Washington Update September 11, 2008
A BILL To reaffirm United States objectives in Ethiopia and encourage critical democratic and humanitarian principles and practices, and for other purposes. – S 3457
This is another absolutely indispensable step in our progress to bring attention to the needs of Ethiopians! The bill makes clear the intent of the congress of the United States to affect reform in Ethiopia. It calls for every concerned Ethiopian to respond!
We thank you Senators Feingold, Leahy and others for moving forward the Bill to support for Democracy and Human Rights in Ethiopia.
The bill states the following:
STATEMENT OF POLICY
It is the policy of the United States—
(1) to support the efforts by the people and Government of Ethiopia—
(A) to achieve a participatory multiparty democracy, an active and unhindered civil society, rule of law and accountability, judicial capacity and independence, freedom of the press, respect for human rights, and economic development; and(B) to combat extremism and terrorism in their country and the region;
(2) to promote stability, democracy, accountability, social and economic development, human and political rights, humanitarian assistance, the rule of law and accountability, and counterterrorism efforts in Ethiopia and the wider Horn of Africa;
(3) to seek the unconditional release of all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in Ethiopia;
(4) to prohibit United States funding to any unit of the Ethiopian security forces if there is credible evidence that a unit of the security forces has committed gross violations of human rights, unless the Secretary of State has determined and reports to the appropriate congressional committees that the Ethiopian government is taking effective measures to bring the responsible members of the security forces unit to justice; and
(5) to contribute to regional peace and stability by urging the Government of Ethiopia to comply with the EEBC arbitration decisions on border demarcation, urging the Government of Eritrea to permit a United Nations peacekeeping presence, and pressing both Governments to ensure that they are playing a productive role in helping to bring about stability along the border and throughout the Horn of Africa, including in Somalia.
Realistically none of this will come to pass without your and your senators’ help! This an election year and priorities are given to concerns of their constituents. Please inform them of your support for this bill S 3457. This bill is not perfect and we keep asking for additional language in support of hydroelectric, water conservation, and irrigation development of Blue Nile and Awash rivers. Also, we have yet to include any mention of responsibility by the regime for the criminal suppression of human rights in Ethiopia, particularly the participants in the June & November 2005 massacres.
We have strongly recommended inclusion in the bill of support for an independent judiciary and electoral board. We feel that this is essential for anything to improve.
The bill does state forthrightly the following:
“According to the Department of State’s 2007 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, ‘‘human rights abuses [in Ethiopia]. . . include: limitation on citizens’ right to change their government during the most recent elections; unlawful killings, and beating, abuse, and mistreatment of detainees and opposition supporters by security forces; poor prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention. . . use of excessive force by security services in an internal conflict and counter-insurgency operations; restrictions on freedom of the press; etc.’’
Here in the United States in August, 2008 Doctor Taye, chairman KIAB and myself accepted an invitation from Kinjit chapters of Ethiopians in Atlanta to inform them about the present situation in Ethiopia and strengthening the chapters throughout the USA.
Doctor Taye stressed the necessity of unity of Ethiopian-Americans to work together towards common goals of reform in Ethiopia.
We also had meetings in Washington for Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia and a fund-raising conference Northern Virginia Community College. All went very well. The conclusion of most, if not all, attendees was that minor differences must take a backseat to the major questions of Ethiopian reform. We advised all Kinijit chapters of the responsibility to conduct fundraising and contributing to the Kinijit Ethiopian opposition led by President Engineer Hailu Shawell.
In conclusion we promise to keep you up to date on all developments in the Untied States Senate and S 3457.
Mesfin Mekonen, Kinijit International Foreign Relations