Shutting down of embassies signals poor leadership
Ethiopia is in the process of shutting down several embassies to help cut costs and also have most of its diplomats to start working as non-resident ambassadors, the decision was announced by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in a briefing to Ethiopian lawmakers.
He cited the dwindling economy, security issues in Tigray as among the many reasons to take such a bold move in shutting down at least 30 embassies and consulates.
“Ethiopia should not have 60 or so embassies and consulates in the present moment. Instead of throwing US dollars everywhere at least 30 of the embassies should be closed. The ambassadors should instead be here,” he said.
This is not a unique move passé, in the year 2012, Canada and the UK announced a deal to share embassy spaces and also services around the globe to cut costs
Canada’s then Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and British Foreign Secretary William Hague signed an agreement to open joint UK Canada diplomatic missions abroad in an effort also to extend each country’s diplomatic reach.
In 2019, Nigeria did the same by closing down its embassies in Sri lanka, Republic of Serbia and Czech Republic citing insufficient funds.
“We should have foreign missions that we can fund, we might not necessarily close the embassies perse it might be reducing the number of staff in the embassies” Geoffrey Onyeama, Nigeria’s Minister of foreign affairs said.
In as much as it is a welcomed move especially with the reasons above, I am of the view that this should not be entertained by many countries. I am that person who still believes in the old school way of doing things especially when it comes to issues diplomacy.
I am apologetically old school especially when it comes to issues diplomacy.You see in this modern age there are some people who have questioned the purposefulness of embassies, championing for the new methods of communication like use of internet and phones instead of the physical presence of embassies.
They argue that Ambassadors or even Heads of State can just talk directly through phone or use the internet, visit each other once in a while and only send Ambassadors to respective countries for talks when need be.
But I think nations that lack diplomatic representation are usually deaf, mute and even blind in the global arena as are mostly isolated, yes Presidents may talk to each other but for those talks to bear fruits, they need to have observers on the ground their ambassadors and even embassy staffs to give accurate information about the countries of interest in matters political, security, religious and even economic wise.
Embassies are the physical manifestations of the countries abroad and also are important tools in the field of international Relations.
Influential countries in the world have embassies to almost every other country, the USA has diplomatic missions to every UN recognized country in the world but do not have such in countries like North Korea, Iran, and even Guinea Bissau.
According to a survey done in 2019 by the Lowy institute from Australia, China has 276 embassies and consulates, followed by USA with 273, and France with 267.
And in as much as I am against the closure of embassies, it does not mean that I am blind to the fact that most of these embassies have been converted to political appointee’s safe heaven with few staff that have diplomatic experience. Most of these political appointees who mostly are political rejects back at home, Kenya being one of them, are usually seen as self-serving and only interested in enriching themselves abroad at the expense of the tax payer’s money.
In October 2020 President Uhuru Kenyatta appointed three former Independent Electoral and Boundaries commission (IEBC) commissioners to various ambassadorial jobs. Ex commissioners Paul Kurgat, Connie Maina and Margaret Mwachanya were appointed as deputy heads of mission in Italy, Russia and Pakistan respectively.
Some of these Presidential appointments have been met by angry reactions from Kenyans who do accuse the government of rewarding former politicians and even state officials with plum jobs hence end up with a bloated government at the taxpayers’ expense.
Let’s also not forget that in May 2018, the National assembly allocated 1 billion shillings for the purchase of ambassador’s residence and chancery in Geneva and another 200 million shillings for the year starting July 2019.
Currently Kenya has 49 embassies and high commissions abroad alongside 27 consulates.
BY WEMA TOYWA #WEMA’STAKE