BY STAFF REPORTER
Befekadu Terefe is an Ethiopian Born American who lived in his country of residence for 36 years. Especially during the last two decades, he has been chosen by the government of Ethiopia as well as the US to work as Honorary Ambassador of Ethiopia in the US. He has been contributing a lot to foster the century of strong relations of the two countries working as a seamless bridge whenever governments change and ambassador’s shift.
During his interview with Ethiopian Press Agency, he has explained the strong relations between Ethiopia and the US, the diplomatic shortfalls that the country faced during the last 27 years, the contribution of the diaspora and the brightness of the country. Enjoy reading!
Even though you have changed your citizenship you have been working as honorary ambassador of your country of origin, Ethiopia. Would you tell us your motive to work as honorary ambassador of your country of birth?
I do not do this because I have a special reason or mission. The only secret is that I love my country. The government may change, but I was not a supporter of any government. Or I am not a party member. But I did my best to support the current government because I believe I should contribute to my country.
On this occasion, tell us about your appointment as Honorary Ambassador.
By default, anyone who lives abroad is an ambassador to his/her country of origin. It is because of this that I have been advocating for my country and the development of my country without any pressure or coercion. Of course, anyone who can be an honorary ambassador can represent the country of origin and the country residence; It is when they believe that it will benefit them. It was only after that qualification that I was able to obtain this title. In addition, this title requires one to be influential in the country; Must be exceptionally gifted and useful and certified for both countries.
Accordingly, the responsibility given to me is the same as that of the ambassador to the government. The difference was that I am a volunteer, not paid. I have a role to play in representing and serving with all authority. There are four of us who are doing the same thing in different places. By the way, when you work as an honorary ambassador, you have a responsibility to ensure the survival of both countries.
The current state of relations between the United States and Ethiopia is deteriorating. Do you, as an Ethiopian representative, believe that we have fulfilled our responsibility to prevent this relationship from reaching this level?
With your permission, you have asked a very good question. Of course; US-Ethiopia relations do not begin today. We have a relationship that has lasted for more than a century. This relationship is not limited to diplomacy. In particular, Ethiopia continues to represent the interests of black people beyond Africa. This is not the case now. It has been at this level for centuries and has been revered in the United States and throughout the West.
In particular, the United States has long used Ethiopia as a gateway to East Africa in its security and counterterrorism efforts. That is why no US official who would come to Africa would return home without visiting Ethiopia. In general, these conditions reflected the desire and respect of the two countries to work together. But now the United States tends to abandon all that historical connection. They now seem to have forgotten Ethiopia’s contribution to US national security. I am saddened that all of this has been forgotten, but today it has gone beyond the table.
In response to your request, many attempts have been made to lift the ban. It is being done. Attempts failed. However, the fact that both the TPLF and other Ethiopian enemies have money launderers in the US Congress that contribute to the deterioration of relations between the two countries. The executors are responsible for everything from the lowest level of authority to the highest level. I have just heard that the document on sanctions against Ethiopia is on the table for the president’s signature. All this is being done by the TPLF forces who are trying to destroy Ethiopia. The relationship between the TPLF and many US officials over the past 27 years has not been easy.
Nevertheless, Ethiopia has always stood by the side of the superpowers and worked for world peace. It is through diplomacy that Ethiopia has gained international recognition at this stage. But now that all has been forgotten, things have changed since Dr Abby came.
Would you please elaborate on that?
The main reason why the relations are at loggerheads is a timely and questionable question. It is diplomacy that has brought them to this level with Ethiopia over the past 27 years. We had a great reputation in the world, both in the region and on the continent. Of course, diplomacy has not started recently. As I told you before, all the leaders of more than a hundred years have attested to the greatness of Ethiopia. What makes it special now is that the force that worked closely with the US government has sided with Ethiopia’s enemies.
By the way, the West is challenging your sovereignty because of your inner strength. Ethiopia is a strong country on the world stage. Some are uncomfortable with that situation. Meddling in the internal affairs of another country not only by the administration but also by the nation; They show their superiority over religion and the like. You are still showing it. But they could not in Ethiopia. Neither history nor current leaders have negotiated Ethiopia’s sovereignty. No one surrendered. We respect them, we want to be respected. But they want to spread their ideas. Fortunately, they have not been able to pursue their agenda in Ethiopia.
They did not get this opportunity. Now they have found a way to disperse us in the civil war. Today our country is on the brink of fire. This is a burning issue for all of us.
The United States and other countries have taken advantage of the gap, but have not been able to do so. The Ethiopian people and government are strong. We have a leader who says, “I will not trade my existence with anything” This is more than an aid to Ethiopia. Their help is no greater than our sovereignty.
Our dignity and freedom are paramount. It is because we are free that today we travel around the world in freedom and confidence. If I look at other African countries, they still have an impact. The pressure on African countries does not come today. Although they were released from the right, they are still in control. In Ethiopia, however, they have not been able to achieve this. Neither the United States nor European countries have been able to achieve this goal. That is what brought us here today.
We have not lost to the West today. They made us fight each other. Still, they did not disturb us as much as they needed to. This is because our people are big. They are patient, invincible. The people give priority to their dignity than wheat and medicine. For about three years the westerners were saying Ethiopia is on the verge of collapse. They tried to cause havoc among us using various pretexts. They tried to disperse us in the hope that the Ethiopian people would not agree, but none of them thought.
The election ended peacefully. They still tried to disrupt the festivities but to no avail. This shows that the people have confidence in their leader and are determined to develop the country. Of course, we still have differences. But they put their differences aside and proved their unity. The formation of the government we have seen this week confirms this and is very disappointing for those who believe that Ethiopia will die.
By the way, the United States has not yet approved the Ethiopian election. As an Ethiopian, it is something I am proud of. Whether the United States approves it or not, it will not benefit Ethiopia. The important thing is that the people choose what they believe. The formation of a government that is still popular has taken place. Both Erecha and Meskel are celebrated with love and peace because the people are still peace-loving and want to live together in the same way. The realization of the formation of a government is in itself a failure for those who are desperate for the collapse of Ethiopia.
Another important issue is the fact that Ethiopians still want to maintain their unity and sovereignty. Following the crisis in northern Ethiopia, Dr Abiy embraced the eviction proclamation. It allows us not only to stop the war in the North now but also to build a reliable defence force in the future. This shows that the people and the government are together and reading. It is a matter of the people.
We may have political, religious, ethnic, or linguistic differences. Despite our differences, we are united in our country’s affairs. This is a testament to the fact that many diasporas, including me, are entering our country today to work together and face the problem.
But there is a recurring theme. This means that the Ethiopian Diaspora does not have a union. It has also failed to provide tangible support for the country’s fundamental change. Do you agree with this idea?
As you said, there are times when our differences are highlighted in public. It is not necessary to argue in this way. What is even more tragic is the fact that our differences have led to the burning of flags in foreign lands. For my part, I do not believe that our ethnic divisions will lead to the denial of our country. Of course, politics and religion are important. We are still suffering because of the racial politics of the past 27 years. Currently, the Diaspora is obsessed with ethnocentrism cancer. It’s a place where everyone is on the same page and our differences are made public.
It is this ethnocentrism cancer that has now turned into hate. We have forgotten all that glorious culture and we have joined the ranks of the opposition. We are divided. There is no question that this cancer has been a disease since the TPLF took over the country. I hope that the newly formed government will work hard to eradicate this cancer. The current flag of the Diaspora in each country is a clear indication of the current divisive disease.
A country needs one flag. In terms of my responsibilities, one of the things I have been arguing about is this flag. I ask that we have a common flag in every forum I attend. By the way, this flag issue is not only about the people who are alive now, but also about the future generation. Right now we don’t even have the answers to the children’s questions. All in all, it was the past government and the constitution that caused all those problems.
For most of us living abroad, there is a great deal of division within us. Moreover, sadly, outside of the war in Tigray, instead of supporting each other, differences are emerging even within the church. If you are not surprised, there are people from Tigray who came directly to me and said, “I am not Ethiopian.” I’m so sorry to hear that. I beg them a lot to think broadly and not to do things they will regret tomorrow. The number of such people is very small.
Most Ethiopian diasporas do not negotiate with their country if they live alone. They think they are equal, not less than the Ethiopians here. When Ethiopia laughs, we laugh together. As I told you before, we are here today not only to make our family happy but also to pay for the problem. More than 500 diasporas have come to make sure the Nile is ours. We are here to bring in evidence that the outside world has not been deceived by the conspirators. Furthermore, we plan to work to bring about the investment that I envy in other countries.
Even our neighbour Kenya has been able to increase its investment in Diaspora Remittances. We have twice as much Diaspora as Kenya. But it is because we have not used remittances properly that we have not been able to grow our country well. With all this in the Diaspora, we should not be begging for wheat from donor countries and organizations today.
There are diasporas in the United States with sufficient resources, knowledge and opportunities. Therefore, we need to work together to break the wall of difference and lift our people out of poverty. Of course, there are many Ethiopians today and yesterday who are fulfilling their responsibilities in the media without shouting.
However, the TPLF emissaries are better than us because they have been able to use the money they have collected over the past 27 years to hire executives and enter the White House. This will not last forever. A government has now been formed. Cabinet elected. So it goes operational. We are busy. We will put off the fire. But when we destroy it the impact remains forever. We will avoid the problem once and for all. We will continue to build Ethiopia’s sovereignty by building on what has been done well.
If there is anything you think the government should do in terms of diplomacy, do you attach it?
We can do diplomacy as Ethiopians. We have shown that. For the past 27 years, diplomats have been appointed by ethnicity and nepotism. By the way, when an ambassador is appointed, he appoints someone who he believes will serve without a leader at that time. But even after his appointment, he should develop knowledge of diplomacy. He needs to know the language and culture of the country he is heading to.
Under the ambassador, however, the most responsible diplomats should be appointed. These people should be judged based on their knowledge and experience. Otherwise, it will cause a lot of problems. Still, one learns from work. Our man also learns from work.
I have a problem with this because I believe that these people should be trained there before they arrive, even though it is not a problem. Sadly, they go as far as the driver. I still do not hate their departure. But I think he should have some basic knowledge.
But in our country, it was a family-based classification. If you call the Ethiopian Embassy in the United States today, you will not be answered. No one picks up the phone. This is a problem. I sat down with the ambassador and talked about it. I was told we had no manpower. If the caller does not know the language properly for the request, it is not recommended to pick it up. My phone is on the embassy’s social networking page and I get calls every day. I work full-time and earn a living, so I don’t pick it up during work hours.
I answer them after work. There is a problem with this. Now, technology is convenient, so the diplomat has to work. I tell you this with regret and hope. But that is over. From now on, we need to learn from it and improve our work and increase our diplomacy.
How do you see the current political situation in the country?
I believe Ethiopia is at a crossroads. There is a bright and bright hope ahead. At the same time, it has a lot of work to do. I hope that the problem of peace, in particular, will be the priority after the formation of the government. The government must be patient. He is expected to do his job against all odds. I believe it works.
Second, they have committed the most heinous crimes, just as they have done for the past 27 years. Rising to power without race; Defects were widespread. It still takes a lot of work to avoid that. This is not just a government job. It is also the responsibility of all of us.
Not if we expect this work in a month or six months. But without giving up, work must be done from now on. Because it is a matter that separates the Diaspora. So I hope the government pays attention to this issue. I believe they will respond by listening to the heartbeat of the people. They need to fix this, either in a referendum or in some other way.
The other is that the Diaspora and the people of the country should not be viewed in two ways. Many of us have emigrated in search of a better life. But we all want to work and change our country. It is important to understand this. If a diaspora comes, it costs at least $ 5,000 a month. This is a big problem for the country’s rich foreign exchange shortage. Therefore, the country needs to grow by nurturing and creating a conducive environment for the diaspora. By the way, we need to take care of those who live abroad, because when we can do that, the Diaspora will stand guard for the country and play its role as ambassador.
In connection with this, I would like to mention that since the beginning of the Renaissance Dam, we have coordinated the Diaspora and purchased a large number of bonds. I sold more than $ 200,000 worth of bonds to the Nile. In total, we have invested about $ 600 million in two years. We have been raising money until the US government stopped us. We still don’t buy bonds there, but we are here to encourage all 500 Diaspora to buy bonds. This is not an easy contribution. There is still a diaspora that wants to serve the country even better. Therefore, it would be better if the new government created a conducive environment for us to provide modern financial support from our country.
Do you believe the formation of a new government would help address the question of legitimacy in the past?
I believe that I will be of great benefit to his will. For the past three years, Dr Abby has been given a different name. Despite the policy, it was passed on from Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn to the House of Peoples Representatives and its members, who did not recognize it. Now the people have given him the responsibility for five years. They voted for him. This is a great responsibility and recognition. It takes a lot of hard work, especially in light of the current crisis in the country. But this work belongs not only to him but to all of us.
How did the leaders of the various countries who attended the program view the speeches on Ethiopia?
In his speech, the Honorable Ambassador highlighted the greatness of Ethiopia. They used to see Ethiopia as their role model and mother. It is a symbol of freedom not only for Africa but for all black people. These leaders came up with ideas that show this. Ethiopia is still a black advocate for all. No other country speaks as boldly as Ethiopia does on the world stage. It is because we are free that our leaders speak freely in every forum. As a result, I found that forum to be more important for Ethiopia in the world.
Let me give you a chance if you want to convey a message?
My message to the Diaspora, in particular, is for them to contribute to the development of their country. It is well-received. Therefore, I have witnessed in my life that generosity pays off. Even in my country of exile, my good deeds have been a great help to me. In the country where I live, I have had the opportunity to run for office because of my charitable activities. I have had the opportunity to meet with many US officials, starting with the former President of the United States. This helped me to win their acceptance of all my suggestions. Therefore, I think it should increase the country’s acceptance by actively participating in the country where all the Diaspora is.
Thank you very much!
You are most welcome
The Ethiopian Herald October 9/2021