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
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.