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Ethiopia: Washington Update

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04/21/13

  08:48:53 pm, by admin, 542 words  
Categories: Washington Update

Ethiopia: Washington Update

Ethiopia: Washington Update

By Mesfin Mekonen


Over 1,000 Ethiopians and Ethiopian-Americans demonstrated in front of the White House last week to protest the Ethiopian government's human rights abuses to Amhara Ethiopians. The protests demanded a stop to the forced displacement of Ethiopians. Protestors asked the Obama administration to investigate human rights abuses in Ethiopia. Organizers of the demonstration are planning a similar event in front of the World Bank's Washington headquarters on April 20th at 8am.

Although U.S. State Department officials publicly claim that the U.S. government is promoting democracy and human rights throughout the world, human rights groups say the U.S. is giving a "free pass" to dictators who help U.S. anti-terrorism efforts. A recent Washington Post article cited the example of Ethiopia, quoting human rights groups accusing "the U.S. government of holding its tongue about political repression in Ethiopia." The article added: "The countries that cooperate with us get at least a free pass,” acknowledged a senior U.S. official who specializes in Africa but spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid retribution. “Whereas other countries that don’t cooperate, we ream them as best we can.”

Johnnie Carson, who recently resigned as the State Department's top official responsible for Africa, made the customary comments in response to questions from the Washington Post. “These security relationships do not provide an excuse for us not to engage fully with the leaders of all of these countries on the very fundamental principles that are at the heart of our policy: strengthening democratic institutions.” Carson did not, however, provide any concrete examples of the U.S. taking on African dictators who support the war on terrorism. The Post article is at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/niger-rapidly-emerging-as-a-key-us-partner/2013/04/14/3d3b260c-a38c-11e2-ac00-8ef7caef5e00_story_1.html

The House subcommittee on Africa, global health, global human rights and international organizations held an illuminating hearing on democracy in Africa on April 16. The hearing focused on U.S. support for elections in Kenya, but many of the issues discussed are applicable to Ethiopia. A representative of the National Democratic Institute discussed the importance of creating a democratic ecosystem and warned against believing that the act of voting defines democracy. He said: " Ultimately, it is the people of a country who determine the credibility of their elections and the country’s democratic development. Additionally, while elections are a key ingredient of democracy, it should be understood that they are not synonymous with democracy."

The message for Ethiopia is clear. Democracy and democratic institutions must exist 365 days a year, not just on voting day. For example, it is ridiculous to think Ethiopia or any other country can have fair, free elections in the absence of access to a free press, in the context of harassment and violence against opposition politicians, and when there is no freedom of assembly.

In his opening statement, Representative Chris Smith (R-N.J.) noted the upcoming election in Ethiopia. "Ethiopia’s next election will replace the late
Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and also will determine whether the political opposition will have more space to operate than in previous elections."

Hopefully Smith, the U.S. Congress, the State Department and media will investigate the human rights abuses that are endemic in Ethiopia. Pressure from the outside world can help bring about change in Ethiopia, and the first step toward creating that pressure is create awareness of the situation.

1 comment

Comment from: Enetebaber [Visitor]
Enetebaber

Thank you for the update.

Keep it up

04/23/13 @ 14:37

rebtel

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