A bull in a china store. – By Yilma Bekele

April 25th, 2008 Print Print Email Email

This expression normally refers to clumsy or reckless people who should not be allowed near expensive and delicate items or to insensitive individuals. That saying came to mind when I read the big headline “Ethiopia severs ties with Qatar’. I know that Qatar is located by the Arabian/Persian Gulf, and that it is miles away from Ethiopia. How or why did we clash with the good people of Qatar? (more…)

This expression normally refers to clumsy or reckless people who should not be allowed near expensive and delicate items or to insensitive individuals. That saying came to mind when I read the big headline “Ethiopia severs ties with Qatar’. I know that Qatar is located by the Arabian/Persian Gulf, and that it is miles away from Ethiopia. How or why did we clash with the good people of Qatar?

Qatar has a population of slightly less than a million people and has been ruled by the al-Thani family since the mid-1800s. Oil and Gas have made Qatar one of the richest countries in the world. Revenues from these natural resources account for 85% of their export earnings. In 2007 their GDP was $57.69 Billion dollars (Ethiopia has a population of 80 million people and a GDP of $55.07 Billion) Qatar has one of the highest GDP per capita in the world.

Qatar is not resting on it laurels due to the high income it enjoys from its resources. A far-sighted move by the government Qatar can be illustrated by its investment in developing a ‘knowledge economy’. In 2004 Qatar established the Qatar Science & Technology Park to attract and serve technology-based companies and entrepreneurs, from overseas and from within Qatar. Qatar also established Education City, which consists of international colleges. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qatar)

There are over 800,000 guest workers in Qatar, 12,000 of them are Ethiopians. Our brothers and sisters are mainly employed in the domestic service industry, with a small minority working in white-collar jobs.

According to the Ethiopian TPLF government their conflict with Qatar began because of a TV news program presented by the famous Al-jazeera network and something about financing Eritrea. As you know there is no such thing as free press in Ethiopia. The regime decides what is news and how the news should be presented. Al-jazeera, by presenting the news from Ogaden and Somalia without going thru the normal censorship process somehow offended the sensibilities of our esteemed leaders. The Foreign Ministry was quoted as saying that “Qatar’s attempts to destabilize the sub-region and is hostile towards Ethiopia itself”.

I have no idea why Qatar will do that. It is sitting in the middle of a powder keg in the Gulf and no one has accused it of being such a force. It is enjoying a good neighborly relationship with all parties. It is not at war with anyone. Its celebrated financial center is giving a world-class service and is growing at a great pace.

You cannot say that about the accuser. Ethiopia is celebrating its 2nd. Year of invasion of a neighboring sovereign state without provocation, over six years of no war no peace situation with a former province which has resulted in the death of thousands of citizens and is facing civil disturbance in most of the country. Is this the case of the pot calling the kettle black?

What is also odd about the announcement is the reaction of the unfortunate Ethiopian guest workers living in Qatar. Apparently they were as surprised as the rest of the Ethiopian people not to mention the government of Qatar by this reckless act. We are not even going to ask if the Ethiopian Parliament was told about it. No we do not want to go there. It is too important to trust the people’s representatives about such an issue. They can watch the evening news and find out. Of course it will be approved unanimously after the customary two minutes discussion.

Now regarding the consequences of this moronic decision. The twelve thousand Ethiopians are economic migrants. They left in search of work to be able to help their family back home. If there were jobs available in Ethiopia, they wouldn’t get caught dead in Qatar. But they are there. If we assume about 80 percent love their family and send about $200 a month back home, it will be a net income of $1.9 million or Eth.$19 million Bir. Thus when our fearless leaders go around accusing a country of being a negative force, with no regard to the welfare of their own citizens that are bearing so much hardship, abuse and disrespect it makes you sick. It is not just the twelve thousand compatriots but the more than thirty to forty thousand back home who depend on their largesse. But on the other hand when you consider the minority regime has made habit of tormenting its own citizens at will, this just another chapter in this sordid story.

My suggestion to the Qatar government is to ask the IMF and World Bank to justify the loans and grants going to this police state and also publish all audited findings regarding previous dealings. Qatar as the contributing member to these international organizations can do that. That ism what I call most destabilizing to the TPLF.

To come back to my earlier impression, thus letting the TPLF government loose in the International arena is the same as letting a bull in a china shop. You don’t know what is coming next.

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