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Senators Cardin and Inhofe are working to revise House Resolution 128

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Washington update – September 4, 2019

The human rights situation in Ethiopia continues to deteriorate. Killings, church burnings and involuntary displacements of entire communities are occurring and the government is doing little or nothing to assert the rule of law. Individuals who are guilty of nothing beyond attempting to exercise their political rights have been arrested and are being detained. The international community, including the U.S. Congress and State Department, are aware of the situation and have done nothing beyond making vague statements. The Ethiopian government is conscious of its reputation and it may respond to criticism and calls for action by the U.S. government, European governments or international bodies.

wash 1Senators Cardin and Inhofe are working to revise House Resolution 128, which was passed by the House in 2018, Supporting Respect for Human Rights and Encouraging Inclusive Governance in Ethiopia.

Concerned Ethiopians in the Diaspora sent a letter to Prime Minister Abiy on August 26. The letter begins: “As private and concerned persons of Ethiopian origin in the Diaspora, we continue to be deeply disturbed by the deepening of human rights violations, the selective and deliberate incarcerations and harassments of journalists, ex-military officers, human rights advocates, young and promising political and civic leaders, business women and men; as well as by the systematic burnings of places of worship, especially those of the Christian faith.” It notes: “Human rights abuses have increased sharply following the June 22, 2019 assassinations in Bahir Dar and Addis Ababa and the alleged coup d’etat that followed. The dreaded and draconian Anti-Terrorism Proclamation that was imposed by the TPLF-dominated regime has been reinstated full force by the Oromo Democratic Part dominated government that you lead.” The letter demands the release of “more than 400 police, retired military officers, youth, civic and political leaders and journalists” who are unjustly imprisoned in Ethiopia. The letter urges Abiy to follow through on his commitments to bring democracy to Ethiopia and calls for him to implement policies of peace and reconciliation – and to abandon policies of ethnic federalism and division.

The letter provoked positive responses from a group of 54 individuals claming to represent individuals/ethnic based. Unfortunately, it also was criticized and mischaracterized by individuals who seek to perpetuate repression, violence and disrespect for human. The authors have been wrongly branded “Amharic chauvinists.” Critics should ask themselves, in John F Kennedy’s words, what they can do for their country, not what their country can do for them. They should reflect on the contributions of heroes like Emperor Menelik II, who modernized Ethiopia and was victorious at the battle of Adawa; Emperor Haile Selassie, who earned the world’s respect; and General Hailu Kebede, (Wagseum), an unsung hero who resisted the Italian invasion, paid the ultimate price, and whose head was severed and taken to Rome as a trophy for the dictator Mussolini.

The Ethiopian government, and especially Prime Minister Abiy have an opportunity to put Ethiopia on the right path. They must respect human rights and the rule of law, and focus on economic development and prosperity.              


Mesfin Mekonen