COALTION FOR H.R. 2003 URGES ALL ETHIOPIANS IN THE WASHINGTON, D.C. METRO AREA TO ATTEND HEARING AND SHOW SUPPORT FOR SENATOR FEINGOLD’S EFFORTS – COALTION FOR H.R. 2003
Tel: 323-988-5688 Fax: 323-924-5563
For Immediate Release
March 6, 2008
Senate African Affairs Subcommittee
Schedules Hearing on U.S. Policy Options on the Horn of Africa
Dirksen Senate Office Building – SD 419
Tuesday, March 11
COALTION FOR H.R. 2003 URGES ALL ETHIOPIANS IN THE WASHINGTON, D.C. METRO AREA TO ATTEND HEARING AND SHOW SUPPORT FOR SENATOR FEINGOLD’S EFFORTS
The Senate African Affairs Subcommittee has scheduled a hearing on U.S. policy options on the horn of Africa on March 11, 2008. The Coalition for H.R. 2003 urges all Ethiopians in the Washington, D.C. metro area to attend the hearing, and show support to Senator Feingold in his efforts to bring about change in U.S. policy in the horn of Africa, and particularly in Ethiopia.
The Subcommittee has not issued a statement on the specific issues to be covered in the hearing. However, on March 3, 2008, Senator Russ Feingold, chairman of the Subcommittee, gave a passionate statement on the floor of the Senate expressing his deep concerns on the political situation in the Horn of Africa and massive human rights violations in Ethiopia. Informed sources suggest that his Senate speech provides a good indication of the scope and direction of the hearing.
In the March 3rd statement, Senator Feingold stated “Ethiopia sits on the Horn of Africa – perhaps one of the roughest neighborhoods in the world” surrounded by the “failed state of Somalia”, an “authoritarian regime in Eritrea”, a “genocidal regime in the Sudan” and Kenya that is “descending into crises”. He criticized the “Bush Administration’s approach to strengthening and building bilateral ties with Ethiopia has been short-sighted and narrow” and ignored “poor governance and human rights concerns” in Ethiopia.
Senator Feingold stressed that U.S. policy should be based on a clear understanding of “what is really occurring in Ethiopia. Rather than place our support in one man, we must invest in Ethiopia’s institutions and its people to create a stable, sustainable political system.”
Senator Feingold expressed his deep concerns about the human rights violations in Ethiopia:
“Mr. President, I am seriously concerned about the direction Ethiopia is headed – because according to many credible accounts, the political crisis that has been quietly growing and deepening over the past few years may be coming to a head. For years, faced with calls for political or economic reforms, the Ethiopian government has displayed a troubling tendency to react with alarmingly oppressive and disproportionate tactics….
[W]e received reports of massacres of civilians in the Gambella region of Ethiopia, which touched off a wave of violence and destruction that has yet to truly loosen its grip on the region. At that time, hundreds of lives were lost, tens of thousands were displaced, and many homes, schools, and businesses throughout the area were destroyed. Credible observers agree that Ethiopian security forces were heavily involved in some of the most serious abuses and more than 5 years later no one has been held accountable and there have been no reparations.
Senator Feingold deplored the stolen elections of 2005:
The national elections held in May 2005 were a severe step back for Ethiopia’s democratic progress. In advance of the elections, the Ethiopian Government expelled representatives of the three democracy-promotion organizations supported by USAID to assist the Ethiopian election commission, facilitate dialogue among political parties and election authorities, train pollwatchers, and assist civil society in the creation of a code of conduct. This expulsion was the first time in 20 years that a government has rejected such assistance, and the organizations have still not returned to Ethiopia because they do not feel an environment exists where they can truly undertake their objectives…
Senator Feingold the brutality of the Ethiopian regime’s military policy in the Ogaden, and Somalia and the threat to regional stability created by the reckless military policy:
This tendency to portray political dissent as extremist uprisings has been repeated more recently with regards to what is being characterized by some as a brutal counterinsurgency operation led by Ethiopia’s military in the Ogaden, a long-neglected region that borders Somalia…
I have been hearing similar reports of egregious human rights abuses being committed in Somalia, about which I am gravely concerned. When I visited Ethiopia just over a year, I urged the Prime Minister not to send his troops into Somalia because I thought it might make instability there worse, not better. Tragically, more than a year later, it seems my worst fears have been realized as tens of thousands of people have fled their homes, humanitarian access is at an all time low, and there are numerous reports of increasing brutality towards civilians caught in the crossfire. In the interest of its own domestic security, Ethiopia is contributing to increased regional instability.
In criticism of the Bush Administration’s failed policy in Ethiopia, and highlighting recent efforts by the Zenawi regime to jam VOA broadcasts, Senator Feingold stated:
The Administration’s efforts at backroom diplomacy, Mr. President, are not working. I understand and respect the value of quiet diplomacy, but sometimes we reach the point where such a strategy is rendered ineffective – when private rhetorical commitments are repeatedly broken by unacceptable public actions. For example, recent reports that the Ethiopian government is jamming our Voice of America radio broadcasts should be condemned in no uncertain terms, not shrugged off.
Committee action has yet to be taken on H.R. 2003. The scheduled hearing on U.S. horn policy should prove to be an excellent segue or transition to consideration of H.R. 2003.
THE COALTION FOR H.R. 2003 URGES ALL ETHIOPIANS IN THE WASHINGTON, D.C. METRO AREA TO ATTEND THE MARCH 11TH HEARING AND SHOW SUPPORT FOR SENATOR FEINGOLD’S EFFORTS