Ethiopia’s envoy to Kenya...

Jun 22 , 2019

Ethiopia’s envoy to Kenya, Meles Alem, was on the defensive last week, denying earlier reports by Kenyan media that the relationship between the two neighbourly countries has strained. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s (PhD) relationship with Somalia’s President, Mohamed A. Mohamed, aka Farmaajo, which has reached a cozy level, may have prompted the story, claims gossip.

The Kenyans have issues with their Somali neighbours over disputed maritime territory between their borders on the Indian Ocean. Known to have massive potential for offshore oil exploration, the triangular area is estimated to cover 100,000 square kilometres. The dispute was ignited after Somalia was stopped from selling prospects for potential developers, and its leaders subsequently took the case to the International Court of Justice five years ago.

To Kenyans’ utter disbelief, the Cairo-based Arab League issued a statement a couple of weeks ago denouncing Kenya. It also affirmed the disputed territory belongs to Somalia, and by extension, the area referred to as “Arab Waters.” Considering the growing influence by Abu Dhabi’s Emir and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince in the affairs of the Arab League - and how much the two are supportive of Ethiopia’s Prime Minister and his hyper activities in the greater East African region - it is difficult to say Kenyans’ anxiety is misplaced, gossip claims.

This was despite Abiy’s unsuccessful attempt in March of this year to broker a deal between Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyata and President Mohamed, when the three met in Nairobi.

Alongside Djibouti, Kenya is a neighbour with a leadership carefully watching the behaviour of Ethiopia’s leadership in regional geopolitical development, according to gossip. The two countries have passed the past 55 years of their diplomatic relations in a relatively cordial manner without a diplomatic row or military standoff, gossip recalls. Nonetheless, the cold shoulder Nairobi and Addis Abeba are giving each other has become apparent, and it will be a hard call for Ambassador Meles to dismiss it merely as media hype, claims gossip.

With an impressive background in journalism, Meles may be well-placed in spinning a narrative to his country’s advantage. After all, he is a career diplomat whose debut in diplomacy began as head of diaspora affairs at Ethiopia’s embassy in Kenya for four years starting in 2011. He was elevated to the position of spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, under the reign of Worqneh Gebeyehu (PhD), an old friend who was supposed to have joined him in Nairobi, but under a different role, gossip says.

One of the three ardent challengers from the defunct OPDO of the status quo under Hailemariam Desalegn, Worqneh saw through the ascendance of Abiy to political power. While in office, he was a glue between Abiy and Lemma Megersa, now defence minister, gossip claims. He had hoped to move on to roles in multinational organisations once the new administration took hold to pursue political transition, says gossip.

Move on he did with a placement in March 2019 to serve as director general of the United Nation’s Office in Nairobi. First opened in 1996, the Office has been run by several individuals, including Sahle-worq Zewdie, Ethiopia’s incumbent president.

Nonetheless, four months after his appointment, Worqneh is yet to arrive in Nairobi to assume his new role, gossip claims. The Office remains run by Maimunah Mohd Sharif, a Malaysian who has been acting since January this year, gossip disclosed.

It appears that Worqneh’s appointment has met resistance from a couple of fronts, claims gossip. The Kenyans could be putting pressure on UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, to reconsider his appointment as a show of their displeasure with Ethiopia, while the Europeans are unhappy, blaming him for his role as federal police commissioner during the 2005 national elections where government forces killed many civilians.

Worqneh seems to be spending much of his time in Dubai in the meantime, at least until the dust clears, claims gossip.

PUBLISHED ON Jun 22,2019 [ VOL 20 , NO 999]

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