- Ambassador Meles Alem Tekea said the mission in Kenya will not be closed, in line with his country’s foreign policy on regional integration.
Ethiopia’s ambassador to Kenya now says Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was being hypothetical when he said the embassy in Kenya was among those to be closed to save costs.
Meles Alem Tekea said the mission in Kenya will not be closed, in line with his country’s foreign policy on regional integration.
“The Prime Minister was being hypothetical. The truth is that the embassy will not be closed. It is a very clear policy that our neighbors are a priority in our foreign policy, ”he told the nation by phone on Tuesday.
Later, the embassy issued a statement calling the report that the mission in Kenya was among those being closed as “wild and false conjectures.”
“The Nairobi mission will not be closed. Ethiopia’s neighboring countries, such as Kenya, remain a priority for Ethiopia’s foreign policy. “
What PM said
In a briefing for Ethiopian lawmakers on Monday, Prime Minister Abiy said Ethiopia will close several embassies to manage costs and that most diplomats work as non-resident ambassadors in their countries of accreditation.
He used Kenya as an example, suggesting that diplomats accredited to Nairobi could make field visits to Kenya instead of being residents.
“Ethiopia shouldn’t have about 60 embassies and consulates at the present time. Instead of throwing US dollars all over the place… at least 30 of the embassies should be closed… the ambassadors should be here, ”he said.
He added: “The Ethiopian ambassador to Kenya, for example, probably meets with the Kenyan foreign minister once a year or once every two years.”
The actual list of embassies to be closed was not disclosed and Abiy suggested the policy will be implemented once his Prosperity Party is established after winning the elections.
This told legislators that part of their foreign policy reforms is to save costs in the execution of missions abroad.
“With the current situation Ethiopia finds itself in, the country does not need to have more than 60 embassies and consulates,” he said.
Instead of hiring drivers, Abiy said, government ministers should drive themselves.
“What we want is a person who gets wet in the mud and runs while the country is reformed,” he said.
The move came just a week after Ethiopia admitted resources were exhausted, especially after the war in Tigray in which Ethiopian forces had been pursuing the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which was once a ruling party but is now considered a terrorist group.
Last week, Addis Ababa admitted that it had lost some $ 2.3 billion in damage to infrastructure in Tigray, even as the TPLF paraded thousands of captured Ethiopian soldiers following a unilateral ceasefire in Addis Ababa.
Abiy said that the withdrawal of defense forces from the country of Tigray was the right decision.
He explained that among the reasons for the government’s decision are economic pressures and Covid-19.
“We have national projects to complete,” he told MPs in Monday’s session, where the House also approved a draft budget of 561.7 billion birr ($ 12.83 billion) for Ethiopia’s next fiscal year. “.
Oldest mission in Kenya
The Ethiopian embassy in Kenya is the oldest African diplomatic mission in Kenya, having been initially established as a consulate with colonial Kenya in the early 1950s before formally opening a full embassy just as Kenya was gaining self-government.
Ethiopia’s diplomatic license plates in Nairobi are listed on CD 3, showing that it was the third country in the world to establish diplomatic relations with an independent Kenya.
Built near State House, the seat of the presidency in Nairobi, the mission was erected on land donated to Emperor Haile Selasie of Ethiopia by Kenya’s first president, Jomo Kenyatta. The two countries signed a mutual defense cooperation agreement a few years later, the oldest of those agreements in Kenya.
However, it is not an entirely new idea.
A few months after taking power in April 2018, Prime Minister Abiy suggested to the world that the Horn countries could share diplomatic roles around the world to save costs and advance a common agenda to the world.
“It is not necessary to have a foreign embassy in Switzerland for each of the East African countries. We can share because we are poor, ”he told the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2019.
“We have to allocate those resources to change the life of our society. We are working for the integration of the region. “
Abiy, whose call has been Medemer, Amharic for Synergy or Unity, has argued that Ethiopia’s platform for reform is based on vibrant democracy, economic vitality, and regional integration and openness to the world.
“You don’t need to have different armies in Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti … I don’t believe in this.”
Fast forward to 2021, the realities in the region and local politics may have canceled the idea of a common group of diplomats.
But the financial cost ensured that Abiy had to cut the number of embassies around the world in half.
So what happens if the iconic Kenyan mission, which also handles Ethiopia’s relations with the Comoros and Malawi, closes?
An official from the Kenyan Foreign Ministry told the Nation that Kenya will stay out of what Ethiopia decides as it is an internal matter, but added that relations with Addis Ababa are as cordial as before.
However, some analysts saw the move as a reflection of relationships in the Horn.
“The effect would be tantamount to breaking relations with Kenya,” said Horn of Africa analyst Dr Ahmed Hashi.
“I think it is really the worst time for relations between Kenya and Ethiopia and it is about differences in Somalia,” Hashi told The Nation on Monday, reflecting on the policies of the two countries in Somalia.
Shortly after Abiy came to power, he abandoned Ethiopia’s Meles-era politics in Somalia, where Addis worked more with the federal states than with the center. Later he would sign a pact with President Mohamed Farmaajo to develop four ports in Somalia.
That move, analysts argue, runs counter to Kenya’s stance, for example, in working with federal states to provide a cushion of safety to Nairobi.
“It is a momentous advance when it comes to the regional geopolitics of the Horn of Africa. The ties of the two nations built on a weak Somalia collapsed, ”added Dr. Abdiwahab Sheikh Abdisamad, Kenya’s Horn of Africa consultant and author of Ethiopia’s political history.
“Abiy Ethiopia decided to get rid of anti-Somali policies, while Kenya is stuck in its 1960s. Elections have consequences,” he added bluntly.
The cost-cutting measures are plausible, he added, but considering that Ethiopia will not close embassies in some countries where it has numerous consulates, the real reasons may be deeper, he argued.
“They will probably prefer another country to Kenya and will reduce the Tigray network in Nairobi,” he said referring to the TPLF, which Ethiopia wants to annihilate.