Remarks by Ambassador Michael Raynor
Human Rights and Democracy Dialogue: Ethiopia and the United States
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ethiopia
July 19, 2018
(As prepared for delivery)
Good morning to everyone here today – whether from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Department of State in Washington, or the U.S. Embassy here in Addis Ababa.
Thank you all for prioritizing this important dialogue, which comes at a time of great promise for Ethiopia and for the U.S.-Ethiopia partnership.
Thank you in particular to Your Excellency State Minister Professor Afework Kassu and your Ministry colleagues, both for generously hosting this dialogue and for your collaboration and hard work in preparing for it.
Thank you as well to our four colleagues joining us from Washington, led by Deputy Assistant Secretary Scott Busby of the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.
The presence of our colleagues from Washington in such numbers and at such senior levels reflects the importance of this dialogue to the United States government.
To state the obvious, this dialogue comes at an extraordinary and historic moment in Ethiopia, when we see one of the United States’ most important partners charting a course toward long-term stability, prosperity, and political inclusivity.
To put it bluntly, it’s in the United States’ interest to see Ethiopia succeed.
Whether we’re looking at economic opportunity or building lasting peace in the wider region, Ethiopia is an essential partner for the United States, and we want our partners to be strong and successful.
And the reason we have had this particular dialogue – only one of three such dialogues we have in Africa – is because of our conviction that democratic values and respect for individual rights are not only valuable in their own right, but critical to the success of all our shared goals.
Recent events have put Ethiopia on a fast and comprehensive path of reform and progress, notably including steps to address political, governance, and human rights challenges.
Even today, we may find ourselves talking about human rights and democracy in Ethiopia in different ways than we have done in the past.
We see former Prime Minister Hailemariam’s resignation as a deeply consequential step in its own right, setting an example not just for Ethiopia, but for the world, of a leader who did not hold onto power for the sake of power, but who courageously gave up power and did what he felt was necessary to advance reforms on behalf of his people.
We view the selection of Prime Minister Abiy as an important gesture by the EPRDF in acknowledging the aspirations of the Ethiopian people for a more inclusive and responsive political system.
And Dr. Abiy has certainly not disappointed.
In his first 100 days in office, the Prime Minister has made extraordinarily strong, clear, and forthright statements, and has led the Government of Ethiopia to take some important steps, toward promoting human rights and creating an inclusive political environment.
My U.S. colleagues and I come to this dialogue impressed and inspired by these developments, and more confident than ever that there is significant room for partnership and mutual support between our two countries in these areas.
The steps we have seen so far are impressive and commendable, but Dr. Abiy has made clear that they are the first of many steps to come.
Implementation of these steps will, of course, be key.
This process can only succeed if it comes from within Ethiopia, led by Ethiopians for Ethiopians.
But there will be challenges, and we can all benefit from the support and helping hands of our friends.
I want to extend to you the firm and sincere commitment of the United States government to support your work in making the ambitious goals we have heard over the last several months a reality.
We are ready and eager to learn more about the Government of Ethiopia’s priorities and plans in these areas, and to identify concrete actions that the United States can take to support Ethiopia’s aspirations for a more inclusive and more democratic future.
Progress in these areas will not only be good for the people of Ethiopia, and will not only be good for the long-term stability, prosperity, and governance of the country, but will also create new opportunities to deepen and strengthen the U.S.-Ethiopia partnership across the board.
Thank you again for this important opportunity, and with that I’ll hand the floor back to our Ethiopian counterparts to lead the first session on “Results since the December 2016 dialogue.”