The Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Samantha Power on Saturday delivered a brutal takedown of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia and all other ‘malign forces’ perpetrating ‘evil acts’ of ‘famine’ being used a weapon of war in the East African nation.
Power made the comments while delivering a commencement address to graduating students of the American University of Armenia’s class of 2021. USAID helped found and support the university.
Urging them to be “keenly focused on the needs of others, proudly advocating for marginalized groups, unafraid to demand a better, greener, more equal world,” Power warned them that setbacks do happen in life and sometimes, there will be need for them to confront evil people, including autocrats.
Among the ‘evil acts’ happening in the world, Power cited the genocide in Western China, famine in Northern Ethiopia and ethnic cleansing in Myanmar.
“Here is the reality: Setbacks happen. Losses accumulate. Malign forces in the world will not give up without a fight. You will live to see people perpetrate evil acts—genocide in Western China, famine in Northern Ethiopia, ethnic cleansing in Myanmar—you will witness those same people deny that they are happening,” Power said.
Power argued that the tactic by autocrats of first killing their people and then killing the truth often works, but does not always win.
“That sad two-step of history has not yet been overcome. And unfortunately the repression that these regimes show—first of people, then the truth—that repression often works. But just because it works, does not mean it will win. It requires the resolve—of young activists and advocates like all of you—fighting for the dignity of every soul to beat repression back, push for peace, uncover the truth, and ensure that lies have short legs,” she said.
Power said she was honored and grateful for the opportunity to address them, and thanked their families, loved ones, friends, faculty, and staff who prepared them all for the graduation.
Last April, breaking with predecessors, President Joseph R. Biden Jr. called the mass killing of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire during World War I a genocide.
President Biden’s recognition of the Armenian genocide was a break from a decades-long tradition of U.S. Presidents and a major victory for Armenian Americans who have been lobbying for the term for many years.
Many American leaders refrained from using the term genocide for fear of angering Turkey and jeopardizing relations with a key ally.
“Each year on this day, we remember the lives of all those who died in the Ottoman-era Armenian genocide and recommit ourselves to preventing such an atrocity from ever again occurring,” President Biden said in a statement.
Naming Ethiopia, along with China and Myanmar in the same sentence that also contained the words genocide and ethnic cleansing, underscores how the Biden administration seems to see the deteriorating situation in Ethiopia where millions of people are at increased risk of famine after seven months of conflict.
The Biden administration, the European Union, the United Nations and others have called on Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to use dialogue as a way out of the crisis, but so far, he has failed to heed the voice of reason.