Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn was in his trademark gracious…

Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn was in his trademark gracious mood early last week when he received an America delegation led by the Republican Senator James (Jim) Inhofe. While the Senator from Oklahoma praised Hailemariam for Ethiopia’s involvement in helping warring faction of South Sudan conclude a peace deal, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister said as much about the United States’ generosity in helping Ethiopia through the Power Africa Initiative (PAI).

Inhofe is known to be one of the great friends the EPRDFites have up on Capitol Hill, gossip claims.

The PAI is a presidential initiative that pledges to commit over seven billion dollars in five years to help eight countries, including Ethiopia, exploit their energy potential.

It would have been delightful news for the administration, had it not been for the renewed campaign by a member of the US Senate, who appears to be determined to revitalise the HR 2008, which called for greater space for democracy and respect for human rights by the Ethiopian government.

First introduced by Russ Feingold, a Democratic senator from Wisconsin, the bill pledged 20 million dollars in support, but failed to pass the Senate’s floor due largely to lobbying by a firm the Ethiopian government hired at the time, gossip recalled. Credit also goes to Senator Inhofe, who had tabled a competing bill against those introduced by Feingold.

Ethiopian diplomats in Washington DC, under the stewardship of Girma Birru – Ethiopia’s ambassador to the United States – are now busy struggling to fight back this bill before it gains any traction in the media and among many senators, gossip disclosed.

Senator Feingold appears to be determined to restart the bill – for the third time since 2008 – after amending the clauses that led to its failure, gossip disclosed. The Senator is calculative this time around, hoping to strike a year ahead of the national election in Ethiopia, as opposed to the less than half year lead time he had back in the 2010 election, according to gossip.

He also eyes the Electrify Africa Act under consideration in the United States Congress, which hopes to finance the enhanced generation of 20,000mw in renewable energy to 50 million residents in Africa. It is a bipartisan act introduced to support President Obama’s initiative in powering Africa, where Ethiopia is indentified as a key beneficiary. Despite enthusiasm and keenness in Obama’s administration to see the act pass the floor of congress without any bipartisan showbiz, there emerged congressmen who are pushing to tie the bill to some strict human rights conditions, according to gossip.

It is not going to be pleasant news for Hailemariam and his political allies, who have yet to strategise their method of overcoming challenges in the upcoming national election, gossip claims.

The unpleasant news is hardly confined to the irritating development in Capitol Hill, gossip learnt.

To the displeasure of the EPRDFites, one of the world’s leading country risk rating agencies, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), has moved Ethiopia to its category of “high risk countries”, attributing its decision to potential social unrest, gossip learnt. Of the score from zero to four, Ethiopia earns a score of three in the EIU’s projection for 2014, alongside Tunisia, Haiti, Iran and Pakistan, gossip disclosed.

The EIU has also poured cold water on the now largely touted claim by top brass of the Revolutionary Democrats that Ethiopia was in the list of the 10 fastest growing economies across the world, according to gossip. Depressingly, Ethiopia has given way in this category to countries such as the troubled Chad and South Sudan, as well as Sierra Leone and Nigeria, claims gossip.

Published on January 26, 2014 [ Vol 14 ,No 717]



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