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  • Ethiopia: President Obama for Historic Trip, but Terrorism on Agenda! Posted on 28 July 2015

    PHOTO: President Barack Obama reviews Ethiopian troops during a welcoming ceremony at the National Palace, July 27, 2015, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
     

    President Obama kicked off his first full day in Ethiopia as he heads into the second half of his historic trip to East Africa.

    Obama arrived on Monday morning at the National Palace in Addis Ababa, where he was greeted by Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. The two men shook hands and exchanged pleasantries in the sunlit courtyard, where the Ethiopians had prepared an elaborate arrival ceremony.

    PHOTO:President Barack Obama and Prime Minister of Ethiopia Hailemariam Desalegn attend a welcoming ceremony, July 27, 2015, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

    AFP/Getty Images
    PHOTO:President Barack Obama and Prime Minister of Ethiopia Hailemariam Desalegn attend a welcoming ceremony, July 27, 2015, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

     

    The leaders stood at attention in front of their delegations while the American then Ethiopian national anthems were played. On either side of the palace stood enormous portraits of both leaders.

    The president was then led by an officer, upright sword in hand, to inspect the honor guard. He walked on a square red carpet past rows of Ethiopian troops as ceremonial cannons fired in the distance.

     

    PHOTO: President Barack Obama participates in a bilateral meeting with Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, right, at the National Palace, July 27, 2015, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
    Evan Vucci/ AP Photo
    PHOTO: President Barack Obama participates in a bilateral meeting with Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, right, at the National Palace, July 27, 2015, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

     

    The two sides then held a bilateral meeting, sitting across from each other at an elegantly set table complete with dozens of red roses.

    Obama also met with Ethiopia’s president Mulatu Teshome. Although he’s technically the head of state, the Ethiopian presidency is mainly a ceremonial position.

     

    PHOTO: Ethiopian President Mulatu Teshome and President Barack Obama shake hands during a meeting at the National Palace, July 27, 2015 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
    AFP/Getty Images
    PHOTO: Ethiopian President Mulatu Teshome and President Barack Obama shake hands during a meeting at the National Palace, July 27, 2015 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

     

    After his meetings, the president held a press conference with Desalegn, during which they expressed continued cooperation between their countries on trade and economic partnership, counter-terrorism and intelligence, and democratization. Terrorism was an especially pertinent topic after a deadly bombing in neighboring Somalia killed 15 people Sunday.

    "Yesterday's bombing in Mogadishu reminds us that terrorist groups like al-Shabaab offer nothing but death and destruction and have to be stopped," said Obama, calling the mix of U.S. assistance and regional and African Union forces fighting the group a "model" and Ethiopia, an "outstanding partner."

    "We have to now keep the pressure on," he said.

     

    PHOTO: President Barack Obama speaks during a joint press conference with Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn at the National Palace, July 27, 2015, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
    AFP/Getty Images
    PHOTO: President Barack Obama speaks during a joint press conference with Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn at the National Palace, July 27, 2015, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

     

    Obama and the prime minister also discussed freedom of the press. Ethiopia has been criticized for jailing journalists and stifling opposition. In its most recent election, the ruling party won 100 percent of the vote, causing some to question the result's legitimacy.

    "I don’t bite my tongue too much when it comes to these issues," said Obama, saying that the two had a "frank discussion" about the improvements that Ethiopia needs to make while noting their progress so far.

    South Sudan has also been a focus of the president's trip. He met with regional leaders to discuss the ongoing crisis there that has killed thousands of people, displaced over a million and pushed the country to the brink of famine. The group agreed the two parties in South Sudan must reach a peace plan agreement by Aug. 17, but they differed on what steps to take if they did not.

     

    PHOTO: President Barack Obama speaks during a multilateral meeting on South Sudan and cointerterrorism issues with Kenya, Sudan, Ethiopia, the African Union and Uganda, July 27, 2015, in Addis Ababa.
    Evan Vucci/AP Photo
    PHOTO: President Barack Obama speaks during a multilateral meeting on South Sudan and cointerterrorism issues with Kenya, Sudan, Ethiopia, the African Union and Uganda, July 27, 2015, in Addis Ababa.

     

    South Sudan is the world's newest nation, after it voted to break away from Sudan in 2011 in a referendum supported by the U.S. -- one reason America has a "special responsibility" to stabilize the country, said Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes.

    The president also came face-to-face with a 3.2 million-year-old piece of history at the National Palace.

     

    PHOTO: Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, right, watches as President Barack Obama touches Lucy, part of several hundred pieces of bone representing 40 percent of a female Australopithecus afarensis.
    Evan Vucci/AP Photo
    PHOTO: Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, right, watches as President Barack Obama touches "Lucy," part of several hundred pieces of bone representing 40 percent of a female Australopithecus afarensis.

     

    He viewed -- and even touched -- the skeleton of "Lucy," the female Australopithecus afarensis discovered by an American anthropologist in Ethiopia in 1974. Lucy is an early hominin, the most complete skeleton of a human ancestor discovered to date, and one of the most significant breakthroughs in the study of early humans.

    Obama was given rare access to the skeleton; Ethiopian officials and scientists said they could not recall a time the bones were displayed uncovered, let alone touched by a visitor.

    "Extraordinary people have extraordinary access," said Dr. Zeresenay Alemseged, an Ethiopian paleoanthropologist and head of the California Academy of Sciences.

     

    PHOTO: President Barack Obama offers a toast during a state dinner hosted by Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn on July 27, 2015 at the National Palace in Addis Ababa.
    Evan Vucci/AP Photo
    PHOTO: President Barack Obama offers a toast during a state dinner hosted by Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn on July 27, 2015 at the National Palace in Addis Ababa.

     

    After his stop with Lucy, the president attended a State Dinner with Prime Minister Desalegn and President Teshome, where he toasted to "another century of friendship" between the two countries and highlighted Ethiopia's most important gift to the world: coffee.

    "We're large consumers of coffee in the White House," he said. "Thank you, Ethiopia."

    Sunday, the president wrapped up his historic two-day visit in Kenya, his father’s homeland, where he was received with much fanfare and adoration. Supporters spilled into the streets of Addis Ababa as well, holding American flags and photos of Obama.

     

    PHOTO: Ethiopians hold US flags as they waiting at Meskel Square prior to the official visit of President Barack Obama, July 26, 2015, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
    Minasse Wondimu Hailu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
    PHOTO: Ethiopians hold US flags as they waiting at Meskel Square prior to the official visit of President Barack Obama, July 26, 2015, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

     

    There was even a rainbow on the tarmac as the president arrived Sunday evening.

     

    PHOTO: Secret Service Agents watch through their binoculars as a rainbow appears in the sky before President Barack Obama arrived at Bole International Airport, July 26, 2015, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
    Sayyid Azim/ AP Photo
    PHOTO: Secret Service Agents watch through their binoculars as a rainbow appears in the sky before President Barack Obama arrived at Bole International Airport, July 26, 2015, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

     

    Obama is set to address the African Union tomorrow, the first U.S. president to do so.

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