By Dula Abdu
About to become a lame duck President, Obama is holding a roundtable discussion on Africa with African leaders. I guess better late than never. It is scheduled to be held on August 5-6 in Washington, D.C. Many of the African leaders bring lots of baggage of crony capitalism, anti-Gay legislation, corruption, abuse of human rights, simply absolute lack of rule of law.
For example, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and his party have been in power for the last 23 years, and their legacy is dreadful, as Ethiopia is ranked the second poorest and second sickest country in the world, where over 70% of the population goes hungry on daily basis. The primary reason for the dreadful situation is government control of the economy.
Like North Korea, the regime controls everything, spies on everybody, at the village level as well as via the Internet, even though less than 1% of the people have Internet access. Like North Korea, the state controls all the land, telecommunication, Internet, mining, banking, and major industries directly or through cronies.
In Ethiopia, like in North Korea, there is no freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, no free or fair election, no property rights, and simply no rule of law when it comes to the majority of the citizens. The ruling party representing less than 6% of the population like the old Apartheid regime rules through its private and ethnic army and cronies.
African leaders democrats, and dictators like Mr. Desalegn are coming to the USA under the invitation of President Obama for a roundtable discussion on Africa. It would have been more natural to invite only those countries respecting and applying democratic principles. Furthermore, winning and dinning with African dictators will mean nothing unless President Obama has a concrete plan and he can make it stick.
For example, he can propose a Marshall Plan for Africa like the way Truman did for Europe. He can prompt African leaders to spend less on the military, because the armies are primarily used to keep the one party dictatorship, and spend more on education, technology, and economic development. Adopt a common language, privatize the economy, end corruption, respect human and property rights, rule of law, and form a stronger economic and political union.
Raging ethnic and religious tension are primarily fueled by lack of hope and oppression. The primary culprit for the hopeless situation, the dictators thrive and survive with U.S. support and largesse. Some will go by the wayside without massive Western aid. This gives President Obama tremendous leverage to promote democratic and economic reform in the continent. For example, the rabid anti-Muslim and anti-homosexual government of Ethiopia lead by Mr. Desalegn was forced last March by Washington to rescind an anti-homosexual legislation ( Homosexuality-non pardonable) that he orchestrated through his rubber-stamped parliament.
The Ethiopian regime pretended for long for things that it is not in order to earn respect and foreign aid. The Ethiopian regime spends huge sums of money to make sure the West does not notice the cruel and evil system and to portray the regime incorrectly anti-terrorist and democratic.
Azusa Pacific University Board unanimously withdrew a plan to award an honorary degree to Mr. Desalegn on July 31 because of gross human rights violations by his regime (university-withdraws-honor). In 2003, Texas Southern University canceled a planned event with an Ethiopian government delegation for similar reason.
President Obama can rise to the challenge if he dared too. Pushing democratic values and free market economic development strategies are critical. President Truman provided a lifeline to a devastated Europe and created strong democratic allies for the U.S. The total cost for the Marshall Plan from 1948-1952 was $13.3 billion. President Obama has the option to embark on a similar, bold political and economic agenda for Africa, while opening a huge market three times that of Europe for American businesses.
The blogger, Dula Abdu, can be reached at [email protected] (article was adopted from previous articles from similar topics).
By Dula Abdu