On Saturday, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) inaugurated yet another industrial park, albeit modest in size, near the town of Jimma, Oromia Regional State, an area not far from where he was born and grew up.
Built by a Chinese company at a cost of more than 6o million dollars, the park was to be inaugurated in the presence of Ismael M. Guelleh of Djibouti and Omar H. Al-bashir of Sudan. These are two leaders in the sub-region with obvious dismay over the way geopolitical realignment is developing, where the revival of the rogue Issayas Afeworqi of Eritrea is much of a concern to them, claims gossip.
Both Djibouti and Sudan stood by Ethiopia during a two-decade stalemate with Eritrea, with the former instrumental in introducing sanctions before the United Nations to isolate Eritrea. Sudan in particular showed historic solidarity with Ethiopia in the diplomatic debacle with Egypt over the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, gossip recalls.
When Ethiopia began its rapprochement with Eritrea, sponsored by Middle Eastern nations and sidelining of the African Union, a party to the Algiers Agreement, friendly governments in the region were not consulted. Djibouti in particular has developed enormous misgivings about the whole affair, since it has its own issues with Eritrea. It also has an outstanding quarrel with the Emirs of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The newly found love affair between Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia, where their leaders met in the town of Bahir Dar a couple of weeks ago, was something viewed with a bulls eye both in Khartoum and Djibouti, claims gossip. And their respective skepticism was communicated through different channels to many senior officials in Abiy's administration, according to gossip. Hence, it is not a complete surprise if Abiy invites them both over, hoping to renew the souring relationships before they get derailed off track, claims gossip.
As it happened, the two leaders would come to visit an industrial park built on 71ha of land with nine sheds, eventually leased perhaps wholly to businesses from the UAE, according to gossip. Back in August, Abiy took potential investors from the UAE in an unannounced visit to the park, where they placed a request to lease the entire park on their own. The visit also included an arial tour of a coffee plantation in the south.
If materialized, the coming of UAE companies to Jimma will be one small piece of a bigger and growing presence by the Emirates in the Horn of Africa region, where they were kicked out from Djibouti accused of encroaching on its sovereignty. The UAE now has an expanding military presence in and around Assab Port. Its flagship company, DP World, is developing the Port of Berbera to compete against that of Djibouti.
This is not to mention the cozy relationship Abiy appears to have developed with the Emirs in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. The company that is doing the complete makeover of the Prime Minister's Office, No Grey Area, is based in Dubai and is probably spending over 40 million Br on the hi-tech renovation. For now, visitors to the Lorenzo Teazaz Road will have to bear the messiness of construction work inside the building and on the premises.
Abiy also seems to have complete trust in the Emirs, as he is sending members of his security detail to Abu Dhabi for specialized training, gossip reveals. The first batch of this force was returned a couple of weeks ago while the follow up contingent left to the UAE last week, gossip disclosed.