The year 2015 marks Ethiopia’s diplomatic success in the battle for hearts and minds. Public diplomacy has radiated the concept, agenda and vision of the Ethiopian Renaissance within the rubric of Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance. This is a fact to the point where Addis Abeba wants other countries to discern its desire for the realisation of a co-prosperity agenda and restitution of a revitalised historical greatness.
The public diplomacy of the country has sent a clear message to the region, Africa and the world that the co-prosperity agenda and the revitalisation of Ethiopia’s great past can be realised only with the proactive engagement of the public outside and most importantly, the peoples of neighbouring and fellow African countries.
At the top of the list of Ethiopia’s public diplomacy activity – informing, engaging and developing lasting relations with the peoples of the Nile Basin countries takes a prominent position. This mainstreams the people’s dialogue to allow leaders and foreign policy makers to look for new and practical avenues to realise collective development through shared African resources, including the waters of the Nile.
Ethiopia’s public diplomacy has sent a louder call that the waters of the Nile should be seen as a “bridging resource” to usher in “positive spillover” – regional cooperation. Ethiopia’s new calculus has to be appraised as the culture of dialogue, which has replaced belligerence over the hydro-political landscape of the region. The region is now facing “threat multipliers”, mainly climate change, which has environmental, political, social and economic risks.
The new calculus, allowing Ethiopia to marshal the importance of regional cooperation over the confrontational thought of military might and hegemony, aims to bring development and peace dividends. Ethiopia, sending its public diplomacy teams to Egypt in December 20, 2014, and to Sudan in 2015, has drawn the Egyptians and Sudanese closer to subscribe to the “opportunity multipliers.”
This Ethiopian public diplomacy push factor can be regarded as an entry point to witness the beginning of the end of Ethiopian-Egyptian “broken eye contact”, partly contributing its share on the signing of the Declaration of Principles in Khartoum this year. The public engagement of Sudan and Ethiopia’s creating a space on the importance and purpose of the construction of the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), has refueled Sudan’s constructive and positive stance on the GERD project.
The construction of the hydropower project of the GERD is demonstrative of the challenge facing the development agenda, to realise in a sustainable manner, the Ethiopian Renaissance featuring a climate resilient green economy. The Ethiopian Renaissance project, dream and idea, building on the glorious past of Ethiopia and looking ahead to chart a dignified future, has to be redoubled and cherished as it is individually and collectively driving the African integration and unity agenda within the theme of natural resources.
This public diplomacy practice, capitalising on the peoples’ dialogue to iron out differences on the use of natural resources, has permitted the peoples of Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt to revisit their shared history, civilizations and long-standing contacts and look into a shared future. The country is also keen to send its public diplomacy delegation to other Nile Basin countries in order to brand the Ethiopian development vision over the hydro-political diplomatic landscape of the Nile. This new diplomacy practice needs to go beyond the Nile Basin and engage the people of Africa for the benefit of all.
Although the public diplomacy of Ethiopia gives a supreme place and great weight to the African struggle for political, economic, social, cultural, and psychological freedom, much is still to be done to rekindle the spirit of Ethiopian-Africans. According to researchers on African affairs, including Phindile Lukhele-Olorunju (Prof.), Oghenerobs Akpor and Mammo Muchie (Prof.), Pan-Africanism was founded by the spiritual, political, military, cultural, psychological and civilizational Ethiopianism in the 16th century. It is in this regard that African-Americans crafted and declared in 1829 the Ethiopian Manifesto to realise “full African pride and dignity, long before Karl Marx declared the Communist Manifesto to realise the dignity of the workers of the world.”
The idea, dream and project of Ethiopianism heralding the “resistance-liberation logo-centric imagination” at Adwa over world empire in the Black and indeed African political order, made way for the beginning of a Pan-African movement in 1897 and liberation movements in Africa, including the African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa. As, Mammo stated, Ethiopia preoccupying the resistance spirit and imagination, is “the timeless bearer of this alternative decolonising logo for the spread of the African world’s liberation imagination.” He also went on to note that “Ethiopia – as an anti-colonial symbol – is very relevant today, as it was yesterday and will be too in the future.”
Ethiopia torching the light of resistance to the dehumanisation of the African personhood over the past 500 years is still undoubtedly relevant today to outfox the historic and current subtle rejection of the African humanity and the continent’s contribution to world civilizations. Ethiopia being the seat of the African Union (AU) and seizing the restoration of African-ness through Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance, has continued this historic responsibility in the arduous march towards African liberation, self-worth, wellbeing, confidence and humanity. Ethiopia, starting from inside-out development model, is intensifying its efforts to achieve African integration and unity in various ways ranging from constructing infrastructure links and setting up collective security infrastructure.
Beyond these physical, economic and political efforts, Ethiopia needs to develop a public diplomacy strategy to excavate and learn from African history, civilizations, wisdom and knowledge. Africa, being a cradle of civilization, is home to indigenous civilizations including Ethiopian, Nubian, Nok, Timbuktu, Axum, and many others.
Thus, Ethiopia should take the lead as an African agency in self-expressing, defining, organising, and determining, to give meaning to African Renaissance through the creation of key enabling conditions for African peoples to learn Ethiopianism and Pan-Africanism. This should be done in order to give the right medicine to heal the long-standing plight of Africans through colonialism and neo-colonialism as well as new dimensions in current ways of dehumanising the African personality. Ethiopia’s public diplomacy should take the baton to brand Ethiopianism, push forward the people driven development agenda, and develop cultural and student exchanges and people to people contacts to close the chapter of African indignity and humiliation.
This is because, according to Mammo, “Ethiopiawinet is at the core of the African Renaissance. It is also at the core of ending Africa’s repeated humiliation.” Mammo adds that it is in this respect that African unity can be anchored with a value and dignity that Ethiopiawinet attained over 500 years of resistance. This achievement by the Ethiopian-Africans that resisted all forms of humiliation is positive data for building Africa’s united future.”
Ethiopia needs to seize this historic mandate using public diplomacy as a tool to beef up the unity and renaissance capital through mutual learning and education. There is no doubt that this will produce many more Ethiopian-Africans to send the after effects of slave trade, colonialism and neo-colonialism to their historical burial grounds and enable Africa to enter a new period of post-colonialism.