G-7 “Rules-Based Order” Meddling in the Horn of Africa for No Good

Watch Lawrence Freeman’s interview with Addis Assefa, OBN Horn of Africa, April 23, 2024

May 4, 2024

In this interview, I presented the fallacy of thinking by the so called rules-based international order, demonstrated in their G7-Foreign Ministers Statement. The G7 statement fails to articulate any policy promoting economic development for the nations of Africa. Rather, it shamefully,  merely lists the concerns and the condemnations of the G7 for several  African nations.

Major topics discussed included:

  • The involvement of forces outside the region meddling in the affairs of the Horn of Africa for geopolitical control; usurping the authority of  sovereign African nations.
  • The absence of motivation for any nation in the Horn of Africa to initiate military engagement with neighboring nations.  
  • The ongoing process of regional economic integration in the Horn of Africa.
  • The potential for increased physical economic growth in the region resulting from the Memorandum of Understanding between Ethiopia and Somaliland for port access.
  • The lack of a policy by the G7 rules-based order to promote physical economic growth.
  • The use of “climate change” to prevent African nations from using their sovereign natural resources to produce electricity for the purpose of improving the standard of living for their citizens.

Read my earlier posts:

Anglo-American Elite Continue Threats to Break-up Ethiopia

Stop Foolish Talk of War in the Horn of Africa-Promote Economic Growth Instead

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in economic development policies for Africa for 35 years. He is a teacher, writer, public speaker, and consultant on Africa. Mr. Freeman strongly believes that economic development is an essential human right. He is the creator of the blog:  lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com, and also publishing on: lawrencefreeman.substack.com, “Freeman’s Africa and the World.”

Stop Foolish Talk of War in the Horn of Africa-Promote Economic Growth Instead

March 16, 2024 

If Ethiopia is going to have access to a port, then there must be long term agreement, Lawrence Freeman explains why

With around 120 million people, Ethiopia is said to be the most populous land locked country in the world. Since the separation of Eritrea with a declaration of independence in 1991, Ethiopia has been using the Port of Djibouti for about 95 % of its import export trade.

But with the rapid growth of its economy its import export trade has also grown exponentially calling for the increase of the number of ports, upgrading of the capacity of the ports as well as securing its right to access sea outlet.

“If Ethiopia is going to make investments, which they have to do in infrastructure to make the port profitable and efficient, then they need to have a long term lease agreement.” Says Lawrence Freeman, an American political economic analyst for Africa (www.lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com ).

In his brief stay with The Ethiopian Herald, Freeman has reflected his insight about how vital for Ethiopia is having a sea access with a guarantee of long term agreement, the need to access multiple ports to accommodate its rapidly growing economy and respond to the needs of its large population, as well as the benefits other countries of the region can secure from the Ethiopia – Somaliland Port access deal and the role of the regional countries. Enjoy reading!

It has been two months since Ethiopia and Somaliland signed the MoU for a port access. How do you see the progress of the agreement and what has been unfolding around the issue so far?

There appears to still be concern by Somalia about this Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). which I haven’t seen the actual complete agreement. There was also a report in the news that in the meeting that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed had with the president of Kenya, as a softening of the Prime Minister’s position.

However, much of the discussion is just poorly informed, and not helpful to the Horn of Africa to any of the nations in the Horn of Africa: Somalia, Somaliland, Djibouti, Kenya, Eritrea, Ethiopia. The problem is the countries are reacting in a less than informed manner. If they understood physical economic growth, they would understand that Ethiopia needs multiple port access for its growing economy, number one. Number two, Ethiopia is the largest economy in East Africa and has great deal of potential for growth. Number three, this will benefit all the countries in the region because they will benefit from the expansion of trade and commerce. Number four, if Ethiopia is going to have access to a port, then they need to have long term agreement. It can’t be a one year two year; we’ll do it when we want. It can’t be capricious. If Ethiopia is going to make investments, which they have to do in infrastructure to make the poor profitable and efficient, then they need to have a long term lease agreement. Otherwise, they will not make the investments; nobody would. And number five, the reactions of many of the countries and leaders in the region represent a legacy of the colonial mentality of who owned what going back many, many years, or decades. And they represent what I would say ignorance in physical economics and are dominated by old grudges, rage and anger, all of which is inappropriate at this time. If you want to see Africa grow, if you want to see the region grow, if you want to see all the nations of the Horn of Africa develop and grow, then it’s ABCs. Very easy for me to see the purpose of having long term access to multiple ports. The argument for an access long term access to port is valid. And we should put aside all his other commentary and focus on what will help improve the lives of Africans living in that region.

How do you think could diplomatic approach help reach consensus among the countries that signed the MoU and others?

Well, the fact of the matter is, if the Somali government was more thoughtful, the eloquent solution would be simply. Say we consider Somaliland part of Somalia, if Somalia government is, is looking to the future, they would say okay, Somaliland is part of Somalia, and therefore we accept the agreement, because it’s an agreement between Ethiopia and land considered part of Somalia. So we will benefit, Somalia, and will benefit our neighbors. That would be the most thoughtful, eloquent solution in Somalia to say ‘we agree that this will be helpful to all our people.’ Now that that eloquent solution is not being pursued by Somalia, and Somalia, has made all kinds of threatening statements, which are really, in my view, kind of silly to think that Somalia is going to go to war with Ethiopia. It is silly, but it also dangerous. And Ethiopia has been defending Somalia with its treasure and blood with troops in Somalia, going back to the early 2006, and they’re still there. So the idea that you would be able to mobiliser a war against Ethiopia, it’s just silly, but dangerous. Then you have other countries coming in, and aligning themselves, for and against Ethiopia for and against the Somalia. This is also dangerous. They should keep their nose out of the Horn of Africa, they should study physical economics, they should listen and understand that this is beneficial to all the nations. Now I don’t know where the MOU stands two months, over two months after it was initially signed, but my advice is, we should go ahead with it. And this will help all of the nations and all of the people in the nations. We have to get away from anger, and historical rage, and historical pettiness and look to the future. What kind of economy are we going to have? What kind of economic growth are we going to have in the Horn of Africa and eastern Africa? That depends on the economy of Ethiopia.

What do you think can leaders of the region including Ethiopia,  Somaliland  and Somalia can do to reach a win win solution?

I think that the leaders of sovereign nations should be able to sit down and discuss calmly, without anger. Without ancient rhetoric, they should sit down and discuss how we can benefit all the people of our nation. Now, I don’t know where the memorandum of understanding is at this point, because of it’s been a long time–it’s been 10 weeks since it was signed. But I would think this pursuit is a viable alternative to Ethiopia having access to this waterway, the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, the Indian Ocean … etc. And , there could be other ports that could be pursued. The main thing, from my standpoint as a physical economist is Ethiopia should have a modern port. And, without a long term agreement, they’re not going to make the investment in a modern board, nobody would. And Somalia should not call this annexing their land. It’s not annexing any part of Somalia. They’re making an agreement. It’s not annexation. Now, I believe, personally, that there outside forces that are manipulating the situation, because there were forces that don’t want to see a strong, independent sovereign Ethiopia. And these outside forces are trying to weaken Ethiopia, just like they did in the war with Northern Ethiopia.

What kind of role do you think Ethiopia would play in the peace and security of the red sea region if it sets up naval force?

Actually, in Ethiopia, he’s also getting, I believe, several, maybe 12 miles of area, of land along the water way. That’s good. Because the whole  Red Sea area is insecure, as we’ve seen with these recent attacks. If you have another Navy, that helps you provide more security. So it’s not a bad thing is a good thing. And I believe, it is manipulated by geopolitical forces, who don’t want to see peace, who don’t want to see prosperity in the Horn of Africa. But a port in a navy military base, could help the situation in the Red Sea, I don’t see it as a negative, it could be a positive.

Many countries from diverse corners of the world show interest in the red sea region. As a result they my show concern on the new development like Ethiopia and Somaliland MoU. But is there any way they can also contribute in settling the issue smoothly?

I think you see some countries trying to help the situation. The visit of the Prime Minister [Abiy Ahmed] to Kenya probably was a positive diplomatic trip, and it may improve the situation. I think it’s reasonable for countries in that region, have discussions with Ethiopia, have discussions with Somalia, and other countries in the Horn of Africa. That’s how problems should be solved. They should be solved by African nations, Sub Saharan African nations involved in that region, who keep care about the future standard of living of their citizens. And among them, there should be discussion. I’m sure there are many private discussions going on among people in the African Union, and IGAD and other platforms for African nations. And that should be going on and they should be the ones to resolve this. There is absolutely no reason for conflict, none zero. And anybody who’s talking about that is being foolish, and also hurting the wrong people by even promoting a discussion of war. This can be resolved by leaders of nations calmly talking among themselves.

Prior to the signing of the MoU between Ethiopia and Somaliland many countries from different corners of the world have come all the way to Somaliland and leased the port there. Why do you think does it cause so much uproar when Somaliland signed similar agreement with Ethiopia?

That gives you a clue as to the fact that somebody wants conflict, because as you pointed out, other countries think the UAE and the international port company have had agreements in Somaliland. So as you pointed out, this is not the first time and therefore, why now, it you get this stupid talk about war. So that’s a clue. That tells me that somebody wants conflict, that somebody doesn’t want good negotiations between Ethiopia and Somalia. Some geopolitical force, doesn’t want Ethiopia to become a dominant growing economic power in East Africa. These are clues to people like me, who understand the way the world operates. And since the beginning of the Prime Minister’s taking the position as prime minister in 2018, there have been one after another attacks on Ethiopia that are trying to prevent Ethiopia from fully developing, and other people who forces who are also using the internal situation Ethiopia, where you have this ethnic nationalism, which is an attack on the nation state, and its attack on Ethiopian citizenship, and that ethnic nationalism is also being supported by outside forces. So I have seen Ethiopia being a victim of many different operations over the last six years now, it’s quite possible that the government could handle this situation better. If I were advising them, I would tell them things to do that could help. But their pursuit of economic growth for their country is right. And it’s to the benefit of all the nations in the region. In fact, implicitly it’s a benefit for the entire continent of Africa.

What do you think would be the way forward the MoU signed between Ethiopia and Somaliland?

I think the best way to handle it is to handle it through private, nonpublic discussions with the leaders of the countries in the region. I mean, you could have a conference. And you could have a conference that discusses economic growth for all the countries of the Horn of Africa, and the importance of development, and present information on how the country would grow with another port, with advanced Infrastructure Transportation to that port. We certainly can reduce the cost of what Ethiopia is paying to Djibouti now, which is a billion and a half dollars. Not Birr, but dollars or other hard currencies. Ethiopia is using up a large a portion of his foreign exchange to maintain operations in Djibouti. And I think there’s a lot of people meddling in. And I would have the leaders of the region meet on their own and discuss from a thoughtful standpoint, from my standpoint, what are the potentials for economic growth, and reason for the necessity of Ethiopia having a port.

Thank you very much

by Zekarias Woldemariam, The Ethiopian Herald

Read my earlier posts:

Live in the Future to Foster Regional Integration With Ethiopia in the Horn of Africa

Ethiopia Access to Seaports Benefits All People of East Africa

“Ethiopian Seaport is Win-Win for East African Nations”: Physical Economic Analyst Freeman

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in economic development policies for Africa for over 30 years. He is a teacher, writer, public speaker, and consultant on Africa. Mr. Freeman strongly believes that economic development is an essential human right. He is also the creator of the blog:  lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com

Freeman: “Most Significant Accomplishment for Ethiopia in Foreign Policy was Joining the BRICS”

Ethiopia’s Evolving International Relations

Below are excerpts from my interview with ETHIOPIAN BROADCASTING CORPORATION The Voice of Pan-Africanism. For the entire article by Wegayehu Muluneh, read: Ethiopia’s Evolving International Relations

Excerpted sections follow:

According to Lawrence Freeman, the most significant accomplishment for Ethiopia in foreign policy was joining the BRICS. As of January 1st, 2024, Ethiopia has become one of ten nations that comprise the BRICS, and also one of three nations on the African continent that belonged to the BRICS. Freeman believes this solidifies Ethiopia’s diplomatic position as a leading nation in sub-Saharan Africa, East Africa, and the Horn of Africa.

The analyst underlined that the formation of the BRICS and its growth institutionally over the last decade is extremely important, because the western-dominated political and financial institutions are suffering in terms of their control of the world’s politics and finances. This gives an opportunity for developing nations or emerging nations like Ethiopia to have their own institution and promote their own policies, independent of the dictates of the western geopolitical financial elite.

Lawrence Freeman said Ethiopia’s influence in Africa in general and in East Africa in particular will grow as the BRICS itself continues to become a weightier institution providing an alternative to the western political financial establishment. Whilst, this puts Ethiopia in an important and unique position on the African continent and also globally.

Ethiopia’s economic growth also instantly linked with activities the nation has carried out on its foreign relations. Prior to the emergence of COVID-19 and the onset of the war in northern Ethiopia in November 2020, Ethiopia was one among a few African and world nations with fastest growing economies. This of course was slowed down by the above-mentioned causes, Freeman explained. “However, we should expect that Ethiopia has the potential to become a leader once again in economic growth in Eastern Africa and the African continent.”

Freeman elaborated that the near completion of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) will advance Ethiopia’s economy over the years ahead. The diplomatic activities that Ethiopia has been doing on the global stage while constructing the Dam, Africa’s flagship project, has been significant. The completion of GERD is a game changer to boost Ethiopia’s say and diplomatic bargain in the region and beyond. The GERD with only two turbines operating is already strengthening Ethiopia’s export of clean energy to Sudan, Kenya, and Djibouti. As the GERD reaches its complete potential of 5,150 megawatts, it will not only supply more energy to Ethiopia but also expand export of electricity to neighboring nations in Eastern Africa. Thus, the GERD and Ethiopia have already started causing the most demanded regional economic integration, which will expand and provide a potential model for regional economic integration.

With its electricity potential Ethiopia has the potential to become a major economic powerhouse on the continent. Thus, Ethiopia is expected to emerge as one of the most dynamic economies in the world.

Reflecting on Ethiopia’s audacious step towards regional relations, Freeman commended Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s motivation and courage in 2018 of settling past grievances over land with Eritrea, which won him the Nobel Peace Prize. However, there is no reason for anyone who understands the region, to claim that Ethiopia’s policies towards achieving a port that would give the nation access to the Red Sea, is a cause for war in the Horn of Africa. This is blatantly untrue and those who are participating in this war-mongering event may have ulterior motives for promoting this kind of scenario. War should not be on the table because it is in no country’s interest.

Ethiopia doesn’t need war to access seaports that it can develop to expand its export-import trade. Hailing the recent agreement signed between Ethiopia and Somaliland, Freeman said the agreement will enhance regional integration. The agreement speed up the growth Ethiopia’s landlocked economy by providing access to Red Sea ports, potentially boosting trade and fostering closer economic ties in the Horn region, he added.

For the entire article by Wegayehu Muluneh, read: Ethiopia’s Evolving International Relations

Read my earlier post: BRICS Offers New Potential for Africa & The World: The Human Race Will Benefit

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in economic development policies for Africa for over 30 years. He is a teacher, writer, public speaker, and consultant on Africa. Mr. Freeman strongly believes that economic development is an essential human right. He is also the creator of the blog:  lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com

Live in the Future to Foster Regional Integration With Ethiopia in the Horn of Africa

WATCH Interview with OBN Horn of Africa, January 10, 2024

January 16, 2024

Let us work to make the Horn of Africa and East Africa a model of regional economic integration. This process has already begun, with the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam exporting electricity to Sudan, Kenya, and Djibouti. Ethiopia having long term port access to major shipping routes through the Gulf of Eden and the Red Sea, will expand Ethiopia’s economy and has the potential to develop the regional economy of East Africa. There are three primary conceptual obstacles that people have in understanding how to develop this region, which I discuss above in the video interview with OBN, and below in the written interview with ENA.

One, the majority of people do not understand the physical scientific principles to economic development, having been miseducated by our schools and society.

Two, the legacy of colonialism has perverted the thinking process of many Africans, leading to fixed prejudices that prevent one from seeing what is possible.

Three, most people live in the past, or at best in the present. I try to live in the future, where my mind can see the fruitful potential of that which we humans can create but does not yet exist.

Ethiopia-Somaliland MoU Model for Economic Development of Africa: American Analyst

Interview with Ethiopian News Agency, January 2, 2024

Addis Ababa, January 4/2024(ENA)- The current MoU signed by Ethiopia and Somaliland could become a model for economic development of the continent, Political-economic analyst for Africa Lawrence Freeman said.

In an exclusive interview with ENA, the analyst said that the Memorandum of Understanding signed on Monday could be a “useful example for the rest of the African continent.”

Moreover, the MoU for Partnership and Cooperation inked by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and President Muse Bihi Abdi includes wide scopes of cooperation in social, economic, political, and military fields.

It is also intended to serve as a framework for the multisectoral partnership between the two sides, and shall pave the way to realize the aspiration of Ethiopia to secure access to the sea and diversify its access to seaports.

In this respect, Freeman believes the agreement is a breakthrough that could accelerate regional and global trade.

“If you look at it optimistically, the situation in the Horn of Africa could actually become a model for economic development and in the whole African continent. Now, this is what we’re looking for, regional integration, economic-regional linkage into international trade among nations, instead of exporting everything outside the nation. So this could be a useful example for the rest of the continent.”

However, there are political forces within the Horn of Africa and around the world who would like to continue destabilizing the region, the American analyst noted.

He particularly pointed out that there are manipulators and political forces screaming war constantly.

When the prime minister talked about the port in October 2023, dozens of articles were published predicting war. But, there was no indication of war, he stated.

According to Freeman, the historic MoU was signed in a peaceful manner and has the potential to bring other countries to cooperate with Ethiopia in this geopolitically strategic part of the world.

He advised specifically Somalis to refrain from inflammatory statements and resolve the issue calmly.

Given the conflict between Somalia and Somaliland for many years, Somaliland has been conducting its affairs differently in the spheres of currency, economy, governance and others.

The MoU “can offer economic growth to actually both nations because if Somaliland is growing, Somalia is growing too…. Statements like ‘we’re not going to give one inch of our territory’ is the kind of talking that is not helpful. We’re going to have to move forward. We can’t stay the way we are. We need to have a resolution between those two between Somalia and Somaliland.”

Beyond that the problems in the Horn of Africa are very complicated and emanate from a whole bunch of leftover problems from the days of colonialism, he noted.

There is a lot of antagonism and complications that come from colonial history.

“As for the amount of anger and hatred that I see from people against one country versus another, we’re not going to give up. We’re not going to let them know that you’re stuck in the mind of the old colonists picture. My message to people is to move forward,” the analyst underscored.

For Freeman those people who are screaming about war are either fools or they’re being manipulated by other forces in the wrong way.

In general, the American analyst stated that the MoU is very important for Ethiopia to realize the advancement of import-export trade and allow the nation to have greater access to the rest of the world.

Ethiopia also being the largest economy and population, the area can make perfect sense to build a naval capacity it once had when it accessed the Red Sea, he added.

More importantly, Ethiopia is also now going to play a major role as the country has become a new member of the BRICS, the leading institution of the global South, with a new paradigm for development of emerging nations.

That gives Ethiopia a great deal of an opportunity to begin to deal with all the political-economic frailties and create a new level of regional cooperation in the region.

Read my earlier posts:

Ethiopia Access to Seaports Benefits All People of East Africa

Economic Development Can Bring Peace to the Horn of Africa

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in economic development policies for Africa for over 30 years. He is a teacher, writer, public speaker, and consultant on Africa. Mr. Freeman strongly believes that economic development is an essential human right. He is also the creator of the blog:  lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com

Ethiopia Access to Seaports Benefits All People of East Africa

Potential Ports for Expanded Ethiopian Trade

November 4, 2023

In his new article, Ethiopia needs a reliable seaport and a navy, Ken Opalo provide a great deal of useful information on the necessity for Ethiopia to have access to a sea port to continue its progress towards of industrializing its economy. It is imperative for all the nations in the Horn and East Africa to understand, it is in their self interest for Ethiopia, East Africa’s largest and fastest growing economy, to have access to a reliable port. A prosperous Ethiopia benefits the African continent.

Excerpts below from Ethiopia needs a reliable seaport and a navy

Ethiopia’s economic case for reliable and cost-effective seaport access is strong. In order to secure its economic future, the country must minimize or completely erase the economic costs associated with being landlocked. Overall, landlocked countries tend to be 20% less developed than they would be if they had access to the sea. This is partially due to cost of trade, with transportation costs being between 50%-262% higher for landlocked countries.Subscribe

Given the significant economic costs associated with being landlocked, it is a no-brainer that for Ethiopia to achieve its ambitious developmentalist agenda — which will necessarily require export-oriented industrialization and improved agricultural productivity — it needs to have more control over trade-related costs and policy (or procure stability on both fronts from its neighbors). According to the Ethiopian government, transportation costs gobble up 16% of the value of international trade (which seems really high). Foreign trade currently amounts to 24% of GDP, and needs to grow by orders of magnitude. With an annual output of US$127b, Ethiopia is already Eastern Africa’s biggest economy (Kenya is second at US$113b) but with lots of low-hanging opportunities for even bigger trade-driven output.

Last year Djibouti cut stay of cargo days from 45 to 8 days. In addition, the port is more expensive relative to neighbors, often lacks storage space, and suffers from untimely availability of empty containers for exports. These factors have are the motivation behind Ethiopia’s aggressive port diversification initiative. As of early last year, Djibouti City’s share of Ethiopian trade cargo had declined from 95% to just under 86%, with the Kenyan border Moyale dry port (0.02%), Somaliland’s Berbera (5%), and Djibouti’s Tadjoura (9.6%) emerging as alternatives. These latter routes, however, lack the infrastructure (roads, petrol stations, service and repair stops, etc) to support bulk haulage logistics.

His careless bluster notwithstanding, Abiy has significant leverage over Djibouti (population 1.1m). Ethiopia is Djibouti’s leading revenue generator, ahead of the naval base leases by China, France, the United States, Saudi Arabia, Italy, and Japan. Ethiopian trade reportedly generates more than US$1b each year for the Djiboutian economy. Rents from foreign military bases estimated to be at least US$120m per year. The service sector accounts for nearly 80% of Djiboutian GDP (US$3.5b in 2022), much of it related to ports and logistics. Ethiopia accounts for upwards of 85% of all cargo passing through Djibouti.

Source: World Bank data

II: The economic case for securing reliable seaport access

As shown below, over the last decade Ethiopia has quintupled its industrial output and is quickly catching up with its regional neighbors. If these trends are to continue and if Ethiopia is to attract both domestic and foreign investments into its manufacturing sector, the state must guarantee investors that they will be able to access global markets at reasonable prices. The same goes for investments in the agricultural sector, which still has a commanding share of exports. Agriculture accounts for nearly 38% of GDP (including 50% of manufacturing production), 80% of employment, and about 90% of forex earnings.

Ethiopia’s planned rail network (see below) reflects the country’s industrialization agenda (the same goes for the overall transport masterplan, including road infrastructure). The proposed lines are all designed to serve specific industrial parks. Currently the main rail network (red) terminates at Djibouti City (Doraleh Multipurpose Port), with a planned alternative route to the opposite side of the Gulf of Tadjoura (in Tadjoura). While the rail network will certainly serve domestic production and distribution of goods once completed, an equally important objective should be to guarantee high-enough international traffic volumes to pay for its construction and ongoing maintenance.

As revealed by the planned railway network below, Ethiopia’s seaport options are largely limited to Djibouti — which is cause for believing that Abiy’s comments, if he really meant them and was not just carelessly thinking out loud that he is the latter day Ras Alula Abanega, were a negotiating tactic vis-a-vis Djibouti. Given its importance for Ethiopia’s maritime trade, is also likely that Djibouti is Addis Ababa’s first choice for the location of the planned naval base.

Ethiopia’s industrial parks are in Jimma, Hawassa, Adama, Dire Dawa, Bole Lemi, Debre Birhan, Semera, Kombolcha, Bahir Dar, and Mekelle. Source: Wikipedia

Read my earlier post: Economic Development Can Bring Peace to the Horn of Africa

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in economic development policies for Africa for over 30 years. He is a teacher, writer, public speaker, and consultant on Africa. Mr. Freeman strongly believes that economic development is an essential human right. He is also the creator of the blog:  lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com

Celebrate Ethiopia’s March 1, 1896 Victory at Adwa: Ethiopia is Fighting Another Battle Today to Protect its Sovereignty

Ethiopia’s victory against Italy at Adwa on March 1, 1896, profoundly shaped the future of Ethiopia.
Celebrate Ethiopia’s March 1, 1896 Victory at Adwa- A Victory For Africa and All Nations

February 28, 2021

This article below was first published in the March 2017. If you read the headlines of  the European press following Italy’s defeat on March1, 1896, you will see that this battle shook the foundations of European Imperialism to its core.

Today, Ethiopia is engaged in another battle for its sovereignty, no less vital than the Battle at Adwa 125 years ago. The Ethiopian nation-state is a physical unitary reality that embodies an essential concept of national identity, which transcends ethno-nationalism. Unfortunately, there are times when it is necessary to wage war to preserve the nation state, which represents the interests of all Ethiopians. Without a functioning sovereign nation-state, society cannot provide for its citizens and for future generations. In the spirit of the victory at Adwa, all Ethiopians should unite in pursing their shared common interest: the development of Ethiopia. When all Ethiopians, from all ethnic backgrounds join together to ensure the economic progress of their single homeland, then the preconditions will exist to end ethnic conflict and marginalization. The victory at Adwa belongs to and exist inside all Ethiopians. One Ethiopia! One Ethiopian identity! 

Victory at Adwa- A Victory for Africa

Lawrence Freeman

March 1, 2017

The battle of Adwa is probably the most renowned and historic battle in Ethiopian history. This celebrated victory by the Ethiopian army helped define the future of their nation, as one of only two non-colonized countries in Africa. The defeat of a European colonial empire by an African country, following the “Scramble for Africa” after the 1884-1885 Berlin conference a decade earlier, is not only a source of enduring pride and nationalism for Ethiopians, but also an inspiration to other Africans, who took up the fight for independence six decades later. Some historians suggest that this victory also led to the idea for the Pan-African movement. As a result, it is no surprise that on May 25 1963, Ethiopia under the rule of Emperor Haile Selassie was a founding member of the Organization of African States-OAS.

Adwa, also known as Adowa, and in Italian Adua, was the capital of the Tigray region in northern Ethiopia. A late comer to grabbing territory in Africa, Italy began colonizing Somaliland and Eritrea in the 1880s. It was from the vantage point of Eritrea from where Italy launched its campaign against Ethiopia. The immediate pretext of the invasion was a dispute of Article 17 of the 1889 Treaty of Wuchale. Italy insisted that the treaty stated that Ethiopia had to submit to its imperial authority, thus effectively making Ethiopia a colony of the Kingdom of Italy. The Ethiopians resisted Italy’s military enforcement of its version of the treaty, leading to the outbreak of war in December 1894, with the Italian imperialists occupying Adwa and moving further south into Ethiopian territory. On March 1, 1896, King Menelik II, who, commanded a force of over 70,000, defeated the Italian army, killing 7,000 of their soldiers, wounding 1,500, and capturing  3,000 prisoners, routing their enemy, and forcing them to retreat back to their colony of Eritrea. It has been speculated that, if Menelik had pursued the retreating Italian troops, and driven them off of the continent, it might have prevented a second Italian invasion. On October 3, 1935, Italy led by fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, launched its second military incursion into sovereign Ethiopia territory. Five years later in 1941, Ethiopia once again drove the Italian invaders out of their country. The 1896 defeat of a European nation, considered an advanced country, by Ethiopia, viewed as a backward Africa country, led to riots on the streets of Italy and well deserved consternation in the capitals of European powers.

Without taking the time now to review the ninety years of Ethiopian history following this famous battle, the military defeat of Ethiopia’s dictatorial Derg Regime in 1991 brings us to the beginning of contemporary Ethiopia. When the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front-EPRDF assumed control of the government in 1991, it was led by the now deceased, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who initiated the economic policies that have guided Ethiopia for over 25 years. It was Meles Zenawi’s intellectual leadership, in particular his understanding of the indispensable role of the state in fostering economic development that distinguishes Ethiopia today from all other sub-Saharan African nations. For him the state was not “a night watchman,” but rather an active participant promoting economic growth for the benefit of its people. Ethiopia is a poor country. with a population approaching one hundred million, not endowed with rich mineral or hydrocarbon resources, and repeatedly struck by drought. Yet it has emerged in recent years with a rapidly growing economy. This is the result of Zenawi’s legacy that created a leadership with a self-conscious commitment to use the powers of the state to build an integrated infrastructure platform, which has served to drive the economy forward. This is clearly evident in Ethiopia’s Growth and Transformation Plans I and II, which set ambitious economic goals five years into the future, along with its proposed thirty year road construction plan. Since the EPRDF took over the responsibility of governing the nation, more than thirty new universities have been created, graduating more students that can be easily employed.

In collaboration with China, Ethiopia operates the first electrified train in sub-Saharan Africa, traveling 750 kilometers in seven hours from Addis Ababa to Djibouti, establishing a port to export Ethiopia’s products. Their highway system consisting of toll roads, highways, and all weather roads will connect their light manufacturing industries to the port in Djibouti via their new rail line.   As a result of coherent policy planning in energy infrastructure, the Gibe III hydroelectric power plant has now added 1,872 of megawatts to the country’s electricity grid, and over the next two years, the Ethiopian Grand Renaissance Dam (GERD) will add an additional 6,000 megawatts, making Ethiopia the second largest producer of power in sub-Saharan Africa, behind South Africa.  The next step to develop the Horn of Africa is for Ethiopia, Sudan, and Kenya to extend their rails lines to become the eastern leg of an East-West railroad. Thus would transform Africa by connecting the Gulf of Eden/Indian Ocean with the Atlantic Ocean , creating an economic corridor that would literally revolutionize the economic power of the continent; contributing to the ending of poverty, hunger, and war.

One cannot deny the success of Ethiopia’s unique path of development, nor can one omit the important role contributed to this process by Ethiopia’s successful resistance to foreign occupation; thus never having to suffer the dehumanizing effects of colonialism.

Read my earlier posts:   Ethiopia’s Conflict: A War Won to Preserve the Nation-StateEthiopia’s Prosperity Party: A Revolutionary Necessity

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in economic development policies for Africa for over 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com