News / The Diaspora

D.C.-area Ethiopians say Obama trip to homeland will send wrong signal

By PAMELA CONSTABLE, Washington Post   JULY 3, 2015


Near the White House on Friday, Serkalem Selassie and her 9-year-old son, Nafkot, protested President Obama’s upcoming trip to Ethi­o­pia. As a journalist in her homeland, she was jailed, and Nafkot was born while she was in prison. She has political asylum now.  Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post

When Barack Obama entered the White House, many Ethio­pian immigrants in the Washington area cheered. When he gave a speech in Ghana in 2009, vowing to promote democracy and human rights across Africa, they were thrilled. But now that Obama will soon visit Ethi­o­pia, many members of the region’s largest African emigre group are up in arms.

Their concern is that his trip later this month — the first by a sitting American president — will send the wrong message and bolster a regime that has intimidated opponents, manipulated elections and sent dozens of journalists to prison.

“Mr. Obama is supporting a dictatorship and giving legitimacy to tyranny,” declared Serkalem Selassie, 39, a refu­gee in Arlington. “Day by day, things are getting worse. There is no freedom to speak, to meet. Anyone who writes can be jailed for associating with terrorism.”

For Selassie, a former newspaper publisher who fled her homeland two years ago and now works at a parking garage, the anger is deeply personal.

Read the full story on Washington Post


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