Photos + Videos: President Obama Makes History In Ethiopia

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President Barack Obama became the first sitting U.S. President to visit Ethiopia on Monday, July 27.


The history was consolidated at Obama’s meeting with the Ethiopian prime minister.

It must be noted that Ethiopia is a US security ally with a fast-growing economy, but have been much criticised by human rights watchdogs.


Obama’s talks with Hailemariam Desalegn at the national palace in Addis Ababa focuses on security and the threat of the Islamist militant group al-Shabaab in Somalia.  The US president, who arrived from Kenya on Sunday, also seeks to improve business ties with Africa.

According to The Guardian UK, Obama will also be joined by the leaders of Kenya and Uganda to discuss the crisis in South Sudan.

Ethiopia is home to the African Union (AU), hence on Tuesday, Obama will address the whole continent from the organisation’s  headquarters in Addis Ababa. The Zimbabwean president, Robert Mugabe, current chair of the AU, will not be attending.

Reports have it that Obama was welcomed on Monday morning at the palace by Desalegn, 13 Ethiopian delegates, and uniformed soldiers.

It must be recalled that the palace was built in 1955 to mark emperor Haile Selassie’s silver jubilee (he was deposed in 1973), and boasts huge rooms, chandeliers, polished parquet floors, marble floors, large tapestries and a herd of stuffed animals, including cheetahs and lions.

Only recently, Ethiopia’s ruling party won every seat in the recent general elections, and at least one opposition party has claimed its members were arrested before Obama’s visit on suspicion they would make trouble.

The US deputy national security adviser for strategic communication, Ben Rhodes, said human rights would be a focal point of discussion.

“The Ethiopian government has made extraordinary progress in bringing greater development and opportunity to its citizens,” he said.

Adding: “but there are very significant restrictions that are not consistent with the universal values that we stand up for, for instance the need for a free press.”

“And we’ve seen too much intimidation, and even imprisonment of journalists, and the need for a viable space for civil society and political opposition in the country. So the president will be certainly raising issues related to human rights in Ethiopia, just as he did here in Kenya.” Ben Stressed.


It must be recalled that on Obama’s first stop in Kenya, his father’s homeland, he urged Kenyans to deepen democracy, tackle corruption and end politics of exclusion based on gender or ethnicity. He also promised Kenya more security assistance.

On Monday, July 27, the white house issued a statement saying: “We are strongly committed to partnering with African countries to increase their capacity to address the immediate threats posed by terrorist organisations.”

It is worthy to note that Ethiopia deploys troops to an AU peacekeeping force battling al-Shabaab in Somalia. The group has launched several attacks in Kenya; diplomats say Ethiopia’s state security apparatus has spared it similar assaults.

Speculations have it that Obama is seeking to expand business links with the continent, where China overtook the US as the biggest trade partner in 2009.

Speaking at a conference in Nairobi, on Saturday, July 25 Obama said: “Africa is on the move.Africa is one of the fastest growing regions in the world,” adding that he seeks “to encourage African entrepreneurs and match them with investors.”

It is recalled that Ethiopia endured communist purges in the 1970s and famine in the 1980s, but has won praise for pushing growth into double digits and for its range of development initiatives including rural health programmes.

However, it has relied largely on state-led investment to drive growth, which economists say is squeezing out private business. It remains one of the world’s biggest recipients of aid and is still among Africa’s poorest nations per capita.

In the recent past, the government has often turned to China to help build new roads, railways and dams in its efforts to expand the industrial base in the largely agrarian economy.

A Chinese firm built the new metro line that snakes through Addis Ababa.

Meanwhile, some rights groups have criticised Mr Obama’s visit, warning that it could lend credibility to a government accused of jailing journalists and critics.

According to the BBC, there’s a legal case currently being fought through the US courts which alleges that agents of the Ethiopian government eavesdropped on the internet activities of a man in the US state of Maryland.

The man, born in Ethiopia and now a US citizen, works for a political opposition group outlawed in his home country.

In reaction to this claim, Obama addressed the media and described the Ethiopian government, which won all parliamentary seats in May’s election, as“democratically elected”.

But opposition group have cried out saying the poll was rigged.

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