Mail & Guardian
Ethiopian set to run for US Congress
Born in Ethiopia, Ted Alemayhu came to the United States at the end of 1987. He was just 14 at the time, and studied in Santa Barbara, California, under the guardianship of an American family.
Three decades later, he plans on joining his adopted country’s ruling elite.
He intends to become the first ever Africa-born representative in the US House of Representatives.
Alemayhu, who is best known for founding the charity US Doctors for Africa in 2001, is running as an independent candidate in California’s 37th congressional district, a famously diverse area in Los Angeles. The election is scheduled for November 2018.
“I’ve been interested and involved in both local and international politics and humanitarian works for quite some time,” he told the Mail & Guardian.
“I believe that it’s time for me now to run for the US Congress because I’m better prepared and able to address issues that affect both my community and that of US citizens.”
Alemayhu said he has been deeply involved in his local community over the years, especially regarding issues of healthcare, immigration, unemployment and education.
“The immigration system is pretty tough now. The new administration is strict in many forms but I believe that when I get elected, the president and his team will work with me very closely,” he said.
Alemayhu has previously testified before the US Congress to help to mobilise global partnerships to defeat the deadly Ebola virus in West Africa. He was also involved in relief efforts during Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Francis.
Several dozen people attended the formal launch of his congressional bid on August 3. Although this particular seat has been held by the Democratic Party for nearly 40 years, Alemayhu believes that constituents are ready for change.
“Due to the current toxic political climate in the US, voters are fed up with the two-party system and don’t feel as though their voice and concerns have been heard,” he said.
“That is precisely the reason I decided to throw in my hat in the upcoming 2018 congressional race.”
He stressed that his chances of winning the seat as the first Africaborn congressperson are “very real”.
Alemayhu promised that he would not forget his African roots if elected.
“We have seen our brothers and sisters from Africa losing their lives in oceans and seas trying to get to different countries in Europe,” he said. “That’s a major concern to me, and I plan to fight for those refugees and immigrants in the halls of Congress so that their cause is properly heard and rapid action is taken by the state department.”
Alemayhu has previously worked with the City of Los Angeles, the state of California, the US state department, the Rand Corporation policy think tank, the Clinton Foundation, the United Nations and the World Health Organisation.
“In America, we celebrate and practise true democracy,” he said, reflecting on how politics in his adopted country differs from what he remembers of politics in Africa.
“But in some African countries that necessarily is not the case. That’s why you see a lot of frustrations, especially in Africa. Though I haven’t lived in Africa for nearly 30 years, I can see the massive difference.” A Senegalese singer was arrested after recording a song critical of President Macky Sall. Amy Colle Dieng (39) was charged with distributing fake news and offending the head of state. In the song, Dieng called the president a sai sai (which means scoundrel in Wolof) who has done nothing for the country. Dieng’s lawyers dismissed the charges as arbitrary, but the country’s top prosecutor has vowed to stamp out “abusive” online behaviour.
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Zambian President Edgar Lungu and jailed opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema have agreed to a mediated dialogue to end months of political instability, according to Commonwealth secretary general Patricia Scotland. Scotland visited Zambia this week and met both leaders. Hichilema was arrested in April and accused of treason for failing to recognise Lungu officially as president. The Commonwealth Secretariat will appoint a mediator.
What Magufuli wouldn’t do
Tanzanian President John Magufuli has rejected calls from supporters for him to stay in office beyond his constitutionally mandated two terms. “It’s impossible. I will respect the Constitution ... I shall play my part and pass on the leadership reins to the next president when the time comes,” he told a public rally in Tanga. He is in the second year of his first term, so there is still plenty of time for him to change his mind.
“I believe that when I get elected, the president and his team will work with me very closely”