28 August 2012

Ethiopia: No Change in Foreign Policy - the Sour Truth Against Devious Schemes


One of the common mistakes frequently made these days is the expectation that, now that H.E. Ato Meles Zenawi has died, Ethiopian foreign policy is about to change. This serious error must be an outcome of the fact that the people who expect this change have no idea of the nature and foundation of the Ethiopian foreign policy and of the way the government pursues this policy.

It is clearly indicated in the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia Foreign Affairs and National Security Policy and Strategy document that the country's policy stems out of the most blatant and rudimentary problems that have combatted the nation's very existence for many generations. The first few sentences of the document provide the entire picture thus: "There can be no doubt that the attainment of speedy economic development, democratization and peace is fundamental to the survival of our country which finds itself in a state of abject poverty and backwardness. That is why the Government gives priority to matters that are key to our survival and well-being. Unless the overall policy direction pursued by the Government takes this basic reality into account, our national existence and security will face grave danger."

The overall policy direction has it in its focus, among many other things, how best we can address our relation with the outside world. A policy that is based on one nation's very survival must in essence respect the survival of other nations. Ethiopians have historically learnt an unforgettable lesson from previous policies which, on the one hand, founded on the 'siege mentality' and, on the other hand, '[disregarded] internal problems that were fundamental to our national condition'. In the former case, our policies sweepingly condemned every neighbour as a potential enemy and prepared citizens for possible violence at any time anywhere. In so doing, they had, in fact, made even a potential friend to be suspicious, and always on its guard against attack. In the latter case, the policies simply neglected, or even trampled upon, internal issues that needed better and more urgent attention or resolution. In both cases, Ethiopia simply reached the point of floundering under the excruciating burden of poverty, famine, war and stagnation.

The only thing that can be done, therefore, with regard to our foreign policy--and the national security policy, as it is inseparable--after our great leader's untimely death is nothing but a strengthening of this policy. There are two reasons for this determination, and this is so if we choose not to include a third: the popular desire to leave intact every monument of greatness left behind a greater leader such as Meles Zenawi has always been. First, the foreign affairs policy is intrinsically good and all-accommodating. Thus, who, with the healthiest of minds, can really give up something that is evidently good not just for oneself but also for others? One can simply look at the evidence that is plenty not just in number but in diversity, as well. Ethiopia and Egypt are now good neighbours, working together toward a common goal of making the Nile a source of peace and economic abundance rather than, as many predicted, a cause for war, an instrument of national and regional instability. Those of us who have read and studied the policy and strategy document in its every detail--and contributed to its implementation--know that the seed for this fruit was sown several years ago by none other than the current Ethiopian government. This is in addition to what Ethiopia has done to its relationship with its other neighbours. What more can one expect from a policy than its strengthening, a policy that has given Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, Djibouti and so on all the benefits of friendship and peaceful cooperation, and the sharing of resources?

Secondly, Prime Minsiter Meles Zenawi has always been the leader of people who have chosen peace over war, prosperity over poverty, equality over oppression in all its forms, and democracy over authoritarianism. He has also served as the loyal son Ethiopia, as a nation, has longed for, a son-leader who would reach out for the many others who would work toward their country's renaissance. All these facts give meaning to the kind of government that has existed in Ethiopia during the past two decades. Our leader's death does not, in any way, profess the death of his ideals, as these ideals have always been shared and maintained with similar perseverance.

Therefore, expectations have to be reasonable. Those kinds of wishful thinking like that of Al Shabab, for instance, are a result of unkempt foolishness, at best, and the usual ploy meant to confuse others. Ethiopia has never been against anyone, as an individual or as a group, just because who they are or what they think. Instead, it has reacted against them only when their actions violated or threatened to violate the foundations of its existence. And these are in the policy document. They had better read it, and modify theirs accordingly.

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