The big dinner, which cost more than 200 wealthy people a fortune...


May 25 , 2019


The big dinner, which cost more than 200 wealthy people a fortune, has come to pass, leaving behind a memory in as much as it did with raising eyebrows on a couple of fronts, gossip observed.

The energy and focus Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) accorded to a three-year project to rehabilitate and restore 56Km of riverside amenities in Addis Abeba makes several dumbfounded about the priority he has in governing this country. Despite the project floating around during reigns of successive regimes, none of his predecessors felt the urge to busy themselves in beautifying the capital. They were swarmed by pressing issues of fundamental matters existential to the nation.

Abiy appears to feel differently, judging by how much emphasis he gives to clean up the physical neglect, if not mess, around his immediate environment. Over the year since he took up residence in Arat Kilo, he transformed the first two ground floors of the Prime Minister’s Office, whitening them to radiate and also beautify the compound. It is as if Abiy wants to see the symbolism in renewal vibrate from a core to as far away as it can get.

To help him do that, the nouveau riche wrote cheques worth 173,000 dollars for a seat around a rose-adorned banquet table at the Grand Palace last week. Some of them felt the pressure from the authorities to attend, such as in the case with the financial sector and the construction industry, claims gossip. Others could have feared a political fallout from their absence, while few of them may foresee an opportunity in supporting the passion of the current political order, says gossip.

In his welcoming address, Abiy used a metaphor of “noise and legacy,” trying hard to hit his message home that the investments they have made today are not in vain. Lifting the image of the capital will not only be a wise investment in generating revenue to many businesses, but it is also a decision that will bring them a moment of pride in their later years, walking by the parks and bicycles paths with their names affixed to plaques alongside the walkways.

The bill for that will reach a staggering one billion dollars, although the Chinese, the Europeans, the African Development Bank and the United Nations agencies have pledged to chip in. Their representatives were among the tuxedo-clad diners entertained with a five million Birr plate inside the dining hall of Emperor Menelik II, which many mistakenly credited Abiy’s administration for its impressive restoration, gossip claims.

Absent from the grand dinner and denied acknowledgement, as well as recognition, were individuals and companies who were behind the restoration work such as Varnero and ZIAS, the construction and architectural firms highly involved in the building of a residence for the Prime Minister’s family as well as restoration work on the Grand Palace, aka Menelik II Palace, gossip disclosed.

The restoration of palace sites has been carried out since 2012 under the watchful eyes of Gebretensae Gebremichael, director general of the National Palace Administration for a decade before he left last year. Known to be a decisive but lone operator, he oversaw the restoration work completed in five of the 13 palaces scattered across the country, including Yohannes IV in Meqelle as well as Qoqa, Melkasa and the Jubilee Palace in the capital.

It took the federal government close to 200 million Br, of which close to 76 million Br was budgeted to the building of guest rooms and restoration of the dining hall where Abiy’s guests were seen marveling last week, gossip revealed.



PUBLISHED ON May 25,2019 [ VOL 20 , NO 995]



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