Ethiopian Millennium event hosted at Capitol Hill. – CCEM Press Release

July 16th, 2007 Print Print Email Email

On July 13, 2007 the evening of Friday, the Council for the Celebration of the Ethiopian Millennium in Washington DC (CCEM) held a successful dinner reception inside Capitol Hill. (more…)

On July 13, 2007 the evening of Friday, the Council for the Celebration of the Ethiopian Millennium in Washington DC (CCEM) held a successful dinner reception inside Capitol Hill. Thanks to the help of Congressman Donald Payne, the House Chair on African Affairs and Congressman Mike Honda, the Chairman of Ethiopia caucus in the House, organizing the evening event inside the halls of the US congress made the occasion uniquely beautiful.

The reception dinner was attended by various Ethiopian community leaders, representatives of civic and political organizations as well as Ethiopian businessmen and scholars . The evening was graced with the presence of Congressman Donald Payne, the guest of honor, who was received by the attendees gathered there with a thunderous applause and standing ovation. Congressional staff members of both Congressmen Donald Payne and Mike Honda were also present at the event. Members of the Washington DC area Ethiopian Media outlets, Ethiopian Television Network (EtN), as well as reporters from the Washington Post, German Radio, and VOA were present at the event to give media coverage.

After a brief welcoming speech by Ato Neamin Zeleke, representing the Council for the Celebration of the Ethiopian Millennium in DC, Weizero Alemtshay Wodajo, the Executive Director of CCEM, spoke at length outlining the aims and objectives of the Millennium Celebration in Washington DC. During her speech she spoke of the progress and preparations that are underway by the council in order to have a successful celebration of the Millennium in Washington DC.

Artist Alemtsehay Wodajo also expressed her profound appreciation to Congressman Donald Payne, Congressman Mike Honda, Congressman Chris Smith, and other members of the US congress not only for their strong support rendered to the Ethiopian Millennium event in DC, to be held from September 8 to 12, but also for their tireless effort to end the suffering of our people at home. Wizero Alem thanked them for being champions of democracy and freedom in Ethiopia and the visionary bill HR2003, the Ethiopian Democracy and Accountability Act, which is now in progress for mark up and submission to the full US House of Represtatives.

The honorable Congressman Donald Payne, the guest of honor at the evening , was then invited to address the audience . Amidst several rounds of standing ovation, the Honorable Congressman Payne, then spoke of his 40 years of contact with Ethiopia and about his knowledge of the glorious history of the country. He stressed that Ethiopia–the beautiful country he knows very well, the cradle of civilization in Africa, a proud symbol for black people everywhere– deserves better than its current standing in the world. Congressman Payne said that he had a high hope in the current rulers of Ethiopia and believed they would make a difference. But he mentioned the fact that the current rulers changed their gear from their initial promises to democratize Ethiopia. He spoke of HR2003 pending before the House of Representative with more than 70 co-sponsors as a mechanism to help Ethiopia build democracy, the rule of law, and respect for human rights . He stressed that the Bill will have far reaching positive influences beyond fixing short term problems.

The dinner was also graced by the presence of Métier Atrtist Afework Tekle, currently, touring US as the gust of Honor of the Ethiopian Soccer Federation in North America(ESFANA). Artist Afework shared words of wisdom with the participants and stressed the need for the Ethiopian community in Diaspora to stand up in unity to help Ethiopia and its people.

The evening was made even more colorful and filled with an atmosphere of a great Ethiopian tradition. The famous singer Maritu Legesse sang her beautiful traditional songs to the sound of the masinko played by the capable Artist Melaku. For few of the attendees of the evening, it was an emotional moment of remembering home and long past times missed. And yes, as in the Ethiopian tradition, Maritu was given poems and made in the house lyrics mostly chosen in praise of Congressmen Donald Payne, Mike Honda and Congressman Chris Smith, who have all been advocates of democratic change in Ethiopia. The historic evening ended beautifully after moments of picture taking with Congressman Donald Payne.

The Washington DC Millennium Celebration Council expects thousands of Ethiopians to come to DC from all over North America between September 8 to 12 to mark this once in a thousand years event for reflection on our past, determination and resolution to change the image and condition of Ethiopia for good towards democracy, rule of law, freedom, prosperity, and lasting peace in the coming new millennium. According to the planned activities for celebration, there will be huge symposia where numerous Ethiopian scholars in various areas of expertise and knowledge are expected to participate, a giant parade calling for Democracy and freedom in Ethiopia as well as a cultural festival, drama and musical extravaganza organized by Ethiopian artists.

  1. Habtamu Assefa
    | #1

    July 29, 2007

    The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
    United States House of Representatives
    235 Cannon House Office Building
    Washington, D.C. 20515-0508

    Fax: 202-225-4188
    Phone: 202-225-4965

    Re: H.R. 2003 (Ethiopia Democracy and Accountability Act of 2007)

    Dear Madam Speaker:

    I am writing to inquire on your reported opposition and directives to Chairman Tom Lantos not to mark-up H.R. 2003 (Ethiopia Democracy and Accountability Act of 2007). This bipartisan bill authored by Africa Subcommittee Chair, Donald Payne, is co-sponsored by 83 members of the House, including all members of the Black Caucus.

    H.R. 2003 was drafted with the aim of helping Ethiopia become a stable democratic society with strong human rights protections for its citizens, and to strengthen the Ethiopian American partnership in the global war on terror. The bill is fundamentally about democratic reform and accountability, restoration of the democratic rights of the people, strengthening human rights and civic society organizations and human rights monitoring and reporting processes, increasing the independence of the judiciary, prosecution of human rights abusers, improving election procedures, removing press censorship and repeal of restrictive press laws and provision of various training programs for democratic participation, and limiting U.S. security assistance to peacekeeping and counter-terrorism only, among others.

    I am extremely concerned that you have directed Chairman Lantos not to mark-up the bill and thereby keep it from getting floor action. I would very much like to know why you have given such direction which will effectively block passage of the bill in the House.

    I am therefore asking to find out your reasons for blocking the bill so that I can help you understand its importance to my brothers and sisters, parents and relatives in Ethiopia.

    Madame Speaker:

    Is your concern with the language in H.R. 2003 that requires the “Secretary of State [to] 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”?

    Or are you concerned about the provision in the bill having to do with “establish(ing) a program 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”?

    1 Could it be the language in H.R. 2003 which “seek(s) 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”?

    Or the provision which “create(s) and support(s) 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”?

    Does the provision which “establish(es) 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” trouble you?

    Is it possible that the language in H.R. 2003 which “seek(s) the unconditional release of all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in Ethiopia” presents some ambiguity for you?

    Do you find repugnant the provision which directs the U.S. “President [to] provide assistance for the rehabilitation of victims of torture in Ethiopia at centers established for such purposes”?

    Madame Speaker: I know that a champion of human rights and a member of the highly respected Congressional Human Rights Caucus. I and thousands of my Ethiopian American friends would like to work with you in helping my family and friends in Ethiopia enjoy the blessings of liberty and human rights.

    Please stand with us! Help us in our struggle for human rights in Ethiopia. Be that strong link in the chain of freedom, democracy and human rights forged by Donald Payne and Chris Smith in the House Foreign Affairs Committee. History will remember that when the clock struck midnight, you were on the side of your proud and loyal Ethiopian American constituents, and not the distant tyrants repudiated by their own people.

    I will follow up with a telephone call to your office in the next day or so to find out your responses to my questions above. Thank you.

    God Bless America!


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