The prince, the eagle, the bear
Addis Ababa was busy this week prepping to host three ministers of foreign affairs. It was a rather exceptional week which saw the arrival of top diplomats from the United States, Russia and the United Arab Emirates together on the African soil.
It was following the visit by Workneh Gebeyehu (PhD), Ethiopian Minister of Foreign Affairs, to the US that the visit by Secretary of State of the US, Rex Tillerson, to Africa was announced. Workneh discussed current issues and developments in Ethiopia with the Atlantic Council Vice President and Africa Center Director, Peter Pham (PhD).
Tillerson’s first visit to the African continent started from Ethiopia on March 7 during which he met with Workneh and the outgoing Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn.
Secretary Tillerson met with Workneh to address “a wide range of shared interests in security, economic growth, and governance. The Secretary underscored US appreciation for Ethiopia’s role in improving regional security as a both caretaker of refugees and of contributor to peacekeeping operations, and as a leader in both the Intergovernmental Authority on Development and the African Union,” the Department of State disclosed on March 8.
In his meeting with the prime minister, Tillerson appreciated Hailemariam for his commitment for the future of the country, the reason the prime minister resigned from his post.
The State Department stated: “the Secretary encouraged completing the democratic reforms to broaden political participation, particularly in light of the ongoing government transition. The Secretary also stressed the role of the private sector and the desire to see increasing numbers of US firms invest in and export to Ethiopia, who bring with them a focus on transparency and training.”
But before Tillerson completed his trip to Ethiopia, it was Sergey Lavrov’s turn to land at Bole International Airport after three years since he visited Ethiopia back in 2015.
Apart from bilateral cooperation, Lavrov came to Ethiopia with a plan to establish a research nuclear facility in Ethiopia. In a press conference along with Workneh, Lavrov said that the nuclear facility establishment process “is moving forward and is to be accelerated once all the intergovernmental agreements are signed and agreed up on. But, we do not expect any delay to move forward with the project,” he answering to a question raised by The Reporter.
The other visitor this week was His Highness Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan who signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Workneh for cooperation in political consultations.
Ethiopia and UAE agreed to cooperate in the fields of air transport, employment and on the reciprocal visa exemption arrangements between the two countries.
According to commentators, the visit by the three powers to the country is beyond the agreements signed, and they go to the extent of discussions on the country’s political situation. They also observe that the major push for the visit by the FMs, especially the US and Russia is the current political situation in the country on which lack of a replacement to the departing PM became a salt on a wound.
Some observers even commented that the coming of the two FM signifies the presence of a major concern on the western countries as it is risky to let Ethiopia fall into chaos which is a symbol of peace in a region known for terrorist attacks and tribal wars.
Ethiopia is a major ally for the US in fighting terrorism and the historical relations with Russia makes it a center of importance in the region.