Ethiopia: Senate should not confirm Gayle Smith

by Zelalem

By Alemayehu G. Mariam 

Published in The Hill Newspaper

President Obama visited Ghana in 2009 and told Parliament, “History is on the side of brave Africans.” He warned Africa’s strongmen, “History is not with those who use coups or change Constitutions to stay in power.” He declared to the world, “Africa doesn’t need strongmen, it needs strong institutions.”

Obama has tapped Gayle Smith to run the U.S. Agency for International Development. African strongmen will be very pleased by the news; but she is the wrong choice for the job. 

Smith’s history in Africa shows that she has been on the wrong side of history, on the side of Africa’s strongmen. She supported the late Ethiopian strongman Meles Zenawi for decades. Zenawi left a legacy of repression and persecution. Ethiopia today is ranked “the 4th most censored country in the world.”

Just a few days ago, Smith, along with Susan Rice, met Ugandan strongman Yoweri Museveni at the Waldorf Astoria. Museveni has been in power since 1986. Last year, Human Rights Watch reported, “Museveni’s government increasingly suppresses freedom of assembly, expression, and association while escalating threats to civil society.”

Smith’s outlook on Africa and its relationship to America is disturbing. Smith believes “aid promotes development.” Smith promotes a welfare foreign policy of aid handouts and alms-giving to Africa generously supported by American taxpayers. In 2014, USAID spent over $5 billion in Africa on various health and development programs. 

No African country has developed hooked to the life-support system of U.S. aid. Dambissa Moyo has convincingly argued that the “insidious aid culture has left African countries more debt-laden, more inflation-prone, more vulnerable to the vagaries of the currency markets and more unattractive to higher-quality investment.

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