President Obama’s visit to Ethiopia

Between July 26 to 28/2015, the first sitting President of the United States of America, Barack Obama, made a three-days visit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. During his stay, the American President held talks on bilateral and regional issues with the Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. He also met with the President Dr. Mulatu Teshome. He made a historic speech at the African Union on a range of issues that includes human rights, good governance, democratization, etc. During his bilateral consultation with Ethiopian officials, both sides have agreed on several issues, including geothermal power generation, cooperation in the field of intelligence, fight against terrorism, on trade and investment, institutional capacity building and human rights.
After the bilateral discussions on 27 July 2015 the Ethiopian Prime Minister and the American President gave a press conference. President Barack Obama said, he was proud to be the first sitting US President visiting Ethiopia. “My visit reflects the importance the United States places on our relationship with Ethiopia and all the nations and peoples of Africa”. Ethiopia and the United States of America share a longstanding friendship for more than 100 years, and connections between the peoples of the two countries are deep, he said.
The American President pointed out that Ethiopia is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world and one of the biggest economies in Africa. In the past 15 years, Ethiopia has lifted millions of people out of poverty. This economic performance forced the US to shift its strategy from just providing aid to strengthening economic cooperation. With the recent renewal of African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), the American economy is further opening its markets to Ethiopia.
The US President and the Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia frankly discussed on how to further promote good governance, protect human rights and strengthen democracy in Ethiopia. According to President Obama, people’s inclusion in the political process accelerates economic development. Ethiopia is a strong partner of the US and should continue to foster its democracy, he also said.
The visiting President furthermore underlined Ethiopia is a key partner of the United States in the fight against terrorism and to built lasting peace in the Horn of Africa region. “Ethiopia’s contribution to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) has reduced areas under Al-Shabaab control. This past week, Ethiopian troops have helped to retake two major Al-Shabab strongholds, we have now to keep the pressure on”. President Obama said Ethiopia has the opportunity to extend its leadership in a way it benefits its people and it sets a “positive example” in the region. Ethiopia is also a key-partner to resolve the crisis in South Sudan, the President said.
On his part, the Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, Hailemariam Desalegn said that US investors will now be encouraged to come to Ethiopia in large numbers. At bilateral levels, the talks contributed to enrich understanding to fight climate change and work for the success of the COP21 conference in Paris in December 2015. The Ethiopian government has furthermore clearly expressed its commitment to deepen the democratization process in the country, and work to increase the respect of human rights and to improve good governance. “Our commitment to democracy is real, not skin deep”, the Prime Minister said. Underlining the need to strengthen institutions and build capacities, the Premier said a strong support is expected from the United States. Cooperation with the US is also vital for security and peace building in countries like Somalia and South Sudan. The two partners said they are ready to intensify the campaign against terrorism in the region.
On 28 July 2015, Barack Obama made a historic speech at the African Union headquaters, both “as a proud American” and “as the son of an African”. He emphasized that the dignity of every person is the only foundation of a modern society, in Africa and elsewhere in the world. Africa has achieved “extraordinary progress” among others in economy, education and health, and stereotypes about the continent are changing. The world must recognize this: “Africa is on the move, a new Africa is emerging”. The President said that during his trip to Africa, he encountered young people having a real eagerness and optimism to achieve more prosperity on the continent. But along these progresses, good governance needs to be fostered, he reminded. The US are ready to be the “best friend” of Africa to work on the issue of governance. One of the most fundamental principles, he stressed, is that nobody can stand above the law. US President Barack Obama further said that women empowerment will play crucial role for Africa’s growth and prosperity, and that real development could only be achieved if women are playing an active role in the society. Good governance and accommodation of diversities are also the best weapons against terrorism and instability. Africa’s progress will depend upon the respect of human rights of all people.
A festive reception was organized at the National Palace of Ethiopia in the presence of the President, the Prime Minister, the deputy Prime Minister, other Ministers, high officials, opposition political parties, ambassadors and representatives of civil society organizations and religious leaders. The President tasted the Ethiopian organic coffee and attended an Ethiopian cultural dance show staged in his honor. During his visit in Addis Ababa, he was introduced to the remains of Lucy, “the ancestor of humanity”, 3.2 million years old. At the state dinner, President Obama told the guests Lucy is a reminder that the world’s people are part of the same human family.
This visit of the American President to Ethiopia shows the existing strategic partnership between the two countries and the strong people-to-people relation. It has to be analyzed as the continuation of a strong collaboration, which had already been confirmed in New York in September 2014, when Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn met the President and discussed a range of issues of cooperation at bilateral and multilateral fronts, that includes economic development, good governance, regional stability and the fight against terrorism.

© Embassy of Ethiopia in Brussels