By Yilma Bekele | 31 May 2009 — President Obama is traveling to Africa. After attending the G8 meeting in Moscow the President is making a quick one-night stop in Accra, Ghana on July 10. This is not the first visit by a sitting US president to our continent. But this trip is very different. One of our own is coming to Africa as the leader of the most powerful nation.
As an African I am very happy. Mr. Obama is a very busy person. He is dealing with the worst economic downturn in his nations history, nuclear proliferation issues in Korea and Iran, the ongoing problem in the Middle East and the legacy of two wars he inherited from his predecessor. The fact that he found the time to stop over in Africa says a lot about where his heart is.
Again I am delighted he is honoring our continent with his presence. The choice of Ghana as his first stop to Africa says a lot about the President. Out of forty-seven countries in Africa why Ghana? Is it because it is the biggest, most populous, the richest, the most powerful, or the oldest? Why Ghana is a good question.
He could have traveled to Kenya the home of his father. He could have stopped in Ethiopia, the seat of African Union. Nigeria as the most populous black nation would have been good too. But President Obama chose Ghana.
He chose Ghana because according to a White House source “Ghana is an outpost of democracy and civil society in a volatile region.” Very simple and straight forward statement. In other words Ghana has a legitmate governement chosen by the people. Ghana is a beacon of bright light in our dark continent. President Obama is making a powerful statement regarding democracy, human right and the rule of law.
As an Ethiopian I was filled with conflicting emotions regarding his visit. I wanted him to come to Ethiopia. I know it is being selfish but it is the truth. As the founder of Africa Union and the seat of the Organization, Ethiopia should have been the logical venue for the President to share his vision for Africa.
We deserve such an honor because we are one of the oldest nation state in the world. Our country was in the forefront of the struggle of the African people to gain their freedom. Most liberation movements in Africa are indebted to Ethiopia for the generous help offered by our government and people. We helped in training freedom fighters, giving safe haven to those prosecuted for their beliefs and urged the UN to bring the cause of freedom to the forefront.
On the other hand I am very glad President Obama chose Ghana instead of my homeland. It is the right thing to do. To be frank I would have been disappointed if he had come to Addis. I would have considered him an enabler.
It would be looked at as coddling a military junta masquerading as an elected government. The lawlessness nature of the Ethiopian government has been recorded by reports such as US Department of State, Amnesty international, Human Rights Watch, Doctors without Frontiers, International Federation of Journalists, Education International and the most compelling witness of all; you the Ethiopian in the Diaspora.
You know how many rely on you to survive. You are aware of those being washed in the shores of Yemen. It is an open secret the abuse of young Ethiopian girls in the Middle East. You have heard of those who travel thru territories escorted into unknown lands, a few left behind during this dangerous trek to die alone while others are Caught and put in jail for trespassing. You are the best witness if you want to be.
Nairobi’s Daily Nation wrote “in skipping Kenya, the first African American president is signaling that he puts political values over ancestral allegiances.” I agree. Ethnic politics is very backward and destructive. It should be a thing of the past. When it comes to Ethiopia Mr. Obama was avoiding two negative characters he abhors. He is definitely not familiar with tribalism. Tribalism is primitive and so yesterday. Democracy and the rule of law is what he promised to uphold and it will be contrary to his principles to bestow such honor on a tyrannical regime as Ethiopia. Ghana is a perfect choice to enable positive character. It is a perfect reward to the achievement of our Ghanaian cousins.
I am sure his confidential report on Ethiopia includes such facts as:
All nations with embassies in Ethiopia are perfectly aware of the nature of the government. I am sure their reports back to their government is full of revelations of the atrocities committed by the regime. They all have their own interest when they assesss their relationship with our country. We are the only ones that can change the equation.
I am sure it is early enough to catch President Obama during his next visit to Africa. I am hopeful he will be met by a nation united under the umbrella of democracy and committed to the rule of law. Ethiopia will take its righteous place as the leader of Africa. It is up to each one of us to get involved and help steer the freedom train on the right track. Mr. Obama made a powerful statement. Are you going to sit there and talk about it or lift a finger and be part of the solution?