Africa Center Deputy Director Bronwyn Bruton writes for Politico on Secretary Kerry’s trip to Africa and why visiting Ethiopia in particular sends a negative message:
John Kerry’s hastily announced trip to Africa last week is something of an occasion: It’s the first time he has set foot in sub-Saharan Africa as secretary of state aside from a brief visit just to Addis Ababa in May 2013.
But the abruptness of the trip—announced barely half a week before Kerry’s departure and conveniently timed to fill a scheduling gap caused by an unmet end-of-April deadline in the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks—is hardly the most troubling part of Kerry’s visit. Far less forgivable is his decision to honor Ethiopia, a country that widely persecutes dissidents, with another visit, and the first on this trip. Kerry’s remarks in Ethiopia included long-overdue public comments on the sorry state of democratic and human rights in the country. But the secretary made clear that the United States is more concerned about strengthening ties with Ethiopia—a repressive regime that Washington nonetheless relies on as its primary strategic partner in the region.