Soft power diplomacy makes Ethiopia desirable nation

For several decades, Ethiopia has been pursuing a soft power diplomacy that helped it play a prominent role in regional and international political arena. Especially since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took office a year ago, Ethiopia’s diplomatic relations has been portraying an upward swing.

How did soft power diplomacy take root in Ethiopia? What are the approaches and ways that boosted the nation’s soft power diplomacy? What are the major achievements Ethiopia has gained over the last two decades? Who are the main actors that could play a role in enhancing Ethiopia’s soft power diplomacy?

Diplomacy could be categorized as soft and hard power and Ethiopia has been implementing soft power diplomacy especially after 1991, Yonas Tekle, Political Science and International relations lecturer at Mekelle University speaks to The Ethiopian Herald.

He states that Ethiopia has been strengthening it diplomacy with several countries through trade, investment, cultural interactions, sister cities relations, student scholarships, athletics, parliament-to-parliament relations and people-to-people relations.

Due to its glaring soft power diplomatic achievements, the nation has attracted huge foreign direct investment, promoted its trade and lured millions of tourists over the last two decades, according to the lecturer.

‘‘Ethiopia’s reputation in the regional and international diplomatic arena is increasing from time to time. There are several factors that would be noted for the development of Ethiopia’s credibility and prominence,’’ he argues. ‘‘Soft power diplomacy is highly needed especially in the volatile horn of Africa. That is why the country has been contributing a lot towards ensuring peace and stability in neighboring countries and beyond. Ethiopia has shown its willingness to warrant tranquility by contributing different peace keeping mission forces for UN’’

Thawing the ice between Ethiopia and Eritrea is an incredible achievement that attended the soft power diplomacy under the leadership of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, Yonas underlines.

‘‘The no-peace-no-war policy which lasted for 20 years had negatively affected both countries. However, thanks to the relentless effort of the governments of Ethiopia and Eritrea, diplomatic relations have been restored. Besides, artists from both countries had played a pivotal role in promoting people-to-people relations staging cultural performance in both countries,’’ the lecturer states.

In addition to that, Ethiopian athletes outshine in world athletics. By breaking world records, innumerable Ethiopian star athletes have been allowing the national flag to hover shoulder high. Moreover, they have been playing quite a role adding bricks towards reinforcing the diplomacy of their country.

 Peace and Security, Assistant Professor at Addis Ababa University, Solomon Tsehay for his part says since Ethiopia has been perusing soft power diplomacy, it has managed to ensure its peace and stability which is vital for sustaining its double digit economic growth.

Despite some unrest that broke out over the couple of years necessitating political reform, Ethiopia is known as an island of peace and stability, he insists. Solomon adds that ensuring sustainable peace and security was a prime factor for attracting Foreign Direct Investment and Tourists.

After the reform, the administration of Prime Minister of Ethiopia is basking under international laudation and recognition for its committed move towards the observance of human rights, freedom of speech and press freedom. The enhancement of the political scope is included in the list.

‘‘The reformed ruling party has entitled Ethiopians full freedom. Political groups who were outlawed and exiled are allowed to exercise their political agenda freely; political dissidents, journalists and human right campaigners were freed from prison. These measures are being hailed by the international community. They have boosted the soft power diplomacy of our country,’’ according to him.

He insisted that enhancing democratization and freedom of speech would have immense contribution for national consensus and reconciliation and it would also build the good image of the nation.

Besides, Ethiopia has been consolidating its diplomacy through sister city relations. The capital Addis Ababa and other state cities such as Adama, Hawassa, Bahir Dar, Debre Birhan, Dire Dawa, Wolaita Sodo, Mekelle, Axum, Gondar, Semera, Jigjiga etc are among the Ethiopian cities which have created strong sisterly relations with their foreign counterparts. Hence, they have been offered financial, material and technical assistances in return.

As part of strengthening soft power diplomacy, Yonas Tekle points out that the role of parliament-to-parliament relations were pivotal. Ethiopia has shared experiences and best practices from parliaments of other countries and signed numerous bilateral cooperation agreements.

‘‘Ethiopia has embarked on an optimistic political transition. Strong democratic institutions are on the way of putting down roots. As part of the nation’s bid towards the democratization process, the parliament should press ahead with its task of scaling up best practices of other countries. In this regard, the Ethiopian parliament members should be appreciated for their effort of promoting their country’s infant democracy in their official visit to different countries,’’ he insists.

The other important way of consolidating soft power diplomacy is allowing foreign media to bring to the spotlight the good images of the country and constraints. Accordingly, many foreign media outlets are coming in droves to make programs and news about Ethiopia. This could be taken as part of the government’s ambition of ensuring media freedom and willingness to create open door policy towards foreign media as well.

Solomon underscores that besides foreign media, the proliferation of local media would create ample opportunity for a nation which has been lampooned by CJP and other bodies for its handling of journalists over the last 27 years.

‘‘There wasn’t freedom to write whatever one saw fit before the ruling party undertook swift reforms. Media people have been harassed, detained and kicked out of their country only for expressing their views. As a result, there were a lot of criticisms and outcries which affected the country’s image negatively,’’ Solomon notes. Adding, ‘‘ Now, the atmosphere is nice. There is a full freedom to express one’s views and ideas. Because of this, Ethiopia is being hailed by right groups and other international organizations for their astounding journey towards democratization.’’

To sum up, Ethiopia has sustained robust soft power diplomacy that could benefit her politically and economically. As the seat of the African Union (AU), Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and other regional and international organizations, it has a bright future to be a looked-forward nation in diplomacy, political, economic and tourism aspects. To realize this, every Ethiopian should be an ambassador of his/her beloved nation.

 The Ethiopian Herald  June 23, 2019


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