US maintains stance on controversial LGBT plan in Ethiopia
The newly appointed US ambassador to Ethiopia, Patricia Haslach, has made an immediate impression with a controversial statement setting out plans to work for the rights of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people of Ethiopia.
A few weeks later the newly assigned assistant secretary of state for African affairs, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, affirmed that the ambassador was within her rights and had done nothing but express the policies of the US.
Thomas-Greenfield held an online press conference from the US with journalists across Africa on Thursday night to talk about US foreign policy across the sub-Saharan region. During the conference she was asked about ambassador Haslach’s statement on the issue of the LGBT community. Thomas-Greenfield stressed that the US is determined to push for the rights of this minority group and that the ambassador was referring to worldwide US policy, and Ethiopia is no exception.
“This is a US government policy,” Thomas-Greenfield said. “It is a US government value that we believe in human rights for all people, despite any laws that might exist that would deny people their human rights. We strongly believe in the rights of people to choose their partners, to choose the person – as President Obama has said – to choose the person they want to love, and not have laws that deny them those rights. So our ambassador in Ethiopia is following the policies of the US government. It’s a broad policy; it’s not a change. It is a policy that reflects our values across the United States.”
However, the US stance has been widely criticized here by both the government and society. According to Ethiopia’s criminal code, it is illegal for people who are in LGBT relationships to practice any form of that act. According to the code of proclamation No. 414/2004, anyone who performs with another person of the same sex a homosexual act will face imprisonment of not less than one year. However, based on the seriousness of the case, it can result in a jail term of up to ten years.
Following the resistance of Ethiopia to allow same sex relationships, activists like the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association launched campaigns to influence the country.
Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield reacted on various political and economic issues taking place across Africa. The brutal terrorist attacks in Kenya and Nigeria were of top concern for many of the journalists, to which Thomas-Greenfield reacted by saying that the US is working with African states to bring the masterminds of these bloodthirsty organizations to justice. However, after the recent al-Shabab attacks in Nairobi the US were criticized for not alerting local security forces prior to the bloody events taking place. Thomas-Greenfield refuted this notion by saying that the US was not aware of any potential attacks in Kenya.
When asked whether the US is competing with emerging economies, like China, for a slice of Africa she said this rivalry does not exist. “I get asked that question everywhere in Africa. We’re not competing with China in Africa. The US has core values that promote the development of Africa, and we have been in Africa since the beginning. And so, our efforts are not in competition with China. Our efforts are in support of the desires of African people. And the needs in Africa are great, so I think African countries can work with the Chinese to get what is in their best interest. But they should not see it in their interest a competition between the United States and Africa, because that doesn’t exist.”
African states are asking for the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) to be extended for another 15 years. The US is still undecided, and is thinking about the duration of any extension. All African states will await the outcome with interest.
Thomas-Greenfield was sworn in on August 6, 2013, as assistant secretary for African affairs. Prior to her current assignment she served in the State Department as director general. In 2000 she received a Warren Christopher Award for her achievements in Global Affairs, more specifically her work for refugees.
Posted on October 20, 2013, in Ethiopian LGBTI Community, Human Rights and Media in Ethiopia, LGBTI Human Rights in Ethiopia, MSM and HIV in Ethiopia and tagged Africa, African Growth and Opportunity Act, Ethiopia, Kenya, LGBT, LGBT Ethiopian, LGBT Human rights, Thomas-Greenfield, United States, US government. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.