YALI hopeful faces challenges on the road to the United States

Zelalem Kibret (Photo courtesy of Trial Tracker Blog).

NPR interviews Zelalem Kibret, an Ethiopian lawyer and blogger who planned to attend President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative at the University of Virginia this summer.

Just two short years ago, Kibret was arrested alongside eight other bloggers and journalists, charged with terrorism related to his blog posts critiquing the country’s government. A year later, he was released from prison with no explanation.

Following his release from prison, Kibret was looking forward to traveling to the United States with the Young African Leaders Initiative. But his hopes were cut short when Ethiopian officials confiscated his passport, alongside four of the five other bloggers who were released.

The issue of censorship has recently become highly controversial in Ethiopia. Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn has complained of a lack of professionalism and ethical boundaries in today’s Ethiopian journalists.

Obama’s Young African Leadership Initiative offers an opportunity for writers like Kibret to develop their journalistic skills, including the professionalism for which the prime minister so strongly advocates.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison will host 25 African leaders this summer through the Mandela Washington Fellowship, the flagship program of President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative.

To learn more about the YALI Fellows’ time at UW-Madison, click here.

“Freed from prison, Ethiopian bloggers still can’t leave the country,” NPR, 5/31/2016.