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Ethiopia: Building Diplomatic Muscle Through Economic Development

merkatoOver the past ten years, Ethiopia has geared up its economic engine full throttle to be on a path closer to becoming a middle income country in the coming decade. Its world famous double digit growth over the last decade that has managed to identify it with a hand full of fastest growing economies around the world has put it at another level of international platform.

During the specified time, Ethiopia has grown to become one of the biggest economies in Africa with an optimistic view on the future. The GDP and GDP per capita income increased tremendously setting it up as a country on the brink of joining middle income countries. It has also developed into an investment magnate over the years.

Ethiopia has reduced poverty by over a third during the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Infrastructural facilities have been tremendously widespread across the country over the last dozen years. That means, its citizens have more access to education, health care, roads, telecommunication, electricity, improved housing etc. House hold income has ascended high during the same time.

The development of the country being enjoyed by its people has also afforded the government more economic clout to back up its diplomatic efforts with. Situated in a position more favorable to utilize the resources of the country to forge better mutually beneficial relations with countries in the region and all across the globe, the Ethiopian foreign policy of economic diplomacy is proving successful.

Accordingly, Ethiopia’s diplomatic power has increased significantly through the years of its double digit economic growth. This can be corroborated by the large number of foreign ministers and heads of states and governments of economic powerhouses paying a visit to the country.

In stark contrast to the conditions a couple of decades ago when Ethiopian government officials would have limited access to the most powerful people in the world, they regularly consul with such individuals these days. Ethiopian delegations are often chosen to share their experiences in universalizing health and education along with reducing poverty, child mortality and other issues that the country has excelled at in international forums.

Recent reports also state that Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, has become the third largest seat of the United Nations in the world next only to New York and Genève. According to Fortune Newspaper, an Ethiopian weekly, Addis Ababa also boasts the fourth largest presence of diplomatic corps, following New York, Washington DC and Brussels. It further states that Addis Ababa hosts close to 25 UN agencies, with their army of employees bordering on 3,000. These facts are clear indications of the immense increase in the diplomatic stature of the country in recent years.

Another activity show casing the country’s leap in diplomatic efforts is its active participation in peacekeeping efforts. Ethiopia’s peacekeeping efforts under the current regime kicked off with a mission to Rwanda during the heydays of the Rwandan genocide. At the time, there was no power that managed to put a stop to the horrific genocide.

Then the UN Security Council deliberated on the issue and put forward a request for the transitional government of Ethiopia to operate under the United Nations Mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR) to take up the responsibility as the Council believed that the army was up for the task. Memorably, the Ethiopian mission did a remarkable job earning the trust and respect of the Rwandan people and the UN.

The next peacekeeping mission Ethiopia took part in was in Burundi. The mission of the Ethiopian army in Burundi was to control the implementation of the cease fire agreement reached between warring sides, disarming, creating a suitable environment for reconstruction and restoring the political, social and economic status quo to pre-conflict conditions. In addition to undertaking these responsibilities capably, the Ethiopian army earned the respect and love of the people and government of Burundi for its humanitarian activities.

The mission to Liberia followed that of Burundi. In Liberia, the Ethiopian army was assigned for peacekeeping in the vast area called sector 4 that incorporates over six states. Despite the area being one feared by other peacekeeping forces for harboring a large amount of rebels, the UN made the decision with the army’s track record of quality and strength in peacekeeping along with close affinity to the people on the ground in mind. However, the army unfazed by the complexity of the situation used its vast experience in peacekeeping and its trait of social affinity to ensure peace and stability in Liberia, disarm the opposition, protect the natural resources of the country and make direct participation in reconstruction activities.

In addition, Ethiopia was also selected in the peacekeeping mission in Western Sudan. The conflict between the Sudanese government and rebels in Darfur has reportedly claimed the lives of about 70 thousand people while upwards of 2.3 million people have been displaced.

In its deployment area, the army has provided the brotherly people of the Sudan with free medical services and protected internally displaced people (IDPs) from attacks by armed groups. In the largely desert area of Darfur, the Ethiopian peacekeeping mission dug water out to address water problems for the society and animals. It also deducted budget from its daily food expenses to help out those in need. The army has conducted other numerous social activities that have won it acceptance by the community and government officials alike.

Another mission is that of Abiye where the Ethiopian peacekeeping force is unilaterally carrying out the task. Following the self-determination of South Sudan, the governments of the North and the South have not managed to agree over the oil reach region of Abiye. The conflict that ensued subsequently claimed the lives of numerous people with others resorting to displacement.

After carefully analyzing the situation, the UN proposed for the deployment of a peacekeeping mission in Abiye. The 15 members of the UN Security Council then unanimously decided to deploy 4,200 Ethiopian peacekeeping forces to unilaterally take on the challenge. The astonishing thing about the decision was not just the unusual unanimous decision by the members of the Security Council but the fact that both sides of the conflict, the North and South Sudan, expressed their desire to have the Ethiopian peacekeeping force as the unilateral force in Abiye.

This situation was the first time in the history of the UN in which all three bodies involved, the Security Council, the North and South Sudan, decided to deploy a country as the unilateral peacekeeping force.

Yet another peacekeeping mission the Ethiopian army is participating in is the one in Somalia under the umbrella of AMISOM. Ethiopia received an invitation to join the African peacekeeping force in Somalia and strengthen the AMISOM mission in 2014.In line with the activities of other peacekeeping missions by the Ethiopian army, the force in Somalia has helped create conducive environment for the people to administer themselves and claim back ownership of the security structure. It has also trained, armed and organized the security forces of the Somali government to build their capacity.

Source: All Africa, Bereket Gebru