Jurisdictional matters may have survived successive administrations...

Jun 1 , 2019

They say old habits die hard. The interagency turf war in the government over jurisdictional matters may have survived successive administrations. It appears that it has continued in the reign of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed too, judging by the grumbling among some of the administration’s senior officials in the foreign office, gossip observed. Agreements get signed, visits made and reports filed to Lorenzo Te`azaz Road on matters of international relations, but they bypass Menelik II Avenue, gossip disclosed.

For observers in the gossip corridors, this brings back a memory of the later years of Meles Zenawi, who was involved in the ambassadorial appointment of Samuel Assefa (PhD) as his envoy to the United States.

Moved from his role as Vice President of Addis Abeba University, Samuel was dispatched to Washington, DC without the prior consent of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Seyoum Mesfin, gossip recalled. For three years, the Ambassador’s reports were dispatched directly to the Prime Minister’s Office, causing frustration by the longest-serving Foreign Minister at the time, claims gossip.

History appears bound to repeat itself. The appointment of Fitsum Arega as Ethiopia’s Ambassador to the United States was the personal choice of Prime Minister Abiy, according to gossip. For a man who was in his service as chief of staff during the most critical months of his ascendancy to power, Abiy might have felt that he needed someone he trusts to serve as his emissary in a capital where his powerful allies and greatest admirers are concentrated, claims gossip.

Ambassador Fitsum now reports directly to the Prime Minister’s Office to the disgruntlement of the senior diplomats at the home office who are in charge of the Americas, gossip disclosed. Only a few weeks ago, the United States Department of State had hosted a two-day forum in Washington DC dubbed the Ethiopia Partnerships Forum. The participants invited revealed in more ways than one the stature people on Menelik II Avenue have in the nation’s foreign affairs business, claims gossip.

No one from the home office was in attendance at this forum organised for the first time in many years, with a declared faith of raising awareness of Ethiopia’s “bold new efforts to transform its economy and create attractive business opportunities”. Indeed, there was Arkebe Oqubay (PhD), senior industrial advisor to the Prime Minister under the rank of a minister; Ambassador Fitsum; and a team of three led by Mamo Mihretu, policy reform advisor to the Prime Minister and Ethiopia’s chief trade negotiator. He took along with him Yared Sied (PhD) and Nemera Mamo (PhD), both Londoners who recently joined the Prime Minister’s Office as advisors.

Ironically, those at the foreign office were left in the dark while such an important event was taking place, gossip claims. Neither the Ambassador’s address to the forum nor the attendance of the team from Addis Abeba was a matter communicated in advance to the senior diplomat in charge of the Americas, reveals gossip. Indeed, the foreign office was in transition between ministers following the departure of Worqneh Gebeyehu (PhD) and the arrival of Gedu Andargachew; there were a couple of months in between when the Ministry was left without a shepherd for the first time in its history of over a century.

Nonetheless, twisting the foreign office in the wind is not something new, claims gossip. In March this year, Ethiopia joined many countries in Kigali, Rwanda, in signing an agreement to establish the African Continental Free Trade Area. Again, the Ministrys officials were ditched, for the agreement was signed by Mamo, causing alarm that the institutional relationship between the offices of the Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs continue to suffer from the absence of engagement, if not relevance, gossip claims.

PUBLISHED ON Jun 01,2019 [ VOL 20 , NO 996]

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