Tag Archives: Wendy Sherman

Obama Should Stay Away From Ethiopia

Ethiopia is not a model of democracy that should be rewarded with a presidential visit.
Washington wants a stable partner in the Horn of Africa. But cozying up to the repressive regime in Addis Ababa isn’t the way to go about finding one. Ethiopia is not a model of democracy that should be rewarded with a presidential visit.

By Jeffery Smith and Mohammed Ademo (for Foreign Policy),

LATER this month, President Barack Obama will become the first sitting U.S. president to ever visit Ethiopia, Africa’s second-most populous country, and a nation viewed by many as a bastion of stability in a region otherwise beset with civil strife. The trip — which will also include a stopover in Kenya — is being billed as part of the Obama administration’s regional efforts “to accelerate economic growth, strengthen democratic institutions, and improve security.Continue reading Obama Should Stay Away From Ethiopia

Obama’s Visit to Ethiopia Sends the Wrong Message on Democracy

UNFATHOMABLE. For the Obama Administration, Africa is a simple question of mind over matter. Obama does not care and Africa doesn’t matter. For Obama, it’s dictatorships, not democracies, in Africa that guarantee American security and national interests best.

By Washington Post (Editorial),

AFRICA DOESN’T need strongmen, it needs strong institutions.” Those were President Obama’s words when he addressed Ghana’s parliament in July 2009, during his first trip to sub-Saharan Africa as president. The historic speech, watched around the globe, was an optimistic clarion call to the leaders on the continent from the son of a Kenyan. “First, we must support strong and sustainable democratic governments,” Mr. Obama said. Continue reading Obama’s Visit to Ethiopia Sends the Wrong Message on Democracy

Washington Enables Authoritarianism in Ethiopia

Blanket US support for the Ethiopian regime risks dismantling the country’s already fragile opposition and disgruntled activists. It also risks encouraging the regime to perpetuate violence.

By Awol Allo (for Al Jazeera),

IT WAS only two months ago during the Israeli election that the White House was scrambling to convince the American public that the United States does not intervene in the electoral processes of other democracies.

“This administration goes to great lengths to ensure that we don’t give even the appearance of interfering or attempting to influence the outcome of a democratically held election in another country,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said in defense of President Barack Obama’s refusal to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  Continue reading Washington Enables Authoritarianism in Ethiopia

The Tangled Web Wendy Sherman Weaves

Now that Wendy Sherman has come under a torrent of withering criticism, public ridicule and condemnation following her denial of ‘autocracy’ in Ethiopia, she wants to chocolate-cover and swallow her words.

By Prof. Alemayehu G Mariam,

IN HER Letter to the Washington Post, U.S. Undersecretary Wendy R. Sherman chastised the editorial board for “mischaracterizing her remarks” in its May 1 editorial. At issue is what Ms. Sherman said and meant by her words during her press conference in Ethiopia on April 16.

The editorial stated, “Wendy Sherman, declared during a visit to Addis Ababa on April 16 that ‘Ethiopia is a democracy that is moving forward in an election that we expect to be free, fair and credible….’ Ms. Sherman’s lavish praise was particularly unjustified given Ethiopia’s record on press freedom…” The editorial provided specific instances of flagrant violations of human rights and evidence of unfair electoral tactics used by the ruling regime in Ethiopia.  Continue reading The Tangled Web Wendy Sherman Weaves

Wendy Sherman’s Response to The Washington Post Editorial

Speak in haste, repent at leisure. Wendy Sherman is not that she is ignorant; it is just that she knows so much that isn’t so about Ethiopian politics.

By Wendy Sherman,

ETHIOPIA is a valuable partner in a critical region, from peacekeeping to fighting al-Shabab to pursuing peace in South Sudan. Ethiopia, among the world’s fastest-growing economies, has made significant progress toward its Millennium Development Goals.

But stability, security and economic development are sustainable only with the development of democratic values. Ethiopia has a long road to full democracy, as I publicly said there. Continue reading Wendy Sherman’s Response to The Washington Post Editorial

Obama Nominates Gayle Smith as USAID Chief

From National Security Council to USAID. Is Gayle Smith the wrong kind of democrat? In any case, it is a not-so-good news for pro-democracy activists in Ethiopia as Obama doubles down on Wendy Sherman’s “democratic Ethiopia” comment.

By Mohamed Keita,

PRESIDENT Obama’s decision to tap top White House aide Gayle Smith to take over the US Agency for International Development (USAID) has drawn plaudits, but also serious concerns from some long-time Africa watchers about the role of American assistance in abetting repression on the continent.

The New York Times described Smith as “a longtime development and Africa specialist in the Clinton and Obama administrations.” Rock star Bono called her “a force of nature” with a lifelong service to helping the poor. If confirmed by the Senate, Smith will oversee the disbursement of millions of dollars of American assistance around the world. Her experience working as an aid worker and journalist in northern Ethiopia during the famine and war that devastated the region in the 1980s will serve her in this role.

However, many American assistance programs in Africa operate in countries devoid of the rule of law and viable institutions of accountability. This is a reflection of a long-standing Washington establishment mantra of sacrificing democracy for autocratic stability. Critics of Smith accuse her of complacency with this mantra by disregarding democracy in the development agenda and for being a major architect of policies that abetted repression.

Outspoken critics

The most outspoken critic of Smith has been Howard French, a veteran journalist and author, who reported from Africa for several years. In a series of tweets, French called Smith “a disasterbacle in Africa policy,” adding that “she’s often fought for wrong things, esp [sic] authoritarianism.” He also castigated Smith as representative of a Washington establishment that he accuses of “near complete intellectual bankruptcy” on Africa since the days of Bill Clinton. In a 2004, televised public debate with French, Smith denied coddling dictators and said the US government lacked adequate leverage to push for democracy in Africa.

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ALSO READ : Obama’s Quiet Consigliere: Gayle who?
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Economist William Easterly said Smith’s nomination reflects the prevalent idea in Washington “that what’s good for development is good for national security, and what’s good for national security is good for development.” According to him, “giving development aid to an autocrat because he is a valuable ally on the war on terror is NOT [sic] good for development, it is the opposite of development.” Easterly also said he finds Smith’s “longstanding and excessively friendly relationship” with Ethiopia’s late US-backed autocrat, Meles Zenawi, problematic.

Echoing such concerns, Ghanaian economist George Ayittei said that her appointment would “rankle democracy activists in Ethiopia and Eritrea,” citing her close relationship with the leaders of these countries since their rebel days. “Upon assuming power, [they] turned out to be crocodile liberators and crackpot democrats – even though, former Pres. Bill Clinton praised them as the ‘new leaders of Africa.’

Controversial Aid Dollars

Coincidentally, the announcement of Smith’s nomination came on the same day the Washington Post editorial board called on the Obama administration to “stop funneling millions of aid dollars to a regime that has continued to choke off the media, hamper the participation of opposition parties and silence its critics.”

The controversy around Smith lays bare age-old tensions between America’s principles and realpolitik interests.The American government has forcefully withheld assistance from autocratic regimes it is hostile to (i.e. Zimbabwe and Sudan), but less willing to confront US-friendly authoritarians, for example in Rwanda, Uganda, The Gambia, DRC, or Equatorial Guinea. The idea of recalibrating US approach in favor of more forceful and principled support for democracy in countries such as those faces many obstacles, from political will to the pressure to compete with China’s influence in the region, to the potential chilling effect of an embarrassing scandal over USAID’s ill-fated scheme to stir up an uprising in Cuba.

One thing is clear: Smith’s nomination has offered an opportunity for reexamination of the administration’s relationship with friendly autocratic regimes in Africa since Obama declared in 2009 that “Africa does not need strong men, it needs strong institutions.

Washington Post Denounces Wendy Sherman’s Irresponsible Praise of Ethiopia’s Regime

If Wendy Sherman were allowed to call a regime that has continued to choke off the media, hamper the participation of opposition parties and silence its critics as a “Democracy”, then what is “Democracy”?

By Washington Post (Editorial),

ETHIOPIA’S election scheduled for May 24, are shaping up to be anything but democratic. A country that has often been held up as a poster child for development has been stifling civic freedoms and systematically cracking down on independent journalism for several years.

It was consequently startling to hear the State Department’s undersecretary of state for political affairs, Wendy Sherman, declare during a visit to Addis Ababa on April 16 that “Ethiopia is a democracy that is moving forward in an election that we expect to be free, fair and credible.” The ensuing backlash from Ethiopians and human rights advocates was deserved. Continue reading Washington Post Denounces Wendy Sherman’s Irresponsible Praise of Ethiopia’s Regime

U.S. Urges Ethiopia to Stop Using Anti-Terrorism Laws to Curb Freedom of Expression

It’s only a week when a certain Wendy Sherman, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, recklessly praised Ethiopia as “Democracy”. Although such remarks on present day Ethiopia are woefully ignorant and counter-productive, the Obama administration should either put the money where the mouth is or else shut up!

By Marie Harf (Acting Spokesperson),

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, D.C.
April 24, 2015

APRIL 25 marks one year since Ethiopia arrested six Zone 9 bloggers and three other journalists. These nine individuals—Befekadu Hailu, Zelalem Kibret, Atnaf Berhane, Natnael Feleke, Mahlet Fantahun, Abel Wabella, Asmamaw Hailegiorgis, Edom Kassaye, and Tesfalem Waldeyes—joined 10 other journalists already imprisoned in Ethiopia, bringing the total number of jailed journalists in Ethiopia to 19, including two Eritrean nationalsContinue reading U.S. Urges Ethiopia to Stop Using Anti-Terrorism Laws to Curb Freedom of Expression