Significance of President Obama for Ethiopia & the World

Significance of President Obama for Ethiopia & the World

By Gemeda Humnasa

Congratulations to the new President of the United States of America, Barack Obama!! And Congratulations to all of our people from Ethiopia who have worked day and night to help Barack Obama get elected!!

It is not just because Obama is an African American that i am happy to see him victorious. It is not because of Obama's paternal heritage and my Oromo descent, just like many Oromos in northern Kenya and southern Ethiopia. And It is not simply because Bush has been replaced by a new president. But it is because of the hope in the principles of what Obama stands for. It is because of his stated values of democracy and peace. It is about his stance against wars, bloodshed and aggression around the world. Against pessimism and stubborn leadership. Against double standards and division. It is FOR equality and peace. All of these values and principles President Obama has supported and preached during his campaign is the reason why all of us Africans should be pleased to see him become the new US President and these should be the main reasons why all Africans should congratulate President Obama. As much as we should celebrate this first black US president, we should also ALL stand in appreciation, in hope and anticipation of his championing of the ideals we all hold high!

This is trully a chance for a new beginning in America as well as in Africa and the world.

We have to keep hope high that the American economy will rebound so that the global economy will have the stable leadership it needs. Under Obama leadership, we have to keep hope that economic equality and social services will be felt meaningful in all corners of America. We have to keep hope that Obama will cross over and break barriers to reach out to America's enemies so that they become American FRIENDS, because we have recently been watching the world get divided in groups, just like 20 years ago when the West and the Eastern Soviet global powers played chess games. As we witnessed in front of our eyes during the Mengistu-Barre wars. We have to hope in Obama's values of dialogue implemented in Africa, since we all need it as we have seen the importance of this principle championed by the Ethiopian government in its deadlock with Eritrea. We have to hope that agression will not be neglected in this world, as we have seen the brutal Eritrean invasion of Yemen Islands, invasion of northern Ethiopia and multiple invasion of northern Djibouti in just a matter of the last 15 years. We have to hope that the rule of law will prevail over the rule of the jungle, instead of rogue regimes like Eritrea being unpunished by UN for violation of international law during its invasion of Ethiopia in 1998, during Eritrea's massacre of students in Ayder school and Eritrea's violations during recent UN peacekeeping mission. We have to hope that peace and compassion will win over hate, bitterness and stubborness. We have to hope that Western, Arab and Eastern powers will not continue to make Africa their blood diamond market, as we have seen the resource wars in Congo that claimed the lives of many millions, as well as in Darfur of Sudan. We have to hope this era will be the end of double standards where America manufactured a case for Kosovo independence, while the UN condemns Russia in South Ossetia (Georgia) for doing the same thing America did in Kosovo. We have to hope similar double standards in the Palestine territories and other places are fixed so that the world once again trusts in international organizations like the UN and believes in collective security once again. We also have to hope that Obama fixes Western-only privileges that allows America to label terrorist threats to its security as "international terrorism", while the West belittles terrorism against African countries like Ethiopia, as exemplified by the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) terrorist attacks that massacred dozens of innocent civilians in Eastern Ethiopia. At the same time, we have to hope that the secular WEST and Islamic religious clashes will be diffused from the hot spots like Afghanistan and Somalia; and wish that an Obama leadership brings a new face to America, toward humbleness and cultural sensitivity so that globalization does not translate to exploitation, secular imposition and ignorance. Certainly, Mr. Obama has a lot of difficult task in front of him to change this world for the better. But if there is anyone we can believe to do this hard job, it would be him and his team.

In Ethiopia and generally in Africa, we need a lot of changes. What Obama can bring to the table will be his support for democracy and his opposition to aggression. In the horn of Africa, the Eritrean surprise invasion of Ethiopia around 10 years ago brought a lot of misery, destruction and left a lot of memory for those who lost loved ones. And for too long the UN ignored the Eritrean Dictator Isayas Afewerki aggression on Djibouti, Yemen and Ethiopia, just for the sake of appeasing a tyrant. Such western policies emboldened the dictator to sponsor rebels in Ogaden, Anuak/Gambella and other regions while supporting extremists in southern Somalia that have been labeled terrorists by the US State Department. But President Obama's anti-aggression principles are not the only relief Ethiopia has been waiting for. As a country that is dedicated to move towards democracy, Ethiopia will need the help of strong leaders like Obama to achieve big democratic milestones. While the Eritrean tyrannical government has been the only African country without a private media, without national elections, without a constitution, without multi-party parliament and without religious freedom, Ethiopia has increasingly been a shinning star of the region, with all of the above 5 important reforms. Though Ethiopia is not a perfect democracy, by creating the foundation for these big 5 universal values, this African country has been doing the best it can under the hard circumstances of being at the center of the unstable Horn of Africa.

Similarly, many Ethiopians believe the experience of the Bush adminstration has humbled America because the Unites States has ignored fundamental rights and broken many international laws during its wartime period under the Bush Adminstration. In fact, the RSF ranked extra-territorial America worse than rogue Venezuela in its Freedom of Press Annual rankings for this year. In addition, a few years ago, the world was also shocked by the Bush adminstration's violation of international laws and human rights via its various foreign-based torture cells and secret survelliance on American citizens. So the last few years have given the United States a taste of how hard it is to respect some fundamental human rights in a time of war. It is very tough for any country to have perfect record on human rights and democracy inside an environment of war and conflict, as all Americans have witnessed for themselves during the Bush era. Thus, in this lense, we can see how great Ethiopia has progressed in the big 5 values despite being located in the unstable and warzone Horn of Africa.

Even as the Eritrean dictatorship continues to worsen and as Eritrea continues its aggression path, all Ethiopians believe they can do more to improve their democracy. But the only way for Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa to progress faster forward is if the environment of war is replaced by environment of peace in the horn of Africa. But such changes need more than continental reform, such changes need universal leadership, which is why President Obama's pro-democracy and anti-aggression values will be the biggest prize for the people of Ethiopia the next 4 years. This means, just like they preached, President Obama and his foreign policy team need to put peace and democracy as their number priority in Africa. This means, Obama's foreign policy team need to implement the principles of Obama by condemning the weapon and financial support for rebels and Somali insurgents by the Eritrean government and other entities documented by the UN Security Council. Such condemnation should be reflected all around Africa because the UN has been documenting many African countries who are arming rebels againist each other for many decades. America needs to take bold steps under Obama leadership for the first time. Also, Obama's African affairs team needs to condemn the enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend ideology practiced by many African Dictators. It also means no more double standards from Western politicians. Congressmen like Donald Payne should not turn a blind eye for the one-party dictatorship, anti-constitution, anti-religious freedom and anti-election government of Eritrea. The double standards need to be tackled by the Obama-Biden adminstration. For example, in one case this year, the controversial Congressman Donald Payne condemned Ethiopia for its counter insurgency in the Ogaden to arrest and kill ONLF terrorists who are armed by the dictatorial Eritrean government. A few days later, this same Congressman was chatting and taking pictures with exiled ONLF rebel supporters while at the same time praising the Eritrean government. Then a few days later, this same Congressman was claiming he stands for human rights, democracy and peace in Africa. Such deeply contradictory and deeply confusing signals from the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Subcommitte led by Donald Payne have kept the dangerous regions like the Horn of Africa more and more dangerous. For this reason, many observers blame the Eritrea-Ethiopia stalemate on Donald Payne. Such big mistakes and glitches inside an American leadership and foreign policy sends the wrong messages to Africa. With an Obama adminstration, Ethiopians are in anticipation that such double standards and errors will be fixed so that peace and democracy can develop in the Horn of Africa. Support for democracy, peace and dialogue should be the cornerstones of America's foreign policy in Africa. Ethiopians are in anticipation that America will once again be the shinning star for democracy, the rule of law and peace around the world. Ethiopians are in anticipation that the Presidential change in America will bring better support for Ethiopia's multi-party parliament and Africa's progress; when Obama's African foreign policy makers take initiatives to

- assist the various peaceful opposition parties in Ethiopia
- give aid to poor Africans who need it
- support the Ethiopian economy so it can keep growing in double digits
- support Ethiopian private media to grow
- condemn anti-government militants like ONLF who kill people
- help Ethiopian democracy to advance to the next level
- help African countries fight poverty and disease.

Such American initiatives are what Africans have been looking for and an Obama adminstration will need to start to deliver starting from Africa's capital in Addis Ababa. Many of us have given our tireless effort for the Obama-Biden ticket because of the hope and values Obama held high. Many thousands of Ethiopian-Americans who have mobilized many to get Barack Obama elected hope that it will not be too long before the first black US President takes bold steps to implement his principles and ideals.

Congratulations to Barack Obama

SOURCE:, Thursday, November 06, 2008

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