Diplomatic Hub of Africa
As a founding member of the Organization of African Unity in 1963, Ethiopia continuously fought for the realization of the objectives of the OAU. It did its level best, both covertly and overtly, to assist the countries under colonialism to gain their independence.
Even when the record in domestic policies was decidedly counter-productive, the policy and practice towards Africa pursued by past Ethiopian governments was outstanding, enabling the country to discharge its African responsibilities and to gain the respect of our African brothers and sisters. Ethiopia all along steadfastly championed the cause of Africa and Africans dating back to a time when it stood virtually alone. There has never been a time when Ethiopian governments shied away from taking up their responsibilities towards Africa. It can also be said that there was hardly any occasion when Ethiopia was refused political and diplomatic support from Africa when it was needed.
Ethiopia is the seat of the African Union, the successor organization of the OAU. As the Foreign Affairs and National Security Policy and Strategy clearly points out, this naturally means that Ethiopia carries a special responsibility for the organization. Certainly, Ethiopia fully subscribes to the AU's vision for an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa providing and representing a dynamic force in the global arena. Ethiopia has been in the forefront of the efforts to achieve this African vision and at no time has it shifted its attention away from addressing the age-old problems that have bedevilled Africa for so long.
The Rising African Cosmopolitan
Wide tree-lined streets, fine architecture, glorious weather, and the incongruity of donkey trains trolling along the boulevards make Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, a delightful place to explore. It is a city of surprises characterized by remarkable di¬versity and contrasts.Abundant eucalyptus trees and crisp, clear mountain air endow Addis Ababa with the bracing atmosphere of a highland summer resort. Its cosy espresso bars and patisseries are reminiscent of Rome and the Mediterranean, and its bustling outdoor markets are colourful reminders of more traditional ways of life. The people, the bursts of music from cafes or shops, the aromas of spicy cooking, of coffee and incense, form a unique Ethiopian pastiche.
Vibrant Addis Ababa is as cosmopolitan as any of the world's great metropolises, and the architecture is as varied as the city itself. Tall office buildings, elegant villas, functional bungalows, flats, fashionable hotels, conference halls, and theatres ¬gleaming in their marble and anodized aluminium - vie for attention alongside traditional homes of wattle and daub, surrounded by cattle, sheep, goats, and chickens. There is no designated 'city centre' because, until very recently, there was no urban planning. Addis Ababa simply grew in a natural, organic way, and its present appearance reflects this unforced and unstructured evolution.Set in rising countryside between 2,300 to 2,500 metres (7,500 to 8,200 feet) in altitude on the southern-facing slopes of the 3,000-metre-high (9,840-foot-high) Entoto mountain range immediately to the north, Ethiopia's largest city has grown at astonishing speed since it was founded just over a century ago. Covering 250 square kilometres (97 square miles), the city rambles pleasantly across many wooded hillsides and gullies cut through with fast ¬flowing streams.
The New Constitution
Under the new constitution, thee elections for Ethiopia's first popularly-chosen national parliament and regional legislatures were held in May 1995. Most opposition parties chose to boycott these elections as they did in 2000, in both cases giving the EPRDF a landslide victory. Opposition parties as a whole did finally participate in the 2005 election and the election produced a record number of voters, with 90% of the electorate turning out to cast their vote. The African Union report on the process commended the election for a "display of genuine commitment to democratic ideals ; the US Carter Center concluded that the majority of
the constituency results were credible and reflected competitive conditions; the US Department of State said the elections stood out as a milestone in creating a new, more competitive multi-party political system. The EU Observer Mission, however, uncritically accepting some opposition claims, suggested the election had fallen short of international standards, though it actually classified nearly ninety percent of the polling processes as good or very good. The final results showed opposition parties had increased their seats in Parliament from 12 to an impressive 176, and that they had won all but one of the seats for the Addis Ababa City Council. Despite this, the main opposition coalition refused to accept the results, claiming against all the evidence that it had won. It called for a boycott of parliament, and organized a series of street protests in Addis Ababa at the beginning of November. These rapidly turned violent, and nearly 200 people including 7 policemen died in three days of rioting. A subsequent judicial commission of enquiry deplored the deaths but cleared the police of using unnecessary force. Thousands of people were temporarily detained. A number of opposition political leaders were convicted of various offences and jailed, but pardoned two years later.
Before the next election, in 2010, most of the parties, determined to avoid another outbreak of violence, signed an Election Code of Conduct. The exception was the largest opposition coalition, the Forum for Democratic Dialogue (MEDREK), a coalition of eight parties which included most of the groups that boycotted Parliament in 2005. When it came to the vote, the electorate proved unimpressed by the opposition refusal to take up its seats in 2005, and equally disenchanted by MEDREK's failure to sign the Code of Conduct, by the opposition's lack of alternative policies, its failure to do more than criticize the EPRDF and the public bickering and quarrelling among its leaders prior to 2010. In sharp contrast, after 2005 the EPRDF had revitalized its structures, building up extensive Women's and Youth organizations and reorganizing itself through the country. It won an overwhelming majority in local elections in 2008 and used this as a springboard for the national and federal elections in 2010. By then it also had the added advantage of presiding over significant growth and development, in infrastructure, primary education and health, and of achieving double-digit growth for the whole period between 2005 and 2010. It was hardly surprising that the results were a landslide victory for the EPRDF, including a total reversal of the Addis Ababa results of 2005 - in 2010 it was the opposition which only won a single seat, although over 40% of the city did vote for opposition parties.
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