CISD Study Tour visits Ethiopia for the first time

By Fadil Elobeid|May 10, 2019|News|24 comments

From the 8th to the 13th of April 2019 students and staff from the Centre for International Studies & Diplomacy undertook SOAS’s first study tour in Addis Ababa, arguably Africa’s political capital. The tour, led by CISD Director Dr Dan Plesch, and Royal African Society Director Dr Nicholas Westcott, visited a number of multilateral institutions, NGOs, Ethiopian government departments, and universities.

CISD group at the British Embassy, Ethiopia

The tour began by visiting the British Embassy in Ethiopia, which sits in the UK’s largest diplomatic compound. The CISD delegation met the Ambassador Dr Alastair McPhail, and were briefed by the Political Officer Jamie Orton, and the Embassy’s African Union liaison officer. The meeting focused on the history the UK in Ethiopia, the policies of current prime minister Abyi Ahmed, and the UK’s engagement with the African Union.

CISD at the Nelson Mandela Conference Hall

On the second day the CISD delegation had a series of back-to-back meetings with the heads of various African Union organs including: the Office of the Secretary General; the Department of Trade and Industry; the Department of Political Affairs; and the Department of Economic Affairs. The African Union was keen to discuss Agenda 2063, its economic, social and political implications.

Following the meetings the group held a roundtable discussion with Ambassador Albert Muchanga, African Union Commissioner for Trade and Industry, where negotiations surrounding the Continental Free Trade Area were discussed in detail, as well as other policy priorities such as the African Union passport.

CISD Delegation with Ambassador Albert Muchanga

On the third day the group visited the Ethiopian Civil Service University, and met with Ambassador Arega Teffera, head of the Ethiopian Foreign Service Training Institute, to discuss potential partnerships.

That group then had an evening briefing with the European Union External Action Service, led by Ambassador Ranieri Sabatucci, EU Ambassador to the African Union. The reception provided the students with the opportunity to liaise with a number of ambassadors, including: Ambassador Brita Wagener (Germany), Ambassador Mary-Beth Leonard, Ambassador (US Mission to the AU), Aymeric Lorthiois (French Counsellor for African Union issues), Jason Grimes (UK Deputy Permanent Representative to the African Union), and Paul Rainier (New Zealand Deputy Ambassador).


On the fourth day the group met Ethiopian Foreign Minister Hirut Zemene,  Dr Dan Plesch also briefed the minister of his war crimes research and presented an archive of claims made by Ethiopia against Italy following the fascist occupation.

The UN always features prominently in CISD Study Tours, and the Addis Ababa trip was no different. The group visited the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa on the morning and afternoon of the fourth day. Meeting in Africa Hall, the historic conference centre built in 1961 and used by the AU’s predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity, the delegation held discussion with experts from a range of departments.

CISD delegation at UNECA

Rounding off the tour, the SCRAP Weapons project had its official Africa launch in the evening of the fourth day of the Study Tour. The panel, including CISD Student Melanie Mylvaganam, Dan Plesch, Olamide Samuel and Nick Westcott discussed the role of African leadership in weapons control. The event attracted a range of NGOs, diplomats, and students, and was attended by Ambassador Hanna Tetteh, the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative to the African Union and Head of the United Nations Office to the African Union (UNOAU).

Speaking about the Study Tour CISD student Melanie Mylvaganam said: “This trip was an invaluable opportunity to engage with African politics close up, and have real conversations with practising diplomats in the field. All our learning at SOAS suddenly met reality, and gave me an even deeper appreciation for the complexity of diplomacy in practice.”

While CISD student Aashika Doshi said: “Addis Ababa is a once in a lifetime experience and a career training highlight”.

Royal African Society’s Nick Westcott said: “Addis Ababa was the birthplace of the OAU, now the AU, and Ethiopia is the oldest independent state in Africa. With its stabilising role in the region, it seems appropriate that we visit the country at the centre of Africa’s international relations”

Dan Plesch said: “In many ways Addis Ababa is the diplomatic capital of Africa, so it was a natural destination to expand our Study Tours to. The trip provided a great opportunity for students to engage with centres of power in African politics, while enabling the Centre to institutionalise meaningful partnerships with the thought leaders of regional and continental politics”.

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