Helsinki Sanomat, respected Finnish daily, gives some thought to an Obama surprise in Ethiopia during state visit

3 Aug

By Keffyalew Gebremedhin – The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)

The Helsinki Sanomat closely follows events around the world, including Ethiopia – one of Finland’s development partner countries for aid and international trade purposes.

Recall that a week before the 24 May 2015 election, the paper in its 17th May issue penned the lead idea that indeed a week later proved the Ethiopian election was simply “a substantial waste of money for false democracy.”

Once again, in the morning of August 3, 2015 the paper has come out with its assessment of Barack Obama’s Ethiopia visit, which took place from 26-28 July 2015.

While a distinguished guest in Ethiopia, a country whose culture does frown on criticism of guests and by implication of the reverse, the paper notes, the US resident surprised Ethiopians and foreigners, diplomacy buffs and journalists alike going against the mold. He thus tongue-lashed his hosts “for the imprisonment of journalists and restrictions on opposition activities.”

Obama’s criticism has come as surprise for one and all for one major reason. It has come, the paper opines, against the well-known standard of operation of the United States and other Western nations, characterized by silence about the human rights violations in Ethiopia and the glaring shortcomings of the regime’s ‘democracy’ pretensions. This is simply because – lurched in the troubled Horn of Africa – Ethiopia has long been an important strategic partner for the West, particularly as pertains to the Somalia-originating religious extremism and fundamentalism.

Somalia is a failed state. That is, the paper points out, a country where the terrorist network al-Qaeda has kept its base for sometime now, otherwise dubbed Al-shabab and the emanation for all its operations.

Moreover, as to Ethiopia’s importance, it is indicated that that western Ethiopia is also bordered with the Sudan, which has suspected ties to terrorism. There is also South Sudan, a young nation in trouble, now with possibilities of lurching into or being used as springboard for terrorists and extremists.

Unfortunately, the potency of Obama’s message has been shriveled by the fact that just a day before at a joint press conference the president had referred to Ethiopia’s regime as democratically elected. Note that this comes against the backdrop of the evidence that the TPLF regime has mistreated the opposition during the parliamentary elections held in May and had repulsively announced to the world receiving 100 per cent of the parliamentary seats.

Nonetheless, not only is President Obama’s targeted criticism against his hosts very important to Ethiopia itself. But also, states Helsingin Sanomat, to its Western allies which thus far have tended to be far too discreet partners to say anything against the regime’s human rights violations and the its exercise of absolutist power/authoritarianism – “itsevaltaisuudesta”.

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