Mekonnen Getachew, an Ethiopian activist, loudly condemned Gayle Smith while on a confirmation hearing as USAID administrator nominee at Senate Building in Washington DC, on Wednesday June 17, 2015. Smith was interrupted when she was giving a speech on human rights, development, and good governance in Africa.
Mr. Mekonnen, DC metro area Taskforce member for Human Rights and Democracy, told ESAT that Smith has been supporting Tigray people’s Liberation Front a for quarter of a century. “Instead of working for ordinary people in Ethiopia, Smith has been cooperating with a dictatorial and corrupt government officials that oppress the Ethiopian people,” Mekonnen told ESAT.
Unlike what Smith said during the hearing, human rights conditions in Ethiopia have deteriorated, the political space ever narrowing, and people are resorting to alternative forms of struggle to gain their fundamental rights and liberties denied to them by the regime in Ethiopia. US has done nothing practical and concrete about the worsening political condition in Ethiopia, save for an occasional expression of “deep concern” for the regime’s excesses, according to political analysts. Currently, hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians trek to faraway places under harrowing conditions, including to even war torn countries like South Sudan and Somalia and Yemen. They are prone to modern slavery, the activist says.
Mekonnen told ESAT, “the fabricated success story Smith tells about Ethiopia should be stopped. We know the situation on the ground. The USAID money dispersed to Africa ends in the pockets of corrupt government officials and used to further muzzle and persecute the Ethiopian people,” the activist said.
During the incident at the Senate hearing, Mekonnen showed photographs of Ethiopian murdered in the hands of the security forces of the Ethiopian regime. He loudly called upon Smith to stop supporting killers and governments that terrorize their own people.
Later, security officers took him to custody. Mr. Mekonnen was released after two hours.
Similarly, several international media outlets have reported that ambassadors, academics and journalists have criticized Gayle Smith, currently assistant to the president and the National Security Council’s senior director for development, for sympathizing with despotic regimes in Ethiopia, Uganda, and many countries in Africa. Smith is criticized for using aid money to promote Americas’ hidden agenda and concessions. USAID is used as an instrument of proxy to fight terrorism and facilitate military intervention elsewhere. Many political analysts believe that Smith’s background proves this legacy.
The United States maintains a cozy relation with Ethiopia as it is an ally on “a war on terror” and Ethiopia fought Al-Shabaab in Somalia. The same country accused Eritrea for supporting Al-Shabaab without tangible evidence. Herman Cohen, former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, told International Business Times that this is due to Gayle’s personal animosity towards Eritrea.
Gayle Smith along with Susan Rice are blamed for failing to stop war between Eritrea and Ethiopia that claimed more than 70,000 lives and displaced hundreds of thousands of people from both sides. Both Susan Rice and Gayle Smith are also faulted for the ill-advised US Foreign Policy towards Ethiopia and USA’s continued support for a brutal ethnocentric and dictatorial regime that has been documented as one of the worst enemies of the press and human rights violators by the US State Department’s own annual human rights report.
It is recalled that the United States provides $ 580 million aid to Ethiopia annually.
Smith lived and worked in Ethiopia and was senior director for African affairs at the National Security Council from 1994 to 1998. She has worked in Africa for more than 20 years as a journalist, aid worker, and founder of an NGO.
President Obama nominated Gayle Smith on April 20, 2015 to replace Rajiv Shah as the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) which tackles humanitarian disasters with an annual budget of $ 20 billion.