By Leulseged Worku
Ethiopia and the United States of America have a century old diplomatic relations. Sources indicated that the two countries started their bilateral relations in 1903 when the first US Ambassador arrived in Addis Ababa. Since then, this historical relationship has remained fresh and intact.
The two countries have strong bondage in economic, political, cultural as well as social arenas. Both countries have been committed to working together in combating terrorism and promoting peacekeeping missions as major areas of cooperation. This historical and long standing tie has gone from good to better when President Obama’s visited Ethiopia last year.
In relation to the May 28th silver jubilee celebration, The Ethiopian Herald has held exclusive interview with US Ambassador to Ethiopia, Patricia M. Haslach to have her say on Ethiopia’s economic development and democratization endeavours as well as the bilateral ties between the two countries.
Concerning the issue of climate change, the ambassador appreciated the active role the country has been playing to minimize the effects of climate change.
Ethiopia is a country that really understood the impacts of climate change, she said adding, in this regard, the US government is supporting Ethiopia that for instance between 2010-2015, it has provided some 147 million USD directly to the government of Ethiopia for various programmes. In addition, the US government has pledged three billion USD to the Green Climate Fund.
She also applauded the change that has been registered in Ethiopia in empowering women to ensure their active participation in social, economic and political arenas. According to Haslach, without active participation of women, no change can be realized. “If women are given equal opportunities, there is nothing they can not accomplish.
Ethiopia has done a pretty good job in the area of women empowerment. Women have now the right to join university and they are encouraged to run for political office,” she said adding, “the US is also providing support to realize women political empowerment in the country. There is a programme that specifically focuses on empowering women parliamentarians to enable them participate actively in the drafting of legislation.”
Concerning the economic cooperation between the two countries, Ambassador Patrica said that the US government is interested to work with Ethiopia in the manufacturing and other economic sectors.
“Ethiopia is one of our partners. Its agricultural sector has a lot of potential. The presence of Ethiopian Airlines that flies all over the continent and the fact that it will start a direct flight to New York on July 3rd is another opportunity for strengthening the economic cooperation between the two countries,” she said adding, “the US government is interested in getting American companies to invest in Ethiopia in sectors such as textile, pharmaceutical, agro-processing, healthcare are among others.”
Ambassador Patricia M. Haslach also said that using the AGOA (African Growth Opportunity Act) Ethiopia and other African countries can benefit from the fertile economic opportunity in America.
As per GTP II, the US is also actively engaging to support the capacity of health and education services in the country. According to her, a considerable amount of fund is provided by the US to build pharmaceutical facilities, clinics as well as maternal and child health centres. What is more is that a process has been initiated to build National Blood Centre here in Addis Ababa.
Concerning the democratization process in Ethiopia, the Ambassador noted that like every state, Ethiopia has its own challenges. However, as long as Ethiopia stays on the path of democracy, it will continue to prosper and grow.
As part of strengthening democratization, culture venues have been organized to discuss issues of democracy, human right, role of opposition parties and good governance with stakeholders, as to her. Last year’s discussion between President Obama and Prime Minster Hailemariam also included this issues.
Concerning the role of opposition parties she said: “We encourage the government to engage in productive dialogue with the opposition. And we are hoping to see more space provided to the opposition parties in the political sphere.”
Regarding peace, security and terrorism, Ambassador Haslach said Ethiopia had a long history of accomplishing peacekeeping missions. It has also a good experience in fighting terrorism. “This has been witnessed in several instances where Ethiopia sent its peacekeeping forces in the continent. Currently, Ethiopia is contributing a great share of peacekeeping forces in the continent including in Sudan, South Sudan and Somalia,” she said.
The ambassador has also appreciated Ethiopia’s willingness to provide sanctuary for 730,000 refugees. “Though it is difficult, Ethiopia is always happy to open its doors for neighbours in times of need.”