“Every Ethiopian citizen is a ‘spy’” Ambassador Dina


Why are terrosrist rining roughshod over Kenya while Ethiopia, with a longer border with war-torn Somalia, is not troubled? Ethiopian Ambassador to Kenya Dina Mufti spoke to Mwaura Samora on how they have outmaneuvered terrorists, Uhuru’s presidential jet saga  and why the late President Meles Zenawi died without owning a car or a house

Were you summoned by Kenyan officials after it was alleged that Ethiopia was the reason President Uhuru Kenyatta’s jet was re-routed on its way to Dubai?

There was no summons from anybody. I just got communication from the host nation, which is normal in diplomatic circles. So there were no summons.

Did Ethiopia actually stop the presidential jet?

I will not comment on that.

Ethiopia seems to have managed to scare Al-shabaab despite sharing a longer common border. What are you doing right that Kenya is not?

No country can say that they have successfully combated terrorism, whether in Africa or the West. But Ethiopia has been relatively successful because of the good co-operation that exists between security organs and the people. This ensures the population provides vital information to ensure terror cells and infiltrations are nipped in the bud.

It’s the same philosophy Kenya is adopting through Nyumba Kumi where every citizen is an intelligence officer. The government also has a very good working rapport with religious teachers in Madrassas to ensure the Islamic doctrine does not promote extremism.

Additionally, the Ethiopian armed forces have undergone patriotic indoctrination to the extent that they value the security of the motherland more and cannot be corrupted by terror elements.

Bandit attacks against Kenyans by Ethiopian invaders along the common border has been on the rise lately. Are there cases where Kenyans perpetrate the same atrocities against Ethiopians?

The cross-border incursions do not reflect the good relations that the two countries enjoy. This also happens among tribes inside Kenya as well as among tribes inside Ethiopia. However, cross-border conflicts can be eradicated or minimised if the two governments involve the warring communities in meaningful development activities.

Armed men purportedly from the Ethiopian security forces took over a police station 16 kilometres inside the border recently…

The Kenya Police spokesperson clearly denied the claims. Kenya is a strong ally of Ethiopia in the war against Al-Shabaab. In history we have always looked up to Kenya as an island of peace that hosted Ethiopian refugees when we suffered internal strife. Therefore there never was and never will be an invasion of Kenya by Ethiopian forces.

Kenyans businessmen have a huge presence in Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan. Why do they seem to avoid Ethiopia? Is your economy open or controlled?

Many Kenyan businessmen are in Ethiopian, even investing in information technology and chemical industries. In fact, Kenyans are third after Egyptians and the Sudanese. Our economy is open to every investor.

Many Ethiopians have been arrested in Kenya allegedly fleeing, many others continue to die in Libya. A case in point is where quite a number were beheaded by ISIS…

Those arrested allegedly fleeing the country are mostly lured by human traffickers who promise them heaven abroad. These are mostly young men from rural areas, otherwise most Ethiopians are content with opportunities at home.

Ethiopia is a democratic country that holds free and fair elections every five years, so you can’t say it is a police state.

A contingent of Ethiopian journalists are currently exiled in Kenya. There are also six well known bloggers and three journalists currently in detention, Bwana Ambassador…?

The Ethiopian media freedom space is very young having been born in 1991 when EPRDF came to power. So it’s still evolving.

But what we can’t allow is people hiding under the guise of journalism to incite citizens and tribes against each other. So those living in Kenya are not real journalists. The six bloggers and three journalists’ cases are going on in a court of law so I can’t comment.

It has been three years since the death of President Meles Zenawi. Do you miss him?

We miss him very much as a nation because he is the father of the modern renaissance in Ethiopia. He is the only African leader who died without having owned a personal car or house, he was a servant leader. The late Meles was a man of structures rather than building a personality cult. He left in place strong structures that are still thriving long after he is gone.

Ethiopia is constructing a standard gauge railway (SGR) that is much longer than the one in Kenya, but at a much lower cost. How was that possible?

I don’t have the nitty-gritty of the Ethiopian SGR since that’s not my area of expertise. But I can say that as a country, we have minimised corruption in such projects which brings down the costs drastically.

Addis Ababa just launched its first tram car service to ease traffic, a phenomenon common in Western countries. What can Nairobi borrow from this?

Yes. It has been functional in the last three months on trial basis and others will be launched in other towns across the country. Nairobi also has the capacity, and should consider the idea, to develop such a network since I have seen the traffic congestion reduce in Addis Ababa drastically.