Departing US Envoy Warns Ethiopia Against Violence

Calling Ethiopia “the critical actor in Horn of Africa stability,” outgoing U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia Michael Raynor voiced confidence in a strengthened bilateral relationship but warned that violence – especially in the northern Tigray region – threatens the country’s progress.  “We remain concerned about ethnic violence around the country and the threat it poses to achieving the country’s potential,” Raynor said of Ethiopia, speaking at a press conference Monday in Addis Ababa, the capital.  It was Raynor’s final news briefing as ambassador, a post he has held since September 2017. He has focused on Africa for many of his FILE – Youngsters walk next to an abandoned tank belonging to Tigrayan forces south of the town of Mehoni, Ethiopia, Dec. 11, 2020.Rivalries among some of Ethiopia’s 80 ethnic groups have spawned deadly violence, including the January 12 killings of more than 80 civilians in Metekel, a town in the western Benishangul-Gumaz region, TFILE – People stand at the doors of houses that were damaged by shelling in the town of Mehoni, in southern Tigray, Ethiopia, Dec. 11, 2020.He also brought up the U.S. assessment that FILE – Ethiopians read newspapers and magazines reporting on the military confrontation in the country, one of which shows a photograph of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, on a street in the capital, Addis Ababa, Nov. 7, 2020.During his tenure as ambassador, Raynor said, the U.S. government “brought well over $3 billion” to support Ethiopia’s governance, development and humanitarian priorities. These range from enhancing the country’s food security and health systems to reforming judicial activities and updating economic policies to encourage private investment.   Raynor also observed that Ethiopia’s ability “to focus on our areas of partnership has been strained by some degree due to the rate of ethnic tensions and Ethiopian-on-Ethiopian violence and certainly the current Tigray crisis. But by and large I feel very optimistic about the trajectory we have been on and that my successor will be able to build upon.” A successor has not yet been named.   “This is a pivotal time for Ethiopia,” Raynor said. “What Ethiopia does in the coming months — particularly in promoting democracy, organizing free and fair credible elections this year, protecting basic human rights including freedom of the press and freedom of expression, resolving conflict and addressing ethnic tension, maintaining regional harmony and promoting economic opportunity — will impact this country’s prospects for generations to come.”  Correction: Hailemariam Desalegn served as Ethiopia’s prime minister for over five years, not 23, as mistakenly appeared in an earlier version of this story.

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