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People Power

Diplomacy is not only the job of the government it is also need depends on people even if they are ambivalent about politics. Ordinary Sudanese and Ethiopians can make a difference says Mohamed Abdullaziz( Mc Aziz) who has worked in public diplomacy to connect his country people in Latin America, and Africa.
With his love for Ethiopia,  he gave his son  an Ethiopian name and currently  is  planning  to form a company in Ethiopia.  Capital’s Reporter Tesfaye Getnet sat down with Mohamed Abdulaziz to learn more about public diplomacy. Excerpts:

Capital: We heard that you donated blood to Ethiopian people who were  injured  in the recent demonstration to support PM  Dr. Abiy, what inspired  you to do that ?

Mohamed Abdulaziz: The thousands of years long historical relationship begins between Ethiopia and Sudan from the civilizations of Axum and Merowe in which the two people lived under the one or the other’s civilizations. This long relationship has resulted in innumerable shared cultural, linguistic and ethnic values. The Nile River, which emanates from Ethiopia and roars past Sudan, has also created a strong bondage between these historic nations.
Based on the mutual interest and respect, the two countries have a good relationship in many fields.
Our diplomacy has played a commendable role in building a warm and constructive relationship between the two countries. The private sector and the civil societies through trade, investment and shared values are known to be the true architects, the brick and mortar, for building the more enduring, people to people relations that nurture and reinforce mutual trust and confidence. My sincere sympathy and condolences to the families, friends and all Ethiopians.
For me as a Sudanese, I have lost loved ones, and I was hurt  that Saturday , the day I declared my full support to Dr. Abiy’s vision. For the first time in my all life of four decades, I can see hope for our countries and all Africa. Blood is the most precious gift that anyone can give to another person – the gift of life. I believe that my decision to donate blood can save a life, or even several.  The blood I donate hopefully gives someone another chance at life, a life may depend a bottle of Blood. I feel I have much to offer, I have the most precious resource of all: the ability to save a life by donating blood! It cost me nothing but it will save a life of Ethiopian! Indeed, when it comes to charitable giving, there is a strong connection-and often a feedback loop-between generosity, emotion and duty.

Capital: What does People to people diplomacy means to you?

Mohamed Abdulaziz: People’s diplomacy (Citizen diplomacy) is the political concept of average citizens engaging as representatives of a country or cause either inadvertently or by design. People diplomacy may take place when official channels are not reliable or desirable; for instance, if two countries do not formally recognize each other’s governments, People diplomacy may be an ideal tool of statecraft. People diplomacy does not have to be direct negotiations between two parties, but can take the form of: scientific exchanges, cultural exchanges, and international athletic events.
People diplomacy can complement official diplomacy or subvert it.
It is the concept that the individual has the right, even the responsibility, to help shape foreign relations, “one handshake at a time.” People diplomats can be students, teachers, athletes, artists, business people, humanitarians, adventurers or tourists. They are motivated by a responsibility to engage with the rest of the world in a meaningful, mutually beneficial dialogue.

Capital: Is People’s diplomacy is a guarantee of productive cooperation between countries ?

Mohamed Abdulaziz: People diplomacy is at the heart of everything we do. It makes the world a smaller place. Through people-to-people exchanges, we can build lasting friendships and relationships that we can learn and grow from. These positive exchanges open the door for future dialogue through mutual respect and understanding. People diplomacy has a tremendous impact on the effectiveness of business, government, education, and social entities around the world. It impacts the ability of entire countries, regions, and cultures to thrive and resolve shared challenges. All meaningful and effective relationships between any two entities are built by individuals acting responsibly and with purpose. Corporations, governments, educational institutions, social enterprises, countries, and cultures don’t interact; people do. Every individual has the right and responsibility to understand and embrace that personal impact, and leverage the opportunities available to help them contribute purposefully in our globalized society.
Capital: People have different religions and cultures, so how people to people diplomacy help bridge these  differences ?

Mohamed Abdulaziz: Dialogue is a means of building the openness, understanding and trust needed for people of different cultural and religious backgrounds to live and cooperate with each other, despite their differences. Besides, dialogue can help to clarify issues, to create greater understanding and remove prejudices; the aim is certainly not to reach a common belief, but rather to clarify what each faith community believes, to appreciate each other’s values and to have a better understanding of differences.

photo: Anteneh Aklilu
photo: Anteneh Aklilu

This mind-set is not inconsistent with diplomatic precepts and perspectives. The difficulty with this matter comes from the fact that not all religions share the same set of beliefs, but in one form or another, religion is found in all known human societies. On this issue, what can be said is that all religions teach high moral values and promote justice, peace and respect for human dignity; besides, all religions have the five human values, which are truth, right conduct, love, peace and non-violence at their core: and these are exactly the values which sustain the very soul of family, society, nations and the world and can therefore be put to use to build a fruitful dialogue.
“There will be no peace among nations without peace among religions. There will be no peace among religions without dialogue among religions” – Dr. Hans Küng, Professor of Ecumenical Theology and President of the Foundation for a Global Ethic World.

Capital: What has the Counicil for International Friendship accomplished?

Mohamed Abdulaziz: This is an institution established in the late 1960s. The aims of this institution are to enhance people’s friendship, further international cooperation, and promote common development. It makes friends and deepens friendship in the international community and various countries around the world, lays and expands the social basis of friendly relations between other countries, and works for the cause of human progress and solidarity.
It implements the independent foreign policy of peace, observing the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, while carrying out all-directional, multi-level and broad-area people-to-people friendship work to serve the great cause of peaceful development and reunification and contribute to the building of a harmonious world of lasting peace and common prosperity. In launching its activities, it has support from the government and assistance from all sectors of the society. It has set up many regional or national friendship organizations and established relationship of friendly cooperation with nongovernment organizations and institutions in different countries.

Capital: What has people to people done to connect Ethiopians and Sudanese?

Mohamed Abdulaziz: I believe that we are one people living in two countries. Ethiopia and Sudan are not just two neighboring countries who share the borders. The two countries have had very close relations for years, ever since the days of the last Emperor that reigned here for decades. In fact when there was the civil war between north and south Sudan, it was the Emperor who took the initiative to bring the two parts to the round-table discussions and peace talks leading a delegation of the then Organization of African Unity member states. Ethiopians have been taking refuge in Sudan for decades and there are still thousands of Ethiopians who have made their home in Sudan. Similarly, there have been thousands of Sudanese nationals taking refuge here during moments of crisis and violence in Sudan. Ethiopia has always welcomed home Sudanese brothers and sisters as has Sudan to Ethiopians.
The continuous support of the Sudanese government for the accomplishment of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam project is a demonstration of the kind of relations the two countries enjoy. Here the support of Sudan is key because it gives a sense of belongingness and mutual trust and friendship between the two nations.
On March 2014, more than forty Ethiopian prominent artists performed during an amazing cultural and modern musical show for “Ethiopian week” in Sudan Khartoum and other different regional cities. At the show, Sudanese people warmly welcomed Ethiopian artists like family and took care of them. Sudanese citizens were also unstoppably supporting and admiring artists i. The “Ethiopian week” cultural and modern musical show in Sudan highly enhanced people to people relations between Sudan and Ethiopia. Beyond building strong people to people relations, the show played a great role in briefing Sudanese people about the Grand Ethiopia Renaissance Dam. It is possible to say this is a glorious beginning and booming period (but not an end) in using art and artists of Ethiopian diplomacy and soft power. In addition the People’s Friendship Council between both countries exchanges yearly visits.
On July, 2014 thirty two Sudanese journalists and known writers visited major development works in Ethiopia including the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). Group members understood the GERD which is being built by Ethiopia’s own resources has great benefits to Africa. They have understood, the GERD would be beneficial in fishery, tourism development and research purposes in addition to power generation. They further noted that they were able to understand from the briefing that the GERD will not cause any appreciable harm to downstream countries.
In May 2016 a Sudanese Public Diplomacy Team of 60 members lauded various developmental activities being undertaken in Ethiopia and wanted to learn from their experiences.
After visiting the Addis Light Railway and Addis-Adama Expressway here Sunday, Sudanese International People’s Friendship Council Secretary General Abdul-Moniem Al-Sunni said that Ethiopia has shown a transformation and it is on the right track with regard to development. Abdul-Moniem said that it could be a good lesson for Sudan. “I hope we would develop Addis-Khartoum Railway in the future,” he noted.
Capital: How has the Council for International Friendship improved the economy?
Mohamed Abdulaziz: After the signing of Khartoum Declaration of Agreement on 27 June four border crossinig points were opened.
However, the previous decision for border closure didn’t stop totally the movement and trade between the two sides as the border areas from both sides  had strong trade relations.
The Sudanese private sector represented by diplomacy will contribute to the expansion of investment and trade ties, the development of infrastructure linking the two countries in a more efficient transportation scheme are among the sectors that need to be further enhanced and encouraged. Hence such exchange of delegations and visits are good catalysts to that end that will eventually contribute to lift the two countries out of poverty.
But these relations should also go beyond that and include cultural and artistic relations, linguistic affairs and educational and research endeavors so that both countries become equal beneficiaries.
The relations will continue to be fostered along the years and both parties will benefit from this win -win situation and it is bound to be an example for other neighboring countries in Africa.

Capital: How people to people diplomacy benefit government to have good foreign relationship?

Mohamed Abdulaziz: In any foreign relation there are two types of power exercises. These are soft and hard power exercises. Soft power is all about winning foreign hearts and minds to build trust and credibility about one nation. Capacity of one nation’s soft power determines socio-economic and political co-operation with foreign countries and other international nongovernmental actors. If one nation has strong soft power capacity, that country would have wide access to attract foreign direct investment, trade and ability to promote one nation as a desirable and ultimate tourist destination.
Art has mighty power to make or break the people to people relations and formal diplomatic relations between one nation and other foreign country. Art and artists are one of crucial and most important tools to accomplish the mission of one’s country soft power.

Capital: We have heard that you have the plan to  open a company in here.

Mohamed Abdulaziz: Ethiopia is the oldest independent country in Africa, and is among the most stable countries in the region. The peaceful transition of power to a new Prime Minister has proven the stability of Ethiopia’s multi-party political system and parliamentarian form of government. Ethiopia is becoming an investment destination in the sub-region for the fast paced economic progress it has been experiencing, for the lucrative business opportunities it provides, and for its attractive investment incentives. We believe that this is exactly the time to invest and to start our business in Ethiopia.

Capital: Anything you would like to add?

Mohamed Abdulaziz: For my Ethiopian family and brothers .. (Few people have the privilege of having such a supportive and giving friend. I am beyond lucky to have you in my life. Thank you for being there for me yet again. I am so grateful that you are in my life.) For Ethiopia… I see a new Ethiopia, a new Africa, stretching her hands of influence throughout the world, teaching man the way of life and peace, The Way to God.


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