18 November 2012

Ethiopia: Rebellion Brewing in Foreign Services Department


There is a rebellion of sorts among the rank and file of EPRDFites deployed at the foreign services, gossip disclosed. If it was in the military, such were things described as mutiny, claims gossip.

Brehane G. Kirstos, acting minister of Foreign Affairs, and his second, Nega Tsegaye, state minister, have chaired a meeting with staff members last week, which went way different from what it was originally aimed for, claims gossip. Indeed, many of the diplomats (almost all members of the ruling party) showed an open defiance to the authority of the Acting Minister, who was not even allowed to close a meeting he opened in the first place, gossip disclosed.

It all started following a controversy in relation to Konjit Sinegiorgis, a veteran diplomat of over 50 years, and a permanent representative ofEthiopiato the UNECA and the African Union (AU), gossip claims. The latter is a continental organization whose leaders are busy designing events to mark the 50th anniversary of the founding of the OAU next year.

Ethiopia has already secured its place as the next chair of the Union; thus more burden on senior officials of the Ministry to prepare the new Prime Minister to live up to expectations. Konjit aims to form a strong team of diplomats, and understandably proposed few weeks ago the names of two or three diplomats she had selected for her team, claims gossip.

The selection was not viewed positively by a large number of young diplomats who are known to awash the foreign office on Menelik II Avenue in the aftermath of the 2005 electoral debacle, according to gossip. Several career diplomats have left the Ministry since then, after over 200 members of the ruling party from almost all regional states brought onboard the diplomatic ship, in a bid to counter balance what was seen an army of diplomats who had inclined in favour of the opposition during the 2005 national elections, claims gossip.

Konjit is one of the survivors. But she had threatened to resign (she has been retained after her retirement during the time of Seyoum Mesfin) when confronted by the party's rank and file in the Ministry over her selection, gossip says. So did the diplomats she had picked want to follow suit, claims gossip.

Indeed, ability and capacity have become causalities in the oldest ministry with new ministers in two decades who wanted to rather build an institution. They are deemed cautious in protecting the veterans left behind, viewed as distinct species there, gossip observed.

This was perhaps a kind of message Brehane wanted to pass on when he had called the meeting in the Ministry last week. He explained to his staff during the meeting (where no party members were excluded) Konjit is an able, experienced, and indispensable diplomat needed to helpEthiopiaaccomplish its role as the next AU chair, gossip disclosed.

Such portrayal of Konjit was not only against the rank and file's view of her as authoritarian and conservative with feudalistic character, gossip disclosed. They seem to be less keen about proficiency of the English language (one of the reasons she argued she had picked the three non-party members), for, they have argued citingChina, who has diplomats across the world, claims gossip.

They went further to challenge the Minister's intent in protecting her and questioned his ability to run the ministry in a revolutionary democratic way, claims gossip. Ironically, a man who joined the rebellion up in the north as a young student back in the mid 1970s had his record as a "fighter" questioned by rather young cadres whose relationship with the party hardly exceeds a decade, according to gossip.

Observing how things got off track, Brehane had wanted to cut the meeting short, but could not have, owing it to the protest of the rank and file who used the party's culture of discipline, gossip disclosed. They rather demanded to discuss with the ministers the virtues of revolutionary democracy and how it is being followed inside the ministry, claims gossip.

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