A letter to Congressman Smith on the Election Chairman of House Foreign Relation Committee

March 17th, 2015 Print Print Email Email

“…..the entire organization of UDJ was taken over by candidates who were pro-government, essentially turning the election into a contest among EPRDF supporters. ” Solidarity Movement.

Congressman Chris Smith

Washington, DC Office
2373 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Chairman Smith, members of the Subcommittee on Africa and members of the Committee on Foreign Affairs:
Thank you for the work you have done in standing up for human rights and the well being of the people of Africa.This hearing tomorrow March 18, 2015 on the subject: U.S. Election Support in Africa is another example of your ongoing interest in seeking information from experts regarding Africa to make it a more just environment for its people. Over the last ten years, I have had the privilege of working with you, your office and other members of the Subcommittee on Africa on behalf of the Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia (SMNE) http://www.solidaritymovement.org), as its executive director.

As you are aware, the SMNE is a non-violent, non-political grassroots social justice movement representing the diverse people of Ethiopia. The SMNE is committed to bringing freedom, justice, human and democratic rights, accountability, and reconciliation to the people of Ethiopia and beyond. Our organization is based on the principles of putting humanity before ethnicity—or any other distinctions that dehumanize or devalue others; and secondly, on the belief that no one is free until all are free in that true peace results when we uphold the freedom and well being of all others.

As an organization, we are very concerned with the current deplorable lack of democratic and political rights across Africa that can create seeds of future instability, violence, and chaos; possibly creating a training ground for terrorist groups desperate for change or simply angry. In the year 2015, more than 27 elections will be held in African countries; yet, attributes of healthy democracies—free and fair elections, political space, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of association, the rule of law, an independent judiciary, transparency, accountability and democratic institutions—are all in serious decline in many of these same countries. This is an important fact to be considered by legislators in making decisions regarding U.S. involvement in these elections.

Sadly, the fervent aspirations of Africans for governments for, by, and of the people have been too frequently stalled or stolen by African strongmen, seeking power—not for a term or two, but for decades. As such leaders face resistance from disenfranchised opposition groups; they often look to foreign sources for aid to shore up their power. A good look at the African Union will show a preponderance of strong armed leaders, unwilling to let go of power that nearly always is accompanied by high levels of corruption, the pillaging of resources, widespread human rights abuses, the suppression of democratic rights, internal conflicts with opposition groups—sometimes violent, and the crushing poverty of their own people. Flawed elections, repression of opposition groups and the overall lack of political space leading up to elections are the rule. With this in mind, let us look at Ethiopia.

Ethiopia’s national election is scheduled for May 24, 2015. To most Ethiopians, the election is already decided. In the last election in 2010, the current one-party government of the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), essentially controlled by one ethnic-based party, the Tigrayan Peoples’ Liberation Front (TPLF), in power since 1991, claimed 99.6% of the vote. Out of the 547 members in parliament, only one opposition member was elected.

Ethiopia is a strategic country in the Horn of Africa, but also on the continent. It is the headquarters of the African Union and many other key organizations. It is the most stable country in an unstable neighborhood; however, its own repressive policies, exacerbated by the upcoming election in May, have become a threat to its own stability. All the values that make for a healthy society are non-existent. For example, only a few kilometers from the AU in Addis Ababa, one may find some of Ethiopia’s most courageous voices for truth and democratic change, locked up. They have been silenced under anti-terrorism laws that criminalize dissent. Independent civic institutions have been decimated by another law, the Charities and Societies Proclamation, which resulted in some 2,600 groups shutting their doors in 2010. Many strategic ones among them were quickly taken over by government-controlled look-alikes.

Following the last election in 2010 where the highly unpopular EPRDF claimed to win, Human Rights Watch[ii] in its October 2010 report: “Development Without Freedom: How Aid Underwrites Repression,” documented the widespread misuse of food and humanitarian aid from the US, UK and other western democratic countries. Distribution of aid was linked to political support for the ruling party; those unwilling were regularly denied help including emergency food, humanitarian supports, seed, fertilizer and agricultural supports.

As mentioned, only one opposition member from the Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ) party was given a seat in the parliament. That member, Girma Seifu Maru, has only been allowed three minutes in any debate and has been isolated by others. He was the only one to speak for those seeking democratic change in the country, but he will not be running in the upcoming election. His party has been hijacked by the government who have disqualified UDJ’s own candidates, arrested leadership, beaten those who have spoken up, and replaced previous UDJ candidates with their own, all under the usurped name of the UDJ. In a country where many have no access to information, where many do not read, and where the government controls all media sources; a name like UDJ will bring votes, but the voters will not be getting what they think.

Members of the current National Election Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) were all nominated by the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and were subsequently approved by the parliament. The Board has erected barriers of requirements to prevent opposition groups from entering their own candidates into political races. Even when groups have attempted to do so, the NEBE has denied the results. For example; the three major opposition groups were given only four days advance notice to bring together members of their parties to elect candidates. One of the three major groups, the Blue Party (Semayawi) decided not to carry out the process due to the lack of agreement on pre-conditions to assure a genuine process.

However, when the two other major opposition groups, the UDJ and the All Ethiopian Unity Party (AEUP), decided to comply and heroically achieved this task, the NEBE and the EPRDF undermined them all along the way. Most notably, each party was told that the NEBE had to be present at their meetings; but remarkably, when asked to attend, the NEBE claimed they had other commitments. This in itself nullified the results.

Secondly, when each party attempted to elect candidates; pro-government candidates had infiltrated their meetings to seek election. When some pointed out their presence, those who spoke up were later attacked and beaten in the streets of the capital city by recognized EPRDF party thugs. One was a pregnant woman who later was hospitalized and ended up losing her baby.

Thirdly, when each party’s members successfully elected candidates that legitimately represented their party’s interests, despite efforts by the infiltrators; when the results were presented within the proper time range to the NEBE they were declined for non-compliance and instructed to complete the process again. Both groups did so with the same result. Subsequently, the entire organization of UDJ was taken over by candidates who were pro-government, essentially turning the election into a contest among EPRDF supporters. However, to outsiders, the EPRDF will use groups like the UDJ and AEUP as examples of how the government gives political space to the opposition.

In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal[iii], they report that Mr. Girma, the sole opposition parliament member is now a man without a party. However, in that same article they report that a government spokesperson, Shemelis Kemal, told them: ‘“Replacing the party leadership of the UDJ party was legal and served to endorse a faction of the party that proved itself more legitimate.”’

As the election approaches, the risk of increasing frustration and boldness among Ethiopians, who are starting to feel they have little to lose, has created a tense situation in Ethiopia. Added to that is the desperate poverty many are facing despite government claims of double-digit growth. These statistics are highly questionable; however, what is unequivocally true is that regime cronies are becoming millionaires at one of the fastest rates in Africa and control entry into most every economic, financial, vocational, educational, and other opportunity in the country. At the same time, large numbers of marginalized Ethiopians are being pushed from their homes and land to open up opportunity for these same regime cronies.

As the U.S. considers how they might encourage free and fair elections on the continent of Africa; and in particular, with its strategic partners in the War on Terror, like Ethiopia, we encourage legislators to work for the best interests of the people, a source of long-term stability. Security is a priority in this world, but when that security is tied to repressive governments, especially those who are known to terrorize their own people, the investment may be risky.

Just like the elections in Ethiopia, foreign aid meant to increase stability and to confront terrorism in places like the Horn of Africa and Africa can be hijacked by governments controlled by groups like the TPLF/EPRDF who misuse such aid and alliances to fortify repressive mechanisms and exploitation. In the case of Ethiopia, there is rising agreement by groups like International Crisis Group and Genocide Watch that actions by the current ethnic-based authoritarian government have become the source of the its own instability in this strategic country in the Horn of Africa.

The government of Ethiopia has made it impossible for people inside the country to both compete in the next election as well as to speak out for democratic reforms. It is the reason why groups like our own, the SMNE, must do a major part in raising awareness and advocating for change from outside Ethiopia. Many other countries on the continent will have similar elections.

Congressional hearings like this renew the dreams of the million African people. As a result, we hope the U.S. and other donor countries with strategic interests in Ethiopia and in other countries in Africa will not remain silent but instead will lead to the U.S. Congress taking actions to promote free and fair elections and other democratic and human rights in Africa—siding with the people, not the strongmen.

Below are some of the recommendations we made to President Obama in a recent letter to him last month that remain the same:
Recommendations for meaningful US action regarding Ethiopia:

US silence or only symbolic gestures regarding the evolving crisis in Ethiopia may work for the short-term, but no one knows for how long. In fact, continued US support or meaningless action may inadvertently exacerbate the crisis and undermine stability. Instead, the US should use their leverage to bring democratic change and sustainable stability to the country; both of which would enhance long-term US interests in Ethiopia and the Horn.
Meaningful actions include:

• Calling for an independent election commission
• Implementing the Omnibus Bill 2015 concerning Ethiopia
• Releasing imprisoned political prisoners
• Freezing security cooperation with the regime
• Implementing travel bans on key regime officials and freezing their assets

It is not in the interests of anybody to wait for an explosion. Ethiopia is in crisis. Our goal is to bring peace even as some are beating the drums of violence. We strongly encourage you to put pressure on this regime. Condemn these actions. The US should not be silent when such a stance could undermine the future wellbeing and stability of this strategic country of over 90 million people.

As always, I am available for any further questions. Thank you!

Sincerely yours,
Obang Metho,
Executive Director of the SMNE
910- 17th St. NW, Suite 419
Washington, DC 20006
Email: Obang@solidaritymovement.org.
Website: www.solidaritymovement.org

  1. Ye Gonder Jegna
    | #1

    Who gave the American congress man the right to monitor and dictate the world domestic political affair ? ? ?

  2. Selamu
    | #2

    Mr. Obang deserves the highest appreciation for his continued great effort for democracy including respect of human rights in Ethiopia. As the application of credible elections is a basic and fundamentaly human right, his call on the US Congress to focus its interests on Ethiopia is absolutely brilliant.

    The whole world is watching Ethiopian “elections” unfolding in a couple of months. Most expect the same outcome as the previous one: a sham election in which the tyrant government claimed 99.6% win!

    Despite such authoritarian practices, the international community including USA continue to accord recognition to the current regime and even provide it with billions of US dollars as aid although they do know that the funds are subject to substantial corruption measures.

    It’s time that the donor countries, especially, USA link the application of credible election as an important criterion for obtaining financial assistance provided by tax-paying Americans.

    Shame on “YeGonder Jegna” for the Woyinistic, shallow observation.

  3. Asefa Mamo
    | #3

    @ Ye gonder jegna,


    Some of these educated fool negros been inferrioterized and brainwashed so bad that they psychologically still think that America authority have absolute right over the world. What is funny is, the Americans themselves they do not look the world in such crooked manner but those psychologically wounded elites of Africans still thinks that America is the absolute God of politics, of course this deep seated inferiority complex mentality did not come of no where but from systemic psychological bombardment that imposed upon them day in and day out to degrade them to ELITE SLAVE MENTALITY.
    which this slave mentality story reminds me of the story of the field slaves, when the slave master says I am sick, the slave replies by saying YES WE ARE SICK.

  4. USA Fears Blowback
    | #4

    @ Ye Gonder Jegna,

    YOU are a woyane !!!

    Regarding your “minagebachew” attitude, USA has a special responsibility because it is the country that brought TPLF to power.

    1. because of the financial and other support it gets from the USA, UK and EU.

    In general the approach to the TPLF problem should be goal oriented.

    Lets focus on what helps to remove it from power.

    Why is TPLF in power ?

    1. because of the financial and other support it gets from the USA, UK and EU.

    The western countries give support to TPLF because the ethno-fascist group is Anti-Ethiopian and advances their agendas.

    What are their agendas in Ethiopia and Africa ? Well we all have an idea, like imperialism, imperialist expansion, westernization, etc.

    2. because the ethno-fascist group controls the army and the spy agency dehninet.

    So focus on those two areas.

    That means in practical terms, when we report about atrocities and other crimes committed by the ethno-fascist TPLF we have to always (!) add messages that remind the Western responsibility and that those western countries should not continue to enable such crimes and messages for the army and dehninet to not continue to implement such crimes !

    At present opposition media organizations like ESAT and Arbegnoch Ginbot 7 are even afraid to tell simple truths like it was the USA that put the TPLF ethno-fascists in power.

    We all need to have a bit more courage if we intend to liberate Ethiopia.

  5. Danqiq
    | #5

    Ato Obang Meto, simply say, is a vanguard for the movement for justice, democracy, and freedom, and peace, and has several thousands Ethiopians with him as a strong backup, and all Ethiopians together march along the rough road to victory while fighting against the fascist tplf. Yes, Congress has undeniable power to limit and totally cut off the AID that goes to the brutal regime, tplf.

    If the US take an incremental steps to take a drastic measure against the fascist tplf, definitely, this fascist regime will kneel down and walk a lame walk, and then with little kurkum on the head, it will be flattened under the feet of Ethiopians,

  6. boudir-dida
    | #6

    We all agree that the current illegal regime must be replaced by the peoples choice, one and only one that is Ethiopian for Ethiopians for everything anything that is democrat. This Vision for all and the guiding light for the current generation, we shall hold the torch high and walk in tandem, sing in unison, think collectively for the entire country and millions people that is equally beneficial for all, in doing so, we shall toss the oppressive and suppressive regime into anything that the brutal regime deserves to be in.

    Make no mistake, this regime is hurling itself down into deep ditch nose dive; we can actually predict when and how this regime along with its founders and builders share the same fate in the same circumstances that are suitable for both of them which is in fact is coming soon.

    Everybody and everything, even the land the regime founded on is giving away on every side to its final collapse, then it will be mopped away to a landfill.

  7. Washington
    | #7


    Asians countries included chaina had successfully rejected WESTERN intervention in their countries domestic political affairs since 1970′s, this is why today the entire Asian countries in total peace and their political condition shows stability and their economies growing faster than the entire WESTERN countries combined.

  8. Soul darffacha
    | #8

    Ye Gondar Jagna;

    Judgment day is approaching! Even, the grand criminals, such as Hitler never had escaped from the justice; You, Ye Gondar Jagana, the follower of Fascist TPLF thinks you can fool the justice forever; however, as history shows, it is just a matter of time that TPLF AND YOU fool yourselves by your own silly thinking; the reality is, you will definitely stand trial when the judgement day confronts you in front of millions of citizens; this will happen soon. Stay in a hide!!!

  9. Gonder
    | #9

    @ USA Fears Blowback

    “Regarding your “minagebachew” attitude, USA has a special responsibility because it is the country that brought TPLF to power.”

    That is absolutely correct.

    Truth many Ethiopians are scared to tell about the USA:

    1. USA put TPLF in power in Ethiopia in May 1991 Gregorian Calendar.

    2. USA very well knew about the nature of the TPLF before bringing it to power.

    3. Actually the USA picked TPLF out of many alternatives because of TPLF’s Anti-Ethiopian nature.

    Navy commander Commodore Tasew Desta wrote in his book “yeetiopia andenet teztana tegel, 1998” :

    “The story of the last days of the EPDA in Khartoum is told us by Commodore Tasew who was the President of the EPDA with a determined stand to serve the cause of Ethiopian unity to the end. As such Commodore Tasew was an element to be liquidated by the CIA and its proxy agents the EPLF-TPLF as well as by the loyalist Wing in EPDA in the service of the CIA led by Dereje Deresa. This is how the story was told by Commodore Tasew; “ yeetiopia andenet teztana tegel, 1998” p.190

    “ America’ s anti-Ethiopian unity policy had become clear to us beyond any doubt when the US had started to identify itself closely with the EPLF and TPLF and had decided to hand over power in Ethiopia from the Derg to the EPLF-TPLF. It was also then that the CIA had come out openly to block the forces of Ethiopian unity and serve the cause of Ethiopian dismemberment. ” ”

    And below we get an idea how the USA arranged the power transfer from Derg to TPLF in the 1990/91 period. Listen in particular to the US ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt at 3:46 proposing an international personality “help to midwife this thing”, that reminds one of Herman Cohen.


  10. bourdii zaeff
    | #10

    We all agree that the crazy @#1 has been reported that most of his families have had a long term relationships with TPLF as informants and spies. No wonder the head of this man is squeezed and shaped and molded in an oval shape to hold the poison of TPLF and when it is compressed and recoiled, it releases the venom through its ass-shaped mouth all over social media. This man has been reported for too long as a man without a thinking head. When FASCIST TPLF is squeezed inside the feast of the mighty Ethiopians, this man will have no mouth to shit through.

  11. Dalimma Dabisso
    | #11

    Nearly more than 100% of Ethiopians both back home and abroad have been showing a willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty in the struggle to completely eliminate the current brutal and fascist TPLF from the lands it occupied and looted the resources and to free the millions under its suppression and killings.

    We, Ethiopians trust in God and in our collective solidarity and hold hand in hand across the oceans, march on at the speed this struggle against the enemy demands us, the strength we had built to support one another and ascend and descend the ups and downs with a clear direction by compassing our mind to one and only one primary goal of destroying the enemy and its seats, and turn it into piles of ruins, and then shove the demolished debris into landfills that the enemy created in our lands for its own graveyard that the enemy did not know it had prepared its own grave.

  12. Asfaw
    | #12


    We Ethiopians do not value hallow propaganda and talk, beside Talk is cheap, action speaks loud and clear.

    While those bunch of good for nothing blah blahs talking non sense propaganda on their pc in the lazy way, the true heroes and those love Ethiopia and Ethiopians under EPLF’s leadership building a country from scratch by building hydro dams, universities, colleges, mega irrigation farming, hospitals, clinics, roads, highways, sky scrappers, bridges, scientific faculties, reliable fully functional civil infrastructures, balanced trade regulations, factories, city rail roads, cross country rail roads, modern farming, assisting foreign investors, and up lifting the country from centres old poverty.
    Do you love your country ? then show it with actions, less talking more actions.

  13. Fasiledes
    | #13

    I 100% agree with Mr/Ms YA GONDER JEGNA,

    — Ethiopia is not for sale –

    Ethiopia is an independent country for the past thousands of years, and Ethiopia is still an independent country with its rich history and rich cultured and we Ethiopians have no intention whatsoever to surrender these values and history to no foreigner agents or in the name of political status quo.
    We Ethiopians run our business and domestic social affairs as we see it fit.

  14. laqaw bolla
    | #14

    Action speaks more than words. For years, the enemy that we are currently ready to hurl it into its own grave, has been collaborating with our historical and traditional enemies to destroy the dignity of our people, to contaminate our culture with foreign ones, to destabilize the lives of Ethiopians, to shrink the geographical size of our country, to undermine the glory of patriots of all ages, and as the enemy is now on its death bed and wriggles like wounded frog, with its shortened and wounded hands and arms which do nothing but hardly able to scratch its bent back, the enemy is about finishing itself to the inevitable death.

    Yes, Fascist Italian Masters have been thrown into their eternal dark grave and have been changed into evil sprit, and then this evil sprit penetrated into the soul of bandas and askaris and turned them into rabbis infected mad dogs. There is no a way out to safe heaven for fascist TPLF as the doors on the walls shut and the high rise wall that surrounds the enemy has become too high to ascend.

    Dishonorable death is not new to the enemies of Ethiopia; but this one, the one it is coming to entangle the lives of elements in the Fascist TPLF is different in its forms and contents. Only the observers and the onlookers tell how and where the enemy is kissing the doorsteps of hell.

  15. USA Fears Blowback
    | #15

    Diaspora Ethiopians, particularly those in the US, are far from freely expressing their minds, many are even bought by the known western powers and spread their propaganda, also by ignoring many key issues.
    What needed is western critical voices like those of Gambian leader Yahya Jammeh (read quote below) that inform audiences about the crimes that are being committed by the West.

    ” “The West has only been ungrateful. Abject poverty drove Europeans to Africa. And they exploited Her for four hundred years. In those years there has never been any elections. They were no parliamentary systems. After four hundred years of looting Africa, some of us had to take up arms to kick them out. Now they have come around to give us lectures about democracy and human rights. When in their own countries there’s no democracy. Where’s the democracy for Blacks in the UK or Blacks anywhere in Europe? The so-called skin heads or neo-Nazi or the Far right, if they were in Africa or in the Gulf States they would be called terrorist organizations. Why are they not being called terrorist organization and being dealt with?…They are all anti-human. They hate humanity. But why are they not called terrorists and being bombed…like the Islamic extremists? The KKK in the United States are called Far Right or white supremacist. White supremacist against who? I am not anti-West. I am anti their hypocrisy and their racism…The British never built a high school in this country in four hundred years…Democracy is respecting the will of the people…Who do they think they are that they have to teach Africans democracy when we’ve never colonized anybody? The Western democracy is a fallacy. It doesn’t exists.”–Yahya Jammeh,  president of Gambia “

  16. USA Fears Blowback
    | #16

    Of course my comment above is directed against USA, UK, EU and company support for the ethno-fascist TPLF regime that was imposed on Ethiopians by those western powers. It is because of the financial and other support given to the TPLF regime by those western powers that the regime could stay so long in power, 24 years, and commit all the crimes.

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