Inconsistent Foreign Policy Has Repercussions

Girma Fantaye Girma Fantaye is an Ethiopian journalist who was a Knight fellow at Stanford last year. He lives and works in Uganda.

The role of Nafkot Eskinder is larger than life. Nafkot, the 7-year-old son of Ethiopian journalists who have both spent time in jail for treason, could be the poster child for the effects of the repressive regime, which has been supported by the United States for 20 years. Born in prison, Nafkot regularly visits his father, who is again behind bars, this time accused of inciting terrorism.
The Ethiopian government has closed all independent media outlets. It criminalizes dissent under the guise of law. It has a monopoly on disseminating facts and has exclusive control of political discourse. Ethiopia is morphing into one big prison, where the captives are expected to learn to love the captors.
On Sept. 2, the American diplomat Susan Rice, in her idolizing remarks at the funeral of the former prime minister Meles Zenawi, disregarded Nafkot's parents and millions of other Ethiopians who crave a just and free society. Many Ethiopians thought she was referring to imprisoned journalists when she said in her speech that the prime minister had had “little patience for fools.”
Ambassador Rice’s speech was a symbol of the practice of American foreign policy: profoundly contradictory and morally inconsistent. This inconsistency speaks volumes across Africa. During the cold war, the U.S. shamelessly justified its support for apartheid South Africa and enjoyed a friendship with Mobutu Sese Seko, the brutal dictator of Zaire (now Congo).
I don’t want policy makers in Washington to come up with a panacea for developing African nations. I utterly reject neocolonial relationships. I do not want Americans to shoulder our responsibilities. But America’s inconsistent foreign policies have enabled powerful and seemingly invincible dictators who crave to engineer societies unilaterally. This is now Africa’s burden.
In his 2009 speech in Ghana, President Obama promised to support “strong and sustainable democratic governments.” After that, I innocently anticipated that Obama would end his country’s explicitly contradictory practices in Africa. Continuing to support and legitimize African dictators will eventually sink the integrity of the U.S.
But the burden of this insincerity haunts us all.

posted by Ethiounited Moderator at9:57 PM


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