11 March 2017

Ethiopia: Djibouti's President, Ismail Omar Guelleh, Known Among Close Circles As Iog, Is Due to Arrive Here in Addis...

opinion

Djibouti's President, Ismail Omar Guelleh, known among close circles as IOG, is due to arrive here in Addis this week, for a three-day state visit. Born and raised in Dire Dawa, he is no stranger to Ethiopia. Among couple of other languages, the 70-year old Guelleh's fluency in Amharic is simply impressive.

But, his visit to Ethiopia is more than just a neighborly gesture, claims gossip. It follows a visit by his mega minister, Elias Moussa Daweleh, who delivered his personal message few weeks ago to Lorenzo Te'azaz Road.

Djibouti may have concerns with the servicing of its 3.4 billion dollars loan from the Chinese government, spent to pay for the construction of railway from Ethiopia's border to its port in Doraleh, gossip disclosed. Its economy has expanded continuously since 2000; to his credit a year after Guelleh was elected as the second president of Djibouti since independence, in 1977. However, this particular loan represents three times larger than its real GDP, causing alarm among Djibouti watchers that default is on the horizon, claims gossip.

Guelleh is expected to raise this issue with Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, hoping the latter would persuade the Chinese government to be not only patient, but also quite from making noises, gossip claims.

Yet, on a more vital political front, both leaders have deep concerns with the erratic and often unpredictable behavior of a leader on their northern border, according to gossip. President Issayas Afeworqi of Eritrea is lately seen proactive, breaking the shell of isolation his neighbors have successfully imposed on him for over a decade, gossip observed.

For someone like Issayas who is known to have the cunningness in bidding his time before overwhelming his adversaries, the crises in Yemen has put an opportunity on a silver plate of which he appears to be using well, claims gossip. Revisiting Ethiopia's policy of détente espoused by the five-point "Meles-doctrine" is in order, thus the two leaders may spend considerable time in Addis Abeba to come up with a durable policy, gossip foresees.

The stumbling block here could be the relations with the United Arab Emirates (UAI), one of the parties in an alliance fighting the Houthi forces in Yemen, launching its fighter jets from a leased base in Assab, gossip says. Guelleh's relation with the Emirs in Emirates, once the biggest investors in Djibouti, has never recovered after his refusal to let them use Djibouti as a launching pad.

Restoring this relation between Djibouti and UAE is crucial for Hailemariam and his diplomats, as part of a larger strategy to keep Issayas contained, gossip says.

Gossip sees another issue of regional interest to both leaders could be the development in Somalia, where a new president was inaugurated into office last month. Both Ethiopia and Djibouti had tried in the past hosting mega peace conferences in their respective capitals from which transitional presidents were elected to Somalia.

Interestingly, the recent presidential election was held inside the country, although the result was far from seeing the coming to the office of neither Ethiopia's choice nor the candidate Kenya was desperately pushing for, gossip recalled. To the surprise of many, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, a.k.a Farmajo, was elected as a president. Known to grew up inside Siad Barre's inner circle among people who used to be referred as "palace boys" and from the Marehan sub-clan, President Mohamed's nationalist and populist bent is a cause for concern for many; but, his visit to Addis Abeba is expected soon after forming his cabinet in couple of weeks, gossip disclosed. Hailemariam and Guelleh, whose countries have deployed troops inside Somalia, may take some time to form a consensus on how to mentor the new guy around the block, gossip disclosed.

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