Reasserting Ethiopia’s Diplomatic Clout
Ethiopia’s relation with world organizations counts decades and is one of the very first countries in the world to join or a founding member of them. History remembers how the late Emperor Haileselassie counted on the power and influenced of the world body, then the League of Nations, and joined it considering a guarantee for the common security and sovereignty of nations.
History also recalls how he was betrayed as it failed to do anything effective to protect Ethiopia from Fascist invasion in 1936. The fervent appeal that the emperor made at the headquarters of League of Nations is still remembered as one of the historical chapters of both the organizations’ frailties and how the world needed something stronger that could restrain the instincts of aggression or expansion of certain arrogant and fascist regimes.
In fact, as he predicted then, there was soon to be other aggressions by the Fascist and Nazi regimes of the 1930s which eventually triggered the devastating World War II and the world plunged into a deep crisis.
Fortunately, Ethiopia got liberated after five years of efforts both in the home front thanks to its brave patriots’ persistent resistance while the exiled emperor exerted all the efforts in the diplomatic front to bring it to the attention.
When things settled and guns stopped roaring, the world needed to contemplate on what to do next and the idea of the United Nations Organisation was born. Ethiopia was a founding member. This body was intended to do away with the errors of the past and be vigilant that never again there would be a ground for any nation to use war as an instrument of foreign policy.
Subsequently, when the world appeared to be immersed in an ideological battle, ‘cold war’, divided into the Capitalist West led by USA and the Socialist East led by Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, USSR, Ethiopia opted to take the neutral stand in the ‘Non Allied Movement’ spearheaded largely by leaders like Yugoslavia’s Marshal Tito, India’s Jawaharlal Nehru, Egypt’s Gamal Abel Nasser and Emperor Haileselassie.
Ethiopia’s active participation among the world community has since been vigorous and exemplary also because it was the only African country that had always remained free of colonial expansion and as such had some leverage wherever it presented itself in the diplomatic sphere.
When the UN was to be active participant of the world’s peace efforts, both in terms of peace making with peace keeping, Ethiopia was among the front runners. In fact, in the early fifties when there was the Korean War, the UN asked Ethiopia to contribute troops to fight along with UN forces and Ethiopia responded positively.
Then the Congo Crisis emerged in the 1960s, again Ethiopia contributed troops to the UN mission. After these two historical efforts by the Ethiopian people and government, the contribution of Ethiopia for world has always been applauded by the UN and other international bodies and the international community has written the name of Ethiopia in golden words.
With the formation of the Organisation of African Unity in Addis Ababa back in 1963, Ethiopia was again among the most active participants of the process along with its leaders and diplomats helping settle the various diversities among the continent’s countries with varying orientations, be it political, cultural or religious. African countries had come from years of colonial dominion and their culture had been some how undermined being replaced to a certain extent by the influence of the alien culture. Portuguese, French, German and English were the imported languages. It was not easy at all to contain the differences of influence and ideology and bring together all of them to one table and agree on what to do to assert Africans’ interest.
Ethiopia’s role in the United Nations endeavours has continued to expand and grow and its troops have been among the most preferred both for their discipline as well as their preparation and courage when there have been moments of combat to keep peace. Its leaders’ contribution in brokering mediation and peace has also been consistent and reliable along the years.
When the other day the United Nations celebrated the seventieth anniversary of the formation of the peacekeepers organisation, Ethiopia was mentioned among the top members of the body and the ceremony held in New York at the headquarters of the organization was very significant.
During the past three decades after the fall of the military junta in 1991, it is evident that Ethiopia has made progress towards not only the alleviation of poverty of its people but also its efforts to advance the causes of democracy. Particularly in the past few months, with a new leadership team at the apex of government, the momentum has reached a new peak and the coming years seem even more promising.
People say the country is in transition and as it tries to come out of the deep holes of poverty and reliance on foreign aid, its contribution to the peace efforts of international bodies such as the UN, the AU, NEPAD and IGAD and the like has however been very significant. Even the leadership of the World Health Organization given to an Ethiopian has its own significance because Ethiopia has demonstrated along the years to be a reliable partner in the world scene.
Given its strategic position along the Red Sea route and very near to the Middle East and of course the core of Africa, Ethiopia’s role cannot be undermined in regional as well as continental power politics. The role its leaders have played beginning with Emperor Haileselassie and then Colonel Mengistu to Meles Zenawi, Hailemariam Dessalegn and now Dr Abiy Ahmed is welcome and appreciated. All these leaders were committed to the cause of African Unity and in one way or another have contributed to the liberation of Africa from foreign dominion. It is in our memory how the late Meles Zenawi was an active campaigner of Africa’s campaign to claim legitimate compensation for the damages the advanced nations caused through what is called climate change: a direct result of the reckless carbon emission to the environment causing havoc in the atmosphere during their drive towards industrialization. The Paris Climate Agreement is one of the results of such efforts. Ethiopia is now cited among the nations that have made tremendous advancement towards developing a clean energy.
The campaign to make the world better and safer is an ongoing process in which every country in the world should take part and some of the huge economies of the world should be prompted to bear their due share of responsibilities and not avoid them. Ethiopia in the meantime will continue to be among the forefront of countries that contribute its fair share in peace making as well as peace keeping under the auspices of well recognized international bodies. It also takes active part in combating international terrorism as well as human trafficking besides of course giving a hand in hosting thousands of refugees who flee war zones and persecutions from places such as neighbouring Eritrea, Somalia and the Sudan.
Hence the role of Ethiopia in international diplomatic circles will continue to flourish even with the new government of Dr. Abiy as he gave it priority in his agenda by visiting the neighbouring countries and then the Arab World.
BY FITSUM GETACHEW