Ethiopia’s diplomatic history shows that it has never been poor even in the distant past days. Beginning from the late nineteenth century and since, Ethiopia has always tried to live in peace and harmony with other states by stretching diplomatic wings. It found itself entangled in diatribes only when its sovereignty was put at risk. Then Ethiopia had to defend its dignity and integrity.
Despite limitations in military might, citizens never hesitated to confront the alien forces. Resolve and prowess were at their side. Defeat was never an option.
History testifies that Ethiopia joined the League of Nations to secure itself at the international arena. It entertained relations with foreign governments and accepted delegations at home. It also sent delegations to foreign missions mostly to discover the level of growth in those countries visited. History had taught Ethiopia that imperialism was the order of the day and its vulnerability was undeniable, hence it needed to take precaution.
Opposing and condemning aggression was not sufficient and the unheeded pleas of the Emperor by the League of Nations begot tragedy for the country. The then Emperor’s admonishment did not take time to materialize. An attack by a state on another had to be condemned and sanctioned but the League failed and what followed was World War II. The aggression against Ethiopia was a prelude to the War. The politics of appeasement resulted in a huge error and cost millions of lives!
Today, most of the diplomatic moves of Ethiopia take place not only at the UN to which it is one of the first signatories, but also in other international organizations such as the African Union which it helped creates and host. Its role in smaller regional bodies such as IGAD and NEPAD is also significant.
Ethiopia’s contribution to peacekeeping has always been brilliant. The integrity and bravery of its troops are exemplary. Korea 1950-1953 and Congo in the 1960s are witnesses to this glory. More recently, its troops have taken part in peacekeeping efforts in places such as Liberia, Rwanda, Sudan, and Somalia.
Wherever they went, Ethiopian contingents have accomplished their mission with honor and dignity as well as courage.
It could be said that it is indeed a tradition that has been transferred from the past years to the current administration.
No wonder the new prime minister made it his priority not only to take care of his compatriots’ woes internally but also to engage to stabilize and reassure its neighbours about the policies he intends to pursue.
Ethiopia has always had good diplomatic relations not only with the West as erroneously portrayed by some but also with other power houses: the East, the Third world, the Arab nations etc. Its relations with the US date back to more than a century as do with Russia. Similarly, it has always entertained good relations with the Anglophone countries as with the Francophone despite it not being part of neither. It has close ties with its Arab neighbours without alienating Israel. Similarly, its ties with China stretch back to the Mao Tse Tung days and have continued today, enhanced. China is one of the strongest economic partners of Ethiopia.
Ethiopia’s participation at the Non Aligned movement led to excellent relations with the Former Yugoslavia, India as well as Egypt. Many used to wonder how it was possible to have the USSR Media Centre and the United States Information Service, USIS, on the same road in Addis just a few meters away from one another during the stiff Cold War days. Ethiopia has always followed its apt neutrality in any of these divergences based on its own principles that eye relations with mutual interest and respect. It implied that Ethiopia’s diplomacy was never bound by doctrinaire boxes adopting whatever suited its interests. The brief period during which the military rule had committed to socialism has turned out to be an exception but withered away soon.
In the last few months with a new prime minister at the head of Ethiopia’s government, one can say that there has been a reiteration of these Ethiopian diplomatic values. The prime minister in fact has renewed the country’s bonds with some important visits aimed at underlining the government’s commitment with a new spirit.
The long tradition continues even stronger. That is why the prime minister traveled to Djibouti and reinvigorated the ties with new pacts pertaining to Ethiopia’s economic lifeline. He paid a visit to Kenya, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and later on to Uganda and Egypt. He hosted the Rwandan president Kagame here and several other important delegations that came from our development partners such as the US, the Gulf States, Japan, China, Germany and France.
In all these interactions, Dr Abiy reassured allies and friends of Ethiopia that the relations would continue enhanced with strategic partnerships and joint commissions. All possible avenues of partnership were attempted and put in the pipeline. The importance of cooperation in various areas such as trade, investment, tourism, transfer of knowledge and sharing of common resources such as the waters of the Nile were marked.
The prime minister’s latest visit to Egypt was particularly significant for both Egypt and Ethiopia as it cleared emphatically Ethiopia’s good intentions in the way the usage of the Nile waters were implemented particularly in view of the huge hydropower project that Ethiopia is constructing.
His words of promise and reassurance have created a sense of relief even among some diffident Egyptian circles. He has underlined what exactly Ethiopia was aiming at. His pledge that Ethiopia would never engage in activities that would hamper the life line of Egyptians has been significant. In fact he always sustained a win-win scenario not one of divergences where one wins and the other loses.
Similarly, his overtures with Djibouti to involve it with stakes in Ethiopia’s public enterprises while at the same time reciprocate by conceding a share in the administration of the port was crucial. Ethiopia’s relations with Kenya are the closest that any two countries could dream to have. There will be full-fledged infrastructural connection with Nairobi as with Khartoum. Road and railroad links are either complete or a few years away from it.
Our diplomatic relations continue to flourish and if things continue in this manner, there is no reason why the future cannot be rosy for Ethiopian diplomacy and for more integration among neighbours. Even the long stalled peace process with neighbouring Eritrea has been called to the fray with an olive branch in our hand.
The Algiers Peace Accord was to be unconditionally accepted in search of total peace and good relations with our northern neighbour upon the understanding that the two peoples are more than brothers and sisters even if political issues created animosities. It was time that rectifications be made and Ethiopian diplomatic moves have been appreciated. The search for a win-win scenario is being sustained in all our relations with other states, near and distant.
At the same time Dr. Abiy scored some points by restoring the dignity of citizens who for one reason or another were held captive in neighboring countries’ prisons. He facilitated their liberation with a plea to the leaders.
Further diplomatic endeavors are definitely in the pipe line as Ethiopia proceeds to develop and build up on its already historical diplomatic endeavors.
It is undeniable that Ethiopia needs to use all its potential particularly the youths in order to continue with its fast growth. It is equally undeniable that to reach such objectives tremendous economic resources must be availed and the cooperation and collaboration of all its partners and allies are imperative. That is why we cannot underline more the new and sustained diplomatic ventures of the prime minister. That is why the prime minister has made it his primary agenda to reconquer the hearts of these vigorous citizens, restore full confidence in the country. The efforts hence are not limited internally but also extend to the outside world as well.
As the country now needs more arrows in its arches and more fuel for its economy, the hard currency scarcity should not risk slowing down its growth. The efforts of the prime minister are also geared to that direction because only with sustained investment from foreign ends can there be relaxation of the scarcity. At the same time, exports need enhancement to secure more income and balance the trade deficit. The more it interacts with several actors, the better and that is why the economy as well is inviting foreign capitalists or investors to come and have some share in the well performing public owned enterprises.
Diplomacy working hand in hand with free trade and direct investment is one of the instruments of growth. The economy needs to enter a phase of flexibility and mixture and not be commanded by the public sector alone.
Injecting new resources from the private sector has been adopted as a new policy including foreign actors. More fuel to the economic machine facilitates steady upsurge. Poverty remains the fiercest enemy and all means are used to battle it including the recent diplomatic ventures.