Rex Tillerson is leading high level delegation to discuss the situation in Ethiopia. Sergey Lavrov is also visiting the country same week but the business of his trip does not seem to be Ethiopian politics.
Amid deepening political crisis in Ethiopia which some analysts say could lead to civil war unless the regime in power reverse the state of emergency it declared on February 16 and make arrangement for political dialogue with all stake holders, United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Sergei Lavrov are visiting the country next week. United Arab Emirates is also sending its foreign minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, for a two days official visit same week.
Addis Standard, local newspaper, cited what it called State Department sources to report that Rex Tillerson is leading a high level officials for an official visit to Ethiopia and is expected to arrive on Wednesday March 7. “…The visit is an indication that the US government is taking the unfolding events in Ethiopia very seriously. The current political crisis in Ethiopia will surely take a center stage during all the discussions with Ethiopian officials” an anonymous State Department source is cited as saying. In that regard, apparently, Tillerson is expected to hold talks with senior government officials including the resigning Hailemariam Desalegn.
On February 17, the US embassy in Addis Ababa issued unusual statement condemning the State of emergency Ethiopian authorities declared a day after Hailemariam Desalegn announced his resignation as the ruling coalition party,EPRDF, chairman and as prime minister.
Ethiopia has been rocked with relentless popular protest for nearly three years now. At the very core of the popular protest is a demand for an end to what many Ethiopians believe is a minority ethno-supremacist regime, it is called Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which is believed to have entrenched systemic corruption as a means to create wealth for its political support base in ethnic Tigray region in northern Ethiopia. Based on information from senior party officials, the TPLF party itself has amassed well over $6 billion and claims that the money belongs to the people of Tigray. On top of that, strategic cronyism and nepotism has enabled relatives of the power elites to plunder Ethiopia’s resources and stash it elsewhere. A report by Transparency International a few years ago indicates that well over US $10 billion left Ethiopia in much less than a decade.
Apart from Rex Tillerson, Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs,Sergei Lavrov, is visiting Ethiopia starting March 8. Lavrov’s visit focuses on bilateral relations between the two countries, according to Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokes person, Meles Alem.
The two countries are expected to sign bilateral agreements in the areas of education, agriculture and science in addition to discussion on the implementation of agreements signed during the 5th Ethio-Russian commission, added the source. The two countries have over 120 years of diplomatic relation which was celebrated last month. It is not clear if Lavrov is discussing with Ethiopian authorities the political situation in Ethiopia.
United Arab Emirates Foreign Affairs minister,Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, is also visiting Ethiopia and his visit is said to be related to fostering bilateral relations between the two countries, according to Ethiopian Foreign Affairs Ministry Spokesperson.
United Arab Emirates is one of the countries from the middle east with military bases in Djibouti and Eritrea and has some economic investment in the country.
The regime’s multiples of problems
The much talked about “double digit economic growth” is experiencing trouble due to the ongoing protest and Ethiopian authorities have turned to China to secure loans which obviously came with high interest rates.
China has a strong economic presence in Ethiopia worth billions of dollars. It has also enhanced its cultural imprint in Ethiopia. Chinese language is being given as a course in the cournty’s top institution of higher learning, Addis Ababa University.
Last year, China opened a military base in Djibouti, through which Ethiopia connects to the outside world via rental port on the Red Sea.
Politically, the ruling party which is a coalition of four ethnic based parties is mired in infighting as the parties with bigger constituencies, ANDM and OPDO, seem to be determined to stop the domination of the minority ethnic party in the coalition, TPLF. Despite chronic political legitimacy from day one, the latter has still firm control over the security apparatus and the military, and has demonstrated its determination that it will not cease control even if it means civil war and disintegration of Ethiopia. The party,Ethiopians call it government, has also rejected a call for national dialogue from the opposition and from international organization like the European Union.
The current political problem was foreseen for well over two decades now and Ethiopians have been clamoring for ideological change as they see ethnic politics as a recipe for internecine and ceaseless conflict. Unfortunately, that has happened. An ethnic conflict between Ethiopia Somali and Oromo speaking Ethiopians left dozens dead and more than half a million people were internally displaced as a result of it.
The parliament is called for an emergency meeting,was in recess, for tomorrow and TPLF expects it to approve the state of emergency, which is the second one in a little over a year. What the parliament decides tomorrow and the reaction from Ethiopians will give clue to extrapolate what will unfold in the weeks and months to come.
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