Thursday, July 19, 2007

Millennial Challenge: The Official US Governement Perspective on Ethiopia

Global Strategic Enterprises, Inc for Peace and Prosperity-,
Democracy is always a work in progress: Ambassador Donald Yamamoto

Dear Patriotic Global Citizens and Friends of Ethiopia:

Re: The unique interview of a US Ambassador in Ethiopia on the evolving and changing role of Ethiopia in Africa and the Global Community.

This is a very interesting perspective and I am glad there are people of this Ambassador's Caliber providing counsel and representation of the American people at this unique time in history.

I am impressed, as I have just been reviewing the Kissinger memo to Nixen during HIM visit in the late 1960s and we have come a long way, if the US White House is getting such balanced and forward looking perspective on Ethiop.a

Please read on and share your perspctives as you reflect on the role and image of Ethiopia in the new Millennium

with regards and sekking your creative contribution and perspectivfe, I remain;

Dr B of GSE for PP

Early in November 2006, Donald Yamamoto was appointed as US ambassador to Ethiopia. Prior to his appointment, he served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of African Affairs from 2003 to 2006, where he was responsible for coordinating U.S. policy towards over 20 countries in east and central Africa. He served as U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Djibouti from 2000 to 2003 and was the Deputy Director for East African Affairs from 1998 to 2000.
In this interview with The Reporter’s Namrud Berhane he speaks of the general political situation in Ethiopia prior to his appointment and after, regional issues such as conflict resolution in the Horn and Africa, and his efforts to promote Ethio-US trade relations. Excerpts:

Your appointment as an ambassador to Ethiopia from a previous position as Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs is taken as an indication of Ethiopia's increased strategic importance in US foreign policy. Do you agree? If so, why at this particular time?

Yes, it's important because Ethiopia is a strategic partner. The president of the United States puts out this annual report called US National Strategic Interests and the report cites each region of the world and what we are doing.

And there are four countries in Africa which are the cornerstone of the region and Ethiopia is one of them. It's been that way for some time. Our embassy is also a regional hub.

Look at the Ethiopian Airlines. It is the best airline in Africa. It's convenient because it goes everywhere.

Because of that we have consular affairs in the region here, we have our repair people based here, we have our budget and administrative people based here who go out to our other embassies.

It really is a hub; you have one of the best airports in Africa. But one of the other reasons in Ethiopia is becoming very cooperative and forthcoming and supportive.

It is a key country in Africa and the Horn. Look at Ethiopia, it has a population of 77 million people. It is involved in every aspect of security and stability in Africa.

It is also a major country for the African Union - host for the African Union. It participates in IGAD and because of that it is an important country. And, therefore, it is our strategic partner.

On March 28, 2006 you gave your testimony before the sub-committee for African Affairs chaired by Congressman Chris Smith where you spoke in detail of the political situation in Ethiopia during and after the elections. How far has Ethiopia come since then, in your opinion?

The thrust of the Smith program was to respond to questions about the state of political freedoms in Ethiopia.

What we said during the testimony and during the questioning is "Is Ethiopia on the right road? Is there still a problem?"

And the answer is, of course, there are problems, but are they making the effort to go in the right direction? And the answer is, sure they are. The question that comes in is, can we, as the US, support those efforts? The answer is yes, we should, we must we have to.

President Carter has come here every year. He has talked to the prime minister and senior officials; he has also talked with the opposition.

And I think that is important because he gives a different perspective on how to move democratic values and institutions forward.

Our position officially is to work with opposition groups, government and civil society and push their agenda.

It has to be very clear that we as the United States are not going to dictate. What we do is we support and we assist the process.

Each country has a different approach and pace to democratic values and institutions.

Your can go right, you can go left, you can go different ways and that is fine, as long as we are focused on the end objective that is important.

Democracy in the United States is still a work in progress. You can't say it is a perfect state because it is not. We never say it's perfect, we say look at our experiment and it still continues.

It took 38 years for the United States to have its first really open fairly contested democratic election. 38 years! That was the sixth president of the United States-John Quincy Adams, and Andrew Jackson.

So, if it took us 38 years and we are still saying it is a work in progress, we are not going to dictate to any country on how you should follow your democratic values and democratic processes. I will give you an example; we are sending parliamentarians [from Ethiopia] to Great Britain, and another group to the United States. We always say don't look only at the United States look at all countries and how they do democratic processes.

You also spoke of an opposition and government "shared goal". What did you mean by shared goal?

Shared goal, the goals for both the government and opposition parties… Look at any democracy, look at the United States, the Republican party is the government party. In the mid-term elections it lost its control of both the House and the Senate to the Democrats. So the Democrats become the ruling majority party but the Republicans still control the White House.

The issue that comes in is that the Republicans and Democrats change positions.

Look at Great Britain and the House of Commons, you have either Labour or the Conservatives and they change power. You have Margaret Thatcher in the Conservatives and Tony Blair in the Labour wing of the party which took over.

So when you look at any democratic processes, no one party will control forever. You have constant ebbs and flows.

What you want to do is to work with both parties - both government and opposition and to say "what is in the best interest of the country?" Do they have shared common goals and objectives? And in those shared common goals it is not to destroy the other party, it is to work together to support democratic values.

Look at the points that were agreed to in 2005, there were eight points, correct?

And look at what they have achieved in the last year, actually in the last three months.

Those are part of the process of discussion between the opposition and the government, which is transparency, openness in the parliament reforms; the other one is media reform, which is going to be discussed in the next parliament.

The other issue is the national electoral board on which there are discussions.

There is also the issue of respect of the rights of the opposition. So those are shared goals that both parties agreed to.

If both the opposition and government agree to these shared goals, we are saying that we as outsiders, the United States, should support those efforts. The next thing is we give free advice.

We as the United States we advice everyone - they can take our advice or not - but we always say that when parties contest elections, whether it be the CUD, UEDF, the OFDM or the EPRDF, the Republicans and Democrats in the US or even Labour and Conservatives in Great Britain.... yes you oppose the other side, but you have to stand for something.

One of the things we always say on your shared common values and goals is "What do you as a party stand for?" "What is your vision for the future of Ethiopia?"

Number two is "How do you relate and represent your constituencies?" Because, as members of parliament or as members of parties you represent the views and interests of your constituents.

If your constituents are saying they want lower taxes and yet you say "no we want higher taxes to do these things" and if you don't have the constituencies behind you then you are really not representing their interests and their views.

And so, when we say sharing common views we mean that you need to have a platform of what you stand for and what you represent. How is that going to advance the interests of the people of Ethiopia?

Ultimately the power of the country, the legitimacy of authority lies with the people.

This is a debate we had in the United States. The themes when Jefferson and Hamilton, the founding fathers, debated were, what is the basis of authority of the country? What is the basis from which a government exists? And what is the future for the country?

The decision was that authority ultimately lies with the people. They are the ones who determine what the future of the country is.

And so our testimony last year was to encourage and work with all countries and in Ethiopia specifically, with all the parties, to work together and see what the interest of the people of Ethiopia is.

What do the people of Ethiopia want? What is in their best national interest? I will give you one example, for the EPRDF, the issue was security in Somalia, poverty reduction, and those are good things, they are things that need to be resolved.

Then the next question is how do the opposition address security? How do they address poverty reduction?

The other issue they [opposition] were raising was salaries of bureaucrats. And how does the government address that?

Those are the issues that need to be debated and worked on together. That is what I meant by common goals.

What has your role been in that context?

We still continue to bring both parties, we discuss things with both parties the opposition and the government. Do we have a dialogue? Sure, we have a dialogue. Is it a good dialogue? Is it a messy dialogue? Is it a constructive dialogue?

The answer is, I think, it is all of those. As we always say, democracy is not always clean and it is not always precise and predictable. It is very messy. Look at our democracy, the Democrats, and Republicans could be at grid-locks.

You can have conflict over budget, but then can they work together for a common goal such as pass a budget or represent the people's interests in security issues? Ultimately that is the answer. That is the issue.

So, are the opposition and the government talking? Yes. Did they talk in 2000, 1995? Of course not, the opposition did not have much representation. Now with a 197 seats, that's up from 12 seats. They may become a major factor, a major force.

At least you see the government talking to them and you have all these committees - standing committees. Did you have that before 2000? No. Do you have it now? Yes. Is that good? Yes. Is that improvement? Yes. Does it need to be more? And the answer is yes, of course.

It is a work in progress and if we can play a role in supporting that dialogue for great representation and greater voice and that is the answer.

Recently there has been talk of some developments that are expected to lead to the release of jailed CUD leaders….

This is an Ethiopian political process, and so the issue is that we support the Ethiopian process to find a resolution to these issues.

We can't comment too far because that would mean interfering in the internal politics of the country.

Yes, we do interfere all the time but in this case it is so sensitive and so delicate that we need to depend on, and rely on the Ethiopian political process.

And I think we need to reserve judgment until the process is finished.

African leaders are leaning more towards the idea that conflicts in the continent are best resolved by Africans themselves. They say the international community should support such initiatives financially and by providing the resources they lack, in the words of one leader ‘minus the mediators’. But take the case of the AU mission in Sudan, it has not been able to successfully carry out its mission, in Somalia of the pledged 8000 troops from various African countries only 1600 Ugandans have been provided…What is your take on that?

Look at the situation in Africa. We have now seven peacekeeping operations. If you include the African Union peacekeeping operation or a UN or joint, you are talking of much more than we had in the past.

What you are having now is a much more concerted effort by regional groups like ECOWAS, IGAD, and SADC to support peacekeeping operations and regional stability and the African Union looks at it at a continent-wide level.

The United Nations by the Security Council coming to Africa underscores that they are going to work with the African Union on such issues as Darfur, and in Somalia.

The AU is looking at Burundi as a model for Somalia and Sudan. The African Union, specifically Ethiopian troops, went into Burundi, stabilized it and the UN took over. And so the same thing could happen in Somalia and Sudan.

The AU has come a long way in just a few years. Could you imagine the African Union being this robust? The answer is it took time but now chairman Konare and his deputies they have taken a much more aggressive approach.

They have said "let’s make the effort to address instability in Africa, find solutions and work with the United Nations."

Look at other countries in Europe and the United States, they do the same. So, I think a lot of progress has been made. Yes, you are right, you point out a lot of problems, yes, and there are problems.

Darfur, troops are not being paid, you have the Rwandese contingent there. Somalia, you have Uganda but you know Burundi is about to go in and that is a good thing. What is sad is that the Ethiopian troops have had to carry all the brunt of the security, and the issue is how do you resolve it? How do you support the Ethiopian troops?

There are those who believe that the major issue has to do with financial constraints and issues of accountability….

That is the wrong question to ask.

I know you wrote an article saying Tim Clarke calls for accountability. That is not the main issue. The main issue is are you going to have African States, African regional institutions and the African Union responding to African crisis or African instability? The answer is yes.

That is the main question that you did not have some years ago but you do have now.

You are saying what the African Union wants is just money. No, they don't want money.

Money is important but they want support, they want assistance, they want training, they want equipment they want strategic lift.

They want the Western countries and the UN to demonstrate that they are also committed to resolving conflicts in Africa.

I mean if you look at the Burundi model, Burundi was a very high risk operation and the African Union along with African regional states took a big risk in getting involved and finding a solution between the CNDD and the government of Burundi.

Tanzania played a role, Ethiopia and South Africa provided troops and also provided logistical support. In that context the United States and some other countries supported.

It was such a successful model the United Nations took it over, and it made sense. Now you have stability, there is the elections in twenty years, you have stability in Burundi and hope for the future, so that is a good thing. Hopefully that could be replicated in Sudan and Somalia.

So, the issue is, yes money is important but that is not the main issue. The issue is whether there is the political will and the commitment by African States and regional institutions and the African Union.

It is also a test for the international community, are they going to back and support this process?

I think on all issues the answer has to be yes, has to be yes.

Former Ambassador to the US, David Shinn was in Addis Ababa and he spoke of futility of any peace effort without the Somali government being all inclusive. He believes the TFG has to reach out to those who oppose it, including those such as Hussein Aideed….

Oh, but he is up in Asmara…

Yes, but without the TFG reconstituting itself to be inclusive of all clans…

Comprehensive power sharing government... Ultimately, that is an issue for the Somali people to decide. However, US policy towards Somalia is consistent with what Prime Minister Meles has stated and what Yusuf has stated. And the issue is to ensure that president Yusuf and the TFG abide by what they stated, which is to reach out to all clans in Somalia.

That is just not the Darood or the Abgaals; it has to be the Hawiyes and every element of the Hawiyes from the Ayir to the Suleiman and all the way down to the other clans.

The TFG must reach out to form a really comprehensive and cohesive transitional government. More important is to get there by the upcoming reconciliation congress. That is something we support.

Prime Minister Meles, and Foreign Minister Seyoum have worked very hard in bringing elders from the various clams to Addis and also on their trips to Mogadishu to meet with the elders of the various clans. We support that.

Ultimately it is not going to be won by guns and weapons. What is going to help security to a certain extent is if the Somali clans can talk to each other and coordinate with each other. If that does not happen you are not going to have stability in Somalia.

However, certain preconditions which most believe can not be met are being set, such as the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops for any dialogue to commence…

Look at Kismayo right now. The fighting in Kismayo is among clans and not internal external.

The problem that comes in is that ultimately peace in Somalia is not going to rely on AMISOM or Ethiopian troops. It is going to be the ability of the clans to coordinate, cooperate and work with each other.

That is the position that the Ethiopian government has taken that we have taken and the international community has taken.

Ultimately it lies in the people of Somalia and the clans' political will to talk to each other.

You are actually correct, whether the Habergedir Aiyr clan refuses to sit with the Hawiye or the Hawiye refuse to talk to the TFG, I think it is more complex than those fine distinctions.

Right now the Hawiye clans are meeting. The elders are meeting in Mogadishu to talk about how they do coordination.

We wish them the very best of success and we support those efforts. The TFG needs to reach out to all the clans. That is something that they have to do, they are doing but they need to do more of.

The resumption of the Peace Corps program, we are hearing that Peace Corp volunteers will be coming to Ethiopia after it was suspended in 1998 when the Ethiopia-Eritrea war broke out….

That was political decision.

David Shinn who was the Ambassador to Ethiopia then says he was disappointed by the manner in which Washington handled the situation. He says while he was convinced that Eritrea had initiated the war, the US had pursued a policy of dealing even-handedly with both countries. You were then the Deputy Director for East African Affairs…

I was Acting Director for that period.

We moved Peace Corps when the conflict began. That was for security reasons.

We don't allow Peace Corps volunteers to be in a war gone or when a country is either in an internal or external fighting. So we basically removed Peace Corps from both countries to be back at a later date and now they are coming back in September.

One of the things agreed to after the elections of 2005, in which the US could help the political process in Ethiopia was in supporting the review of the media law. A recent report commissioned by the Norwegian Embassy indicates that a USAID review of the media law had not been accepted. Can you give me details of that?

I think there was a disagreement in the beginning. The most recent draft has been initially agreed to by both the opposition and the government I think.

The issue has been delayed until the next session of parliament. That gives us the opportunity to work with the government, the opposition and civil society.

So, it was not rejected initially it was ignored by everyone. We came back with new ideas and concepts and we worked the issued. So, I think the media law should be on tap for the next session of parliament.

But the broadcasting law has already been approved by parliament....

Yeah, but things change.

You think so?

I think so.

I mean the new media law has rights and freedoms far more advanced than in the US.

In the US we arrest journalists for not revealing their sources. That is one example. A New York Times journalist - Judith Miller - went to Jail for two months for that.

Under this new media law that is an issue of greater protection of your sources. That actually is much more advanced than the US law.

When you held an introductory meeting with journalists back in January, you spoke of your plans to promote US trade and investment in Ethiopia. How far have you gone in that respect?

I think we need to do a lot more. Two months ago we had a buyers' market.

A Buyers' market is where you bring buyers from various American department stores.

They came to Ethiopia to look at textile, jewelry, flowers, coffee and leather and see what they can buy for the US market.

When a buyer comes, they buy from 100,000 to 300,000 pieces. So, this is really a test. Say they order a thousand to five thousand items from a vendor and they went up to other vendors and ordered them to produce it.

For instance they bought scarves, they bought some jewelry items. It's a test. Ethiopian producers have the quality but can they mass produce? Because the US market is huge.

So, that was a test and at least we got the ball rolling at the buyers' market. These initial purchases will next year be more, and at that time Ethiopian vendors will be developed than now to meet with those needs.

The second thing is we are starting a chamber of commerce by September. What the chamber is going to do is attract American investors to Ethiopia. More importantly, that is going to help improve and expand capacity, quality control and the capability to produce massive items of one thing.

Next year we are going to have the Dreamliner. That means we have to prepare the Ethiopian market to ship and supply goods to the American market.

You are number one in coffee, you have high quality new species of flowers, you have the best leather in the world market, and the filigree of Ethiopian jewelry is probably one of the best in the world.

If you look item for item - quality-wise - Ethiopia is one of the best in the world.

The issue though is can you mass produce that without losing quality? That is going to be the ultimate test.

We have started eleven test farms around Ethiopia to produce vegetables, fruits and flowers to produce not only for the European market but also for the American market.

Once you penetrate the American market that is going to be your engine of development. The American market is huge, and once you can produce and expand in that market you are going to get a lot of benefits, profits and job creation.

Our goal is to create 100,000 jobs each and every year. When the 787 comes you are going to have six flights a week to America. You are also going to have non-stop flights from Dallas to Addis - can you imagine that? Non-stop flights that will bring goods and services here and vise-versa.

We are also doing co-share with United Airlines and Ethiopian Airlines, if you do that, the Ethiopian government and airline can tap into the lucrative American contracting services.

The American government and American companies they ship things all over the world, and if we can use Ethiopian air, we can cut our costs by two thirds.

Right now we go through Europe to the Middle East or through Europe to South Asia. If we go through Addis we cut our costs dramatically.

Source: The Reporter

(c) Walta Information Center, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

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