The cosiness between the Ethiopian authorities and their new allies in the Middle East appears to have reached a new level, gossip observed. The emirs in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) were instrumental in brokering a deal to normalise relations between foes in the Horn of Africa, thus the shuttling of leaders between Addis Abeba, Asmera, Abu Dhabi and Riyadh.
The current president of UAE, Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who is also the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, was on a visit to Addis Abeba in July, pledging to provide temporary relief to the forex crunch, depositing one billion dollars with Ethiopia's central bank. There was also a pledge to make an additional two billion dollars available in the form of foreign direct investment from the Emirates.
However, what was left unreported at the time was the Crown Prince's arrival in Addis Abeba with a planeload of an entourage and nine shiny-white Nissan Patrols with bulletproof bodies, reveals gossip. He had left all these expensive vehicles to the benefit of the carpools of the heads of state, handing them over to the National Palace Administration, gossip disclosed.
It appears that the next turn for a spectacular visit to Addis Abeba would have been the ruler of Dubai, Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, claims gossip. He was to arrive in Addis Abeba this week with an even larger entourage and was expected to land at Bole with two Antonov planes loaded with stuff, including tents and all the accessories required for hunting in one of the regional states, gossip claims. After no less than 40 members of the advance team had come last week, the visit was postponed, claims gossip.
On the domestic front, former Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn was claiming public attention last week, for appearing alongside Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) and Eritrea's President Issayas Afeworqi, aka Wedi Afom. He was part of the high-level delegation from the two countries that went down to Arba Minch to inaugurate the opening of a state-built sugar mill.
But he was also visible the past few weeks for his not-so-witty interview with private TV channel EBS. In this interview, he attributed the change in the EPRDF administration to divine intervention, claiming to have known Abiy's rise to power three months ahead of time. Not only did he infuriate many of his long-time critics; the few who were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt lost their sympathy for good, gossip observed.
Despite Hailemariam's apparent low rating on the domestic front, his profile in the continent is gaining momentum, claims gossip. He was elected to serve on the Board of Directors of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), a Nairobi-based organisation established in 2006. His first appearance representing AGRA was last month, where he shared a table with Rwanda's Paul Kagame at a forum held in Kigali. Along with Tanzania's Jakaya M. Kikwete, Hailemariam is one of the two former heads of state currently serving on the AGRA board.
If luck smiles on his side though, he will also be the beneficiary of a fat prize from the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, claims gossip. He is a candidate for the Foundation's annual prize to former leaders, gossip disclosed.
The Foundation, bearing the name of the Sudanese billionaire, recognises executive heads of state from African countries who leave office peacefully and rewards them with a five-million-dollar gift for 10 years and an additional 200,000 dollars a year after that. Since its formation in 2006, the African leaders honoured by its generosity were South Africa's Nelson Mandela and Mozambique's Joaquim Chissano, while the latest entrant was Liberia's Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
The Foundation's Prize Committee, chaired by former OAU Secretary General Salim Ahmed Salim has already begun an inquiry into Hailemariam's record while in office, providing a select group of people in Addis Abeba with long forms to fill out for its review process, gossip revealed.