The Presidential Visit – News Beyond the News




It would be interesting to know what the people in remote corners of Ethiopia thought about the visit of President Barack Obama to Ethiopia, for how could they not have heard that he was coming. In Addis Abeba, the city that had hardly recovered from the Third Financing for Development Conference, life as normal was suspended for the two-day stopover of a US President that Africa claims as her son.  Regardless of the various views about his country’s policies and politics, the presidential visit generated an unprecedented level of both preparedness and excitement that could not be missed. Details of his itinerary were sketchy right up until the White House Briefing, Press Release of July 22, 2015, which provided   information about the President’s arrival and official schedule.

The security detail became both visible and audible days before his arrival, as, what looked like commando posts, were set up at strategic points amidst the “billboard” images welcoming him to Ethiopia and, for a brief spell, helicopters scanned the Addis skies. He landed on a rainy Sunday afternoon and damning photos emerged of government officials losing their diplomatic composure as they leaned and craned their necks to get that first glimpse of the one that some refer to as the United States’ first Black President – the most powerful man in the world. The writer of Fortune’s View from Arada, complained that the protocol had not been properly observed.  On Monday July 27, office staff gathered round the television to watch the press conference with the Ethiopian Prime Minister. We looked for the Fortune reporter, who was neither seen nor heard but he did bring home the story. We were not invited to the state dinner that evening. We huddled again the next day as the President Obama addressed the African Union – on the street, shopkeepers and their customers listened in their corner shops. The President’s messages to the African leaders were even more forthright than his messages delivered during the press conference but some thought he was still not tough enough and put partisan political spin on that.

In between bilateral talks and discussion of shared priorities such as the crisis in South Sudan and regional counter-terrorism issues, sustainable development initiatives, including those in food security, and the deepening of economic and trade cooperation with Ethiopia and the region. President Obama visited Faffa Food Complex S.C., an initiative associated with

Fortune Staff Reporter Dawit Endeshaw followed the President around while fellow reporter, Brook Abdu, hit the archival trenches in office, dug out the history of relations between Ethiopia and the United States and produced the feature Great Trade Expectations behind US-Ethiopia Trade Relations (Vol. 16, No. 795, July 26, 2015).

That, after all, was on everyone’s minds. Hope remains alive that the dividends of The Obama Moment (Vol 16. No. 796, August o2, 2015), will be reaped in the Ethiopian New Year.

 



Published on Sep 07,2015 [ Vol 16 ,No 801]


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