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President Obama’s Visit to Ethiopia

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Advancing Democracy or Legitimizing Dictatorship?

by Aklog Birara (Dr), Chairman*
The purpose of this commentary is to provide the American and Ethiopian public a birds eye view of Shengo’s assessment of President Obama’s visit to Ethiopia; and to recommend a set of concrete actions to the governments of the United States and Ethiopia; as well as Ethiopians to take appropriate actions in order to advance respect for human rights, the rule of law and democracy.

Dr. Aklog Birara
Dr. Aklog Birara

TPLF Inc. survives through repression and not public trust Shengo embraces the fundamental governance principle of direct relationship between democracy, sustainable and equitable development and the struggle against all forms of extremism and terrorism. Repressive governance incubates friction, discord, instability and terrorism. Accordingly, it is in America’s long-term interest to advance human rights, the rule of law and democracy; and not legitimize one of the most repressive regimes in the world. It is unfortunate that President Obama undermined his own legacy by pronouncing the Ethiopian government as “democratically elected”; not once but twice. The Ethiopian state is a dictatorship. The deliberate deepening of ethnicization of socioeconomics and politics has created volatile conditions that could potentially lead to the Balkanization of Ethiopia; and to ethnic civil war with far reaching consequences.
Shengo believes that the lead responsibility for preserving Ethiopia; for averting civil war and for establishing a genuine democratic national state in place of the current ethnic elite-led dictatorship resides with the Ethiopian people. Only they, together, can preserve this ancient land; and change the society for the better. In this regard, we commend Ethiopian democratic activists who continue to struggle for the country’s survival, for justice and the rule of law, too often risking their lives. An independent national survey of public perceptions would no doubt show that the Ethiopian government is neither popular nor trusted. Fear of government permeates the entire society. The ruling party pities one ethnic group against another and fuels hate more than solidarity.
There isn’t an iota of evidence to suggest that the Ethiopian government is “democratically elected.” Ethiopians have no choice but to struggle for justice and democracy. Equally compelling is the notion that foreign governments, especially the United States, the donor community and others can no longer afford to shore-up Ethiopia’s dictatorship and justify its repressive governance solely on national security grounds. The security of Ethiopians should drive policy.
It is common knowledge that America’s foreign policy towards Ethiopia is predicated solely by America’s national interest. These interests include collaboration in the fight against terrorism and extremism, trade and investment, competition with China, alleviation of poverty and advancement of human rights, the rule of law and democracy. We contend, however, that, respect for human rights and advancement of strong democratic institutions should no longer be subordinated to the struggle against terrorism. The Ethiopian and American governments would be wise to balance containment of terrorism with the release of all journalists, bloggers and democratic activists, religious and political leaders who believe in peaceful democratic change; and advancement of democracy.
Shengo states at the outset that President Obama’s ‘unceremonious’ visit to Ethiopia is historic in more ways than one. First and foremost, it validates Ethiopia’s unique and long history as an independent and sovereign country and underscores its importance in Africa and among the community of nations. In 1903, Ethiopia and Liberia were the only Sub-Saharan African countries; and among the few Asian and African nations that had established diplomatic relations with the U.S. Regardless of regime change, this relationship spanning more than a century has bipartisan support in the United States and a sound popular foundation in Ethiopia that should be nurtured and not squandered. Read more…
Aklog Birara (Dr), Chairman
Diplomatic and Foreign Relations Committee
Ethiopian People’s Congress for United Struggle (SHENGO)
[email protected]