Kazakh minister’s ‘official/state’ visit to Ethiopia: What is all this fuss and excitement about?

20 Dec

Editor’s Note:

    What do Ethiopia and Kazakhstan have in common? Amongst the few things we know, both have notorious human rights records; both countries have a number of journalists in prison, most of them winners of prestigious international awards for their support for human rights, the cause of freedom and democracy.

    In its 22 years since independence, at no time has Kazakhstan ever held a free, fair parliamentary or presidential election to date, according to the Bertelsmann Stiftung’s Transformation Index (BTI). That seals the shared characteristics between the two governance systems.

    More similarities

    Foreign Ministers Tedros and Idrissov (Credit: ERTA)

    Foreign Ministers Tedros and Idrissov (Credit: ERTA)

    It is not without sufficient repression tools that President Nursultan Nazarbayev has remained the only leader Kazakhs have known since their country became independent from the Soviet Union in December 1991. They arrived at the world stage about the same time. The TPLF also seized power in 1991 and, in spite of the many elections it has held and accusations of election stealing directed at it from all corners, it still is in power much in the same manner.

    Also shared between the two countries is their dictatorial behavior and dehumanizing behavior toward their citizens. Turn a page on any human rights organization report and the leaves are many narrating disturbing repression, very much similar to Ethiopia’s.

    In Kazakhstan, education is reduced to propaganda, as has the national media become chief propagandist and source of disinformation. It sounds very familiar.

    Another commonly shared characteristic between Ethiopia and Kazakhstan is corruption – even worse in the case of the latter. In the 2013 report of Transparency International, Ethiopia corruption as bad as standing as the 113th country, out of 177 nations, its public institutions are bad, getting grade of 33 out of 100, as a measure of their integrity, governance and accountability.

    In the case of Kazakhstan, it even gets worse in all measures. Therefore, in Transparency International Index, its ranking is 140th out of 177 nations and its public institutions achieving a score of 26 out of 100.

    Kazakhstan has notorious reputation for its mafia, operating with Russians and other Central Asian criminal underworld groups.

    Why is the TPLF interested in Kazakhstan?

    What is there to attract the two countries to each other? Certainly, it is not their need to mutually commiserate their state of being looked at askance. We sense the whiff, but the evidences are not forthcoming.

    In the realm of speculation, one could assume that the TPLF sees Kazakhstan has tons of money, built on its oil and gas resources. On its part, Kazakhstan is also feeling, what economists call, the wealth effect; therefore, it may want to stretch a little bit and by getting out of its isolation. For that, it needs hungry partner(s). Why not open an embassy in Ethiopia, as the route into the heart of Africa.

    Cunning as it is, the TPLF has in the last three years been in and out of Kazakhstan to explore how it could get a bite out of Kazakhstan’s huge sovereign wealth fund. This could take some form of financing projects, seemingly in the public interest. The fear is that this interest may go further or could be subverted into some unhealthy financing, possibly weapons transfers business (into Africa), anything that could help it to put its hands on stashes of cash.

    There seems to be a break now in its longstanding effort, which started in the last days of Meles Zenawi through low-level intermediaries – mostly close family members and trusted allies.

    This success has brought joy on the sunny face of Gen Kinfe Dagnew (picture below), the TPLF general who on behalf of the defense ministry is running MeTEC – symbol of Ethiopia’s industrialization, but in reality a huge corruption outlet, as this blog cited many instances before, and also suspected of alleged financial improprieties with foreign banks and companies.

    Kazakh foreign minister in official and state visit

    Kazakh Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov visited Ethiopia in the second week of December 2013, he was received in expedited manner by Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom. Mr. Idrisov is a straight shooter and he simply told his counterpart, “Kazakhstan is a young country it is extending its diplomacy to such regions as Africa in a bid to explore new opportunities”, according to the Ethiopian foreign ministry.

    (Credit- Kazinform.

    (Credit- Kazinform.

    The Kazakh foreign minister was then received on December 11 by Prime Minister Hailemariam, who told him that Ethiopia was keen to learn from Kazakhstan’s best practices in agriculture, manufacturing and trade, among others.

    The visiting foreign minister was also received by the Ethiopian president, whose visit was eventually dubbed state visit. It appears that no agreement has been signed.

    We are aware that Kazakhstan has decided to open embassies, among others, in Mexico and South Africa, where they are welcomed as an addition to the expansion of diplomatic relations between nations, the authorization of which were signed by President Nursultan Nazarbayev in November.

    In the case of Ethiopia, although Foreign Minister Idrissov has said, ” Ethiopia is of interest not only as an emerging regional power, but as the political capital of Africa,” the decision to go ahead to open the embassy is still pending. According to the foreign minister, postponed to sometime in 2014.

    Even the usually resourceful Ethiopian Reporter seems to be at a loss. It has found itself in compelling situation to let go Kazakh sovereign wealth fund brochure as its Introduction to Kazakhstan to Ethiopians, which is reproduced hereunder.

    As usual, is there something else our leaders are not telling us?


By Bruh Yihunbelay, The ReporterMeTEC to join forces with Kazakh companies
Posted by The Ethiopia Observatory

General Kinfe Dagnew (Photo Reporter)

The Metals and Engineering Corporation (MeTEC) and the National Welfare Fund Samruk-Kazayna of Kazakhstan are taking steps to establish a joint working group for studying investment opportunities and projects, The Reporter has learnt.

Samruk-Kazyna is a sovereign wealth fund and joint stock company in Kazakhstan which either owns or part-owns many significant companies in the country, including the national rail and postal service, the state oil and gas company KazMunayGas, the state uranium company Kazatomprom, Air Astana, and numerous financial groups. The state is the sole shareholder of the fund, which was created in October 2008 after the merger of two funds, “Samruk” and “Kazyna”. Currently, Samruk-Kazyna controls USD 78 billion in assets, or nearly 56 percent of Kazakhstan’s GDP.

The agreements were made when a delegation, led by the director general of MeTEC Brigadier General Kinfe Dagnew, traveled to Astana, Kazakhstan recently.

Apart from Samruk-Kazyna, MeTEC has signed a Memorandum of Understanding and Cooperation with two Kazakh companies, KazEngineering and Rompetrol Group, for the exchange of information and search for mutually beneficial areas of cooperation, such as the ore mining sector, agriculture, repair and modernization of armed equipment.

Kazakhstan Engineering National Company OJSC (KazEngineering) manufactures and exports products of special purpose for the law enforcement agencies of Kazakhstan. It also produces oil and gas equipment, and equipment for the rail industry. In addition, the company provides agricultural engineering and radio electronics. It serves customers representing oil and gas, rail, agriculture, and heat power complexes, as well as the manufacture and repair of military equipment. Kazakhstan Engineering National Company OJSC was founded in 2003 and is based in Astana, Kazakhstan. As of January 24, 2007, Kazakhstan Engineering National Company OJSC operates as a subsidiary of Samruk Holdings JSC.

The other company, Rompetrol Group, which is under KazMunayGas, is a Romanian oil company that operates in many countries throughout Europe. The group is active primarily in refining, marketing and trading, with additional operations in exploration and production, and other oil industry services such as drilling and transportation. In 2007 Kazakhstan’s state-controlled oil and gas company KazMunayGas bought a 75 percent equity stake in oil firm Rompetrol Group N.V. in an acquisition estimated to be worth USD 2.7 billion.

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