Foreign Ministry.
The Ministry is undergoing structural reforms that will involve reducing the number of diplomats and officials representing the country abroad as part of a bid to save foreign currency, according to sources.
"Senior officials at the Ministry and the Office of the Prime Minister are very disappointed with some diplomats, who were turning a deaf ear while the government was in hot water because of a social media campaign over the situation in Tigray," said the source.
Ethiopia has over 60 missions with hundreds of diplomats across six continents, with 18 missions being in Africa. There are eight missions each in the US and China alone while India, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the UAE all host two Ethiopian missions.
“Even though the specific date is not confirmed, the diplomats, with the exception of ambassadors and finance heads, have been recalled for an assembly and redeployment,” a source close to the matter confirmed. The reasons, according to the source, are to implement a new structure that would assign diplomats based on their proficiency and significance to the missions, and resource-saving.
The development is in line with comments made by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) earlier this month.
“Instead of spending all the forex here and there on the embassies, at least 30 of them should be closed and the ambassadors can work from here,” said the PM during a question and answer session with members of parliament on July 5, 2021.
The federal government has allocated a 3.7 billion Br budget to the Ministry for this fiscal year, up from 2.8 billion Br. A large chunk of the Ministry's budget goes to diplomatic missions.
Out of the total budget this year, 325 million Br has been allotted for economic and business diplomacy, 815 million Br for international relations and diplomacy, while 172.9 million Br has been tagged for image building.
The forex shortage has been a burning issue in business and the economy for years now. At the end of the second quarter of last year, the country's forex reserves were enough to cover just 2.4 months of imports. The federal government is on cost saving mode and appears to believe that closing some embassies might help alleviate the situation.
According to Asnake Kefale (PhD), professor of political science and international relations at Addis Abeba University, it is sometimes customary for countries to reduce the number of their embassies and this does not necessarily mean that it would weaken the country’s position in the international arena.
After thoroughly studying the relevance of the embassy’s existence in a given country and the diplomats’ value to the mission and the country in general, reducing the physical presence can be a good way out as well, according to Asnake.
“It's always the trend that when a new government takes charge, diplomats report back for their next assignment,” said Asnake. “The most important aspect on this matter is the reassignment of the diplomats. It should be based on their proficiency and knowledge about the country they get assigned to.”
Every year, at least 150 diplomats graduate from the Ethiopian Foreign Relations Strategic Studies Institute (EFRSSI).
"As the leadership at the MoFA wants to give a chance to the new graduates as part of the structural reform, many of them will be deployed this year," said a source working at the Ministry.
Repeated attempts from Fortuneto get an official response from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs bore no fruit.
PUBLISHED ON Jul 24,2021 [ VOL 22 , NO 1108]
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