Editor’s note: Go to 13:33 to listen to the Chairman’s statement.
By the Strathink Editorial Team
An amendment offered by Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Sub-committee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations, to House Resolution 128 has signaled an important shift in U.S. policy towards Ethiopia.
The amendment replaces the preamble to the February draft bill with very different language, focusing on the longstanding partnership between the United States and Ethiopia and Ethiopia’s progress in responding to the domestic challenges of public health, child survival, and food security, as well as the security challenges of an unstable region.
This amendment, introduced by Chairman Smith, sends a strong symbol to the Government of Ethiopia and the Ethiopian people that the United States considers Ethiopia an invaluable partner in a volatile and strategically critical region.
Let’s look at Congressman Smith’s amendment to the proposed resolution.
In the first paragraph, the House Sub-committee, under Chairman Smith, acknowledges the significance of this partnership and recognizes Ethiopia as “a regional leader in promoting economic growth, global health, peace and security.”
In a region of failed states (South Sudan), failing states (Eritrea) and fragile states (Somalia), Ethiopia stands tall as the region’s leader in facilitating an extraordinary economic growth surge. The World Bank says Ethiopia’s economy will be the most expansive in Africa for the year 2017—calling the country an economic giant.
South Sudan has spectacularly squandered its economic potential in a never- ending political struggle between narcissistic fools. Somalia is struggling to reform its economy after decades of war and political turmoil, and now a drought. Eritrea is hobbling towards economic catastrophe.
The narrative of Ethiopia Rising economically is good news for both the embattled region and for Ethiopia’s security partners abroad, including the United States. With a measure of political stability, Ethiopia’s neighbors will benefit from the spillover effect of Ethiopia’s rising economy, underscoring any gains made in the stability of the state.
Ethiopia’s health sector has been singled out as a success story by donor governments and international organizations worldwide. In an editorial written by Zoe Mullan in The Lancet—ranked 2nd globally out of 151 medical journals—she writes, “Ethiopia’s Health Sector Transformation Plan is both deep and broad, embracing leadership, data for decision making, empowerment, accountability, equity, quality, respect, and compassion. It’s hard to find anything not to like. The world will be watching its progress with great interest and expectation.”
It is no accident that Ethiopia’s former health minister, Dr. Tedros Adhanom, was recently elected the first African Director General of the World Health Organization.
The amendment goes further to acknowledge Ethiopia’s regional leadership in promoting peace and stability in one of Africa’s roughest neighborhoods. Congressman Smith fully embraces Ethiopia’s role in the region that has “helped advance the national interests of the United States and regional partners through contributions to international peacekeeping, combating radical Islamic extremism and other forms of terrorism, and regional cooperation through the African Union.”
The resolution calls on the U.S. Department of State and the United States Agency for International Development “to continue to strengthen ties with Ethiopia, including through the provision of appropriate levels and forms of security assistance, in correlation to the Ethiopian Government’s own demonstrated commitment to democracy, rule of law, human rights, economic growth, and peace and security in the region.”
How does this amendment signal a shift in U.S. policy towards Ethiopia?
Congressman Chris Smith has spent years—decades—casting aspirations on Ethiopia’s path towards economic growth and advancing democracy. He held hearing after hearing, along with the late Congressman Donald Payne and political nuisance Ted Dagne, vilifying and disparaging the totality of the Ethiopian Government. Congressman Smith, a neophyte in African politics, was held hostage to the views of the Ethiopian opposition in the diaspora and their longstanding antipathy to a government that refused to be micromanaged from Washington, DC.
This amendment, inserted by Congressman Chris Smith, indicates a sharp turn in the U.S. Congress, led by the President’s party, to recognize and embrace the reality of America’s dependence on the strategic partnership of the Ethiopian Government. Congressman’s Smith’s change of heart is based on political realism—not the fairy tale scenario of an Ethiopian diaspora out of place, out of touch and, increasingly, out of options.