The State Department’s new voice for African affairs, Johnnie Carson, acknowledged during an exclusive interview with Amharic service reporter Tizita Belachew, the close working relationship the U.S. government enjoys with the administration of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.
Carson said the United States supports the current Ethiopian government because they overthrew the worst dictator in Africa, Mengistu Haile Mariam, and enacted political reforms allowing opposition parties and civil liberties. However, he said democratization is slowing down recently in Ethiopia.
“We will want to talk to the Ethiopian government about opening political space, strengthening institutions, having greater involvement of civil society and more respect for the rights of individual in the economic and political sphere.”
Asked how to resolve the border tension with Eritrea, he said, “Implementing the Algiers’s Accord will dissolve the tension between Addis Ababa and Asmara.”
In a 45-minute interview covering issues in several African countries, Carson said “leaders’ in countries in the Horn of Africa, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti and Kenya, should work for peace and development and their citizens’ rights rather than trying to achieve political victory over their neighbors or internal political opposition.”
The assistant secretary of state for Africa also said his government supports the regional effort to bring peace and stability to Somalia. However, he said, “there is a growing body of real and circumstantial evidence that points to continued relationship between some elements in Asmara and individuals associated with al-Shabab in and around Mogadishu.”
Nonetheless, he said United States seeks to have a better relationship with Eritrea. If, in fact, the government of Eritrea is prepared to do things transparently and in a very open and responsible manner, the United States’ door is open for good cordial relations.