The lovey-dovey relationship between Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and ...

Mar 16 , 2019

The lovey-dovey relationship between Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) and Eritrea’s President Issayas Afeworqi appears to have come down to its realistic state, gossip observed. Understandably, Abiy had wanted the support of Issayas a couple of weeks ago in his effort to mediate a truce between Kenya's Uhuru Kenyatta and Somalia’s Mohammed A. Mohammed, aka Farmaajo.

Gossip has it that this was done at the request of Kenyatta who thinks that Ethiopia has become a bystander, despite its forces being present in Somalia under the UN banner. In the face of Farmaajo’s restiveness in his country’s claim of territory along its southern border with Kenya, where the potential for oil is believed to exist, Kenyatta worries that indifference by Ethiopia’s current leadership will do little to help while resolving a dispute that has a potential to escalate, gossip says.

No less are the misgivings by political forces in South Sudan concerning the leadership in Ethiopia being increasingly disengaged from helping their country to get back on its feet, gossip observed. A country that hosts close to half a million refugees from South Sudan, and with a historically vested interest in its affairs, leaving the matter to its President, Salva Kiir, and meddling by his regional buddies such as Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Hassan Al Bashir of Sudan, if not Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt, dissident groups find it perplexing, claims gossip.

Abiy had tried to broker a deal between Kiir and his arch rival, Riek Machar (PhD), in June 2018, with a picturesque hug of the two where Abiy was seen between them. It was not to endure, for Kiir is blamed for welshing. Thus, the effort to mediate fell to Khartoum.

Abiy, having his plate full in domestic crises, was shuttling in the region with Issayas alongside him. In his bilateral relationship, Issayas has been to a couple of places in Ethiopia including Addis Abeba, Bahr Dar, Hawassa and Gonder. He has yet to visit Meqelle, the seat of the Tigray Regional State, where Eritrea borders Ethiopia for its longest stretch. Neither was Debretsion Gebremichael (PhD), regional vice president, seen visiting Asmara, while chiefs of other regional states such as Oromia, Somali and Amhara were honored by Issayas as guests at various times.

There was a plan a couple of months back for Debretsion to visit Asmara, but it failed to materialise, gossip claims. Yet a visit by Issayas to Meqelle may not be a far fetched possibility, claims gossip. However, he needs to be accompanied by a Prime Minister whose popular rating in the region has dipped from his last visit a week after his ascension to power almost a year ago, claims gossip.

It is beyond telling that agitated youth in the city will confront Abiy whether he travels there on his own or along with a foreign dignitary, gossip foresees. But avoiding an encounter with a population from a region with a historically important place in the republic simply because of his issues with the governing party in charge of the regional state cannot be a viable strategy, says gossip.

Before the visits are made though, Abiy needs to cool things off with the TPLFites, a move he had already taken, gossip disclosed. He has had a series of meetings in his office last week with the TPLF political bureau members, including its Chairman, Debretsion, as well as Alem Gebrewahid, Addisalem Balema (PhD), Abraham Tekeste (PhD) and Getachew Reda, gossip revealed.

The discussions could be of the need to normalise relations with the newly elected leadership in the Amhara Regional State, where there could be photo ops of hugs and handshakes by leaders from both sides for symbolic value, gossip claims. Nonetheless, what political trade-off Abiy is prepared to make in order to come to terms with an aggrieved population in Tigray is an interesting development to watch, gossip claims.

PUBLISHED ON Mar 16,2019 [ VOL 19 , NO 985]

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