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For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow, which nobody can deny

By Dilwenberu Nega
Dec. 19 2009

Prime Minister Meles ZenawiIn his speech at the National Palace’s warm and colourful send off ceremony in honour of Africa’s Delegation to COP15 on 12th December, Africa’s Chief Climate Change Negotiator, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, asked for “a bucketful of good luck because I need it in the days ahead.” It does look, does it not, that Africans must have been cascading him with ‘a Victoria Falls’ of good luck for how else could he have managed to navigate safely through the chaotic and ‘booby-trapped’ talks, and talks about talks in Copenhagen. Indeed, his sterling brinkmanship radiated such a beacon of hope to all and sundry that it caused accolades to flow from Barrack Obama, Nicholas Sarkozy, and Gordon Brown and from the world’s most effective environmental activist group dedicated to the issues of climate change, Green Peace. Not to mention, of course, the full backing he secured from Chinese President Hu Jintao before he even set off for Copenhagen.

Meles was almost certain of his anticipation that a treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol was to be a pipe dream long before he set off to Copenhagen. His prediction, here, proved spot on. He, however, was fervently desirous of not returning home empty-handed; for a COP15 devoid of a binding deal on compensation for Africa, was to Meles, a luxury that Africa could ill afford. On that point, too, he had hit the bull’s eye.

Experts in negotiations are of one mind on the recipe for a successful outcome from a negotiation laden with hard bargaining: first enter with a bulging demand and then gradually scale down one’s expectations without scaling down one’s principles. And that is precisely what Ethiopia’s pragmatist Prime Minister had achieved for Africa at COP15.

In trying to fathom Meles’ tireless efforts at striking a deal that is good for Africa in terms of prescribing the source of funding, securing the timely flow of “real money as opposed to phoney money”, guaranteeing a hands-on role for the African Development Bank at the envisaged Board of Trustees; the proverbial saying “that which cannot be butter, must be made into cheese” springs to mind. In an ideal negotiating milieu, nothing would have made Meles more elated than turning ‘milk’ into Sheno Butter at COP15, but given the very restrictive room he was forced to manoeuvre in, instead of discarding the ‘milk,’ Meles had wisely chosen to turn the milk into a nourishing Danish Cheese and offer it to his 52 African counterparts the majority of whom accepted it as the best possible deal under the circumstances.

The Meles Plan was definitely a jaw prodding one, but nobody must lose sight of the fact that it was the one and only lifeline left for Meles to save Africans’ bacon. It is no mean feat, then, to return home a victor from such a pitched diplomatic battle as COP15. The Meles Plan also attracted awe from various media outlets but none more praising Meles Zenawi’s role more succinctly than The Australian:

“The average Australian would never have heard of him but if the search for a real climate deal makes any progress over the next few months then Mr Meles might just be remembered as a man who helped to protect Australia as well as his continent from the worst effects of climate change.”

Meles Zenawi’s baptism of fire as Africa’s Chief Climate Change Negotiator has, without a shadow of a doubt, resulted in victory both for Africa and Ethiopia. Meles is now in possession of cast iron guarantees from mega carbon emitting nations of the world that real money – not the usual pie-in-the-sky pledges – would flow to Africa to withstand the rigours of climate change mitigations and adaptations.

Despite the odds stacked against him Yegna Sew (our man) has not let us down, so “Congratulations Prime Minister Meles Zenawi!” is in order while jubilant Ethiopians everywhere should feel free to sing along; “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow, which nobody can deny!”

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