20/12/08 (B479) Capital / Ethiopie : Meles minimise l’importance de la relation americanon-éthiopienne // Ethiopia – Meles downplays changes in Ethio-American ties

By Kirubel Tadesse

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia does not want his words to be taken as prophetic but predicted that the coming United States (US) administration led by Barack Obama would follow its predecessor’s policies and keep the two nations’ ties strong.

« We have seen Republicans and Democrats showing a trend of working to serve their national interest. If the next administration believes that by keeping the two government ties strong the US would be better served, it does so and the reverse could be true as well, » Meles told parliament this week. « But I think our relation won’t see significant changes. »

Capital’s poll released just a week before the US presidential election had revealed that over 70% of Addis Ababa respondents expect positive changes in Ethio-American ties if Obama takes office.

« Surely change will come, but probably not to the extent we all hope or expect, » opposition MP Merara Gudina (PhD) explained to Capital to this week.

A political scientist by profession Dr. Merara had showed what he called guarded optimism toward President-elect Barack Obama long before he won the national election.

« I agree that any administration works to serve its national interest and that will be kept; but Bush policy [in the so-called war on terror], which voters felt a failed strategy as evidenced by the votes, will change, » Dr. Merara said. « It is with this context that I say change will come between the two-government’s relations. »

« The premier described US foreign polices from a narrow perspective; it is true that any administration works for its national interest, » another opposition MP, Temesgen Zewide, commented to Capital. « However, the US has a reputable record on promoting the protection of human rights and democracy which will hopefully be restored by the next administration. »

For MP Lidetu Aylaew, whose party had asked the PM for his view on the matter, the US had hardly prioritized democracy.

« We have seen them working with Mobuto and even now they have strong ties with the Middle East and other areas characterized by dictatorship, » Lidetu discounted the potential for change, a view which was shared by Professor Beyene Petros and Bulcha Demksa. « So the past can never be merit for optimism. »

« What I see as a positive thing from the fact that Obama is the next US president is that he is informed about the continent, especially about Kenya and Ethiopia, » Bulcha said. « He won’t be misdirected by experts which normally deicide the fate of our nations. »

President-Elect Barack Obama had visited Ethiopia at the end of August 2006. His visit had focused on Dire Dawa where the US military was building tents for people displaced by floods. During his stay, Obama had reportedly expressed his support for the controversial HR 2003 legislation in the US Congress. However,

Capital could not confirm the report from official sources.

Like many Ethiopian-American groups, a group that calls it self Coalition for HR 2003, had endorsed Obama a few months back.

The President-Elect recently named his former rival Senator Hillary Clinton next Secretary of State. Clinton will direct any possible changes to Addis Ababa that Obama famously promised in one of his speeches.