July 27, 2015
During the meeting held on Monday 27 July 2015 between Obama and the Ethiopian Prime Minister, which opened the US President’s visit of the country, Obama highlighted that despite the outstanding economic records, Ethiopia still needs to work hard to ensure that opposition parties and journalists are allowed to work freely. Meanwhile, Mr Obama praised the country for its results in the fight against Al Shabaab and religious extremism. This visit, which closely follows the President’s stay in Kenya, is a sign of his commitment with the region and is accompanied by the White House’s announcement of additional funds for the fight against terrorism in East Africa.
Below is an article published by Voice of America
President Barack Obama says the United States and Ethiopia are "strong partners" on many issues, but is urging the government to allow journalists and opposition parties to operate more freely.
In a news conference Monday with Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, Obama praised Ethiopia's economic record, noting the country has lifted millions out of dire poverty, and said Ethiopia has played a vital role in fighting the Somali militant group Al-Shabab.
The U.S. president said he also held "frank discussions" with the prime minister, and that opening space for journalists and opposition voices "will strengthen rather than inhibit" the ruling party's agenda.
Hailemariam said Ethiopia is committed to improving human rights and governance.
"Our commitment to democracy is real, not skin deep," he said.
Rights groups have called for Obama to demand reforms from Ethiopia, where the government controls 100 percent of the seats in parliament and keeps a tight leash on the media.
While in Addis Ababa, Obama is meeting with the leaders of Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and the African Union to discuss the civil war in South Sudan.
At the news conference, the U.S. president said conditions in South Sudan are getting "much, much worse," and said the United States and East African countries will discuss what can be done to forge a peace deal.
He said South Sudan's president and opposition leaders have been stubborn and are looking out for their own self-interest rather than the interest of their country.
President Obama is the first sitting U.S. president to visit Ethiopia.
Obama said the U.S. will continue to work to advance Ethiopia's economic progress, human rights, governance and access to electricity.
In his opening remarks, Hailemariam said he was honored to host a U.S. president for the first time in Ethiopia. He said his nation and continent are making important strides and Obama’s visit comes while Ethiopia is working hard at governance and the fight against terrorism.
Hailemariam said he and Obama talked at length about U.S. support in expanding trade and investment in Ethiopia.
"We have agreed to work closely on South Sudan and to build peace in Somalia, and to increase intelligence cooperation which is essential to counter terrorism," he said.
He added that the Sunday attack in Mogadishu, where at least 13 were killed in a car bomb blast outside a hotel hosting the Chinese and Egyptian embassies, was a stark reminder of the threat posed by terrorism.
Ahead of the Monday talks, Obama was welcomed at the National Palace in Addis Ababa, where he and Desalegn listened to Ethiopia's National Marching Band play the national anthems of both their countries.
In line with the bilateral talks, the White House announced the United States intends to provide at least $40 million more in assistance related to countering terrorism in East Africa.
It already has proposed funding of some $465 million for training, equipment, capacity building and countering violent extremist initiatives throughout Africa.
The issue was also a focus during the American leader’s talks with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta in Nairobi on July 25. Kenyatta will join Obama and leaders from the African Union, Uganda and Sudan later Monday for talks focused on the crisis in South Sudan.
Before Ethiopia, Obama spent two days in his father's homeland of Kenya, where he was hailed as a native son.
Photo Courtesy: Voice of America