Ethiopian Human Rights Taskforce (EHRT), Dallas Chapter Dinner Event for Congressman Pete Sessions

On April 8, 2018 the Ethiopian Human Rights Taskforce (EHRT), Dallas Chapter held a dinner event to honor a distinguished congressman from Texas, Congressman Pete Sessions who happened to be the first Republican in Texas to co-sponsor H. Res. 128.

  1. Res. 128 was up for a floor vote in the US House of Reps. Congress yesterday, April 10th, 2018 and passed with a unanimous consent. The resolution was authored and introduced on Feb. 15, 2017 by the Honorable Congressman Chris Smith, Republican congressman from New Jersey. The main tenets of the resolutions are: To call/support respect for Human Rights in Ethiopia and to encourage inclusive governance in Ethiopia.

The Ethiopian Human Rights Taskforce, Dallas Chapter was formed by Ethiopian-Americans in DFW area, who care deeply about their fellow kinsmen’s plight of deprivation of their basic and fundamental rights of Human Rights in Ethiopia. When H. Res. 128 was introduced in early 2017, many of these individuals were motivated among other things, by the calls to:

  • end the use of excessive force by the regime’s security forces against all that it perceives as its opponents;
  • investigate the violations and hold accountable those responsible for the imprisonments, killings, torture and inhumane treatment of civilians, whose only crime was exercising their rights guaranteed by the Ethiopian constitution;
  • allow an independent body, such as the UN investigators to conduct an independent examination of the state of human rights in Ethiopia;
  • end the detention of independent journalists, the detention of peaceful protestors and political opponents who legally exercised their rights to freedom of expression and association.

Yesterday, April 10th, 2018 H. Res. 128 reached the floor with over 110 co-sponsors and several confirmed supporters, which of course culminated with the passage of the bill via a unanimous consent. Though the high point of H. Res. 128 is its passage, it was no coincidence that it did so successfully. It is a fruit of labor by so many who made it their mission to see this outcome and worked tirelessly day in and day out since the introduction of H. Res. 128 back in Feb. of 2017.

A number of Ethiopian-Americans and Ethiopians in diaspora enthusiastically embraced the arduous task of advocacy for H. Res. 128. Led by competent and dedicated group leaders, in DFW area and the surrounding regions (Austin, Oklahoma City, Houston, Denver (Colorado) and Kansas City area) these less self-centered individuals rolled up their sleeves and committed themselves to engage the task cut out for them, i.e. to maximize co-sponsorship and support for H. Res. 128. Each week, they sacrificed hours of their time to discuss their actionable items, assess their progress reports and to re-launch their efforts: by contacting fellow Ethiopian-Americans residing in several US congressional districts of Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado & Kansas to inform them (Ethiopian-Americans) about their rights as citizens of the US and about H. Res. 128 in an effort to get their assent to co-operate and contact their Representatives to co-sponsor or support the resolution.

The EHRT thanks every Ethiopian-American constituent who participated in this noble endeavor for their active participation without whose engagement, the passage of H. Res. 128 would not have been assured.

In celebration of the efforts and particularly to honor the people that have catapulted us to this position, on Ethiopian Easter day (April, 10, 2018), we held a dinner event at Maggiano’s Restaurant in Dallas.  Our Guest of Honor was the Honorable Congressman Pete Sessions, who not only was the first Texas Republican to co-sponsor H. Res. 128, but as chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee has the reputation of ensuring that foreign countries adhere to international standards and the rule of law.

The dinner event was attended by Ethiopian Community Association leaders that included the spiritual leaders: from the main Ethiopian Orthodox church, a local Evangelical Church and a delegate from a local Mosque; the tireless DFW area Ethiopian Human Rights activists, and of course the Guest of Honor, the Honorable Congressman Pete Sessions and his gracious & friendly staffer, Ms. Piper Vaughn.

The event was started by the Master of ceremonies, one of our own, the “Cool, Calm & Collected” – Abiy (Yoftahe) with brief elegant & discursive remarks of introductions. He was followed by chairman of EHRT, Dallas Chapter Ato Betru G-Egziabher, who welcomed the Guest of Honor, all the invited guests and the EHRT activists for their presence and paid a special compliment to Congressman Pete Sessions for co-sponsoring H. Res. 128.

In his remarks, Ato Betru cited the over 100 years of diplomatic relationship that the US has with Ethiopia and the special responsibility it bears to exert its influence over the Ethiopian regime whose assent to power was facilitated by the US administration, some 27 years ago. The regime that imposed itself on Ethiopians then has been tormenting its citizens with all kinds of abuses and violations of their basic and fundamental rights that are guaranteed by the Ethiopian constitution. A regime that is rejected by its citizens and is not willing to make structural reforms will make uprising and upheaval inevitable.

And so Ato Betru, explained the importance of H. Res. 128 on many levels, saying that it will help Ethiopia from descending further into chaos and keep the ancestral homeland of ours from being a breeding ground for terrorism. Saying also that Ethiopia is an anchor for the region, Ato Betru stressed that the stability of Ethiopia is not only in the best interest of Ethiopians, but also its neighbors, the world at large, and particularly the United States which traditionally bears the lion’s share of Humanitarian Assistance during crises. For these and other reasons, Ato Betru appealed to Congressman Sessions to use his influence to convince other US House Reps. to support and pass the resolution.

The Honorable Congressman Sessions stood before the invited guests and said that he appreciated the invitation and the chance to work with the Ethiopian-American community here. He also said that he cares deeply about human rights. Adding further, he said “I am interested in your ideas”. Later during an interview with Abbay Media, he also shared his confidence that H. Res. 128 would pass.

The event was a phenomenal success. But we were not presented with just “foods for thought”, but also the ensuing three-course meal, splendid array of food: fresh and delicious salads, tasty Italian appetizers such as, seafood filled mushrooms, cheese ravioli fritte and sumptuous main course dishes: braised beef Contadina, salmon lemon & herb … etc. … were “finger-licking good”! The whole thing was awesome.

After dinner, Obo Mohammed spoke thanking Congressman Sessions for writing to him as a constituent with the good news that he (the Congressman) had co-sponsored the resolution. Obo Mohammed talked about the importance of forging a stronger relationship with the community. He also urged Congressman Sessions to use his influence to convince other US House Reps. to support H. Res. 128.

Later, Abbay Media held a 20-25 minutes interview session with the Congressman which is now posted on Abbay Media’s website and social media account platforms. (Please see the link below.)

After the interview, very thoughtful remarks were made by Rev-Dr. Andualem, the clergy from the main Ethiopian Orthodox Church about the noble idea of activism for the sake of “our blessed motherland” and its people.

The successful event would not have been a phenomenal success without the tireless efforts of our DFW group leader, Gashe Kidane; wud Kokeb, Daniel Lakew & Yilma Zerihun, whose roles and crucial works of vital importance behind the scenes words cannot sufficiently describe. Special thanks also go out to Abiy (Yoftahe), who flew in from Denver, CO. not only to do the important task of interviewing Congressman Pete Sessions, but also to fill the role of ‘Master of Ceremonies’ with his suave ways, making our dinner event a special one and pleasing.

Last, but not least, to all fellow EHRT members – take pride in your efforts. All the time, efforts and resources that you have sacrificed in this endeavor is not in vain. For anyone that is paying attention, your deeds are lessons of “Good Citizenship” and an exemplary definition of what it means to care for humanity, and particularly in this case, for our kinsmen in our ancestral homeland.

The unanimous approval of H. Res. 128 by the US House of Representatives is the result of a concerted effort by dedicated Ethiopian-Americans throughout the US. It is our vision and hope that a united and sustainable effort would continue for Ethiopia’s benefit by utilizing voting rights in all of the democratic countries, globally.

May God bless you all and our ancestral homeland, Ethiopia.


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