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Obama to Become First US President to Visit Ethiopia

  • VOA News

FILE - President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C., May 22, 2015.

FILE - President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C., May 22, 2015.

U.S. President Barack Obama will travel to Ethiopia next month, becoming the first sitting American leader to visit the African country and the headquarters of the African Union.

The White House said the visit to Addis Ababa will come after a previously announced trip to Kenya.

While in Ethiopia, Obama will meet with government officials and hold talks separately with leaders of the African Union.

Obama's trip to his father's homeland of Kenya will also be his first as president. He previously went to Kenya before winning the White House, including a visit while he was a U.S. senator.

The president is due to attend the 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit, an event that brings together entrepreneurs, investors, governments and other organizations to boost living standards around the world.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement that the purpose of the trip was to "accelerate economic growth, strengthen democratic institutions, and improve security" in Africa.

Both Kenya and Ethiopia have been important security partners with the United States in the fight against the Somali militant group, al-Shabab.

Some human rights groups are questioning Obama's visit to Ethiopia, noting that it comes so soon after a contested election.

Ethiopia's ruling party won last month's election with an overwhelming majority, however opposition leaders have accused the government of harassing and intimidating their supporters before and during the elections.

Following the vote, the U.S. State Department commended Ethiopia for holding peaceful elections but also said it is deeply concerned by "continued restrictions on civil society, media, opposition parties, and independent voices and view."

Obama has previously visited sub-Saharan Africa while president, traveling to Ghana, Senegal, Tanzania and South Africa.

Last August, the White House hosted a Washington summit of African leaders to U.S. strengthen ties with the continent.

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