Addis Abeba — US ambassador to Ethiopia Donald Yamamoto on Monday met and held discussion on a host of outstanding issues in the context of the bilateral relations between the two countries.
In his monthly round-table discussion with journalists, the ambassador also responded-tried to respond- to a number of questions from reporters.
The new NGO bill and the re-arrest of the leading opposition figure Birtukan Mideksa dominated the discussion and the question to the ambassador.
Speaking on CSO bill, Ambassador said the law remains confusing as, he said, it has a lot of contradictions.
Asked whether it was reluctance on the US government or firm Ethiopia’s resistance that there was not as yet any change to the law, Yamamoto said: “We are trying to consolidate the issue with Ethiopian government.” He added “We recognize the right of all countries to make a statement on their own laws on CSO or NGOs. So the law is not unique,” he said while elaborating his effort.
“You have to have some types of coordination and also how you do recognize. Because you have some issues who is CSO or who is NGO. How do we get the money? So it’s true each country has the right to regulate international organizations. But the issue we said is in the implementation process. It is how it gone be implemented.” Yamamoto said the new law will prove problematic when it comes to implementation.
“We really think there is lot of contradiction. We are not quite sure how that can be implemented. The issue comes in the next year during the implementation stage” he said adding: “We are working very hard to consolidate with the government.” According to him, 67% of US assistance to Ethiopia is given through NGOs and CSOs and the lion’s share goes to grass roots development, “as we cannot go to all part of the population of Ethiopia which is estimated around 74 million.” Yamamoto stressed the need to have a clear understanding so as to draw a line between what we consider as CSOs and the so called NGOs as much as we have to know which group of the society this will affect.
“We have to know also the definition that is why it is so critical to understand. What parts of the assistant groups would be affected and why,” Yamamoto said.
Speaking about government’s recent action against Birtukan, he said it was a tragic-both for the detained and the government.
“To me the case is very tragic for the Ethiopian government and Birtukan, including for all opposition parties in the country.” Yamamato said he hoped the issue will be resolved peacefully for the benefit of all the parties involved.
The ambassador hailed the recent move by the opposition in forming an alliance saying “the good step would facilitate and promote dialogue with the government.
“It makes them stronger and helps to make decisions,” he said.
He, however, seemed sceptical on the possibility of a smooth and constructive dialogue between the ruling party and oppositions in the run up to the next national election.
He said he expected the dialogues to be full of emotionally charged debates and wrangling.
But the dialogue will be instrumental for both the government and the opposition” he said.
The ambassador said Birtukan’s arrest will not affect the long standing and strong relation that exists between Ethiopia and the US “I don’t think Birtukan’s case will be a barrier for our relation, if we continue towards an open and democratic election,” he said adding however that Birtukan case was a very sensitive issue.
Ambassador Yamamoto did not want to further comment on that-until the next roundtable, may be.