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US influence not uniquely critical to Ethiopia – Shinn

By Ambassador David Shinn

I participated in a panel hosted by the Oromo Studies Association at Howard University in Washington on April 4 and gave a subsequent interview to the Oromo language service of the Voice of America. The theme of the conference was “U.S. Policy in the Horn of Africa: Opportunities and Prospects for Change under the Obama Administration.” Other members of the panel were Terrence Lyons, associate professor at George Mason University, and Ezekiel Gebissa, associate professor at Kettering University.

I emphasized during the panel and in the VOA interview that it is important to treat the Horn of Africa as a region as conflicts in any one country inevitably have important implications for one or more neighboring countries. It is also essential that the United States work cooperatively with traditional allies and some of the new non-African countries that have growing influence in the region. I urged the mostly Ethiopian-American audience of Oromo heritage not to accept the commonly-held view that the United States wields enormous control over the Ethiopian government through its assistance program, which consists mostly of funding to combat HIV/AIDS and humanitarian assistance. U.S. influence is important but not uniquely critical to the Ethiopian government.

Although the 2005 national elections in Ethiopia ended badly and the 2008 local elections were a missed opportunity to restart a competitive electoral process, I noted that the Eritrean-based Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) also missed an opportunity when it boycotted the 2005 elections. It is difficult to be optimistic about competitive national elections in 2010, but if discussions between the Ethiopian government and the OLF suggest the possibility of good elections on a relatively-level playing field, the OLF should engage politically. Its long-standing armed struggle against the government has not been successful and shows no sign that it will be successful.

As for the Obama Administration and the concerns of the Oromo in Ethiopia, I doubted that the new administration will focus on any particular ethnic group in Ethiopia. Although the Oromo constitute by far the largest group in the country, there are some 85 ethnic groups in Ethiopia. It is not realistic to expect the American government to single out the grievances of any particular group. On the other hand, I believe the Obama administration will give greater attention generally to the process of democratization and human rights issues in Ethiopia. This should work to the advantage of the Oromo.

12 thoughts on “US influence not uniquely critical to Ethiopia – Shinn

  1. Shinn is telling the OLF to surrender to Woyanne without batting an eye. This guy is unbelievable, and he doesn’t even say a word about what happened in 2005 to those were naive enough to participate in a rigged election run by Woyanne, endorsed and paid for by its western sponsors.

    Every non-Woyanne Ethiopian should write this snake of person letters and emails and tell him to either be honest and fair (which is asking too much) or keep his mouth shut. People like him used to mock the Eritrean people as out of their minds when we were fighting for our independence, you can’t expect much from people like Shinn who pretty much run US foreign policy from their ivory towers and think tanks. To them the people of third world are play things they can manipulate to fit their neo-colonial policies.

  2. David is right. OLF’s army has not done anything for more than 5 years while ONLF has been killing woyanes. even during the struggle against Mengistu, OLF didn’t realy achieve much militarily.

  3. Shin did not say anything of importance on the above posted piece; and no one should expect him either. For him to say anything different than the status quo and usually boring statements, would amount to admitting that he was one of the guilty parties.

  4. Ambassador Shinn comments

    It is to be remembered that Mr. Shinn acted as a governor in Ethiopia when he was ambassador. He tried his best to promote the ethnic division of the country, and perhaps he was one of the people who brought up the idea in the first place.

    As closely involved as he was in the said program, he cannot objectively talk about the its failure and the disaster it is bringing to the Ethiopian people.

    Mr. Shinn is not a prominent figure in the halls of Washington, although he desperatly tries to cling to what remains of his importance. He is a person withought a cause now, and the only hope he has is ti pontificate he is an expert on Ethiopia. His tenacity is to be admired.

    What is amazing is his repeated assertion that all opposition parties should have and could have participted in the varius elections. His position on this point speaks volumes in that he wants them to be instruments to justify Meles Zenawi Government. The guy has no moral compass to judge a political situation, but an individual interest to go and visit Ethiopia and talk to Meles and his associates.

    The Obama Admonistration is not a warrior on International terrorism as Bush’s was, and this deprives Meles to endear himslf to Obama. Secondly, America has has many chances to know Meles and conclude that he is street smart. I thin many people have to come to view Meles for what he is: a cheat and a liar. Mr. Shinn knows this but does not want to say it because he values his periodic visit to Ethiopia to peresent a posture that he is an expert on Ethiopia. Poor guy, he has to make a living!

  5. What does surrender mean in your interpretation? Who surrenders to whom? What is there to surrender? Have the Southern Sudanese surrendered or negotiated with the Sudanese government to resolve issues? I can give you many examples. Who are you to deny the OLF room to exercise its own right to decide on what to do?

    Sorry ER, it may not be to your taste.

  6. Shinn either does not have a full grasp of the Ethiopian situation and American influence or intentionally trying to misrepresent facts and mislead us at least in two counts. First, although there are other players that should be reckoned with and may be engaged constructively, USA has a major and even may be decisive influence on the Ethiopia situation. Secondly, although the gathering was among “Ye Oromo lijochi” Shinn’s insistence on only OLF to engage in negation with Woyane is squarely an attempt to divide the Ethiopian opposition forces. To the dismay of Shinn though opposition forces know the nature of Woyane and will not fall in Shinn’s trap.

  7. Shin is right that the US right now does not have the
    money or the influence to bend Woyane.
    The Obama administration is very busy with game changing
    situation like nuk in Iran and most importantly the
    the rapidly declining US economy.
    Obama himself is I think very naive.He should have avoided posing with Meles in the G20 summit which Woyane is using for propoganda.
    It is the end of democracy in Ethiopia.We are all chinese now.

  8. 1. David Shinn and others are afraid of being banned by the Woyyane. His whole career (expertise) depends on having access to Ethiopia — the Woyyane know that and hold it over the head of people like Shinn. He is hoping to score brownie points with Meles by coaxing OLF to surrender.

    2. Shinn knows a lot more about US influence over Woyyane than he is saying. So he is being disingenuous. The things he will not mention include: the secret US-Woyyane alliance in the war on terror and the deals that were made to allow Woyyane to destroy the opposition.

    Shinn also will not mention the $100 million per month Woyyane got paid for invading Somalia. Nor will he mention the US intelligence operation headquartered in the Sheraton in Addis making themselves busy and important as they conspire behind the backs of the Ethiopian people to keep a murderous regime in power.

    My advice to fellow Ethiopians: don’t pay attention to the self-serving analysis of Fernjis who handed our country to a minority group and led our people down the current path of destruction. Let’s think for ourselves, stop bickering, act in unity and follow our own instincts.

  9. Iam Oromo and I used to support OLF for a long time hopping that the TPLF will be sent back to Dedebit. Sadly that does not appear to realistic not because OLF’s objective was wrong but for failure of leadership. The so called OLF leaders are narrow minded regionalist who subdivided Oromo into provinces and districs. Thanks to the regionalsit Wellega Oromo cannot talk to anothe Oromo who happened to be born afew 100 km away from the othe let alone struggling together. This poison does not appear to go away in the near.Good news for Woyane

  10. OLF will not be successful for the simple reaon the its leaders are regionalist, narrow minded who think as citizen of the province where there were born; not as pan Oromo nationalist. Most of them would prefer the tolal collapse of the Oromo movement rather than Wollegas losing one or tow ”seat” for some one who was born 200 km from border of Wollega. I did not hear this from outsiders. I am talking what I know for fact. I would appreciate if the admin refrain from removing my comments.

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