5 May 2021

EU is getting it wrong on Ethiopia- it is regrettable

I was a great fan of the European Union; great admirer of the system. I believed it was an institution that was for fairness, genuine human rights protection, democracy and rule of law. As a British citizen, I had chance to travel visa free across Europe; rights to work across Europe; European Health Insurance and many good things, I thought the union was good for Europe and a good model for other continents. 

When the United Kingdom went to the polls in June 2016 to decide on the EU referendum, I voted to REMAIN. UK decided to LEAVE. I have many good friends who voted LEAVE. When I asked them for their reasons for voting LEAVE, they often said, ‘EU is autocratic and doesn’t listen to citizens on the ground’. I can see that. 

All EU’s actions on Ethiopia since the November 2020 conflict are unfriendly, immoral and out of character. It looks it has lost a partner in the TPLF. It looks EU’s attitude for Ethiopia and for Africa is different from its attitude for Europe and other parts of the world. EU is trying to dictate a sovereign country. EU is trying to say, ‘do it my way or I will suspend this or that’. We recall that EU suspended developmental aid to Ethiopia following the conflict in Tigray. It wanted to interfere in the internal affairs of a sovereign state. When Ethiopia was bold and determined, EU changed its attitude. EU for sure knows Ethiopia is an important and strategic partner in Africa. That was why it once again made a statement on the strategic importance of Ethiopia for the European Union and started to work with Ethiopia. EU also decided to send observers to the June 2021 general election, which was a good sign of rebuilding relationships. EU even sent a team to observe the preparatory work. All these were welcomed by Ethiopia. 

Although Ethiopia welcomed EU’s decision to send observers to the June 5 general election, we have now learned that EU is not sending observers. The reasons are clear. Ethiopia is not bowing down to EU’s unconvincing demands. EU has put forward unusual conditions to Ethiopia to observe the June 5 election. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia, EU has demanded that it should bring in telecommunication equipment for VSAT services if it were to observe the June general election. This has never happened; and why now? Ethiopia is ready and capable to provide telecom services during EU’s and indeed others’ stay in the country as observers. What makes EU so special to put this as a precondition to observe an election? To insist that EU should bring in equipment for VSAT services smells fishy; rather disrespectful and unexpected. Do they want to give the equipment to TPLF remnants and resuscitate TPLF from the ashes? 

EU shouldn’t forget that when it is in Ethiopia, it is only a guest, nothing more. 

Another demand by EU is very dangerous. EU has demanded that it wants to make public comments and announcement about the general election before even the National Board of Ethiopia. This is scandalous and seriously questionable. EU had observed Ethiopia’s sham elections in the past. It knew the elections were not democratic. Yet it didn’t have demands. So why now? 

Whether EU likes it or not, the June 5 general election will go ahead. Ethiopians don’t need validation by EU on their most important democratic exercise. Ethiopians decide, nobody else! Ethiopia will prevail and come out victorious in all fronts. One thing is for sure, EU also will come back; it is a matter of time. For the time being we say, thank you but not thank you! See you later, EU.


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