President Obama on Monday and Tuesday implored Ethiopian and African leaders to build strong economies and education systems to provide opportunities for Africa’s rapidly growing youth population, and warned that ignoring these priorities could lead to instability years down the road.
Several human right groups and activists criticized president Obama since he twice called the government of Ethiopia “democratically elected” on Monday as he stood by the country’s prime minister, two months after elections that handed every seat in Parliament to the governing party and its allies, 100% vecotry.
The May 2015 election were condemned by human rights groups as a sham. The government made it hard for opposition candidates to register, raise money and mobilize supporters, according to watchdog groups. Peaceful protesters were denied permits, harassed and in some cases arrested. News organizations were shut down and reporters harassed, threatened or arrested. In a recent report, Human Rights Watch said, quote, “Authorities use arbitrary arrests and politically motivated prosecutions to silence journalists, bloggers, protesters, and perceived supporters of opposition political parties.”
American diplomats were denied accreditation as election observers and prohibited from formally observing the process, according to the State Department, and the only international observers on the ground were from the African Union. The State Department said at the time that it was “troubled” that opposition party observers were barred from some locations. Members of opposition parties have been killed. Although some journalist were released before Obama coming to Ethiopia, Many people were arrested.
“Nobody should be president for life,” Obama declared in a speech at the African Union. “Your country is better off if you have new blood and new ideas. I’m still a pretty young man, but I know that somebody with new energy and new insights will be good for my country. It will be good for yours, too, in some cases.”
“When a leader tries to change the rules in the middle of the game just to stay in office, it risks instability and strife, as we’ve seen in Burundi,” Mr. Obama said. “And this is often just a first step down a perilous path. And sometimes you’ll hear leaders say, ‘Well, I’m the only person who can hold the nation together.’ If that’s true, then that leader has failed to truly build their nation.” “Africa will need to generate millions more jobs than it’s doing right now,” he said. “The choices made today will shape the trajectory of Africa and therefore the world for decades to come.” Obama said.
US President Barack Obama said on Tuesday that Ethiopia “cannot unleash the full potential of its people” if it jails journalists and restricts legitimate opposition groups.
Ethiopia’s government has acknowledged it had more work to do to develop its democracy but also says any journalists it has detained committed crimes.
In general, Obama urged Ethiopia to widen freedom of expression and other democratic rights.