Category: "H.R. 2003"

Ethiopia - Testimony by Jendayi E. Frazer to House Committee on Foreign Affairs

October 2nd, 2007
Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Jendayi E. Frazer

Testimony by Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Jendayi E. Frazer

“Ethiopia and the State of Democracy: Effects on Human Rights and Humanitarian Conditions in the Ogaden and Somalia”

House Committee on Foreign Affairs

Africa and Global Health Subcommittee Hearing

Rayburn House Office Building 2172

October 2, 2007

10:00 a.m.



INTRODUCTION

Good morning, and thank you, Chairman Payne, Ranking Member Smith and members of the Subcommittee, for the opportunity to discuss with you the current situation in Ethiopia and more broadly in the Horn of Africa sub-region. Before examining specific questions you may have, I would like to provide some context for that discussion.

U.S. interests in the Horn of Africa are to promote and support regional stability and effective governance, eliminate any platform for al-Qaida or other terrorist operations, respond to humanitarian needs, strengthen democratic institutions, promote respect for human rights, and collaborate with governments to transform their countries by investing in people and creating the conditions for sustained economic growth. In Ethiopia, U.S. engagement seeks to: support the transition to multi-party democracy; sustain economic growth and reduce poverty; build domestic capacity to respond to humanitarian emergencies; improve access to basic education and health services; and bolster regional stability. With the added complications of continued instability in Somalia to the south and the unresolved border dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea to the north, meeting these objectives represents a considerable challenge.

Our relationship with Ethiopia reflects a history of more than 100 years of bilateral dialogue and exchange. As a major bilateral donor, we are working with the Government of Ethiopia (GOE) and civil society on the full range of development issues; through this experience, we have gained an appreciation of Ethiopia’s political and socio-economic trajectory. Just as there are areas of progress, such as HIV/AIDS prevention, there are areas of concern. The United States continues to place a priority on the need for improved human rights and greater political and economic freedoms in our dialogue with the GOE.

DEMOCRACY IN ETHIOPIA

The campaign period leading to the May 2005 elections in Ethiopia was the most open and promising in that country's 3,000 year history. Unfortunately, post-election violence and lengthy detention and trial of opposition members, journalists, and civil society activists cast a shadow over the outcomes of that election. As the immediate aftermath of the post-election turmoil fades, we see a cautious, yet motivated host of political actors who are determined to regain and build upon the advances of 2005 to further strengthen the role of democratic institutions, policies, and practices in the national fabric of Ethiopia.

The United States has persistently pressed all sides to remain engaged with legal and constitutional approaches to advance Ethiopia's democracy. With U.S. encouragement, the ruling and opposition parties engaged in a dialogue process that resulted in agreements to tackle some of the challenging dilemmas facing Ethiopia's democracy. These include reform of the National Electoral Board, joint government-opposition missions to investigate human rights concerns in Oromiya, revising the media law and parliamentary rules of procedure, and establishing a code of conduct for the press.

These steps are unprecedented in Ethiopia and represent a monumental advancement in the political environment. Ethiopia's political environment continues to have its vulnerabilities, but we continue to press all parties to remain committed to the process and seek to establish an environment conducive to addressing the broader development challenges facing the Ethiopian people. It is critical that we all – as stakeholders in Ethiopia's stability, democracy, and prosperity – encourage all parties to move forward to regain the advances that we saw in early 2005 and to build upon them for the people of Ethiopia.

The United States has developed a strong partnership with Ethiopia to foster progress in these areas and democracy and human rights issues remain a permanent element in our bilateral dialogue with Ethiopian leaders and civil society. U.S. officials continue to raise these issues at every possible opportunity. The Department of State recently hosted a group of opposition political leaders and Members of Parliament in Washington, which provided the opportunity for a positive exchange of views on the current state of democracy in Ethiopia. The opposition leaders reaffirmed their commitment to dialogue as the only viable path to deeper democracy in Ethiopia.

While significant work remains, the GOE has taken steps to improve respect for human rights and democratic practices following the setbacks in 2005. The government's recent pardon of 71 leaders of the opposition Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) and members of civil society was an important event which significantly enhanced dialogue and reconciliation in Ethiopia. The ruling party's decision to revise parliamentary rules of procedure to allow for an increased voice for the opposition was also a significant development.

These decisions helped create a positive environment in Ethiopia. U.S. diplomatic and development initiatives, including capacity building efforts in the legislature, judiciary, and executive, are contributing to these efforts, and we will continue to encourage important reforms. However, political restrictions, including any harassment of or impediments blocking elected officials’ access to their constituencies, and restrictions on independent journalists and media outlets remain issues of concern.



THE SITUATION IN THE OGADEN

In a reflection of the challenges encountered throughout Ethiopia, the conflict in the Ogaden region is complex. In early September, I had the opportunity to visit Gode, a bleak and desolate area of the Ogaden, to see first hand the problems and what more needs to be done to bring relief to this region.

The GOE is facing a genuine security concern in the Ogaden region and has an obligation to respond. An increasingly violent insurgency is operating from the Ogaden, where Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), the United Western Somalia Liberation Front (UWSLF), extremists affiliated with the Ogaden faction of al-Ittihad al-Islami (AIAI), and terrorists affiliated with the extremist al Shabaab militia and remnants of the Somali Council of Islamic Courts (CIC) are stepping up their attacks against government targets. While this is not a new conflict, in fact it dates back to before the Meles government took office, in the last year the ONLF has become more aggressive and violent. In April 2007, the ONLF conducted an attack that killed nine Chinese oil workers and 77 Ethiopians, many of whom were civilians.

Regrettably the actions of rebel groups, extremists, and government troops alike have all taken a damaging humanitarian toll on the local civilian population. The challenge for the GOE and international partners is to mitigate the civilian impacts of these events. The current situation in the Ogaden reflects the combined result of continued humanitarian crisis and years of conflict driven by a violent insurgency and fighting between government and rebel forces, as well as government restrictions on commercial trade and on mobility of civilians and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), recurrent drought and flooding, and general insecurity.

Ethiopia’s Somali Region, which includes the Ogaden, has a population of approximately 4.5 million people, of which approximately 1.8 million live in five zones (Degehabur, Fik, Gode, Korehe and Warder) with severe humanitarian needs. Unfortunately, three of these zones – Degehabur, Korahe and Warder – are also where the insurgent activities are the most prevalent.

In May 2007, in response to the increase in ONLF attacks, the Ethiopian military initiated a new counter-insurgency campaign. The Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) conducted military operations, restricted humanitarian food aid and commercial traffic to certain areas, and restricted movement of rural communities. The ONLF has also planted landmines throughout roads, impeding large scale movements and disrupting the commercial trade in food and humanitarian assistance. On July 29, three aid workers were killed when their vehicle struck a landmine, which was placed by the ONLF.

The United States has seen allegations of human rights abuses conducted by all parties, including reports of burned villages and population displacements. While we cannot confirm these incidents, it is clear that the local population is suffering from the insurgency and counter-insurgency campaigns. The United States has raised our strong concerns in this regard with the leaders of the GOE, including Prime Minister Meles. The GOE is working with the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission to investigate allegations of human rights abuses in the Ogaden. The United Nations has also recommended that an independent probe be undertaken into alleged human rights violations in the region.

Testimony Statements to United States House Committee on Foreign Affairs

To address the humanitarian needs of vulnerable populations in the Ogaden region, the United States is working closely with the GOE to open commercial trade routes between the Ogaden and Somalia, which has historically provided approximately 80% of local food, and new routes through Dire Dawa, and to resume distributions of emergency food assistance in the region. The U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa leads efforts to clarify the scope of the humanitarian situation in the Somali Region, coordinates donor meetings with representatives of the international and NGO communities, and works closely with senior GOE officials to identify and respond to the areas of greatest need.

The United Nations recently conducted an assessment of the Somali region. According to the UN World Food Program (WFP), approximately 600,000 people will require food assistance for the next three months to alleviate current humanitarian needs, address food insecurity, and avoid a humanitarian crisis. The GOE has responded positively to the UN recommendations and has requested assistance from donor partners to respond to humanitarian needs in the region. Medical supplies are also in great demand and health care, and the international community is seeking to respond to the GOE’s request for assistance.

The U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia announced on August 24 that the United States is providing $18.7 million in humanitarian assistance for the Somali region. The U.S. government provided more than $200 million to support humanitarian programs throughout Ethiopia in fiscal year 2007. U.S. food aid is currently available in Ethiopia and will be distributed over the coming months. Additionally, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) plans to provide $25 million as an initial contribution in fiscal year 2008. This contribution will be made through WFP in anticipation of greater food needs in January and February, traditionally the most food insecure months in the region.

REGIONAL INSTABILITY – ERITREA AND SOMALIA

The situation in the Ogaden is also impacted by conflicts outside of Ethiopia’s borders. Continued instability in Somalia has reduced the level of commercial trade with the Ogaden, exacerbating the humanitarian situation in Ethiopia. The ONLF also receives support and assistance from the Eritrean government, and ONLF fighters cross the border into Somalia. The Eritrean government also provides support and assistance to extremist elements in Somalia, including some with links to al-Qaida’s transnational terror network who are alleged to be supporting the ONLF.

The past war between Eritrea and Ethiopia and unresolved border dispute is negatively affecting Ethiopia, the Ogaden, and the entire Horn region. The unresolved border dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea remains an ongoing threat to regional stability. Unfortunately, the demarcation process outlined in the Algiers Agreement of December 2000 has come to a standstill. The result has been President Isaias attempting to overthrow the Meles government by supporting Ethiopian insurgents. The border remains a fault line.

The United States, the other Witnesses to the Algiers Agreement, and other interested actors recently encouraged both parties to agree to resume cooperation with the Eritrea-Ethiopia Border Commission (EEBC). We are disappointed that no progress was made at the September 6-7 meeting of the EEBC; however, we continue to urge the parties to accept the offer of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to engage with them to help lessen tensions along the border and move toward normalized relations.

The United States also has grave concerns about human rights issues in Eritrea, including democracy, rule of law, freedom of the press, and religious freedoms. Fourteen years after independence, national elections have yet to be held, and the constitution has never been implemented. Several thousand prisoners of conscience are being detained without charge indefinitely and without the ability to communicate with friends and relatives. The government has severely restricted civil liberties, and arbitrary arrest, detention (including two Eritrean employees of the U.S. Embassy detained since 2001), and torture are serious problems. Security forces detain and arrest parents and spouses of individuals who have evaded national service or fled the country, despite the lack of a legal basis for such action.

The situation in Somalia also poses a threat to regional stability. Extremist remnants of the Council of Islamic Courts and the radical al Shabaab militia are seeking to reestablish their influence and capacity both inside Somalia and allegedly attempting to link with the Ogaden faction of AIAI and the ONLF inside Ethiopia. Despite these concerns, we have seen some positive developments over recent months, including the deployment of 1,630 Ugandan forces as the lead element of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the positive discussions of the National Reconciliation Congress.

The continued violence in Somalia has taken a terrible toll on the civilian population as all parties to the conflict have failed to safeguard civilians and have targeted institutions such as the press. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has reported that some 400,000 Somalis are internally displaced and living in extremely difficult circumstances with only limited access to shelter, food, and medical care. The United States has provided more than $89 million in fiscal year 2007 to respond to these and other humanitarian needs driven by the ongoing complex humanitarian emergency in Somalia.

The United States continues to work closely with the African Union and potential troop-contributing countries to support the full and timely deployment of AMISOM, which will help facilitate Ethiopian withdrawal from Somalia. The United States supports a process of inclusive dialogue, however long it may last, while responding to the humanitarian needs of the Somali people and encouraging Somali stakeholders to move towards national elections at the end of the transitional period in 2009.

CONCLUSION

The Administration has made Africa a foreign policy priority, and that includes the promotion of conflict resolution, humanitarian assistance, strengthening governance capacity, cooperation with international organizations, and counterterrorism efforts. All of these elements are part of the picture when we consider the Horn of Africa sub-region and Ethiopia in particular.

These and other issues facing us in Ethiopia and throughout the Horn of Africa are complex and not easily resolved. Bottom line: A political solution is needed in the Ogaden that will both end the region’s historic marginalization and restore the commercial trade with Somalia to prevent a humanitarian crisis. The United States will continue to promote respect for human rights and democratic principles in our dialogue with Ethiopia, while serving as a partner in addressing the humanitarian needs of vulnerable populations and in seeking to resolve longstanding regional conflicts, and prevent terrorists from establishing a foothold in the Horn and East Africa.



Thank you, and now I would be happy to take your questions.

Ethiopia - Statement by the Embassy of Ethiopia

September 26th, 2007
Agence France-Presse/Getty Images Samuel Assefa, Ethiopian ambassador to the U.S., called the legislation pending in Congress that addresses human rights concerns a "fatal blow" to U.S.-Ethiopia relations.

WASHINGTON, Sept. 26 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Embassy of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia in Washington, DC, released this statement by Samuel Assefa, Ethiopia's Ambassador to the United States:

Ethiopia is a close ally of the United States in the fight against terrorism and efforts to promote regional stability in the Horn of Africa. It also is a country overcoming daunting challenges to build a new democracy while improving the economic fortunes of its 76 million people. Today a Congressional committee recklessly approved a measure undermining these efforts and the critical relationship with the U.S. The legislation would put in place sanctions consistent with measures taken by the U.S. only against dictatorships it has identified as its worst enemies around the world. Ethiopia regards this as an unconscionable and irresponsible action by the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

The Committee approved HR 2003, sponsored by Donald M. Payne, D-N.J., which purports to encourage human rights and democracy in Ethiopia. This misguided bill would do neither.

There can be no misunderstanding about the serious effects of what a small group of Congress members have wrought. This bill ignores the context of what is happening in the region. Ethiopia faces a serious threat from its neighbor Eritrea -- a country that the U.S. Department of State is considering listing as a state sponsor of terrorism, that has rejected democracy and a free press, and that provides no human rights to its citizens. Yet, rather than move against Eritrea, Mr. Payne chooses to condemn America's democratic ally: Ethiopia.

Ethiopia thanks the current U.S. administration for its continued support and carefully considered opposition to this legislation. It also welcomes the support of thoughtful Members of Congress, in the House and the Senate, who understand the reality of the Horn of Africa and recognize Ethiopia's courageous commitment to democracy in one of the most dangerous regions in the world.

Related Links

Ethiopia Legislation Moves Forward in US House (VOA)

Ethiopia is the only African country never to suffer colonial rule. We are a proud and ancient civilization, always open to discussion and advice from our friends. But under no circumstances will Ethiopia accept what it regards as officious intermeddling by misinformed Members of Congress to intrude in our internal politics.

My government encourages all political parties to engage in debate and non-violent democratic action under the rule of law and within the Ethiopian legal system. This bill is a blatant effort to employ the U.S. Congress in support of a partisan Ethiopian political agenda.

The bill ignores the recent bold democratic initiatives taken by our government, the immense progress in creating a competitive, pluralistic system of government and a more open civil society. These measures have rekindled hope and promoted interethnic harmony. We will not waiver from this course. This legislation, should it proceed further, will create fresh obstacles by emboldening those who seek confrontation rather than dialogue, encouraging politics of extremes.

Ethiopia is the strongest and most dependable U.S. ally in a region of strategic importance. It is baffling and deeply troubling that some members of Congress would want to condemn a longstanding friend with such an ill-conceived measure.

Embassy of Ethiopia

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Ethiopia Legislation Moves Forward in US House

September 26th, 2007

Donald Payne

Ethiopia Legislation Moves Forward in US House of Representatives


Listen to Robinson report (mp3) audio clip


VOA

A key congressional committee has approved legislation supporting democracy and human rights in Ethiopia. VOA's Dan Robinson reports from Capitol Hill, where consideration by the House Foreign Affairs Committee was marked by some disagreement over how best to help bring about change in Ethiopia.

After the Ethiopian government released some jailed human rights activists and journalists this past July, U.S. House lawmakers postponed consideration of the legislation by the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Sponsored by Africa subcommittee chairman Donald Payne of New Jersey, it would authorize $20 million in each of the next two years to promote human rights, democracy and economic development in Ethiopia.

The measure would restrict U.S. security and other assistance because of Washington's concerns about human rights.

With the exception of funds for Ethiopian participation in peacekeeping and joint counter-terrorism operations, aid would be prohibited until the U.S. president determines that Ethiopia's government is taking a number of steps.

These include credible efforts to release political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, ensuring an independent judiciary and free print and broadcast media, and punishment of security personnel involved in unlawful killings.

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee supports the bill.

"We are not only going to talk about human rights but we are going to assist the judiciary in Ethiopia by exchanges between Ethiopian and U.S. jurists, law professors, law schools and law students," said Sheila Jackson Lee.

The legislation would also impose a visa ban on Ethiopian officials involved in lethal force or accused of gross human rights violations.

Republican Congressman Chris Smith:

"I would point out to my colleagues that this legislation attempts to free those political prisoners and bring at least some measure some modicum of democracy, transparency and accountability to the Ethiopian government," said Chris Smith.

However, another Republican, Congressman Don Manzullo, questioned whether proposed expenditures for Ethiopia would have any impact.

"This spends $40 million over the next two years for example, to facilitate joint discussions between court personnel, officials from Ethiopia's Ministry of Justice," said Congressman Manzullo. "[So] you [should] pick up the phone and say hello! Why do you have to spend $40 million to do that?"

Related Links

Statement by the Embassy of Ethiopia

There was also a disagreement over some over the question of property confiscated by the Ethiopian government.

Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher proposed an amendment calling for the return of seized property of U.S. citizens of Ethiopian descent:

"There are thousands of such American citizens of Ethiopian descent whose property has been confiscated and whose property is now being used by the oppressors in Ethiopia for their own benefit and their own profit," said Congressman Rohrabacher.

The amendment was rejected in a 25 to 17 vote, as Rohrabacher and other committee Republicans further suggested that Ethiopian government lobbying efforts had succeeded in watering down the bill.

Congressman Payne denied this, and accused congressional opponents of the legislation of trying to block its progress.

"It's just been frustrating time after time that every time we come up with this bill there is some technical thing that just doesn't suit an individual," he said.

Among the range of steps in the bill are assistance to local and national Ethiopian rights groups, a support network for torture victims, a judicial monitoring process, and training of private media outlets, along with expansion of Voice of America broadcasts directed to Ethiopia.

To become law, the legislation would have to be approved by the House and Senate, but it faces opposition from the White House despite a provision giving the president authority to ignore the ban on security assistance in the interests of U.S. national security.

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ETN Report on H.R. 2003 from Capitol Hill

[youtube]E9nrVfO4L68[/youtube]

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H.R. 2003 Ethiopia Democracy and Accountability Act of 2007

August 23rd, 2007

H.R. 2003 Ethiopia Democracy and Accountability Act of 2007

Source: United States Congress

HR 2003

110th CONGRESS

1st Session

H. R. 2003


To encourage and facilitate the consolidation of peace and security, respect for human rights, democracy, and economic freedom in Ethiopia.

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

April 23, 2007

Mr. PAYNE (for himself, Mr. HONDA, Mr. MORAN of Virginia, Ms. WATSON, and Mr. CLAY) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs

A BILL

To encourage and facilitate the consolidation of peace and security, respect for human rights, democracy, and economic freedom in Ethiopia.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the `Ethiopia Democracy and Accountability Act of 2007'.

SEC. 2. STATEMENT OF POLICY.

It is the policy of the United States to--

(1) support the advancement of human rights, democracy, independence of the judiciary, freedom of the press, peacekeeping capacity building, and economic development in the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia;

(2) seek the unconditional release of all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in Ethiopia;

(3) foster stability, democracy, and economic development in the region;

(4) collaborate with Ethiopia in the Global War on Terror; and

(5) strengthen United States-Ethiopian relations based on the policy objectives specified in paragraphs (1) through (4).

SEC. 3. FINDINGS.

Congress finds the following:

(1) The people of Ethiopia have suffered for decades due to military conflicts, natural disasters, poverty and diseases, regional instability, and the brutal dictatorship of the military junta under Mengistu Haile Mariam. Hundreds of thousands of civilians were brutally murdered by the Mengistu regime, including women and children. Many more sacrificed their lives fighting for freedom, respect for human rights, and to bring an end to the brutal dictatorship of the Mengistu regime. Members of that murderous regime are currently living in Europe, the United States, and Africa.

(2) In May 1991, the brutal dictatorship of the Mengistu regime came to an abrupt end when the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) defeated the Mengistu army. In July 1991, the EPRDF and a coalition of other political groups established a transitional government in Ethiopia. A number of liberation movements joined the transitional government in a spirit of a new start and the building of a democratic Ethiopia. These groups included the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), and many others.

(3) Since the ouster of the Mengistu regime in 1991, the EPRDF-led government instituted a multiparty system and organized 3 regional and national elections and a number of local elections. The 1995 and 2000 elections were largely boycotted and judged to be neither free nor fair. Some opposition groups participated in the 2000 elections, giving such groups 12 seats in the 546-seat parliament.

(4) The May 2005 pre-election period and the conduct of the elections in Ethiopia were seen by observers to be transparent, competitive, and relatively free and fair, although there were a number of problems reported. More than 90 percent of registered voters participated and dozens of political parties took part in the elections. Moreover, some international groups observed the elections, unprecedented access to the mass media was given to the opposition, and there were televised debates between the government and the opposition. Some political parties and armed political groups boycotted the 2005 elections. However, trained local groups were barred from observing the elections.

(5) Despite apparent improvement in the electoral process, preliminary election results announced by the Government of Ethiopia shortly after the May 15, 2005, elections were seen by observers as questionable. The opposition accused the Government of Ethiopia of stealing the elections and called for civil disobedience, which resulted in the killing of demonstrators and detention of opposition leaders and thousands of their followers, including 11 elected members of parliament and the elected mayor of Addis Ababa.

(6) The Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD), the United Ethiopian Democratic Forces (UEDF), and the ruling EPRDF reached an agreement to resolve disputed election results peacefully with the help of the National Electoral Board (NEB). The NEB investigated more than 299 complaints and later agreed to hold reruns in 31 constituencies. In late August 2005, the NEB held reruns in the 31 constituencies as well as in all 23 constituencies in the Somali region, where elections had been postponed due to insecurity.

(7) Election results show that opposition parties won 170 seats in the national parliament, a significant increase from the 12 seats they won in the last elections. Opposition parties also won the city council in Addis Ababa, giving them control over the capital. An estimated 150 of the 170 opposition members of parliament have taken their seats. In early May 2006, the Government of Ethiopia appointed a caretaker government in the capital. Members of parliament from the CUD walked out of parliament in protest. The CUD won the city, but the designated mayor has been in detention since November 2005.

(8) Human rights conditions deteriorated significantly after the May 15, 2005, elections in Ethiopia and overall human rights conditions in the country remain poor. The Department of State, in its 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, noted a myriad of human rights abuses by the Government of Ethiopia. Moreover, journalists and editors of the independent press have been and continue to face harassment and prosecution for alleged violations of press laws in Ethiopia. Dozens of journalists have fled the country, and some are currently in exile fearing prosecution or harassment.

(9) In June 2005, more than 35 demonstrators were killed by Ethiopian Government security personnel and in November 2005 an estimated 53 people were killed, including 7 policemen, according to Human Rights Watch and several other reports. The violence against these victims occurred after pro-opposition groups went to the streets of the capital to protest government actions in handling the elections results of May 2005. Tens of thousands of people suspected of being opposition supporters were detained over the past months, although many of these detainees were released. Nonetheless, government security forces continue to abuse opposition leaders, supporters, and family members.

(10) An estimated 112 political leaders, human rights activists, community leaders, and journalists, including the chairman of the CUD (Hailu Shawel), the newly elected Mayor of Addis Ababa (Berhanu Nega), and the founder of the Ethiopian Human Rights Council (Professor Mesfin Wolde Mariam), were imprisoned and charged with treason and genocide. These measures were deliberately taken to stifle and criminalize opposition party activity in the country. The measures also were intended to intimidate and silence independent press and civil society, raising serious question about the Ethiopian Government's commitment to democracy and good governance.

(11) According to Department of State's 2006 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, `human rights abuses [in Ethiopia] reported during the year included: 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 . . .'.

(12) Whereas the Ethiopian Parliament established an 11-member Commission of Inquiry to `investigate the disorder and report to the House of People's Representatives in order to take the necessary measure'. The Commission was tasked to investigate whether government security forces used excessive force, caused damage to life and property, or showed a lack of respect for human rights. The Commission was mandated to investigate the June 8, 2005, and November 1-10, 2005, violence in different parts of the country.

(13) Whereas members of the Commission of Inquiry visited several regions, reviewed police reports, met with prisoners and government officials, made 122 radio and TV announcements to the public, examined 16,990 documents, and took testimonies from 1,300 people.

(14) Whereas the Commission of Inquiry concluded that 763 civilians were injured and 193 killed. The Commission also reported that 71 police officers were injured and 6 killed. Damage to property was estimated at $512,588. The Commission also reported that more than 30,000 civilians were detained, some were tortured, and prisoners in Kaliti were killed.

(15) Whereas the Commission of Inquiry reported that security forces fired 1,500 bullets at prisoners, killing 17 and injuring 53. The Commission stated that civilians did not use weapons and reported bank robberies by demonstrators did not take place. The Commission's deliberations were video-taped and votes were taken on key findings on July 3, 2006.

(16) Whereas shortly after the Commission of Inquiry reached its decision, the Ethiopian Government reportedly began to put pressure on Commission members to change their report. The Chairman of the Commission, a former Supreme Court President of the Southern Region of Ethiopia, was told by a senior advisor of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi to call for an emergency meeting of the Commission in order to change the Commission's report.

(17) Whereas the Commission of Inquiry was scheduled to give its report to the Ethiopian Parliament on July 7, 2006, but the Parliament was adjourned a day early. Several Commission members, including the Chairman and the Deputy Chair, left the country with the final report, other documents relevant to the investigation, and several video tapes of the Commission deliberations.

(18) Whereas in November 2006, the Chairman of the Commission of Inquiry and another Commission member presented the Commission's report and briefed Members of the United State Congress.

(19) Whereas in November 2006, at a congressional briefing with members of the Commission of Inquiry, a young women named Alemzuria submitted her testimony about what happened to her mother, Etenesh Yemam. Alemzuria's father was elected in May 2005 as Council Member of in Addis Ababa. Subsequently security personnel came to arrest him at his home and then shot Etenesh Yemam as she pleaded for her husband's release.

(20) Whereas the Commission of Inquiry investigated the killing of Etenesh Yemam and confirmed beyond doubt what happened on that dreadful day. Etenesh Yemam's husband still languishes in prison while Alemzuria remains a refugee in another African country.

SEC. 4. SUPPORT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS IN ETHIOPIA.

The Secretary of State shall--

(1) establish a mechanism to provide financial support to local and national human rights groups and other relevant civil society organizations to help strengthen human rights monitoring and regular reporting on human rights conditions in Ethiopia;

(2) establish a victims support network to provide legal support for political prisoners and prisoners of conscience and to assist local groups or groups from outside Ethiopia that are active in monitoring the status of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in Ethiopia;

(3) seek to increase the independence of the Ethiopian judiciary through facilitation of joint discussions for court personnel, officials from the Ethiopian Ministry of Justice, relevant members of the legislature, and civil society representatives on international human rights standards;

(4) create and support a judicial monitoring process, consisting of local and international groups, to monitor judicial proceedings throughout Ethiopia, with special focus on unwarranted government intervention on strictly judicial matters, and to investigate and report on actions to strengthen an independent judiciary;

(5) establish a program to strengthen private media in Ethiopia, provide support for training purposes, offer technical and other types of support as necessary, and expand programming by the Voice of America to Ethiopia; and

(6) establish a mechanism to identify and extradite members of the Mengistu Haile Mariam regime and the current government residing in the United States who were engaged in gross human rights violations and work with other governments to identify and extradite such persons, including Mengistu Haile Mariam.

SEC. 5. SUPPORT FOR DEMOCRATIZATION IN ETHIOPIA.

(a) Strengthening Local, Regional, and National Democratic Processes- The Secretary of State shall--

(1) provide assistance to strengthen local, regional, and national parliaments and governments in Ethiopia through training in consultation with government authorities, political parties, and civil society groups;

(2) establish a program focused on reconciliation efforts between the Government of Ethiopia and peaceful political and civil society groups, including in minority communities, in preparation for negotiation and for participation in the political process;

(3) strengthen training for political parties in Ethiopia in areas such as organization building and campaign management; and

(4) provide training for civil society groups in election monitoring in Ethiopia.

(b) Democracy Enhancement-

(1) ASSISTANCE- United States technical assistance for democracy promotion in Ethiopia should be made available to the ruling party as well as opposition parties in Ethiopia.

(2) RESTRICTION-

(A) IN GENERAL- Nonessential United States assistance shall not be made available to the Government of Ethiopia if the Government of Ethiopia acts to obstruct United States technical assistance to advance human rights, democracy, independence of the judiciary, freedom of the press, economic development and economic freedom in Ethiopia.

(B) DEFINITION- In this paragraph, the term `nonessential United States assistance' means assistance under any provision of law, other than humanitarian assistance, assistance under emergency food programs, assistance to combat HIV/AIDS, and other health care assistance.

SEC. 6. ENSURING GOVERNMENT SUPPORT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS, DEMOCRACY, AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT IN ETHIOPIA.

(a) Limitation on Security Assistance; Travel Restrictions-

(1) LIMITATION ON SECURITY ASSISTANCE-

(A) IN GENERAL- Except as provided in subparagraph (B), security assistance shall not be provided to Ethiopia until such time as the certification described in paragraph (3) is made in accordance with such paragraph.

(B) EXCEPTION- Subparagraph (A) shall not apply with respect to peacekeeping or counter-terrorism assistance. Peacekeeping or counter-terrorism assistance provided to Ethiopia shall not be used for any other security-related purpose or to provide training to security personnel or units accused of human rights violations against civilians.

(2) TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS- Beginning on the date that is 60 days after the date of the enactment of this Act and until such time as the certification described in paragraph (3) is made in accordance with such paragraph, the President shall deny a visa and entry into the United States to--

(A) any official of the Government of Ethiopia who--

(i) has been involved in giving orders to use lethal force against peaceful demonstrators in Ethiopia; or

(ii) has been accused of gross human rights violations;

(B) security personnel of the Government of Ethiopia who were involved in the June or November 2005 shootings of demonstrators;

(C) security personnel responsible for murdering Etenesh Yemam, as described in paragraphs (20) and (21) of section 3; and

(D) security personnel responsible for murdering prisoners at Kaliti prison in the aftermath of the election violence.

(3) CERTIFICATION- The certification described in this paragraph is a certification by the President to Congress that the Government of Ethiopia is making credible, quantifiable efforts to ensure that--

(A) all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in Ethiopia have been released, their civil and political rights restored, and their property returned;

(B) prisoners held without charge or kept in detention without fair trial in violation of the Constitution of Ethiopia are released or receive a fair and speedy trial, and prisoners whose charges have been dismissed or acquitted and are still being held are released without delay;

(C) the Ethiopian judiciary is able to function independently and allowed to uphold the Ethiopian Constitution and international human rights standards;

(D) security personnel involved in the unlawful killings of demonstrators, Etenesh Yemam, and Kaliti prisoners are punished;

(E) family members, legal counsel, and others have unfettered access to visit detainees in Ethiopian prisons;

(F) print and broadcast media in Ethiopia are able to operate free from undue interference and laws restricting media freedom, including sections of the Ethiopian Federal Criminal Code, are revised;

(G) licensing of independent radio and television in Ethiopia is open and transparent;

(H) access in Ethiopia is provided to the Internet and the ability of citizens to freely send and receive electronic mail and otherwise obtain information is guaranteed;

(I) the National Election Board (NEB) includes representatives of political parties with seats in the Ethiopian Parliament and guarantees independence for the NEB in its decision-making;

(J) representatives of international human rights organizations engaged in human rights monitoring work in Ethiopia are admitted to Ethiopia without undue restriction; and

(K) Ethiopian human rights organizations are able to operate in an environment free of harassment, intimidation, and persecution.

(4) WAIVER-

(A) IN GENERAL- The President may waive the application of paragraph (1) or (2) on a case-by-case basis if the President determines that--

(i) the Government of Ethiopia has met the requirements of paragraph (3); and

(ii) such a waiver is in the national interests of the United States.

(B) NOTIFICATION- Prior to granting a waiver under the authority of subparagraph (A), the President shall transmit to Congress a notification that includes the reasons for the waiver.

(b) Treatment of Political Prisoners and Prisoners of Conscience-

(1) IN GENERAL- The President, the Secretary of State, and other relevant officials of the Government of the United States shall call upon the Government of Ethiopia to immediately release all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, especially prisoners held without charge.

(2) TORTURE VICTIM RELIEF- While it is the responsibility of the Government of Ethiopia to compensate the victims of unlawful imprisonment and torture and their families for their suffering and losses, the President shall provide assistance for the rehabilitation of victims of torture in Ethiopia at centers established for such purposes pursuant to section 130 of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (22 U.S.C. 2152).

(c) Sense of Congress- It is the sense of Congress that the Government of the United States should--

(1) encourage the Government of Ethiopia to enter into discussions with peaceful political groups in order to bring such groups into full participation in the political and economic affairs of Ethiopia, including their legalization as a political party; and

(2) provide such assistance as is warranted and necessary to help achieve the goal described in paragraph (1).

SEC. 7. SUPPORT FOR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT IN ETHIOPIA.

(a) Resource Policy Assistance- The President, acting through the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, shall provide assistance for sustainable development of Ethiopia's Nile and Awash River resources, including assistance to help Ethiopia with the technology necessary for the construction of irrigation systems and hydroelectric power that might prevent future famine.

(b) Health Care Assistance- The President, acting through the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, shall provide material support to hospitals and health care centers in Ethiopia, especially hospitals and health care centers in rural areas.

SEC. 8. REPORT.

Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the President shall transmit to Congress a report on the implementation of this Act, including a description of a comprehensive plan to address the security, human rights, democratization, and economic freedom concerns that potentially threaten the stability of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia .

SEC. 9. AUTHORIZATION OF APPROPRIATIONS.

(a) In General- There are authorized to be appropriated to carry out this Act $20,000,000 for each of the fiscal years 2008 and 2009.

(b) Availability- Amounts appropriated pursuant to the authorization of appropriations under subsection (a) are authorized to remain available until expended.

END

Ethiopia upset by U.S. bill

August 23rd, 2007
Agence France-Presse/Getty Images Samuel Assefa, Ethiopian ambassador to the U.S., called the legislation pending in Congress that addresses human rights concerns a "fatal blow" to U.S.-Ethiopia relations.

Ethiopia upset by U.S. bill


August 23, 2007

Source:
The Washington Times


By Brian Blackwell -
Ethiopian officials are disturbed by legislation pending in Congress that would restrict military assistance and travel to the United States by certain Ethiopian officials unless President Bush certifies that the Addis Ababa government is acting to address specific human rights concerns.

The Ethiopians argue that it is unfair to lump them in with countries like North Korea and Iran at a time when their troops are acting as allies in the war on terrorism, defending an interim government in neighboring Somalia against Islamist extremists.

"This would be the fatal blow to cooperating security arrangements between the United States and Ethiopia," said Samuel Assefa, Ethiopian ambassador to the United States. "Ethiopia is a vital ally to the U.S. in this region in the fight against terrorism. The bill could cut off economic and bilateral aid at a most inopportune time."

The legislation — known as H.R. 2003 — was proposed by Rep. Donald M. Payne, New Jersey Democrat, and is backed by members of the Ethiopian community in Washington, most of whom support the main opposition party in Addis Ababa and remain angry over the outcome of a May 2005 parliamentary election.

Related Links

H.R. 2003 Ethiopia Democracy and Accountability Act of 2007 Text of Legislation


Special Section: H.R. 2003
|View Points

after the election — in which the opposition party won an unprecedented number of seats but not enough to defeat Prime Minister Meles Zenawi — violent protests erupted, leading to a government crackdown.

The government admitted its security forces arrested about 30,000 protesters and killed 193 civilian protesters, but denied excessive force was used. Many more were arrested and have been held in many cases until recently.

Mr. Assefa argued in an interview at The Washington Times that his government was addressing the problem. Last weekend, the government reported that 32 members and supporters of the opposition coalition were released.

Another 38 prisoners had been freed three weeks earlier, and Mr. Assefa said only one political prisoner who signed a plea requesting a pardon remains jailed because his court case is still pending.

Under the country's legal system, Mr. Assefa said, "a plea for a pardon can only be considered after a conviction and sentencing is passed."

However leaders of a local support group, Coalition for H.R. 2003, contends the Ethiopian government is using the political prisoners as "pawns in its shell game with the U.S. Congress."

"Every time the bill is scheduled for markup [by a full House committee], the regime touts out a hapless bunch of political prisoners and threatens the U.S. that they will not be released if the House Foreign Affairs Committee marks up H.R. 2003," said Alemayehu Mariam, member of the Coalition for H.R. 2003.

"The bottom line on the ruling regime's opposition to H.R. 2003 is that it is incapable of making a morally and politically convincing case against the bill in its entirety, or any of its provisions," Mr. Mariam said.

"So it has to resort to the thuggish tactic of strong-arming members of Congress and holding the freedom of innocent political prisoners in the balance."

While the Ethiopian government questions the timing of the bill, Noelle LuSane, staff director for the subcommittee on Africa and Global Health, emphasized there was a two-year gap between the time the 193 protesters were killed and the bill's introduction in April.

"The government had plenty of time to resolve the issue," Ms. LuSane said. "So Congressman Payne does not feel the government should have been given more time, as they had two years to fix the problem."

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Is Ethiopia a failed state? Katherine Wheeler sits down with the Ethiopian ambassador to the United States to get his reaction.
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