Jacob Lew, Deputy Secretary of State of United States, last week made his first official trip to Ethiopia to strengthen the Obama administration’s ties with the Eastern African power. His visit which coincided with US concerns over the exacerbation of instability in the horn of Africa has, however, been linked to the expansion of development assistance to the government of Ethiopia.
The United States’ relationship with Ethiopia is based on a number of shared concerns, and these strategic relationships will remain the same in the new Obama administration, said Mr. Lew. Last week, the Deputy Secretary arrived in Addis Ababa where he held a press conference followed by a discussion with Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.
Ethiopian troops have recently been redeployed to Somalia to help avert insecurities posed by Islamist insurgents to both the country and its Transitional Government. This measure has been lauded as a proxy intervention by the US administration which is deeply concerned over Somalia’s growing reputation as a shelter for terrorists groups.
Inasmuch as concerns over advancing insurgents have been raised in the international community, their reluctance to support Ethiopia’s effort led to a withdrawal of Ethiopian troops without achieving its target. A move that did little to improve the instability of the country.
Following the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops, rebel Islamist group, Al-Shabab has shown strong a determination to remove President Sharif Sheik Ahmed’s government and force the African Union peacekeeping force out of Mogadishu.
The Islamist group has resorted to the use of suicide attacks ias they target officials affiliated with the government. The group murdered former Somali Ambassador to Ethiopia, Abdulkarim Farah in a recent suicide attack in the town of Beledweyne close to the Ethiopian border.
Al-shabab’s increasing attacks have prompted the US government to rally support for Somalia’s transitional government. Last week the US administration provided the Somali government with weapons worth 10 millions dollars, to help consolidate the country’s security.
“Our relationship is based on a number of shared values, shared concerns,” said Lew at the press conference. According to him, this “strategic relationship (with Ethiopia) remains a very important one, and we value it. I think it is mutually valued by the government of Ethiopia and the government of the United States.”
The Obama administration is also keen to continue the relationship beyond the fight against common international threats. Mr. Lew said the US assistance should also go beyond emergency food supplies and fighting HIV/AIDS.
This partnership should be an incentive to encourage Ethiopia, now reluctant to redeploy its troops in Somalia, to do more towards peace in the horn of Africa.