This week will mark two of President Barack Obama’s historical firsts: the first U.S. president to visit Ethiopia and Kenya, and the first U.S. president to address the African Union. Mr Obama said he was very proud, to which Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said was only fitting, given that Ethiopia is the Cradle of Mankind.
Snooty exchange between Mr Obama and PM Desalegn
In a tweet before embarking on his landmark visit to Kenya and Ethiopia, Mr Obama was more than excited. There was little air in his post. In his speech in Ethiopia, he highlighted this once again, with something more to brag about.
“I am proud to be the first U.S. President to visit Ethiopia, and, tomorrow, the first U.S. President to address the African Union. So my visit reflects the importance the United States places on our relationship with Ethiopia and all the nations and peoples of Africa,” he said.
While Mr Desalegn recognized this sweeping milestone, he dismissed it as something that Ethiopia is very much deserving of.
“We are honored to receive a sitting U.S. President for the first time in the history of our century-long diplomatic relations. But again, we believe it’s fitting and appropriate in the light of the fact that Ethiopia is the Cradle of Mankind, the beacon light for African independence, and an inspiration for all the black people’s struggles, and the political capital of Africa,” the Ethiopian prime minister said.
According to the White House announcement prior to the president’s travel to the region, the trip shall reinforce the U.S. commitment to expand the region’s economic growth and trade. The trip is also focused in strengthening democracy on a global scale and investing in the next generation of African leaders.
However, in Mr Desalegn’s remark, he went about saying that Mr Obama’s visit comes at a time when both Africa and Ethiopia are registering impressive growth, making important strides. Ethiopia, specifically, has registered a double-digit economical growth for the last 12 years, the prime minister boasted.
Meeting eye to eye
The separate remarks by the two leaders, just like with any other leaders, turned diplomatic when it comes to issues involving terrorism in the region. Mr Desalegn shifted into a more humble tone when discussing violence that is shrouding the region for the past few years.
“His visit also comes at a time when we’re working hard in improving governance and fighting insecurity, conflicts and terrorism,” the prime minister said.
He said that the Ethiopian government welcomes discussion on how the U.S. can support in the improvement of Ethiopia’s democratization process.
“My government has expressed its commitment to deepen the democratic process already underway in the country, and work towards the respect of human rights and improving governance.”
Mr Obama addresses the Sudan conflict
Mr Obama’s remarks, on the other hand, focused majorly in the ongoing crisis in South Sudan.
“I want to thank Ethiopia for the sanctuary it provides hundreds of thousands of refugees who have fled South Sudan and conflicts throughout the region,” he said.
“We oppose terrorism wherever it may occur. And 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,” the president said.
Mr Obama also shared with the Prime Minister the U.S.’s interest in deepening intelligence cooperation and ending the flow of foreign financing for terrorism.
“Our cooperation regionally is excellent. I know that there are certain groups that have been active in Ethiopia that, from the Ethiopian government’s perspective, pose a significant threat. Our intelligence indicates that while they may oppose the government, they have not tipped into terrorism. And we have some very clear standards in terms of how we evaluate that.”
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