This week US President Barack Obama will visit his father’s home country of Kenya, followed by Ethiopia, where he will address the African Union and meet with Ethiopian government leaders. The trip is garnering much attention among Africans, especially Ethiopians, who see his plans to meet with members of the current authoritarian government, in office for over 24 years, as a disturbing alignment with Ethiopia’s strongmen, contrary to his strong statements of the past on behalf of the people of Africa.
In his famous speech to Ghana’s parliament in July 2009, Obama won the enthusiastic response of Africans when he said, “Make no mistake; history is on the side of these brave Africans, and not with those who use coups or change Constitutions to stay in power. Africa doesn’t need strongmen, it needs strong institutions.”
President Obama is poised to become the first sitting president to visit Ethiopia when he travels to Africa later this week, but the milestone is not a source of pride for Aklog Birara.
Like many Ethiopian-Americans, the economist and former adviser to the World Bank is expressing very mixed emotions about the trip and the symbolism it will have for Ethiopia’s authoritarian government. Mr. Birara fled his native country amid increased repression and is now an American citizen.
“Under normal circumstances I would not only admire but support a visit from a U.S. sitting president to Africa,” Mr. Birara said, but he added that the Ethiopian government is “one of the two worst jailers of journalists in Africa,” and the justice system is “practically nonexistent.”
by Sarah Myers West | ELECTRONIC FRONTIER FOUNDATION
The simple act of taking steps to protect oneself online is enough to send a journalist to jail, according to charges issued by Ethiopian prosecutors in several cases to be heard this week. An Ethiopian court will soon hand down verdicts in a number of cases where criminal charges could be assessed for attending or applying to attend Internet security training.
Five of the Zone 9 bloggers (four of whom are in prison and one who is being tried in absentia) will face a long-awaited verdict in the case on July 29 after the court adjourned a planned hearing on July 20. Seven of the bloggers were arrested under criminal and anti-terrorism charges for acts that include participating in online security training sessions where they learned how to use encryption technologies such as Tactical Tech and Front Line Defenders’
I was ecstatic when I heard you will be travelling to Ethiopia in late July “for bilateral meetings with both the country’s government and the leadership of the African Union.” Such a meeting is long overdue.
I have no doubts the people of Ethiopia will welcome you with open arms and affectionate hearts. I may be biased but I believe Ethiopians are the most hospitable people in the world.
The last time I was just as ecstatic was exactly 6 years ago in July 2009 when you spoke in Accra to members of Ghana’s Parliament.
As you already know, our struggle has reached a crucial milestone in which our comrades have begun paying the ultimate sacrifice in battling the TPLF-led regime in Ethiopia.
Armed struggle was never a method of struggle of our choice. The TPLF-regime has closed all peaceful avenues and has left us with the choice to become enslaved in our home land or to fight by any means necessary.
Therefore, the man who Ethiopians have once peacefully elected as mayor of the capital of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, Dr. Berhanu Nega, chairman of Patriotic Ginbot 7, has joined his comrades in arms on the ground where the soldiers of Patriotic Ginbot 7 have begun waging the battle to free Ethiopia.