By Orion Demame
Tigrai Onlne - April 06, 2014
Diplomacy is another important area worth mentioning. I am quite sure that most Ethiopian diplomats are highly professional and love the job they do. My problem is not in their political capacity and professionalism. My concern is their willingness to challenge. When I say willingness, I am not using it in a negative way. I am using the word in conjunction with our culture. The Ethiopian cultural attributes of "yilugnta ", decency and politeness have by all means no place in diplomacy. Ethiopian diplomats should have "yilugnta", be decent and polite, if and only if others can understand decency and politeness in a positive way. But the latter are absolutely not, especially those of the West, and there is no reason why Ethiopian diplomats should exercise their national attributes as it would only be talking to the wind. Diplomacy is a cut throat business where everybody is out there to maximise its take (even if it means taking 100%) for his/her country disregarding others. Time and again, we are told that Ethiopia has a “give and take policy” in its dealings with others. I completely agree. Even the west has the same policy. The West would take 99% and give away 1%; it would have given something any way. So, Ethiopian diplomats should play by their own (the West’s) games such that they should always be willing to go for the absolute maximum so that they reach at a favourable level in the process of “give and take”. As I see it, a 50/50 give and take settlement is certainly not a good one for Ethiopia and certainly from others’ point of view as well.
Some of the Ethiopian diplomats seem to lack presentation and interview techniques. This is a very important issue because these people should be able to give a confident, strong and assuring impression about their country, government, its policies and directions. They should be able to command and lead the situation including the media. Unlike the Ethiopian media, the international media would have done a lot of research before they set out for interviews. So the diplomats should be able to take the upper hand at all times. They are not supposed to answer in English if they have no fluency in it. In fact, it is much better to use the national language and communicate through an interpreter rather than messing up. Some have the habit of talking much. There is no point of dwelling six to eight minutes over an issue that can be answered in two or three sentences. Often times, lengthy talks open new unforeseen issues that can detract or even put the speaker in a defensive position. Further point to mention is that it is absolutely not necessary to give undue smiles and giggles. These should be saved to the cocktail and dinner times. As I understand it, it is the substance and the knowledge that comes with it that wins diplomacy and not continuously smiling and giggling while the counterpart is a hard cracker.
Another issue is the diplomacy done around the GERD. Egypt is now threatening to take the Nile issue to the UNSC. They know that Ethiopia and the rest of upper Nile riparian countries have legal right to get a fair share of the water and Egypt have no way of stopping them. However, they must have done their homework in doing the ground work for a diplomatic warfare. If Egypt is not confident that they would have support of the big powers and others in the Security Council, they would never have taken this path at all. What they are up to, it seems to me, is to put diplomatic pressure on Ethiopia so that the latter stops, delays or reduces the GERD construction. But Ethiopia can also flip over the claim to be a continuation of Egypt's historical behaviour of holding the former in perpetual poverty and is a clear security risk and threat to Ethiopia, the sub region and the world at large. So, it is absolutely necessary for Ethiopia to put a lot of effort in bringing the world at large on its side. This should be done continuously and should not stop at all until Ethiopia reaches its right place in the world.
It is time for Ethiopia to take responsibility
I understand that sooner or later, there will be an African representation at the UN Security Council with full rights of a permanent member. I also understand that Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa are contesting for that place and argue that all the three should not be candidates at all. First, I can never imagine even for a second that Egypt would be the right one for the position at least for four reasons.
Second, Nigeria calls itself 'the Giant of Africa' not only in population but practically in everything that comes to its mind. In spite of the oil wealth, 80% of Nigerians are still poor. Nigeria, while it is the largest oil producer in Sub-Sahara Africa and despite the eight refineries in the country, it still imports refined petrol from neighbouring countries because its refineries don't work efficiently. Its peace keeping forces in Africa did not produce impressive and visible results either. It is to be remembered that Nigeria had accepted the invitation of the AU to send troops to join the AMISOM (African Mission in Somalia) Peace Keeping Force in Somalia only to shamefully withdraw its promise. Where is Nigeria's commitment to African peace then? All this boils down to top-down corruption. The recent raw between the President and the ex Governor of the Bank of Nigeria over a missing US$20 billion is a case in point. But Nigerians are even talking about US$80 billion missing. They are seen with suspicion where ever they go. Nigeria was an alternate member of the UN Security Council prior to the Libyan Arab spring. It voted for a negotiated settlement of the Libyan crisis at the AU Security Council resolution. At the same time, it voted for bombing of Libya at the UN Security Council resolution. It should have voted to either one rather than voting for both opposing resolutions and have clearly shown indecisiveness. It was similar in the case of Libya. It seems Nigeria would easily be swayed to using force. And force is what the world doesn't need this time around. So it lacks consistency, credibility and can easily be subservient thus compromising the vital interests of Africa, Africans and the world at large. I, therefore, believe that Nigeria won't be the right candidate to represent Africa for the UN Security Council permanent seat.
Third, South Africa is a great nation and enjoys a relatively higher material wealth in the continent seen grossly. The majority of its citizens are still poor. The party that replaced the apartheid government failed to bring economic justice in SA. It seems to me that there was cosmetic face lifting upfront in the manner of creating some black elites, otherwise the second tier bureaucracy is the same old story we know. The country has the highest level of criminality in Africa. Corruption is also rampant. It is true that SA has gone through difficult times during the apartheid period. I hardly believe that SA understands the problem and psychic of Africa in general and that of the sub-Saharan Africa in particular, though. Similar to Nigeria, SA also broke its promise to the AU with respect to committing its forces to join the AMISOM Peace Keeping Force in Somalia. Again similar to Nigeria, SA was an alternate member of the UN Security Council. It voted for the UNSC resolution that allowed the bombing of a sovereign African state, thus, contradicting the AU resolution that supported a negotiated peaceful settlement to which they were also a party. The worst and mind boggling as such is when President Zuma side-lined both the AU and UN resolutions and travelled to Libya to make a deal of his own, God knows what, without consulting AU and other African countries. At that time, I considered the move as contempt to the AU. So when all these and other possible reasons are weighted, having a bigger economy can't be a necessary and sufficient condition to suggest SA as a candidate for the UN Security Council seat.
Ethiopia, however, has a track record of being a voice for the voiceless not only in Africa but to the rest of the oppressed world. It has always voiced for world peace and justice, against apartheid, against colonialism, for humanity, against poverty, etc. There is ample evidence that various platforms including the United Nations, African Union, UNCTAD, the former ACP (African, Caribbean and Pacific) Non-Aligned Movement, World Climate Forum, etc. Ethiopia did not shy away from being more than willing to help bring/keep peace in Abyei, Algeria-Morocco, Burundi, Congo, Darfur, Liberia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Korea and South Sudan. I strongly believe that Ethiopia is the only country that understands the needs of Africa and the world at large. It has the pedigree to sit at the UN Security Council as a permanent member and it would be a lost opportunity if Ethiopia does not apply for membership.
Security and the armed forces
Intelligence is one of the integral parts in the tools that nations use to safeguard their national interests. A country that has a very strong espionage unit is most likely to have formidable armed forces. Ethiopia's strength should also be measured by the strength of its security forces. In view of the fact that it is encircled by the Arab League (Eritrea being an observer member), it is absolutely necessary for Ethiopia to have a detailed knowledge of what is going on in these countries. It should at all times have up to date and detailed information about everything, classified or not, even including what is in their minds. Ethiopia can't afford to wait preaching peace until the enemies throw few bombs inside its territory and inflict damage. So far, it has given priority to peace and was always the victim, never ever the aggressor. It is different times now. The enemies are vicious more than ever and the weapons are lethal. Besides, we understand very well that Ethiopia does not have any friend. The Ethio-Eritrea war of 1998-2000 is a recent reminder of this fact. The world knew that Ethiopia was the victim, and yet it was biased in favour of Eritrea going all the way to appease it, breaking international laws and norms. The former has failed it repeatedly before and it will definitely do so again. So Ethiopia must adopt a principle of deterrent rather than defence. In the event that peace seems not to work, the next move, as a matter of priority, should be to quickly contain the danger from happening in its own territory. The 2006 mission against the then CIC in Somalia was a welcome move and a successful as such. But containment should be very quick, efficient and effective so as to minimise the cost in all its forms.
The fact that Ethiopia is land locked makes it exposed to the most highly scrutinised military hardware imports. In other words, all its imports are scrutinised. Historical and potential enemies know before it even enters the country. So there is no option for Ethiopia other than being self sufficient in its military hard ware. It took China 30 years only to reach where it is now and is self sufficient in all sectors including space sciences. They did all that parallel. Same must be done in Ethiopia. It can do it even faster. Besides, it should not be limited to defence only. It should, instead, build formidable mighty armed forces. The Ethiopian Air Force has always been at the frontier at least in using its equipments professionally. But when the technology gets more advanced, it has to prepare itself for electronic warfare system. This means it needs to have escort jamming aircrafts that provide adequate protection to its attack squadrons. The armed forces must be equipped with a very advanced research unit that absorbs the most able and talented young minds. Besides being self sufficient, successful defence industry can have lucrative and sustainable market potential as well.
Ethiopia is very weak and vulnerable when it comes to IT. At present, it can't even compete with countries such as Kenya, Rwanda and Sudan leave alone with other powerful IT nations. Cyber warfare is imminent and such activities will be intensified. If the Arabs in general and Egypt in particular decide to attack, the starting point would be neutralising all systems through cyber attack. We are currently witnessing frequent power cuts in Ethiopia. How do we know that the central grid is not attacked? For instance, it is possible to do all sorts of harm on the grid from anywhere remotely through cyber attack. So it is of paramount urgency that Ethiopia heavily invests in IT. For that matter, the late PM Meles mentioned of erecting an IT hub but it seems it has been shelved similar to other projects such as the huge refinery near Diredawa that he talked about.
The legal system
I have noticed recently that the Ethiopian legal system is unduly lenient. For instance, a court recently passed a 15 years or less prison sentence to a premeditated murder. There was even a case where the perpetrator got seven years prison sentence only. Another case was a criminal that was sentenced to 15 years only for brutally murdering his aunt and fatally injuring her daughter. It is mind boggling really. About six month ago, the US courts faced a case where a man kidnapped three women, kept them for about ten years and raped them. The court sentenced the criminal to a life time plus 1000 years in prison. It was never a murder case and yet the judge had to give him harsh sentence. It is not that the US judges are cruel and mean. It is because harsh sentences can definitely deter future crimes of this nature. So I am of the opinion that the Ethiopian courts must give a much harder prison sentences specially to murder, treason and high profile corruption cases. There are cases where financial officers of big US companies were sentenced up to 500 years in prison for committing financial irregularities that are worth mentioning. The same is true with drug traffickers. Drug traffickers should be seen in light of mass murdering the youth that is the future of every nation, and need to get the harshest sentences. Remember, some South East Asian countries such as Singapore pass death sentences to those caught with drugs. Ethiopia should even ban and criminalise the use of Shisha and Kat leave alone other drugs.
What is wrong with our language?
It seems to me that Ethiopia needs top down Cultural Revolution, less so in Afar and Somali regions. In the first place, it is absolutely despicable to hear senior staff not able to speak in Amharic, Tigrigna, Oromigna, etc. when they communicate with their own people. They are fond of mixing English words in every sentence they throw even if it means talking to the farmers. This is shameful and disrespectful to the respective nations and nationalities that are the owners of the language. The language used by the reporters is even worse when they, in particular, are expected to be the vanguards of culture and proper usage of the language that all would aspire to learn from. I became disgusted and saddened by one of the reporters that put a series of questions to PM Hailemariam in one of his recent press conferences. All the reporters forwarded their questions in Amharic with roughly about 25% English words but one definitely showed exceptional contempt to the rich and beautiful Amharic language. It is exceptional in the sense that the Amharic content of his utterance was less than 20%. His English was not brilliant either. The Prime Minister must have struggled hard but was able to scramble the questions and give them commendable answers. Most of the English reporters are definitely misplaced never mind the wrong information they air from time to time.