Ethiopian diaspora keeps pressure on U.S. Congress – By Jim Snyder

July 25th, 2007 Print Print Email Email

Despite the Ethiopian government’s decision last week to release 38 leaders of an opposition party from prison, Congress must still pass a bill that ties that country’s human-rights record to U.S. aid, say Ethiopian-Americans who have lobbied for the measure. (more…)

Despite the Ethiopian government’s decision last week to release 38 leaders of an opposition party from prison, Congress must still pass a bill that ties that country’s human-rights record to U.S. aid, say Ethiopian-Americans who have lobbied for the measure.

The community, which has worked in recent years to add its voice to the list of influential ethnic lobbying groups, backs H.R. 2003, a measure authored by Rep. Donald Payne (D-N.J.) that directs the State Department to support democracy in Ethiopia and restricts assistance for security efforts until the country releases political prisoners and meets a series of other benchmarks.

The House Foreign Affairs Africa and Global Health subcommittee, which Payne chairs, passed the bill last week. The full committee is expected to mark up the bill on Tuesday.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said the decision to pardon the prisoners was unrelated to efforts in Congress to pressure his government.

“The Ethiopian government isn’t willing and is unable to be run like a banana republic from Capitol Hill,” he said. His government has worked closely with the Bush administration on counter-terrorism efforts in the region.

Human-rights activists and congressional backers of the Payne bill welcomed the news that the government had pardoned 38 of the country’s top political opposition leaders. But Tom Lantos, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, indicated the bill would still move forward.

“At least 36 more activists remain in detention because they either refused to sign a required letter of remorse or because they signed the letter but their cases remain undecided,” Lantos said.

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