U.S. Embassy spokesperson in Ethiopia Nicholas Barnett Interview

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U.S. Embassy spokesperson in Ethiopia Nicholas Barnett Interview

Unread post by selam sew » 04 Aug 2018 11:52

The U.S. is a strong supporter of the reform efforts led by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and his administration and we look forward to cooperating and to help the reforms succeed.”, U.S. Embassy spokesperson Nicholas Barnett sat with Worku Belachew of The Ethiopian Herald Newspaper to discuss about Prime Minister Abiy reform efforts and the role the U.S. can play. Read the full interview below.

Image Spokesperson of the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa Nicholas Barnett says his country wants the reform efforts in Ethiopia to be a success story. And his government is impressed by the fast-moving reform efforts led by Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed and his administration. The spokesperson also discussed how the U.S. could be able to support the process and why it wants to do this in his moments with our editor Worku Belachew.
The Ethiopian Herald: Thank you for your time.
Nicholas Barnett: Pleasure.
Q: What’s the US stance on the reform effort in Ethiopia?
A: The USA is the strong supporter of the reform efforts led by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and his administration and we look forward to cooperating and to help the reform succeed.
Q: Do you have any role in assisting the reform efforts?
A: The USA is looking at ways to support the reform effort and certainly that needs to happen in cooperation with the Ethiopian government. Just last week the USA held its 8th bilateral dialogue on human rights, democracy and governance with the Ethiopian government and we highlighted a number of areas where we can explore further cooperation. And we publicly announced some of the areas publicly. To support the reform effort the United States can look at helping with judicial reform, strengthening the legal system, supporting the professionalism of law enforcement to protect human rights, creating and enhancing a system of accountability human right abuses, supporting efforts to the electoral system and electoral process reform and widening the space for independent professional media in Ethiopia, strengthening the role of civil society in Ethiopia and few others.
Q: Some say USA has big role in the reform efforts. How do you describe the role?
A: The USA of course supports to reconcile between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Peace between these two countries is good for the entire region and the world as well. And you’ve seen statement of support from the White House as the two countries come together. We’ve long encouraged both countries to come together to resolve the differences peacefully. And it is important to know that this is a process being led by the two countries. We respect that. We stand ready to support the process ….The same is true when it comes to political reform. The United States supports the reform efforts but we’re going to be very clear and this is going to be very important that the reform efforts have to be led by Ethiopians, for Ethiopians. We will support in whatever way it makes sense.
Q: How could it help the promotion of peace in the region?
A: Any region could benefit from resolution of conflict. The idea of people being able to move freely between Ethiopia and Eritrea certainly will have positive impacts for the economy of the two countries. Economies grow and people become more prosperous that opens up other opportunities for greater stability and integration. The Horn of Africa sets one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes and peace here can have implication for the world. Conflict is always dangerous. It also risks to the larger safety and security of the world. And I think this comes back to why the US is interested in Ethiopia’s success and the success of the regions. We understand that we do not live in a vacuum, we may be separated by an ocean, but we share this planet. So whether it comes to promoting economic prosperity, whether it comes to human rights, whether it comes to regional security and stability, we understand that we all benefit when the world is safer and stable.
Q: Do you have any assistance packages to promote Ethio-Eritrean economic integration?
A: It is definitely interesting thought, and it is a little bit ahead of things, keep in mind that this is one of the things we’ve been impressed about Prime Minister [Dr.] Abiy’s administration. They have moved extremely quickly on a number of things. I’ve been here for two years and I would have never thought Eritrean flag flying in the streets of Addis Ababa and people turning out on the streets to celebrate the arrival of the delegation from the neighboring country, and the longer process of actual integration is still to come. And the USA is still interested in learning how we can support.

Q: You’re saying that the reform is led by Ethiopians but some even goes to say it is a US soft-coup in Ethiopia. What’s your comment on this?
A: This is ridiculous. The USA has long advocated for greater respect of individual freedom, greater political inclusivity. We do that because we believe that those values will contribute to Ethiopia’s success. The USA is interested in Ethiopia’s success because we understand that strong partners are good for us. It is really a simple equation. At the same time, we always understand for this change to be credible, lasting and meaningful they have had to come from within again our role here is really sharing our values and experiences and explaining why these values are important but the actual process has to come from Ethiopia, and we will simply support it in any way that we can.
Q: What do you think should the government prioritize to sustain the momentum of the reform efforts?
A: Prime Minister Abiy has led really impressive range of issues to be addressed in the reform effort and that should be applauded. In terms of prioritizing, that is again a tough question, that is again more question for Ethiopia, I think that we’ve seen a lot of conversation and this is just listening than talking. A lot of people have talked about the elections coming in 2020.
And certainly that is an important goal for those elections to be free, fair and competitive, which is what the prime minister said his goal is, to do that a lot of these changes that have already been put on the table have to be addressed. The role of the media, the role of civil society, strengthening the participation of political parties, strengthening public participation, democracy those are the areas to focus on. And I would not pick one over the other. It is a big list and these are important objectives. There should be plenty of discussion on these.
Q: Conflicts are erupting in some parts of the country; do you think that it slows down the reform effort?
A: I’m not going to speculate what the results could be. The US has announced to provide 170 million USD in additional funding to the immediate needs of those displaced, we’ve also been clear that the current situation is not sustainable, people need to go home voluntarily, safely, and engaging their communities on these issues.
We’ve announced the winners of Our Ethiopia competition which was organized by the US embassy. It was a challenge to Ethiopian film makers to tell the story of Ethiopia’s diversity and why it’s important. U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia Michael Raynor and talked about the fact that in a Democracy everyone has the responsibility to contribute to their society responsibly. We need to see people standing up against those who spread ethnic hatred or ethnic division. We need people standing up for their long history and tolerance for their diversity.
Those are the things that make Ethiopia strong. And that is why we are certainly worried about the reports of Ethnic violence. We want also to be clear that this is something that has to be dealt with by Ethiopians for Ethiopia. I don’t believe and I have not seen any evidence that the ideas behind ethnic division and ethnic hatred are in keeping with Ethiopia’s values.
Q: Do you have clear monitoring and evaluation system as to whether the fund will be directed to the intended purpose?
A: Absolutely. It is a question we get a lot. Look at from our perspective. This is our taxpayers’ money. We want to make sure that is used for the purposes. It is intended to help people. It is to provide access to hygiene, food, to keep people healthy, and we work very closely with our implementing partners and the Ethiopian government partners to make sure that it is having the desired impacts. We do have monitoring mechanisms in place nothing is hundred percent perfect. But we are confident that our assistance is effective and meaningful in Ethiopia.
Q: Do you have anything to add?
A: I think those are great questions. Thank you very much for taking your time to talk to me and the USA is interest is Ethiopia’s success.
The Ethiopian Herald: Thanks so much for dedicating your time to this interview.

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