Obama Starts Talks in Ethiopia


U.S. President Barack Obama is in Ethiopia Monday for bilateral talks with Ethiopian leaders and to convene a meeting of East African heads of state to discuss the South Sudan conflict.Portraits of U.S. President Barack Obama (L) and Ethiopia's Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn (R) decorate the airport terminal as Obama arrives aboard Air Force One at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, July 26, 2015.Obama arrived in Ethiopia Sunday for two days of talks focused on terrorism, human rights and the civil war in South Sudan.

The president was welcomed Sunday at the Addis Ababa airport by Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and then taken to the U.S. embassy for a meeting with embassy staff.

On Monday, he was welcomed at the National Palace in Addis Ababa ahead of his talks with Desalegn and President Mulatu Teshome.

Before Ethiopia, Obama spent two days in his father’s homeland of Kenya, where he was hailed as a native son.

In a speech before his departure Sunday, the president said Kenya is at a crossroads “filled with peril, but also with enormous promise.”

This is the first time a sitting U.S. president has visited Ethiopia, which has been a key U.S. ally in the fight against the Al-Qaida-linked militant group Al-Shabab.

Senior administration officials say the leaders will discuss what to do next if South Sudan’s president and opposition leader do not sign an African proposal for winding down the war.  Possible steps are said to include an arms embargo and international sanctions on key individuals.

The White House has said Obama will raise the issue of Ethiopia’s human rights record.  Rights group have strongly criticized the government for imprisoning journalists and political opponents and turning Ethiopia into a one-party state.  The ruling EPRDF swept this year’s elections and controls 100 percent of the seats in parliament.

On Tuesday, Obama makes a visit to the African Union headquarters in Addis before beginning his flight home to Washington.

In Nairobi, the president praised Kenya’s achievements winning independence in 1963, among them ending one-party rule and overcoming the deadly tribal and ethnic violence that broke out in 2007 and plagued the country for several months. “The people of Kenya chose not to be defined by the hatreds of the past,” Obama said. “You chose a better history.”


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