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Obama's plan to visit Ethiopia criticised as 'gift' for repressive government

Barack Obama during a visit to Wajir in Kenya, close to the Ethiopian border, before he was elected US president in 2008. Photograph: Stringer/AFP/Getty Images

Obama's plan to visit Ethiopia criticised as 'gift' for repressive government

By Ndesanjo Macha

Barack Obama’s decision to visit Ethiopia has shocked human rights activists, who say the visit sends the wrong message to a repressive government widely accused of clamping down on dissent.

A White House statement said Obama will visit the east African country for meetings with government officials as part of his last African trip as president. As well as meeting the leadership of the African Union, the visit will form part of US efforts to strengthen economic growth, democratic institutions and improve security in the region.

But as activists and social media users have been making clear, Ethiopia’s track record on human rights and democracy is deeply troubling.

In its 2014 report, Human Rights Watch noted that Ethiopia increasingly clamps down on the freedoms of its citizens “using repressive laws to constrain civil society and independent media, and target individuals with politically motivated prosecutions”.

Last month, Ethiopians voted in parliamentary elections which were widely denounced as unfair. Though the African Union declared that the vote was peaceful, they fell short of using the words “free and fair”.

While the US state department has expressed concerns about restrictions on civil society, media, opposition parties, and independent voices, Ethiopia remains a significant recipient of foreign aid money and security support.

On Twitter Hannah McNeish, a freelance journalist , juxtaposed last month’s suspicious elections results with the White House’s decision to honour Ethiopia with an official visit:

The ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front – which has been in power since 1991 – and its allies won all parliamentary seats in the May election, including the only seat won by the opposition in the 2010 elections.

Freedom House said that “Ethiopia’s elections are just an exercise in controlled political participation”, but suggested one positive outcome could be that it would garner attention for the “government’s growing political repression”.

But Obama’s proposed visit suggests that this hasn’t been the case, despite continued arrests and jailing of bloggers, journalists and dissenters.

Kenneth Roth, executive director for Human Rights Watch, recently asked why Washington appears to be rewarding repression in Ethiopia with an official visit:

Ethiopian Twitter user Mengistu Lemma took exception to the prospect of seeing Obama shaking hands with Ethiopian leaders:

Nkunda Rwanda, a Rwandan human rights blogger, posted:

Sarah Margon, former adviser to US senator Russ Feingold, said the media’s focus on the country’s success glosses over serious abuses of power:

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Obama's plan to visit Ethiopia criticised as 'gift' for repressive government Reviewed by Admin on 1:43 PM Rating: 5


  1. Experience shows how western values are full of contradictions, america is a symbol, europe follows, while they cry, civilization, democracy, human rights see they act to the contrary, now the world is aware of this game..
    double shame


  3. As usual, you are right on the money. Odumy is the homoerotic half-breed in chief with white masters, and the habesh have been puppets for well over 500 years. I say he's in good company!

  4. I don't think USA is going to make a political decision based on other people interest. When USA government makes a decision where their leader going to visit or not to visit, USA has the best people in the business to make that assessment to make that choice. We can agree or disagree about their choice based on our political desire but our opinion is not going to matter except to show explicitly where our political stand is. Obama visiting Ethiopia can be viewed by some as an opportunity but by some as inappropriate
    but in all that USA has geopolitical, social, and economic interest in everything its government does. If that is the case, USA is right in everything its government does. Visiting Ethiopia not visiting Eritrea by Obama can be politics as usual for us but USA make the choice for its own interest.

  5. Forget Eritrea/Ethiopia issue.
    Look at what OBAMA promised in his speech during his visits to Egypt and Ghana and judge for yourself whose side he has been ever since. Doesn't matter, republican or democrat, black of white , any US president will never side with the people of Africa.
    Don't be fooled that Obama really cares about Eritrean civilians than Ethiopian civilians.

  6. Hi! B.Adal. I don't know if USA cares about Africa, but have interest in Africa. We can reject their interest and suffer the consequences or we can dance with them until they give us a cold shoulder that is how politic is. Ethiopia and USA are not equal friends or equal partner. Most of us we know that, Ethiopian government knew that. Ethiopia and USA are working together because there are common interests that exist between the two. No nation has been 100% clean in dealing with other countries but you give some and you take some.

  7. You said it loud and clear....

    "Ethiopia and USA are working together because there are common interests that exist ( between the two) master and slave."

    = G R I D and O C C U P A T I O N !!!

    You both wouldn't let the world be free for all to live in peace.

  8. I think that is the only way that a relationship comes to your mind for some obvious reasons. USA has Egypt, Kenya, Djibouti, and Uganda in Africa as a partner. There are some countries in the Middle East including Israel. You labeled Ethiopia and USA relationship as a relationship between slave and master; I was wondering how you define the countries I mentioned and USA relationship. Are you just expressing your anger and frustration about Ethiopian and USA relationship because this relationship has nothing for Eritrea in the basket? If that is the case
    your anger is understandable.

  9. "dance with them until they give us a cold shoulder that is how politic is."

    This is such a flawed perspective i don't even know where to begin.

    "Ethiopia and USA are not equal friends or equal partner. Most of us we know that, Ethiopian government knew that."

    I am glad that you recognize the heart of the matter. I don't think logic saying its master slave relationship is out of the question either, given this simple matter of no equal footing. So when one has and the other doesn't.. what do we call that? Better yet.... what reason could a rich wallstreet banker have to become pals with the homeless man 2blocks down? NOTHING. The problem is instead of working with others who are disenfranchised such as yourselves you lord over them with a false power that is imagined. You claim as Eritrea is the threat etc.. but you have done so much harm to your country by flying this terrorism bullshit that the US has coxed your country into. Look at kenya., that could possibly be ethiopia. This ridiculous demonization of islam and war on terror will ruin ethiopia. That may not be the facts also., but around the world and in the western media that is how it is frame and that is what everyone will think.

  10. Slavery as BlessingJune 24, 2015 at 11:06 PM

    Thanks to USA you have got the chance to say what you are saying proudly.

  11. Actually, it makes difference only for the gullible U.S. citizens who think their government is interested in human rights. So, the master is visiting some of his best colonies in his empire. Is it not what it really tells us?

  12. You are just looking for a partner in the colony category otherwise your logic is way out.

  13. Nice words: "you give some and you take some!" As in "some times you lose, sometimes you gain?" In reality, the degree might vary depending on who you are dealing with, but it is "you give a lot, you get a little; if at all!"

    "Ethiopia and USA are not equal friends or equal partner. Most of us we know that." Not equal partners in what? Wealth, military power, all kinds of sophistication in modern international relations? Most likely, but why should a powerful, wealthy country dictate how another country should be "behaving"? Why would a wealthy and powerful country force its will on another just because they are less wealthy and less powerful? Why should they force operation of their military forces on sovereign territories of a whole continent far away from their home? Why? There are many more serious questions one could ask.

    What is wrong with being equal partners? Relationships devoid of equal partnerships have resulted in so much damages that the "more equal" sides themselves have admitted were wrong. And yet, they continue with newer ones. Moreover, why accept the little corner some bully carves out for us? Why belittle oneself or in fact one's country by accepting as deserving lesser than any other country? Remember, we are all human beings deserving no less than another living in a wealthy country somewhere.

    Furthermore, look at the result of treating countries as equal partners as is practiced between the USA and Russia and practically all other countries. The question eventually comes down to you serve me no matter what the results are on your own interest. For that reason the world is closer to a nuclear war than it was ever was since 1991! We may not hear about it, but everyday brings the two countries are coming closer and closer to confrontation. This in turn has created many areas of tension and confrontation in other areas. Weren't world bodies and international laws created to avoid this and its kind everywhere?

    "I don't know if USA cares about Africa, but have interest in Africa."
    Interest is fine! We are talking about legitimate interest here. A country, rather the ruling class of a country, might have your disappearance from the face of the earth. That can be done directly as in a genocide or indirectly through other less obvious methods. Why should "interest" such as this be accepted? This statement of yours contradicts with many of your pronouncements on this very forum. Think about it, you will not miss it.

    "We can reject their interest and suffer the consequences or we can dance
    with them until they give us a cold shoulder that is how politic is."

    Sounds easy to say it, but it does not have to be so! Have you ever read Chinua Achebe's "Things Fall Apart"? It tells you how an African society of yesteryear fell apart because of the unequal relations the more sophisticated European society came with (among other things) and was colonized. It also tells about how Africans sold other Africans for mirror and some trivial things.

    This is happening in front of our very eyes, also in more sophisticated ways than ever, but is still discernible today.

  14. let me reiterate what I said in a simple language that you understand. You seem a little bit confused. Understanding your position in diplomatic relationship is the key. If USA does not have any interest in the region Ethiopia and USA relationship does not exist. USA interest in the region is security which Ethiopia can have a common interest. This is the only reason the relationship is based on. Not economic or military interest . When I say not equal partner this is what I am trying to say. For example UK and USA are allies because they can feed each other in equal label and this relationship will last longer regardless of world politics Ethiopia and USA relationship does not. We are aware of that and the relationship is managed in that fashion. Otherwise what you are saying is gibberish because you did not comprehended concept.

  15. Expecting validation from someone who speaks of "human rights" while depriving others or their human rights by bombarding them in the name of removing dictators who are violating their human rights, is a mentality of those willing to be colonized. In fact they are acting as dictators themselves when they order, "So and so must go!" Imposing death and destruction on millions of people who have not elected them, cannot recall them, cannot hold them accountable! Their relations with countries such as Saudi Arabia says a lot about the human rights they claim to stand for. That country routinely practices decapitation and violates human rights in other ways. You won't hear about that! As our friend ERTY tells us that such behaviors are a matter of "interest," we should just live with it even when we are victims (until they turn their cold shoulders to us).

  16. You don´t know if the US cares about Africa? Proof- you don´t know shit!


  18. ኣሌክ - Alec youJune 25, 2015 at 10:40 AM

    You don't know or u refuse not to say that the USA doesn't care about Africa. Ha-ha.. u pple...

  19. ኣሌክ - Alec youJune 25, 2015 at 12:29 PM

    You don't know or u refuse not to say that the USA doesn't care about Africa. Ha-ha.. u it becuz they own ur behind by that Aid? besides Ethiopia's economy is based on US & British Aid. :)


    America doesn't care about Africa or democracy. they only agree with someone.. if u say yes-sir to every USA demands. If u don't say yes-sir to their demands well Eritrea is the poorf of that.

    I wasn't surprised, when u said "I don't know if USA cares about Africa" .. its hard for u to say that..USA doesn't care about Africa, after all how can u say it.... ur food supply is from ur handlers... and like the great Thomas Sankara said — 'he who feeds you, controls you'. : )

  20. The U.S/Ethiopia relationship is a master/slave one. Colonialism still lives in Ethiopia.

  21. "Otherwise what you are saying is gibberish because you did not comprehended concept."

    There is nothing you can "teach" here erty., The fact that you think "security" is what is the foundation of your relationship with the west shows just how out of touch you are. Keep trying to play this game of scemantics., when you have no chess pieces to play. The fact that you think or feel that you have any say and what they do is what makes it all so dissappointing. THe minute you decide to think for yourself, there will be regime change buddy. You are almost bordering on the line of being very aloof or extremely naive. The day this *Security" partnership you have is over those people your "securing" will come for pay back and you will turn to the US and they will say its your problem. You say some decent things sometimes then you show this side of you that is very foolish to say the least. I guess this is why an Eritrean can never truly talk to you guys man to man. I'm pretty sure your "partners" feel that way also.

  22. ተልባ ቢንጫጫ በአንድ ሙቀጫ ይላል ያገሬ ሰው፡፡
    ለማንኛውም የአሜሪካ መንግስት ፕሬዚዳንቱን ሚያክል ከፍተኛ ባለስልጣኗን ወደ ሌላ አገር ለጉብኝት ስትልክ ለሚጎበኘው አገር ከፍተኛ
    ትኩረት ሲኖራት ነው፡፡

    እንደሚታወቀው ኢትዮጲያ በአካባቢው ላይ ከፍተኛ
    ስትራቴጂካው ጠቀሜታ በሁሉም ዘርፍ ያላት ሀገር በመሆኗ ያስመርጣታል፡፡ ከአለም 4ኛዋ ግዙፍ የሰላም አስከባሪ ሰራዊት የምታበረክት
    እንደሆነም አትርሱ፡፡ ሌላው እና ዋናው ነገርከ ከአፍሪካ ጋር መልካም ግንኙነት ለመፍጠር የመጀመሪያዋ ተመራጭ አገር ኢትዮጲያ መሆኗን
    ለማስታወስ እፈልጋለሁ፡፡ የዲፕሎማሲዋ ውጤት የኤርትራን መሪዎች እንዴት አድርጋ ከአለም ህብረተሰብ እንደለየች የሚታይ ሀቅ ነው፡፡

    ለማጠቃለል ያህል የአሜሪካ ውሳኔ የመጣው ከኢትዮጲያ ጥንካሬ እንጂ በችሮታ አይደለም


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