Time for VOA Amharic to Upgrade Its U.S. Election Coverage

By Alula M. Abate

Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden had a memorable Super Tuesday last week (March 3, 2020) with a stunning come-from-behind victory in ten states  in the biggest election day of the Democratic Primary competition. In the delegate rich state of Texas, which is home to tens of thousands of Ethiopian Americans, Biden won 60% of the black vote. Historically, the results on Super Tuesday are considered a powerful barometer of the high probability of the ultimate nominee of each political party. In addition to Texas Biden captured 69 % of the black vote in Virginia, which is also home to a sizable concentration of Ethiopian American voters and an incredible 72 percent in Alabama.

“In recent decades, old-style kingmakers faded from American politics. This year, though, there are hundreds of thousands of them: the African American voters across the South who gave Joe Biden a lead in the race for the Democratic nomination,” stated the Washington post. “There appeared to be some regional and generational differences in which candidates black voters prefer. Biden won the African American vote by considerably smaller margins in California, Massachusetts and Minnesota. Exit polls suggested that, in keeping with his strength among young voters, Sanders likely beat Biden among black voters under 30. But Biden won the overall black vote everywhere. Black America, it would seem, has made up its mind.”

Indeed, historians and political scientists  point out that the “interracial, interethnic and intergenerational collaboration that elected Obama and Biden in 2008 and 2012 remains a force to be reckoned with in 2020.

Be that as it may, the question remains where exactly is America headed under the current administration?

Traditionally during an election year the media plays an indispensable part in providing answers while shaping the public conversation and debate, which is the hallmark of a mature democratic system. Regrettably, however, VOA Amharic is failing when it comes to its redundant, superfluous and one-sided Ethiopian diaspora punditry that has remained virtually unchanged for the past three presidential election cycles. One of the major ways the media such as VOA  contributes to the health of this  participatory civic experience is by selecting which commentators to feature when and why. Voters depend on credible information to make reasonable choices, not mulish puffery and agitprop.

Joe Biden’s resurgent victory may or may not be a harbinger of things to come in the general election, but what’s clear is that the sentiments of the democratic party’s silent majority is no longer in doubt. When all is said and done it’s the job of good journalism to help separate the wheat from the chaff and the spin from the propaganda. The ACE Electoral Knowledge Network, which is the world’s largest online community and repository of electoral knowledge, illustrates that ”media’s role as a public educator is in essence a combination of media’s other roles (including as “watchdogs,” and “forums for debate”].  ACE specifies that “media as a campaign platform ensures the public is educated in political agendas of all participating parties and candidates equally. ”

For starters, the tax-payer funded channel should diversify its Ethiopian-American portfolio in order to present a more balanced election coverage in 2020. Ethiopian American viewpoints are not chiseled out of a single stone. To the contrary, they are as diverse as Ethiopia itself holding very divergent perspectives on various matters both local and international informed by their own individual experiences.  The instability of the stock market, the unfolding health crisis, worries about an imminent economic downturn and other local kitchen-table issues as well as foreign policy developments are all driving factors behind the average Ethiopian voter.

On foreign policy, for example, most Ethiopians have become disappointed to say the least by the Trump administration’s recent undiplomatic maneuvers in favor of Egypt in connection with Ethiopia’s five billion dollars Grand Renaissance Dam project on the Nile (Abay) river. The whole backhanded scheme blew up in the face of the Trump administration and Egypt when Ethiopia withdrew from the latest talks being held in the U.S. capital and lambasted America for its insensitive and tactless handling of the negotiations. The Egypt-Ethiopia fiasco follows Trump’s bizarre public taunting of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed two months ago for winning the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize. Abiy Ahmed received the distinguished international accolade for making his own deal with Eritrea that ended the longest running border conflict in Africa. Moreover, it was extremely improper that Trump in conspiracy with his head of the Department of the Treasury Steven Terner Mnuchin and  the World Bank reportedly exerted (unsuccessfully) undue financial pressure on Ethiopia to accept a rushed agreement that jeopardized its national security. Regardless, the fundamentals of U.S.-Ethiopia relations remain normal, both countries assure the world, as U.S. insists that its 5 billion cash promise is intended to help Ethiopia’s political reform not influence the Abay decision. Given Trump’s habit of playing fast and loose with the truth, it’s hard to believe what his administration is saying about anything. Some Ethiopians are even urging Prime Minister Abiy to release all documents and communications about the dam discussions to the public in defense of Ethiopia. As Bob Marly says ‘Time will tell.’

In the final analysis, all things considered, it would be a win-win for VOA’s Amharic program and its international audience to expand the networker’s domestic political space beyond current levels and incorporate the overlooked younger voters, as well as activists in the diaspora including volunteers for Biden, Sanders and even Trump (if there are any at this point). Surely there is no shortage of talent among Ethiopian Americans.  It’s time for VOA Amharic to upgrade its U.S. election coverage.

God bless America and Ethiopia!

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You can contact Alula M. Abate at abatealula1@gmail.com.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Well said. You can count me as one those disappointed Ethiopians with Trump’s shenanigans with Egypt’s elSisi against mother Ethiopia. i say to Egypt go get your water from the Mediterranean sea. Hope Trump and the world bank can help you. Or be a good Neighbor and let’s solve our problem slowly and peacefully the african way. thank you!

  2. God bless you. This is interesting. Let’s also pray and work so we can have a peaceful and successful election in Ethiopia to prove Egypt and its Babylonian friends wrong. As to Elsisi and Trump, the arrogant blind man picks a fight with his guide. Remember that the same water never runs into the same river. May god give you the light. Ethiopia shall survive!

  3. While you are at it upgrade to better socio coverage of the Ethiopian diasporas life in USA. A coverage of A Mother of two from Ethiopia who got shot and killed in San Francisco California USA by two males this year in January 2020 is yet to be released , the story that the killers admitted to the killing of the 32 years old mother of two from former state of Ethiopia , of Eritrea while Eritrea was under Ethiopia, no charges are filed against the killers by the USA government authorities .

    The international communities should know that denying Ethiopians water and their chance of being self reliant with food got so many unforseen negative consequences not only to Ethiopia but to the whole world since Children who grow up malnourished witnessing starvation related disasters got less stamina throughout their lifetime .

    A former Ethiopian famine victim as a little child who witnessed the death loosing of her parents to the Ethiopian famine starvation in the state of Eritrea who is now an independent country , who later got adopted and moved to USA later ended up having two children of her own got shot and killed by two male individuals a couple of months ago in San Francisco , California USA , ingniteing one of the most controversial legal conflicts since the killers are not charged with murder but charged the admitting killers with only gun charges since these Ethiopian lady was a former famine victim in the former Ethiopian State of Eritrea who terrorized the two males that were charged with only gun charges even if they admitted to killing the 32 years Ethiopian who was born from Eritrean family , the two men claimed they feared for their life before they shot and killed Emma Hunt so no murder charge is being filed for this 32 years old Ethiopian mother of two despite the Ethiopian Eritrean Community continuous outcry to charge the killers with murder the prosecutor is inclined to not charge them with murder saying she acted threatening towards the two male individuals exhibiting her African sides of when she grew up fending for herself and her younger sister homeless in Ethiopia after her parents died of starvation famine .

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  4. As fascinating as Super Tuesday was the primary is not over. i AM an Ethio Bernie bro. I THINK he has better and fresh ideas. At this juncture tho anyone has better ideas than four more years of the alternative. the problem for Bernie now is that Joe Biden has gone way on top in the polls overnight. The media has finally found their new comeback kid on the block, the 77-years old Joe. I am not saying age is an issue because Benie is 78 and had a heart attack last year. Trump is 73. Wish they were younger, oh, next time. In terms of young spirit tho Biden is definitely the baby of the crowd. I can see myself having injera and Meta beer with Joe. He’s by far the coolest old guy. He has a sense of humor “I will beat trump like a drum.” He is honest, decent and lovable person. The best part is that he is Obama’s friend. If he wins I am all in for him. Bu until then 38 states still have to vote that translates to over 60% of still obtainable delegates.

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