On June 16, 2018, in an open letter to PM Abiy, I wrote the following.
Ethiopia must position herself as a grand experiment to showcase an African success story. A success story that will create a stable and prosperous nation. The international community is readily available for sucha partnership. They want a success story to replicate across Africa. Positioning your administration to such a global play should be your priority. Your administration should proactively leverage Ethiopia’s aggressive development agenda and position its strategic development framework at the nexus of the emerging global geopolitics and the ensuing international development policy.
Ethiopia is an indispensable geopolitical land. But this is beyond the Pay Scale of the hermits of “Vision Ethiopia” and rustic scholars of the “Amhara Association of America” who are intellectually trapped in pre-geopolitical centuries. Sadly, the two groups are the loudest in Ethiopia’s diaspora politics on forums such as this. Partly this is because there is no one to tell them to shut the hell up and sit down. Our culture does not allow us to do so.
Whether we like it or not, global powers will intervene in our affairs because what happens in Ethiopia affects them.
Alexander Rondos, the EU Special Representative for the Horn of Africa put the importance of Ethiopia for regional, and, by implication, for world security as follows. “This is a country that is at a very very delicate moment. Not only for its own sake but for the security of the wider region. This is a country that is so important that if the dam breaks all the discussions about the Horn of Africa are moot. This is as simple as that. This is not Yugoslavia which imploded. Ethiopia straddles every other country around it. That is a core strategic question.”
Our geopolitical position can be a blessing if our government is able to overlay the contours and terrain of its policy and politics within the nexus of the geopolitical landscape. This requires having a credible, predictable, flexible, and judicious public diplomacy. Global powers tolerate a geo-political country whose policy they do not always agree with than one that is unpredictable and unreliable.
A poor and small country such as Ethiopia cannot expect the rest of the world to play within its rigid rules. It must learn how to play by geopolitical rules. Remember South Korea. South Korea did not always agree with the US policy. It stood firm where it needed to be, showed flexibility on issues that are not detrimental to its sovereignty and existence. It leveraged its geopolitical advantage to receive tens of billions of aid.
Ethiopia’s lack of sophistication in geopolitics was clear when it sent an engineer to make Ethiopia’s case before the UN Security Council. There is a time-honored reality that we need to pay heed to that seems to elude our government. In and of itself, truth has no currency and rational arguments carry little weight unless they are megaphoned by communication tools and dressed up with PR cosmetics and advertised in every international forum. As I have said many times, the highways of history are riddled with corpses of excellent government visions, reforms and policies that were killed by a lack of robust communication system and public diplomacy.
You do not send an engineer to show 2+2 = 4. In geopolitics, it does not matter what 2 + 2 is. What matters is finding a judicious, smart, and flexible solution. That is when leaders are seen as statesmen. That is when they are globally respected. That is when they can leverage not only their nation’s geopolitical position but also their leaders’ global repute to win international support to finance their economic agenda.
I have read some nonsense on this forum that Ethiopia is self-sufficient and can finance its development. For those people I have one line: Shut the living hell up.
Contrary to the political narrative recklessly thrown around by the hermits of Vision Ethiopia, the US is Ethiopia’s strategic ally. We are where we are because of our failure to play by the rules of global public diplomacy.
I do not know how we can expect to influence US policy on Ethiopia without PR and lobbyists. The top ten countries hiring US lobbyists include America’s closest allies such as Japan ($200 million in 5 years), South Korea ($172 million), Israel ($143 million), Saudi Arabia ($112 million), and America’s arch adversaries including China ($177 million) and Russia ($126 million).
South Sudan with a GDP of $13 billion (PPP) spends $1.85 million per year. In comparison, Ethiopia with a GDP of $279 billion is spending $0.0 on lobbying. Small wonder why a terrorist group with third rated intellectual leaders are running circles around us in Brussels and Washington.
I hear TPLF supporters are organizing a dramatic protest where their supporters lay down and roll on the streets of Washington and Brussels to appeal to the international community to intervene and end the war. It may not be a bad idea for us to join them across the street, laying down and rolling to protest our government’s utterly failed public diplomacy. Our protests may have unintended consequences. We have not been able to agree with the TPLF tribal diaspora sitting down across negotiation tables. We may end up coming to a consensus rolling down on the streets of European and American streets.
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