Act Now to Stop U.S. Support for Human Rights Violations in Ethiopia

Coalition for HR 2003 / September 30, 2007
WASHINGTON DC - Now is a critical time: there is a window of opportunity during which the United States government can help avert human catastrophe. So far the Bush Administration has only turned a blind eye. Will Congress do the same?

The lack of democracy in Ethiopia became clear in the wake of the 2005 elections. The ruling coalition (EPRDF), led by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, instituted a violent crackdown when peaceful demonstrations began in protest of alleged electoral fraud. Gross abuses of civil and human rights ensued, and continue to this day. Compounding this volatile and deteriorating situation is the reported withholding by the Ethiopian government of food aid and other basic humanitarian assistance from the civilian populace in the Ogaden region.

The United States government can help avert this human catastrophe. H.R. 2003, The Ethiopia Democracy and Accountability Act of 2007, was introduced this year in the House of Representatives to ensure that future U.S. military aid to Ethiopia is contingent upon Ethiopia's further democratization, accountability for human rights abusers, and justice for the wronged. (Exceptions are made for peacekeeping and counter-terrorism assistance.)

By supporting H.R. 2003, we can encourage a stable, secure and economically viable future for this jeopardized region. Below you can ask your Representative to support H.R.2003 when it goes to the House floor on Tuesday, October 2nd: Details.

US final House action on HR 2003 set for Oct. 2nd

WASHINGTON, DC - The Coalition for H.R. 2003 is pleased to announce that HR 2003 (“Ethiopia Democracy and Accountability Act of 2007”), introduced by Chairman Donald Payne of the Subcommittee on Africa on April 20, 2007, has been scheduled for final action by the House of Representatives on October 2, 2007. Consideration of items on the suspension calendar will begin at 10:00 a.m. (See press release ).

There are 14 bills scheduled for floor debate on October 2. H.R. 2003 is listed as #5 on the calendar.

H.R. 2003 was referred to the floor on a special House procedure known as “suspension of the rules”. This procedure is used generally to act swiftly on relatively non-controversial legislation. The procedure is set forth in clause 1 of House Rule XV. When a bill or some other matter is considered “under suspension,” floor debate is limited, all floor amendments are prohibited, and a two-thirds vote is required for final passage. The equivalent calendar in the Senate is called the consent calendar.

H.R. 2003 has 85 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives, and bill was passed on September 26, 2007 with a unanimous vote of the House Foreign Affairs committee! It is expected that H.R. 2003 will be approved by the House.

The U.S House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee to mark-up H.R. 2003

WASHINGTON DC (Ethiomedia) - Ethiopian human rights activists said they saw their "finest day" in the United States Congress on Wednesday when all 50 members on a U.S. Congress Committee approved HR 2003, and placed it in the forefront of the global human rights agenda among US lawmakers.

During the debate which witnesses described as "intensely for the promotion of human rights and the rule of law" in Ethiopia, members of the U.S. Congress hammered groups that have been hired by the Meles Zenawi regime to forestall the progress of HR 2003.

Members of the US Congress used terms like "thugs in power," and "ruthless dictors" when describing the gross human rights violations by the Zenawi regime, and endorsed HR 2003, according to witnesses.

"It's our finest moment. It was a smash," said a jubilant Al Mariam, a professor of political science at University of California and an activist campaigning for the passage into law of the “Ethiopia Democracy and accountability Act of 2007.”

Al Mariam said "Donald Payne delivered big for Ethiopia." Congressman Donald Payne (NJ-D), is chairman of the subcommittee on Africa and the main architect of HR 2003..

After a debate that lasted an hour and a half, the bill was now sent to the floor of the House of Representatives as one of the most important human rights agenda. During the debate, HR 2003 packed one more provision of securing strong property rights as well.

Senior leaders of the Ethiopian opposition party CUDP-Kinijit who are on a working visit to the US also attended the debate.

Engineer Gizachew Shiferaw, Dr. Hailu Araya, and Mr. Brook Kebede on the occasion expressed their joy over the support Congress gave for the passage of the Bill. The delegates were joined by a number of members of the US Congress, including Donald Payne.

The presence and support the Kinijit leaders showed for the passage of HR 2003 discards a baseless rumor being promoted by proponents of the TPLF regime and other critics that the Kinijit delegates are opposed to the bill.

The opposition leaders told Addis Dimz Radio that the contents of HR 2003 are very similar with what are known as the eight points of CUDP-Kinijit, and the talk that we oppose HR 2003 is self-defeating and self-contradicting.

Also atttending the debate were Dr. Abeba Fekade of the International Ethiopian Women's Organization (IEWO), human rights activist Tamagne Beyene of the up-and-coming Ethiopian Television Network (ETN) of Washington, DC as well as Addis Dimz Radio host Abebe Belew who said members of the US Congress had a deeper understanding of the nature of the Meles Zenawi regime whose deeds they described as "ruthless" and "brutal."

Now HR 2003 is sent to the House Floor, which means, according to Al Mariam, the action observes the 'suspension of rules,' because it has won full bipartisan support and should receive swift congressional action.

According to Coalition for HR 2003, which comprises human rights activists Meron Ahadu, Newai Mengistu and Prof. Al Mariam, the bill requires the ruling Meles Zenawi regime to

  • Release of ALL political prisoners and restore the democratic rights of the people.
  • Institute democratic reforms with accountability.
  • Provide protections for human rights advocates and civic society organization and ensure the existence of adequate monitoring and reporting processes.
  • Set up an independent judicial system with proper monitoring processes to protect judges from political interference.
  • Bring to justice all human rights abusers, including the killers of 193 innocent men, women and children and those who wounded 763 others in the post-2005 election period, and thousands of others.
  • Improve election procedures and ensure fraud free elections.
  • Remove press censorship and restrictive press laws and establish a program to strengthen private media in Ethiopia.

The bill also

  • Offers training programs for democratic participation.
  • Limits the use of U.S. security assistance to peacekeeping and counter- terrorism and NOT against the civilian population.
  • Fosters economic development.
  • Provides assistance to strengthen local, regional, and national parliaments and governments, political parties, and civil society groups.
  • Strengthens training for political parties in the areas of organization building and campaign management.
  • Provides training for civil society groups in election monitoring.
  • Promotes dispute resolution by means of dialogue, negotiations and compromise, and
  • Professionalizes the National Election Board to help it address certain issues, e.g. issues delimitation of constituencies, voter and candidate registration, political party registration, voting irregularities and challenges.