U.S. President Barack Obama is visiting Ethiopia after four days in Kenya to strengthen business ties, and Chinese government-controlled media say his visit is largely due to concern over China’s growing influence in Africa, ABCNews reports.
Human rights groups say Obama’s Ethiopia visit will give legitimacy to a government that they claim stifles opposition and denies basic human rights to citizens in the name of national security, according to the DailyMail.
The Global Times newspaper, published by the ruling Communist Party’s People’s Daily, said Monday that major factors in Obama’s visit were “offsetting China’s growing influence in this continent and recovering past U.S. leverage.”
The U.S., it said, considers China a rival in Africa.
The Chinese government-controlled newspaper characterized China’s interaction with Africa as “steady and fair minded.” By contrast, it said Obama’s inattentiveness to Africa during his first term was proof the U.S. “obviously lacks a consistent Africa policy,” ABCNews reports.
The official Xinhua News Agency took a similar tone, praising China’s African infrastructure projects while criticizing what it said are ineffective U.S. aid programs for Africa, according to ABC.
“Obama may have to work even harder if he wants to build his legacy on a continent where U.S. commitment has long been questioned,” Xinhua said.
Obama talked Monday with Ethiopian leaders about human rights, security and counter terrorism, including the crisis in neighboring South Sudan.
This is the first visit by a sitting U.S. president to Ethiopia.
After Eritrea, Ethiopia is No. 2 for most jailed journalists in Africa, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Ethiopia’s opposition party failed to secure a seat in a May parliamentary election.Even if a country’s democratic practices don’t align with those in the U.S., Obama said at an Ethiopian press conference that the U.S. wants to engage with other governments on mutual interests. He said he continually brings up human rights in talks with developing nations. In a joint press conference Saturday with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Obama talked at length about gay rights, CNN reported.
“My message to the people of Ethiopia is: as you take steps moving your country forward the U.S. will be standing by you the entire way,” Obama said, according to DailyMail.
U.S. trade with Africa fell to $85 billion in 2013, ABC reports.
China’s economic ties with Africa increased, with two-way trade in 2013 — the last year for which figures were available — hitting a record $200 billion, mainly in Chinese imports of African oil, copper and other raw materials, according to DailyMail.