The lovey-dovey relationship that has evolved between Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) and President Issayas Afeworqi is a source of concern for many. In particular, to the leadership of the TPLF. It is understandable, for Eritrea's leader appears to be determined to exact his decades-long grudges, seeing the TPLF as his mortal enemy that needs to be vanquished, claims gossip.
Little wonder the TPLFites are decrying foreign meddling from near and afar in the "reform" that they themselves were in the forefront of a while back.
Gossip sees Issayas, a seasoned survivor of politics for half a century, as having a long reach, should he want to influence political developments in Ethiopia. Almost all the insurgent groups he has been sheltering and supporting for two decades have moved to Ethiopia. Some of them are in deadly confrontation with regional and federal forces.
No less intrigued are western diplomats with Issayas's game plan, gossip observed. The signal they seem to get during high-level encounters with Issayas, reputable for his defiance, is that he has enormous faith in the leadership ability of Abiy. Issayas, for instance, told the leadership of the insurgencies, mainly but not limited to Dawid Ibsa's Oromo Liberation Front, and Brehanu Nega's (PhD) Ginbot 7, he would tolerate no one fighting Abiy's administration using Eritrean territory, gossip revealed. Some of these insurgent leaders might not have come back to Ethiopia without a little duress from their benefactor, gossip claims.
Just a couple of weeks ago, there was a delegation from the United Nations that went over to Asmera to pick Issayas's brain on the reform ballyhooed by the western media as transformative for the region, gossip disclosed. They left dumbfounded, for he was blunt in informing them that Eritrea is off limits for discussions. He wants to move at his own pace should there be a decision to install a constitutional order, democracy or multiparty system, gossip disclosed.
Nonetheless, he was keen in talking to them about the changes and reforms he believes are on sound footing in Ethiopia and wanted to see international support given to Abiy's consolidation of power away from the prying eyes of the TPLFites and Sudan, gossip reveals. Western diplomats and envoys from international organisations find this to be too good to be true, considering his rogue past, claims gossip.
Between the two leaders and countries with a complicated legacy, who charms the other is an issue that consumes hours of debate over ambassadorial dinners and follow-up chitchats in cigar-filled rooms paired with Cognac-filled glasses, gossip observed.
Having his proxies planted in Ethiopia's domestic political landscape and the diminished presence of his archenemies, the TPLF, Issayas may be of the view that he has leverage over Abiy, claims gossip. It has not been without political pluck that he stays so long, hence dealing with a young but determined politician south of his border may not worry him much, according to gossip.
Western diplomats think that it could also be the other way around, claims gossip. The table may have turned on the battle-scarred politician of the Horn of Africa who is disarmed by the idealistic-cum-pragmatist Abiy, someone he wants to see as a leader of both Ethiopia and Eritrea. To the dismay of his foes in his native land, Issayas has alluded in public to his desire to see Abiy leads his people too, gossip recalls. He reportedly said in private that with Abiy firmly positioned in Ethiopia, he has peace of mind on the fate of Eritrea even after his passing, claims gossip.
Consolidation Abiy appears to be doing, appointing his preferences in many positions, including in key foriegn missions. Gossip corridors are filled with speculations that Fistum Arega of the Investment Commission, who was his cheif of staff until recently, will be going to the United State as an ambassaador, while Teshome Toga, former ambassador to Kenya, France and Belgium will be assigned to China.