Published On  Oct 30,  2011






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For many senior and experienced diplomats sent by western countries and multilateral organizations, dealing with the Revolutionary Democrats is a precarious affair, so to say. The latter have come to mastermind the art of diplomacy to their best interest; they now know how to push the most acclaimed diplomat to the edge of irrelevance, if need be.

Their victims are those who dare to criticize their policies in public. This category includes individuals like David Shinn (PhD), former US ambassador to Ethiopia who was outspoken against Ethiopia’s war with Eritrea, to Ken Ohashi, the now retired World Bank director to Ethiopia, whose interviews and OP-EDs published in the local media were detested by the Revolutionary Democrats.

If criticisms are warranted, which they are, when exercised within themselves, despite some of their brutality, their most preferred manner of engagement was of course one refined by Donald Yamamoto, another former US ambassador to Ethiopia.

If there was any American diplomat who was tough on the EPRDF-led government, none could rightly claim the mantra more than Yamamoto. He was strongly critical of the government’s military undertakings in the Ogaden desert, for instance. Yet, he appeared supportive in public while remaining critical in private on many bilateral issues, as evidenced from his cables brought to light by Wikileaks. He was more effective in influencing policy decisions than any of his predecessors or peers, who would have envied the sort of access he had been granted by the Prime Minister, observed gossip.

Those who were known to have practiced quiet diplomacy in their bid to get leverage to influence the behavior of Revolutionary Democrats, and in particular their chief priest, were people like Samuel Nyambi, Alexander Kyei and Ishac Diwan, former resident representatives of UNDP, IMF and World Bank, respectively, claims gossip.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to fulfill it” George Santayana, the Spanish-American novelist once said.

These could be fitting words of wisdom to Guang Zhe Chen, the first Chinese citizen to be appointed by the World Bank to serve as the next country director for Ethiopia, gossip disclosed. Chen’s appointment to his new position has be granted a blessing from the Ethiopian authorities, and is expected to arrive here sometime in December 2011, claims gossip.

Unlike his predecessor, who had to face the wrath of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi for allegedly settling a “neo-liberal” account before his retirement, Chen is young and relatively new to the Bank; joining the World Bank in 1997, after having left the Asian Development Bank (AsDB).

Gossip anticipates that a daunting task awaits Chen in Ethiopia, one of which includes creating a cordial relationship with Ethiopian leaders, whose faith has been shaken by the distressing relationship they had with his predecessor. But more importantly, Chen will have to clear up the confusion stemming from Washington, DC on what the Britton Wood Institutions think about the flagship economic program of the Ethiopian government.

It is clear to gossip that Washington’s 18th St. is divided over Ethiopia’s GTP; there are those who believe the plan is “ambitious but doable,” and that the Bank’s three-year strategic plan ought to be aligned with the administration’s growth plan. Yet, authors of a report released by the joint staffs of the International Development Agency (IDA), the Bank’s lending arm for poor countries, and the IMF, have fiercely criticized it as “too ambitious without a means to achieve it.”

Having worked as a senior transport economist and sector manager for the Urban & Water Unit in Latin America and the Caribbean, an area of expertise very relevant to the GTP, Chen will certainly come into an environment that seems to have stopped listening to or deliberately ignoring criticisms of the economic plan, gossip observed.

Those in the gossip corridors are curious to see how Chen will define his relationship with the Revolutionary Democrats and where he will stand on this otherwise dividing line.




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