A mild difference of views appears to have emerged between senior ministers both on Menelik II and Africa avenues…

A mild difference of views appears to have emerged between senior ministers both on Menelik II and Africa avenues, gossip claims. The dispute concerns whether to hire a lobby or public relations firm for the Ethiopian state, an issue Messers Tedros Adhanom (PhD) and Redwan Hussien, ministers of Foreign Affairs and Government Communications Affairs Office, respectively, have been juggling for sometime now.

Add to that a cautious voice from Brehane G. Kirstos, state minister for Foreign Affairs and a stalwart of Ethiopia’s diplomacy over the past two decades. On leave for a few weeks now, Brehane feels that neither a lobby nor a PR firm is of any use to the country, according to gossip.

He represents the voice of experience, for while serving as Ethiopia’s envoy to the United States back in the 2000s, he was instrumental in hiring a lobby firm which turned out to be a source of dissatisfaction to administration officials, claims gossip.

Hired for over one million dollars, Washington D.C. based law and PR firm, DLA Piper, was responsible for Ethiopia’s government bidding. This was back in the mid-2000s when lawmakers in the United States Congress were trying to pass bills (H.R. 5680 and H.R. 2003) which were deemed harmful to the administration’s interests. Despite the lobbying efforts of DLA Piper, one of the bills passed Congress, although failed to do so in the Senate.

Inspite of this mild difference among the senior ministers, the Administration of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn has made up its mind last week to hire a PR firm based either in Europe or the US, gossip revealed. Close to eight firms were considered, from which three are shortlisted, gossip disclosed. Two of these firms are based in the United Kingdom, while one is in the United States, although people remain tightlipped about the identities of the firms. The two United Kingdom firms, however, may involve Alastair Campbell, former tabloid editor and later a spin doctor for Tony Blair, and Myles Wickstead, former UK ambassador to Ethiopia before he retired from foreign services, gossip revealed.

Gossip sees it as only a matter of time before a name flies around the corridors of the foreign office on Menelik II Avenue.

Yet, another name, Yale University, does fly high already on the corridors on Menelik II Avenue, albeit for a different reason, gossip observed.

Scholars of Yale have been involved in helping Ethiopia’s senior diplomats learn the crafts of developing “grand strategies,” claims gossip. Originally hoped to be much broader than the current size, which is limited to the top rank of diplomats, the program is designed to take a group of diplomats to Connecticut, and bring trainers to Addis Abeba, claims gossip. For the 1.4 million dollars of finance, thought to have come from the United Nations Development Program, has not yet materialised, the Administration had to resort to its own coffer, for only one-fourth of the original budget, gossip disclosed.

The effect of the budget slash was reflected on the size of the team of diplomats sent to the United States last week, gossip says. Instead of 30 or so, a group of just three diplomats, led by the state minister for Foreign Affairs, Mekonnen Hadis (Prof.), a special advisor to the Minister, Taye Astekesellasie, chief of the American Affairs, are taking part in the training, gossip disclosed.

The two-week long training course required Ethiopia’s diplomatic brass to do reference readings of 48 books, ranging from a fourth century historian to Machiavelli, claims gossip. The training is a follow-up session to last year’s lectures on the same subject by Yale University foreign policymaking and international affairs professors, at the Ghion Hotel, gossip recalls.

Published on November 30, 2014 [ Vol 15 ,No 761]



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