Kenya well placed to gain from more open Ethiopia

11 Nov

Posted by The Ethiopia Observatory

Two recent developments in Addis Ababa may impact Kenya and eastern Africa positively, particularly if they are pointers to Ethiopia’s decision to break out of its self-imposed isolation.

Although Africa’s founding fathers chose Addis Ababa to host their then fledging Organisation of African Union (OAU) slightly over 50 years ago, Kenya’s northern neighbor has generally stayed away from continental trade areas formed along the pre-colonial political blocks.

Ethiopia regarded itself as special because it was the only country in Africa to successfully repel attempts to colonise it. Instead, Emperor Haile Selassie continued to rule the country until 1974 when he was overthrown in a military coup.

A succession of strong-arm governments had their hands full fighting wars of secession, leaving little time to forge regional alliances. Ethiopia’s announcement, therefore, that it has agreed to contribute troops to Amisom to join the Kenya Defence Forces in their fight against Al-Shabaab in Somalia means Addis Ababa is backing its regional neighbours’ attempts to restore peace and security.

Ethiopia has, on several occasions, unilaterally invaded Somalia in pursuit of Ethiopians of Somali ancestry who sought to secede in the same way Eritrea did after fighting a war of secession between 1961 and 1991. But, Ethiopia largely fought its own war in Somalia — until now.

The other significant development is Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn’s statement to Deputy President William Ruto over the weekend. Dessalegn said his country is keen to partner with Kenya in creating an economic zone in Moyale under the Lamu Port and South Sudan Ethiopia Transport Corridor project.

This development comes soon after Dessalegn told a visiting Kenya business delegation that his country was waiting for Nairobi to finalise a trade agreement between the two countries. This would allow it to open up significant sectors of its business now closed to foreigners.

The ball is firmly in Kenya’s court. Let the responsible bureaucrats get to work because time is of the essence.

Source: The Standard

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