Ethiopia: Washington Update

3 mins read

By Mesfin Mekonen

U.S. Rep. Chris Smith

We have recently learned that Rep. Chris Smith has been invited by the Ethiopian government and the African Union to visit Ethiopia soon. Smith chairs the House Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organization Subcommittee. His trip is good news for Ethiopia, as Smith has been a vigorous supporter of human rights, democracy and economic development in Ethiopia. He is expected to visit opposition leaders and to press the government to abide by human rights and to allow free and fair elections. Smith’s visit could provide more opportunities for the opposition to get its message heard in Washington, and could lead to hearings and hopefully legislation.

In recent discussions with State Department officials, senior officials said they are encouraging opposition leaders to set aside their differences and work together for the sake of their country. Senior State Department officials are visiting Ethiopia and the African Union to discuss security and regional issues.

President Obama used his second inaugural address to remind the U.S. of its responsibility and opportunity to promote democracy around the world: “We will support democracy from Asia to Africa, from the Americas to the Middle East, because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom.” Obama’s second term provides an opportunity for the U.S. to turn fine words in real actions — which it failed to accomplish during his first four years in office.

While Ethiopia is not on the top of policy agendas in Washington, the rapid transformation of the Arab world, and the current situation in Mali, demonstrate that countries can change quite rapidly. Ethiopia is approaching a decision point: it could become a free, prosperous nation, or, if the current policies are kept in place, it could descend into instability. These views are articulated in a new White House report. The National Intelligence Council recently released a report on Global Trends 2030. This report highlights the opportunities and dangers in Ethiopia’s future. On the one hand it states that Ethiopia, along with Egypt and Nigeria, “have the potential to approach or surpass South Africa in overall national power.” It adds that “the key will be better governance to further economic growth and social and human development.” The report also ranks Ethiopia as 14th among nations at highest risk of “state failure” by 2030. Its scenario for 2030 predicts that unless urgent action is taken to improve governance — which means transitioning to a real democracy that adheres to the rule of law and respects human rights — Ethiopia could “fragment along sectarian, tribal, and ethnic lines” and become a safe haven for terrorists.


  1. Dear mesfin mekonen; I respect but I do not think freedom and demockracy we can get from washington and London. Let me remind you two cats still bread from their ownre and they run to the forest but they can’t divided equal. they start fight…..then they went to Ape. They think she justtifed and devided equal but ……..anyway the ape ate all bread.
    Our freedom is in our hand our democracy from our daily activivties. Who overthrough Haylesilase?, who overthrough Derge? Why Ertira and Ethiopia fought? I do not believe anyone outside Ethiopia. God is great God is above all this in my entire life makes me happy. Yes Elohim is great

  2. I think the country and its citizen have matured beyond belief. thanks to our hero PM MZ!!
    I think opposition is necessary for future growth and prosperity, however, the maturity of the groups in this area is far inferior than what the country deserves. My opinion.

  3. Well,it is true that to see a Congressman who has showed his concern about the issue of human rights in Ethiopia paying visit to our country is a good thin; and it has to be taken as something better than doing nothing.. And I believe that the efforts being made by genuinely concerned Ethiopians and Ethiopian-Americans to contact the congressman and try to remind him that his visit should go beyond meetings and greetings or just expressing concen ( diplomatic show ) as usual. On the other hand, I do not think a sense of over-exagerating his visit because he has been showing a great sense of sympathy for the prevalence of respect fundamental human rights is realistically convincing. What is that reality? The policy and and its practicality is determined by the government of this country which of course emantes from national interest. We have to be realistic that unless the US governmet ( be it the congress or the executive or the judciary branch ) clearly sees the shock of the balance of power because of popular uprisings like what happened in North Africa , there will never be any significant difference. Are we going to say it is great if the EPRDF government would say something “positive”such as realsing few political prisoners from Kality but puting a very heavy and terrible chains (“preconditions”) around the minds and hands of those innocent Ethiopians ? Are we going to be exited if we hear the visit and its result just a big media consumption which is of course great for a dramatic political propaganda of the ruling circle? Do we have any convincing inside information that the administration of Ato Hailemrarim Desalegn ( the alive agent of the” great legacy” ) invited the congressman without some sort of conspiratorial agenda and talk? I am not trying to be pesimistic or negative speculator. I wish I could be surly optimisitic ,or my level of doubt could be deadly wrong. What I am trying to say is that our optimism and hope needs some sort of ground to rest on. Any way , although the would -be visit of a congressman of the’ “most powerful nation” on this planet who has relatively serious concern about the incredible level of human rights violation is a good thing , I do not think it would matter a lot. Let us face it that one big/decisive factor seems missing during this or any other visit to be paid by any genuinely concerned official of the “donor partners.” And that missing powerful factor of force is the determination of the people themselves to take their cause beyond murmuring about their sufferings and give signal that there is a bottom line for everthing leave alone being dehmanized in every aspect of life. Yes, the high offcial like Congressman Chris Smith may try to express his concern about political prisonres and he may have some sort of fake justure from our rulers ,but there is no doubt he will be sensing the political paradox we are facing. And that is the non existence of an atmosphere of which people are in some sort of movement if not the courage to make their unbearable discontent heard or felt.

    Anyway ,it is Ok to be hopeful and optimistic.But there is no need to be disappointed if things could not go that way!!

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