Obama Arrives in Ethiopia, a Favored Ally In Spite of Human Rights Abuses

Ethiopia’s powerful military has been a vital bulwark against the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabaab

A massive car bomb ripped through the façade of a major international hotel in Mogadishu on Sunday, killing 13 in a tragic reminder of why, exactly, President Barack Obama is visiting Somalia’s autocratic neighbor Ethiopia — this despite having said, upon his first presidential visit to the continent in 2009, that “Africa doesn’t need strongmen, it needs strong institutions.”

Ethiopia’s powerful military has been a vital bulwark against the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabaab insurgent group in Somalia, which was responsible for Sunday’s bombing in Mogadishu. But the American need for security support in an unstable East Africa comes at a cost. Despite a history of jailing journalists and holding elections widely derided as a sham — the most recent parliamentary election, in May, resulted in 100% of the seats going to the governing party — Ethiopia can now claim the de facto stamp of approval that comes with an American Presidential visit.

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