Consistency or Hypocrisy? President Obama “Boosts” Ethiopia’s Dictatorship

October 6, 2014

Commentary by Aklog Birara (Dr.)

“To accomplish great things, we must not only act but also dream; not only dream, but also believe.”
Anatole France

For more than 3,000 years, the Ethiopian people have shown fierce determination in maintaining a unified and independent geopolitical political entity and have embraced their country’s fascinating diverse culture and identity that is matched only by a few countries across the globe. Ethiopia is therefore created and defended by Ethiopians and not by colonial powers. Today, the fabrics that tied Ethiopians together to defend their independence and identity and to forge ahead and join prosperous and modern nations are under stress. This despite infusion of massive foreign capital and unreserved support to the current government from Western and other nations.Ethiopian Americans "Meles Zenawi belongs at The Hague, Not at Camp David"

Like other people, Ethiopians dream of achieving capability in removing the policy and structural hurdles that make them income poor and aspire to achieve great things for themselves and for their country. Until the collapse of the bonds that tied Ethiopians together, their sense of justice and fairness for one another is equally unparalleled. During the Great Famine, Ethiopians showed their humanity by abandoning their needs so that others can live. During the War with Eritrea from 1998-2000, neighbors defended the rights of Eritreans; offered them support. At each turn of ethnic cleansing, neighbors tried their best to stop wholescale removal of citizens. When Meles and his team agitated under the slogan of “Interahamwee”—Rwanda-like genocide in Ethiopia, Ethiopians were civil and civilized enough to recognize that this was a political ploy. They did not fall for it. Ethiopians share more commonalities than elites are willing to accept. Sadly, external forces exploit ethnic and religious divisions to achieve their goals.

It is these bonds that have deterred potential mass genocide that emanates from ethnic elite hatred, bigotry and polarization for which the current government and ethnic elites are accountable. Over the past four decades, Ethiopians have been consistent in advocating a transition from dictatorship to representative government, a dream the United States Government and other Western nations ought to encourage and strengthen. After all, it is the combination of Ethiopians’ core values and sense of identity as people, Ethiopia’s durability, resilience and independence and its place in history as a country not only in Africa but the world that drew America’s interests to Ethiopia in the first place. These attributes have not changed with regime change. Ethiopia was an active member of the League of Nations and the United Nations and has played a pioneering role in Pan-Africanism and the formation of the Organization of African Unity and its successor the African Union. Its armed forces showed remarkable bravery in Korea and the Congo.

Ethiopian-American Relations beyond President Obama

As a consequence, relations between Ethiopia and the United States span more than 100 years. These bonds have endured regardless of regime changes in Ethiopia and Presidential changes in the United States. Hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians and Ethiopian-Americans live and work in all parts of the United States today. The Washington Metropolitan area is home to one of the largest Ethiopian communities outside Ethiopia. More than 44 percent of Ethiopian immigrants possess college degrees and the majority have high school education. Between 1991 and 2006, 3, 000 Ethiopia educated and trained medical doctors left Ethiopia and most came to the United States and Canada. This suggests America continues to be a magnet. It is the first choice of Ethiopian immigrants.

Why is the United States such a preferred choice?

Ethiopian immigrants are drawn to the United States more than to any other country on the planet for several reasons: continuity in people to people relations, a sense of shared values, access to opportunities, fulfilment of human potential, American core principles and values of freedom, justice and the rule of law, sense of fairness, commitment to civil society, free press, political pluralism and ultimately democratic governance. In other words, Ethiopians realize their dreams by abandoning their own homeland. Simply put, their home country is unable to meet their dreams. I should like to make a distinction between what we immigrants gain here in the United States and other countries, the loss Ethiopian society incurs as a result of massive exodus (brain-drain) on the one hand; and the contribution America makes to free Ethiopian society from the shackles of poverty and perpetual dependency on foreign aid. Nothing compensates for the loss. Is America making substantial difference to make Ethiopia the next Korea without recognizing that brain-drain endangers Ethiopia’s future?

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posted by Daniel tesfaye


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