Obama Holds Talks in Ethiopia 07/27 06:07
President Barack Obama huddled with Ethiopia's leaders Monday for talks on
counterterrorism, human rights and regional security issues, including the
crisis in neighboring South Sudan.
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) -- President Barack Obama huddled with Ethiopia's
leaders Monday for talks on counterterrorism, human rights and regional
security issues, including the crisis in neighboring South Sudan.
Obama's visit marks the first visit by a sitting U.S. president to Ethiopia.
He arrived at the National Palace in the capital of Addis Ababa for a bilateral
meeting with Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, followed by a joint news
Later Monday, Obama was to convene a meeting of African leaders on the
situation in South Sudan. The world's newest nation has been gripped by civil
war for months, spurred by a conflict between warring factions in the
South Sudan is facing an Aug. 17 deadline to accept a peace and
power-sharing agreement, though U.S. officials say they're pessimistic a deal
will be reached. Obama's meeting with regional leaders is aimed in part at
considering an international response if the deadline passes without a deal.
Obama arrived in Ethiopia on Sunday night after a stop in Kenya, his late
Like Kenya, Ethiopia has a fast-growing economy but faces challenges from
the al-Shabab terrorist threat based across the border in Somalia. Ethiopia has
partnered with the U.S. in the fight against terrorism, sharing intelligence
with American officials and sending troops into Somalia to address instability
However, human rights groups and others say Obama's visit to Ethiopia lends
an air of international legitimacy to a government that is using national
security concerns as a pretext to stifle opposition and curtail basic freedoms.
Ethiopia is the world's second-worst jailer of journalists in Africa, after
Eritrea, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
"It undermines a lot of the presidential goals about good governance on the
continent," said Sarah Margon, Washington director of Human Rights Watch. "In
many ways, I guess it's a reward. Ethiopia at this time doesn't deserve that."
Ahead of Obama's arrival, the Ethiopian government released several
journalists and bloggers it had been holding since April 2014 on charges of
incitement and terrorism. Many others remain in detention.
White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes defended Obama's
trip, saying the stop is not a seal of approval and that the two governments
share a broad set of interests. He said Obama would not shy away from raising
differences of opinion, including human rights.
Another touchy subject for their discussions would be gay rights, which
Obama championed while in Kenya.