Thursday, December 17, 2009
I did a radio interview with the official German radio Deutsch Wella Amharic service on US-Ethiopian relations on Dec. 15. I emphasized that U.S.-Ethiopian relations remain solid in spite of the fact that the U.S. has concerns about some human rights issues and the pace of democratization. The U.S. must balance these concerns, however, with Ethiopian support for African peacekeeping operations, cooperation with the U.S. on regional issues and a similar approach on countering terrorism. The U.S. has publicly criticized, for example, the jailing of political dissidents and the recent closure of the Amharic-language paper, Addis Neger. There are limits, however, to Washington’s criticisms. I would also point out that other important allies of Ethiopia such as China do not engage in this kind of criticism as a matter of policy. The U.S. has finally named a new ambassador, Don Booth, to Ethiopia. He is an excellent choice with significant previous African experience, including U.S. ambassador to Liberia and Zambia. He knows Africa and how to run an embassy. With luck, he will be able to arrive in Ethiopia before the national elections in May.