The African Union (AU) heads of state and government summit will be held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in the first days of February 2022, just as in the other normal years, as it used to be done in the past for years. This has been a regular ritual to see leaders of the continent meet and discuss all the urgent and important issues of the continent and reach agreements. As Addis residents are accustomed to giving priority to the guests by leaving aside their normal lives for a while, they leave the streets empty where the leaders pass so that they can go about the assembly halls or go for some other meeting or mission smoothly.
Security officers including the traffic police are required to work more hours than usual and stay out for extended hours even after office hours. Certain hotels are reserved completely for the guests and their delegations, as well as journalists who come to report on the summit. Addis residents know this ritual very well because it has been happening regularly every year come February. At times, this can happen even in July or some other month when there is need to carry out an extraordinary or urgent summit due to some crisis.
For the last couple of years however, following the spread of the COVID 19, these summits were not held and in a way Addis residents must have missed them. Particularly those who used to work around the summit and their participants must have suffered a lot because these summits were huge income earners. The hotels have suffered because of lack of guests. The transport people were affected because there were no tourists to transport from one place to another. People who used to work in the conference halls such as interpreters, secretaries and other support staff have also suffered a lot due to the cancellation of the physical meetings.
Even the diplomatic contacts and deliberations between the leaders of these member states on the sidelines of the summit have been missed. Invited delegations and guests from outside the continent have also been affected because there was less communication and eye to eye discussions among leaders on issues of mutual interest, be it trade, commerce, development assistance or even military accords. In short, everyone has missed these AU summits and now that it has been decided to resume this February it must have created some form of emotion and relief among all those who work around them.
During the past two years the summit had to be held on line through zoom. This has of course brought a lot of losses to the sector that thrives on conference tourism and tourism in general. Addis has been thriving through conference tourism for years and such demand has even convinced many investors to build huge and luxurious hotels to accommodate all these illustrious guests who do not even have any shortage of expenses as they are mostly leaders of their countries or people in prominent positions. With the projects on the beautification of Addis carried out through the construction of various parks, clean streets and pavements, the construction of squares and other public facilities such as the Entoto Park, the Friendship Park and Unity Park, Addis has tried to refresh its looks and be more welcoming to guests. The COVID 19 pandemic has hence damaged enormously the tourist industry in Ethiopia with the closure of so many hotels and other public facilities.
Countries like Ethiopia who are desperately in need of foreign currency to import certain vital goods such as medical equipment and medicines as well as electronic gadgets etc. are made to endure tremendous shortages.
However, in the past few weeks there has been some change in the situation with the advent of thousands of diaspora following the call made by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to come to the rescue of the country and discredit the huge propaganda campaign that tried to destabilize and eventually dismember Ethiopia. The premier called all those country loving diaspora to come home and show to the world how false the reports were that Addis was on the verge of a security disaster and that there is no peace in Ethiopia etc. Following the campaign against Ethiopia ignited by the terrorist TPLF and supported by some western media echoing whatever the propaganda wing of TPLF disseminated, there was once a belief created in the mind of millions that Ethiopia was now to be captured by the TPLF and that the government would fall apart! Hence, many embassies were urged to leave Ethiopia and move out to spare their life etc.
This has resulted to be more of wishful thinking than truth and that it was done deliberately to destabilize not only the government but also the entire country. Some say it was intended to justify some sort of military intervention with the pretext of humanitarian assistance etc. Observers have remarked that this was a ‘film’ that Ethiopians were already familiar with when the military government in 1991 was deposed to install the TPLF led forces to power in what looked like similar circumstances. Hence the current move did not impress the government in power so much except those who completely took the narratives of TPLF and their lobbyists at face value.
With the massive influx of Ethiopian diaspora and some foreigners who did not accept the narratives of certain biased media, Addis was confirmed to be a peaceful place probably more than any western capital with practically no crimes. The traffic was always congested showing a huge movement of busy people once the emergency situation of COVID 19 was diluted with the necessary precautionary and preventive measures and bars and restaurants began to fill up to capacity.
When the huge processions of Timket were carried out peacefully with millions celebrating it with utmost peace and relaxation in all the squares and highways of the country, it was another demonstration that Ethiopia has returned to normal life. All of the ‘doomsday scenario’ that was fabricated in a relentless war of words to meet the political objectives of the enemy was demonstrated to be false. It did not work thanks to the concerted actions of multiple actors such as the diaspora, the Ethiopian people and above all the security and law enforcement of the Ethiopian government.
Now, after resisting all this negative pressure the AU summit is back in Addis in full confirmation that heads of state can come peacefully and attend physically the summit. Despite the relentless efforts of some countries who had evidently sympathy or particular relations with the leadership of the terrorist TPLF who tried to relocate the venue of the summit from Addis to some other site, Ethiopia’s diplomatic battle has ended with a glowing success because it has managed to work behind the curtain and convince the leaders of Africa to be back to Addis where there is the seat of the AU and where all the conference halls are ready to host them. Suspending the summit from being held in Addis would have had multiple negative repercussions. But this scenario has been successfully foiled.
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs the hard and persistent work of the Ethiopian government’s diplomatic corps has paid off. Those who tried to relocate the summit to somewhere else than Addis had the intention of tarnishing the image and reputation of Ethiopia alleging that there is no reliable peace in the country and the pandemic had reached uncontrolled limits. But the African leaders saw for themselves that it was not true, that thousands of diaspora moved to the country in the last several weeks to celebrate Christmas and Timket with their families and relatives as well as compatriots in absolute joy and peace and that millions were in the streets peacefully to celebrate Timket or the Baptism of Christ even more colorfully than in the past. The summit hence will take place with physical presence of the leaders in Addis.
Undoubtedly, the holding of the AU summit in Addis will have a huge impact for the overall image of the country which many had hoped would be otherwise. It will show to the world that whatever some international media had been disseminating was totally unfounded and just a figment of their imagination aimed to purposefully discredit the legitimately elected government and in support of the terrorist TPLF which has launched a war of attrition against Ethiopia! It was also intended to diminish Ethiopia’s clout in continental affairs. But once again if there was need to confirmation the link between Africa and Ethiopia has resulted to persist just as it began ever since the days of the frustration of colonial endeavours against Ethiopia carried out in the late eighteen nineties when the first African victory against a European aggressor was recorded. Ethiopia reasserted its sovereignty and territorial integrity and wrote that history with golden words. Ever since those days the link between Ethiopia and Africa has persisted in glowing terms Ethiopia resulting to be an emblem of independence and freedom. Colonization had its first mortal blow in Ethiopia and that then led to a feeling of pan Africanism ignited with Ethiopia being in the forefront of all people of African descent.
When the OAU was founded in 1963 (later on to be AU), it was hailed as a huge success not only for Africa but also for Ethiopia as well. Since then African leaders have continued to enjoy meeting in Addis at its headquarters and Addis has always hosted the summits with great success. The peace and stability of Ethiopia has always been a source of admiration for many and even when with this conflict in the north going on, there were no issues of peace in all other places in the country unlike the false narratives of some media outlets at the pay roll of TPLF and its allies, enemies of Ethiopia.
No one can break the historical bond between Ethiopians and the rest of Africa and whatever negative things happen to Ethiopia it has come to be a concern of the entire continent. In fact, when there was the relentless false propaganda and battle going on against Ethiopia, all Africans were heard asserting that it was a battle against Africa as well and hence had to be faced in unison. The #No More movement has spread throughout the world with African voices heard loudly. Trying to dismember Ethiopia was considered trying to dismember Africa and destroy its say in the world. Africans said attacking Ethiopia is attacking Africa and needs to immediately stop. The AU summit in Addis is one way of reasserting this idea and conveying it to the rest of the world.
BY FITSUM GETACHEW
THE ETHIOPIAN THURSDAY 27 JANUARY 2022