Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has asked veteran diplomat Ambassador Tekeda Alemu to take a delegation to Washington in a last ditch attempt to ease diplomatic tensions between Ethiopia and the U.S., a senior
diplomatic source has told 𝕿𝔥𝔢 𝕱𝔦𝔫𝔣𝔦𝔫𝔫𝔢 𝕴𝔫𝔱𝔢𝔯𝔠𝔢𝔭𝔱 𝕾𝔱𝔞𝔱𝔦𝔬𝔫. Members of the delegation entrusted with the difficult task of pleading with the state department to lift sanctions imposed on Ethiopia include Ambassador Grum Abay, State Minister Eyob Tekalign and Mamo Mihretu, the PM’s economic advisor.
A confidential diplomatic note viewed by FI’s source lists the names of the two former diplomats presently in retirement -Tekeda & Grum- and two active members of the current administration – Eyob & Mamo – as the Prime Minister’s auxiliary envoys to Washington. If all goes to plan, the team will travel to the U.S. two weeks from now and seek to meet with senior officials at the State Department.
𝕿𝔥𝔢 FI 𝕾𝔱𝔞𝔱𝔦𝔬𝔫 has not been able to confirm if the four have been granted visit visas from the U.S. embassy in Caffee Araaraa. Under current rules, any current or former government official will not be eligible for a U.S. visa. In response to an enquiry from 𝕿𝔥𝔢 𝕱𝔦𝔫𝔣𝔦𝔫𝔫𝔢 𝕴𝔫𝔱𝔢𝔯𝔠𝔢𝔭𝔱 𝕾𝔱𝔞𝔱𝔦𝔬𝔫 as to who exactly will be affected by the visa restrictions, a spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy Addis Ababa repeated a line from the statement issued by the state department but declined to name individuals that will be targeted. It’s not immediately clear if the U.S will make an exception for the delegation led by Tekeda.
The Prime Minister’s reluctance to instruct the withdrawal of Eritrean forces from Tigray has put Ethiopia in a diplomatic quagmire. This has not been helped by Ambassador Fitsum Arega‘s car-crash interview in which he made an absurd reference to the colour of his skin and nervously stuttered when a CNN journalist posed a straightforward question to him on live TV.
Fitsum, who was sent to Washington in 2019 after a short stint at the PM office and with no prior diplomatic experience, has found life across the Atlantic excessively difficult. He was previously left red-faced when the Prime Minister admitted in parliament that Eritrean troops have crossed over to Ethiopia, although the Ambassador repeatedly denied their presence on Ethiopian soil. This has significantly made him untrustworthy in the eyes of U.S officials and rendered his position untenable, says a senior diplomat 𝕿𝔥𝔢 𝕱𝔦𝔫𝔣𝔦𝔫𝔫𝔢 𝕴𝔫𝔱𝔢𝔯𝔠𝔢𝔭𝔱 𝕾𝔱𝔞𝔱𝔦𝔬𝔫 spoke to. In Brussels, Ethiopia’s permanent representative to the EU Hirut Zemene is similarly operating with damaged credibility after EU observer, a Brussels based media outlet, published an op-ed accusing her of blatant deceit and peddling misleading information in the European capital.
It’s presumed that Ethiopia’s former top diplomats to the UN and EU [Ambassador Tekeda and Ambassador Grum Abay], frantically recalled back into the fold by the Prime Minister, will lend a helping hand to Ambassadors Fitsum and Hirut. Meanwhile, opposition groups are saying there is credible evidence that Eritrean forces have been deployed in parts of Oromia and are committing atrocities against the youth ahead of the election. EU and US diplomats are closely monitoring these developments.
The United States views the upcoming election as “a coronation ceremony for the regime” and the European Union will not be sending a team of technical experts that it had planned to send. A spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy Addis Ababa told 𝕿𝔥𝔢 𝕱𝔦𝔫𝔣𝔦𝔫𝔫𝔢 𝕴𝔫𝔱𝔢𝔯𝔠𝔢𝔭𝔱 𝕾𝔱𝔞𝔱𝔦𝔬𝔫 last week that “the United States strongly supports democratization in Ethiopia but free, fair, and credible elections in June can only happen within a conducive electoral environment.”