U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently visited Ethiopia where he affirmed that United States and Ethiopia are "longstanding partners."At the same time, he noted, the U.S. is concerned about recent "incidents of violence and loss of life. We do firmly believe the answer is greater freedom for people, not less," stressed Secretary Tillerson.
Ethiopia is currently under another state of emergency. This follows massive anti-government protests in some parts of the country that started in November 2015 and claimed the lives of several hundred people.
The government has responded by undertaking the first-ever voluntary transfer of power in Ethiopia. Secretary Tillerson said he viewed this transfer as "a very positive symbol of the strength" of Ethiopia.As part of this reform effort, more than 7,000 detainees were released in January and February, including several high profile figures. Secretary Tillerson urged "additional concrete measures to allow greater political freedom of expression."
"We firmly believe that democratic reform, economic growth, and lasting stability are best addressed through an inclusive political process, rather than through the imposition of restrictions," said Mr. Tillerson. He also urged the Ethiopian people to remain patient and support the government through the transition. Democracy, cautioned Secretary Tillerson, "takes time and effort. Democracy is not easy. It takes a lot of work. But [by] staying with it, lasting change will come about."
"We want Ethiopia as a country to succeed and prosper, and we’re confident that they will succeed and prosper, providing many economic benefits not just for the Ethiopian people, but for the neighboring countries in Africa, and ultimately for U.S. business interests as well."
Ethiopia plays a critical role in leadership in the region and throughout the continent as the largest contributor to UN peacekeeping operations in Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan.Moreover, Ethiopia’s influence in supporting the security of Somalia and Djibouti are particularly important at this time to keep global commerce routes open. These routes through the Red Sea affect billions of people around the world in terms of their economic stability.
The United States looks forward to working with Ethiopia and its people as they seek greater peace, democracy and prosperity.