9 September 2017

Ethiopia: Of Late, There Are a Few Places Where Public Perception of Professionalism Is Under Erosion...

editorial

Of late, there are a few places where public perception of professionalism is under erosion as in the nation's diplomatic front, claims gossip. Such misgivings on ambassadorial appointments do not necessarily come from lack of understanding that there are both the career diplomats as in political appointments serving the nation. It rather comes mostly from a growing concern that Ethiopia's missions abroad have become places of retirements for senior political figures, whether they are sent to have a soft-landing or made to banish in political exile, claims gossip.

Gossip sees nothing new in overseas missions used as instruments of banishment to distance political figures who were once powerful allies or useful aides to those at the helm of power. In a way, it is a polite way of sidelining them; but, in recognition of their past services and ironically also as an acknowledgement of their use in the capital no more, claims gossip. Successive regimes since the Emperor's era were known to be practising this, although not in a consistent, wider and frequent manner as is seen during the reign of the Revolutionary Democrats, says gossip. Unlike the appointments of ministers or top brass of the judiciary, sending ambassadors out to foreign missions does not require the Prime Minister to have Parliamentary confirmations.

Thus, the recent mass appointment of political figures to ambassadorial positions overseas came as a surprise even to many of the leaders of the ruling coalition, gossip disclosed. Not surprisingly, this has subjected Hailemariam Desalegn, chairman of the ruling EPRDF, to a sharp criticism during the recent executive committee meeting of the party, held in Addis Abeba, claims gossip. Nonetheless, in an unprecedented show of defiance, Hailemariam defended his decision of sending these guys out without first seeking consent from the executive committee of the party as his prerogative as a Prime Minister, gossip revealed. No surprises here, if Hailemariam irked some of the senior leaders in the party, but fit into a growing rift between them, disclosed gossip.

But there are exceptions to the rules, for not all were sent as a political exile, claims gossip. The placement of Brehane G. Kirstos, a seasoned diplomat who has served the foreign office for a quarter of a century, to Beijing, is no small feat for the administration, according to gossip. Contrast this to the appointment of Kassa Teklebrehan, a complete novice to the world of diplomacy, to Washington D.C., thereby exposing the administration's priorities in its bilateral relations, claims gossip. China being most crucial in its provisions of cheap loans to finance Ethiopia's flagship projects, and Arkebe Oqubay (PhD), senior advisor to the Prime Minister, being in charge of many of them, having his brother-in-law in Beijing is not at all a bad idea in smoothening the relationship, claims gossip.

Meanwhile, a larger number of ambassadors were recalled two weeks ago to attend the annual sessions on the state of affairs of the nation's diplomacy. They completed late last week a four-day retreat in Hawassa, inside Haile Resort.

Some of these, such as Seyoum Mesfin and Girma Birru, are not bound to return to their posting. Their fate in the Administration remains hanging up in the air, although in the case of Seyoum, he has a consultancy outfit that is tremendously financed by the Norwegians, among others, claims gossip. To their delight, other ambassadors may not be sent directly to their retirement, claims gossip. Worqneh Gebeyehu (PhD), minister of Foreign Affairs, came to their rescue, creating a new entity dubbed at the gossip corridors as a "council of elders" where these former ambassadors remain on the payroll of the Ministry. He wants to see them advise him on affairs of the countries where they had served in the past, gossip disclosed.

Others have a different take on the council; its idea was first floated under the time of Teodros Adhanom (PhD), gossip heard. Its relevance, thus fate was bitterly contested and debated during last week's retreat in Hawassa, claims gossip.

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