By Samuel Estefanous
Ethiopia has got scores of fair weather friends. Indisputably, Djibouti stands out as our quintessential fair weather friend. These fair weather friends are a little too quick to ditch us at the first opportunity.
The Sudan is one of them. Recently the Republic of Kenya has joined their ranks. The latter was known for its steadfast friendship. Its foreign relation policy vis-a-vis Ethiopia has been principled, unwavering and stood the test of time; above all it has stood the test of regime change both in Ethiopia and Kenya. That is why we were unable to process the phenomenal betrayal at the Security Council of the United Nations and its lending ears to the diabolical call of the Egyptian military high brass for a regional alliance to isolate and emasculate Ethiopia.
I believe it has come as some kinda rude shock to most us. I mean the fact that our regional partners and fellow members of IGAD are giving us cold shoulder while members of the West African sub continental organization ECOWAS refuse to walk out on us. I know Her Excellency, the President of the Republic, had been busy lobbying hard to win friends around that part of the Continent and her effort must have borne fruit.
However there is some visible irony here. President Sahlework regularly travels to Djibouti and the Republic of Kenya. As one of the few career diplomats in Ethiopia, she had served as Ambassador of Ethiopia to Djibouti for a decade. She is reputed to have been close friends with the fluent Amharigna speaking President of the Republic of Djibouti. Guess what? As Director General of the United Nations Office in Nairobi she had struck up and maintained a warm relationship with Uhuru Kenyatta and is always welcome as a family friend according to some report. How come we are losing these two invaluable neighbors when we needed them the most? We have invested a lot in these two countries-economically, politically, emotionally, spiritually and culturally. We have staked a helluva lot than the government wishes us to know.
We are taking fire alone on the GERD question but Kenya stands to benefit from the endeavor yet it is trying to collude with Egypt? We have built the longest expensive modern tarmac to the tip of its border with the idea and hope of economically integrating our two countries and Kenya turns its back on us?
There is this far off country that hardly features in our circle of Sovereign friends but never fails to show up at our doors uninvited when we are in trouble. It was there with us at Adwa; at the League of Nations when we were being mocked and booed, it was there beside the vanquished; in its early days when the UN was trying to wrist out Eritrea from Ethiopia it was our advocate pro bono; when the Somali irredentism in complicity with Jimmy Carter’s United States threatened our very existence, it had materialized beside us-Matushika Rossiya!
The Fitewerari Tekle Hawaryat connection-
I have said it before and I will say it again, Fitewerari Tekle Hawariyat’s autobiography-ably edited and introduced by his son Dejazimatch Girmachew-should be made a mandatory reading for pre-College students in Ethiopia. The belligerent Fitewerari depicts a close and personal experience of the generosity of the Russian soul in great details; how he was welcome in upper class princely Russian family as one of their own and how he was instructed at Cadet Corps Academy-the best in the Russian Empire at the time. He had received his graduation diploma from the hands of Czar Nicholas II himself. Meanwhile in those days the United States was trying to come terms with the fact that blacks are human after all.
Bulatovich and the Old Russian Mission in Addis-
Italy, France and the United Kingdom had encircled Ethiopia and were on the brink of swallowing us up true to the dictates of the Berlin Conference for the Scramble of Africa. Yes, they had Embassies in Addis in that order but they had always maintained ulterior motives. They were pursuing their avaricious selfish interests at the expense of Ethiopia. Had it not been for Britain, we wouldn’t have the current border dispute with the Sudan, hadn’t France poked its nose in the horn of Africa, we wouldn’t have Djibouti bestowing and revoking its trust every now and then, actually Djibouti might have joined the larger common wealth to its immediate west.
The Russian mission in Ethiopia was doing nothing of the kind; on the contrary, they were trying to forge strong relationships chiefly on public diplomacy sector. Bulatovich’s epic journey with the armies of Menelik had taught us the costs of the expansion as well as its benefits. It is an ethnographical masterpiece indeed.
Anybody could tell it was written with the at most good faith with the benefits of the entire Nation at heart. Just try to match it with other books of similar nature. Bruce told packs of lies to the whole wide world out of sheer spite and told such monstrous long tales like we were Neanderthal brutes. Stern’s book Wanderings among the Falashas of Ethiopia wasn’t as bad but it was motivated by incomprehensible ill feelings and never missed an opportunity to bash us. No wonder Emperor Theodros II threw him in to a bleak dungeon (according to reports by Hormuz Rassam, Theodros had the book translated in to Amharic and had known the fact that Stern had characterized the Emperor as an uncouth wild man before his actual arrival at the court)
I don’t subscribe to anything that slightly smacks of conspiracy theory but it certainly looks like the United States and other major Western countries are doing their very best to export their deadly culture of decadence to the rest of the world. The cold war is long over but they are fighting Russia nail and tooth, pushing the border of the military alliance to its door steps. One naturally wanders why. For one Russia has firmly locked and secured its borders against the filthy decadence of Western civilization. In this respect its affinity is with the bulk of the people of Africa. Perhaps this partly explains why Africa has begun waving the Russian tricolor from Addis to Bamako, from Bangui to Benghazi.
Beginning from my early days at Addis Ababa University I used to frequent the Russian Centre for Science and Culture around the Catholic Cathedral off the Churchill road. It used to host poetry recital evenings, theaters, debates, informal free lectures by the likes of Afework Tekle, Dr.Hailu Araya and Ayalneh Mulat.
It had a modest collection of books, journals and periodicals. In a Russian you don’t see that icy superciliousness you don’t miss in any given Westerner, then you don’t see or encounter them among the general public. They have their exclusive colonies where natives are hardly welcome in their own country.
I am not surprised the Russian Federation staunchly supported us at the Security Council of the United Nations.