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Africa: Obama criticised for calling Ethiopia’s government ‘democratically elected’ July 28, 2015

Posted by OromianEconomist in US-Africa Summit.
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While US president calls for end of crackdown on political and press freedom, his comments on Hailemariam administration are widely condemned

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Obama's Africa TourOromoProtests against genocidal TPLF Ethiopia3. 19 June 2015

‘Critics accused Obama of granting legitimacy to the regime. Reeyot Alemu, a columnist released earlier this month after four years in jail on terrorism charges, said: “It’s not ‘democratically elected’ because there was only government media and people did not get enough information.

“They also arrested many opposition leaders and journalists. They won the election by using human rights violations. How can it be democratically elected? It is completely false. I wish Barack Obama had sent a strong message.”

Bekele Nega, general secretary of the Oromo Federalist Congress, representing Ethiopia’s biggest ethnic group, said: “I don’t know if democracy means robbing people’s vote and robbing their election result? They have killed people and they have taken the ballot box with them in organised fraud.”

Nega claimed his party found some of its votes thrown down a toilet, while at one polling station its victory by 800 votes to 40 was reversed to a 40-800 defeat. “I wonder if people could tolerate this in America or Britain or wherever? Is this the meaning of democracy in America? We are very sorry that Mr Obama’s comment on our election is really supporting dictators. We know the US is always looking after its own interests and will take over on the military side, sending our people to Somalia.”’

Barack Obama has been criticised by opposition groups and journalists in Ethiopia after referring to the country’s government as “democratically elected”, with one human rights watchdog describing the statement as “shocking”.

The US president was speaking at a joint press conference with Hailemariam Desalegn, the Ethiopian prime minister, after the two leaders held talks in the capital, Addis Ababa.

Although Obama said he had raised issues of good governance – “I don’t bite my tongue too much when it comes to these issues” – he also insisted: “We are opposed to any group that is promoting the violent overthrow of a government, including the government of Ethiopia, that has been democratically elected.”

Answering questions from journalists later, Obama repeated the phrase: “We are very mindful of Ethiopia’s history – the hardships that this country has gone through. It has been relatively recently in which the constitution that was formed and the elections put forward a democratically elected government.”

Hailemariam’s party and its allies won 100% of seats in parliament two months ago. The opposition alleged the government had used authoritarian tactics to secure victory, including intimidation, arrests and violently breaking up rallies. At the time, the US said it remained “deeply concerned” by restrictions on civil society, media, opposition parties and independent voices and views.

But Ethiopia remains a key security ally for the US in the fight against the Islamist militant group al-Shabaab. It has also become an economic battleground with China, which has delivered huge infrastructure projects in Africa’s second most populous nation.

Critics accused Obama of granting legitimacy to the regime. Reeyot Alemu, a columnist released earlier this month after four years in jail on terrorism charges, said: “It’s not ‘democratically elected’ because there was only government media and people did not get enough information.

“They also arrested many opposition leaders and journalists. They won the election by using human rights violations. How can it be democratically elected? It is completely false. I wish Barack Obama had sent a strong message.”

Bekele Nega, general secretary of the Oromo Federalist Congress, representing Ethiopia’s biggest ethnic group, said: “I don’t know if democracy means robbing people’s vote and robbing their election result? They have killed people and they have taken the ballot box with them in organised fraud.”

Nega claimed his party found some of its votes thrown down a toilet, while at one polling station its victory by 800 votes to 40 was reversed to a 40-800 defeat. “I wonder if people could tolerate this in America or Britain or wherever? Is this the meaning of democracy in America? We are very sorry that Mr Obama’s comment on our election is really supporting dictators. We know the US is always looking after its own interests and will take over on the military side, sending our people to Somalia.”

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