By Fanta Kiros
This week, more than 90 US companies attended the U.S-African Summit in Washington, DC. During the meeting, President Obama announced that American companies — many with trade assistance from the US Export-Import Bank — are declaring new deals across Africa in clean energy, aviation, banking, and construction. These deals are estimated to be worth more than $14 billion. US Companies such as Black Rock, Coca Cola, GE, and Marriott Hotels are a few of the companies that publicized their interest in the African investments. According to Bloomberg News, there is a five-year, $7 billion Power Africa initiative for six countries — pending approval for US congress based on good governance. Ethiopia is supposed to get a piece of this action.
Obama also announced additional commitment by the private sector. Organizations like The World Bank, and countries like Sweden, pitched in to come up with a combined total of $26 billion to the Power Africa initiative.
But Ethiopia’s prime minister was no where to be found.
The bad news started for Hailemariam when Azusa Pacfic University in California withdrew an even honoring him, after a protest was lodged to the university’s administration by Abebe Gelaw and Global Alliance for the Rights of Ethiopians.
Like most the other 40 African leaders, Prime Minster Hailemariam Desalegn Boshe and the first Lady Roman Tesfaye flew into Andrews Air Force base. However, the big mystery this week among the Ethiopians in the Washington DC area is the location of the prime minster of Ethiopia.
Ethiopian activists in DC Metro Area have been searching for him. They even set up a hotline for anyone to report his whereabouts to them. Unlike the other African embassies, there was no official dinner party held so far in the honor of the Prime Minster at the Ethiopian Embassy in Washington DC.
According to a State Department source, the US government had anticipated a major demonstration against Hailemariam and made preparations with local law enforcement agencies expecting thousands of protestors. While other African nations are flying their flags at various hotels they are staying, no Washington area hotel is flying the Ethiopian flag. There is a speculation that he is hiding at a US government guest house, or the Inter-Continental.
On the opening day of the U.S.-Africa Summit, over 1,500 Ethiopians staged a demonstration outside the meeting. Outside the World Bank, they were joined by protesters from Congo, Burundi and other countries.
Two years ago, on May 18, 2012, there was similar protest against the Prime Minster from Ethiopia. The “Arrest Meles Zenawi” demonstration was held outside the Washington Ronald Reagan Center where an Ethiopian activists Abebe Gelaw shouted “Freedom” in room full of US official and three African leaders. On the other side of the street, there were a small group of individuals who show support for Meles. This time there were no pro-government demonstrators for Hailemariam.
Ethiopians activists have forced the government officials who came from Ethiopia to attend the U.S.-Africa Summit into hiding or keep a low profile. A week before the U.S.-Africa Summit was opened, Ethiopians had confronted ruling party officials in Houston and Los Angeles where they tried to hold meetings with potential investors. Hailemariam had canceled his scheduled appearances in both cities. A few days ago, the Minister of Commerce, Kebede Chane, was chased out of Laliebela Ethiopian Restaurant in Washington DC. On Thursday, the Minster of Information, Redwan Hussien, has been confronted by Ethiopian activists at a shopping center in Arlington, Virginia.
Since the abduction of Ethiopian opposition leader Adargachew Tsega, who travels with a British passport, by Ethiopian security agents at Sanna’a International airport in Yemen, the anger against regime has re-intensified.
It was not only the Ethiopia government officials who are trying to keep under the radar. Mohammed Al Amoudi, who is in town for the Summit, did not show his face any where. The Diaspora Investment Forum planned by Zemedneh Negatu of Ernest & Young in Washington DC was also canceled. As the state terror intensifies against journalists, bloggers, and opposition leaders in Ethiopia, angry and frustrated Ethiopians around the world are hunting down and confronting Ethiopian regime officials who are responsible for the repression.
The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
By Fanta Kiros