Sen. Joseph Biden (D)
201 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510 [Fax# (202)224-0139]
February 2, 2008
Dear Senator Biden,
The ongoing human tragedy in Kenya is another grim reminder of the urgency with which the Senate Foreign Relations Committee should bring to the full Senate the Ethiopia Democracy and Accountability bill (H.R. 2003), which was passed unanimously with bi-partisan support in the House of Representatives.
As the Wall Street Journal noted in its January 31, 2008 issue: “A rigged election, ethnic violence, economic dysfunction and now a political assassination – the crisis in Kenya has hit a sad superfecta.”
With every passing day that the bill languishes in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, dictators in Africa are emboldened and continue to subject their citizenry to untold human suffering, as evidenced by the unfolding events in Kenya and the relentless abuse of human rights by the government of Meles Zenawi in Ethiopia.
Three decades ago, the world applauded your courage when you stood on the side of the victims of apartheid South Africa and expressed your shame of “the lack of moral backbone to” the prevailing policy of the U.S. government toward that reprehensible system.
Today, the oppressed people of Africa place their trust in your time-tested courage, compassion and determination to protect the bill against the ferocious onslaught leveled by the repressive machinery of Zenawi, who has used the scarce resources and donor’s money of that poor country to hire powerful lobby firms  and deceive prominent senators in a shameless attempt to misrepresent the lofty spirit of the bill.
We salute you for scheduling a hearing on February 7, 2008 on the “Immediate and Underlying Causes and Consequences of Kenya’s Flawed Elections.” We are confident you will recognize the significance of H.R. 2003 in this important hearing and give the bill overdue recognition.
Contrary to the assertions of Zenawi’s lobby firms and ardent supporters, Ethiopia under the despot has deteriorated on every measure of good governance and economic development:
• According to a recent report of Human Rights Watch, Ethiopia tops the list of countries where human rights atrocities have been committed and the electoral system is manipulated .
• Based on a recent Gallup finding, Ethiopians' level of trust in their national government, judiciary, and the honesty of elections is lower than the regional medians for sub-Saharan Africa by roughly 30 percentage point. In particular, only 13% of Ethiopians have confidence in the honesty of elections in that country !
• A 2007 report of the Committee to Protect Journalists revealed that Ethiopia is among three nations in sub-Saharan Africa where press freedom has deteriorated the most over the last five years .
• According to UNCTAD's new edition of Trade and Development Index, Ethiopia is rated as one of the poorest performing countries in trade and development, way behind many of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa. In fact, the index puts Ethiopia at 114, three steps down from its 111th rank in 2005 .
• With regard to Human Development Index (HDI) just published by United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Ethiopia ranks 169th out of 177 countries. The HDI provides a composite measure of three dimensions of human development: living a long and healthy life, being educated and having a decent standard of living .
In total mockery of donor nations, it has now become fashionable among African despots to conduct sham elections to attract billions of dollars in aid, and then to denounce “democracy” as a western artifact when the people they oppress challenge their brutal rule through the ballot boxes. This was clearly amplified when Zenawi recently sneered with arrogance: "The threat of western sanctions as a response to the current crisis in
Kenya is … misguided .” Why is Zenawi waging a relentless campaign to derail the bill, directing hundreds of his cadres to write letters to congressional members, hiring expensive lobby firms, and inviting ill-advised Senators to his palace?
The apprehension of Zenawi about H.R. 2003 in particular, and sanctions in general, is predictable in light of the numerous published reports regarding his corrupt regime, human rights violations, and crimes against humanity:
i) Zenawi has instituted a policy of ethnic cleansing, and promoted ethnic discord among the various groups that had co-existed in harmony for centuries .
ii) Zenawi and his minority regime have monopolized the major economic and political activities of the country, in total exclusion of the vast majority of the populace. Nepotism is rampant, and corruption is widespread. A recent report by the New Economics Foundation disclosed that money laundering from Ethiopia to UK alone rose 103 per cent over a five year period .
iii) In the aftermath of the rigged elections of 2005, Zenawi ordered the massacre of hundreds of innocent civilians, as documented by a commission established by his own government , and sent thousands of suspected opposition members to gulag-style prisons and concentration camps.
As Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a man who has devoted most of his professional life to the promotion of human rights, rule of law and social justice, you have a historic responsibility to push the bill through your Committee, with an eventual positive outcome in the Senate.
The passage of the bill in the Senate will bring the world one step closer to avoiding a repeat of the terrible human tragedy that happened to Ethiopians in 2005, and the senseless bloodshed that we are witnessing in Kenya today.
Lastly, beyond the passage of the bill in the US Senate and its eventual codification into law, Ethiopians and other African Americans in the Diaspora will further ask for your and your colleagues’ support in the coming days and weeks, as they steadfastly challenge the presidential candidates to elevate the essence of the bill as a primary foreign policy
issue in this election year. In the immortal words of Abraham Lincoln:
“Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and,
under a just God, can not long retain it.”
Selam Beyene, Ph.D.
1. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D)
476 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510
2. Sen. John McCain (R)
241 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510
3. Sen. Barack Obama (D)
713 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510
4. Sen. Harry Reid (D)
528 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510
5. Editor, The New York Times
6. Editor, The Washington Post