Ethiopia to close embassies in Egypt, Ireland over financial strain

Tuesday September 28 2021
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in Addis Ababa on June 13, 2021. PHOTO | AMANUEL SILESHI | AFP


Ethiopia has decided to close its embassies in Egypt and Ireland due to financial constraints, which have been worsened by a long conflict in the Tigray region.

Ethiopian Ambassador to Egypt, Markos Tekle, announced that the embassy in Cairo will be closed temporarily as of October.

"The embassy will be closed for the next three to six months to reduce costs," he said.

The ambassador said the decision has nothing to do with the longstanding dispute Ethiopia has had with Egypt and Sudan over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).

In July, Ethiopia filled the controversial dam for the second time despite Egyptian and Sudan's warnings against this before the three countries reached a final deal.

Read: Ethiopia conflict: Joe Biden signs order authorising sanctions


Ireland's case

The Horn of Africa nation is closing its embassy in Dublin, Ireland’s capital, for similar reasons, with its responsibilities transferring to the country’s mission in London.

Relations between Ethiopia and Ireland have not been very friendly in recent months.

The Irish government has been at the forefront in pushing the UN Security Council to impose sanctions against Ethiopia with regard to the Tigray conflict.

Following that, Prime minister Abiy Ahmed’s government has been criticising what it has called international “interference” in its internal affairs.

"The government regrets the decision of the Ethiopian authorities to close their embassy in Ireland," Ireland's Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

"The ongoing conflict in Tigray is of significant concern, and Ireland has been at the fore in raising the crisis at the UN Security Council, within the European Union, and with other partners.”

The department added: "We have also conveyed our concerns directly to the Ethiopian authorities. In all cases, we have stressed the need for unimpeded humanitarian access, a ceasefire and dialogue leading to a political resolution of the conflict.”

Since the Tigray conflict broke out in November last year almost 2 million people have been displaced while more than five million need emergency food aid as the famine begins to take hold.

The conflict in Tigray has spread to the neighbouring Amhara and Afar regions, raising fears that Ethiopia, Africa's second most populous nation with about 120 million people, might eventually fall apart.

Over 30 embassies

Ethiopia recently announced that it would close over 30 of its embassies in many countries due to the economic crisis it is facing.

Its resources continue to get stretched especially as the war in the northern region spreads.

In July, Addis Ababa admitted it had lost some 2.3 billion in infrastructure damage in Tigray where Ethiopian forces had been pursuing the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), once a ruling party but now considered a terrorist group.

The latest decision brings the number of embassies due for closure in September alone to three.

Earlier this month, Addis Ababa announced that it had closed its embassy in Algiers, Algeria, as it began to cut costs on its foreign policy obligations.

It cited financial constraints in closing a mission to a country that had in the past hosted talks between Eritrea and Ethiopia, and which produced a document known as the Algiers Peace Agreement signed on December 12, 2000 to end the war between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

In early July, the Horn of Africa nation changed the accreditation arrangements for dozens of its diplomatic missions across the globe and announced plans to reduce the number of embassies by at least half in a bid to save costs.

In a July 5 briefing to Ethiopian lawmakers, PM Abiy said the country will shut down several embassies to manage costs, with most diplomats working as non-resident ambassadors.

"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,” Abiy said at the time.