By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
August 25, 2012 (ADDIS ABABA) – US president, Barack Obama, has spoken with Ethiopia’s acting prime minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, who has become nation’s new leader following the death of his predecessor on 21 August. According to a statement by the US embassy in Addis Ababa, Obama has urged the new Ethiopian leader to promote regional security, democracy and human rights.
During their phone conversation on Thursday, Obama pledged the US’s continued commitment to partnership with Ethiopia, mainly on security areas. “We encourage the Government of Ethiopia to enhance its support for development, democracy, regional stability and security, human rights, and prosperity for its people”.
Obama lauded Zenawi’s “life long” contributions to bringing development to Ethiopia and also admired his role for peace and security in Africa, mainly in Somalia and his responses to the crisis in Darfur, where Ethiopia deployed thousands of peace keeping forces.
Obama also mentioned the late Ethiopian premier’s contributions to the African Union, and his voice for Africa on the world stage. Zenawi was the US’s key security partner in the horn Africa region, mainly in the war on terror and particularly in the fight against Al-Qaida linked al-Shabab radical group in war-torn Somalia.
After more than two months of illness, Zenawi died last Monday, leaving behind a mixed legacy. Under his rule millions of Ethiopians were lifted out of poverty and the nation has seen double-digit economic growth for nearly a decade.
However, he has been criticised of doing little to enhance democracy and human rights while leading the country for 21 years, after toppling the former dictatorial Derg Regime. Following Zenaw’s death, there are fears that nation may face a power vacuum and instability.
Speaking to Sudan Tribune, many Ethiopian’s asked whether the achieved developments and consecutive economic growth would be sustained after Zenawi. Others also raised questions about the political landscape and the nation’s relationship with other countries.
The unresolved Ethiopia-Eritrea border dispute is another major concern for Ethiopians. The two countries fought a 1998-2000 war which killed 70,000 people. Communication Minister, Bereket Simon, downplayed the concerns saying the current leadership is united and will remain as strong as ever despite Zenawi’s absence. Read more here on Sudan tribune.