Washington Update – By Mesfin Mekonen

May 17th, 2007 Print Print Email Email

WASHINGTON DC – The Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs of the Senate Appropriations Committee held a hearing on May 10. Secretary of State Rice testified and was questioned about human rights in Ethiopia. (more…)

WASHINGTON DC – The Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs of the Senate Appropriations Committee held a hearing on May 10. Secretary of State Rice testified and was questioned about human rights in Ethiopia. Rice did not address the issue in a meaningful way.

However, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT.) plans to follow up with written questions. Leahy has expressed great interest in supporting human rights and democracy in Ethiopia. In his written remarks, which will be placed on the record, Leahy pointed out that the U.S. has “been spending g a lot of money and effort to keep the Horn of Africa a stable and safe place for the people of the region, and to assist governments who are allied with our joint war on terrorism.” He asked Rice if she can “assure the people of East Africa that we are not going to forsake our values of liberty, freedom, and the democratic rule of law, by looking the other way when we observe an increasing tension over political and economic repressions in the region?” Leahy will be a champion for human rights and democracy in Ethiopia when the Senate addresses the issue.

We have been asked to submit official comments from the Ethiopian-American Council. Our statement is extensive. One of the points it will make is that the Meles regime’s policies “jailing opposition leaders, suppressing legitimate political activities, censoring the media, corruption and especially intensifying ethnic divisions” are actually creating the conditions that breed terrorism. We expressed gratitude fro Sen. Leahy’s very active interest in human rights and democracy in Ethiopia, and the hope the human rights legislation becomes law so the entire world will know that the U.S. really supports democracy and human rights.

2. New legislation has been introduced in the House, H. R. 2228, the `Ethiopia Freedom, Democracy, and Human Rights Advancement Act of 2007′. The legislation is excellent. It is similar to Rep. Payne’s bill and it is likely that the two bills will be combined in the future as a result of bipartisan negotiation. The fact that both Democrats and Republicans have introduced similar legislation demonstrates that Ethiopian human rights is not a partisan issue in the U.S. Congress.

3. There has been some interest in the media in Ethiopian human rights and democracy. The Washington Post ran a story on May 14 (page A12) that mentions the pending legislation and some of the events that are occurring in Ethiopia. Other newspapers and magazines are preparing articles.

‘Washington Update’ Editor Mesfin Mekonen can be reached at mmekonen@aol.com

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