Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn and Kenya’s President, Uhuru Kenyatta…




If there are leaders in the Greater East Africa region with mutually congenial relationships, little can be found beyond the one between Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn and Kenya’s President, Uhuru Kenyatta, gossip observed. It is as if the two leaders have the innate desire to resurrect the cordial relationship there once was between Emperor Hailesellasie I and Jomo Kenyatta.

Kenyatta, the father, was a student in London when Emperor Hailesellasie was crowned in 1930; he was known to hang the tricolor of Ethiopia’s flag in his room. When he became the Founding President of the independent Kenya in 1964, Kenyatta revered the Emperor so much so that he ducked Liberia’s leader, William Tubman, in Mombasa to honour Hailesellasie with the title of first head of state to visit the new Kenya.

Today, there are only three avenues in Nairobi all named after Heads of State: Kenyatta, Daniel Arap Moi and Emperor Hailesellasie. The Emperor paid Kenyatta in kind when he visited Addis Abeba in 1969, one of the two foreign visits – the other was to England – Kenyatta made during his reign of 15 years. Not only did he honour his admirer naming a main street in Addis Abeba after him, but upon his visit pilots from Ethiopia’s air force had a stunning show cladding Addis Abeba’s sky, with fighter jets forming the word “JOMO”, so says history.

Last week, during Hailemariam’s visit to Nairobi, the ease with which Kenyatta held his hand at a red carpet reception defied protocol and revealed their mutual liking, says gossip. Hailemariam may not have a road named after him; however, his visit has served a lot more purpose in regional politics than his diplomats are prepared to face, claims gossip.

Kenyatta has every reason to cherish Hailemariam’s visit; their administrations have signed a deal pledging to finance the construction of an oil pipeline between the coastal town of Lamu and Addis Abeba. It is obvious the deal last week was hastily made for there hardly exists details on the scope, time and financing of the project, claims gossip. But it was a grand statement Kenyatta delivered to his neighbour down south after Yoweri Museveni of Uganda reneged an earlier deal with Kenya and moved on to Tanzania to export his newly found oil. The Kenyans no doubt felt betrayed.

Ironically, another leader in the region who may feel betrayed is Djibouti’s Ismael Omar Guelleh whose government has signed a similar deal with Ethiopia to transport nearly one million tonnes of fuel a year from ports in Djibouti to mainland Ethiopia, gossip says. Back in February 2006, the two governments signed an agreement to see the construction of a pipeline at a projected cost of 1.55 billion dollars. It is to be built by the American-backed Black Rhino, part of the Blackstone Group, which hopes to raise one billion dollars debt in partnership with a South African company, Bafokeng Holdings.

Authorities in Djibouti and executives of Black Rhino were caught by surprise last week, learning about the deal between Ethiopia and Kenya only from the media, gossip disclosed. Not only does it appear that both projects are seen in Addis Abeba as tokenism; the diplomats responsible for the Africa Division may need to brace up to face the consequences of backlash from the Djiboutians and the Americans, claims gossip.



Published on Jun 28,2016 [ Vol 17 ,No 843]


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