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An Eventful Year

The Ethiopian year 2009 was quite eventful; the last 12 months have entertained many highs and lows that have set the tone for the upcoming 2010. The New Year was welcomed by the deadly stampede at the Ireecha festival which prompted the House of peoples’ Representatives to pass, extend and lift the declaration of the State of Emergency (SoE) in Ethiopia. Apart from that, the political unrest that marred the beginning of the just ended year also encouraged the opposition and the ruling party to start a long overdue negotiation over the political environment of the country, marking a rear show of civility in their political discourse. The negotiations are expected to change the political landscape of the country in the years to come. On a darker note, the Koshe catastrophe was another sad incident which took place this year and sparked discussions about the country’s prepared ness to tackle such emergencies. In the realm of business, investment and the economy, the year was also as eventful as the previous one with a marked shortage of foreign exchange and power as well as the introduction of the new economic revolution in the two most populous regions of the country reshaping the business environment for the coming years. Neamin Ashenafi and Yonas Abiye looks at the just ended year in retrospect and revisited some of the highlights.

Diplomatic highlight

Footing in Security Council

Among the major happenings during the just ended year, it was the year that Ethiopia has officially commenced its two year tenure of its ‘non-permanent’ seat on the United Nations Security Council, after securing a place at the Council for the second time in UN history in June 2016.

Ethiopia was elected to the Council with 185 out of 190 votes cast. The council is primary responsibility is on international peace and security. Ethiopia replaced Angola, the last African representative on the Council.

News of Ethiopia’s election to sit at Council came as no surprise because Ethiopia ran unopposed by any other African country, after Kenya and the Seychelles withdrew from the contest in favor of Ethiopia in January 2016.

On top of that, for a number of years, Ethiopia has been the largest troop contributor for peacekeeping in Africa which experts say helped its chances.

In addition to its commencement of its participation at the current UNSC, Ethiopia has also officially begun its presidential role as of last week taking over from the US.

The UN Security Council has five permanent members–US, UK, Russia, China and France— and 10 non-permanent ones. Ethiopia is joined by Bolivia, Italy, Kazakstan and Sweden.

 

Tedros Adhanom clinches top WHO job

Amid the eventful year that was dominated by tragic incidents and state of emergency, there are some accounts of positive developments: the success of former Ethiopian health and foreign minister Tedros Adhanom (PhD) in climbing to the top of the World Health Organization. The May 2017 victory of  Tedros who came out on top of two strong candidates to win the bid for the top job at World Health Organization (WHO).  Land mark achievement was the first for Ethiopia as well as for the continent.

Tedros replaced Margaret Chan as director general of the WHO, who stepped down from her post after a10-year tenure at the popular UN agency.

 

Ethiopians in Saudi Arabia: amnesty, arrests, deportation

 

The other incidents which dominated headlines this year was an ordeal involving Ethiopians in Saudi Arabia who have been under a looming ultimatum from the government for an impending deportation. The deadline was issued after the mass deportation in 2014, which saw some 150,000 undocumented Ethiopians deported back to Ethiopia in unfavorable conditions. Hence, a pressing challenge to the Ethiopian government during this year was to convince undocumented Ethiopians to return home on their own terms. The lack of willingness of over 400,000 undocumented Ethiopians living in Saudi Arabia to leave the country before they were either forcefully deported or detained was major challenge for Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA).

Saudi Arabia at first issues a 90-day notice for all undocumented workers to quit the Kingdom. According to government officials, out of the estimated 400,000 or more undocumented Ethiopians believed to live in Saudi Arabia and only 23,000 of them have so far taken travel documents.

The ministry has announced on its side that the government has been working to ensure the safe returns of undocumented Ethiopians right after the announcement of the amnesty period which first came into force on March 29. However, most of the immigrants refused to come back home resulting in government’s frustration.

Hence, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn had to come out public to express his worry over the refusal of nationals illegally residing in Saudi Arabia despite the 90-day amnesty period. He further said he feared that the Saudi government will resort to forcibly deport Ethiopians.

In June, 28, 2017, Ethiopian government requested for an extension of the amnesty and yet only less than 45,000 of the immigrants had taken advantage of the extension and returned home.

But, the Office of Government Communication Affairs reported later in July that 35,000 nationals had returned home in time and another 85,000 of them had been granted exit visas.

However, still thousands of immigrants remain there defiant to leave the Gulf nation despite the expiring of the amnesty deadline and the warnings of the Kingdom.