Obama Criticized For Visiting Ethiopia, Not Nigeria

Last week, the White House released details about President Obama’s upcoming trip to Africa and noted for the first time a U.S. president will visit Ethiopia. The administration said it underscores their “efforts to work with the countries and citizens of sub-Saharan Africa to accelerate economic growth, strengthen democratic institutions, and improve security.” Others do not see the visit in such positive light.

The Washington Post editorial board stated that it was “almost unfathomable that he would make time for an entrenched human rights abuser such as Ethi­o­pia while cold-shouldering the nation that just witnessed a historic, peaceful, democratic change of power: Nigeria.”

Opposition parties continue to assert that the June election results were predetermined and that the pre-election process was not fair. Ethiopia’s ruling part, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, and its allies achieved a clean sweep in last month’s general election, winning all 546 parliamentary seats.

Freedom House claimed the election results were a “wake up call” to the world to pay attention to the increasingly authoritarian regime in Ethiopia.

They added that after Nigeria peacefully transitioned from one regime to the next and that with several African countries facing elections in the next two years, “a visit to Nigeria would have signaled U.S. commitment to partnering with governments that respect freedom, the rule of law and the will of their people.”

Instead, the Post’s editors said, the trip to Ethiopia “sends the opposite message, in essence validating Ethiopia’s sham elections and rewarding a regime that has shown no intent to reform. Six years after his idealistic speech in Ghana, Mr. Obama is sending a message to Africa that democracy isn’t all that important after all.”

Hilary Matfess of Quartz also weighed in with disappointment contending that the administration is paying more attention to Ethiopia’s economic growth, rather than its commitment to civil society.

“It is certainly not the case that international support alone can produce the sort of civil society that demands democratic institutions, but it would be foolish to disregard entirely the international community’s role in promoting the development of such groups and demanding legal protections for their rights to free speech. That President Obama plans to visit Ethiopia, rather than Nigeria, in his next Presidential visit to Africa, underscores the low priority given to democratic legitimacy in American foreign policy,” she wrote recently.


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