Building a Bridge for Peace and Unity with the Ethiopian community in the UK

8 Apr 2019

In his first significant public engagement since arriving in the United Kingdom to take up his new post, Ambassador Fesseha Shawel addressed over a thousand members of the Ethiopian community in London on 16thMarch at an open diaspora forum at the Embassy. Held under the theme, “Building a Bridge for Peace and Unity”, the Forum honoured the Prime Minister’s call for Ethiopians across the world to come together and reject division, in favour of unity. To assist this process, the PM urged Ethiopia’s most senior diplomats to reorient the focus of their activities towards a more people-centred diplomacy.

The Ambassador, in the spirit of peace, unity and forgiveness, began his remarks by offering his apologies on behalf of the Government of Ethiopia, and diplomats and staff, for any unjust treatment members of the diaspora had experienced in the past, caused knowingly or unknowingly, by individual or institutional practices within the Embassy.

He applauded the community in London for being some of the most enthusiastic supporters of the reform process to date, hoped they would continue to play as significant a role going forward and assured them that he and his team would be at their disposal going forward.

With a view to realising the Prime Minister’s vision of a democratic, just and prosperous society, where human rights are fully respected and the rule of law is upheld, the Ambassador noted a number of reform successes including: a commitment to holding free and fair elections in 2020; the unconditional release of political prisoners and journalists; the open invitation to previously exiled political parties, organisations and their supporters to return home to play an active role in the country’s development; the end of the Ethio-Eritrea stalemate, reestablishment of friendly diplomatic relations and the resultant peace dividend throughout the region; the selection of a gender-equal cabinet and the appointment of women to the Presidency, as Chief of the Judiciary and as Chair of the Electoral Board; and the advancement of the political philosophy of “Medemer”, in English “coming together”, which has seen the public unite behind the reforms.

The Ambassador acknowledged current challenges in ensuring the rule of law, unresolved administrative boundary issues, displacement, anti-change agents working against the reforms and corruption and lack of good governance. But he expressed his belief that with the active engagement and collaboration of Ethiopians at home and abroad, these challenges would be overcome.

Ambassador Fesseha announced a number of key reforms that would improve service delivery within the Embassy before highlighting the Embassy’s strategic plans and priorities for the upcoming year. H.E. concluded by opening the floor for questions and comments, and a wide-ranging discussion ensued on what role the Diaspora could play in support of the changes underway in Ethiopia.

Since the Forum, Ethiopians in the UK have responded to the Ambassador’s call, enriching the Embassy with their ideas and experience by engaging the Embassy in a number of initiatives. To mention a few: the holding of a special exhibition, “Remembering Adwa”; a series of meetings to establish a Diaspora Peace and Unity Coordinating Community; the recognition of Ethiopian restaurateurs as Cultural Ambassadors by H.E Dr Hirut Kassaw, Minister of Culture, Tourism and Sport; fundraising initiatives for the Ethiopian Diaspora Trust Fund, the Tossa and Reppi communities; and Ethiopians4Ethiopians, a platform to discuss the mental health challenges in the Ethiopian community.

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