Having said that, I am disappointed there has not been more positive movement on pressfreedom in Ethiopia since the period that I was ambassador to Ethiopia. The situation seems to be about the same and in some respects has moved backwards. It is my understanding, for example, that there is no opposition paper today published in Afan Oromo. There were severalin the late 1990s. Some of the opposition press during that period was neither professional nor responsible. I assume that is not the situation today.
: Many people participated in the 2005 election and expected that there was a possibility to change a government through democratic ways. However, certain groups believedthat democracy is a process and has taken hundreds of years in America. Hence, it may eventake more or the same in Ethiopia. What¶s your comment on this topic?
Democracy does take time to develop and it is a constantly evolving process toaccommodate changing times. It does not, however, take hundreds of years to accept andimplement the basic concepts such as free and fair elections, a responsible and strong private press, an independent judiciary, an active civil society and checks and balances on governance. No country, including the United States, has a monopoly on the best way to create democraticgovernance. To some extent, every country must adapt democracy to its own situation. But I believe it is hard to dismiss the advantages to society of the basic precepts of democracy, and itis just wrong to suggest that it takes hundreds of years to install them.
: How do you describe Prime Minister Meles Zenawi?
: He is exceptionally intelligent and reads widely, especially on economic issues. He can be a good listener. He marshals his own arguments clearly and effectively. He does not mincewords when he is angry or disagrees with your position. He means what he says and says whathe means. His command of colloquial English, even in the late 1990s, was amazing and it hasimproved over time. Elements of his guerrilla experience in the bush remain to the present day.He is tenacious and remains acutely conscious of security. Perhaps this latter concern has prevented him from travelling more frequently and widely around Ethiopia. He holdsinformation closely and puts a premium on secrecy, which I concluded was a characteristic of highland Ethiopian society generally.
: If you were to go back to your previous position as ambassador to Ethiopia,what do you think would be the best way to strengthen the relationship between the United Statesand Ethiopia?
Fortunately, no one needs to be concerned about my return to Ethiopia as ambassador.For the sake of discussion, however, I think the most important consideration is the need to move beyond the day-to-day and month-to-month issues that both countries must address. The UnitedStates should focus increasingly on the long-term nature of the ties. Where do the United Statesand Ethiopia see the relationship ten or twenty years from now and what do they want it to look