Ethiopia : Regime leaning on the Arab World ?

November 20,2016

Video credit : EBC

Recent tension with Egypt on alleged grounds of intervention in the internal affairs of Ethiopia aside, the ruling TPLF/EPRDF has a long history of political relation with Arab countries including what is now destabilized Libya. They garnered much of financial, among other forms of supports, support from Arab countries since their guerrilla times. Al-Bashir’s Sudan, a country with a very strong sentiment for Arab identity, was a good candidate, partly because of its geographical proximity and partly because of history is political rivalry with Ethiopia, to channel the support in the form of being a host and logistic provider to the group that is now governing Ethiopia.

In return, and after the end of guerrilla war, the regime in Ethiopia remained a loyal client the cost of which often times compromised the interests of Ethiopia. There is already huge investment from Arab countries in Ethiopia. Without a doubt , in the course of time political influence will accrue as a result of growing economic influence. Inevitably, religion, irrespective of form, will turn out to be political agenda in the relation with these counties – if it is not already the case.

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This week, Moroccan king Mohammed VI, whose country is not even a member of what is now the African Union after it left it as Organization of African Unity in 1984, visited Ethiopia. According to state media, Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation, Moroccan delegation under Mohammed VI singed about fourteen agreements with the regime in Ethiopia. One of the business deal is reportedly worth $2.5 billion (US) ; Development of a fertilizer production plant which is to be constructed in Dire Dawa, South Eastern Ethiopia. In fact, this same week,regime invited Yara international, fertilizer producer that awarded the late Meles Zenawi $200,000 US as a recognition of “service”, to invest in fertilizer production in Ethiopia. How serious was the invitation is not clear, at least. What is clear is regime’s tendency to lean on Arab countries is serious and is working towards it.

Days after signing multiples of agreements with Morocco, regime sent Hailemariam Desalegne to Saudi Arabia for “political and economic talk.” Currently, Investment from Saudi Arabia surpassed $600,000 million based on ETV report and the regime is soliciting Saudi Arabia for more investment.

Obviously, With decline of income from tourism sector and because of other economic challenges the negative impacts of which could be huge in terms of sustaining overstretched security apparatus, among other things,the administration is running short of foreign currency.

Proclivity to lean on the Arab wold as a panacea to fix economic trouble at home is prone to effect significant political and cultural influence over Ethiopia. As much as the regime seeks to benefit from the Arab world, countries in the Arab World will inevitably exploit the situation in Ethiopia to ensure that their “investment” will have maximum possible outcome economically or otherwise. As far as impoverished Ethiopians are concerned, the trend will foster economic alienation and also has huge cultural impact that could negatively affect Ethiopia.

What should opposition do about it? Perhaps the the emerging pattern could create the urge to foster principle based relation, on human rights grounds and other factors, with western powers.

By Dimetros Birku. Can be reached on twitter : @dimetros

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