(By Ethio-Zagol and Meqdela)
The political and Economic Counselor of the US Embassy in Addis Ababa, Kevin Sullivan, has become the single most important figure in Ambassador Yamamoto's leadership, even eclipsing the influence of the Ambassador himself in Ethiopian political issues. The Ethiopian staffers in the embassy call him "the Deputy Ambassador", in reference to his growing power.
His assistants say he is a hard-core realist who shows distrust to values like human rights as the center of cooperation between states. His convictions have led him to support the Meles administration even though there is open acknowledgement by key embassy officials that Ethiopia's bad human rights record is indefensible. "He is from the old school, obsessed with security and economic interest in the Horn of Africa; and he believes that the only power in Ethiopia which can guarantee that is the Meles administration," a US embassy staffer said.
Although Ambassador Yamamoto has since his arrival tried to press the release of political prisoners in Ethiopia, the Somalia war has complicated the situation with diplomats like Mr. Sullivan, insisting on the policy of appeasing the Meles administration. "His views are clear. He thinks as long as the Ethiopian government continues to act as the proxy of US interests in the Horn of Africa, the Americans should staunchly support it, “the staffer told me.
The counselor has looked a little shaggy in the last few days, working punishing hours. Shiro Meda insiders claim that the Somalia war and the insurgency have made embassy officials stand on their toes. One insider thinks the whole issue has given diplomats like Mr. Sullivan an upper hand in the embassy's little internal politics. "They don't want to call it an insurgency. They label it with less flattering terms as opportunistic violence; but the truth is they are unsettled by it. They think their only option is to stand with Meles whatever he does. That is why Mr. Sullivan is getting more and more de facto power and ears from the embassy and the State Department" He said.
Mr. Sullivan also thinks US Congress Representative Donald Payne's new bill is damaging to US interest in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa. Insiders say that embassy officials believe that there is an inevitability that the bill will pass in the House of Representatives this time as its introducer, Donald Payne, has a good working relationship with the speaker of the house, Nancy Pelosi.Mr. Sullivan was so unhappy about the developments in US congress that he was even heard criticizing the visit here of Ted Dagne, Africa Specialist at the Congressional Research Service.
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