Obama Arrives in Ethiopia, a Favored Ally In Spite of Human Rights Abuses

Obama Arrives in Ethiopia, a Favored Ally In Spite of Human Rights Abuses
U.S. President Barack Obama (top 2nd L), flanked by Ethiopia's Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn (top L) and African Union Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma (top 2nd R), arrives to deliver remarks at the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia July 28, 2015. Obama toured a U.S.-supported food factory in Ethiopia on Tuesday on the last leg of an Africa trip, before winding up his visit at the African Union where he will become the first U.S. president to address the 54-nation body. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Ethiopia’s powerful military has been a vital bulwark against the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabaab

A massive car bomb ripped through the façade of a major international hotel in Mogadishu on Sunday, killing 13 in a tragic reminder of why, exactly, President Barack Obama is visiting Somalia’s autocratic neighbor Ethiopia — this despite having said, upon his first presidential visit to the continent in 2009, that “Africa doesn’t need strongmen, it needs strong institutions.”

Ethiopia’s powerful military has been a vital bulwark against the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabaab insurgent group in Somalia, which was responsible for Sunday’s bombing in Mogadishu. But the American need for security support in an unstable East Africa comes at a cost. Despite a history of jailing journalists and holding elections widely derided as a sham — the most recent parliamentary election, in May, resulted in 100% of the seats going to the governing party — Ethiopia can now claim the de facto stamp of approval that comes with an American Presidential visit.

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