The end of an assignment is always bittersweet, and that is particularly true today. As I reflect on the last three years, I’m very proud of how much progress we’ve made, but also very much aware of how far we have to go. We have focused on three pillars in the U.S.-Ethiopia relationship – development and economic growth; human rights and governance; and regional peace and security. All are necessary if Ethiopians are to have the future they aspire to. All are independent, but interconnected, and there will not be success in one domain without success in all.
Ethiopia is an important partner for the United States. President Obama’s visit last year represented the high point of my time as Ambassador to Ethiopia. The visit underscored our commitment to supporting the aspirations of the Ethiopian people to achieve their full potential, which is tremendous, and an opportunity to advance all three pillars in our bilateral relationship.
Each and every one of you plays a role in accomplishing our Mission goals and I hope that you’re as proud as I am of what we’ve accomplished together in the last three years in the areas of education, health, agriculture and the arts. You are carrying out an incredible array of programs to support the people of Ethiopia and Ethiopia’s development goals. Through our NGO and international implementing partners, we are enhancing the quality and availability of access to education and health care, improving agricultural output and access to nutrition.
Our activities are helping to improve the business environment, encourage entrepreneurship, and enhance economic ties that benefit both our countries. We are supporting Ethiopia’s capacity to contribute to UN peacekeeping in South Sudan and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).
I want to share a few highlights that I will always cherish: Ethiopian children now have new primary school textbooks in many languages, including Amharic, Afan Oromo, Somali, Tigrinya and many others. In health, more people living with HIV are in treatment than are becoming infected, and the possibility of licking polio, malaria, trachoma and other neglected tropical diseases is now within reach. Your efforts advancing Maternal and Child Health were critical to Ethiopia’s achievement in reaching MDG goals. I vividly recall our specific efforts to assist those working to prevent fistula, including my visit to the Hamelin fistula hospital here in Addis Ababa. In agriculture – an area that is very important to me as a former FAS officer — we have shared better seeds and fertilizer with Ethiopian farmers, and supported resilience through Feed the Future programs that I have now seen in the field. On the cultural side, we have sponsored exchanges between women artists, helped restore churches in Lalibela and contributed to the preservation of Islamic manuscripts in Harar. We’ve also made it a priority to expand opportunities for women, youth and disabled Ethiopians, who are an indispensable part of achieving the bright future we envision for this country. My trip to visit the KMG project in Kembatta with my friend Boge Gebre, who champions the rights of women as well as outcast communities, was another highlight. Our banners about these initiatives on the walls of the Embassy brightened my day, and called attention to our 16 days of activism against Gender Based Violence.
But our overarching achievement in this, my final year, has been the collective effort to prevent famine over the course of the worst drought in fifty years in Ethiopia. Many of you will recall that my own history with Ethiopia goes back to the drought in the early 1980’s, and international efforts to respond to the devastating famine under the Dergue regime. With that terrible history in mind, Ethiopia’s impressive ability to weather this year’s drought is a clear indicator of how much has changed in the last 30 years. Much of that progress, and much of the success the Ethiopian government has had so far in preventing a humanitarian disaster, is thanks in part to the work of the Ethiopians and Americans in this Embassy. To put that in numbers, USAID has mobilized nearly 675,000 metric tons of food for more than 4 million people in Ethiopia since October 2015—enough to fill approximately 350 Olympic-sized swimming pools. But those numbers alone don’t convey the passion and collective energy that I’ve seen the entire Embassy display at our weekly Emergency Task Force meetings and in the trips I’ve made with you to all nine regions of Ethiopia, particularly in areas hardest hit by the al-Nino drought.
While I leave here feeling proud of the work we’ve done. I am also worried by recent developments, which have the potential to threaten the progress that the people and government of Ethiopia have made. I know there is a great deal of fear and frustration in Ethiopia, including among our diverse and talented staff. I can tell you that we continue to engage with the government of Ethiopia, urging its officials at all levels to uphold Ethiopia’s constitutional guarantees of democratic government and respect for human rights and the rule of law. As President Obama said last year: “Making sure to open additional space for journalists, for media, for opposition voices, will strengthen rather than inhibit the agenda that the Prime Minister and the ruling party has put forward.”
Even in the United States, the world’s oldest democracy, we continue to strive for improvement, by acknowledging our challenges and working to overcome them. Freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, transparency, and accountability are essential elements of good governance and democracy.
As U.S. Assistant Secretary for Human Rights, Tom Malinowski said in his recent article in allafrica.com (and on our Embassy Facebook page), “Because of the friendship and common interests our two nations share, the U.S. has a stake in Ethiopia’s prosperity, stability and success. When Ethiopia does well, it is able to inspire and help others. On the other hand, a protracted crisis in Ethiopia would undermine the goals that both nations are trying to achieve together.” I want you to know that our message is clear: anyone who wants Ethiopia to develop and to succeed must understand that Ethiopia will be strongest when all voices are heard and government is accountable to all. Unlawful detention and abuse must end.
As I depart I know that all of you will continue working to make our shared vision of a peaceful and prosperous Ethiopia become reality in the coming Ethiopian New Year.
Thank you all for your dedicated service and support to the United States and Ethiopia. I really believe what former Management Counselor Eric Lindberg used as a mantra, that “Management Moves Diplomacy,” and want to express my appreciation for the work and friendship of the many residence and facilities staff, gardeners, drivers, guards, and expeditors who have made my life and work at the Embassy such a pleasure. And I want you to know that the Embassy will do everything within its power to protect the rights of its local employees.
I leave you with my best wishes for your individual success and the successful achievement of the brightest possible future for Ethiopia.