During its rule of over two decades, the EPRDF government faces occasional condemnation and at times threats from foreign entities such as the Senate and Congress of the United States, and the European Parliament. Although a distant memory now, there once was a time when western embassies based in Addis Abeba issued regular statements in response to government actions deemed a threat to individual rights, civil liberties and the democratic process, gossip recalls.
Neither statements of condemnation from Addis Abeba nor resolutions originating in Brussels or Washington DC, have ever been a cause of concern for the Revolutionary Democrats here. At best, they may have had an effect of irritation to the leaders of the EPRDFites, claims gossip.
But when draft resolutions are taken up by determined legislators such as the late Congressman Donald Payne and Chris Smith, a US Congressman whose involvement with Ethiopia dates back to the famine of the 1980s, the EPRDF ites are rarely dismissive, claims gossip. Those legislators have been elected to a lawmaking body with a bite. And the United States is a country that cashes out an average of close to one billion dollars in aid to Ethiopia, on top of the many forms of assistance it provides the Ethiopian regime in international diplomacy and military cooperation.
In the aftermath of the 2005 electoral debacle in particular, the EPRDFites had begun to worry about the intensity of campaigns by foreign legislators, and were thus compelled to hire lobbying firms to counter the battle of perception. In the late 2000s, DLA Piper, one of the prominent lobbying firms on K Street, was hired for 50,000 dollars a month to help the Ethiopian government avoid sanction by the US Congress for its transgression of human rights.
DLA Piper may have premium clients such as Saudi Arabia, Palestine and even Al-Jazera. Now in partnership with a local law firm, Mehrteab Leul & Associates, its relationship with the Ethiopian government was not concluded in a pleasant manner, gossip disclosed. Ethiopian envoy to Washington at the time, Brehane G. Kirstos, reportedly had misgivings on the services the group had given and the results it had brought, claims gossip.
The need to hire another lobby firm has been kept on the hold since then, partly due to the reluctance of Brehane after he was promoted to a state minister for Foreign Affairs, gossip disclosed. How much of a say he may have from where he now sits, a special envoy to the Prime Minister with an office on Lorenzo Te’azaz Road, remains unclear.
However, the legislative pressure has begun from a rather different direction. The European Parliament has passed a resolution, condemning the ongoing crackdown on protestors in Oromia Regional State, due largely to the determined campaign of Ana Gomez. A European Parliamentarian from Portugal, she has had a bitter relationship with the Revolutionary Democrats since her days as chief observer of the 2005 national elections.
The European Parliament may not be as biting as its counterpart across the Atlantic; but the European Commission, as an associated institution, gives Ethiopia an average of 2.5 billion dollars aid a year. Thus, it would be of little surprise if the EPRDFites are now out shopping for a lobbying firm, with prospective candidates from London and Washington DC under consideration, gossip disclosed. A committee of three, comprising Tedros Adhanom (PhD), minister of Foreign Affairs, Getachew Reda, minister of Government Communications Affairs Office, and Abdulaziz Mohammed, minister of Finance & Economic Cooperation, is currently reviewing offers from close to seven firms. Nonetheless, the most likely candidate to bag the contract, which may cost the Ethiopian government an annual two million dollars, appears to be Chelgate, a London-based PR firm, and an American lobbying firm whose name remains undisclosed, says gossip.