(The Washington Times) — The White House has announced President Obama will visit Ethiopia later this month. Mr. Obama’s office has been flooded with letters and faxes of deep concern from Ethiopian-Americans. Under normal circumstances, Ethiopians would rejoice at such a visit. Why the anguish?
U.S. and Ethiopian relations were established in 1903 by Ethiopia’s distinguished Emperor Menelik II and U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, and they have continued uninterrupted since. America’s durable contribution to Ethiopia is the formation of its human capital and strong institutions. I am a beneficiary of the largest Peace Corps contingent in the world. America is the preferred destination of Ethiopians. They bring with them a rich culture, add value to the economy by establishing places of worship and small enterprises, including restaurants, and promote America’s values of justice, rule-of-law and democracy.
It is understandable that the United States would want to maintain strong ties with Ethiopia in the fight against terrorism in the Horn of Africa. It is not in America’s long-term interest to bankroll or legitimize a dictatorship that terrorizes its own people for demanding justice. In May, the ruling party ran against itself and won 100 percent of the parliamentary seats. It dominates faith institutions, finance and economy, natural resources, intelligence and security, and the military. Fear and corruption permeate society.
President Obama has a golden opportunity to send a strong message to Ethiopia’s rulers that future American aid will be conditional on the Ethiopian government’s commitment to fundamental freedoms, human rights, the rule of law and inclusive governance. Such a message will further strengthen America’s relations with the Ethiopian people and encourage all Africans to build democratic governance.
President, Center for Inclusive Development (ABRAW)