Ethiopia rejects U.S. claims as Ambassador assumes office

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After months of strong statements between Addis Ababa and Washington, over Ethiopia’s decision to jam Voice of America’s Amharic service, a new U.S Ambassador officially has assumed office in Addis Ababa.

Both Ethiopia and the U.S. had left their diplomatic posts in Addis Ababa and Washington vacant for several months. The Ethiopian Government is expected to fill the position with a new ambassador in Washington.

According to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s latest remarks, the appointment will come after a new government is installed late September.

The new U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia, Donald Booth, presented his credentials to the Ethiopian President last Monday.

“Ambassador Booth, who was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on March 10, arrived in Ethiopia on April 21,” the American embassy in Addis Ababa said in a statement.

A statement by Booth at the U.S. Senate as well as a recent State Department annual human rights report that criticised the Ethiopian government for human rights violations had recently irked Ethiopian officials. The report also accused Ethiopian officials of “unlawful killings, torture, beating, abuse and mistreatment of detainees and opposition supporters by security forces, often acting with evident impunity…”

“Limitations on political expression and economic activities, as well as shortcomings in respect for basic human rights, run counter to American principles and risk becoming the seeds of future instability,” Booth said in his confirmation speech at the senate.

No risk

The Ethiopian Government has rejected the claim, stating that Ethiopia faces no risk of instability. “The ongoing effort to stage democratic and credible election will stay on course and there is no instability risk,” Bereket Simon, Ethiopian Government Communication Affairs Office Minister said after the new ambassador’s remarks.

Other remarks made by U.S. Senators at the senate hearing also received strong criticisms from the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The arrival of Ambassador Booth coincides with Ethiopia’s national elections that are due in two weeks’ time, the first ones since the disputed 2005 poll.

Ambassador Booth is expected to set the tone for Ethiopian-American ties under the Obama Administration. Pundits say it is yet to be clear which direction Washington wants to go in its ties with Ethiopia, which they say was a key ally for the former president Gorge Bush’s War on Terror.

Booth replaced Donald Yamamoto who served as the U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia from November 2006 to July 2009. Yamamoto is currently a Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary.

Prior to the Addis Ababa tenure, Booth was recently US Ambassador to Zambia. He also served as Ambassador to the West African Republic of Liberia from 2005-2008.

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