- Yet anyone who has read the President’s memoirs will know that he has a deep attachment to Kenya. Obama first visited the country in 1988, when he spent five weeks there.
- A Presidential visit to Kenya had been put on ice while President Uhuru Kenyatta faced charges of crimes against humanity for his role in 2007-2008 post-election violence.
- Obama will meet both the Ethiopian government and AU leaders, for talks on how to “accelerate economic growth, strengthen democratic institutions and improve security.”
- Ethiopia and Kenya have both been on the frontline of the fight against Somalia’s Al-Qaeda-allied militia Shebab, and have been important security partners to Washington.
US President Barack Obama, whose father is Kenyan, has announced on his Twitter account that he will visit Kenya in July and also that he would attend the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Nairobi. This would be his first visit to the country since he was elected as a president in 2008. Yet anyone who has read the President’s memoirs will know that he has a deep attachment to Kenya. Obama first visited the country in 1988, when he spent five weeks there, according to his memoir Dreams from elderly Father. Then, he returned to Kenya in 1992 with Michelle, and his half-sister Auma, and again in 2006 during his first year in the US Senate. President Obama still has family living in Kenya. His visit as President is a ringing endorsement of the progress Kenya has made and the reform journey on which it has embarked.
Many Kenyans eagerly awaited Obama’s trip will honour the strong historical ties between the United States and Kenya. And also, they believe hosting President Obama and other delegates to the global forum will reinforce their reputation as a world class destination for conference tourism. In August last year, the White House hosted a huge Washington summit of African leaders and the upcoming July trip is intended to build on progress towards closer economic ties. However, Human rights groups have questioned the visit to Kenya. From that moment, a presidential visit to Kenya had been put on ice while President Uhuru Kenyatta faced charges of crimes against humanity for his role in 2007-2008 post-election violence.
The International Criminal Court has since suspended that prosecution, citing a lack of evidence and Kenya’s failure to cooperate. But also Human Right groups are asking why Obama is visiting Ethiopia so soon after a contested election. After, a White House announced that, President Barack Obama will in late July become the first sitting American leader to visit Ethiopia and the headquarters of the African Union, the White House said this month. Obama’s trip to Addis Ababa (Finffinne) will come directly after an already announced trip to Kenya, his first as president to his father’s homeland, press secretary Josh Earnest announced.
Obama will meet both the Ethiopian government and AU leaders, for talks on how to “accelerate economic growth, strengthen democratic institutions and improve security. “The election of the United States’ first black president — and the first with an African parent — raised high hopes on the continent, but Obama has been a cautious friend. In addition to this, Obama’s decision to visit Ethiopia has surprised human rights activists and advocates for good governance both in Africa and elsewhere. Ethiopia is one of the worst human rights offenders in Sub-Saharan Africa.
In its 2014 report, Human Rights Watch http://www.hrw.org/world-report/2014/country-chapters/ethiopia” noted that Ethiopia has increasingly restricts the freedoms of assembly and expression: “… the Ethiopian authorities continue to severely restrict the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly, using repressive laws to constrain civil society and independent media, and target individuals with politically motivated prosecutions. Muslim protests against perceived government interference in their religious affairs were met by security forces with arbitrary arrests and detentions, beatings, and other mistreatment throughout the year. The trial of 29 protest leaders who were arrested in July 2012 has been closed to the public, media, and family members since January. Others convicted under the country’s deeply flawed antiterrorism law—including opposition leaders and four journalists—remain in prison.”
As its widly known, one of Africa’s second most populous nation held a vote in May that was described by many independent observers as flawed. Just due to the fact that, it was not free or fair. The African Union said the elections were peaceful, but fell short of using the words “free and fair.” While noting that the elections were peaceful, the US State Department, expressed concerns on the news media, opposition parties, and independent voices and views. The governing party, which has ruled for over two decades, won a landslide, amid opposition allegations of intimidation and vote rigging.
After discussing Ethiopian elections, Freedom House observed that “Ethiopia’s elections are just an exercise in controlled political participation. The one potential dividend of these sham polls, however, is the international attention they will garner for the government’s growing political repression. The blatant disregard for internationally recognised standards for free and fair elections just might convince Ethiopia’s largest donors that it is time to rethink their relationship with an increasingly authoritarian government. “The decision by President Obama to travel to Ethiopia, which has seen three opposition party members murdered this week alone, is very troubling,” Jeffrey Smith of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights center, Smith said the timing, and the symbolism of Obama’s trip, would “further solidify the image that America stands behind Africa’s autocrats.”
Despite the troubling state of human rights in the country, Ethiopia remains a major recipient of foreign aid money and security support from the United States.https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/06/19/statement-press-secretary-president%E2%80%99s-travel-ethiopia, However, a White House Statement about the trip stressed that it frequently addresses issues of democracy and political rights with countries in the region. Obama will visit the country for bilateral meetings with the Ethiopian government as well as the leadership of the African Union as part of US efforts to “work with the countries and citizens of sub-Saharan Africa to accelerate economic growth, strengthen democratic institutions, and improve security.” The White House spokesman Eric Schultz added “We regularly, both in public and in private, communicate our concerns about some of the issues.”
Ethiopia is also one of the world’s leading jailers of journalists,” the Washington Post noted in its editorial. The newspaper argued that Mr Obama’s planned meetings with Ethiopian officials contradicts his declaration of support for African democracies during a visit to Ghana in 2009. “Africa doesn’t need strongmen,” the US president said on that occasion. “It needs strong institutions.” So, a visit to Ethiopia will totally contradict with his word to support for African democracies.
Ethiopia and Kenya have both been on the frontline of the fight against Somalia’s Al-Qaeda-allied militia Shebab, and have been important security partners to Washington. Shebab units have been hunted by African Union troops and US drones inside Somalia — but have outflanked the Kenyan contingent in Somalia to mount a string of gruesome cross-border raids. In April last year the group attacked a university in Garissa, Kenya killing 148 people — most of them students.
Therefore, my conclusion is that, a visit to Ethiopia by the US President is a reward for autocracy, human rights abuses and dictatorship, just like a visit to Kenya is a direct reward for impunity, tribalism and corruption. It’s like all these vices don’t matter as long as American interests are at stake! They will even make a pact with the devil for their interests to be met. Obama is coming to both Kenya and Ethiopia because of the fight against Alshabaab that they highly support. They don’t give a damn if the person they are to contact is a murderer, a witch or a wizard period. To them, their interests outrides any interests that there can be.