Olympian Feyisa Lilesa speaking at press conference in Washington DC about oppression in Ethiopia [Mesfin Mekonen]

Olympian Feyisa Lilesa speaking at press conference in Washington DC about oppression in Ethiopia [Mesfin Mekonen]Representative Christopher Smith (R-New Jersey) has introduced a resolution “Supporting respect for human rights and encouraging inclusive governance in Ethiopia.” Four other members of Congress co-sponsored House Resolution 861: Rep. Keith Ellison [D-MN), Rep. Al Green, [D-TX), Rep. Mike Coffman, [R-CO], and Rep. Eliot Engel [D-NY]. The full text can be found at congress.gov .

A similar bill, Senate Resolution 432 “A resolution supporting respect for human rights and encouraging inclusive governance in Ethiopia,” was introduced in the Senate in June and has 19 co-sponsors.
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Ethiopian-Americans should call and write to their Senators and Representatives expressing support for these resolutions.

The resolution describes and condemns the Ethiopian government’s violations of human rights and suppression of democracy. It notes that “the democratic space in Ethiopia has steadily diminished since the general elections of 2005,” and that “the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front party claimed 100 percent of parliamentary seats” in the 2015 elections. It also states that “the 2015 Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices for Ethiopia cited serious human rights violations, including arbitrary arrests, killings, and torture committed by security forces, restrictions on freedom of expression and freedom of association, politically motivated trials, harassment, and intimidation of opposition members and journalists.”

The resolution notes the killing of peaceful protestors in Oromia and Amhara, the arrests of journalists and others. It also reports the use of the 2009 Charities and Societies Proclamation “to restrict the operation of civil society organizations in Ethiopia, especially those investigating alleged violations of human rights by governmental authorities.”

The litany of abuses by the Ethiopian government includes the illegal and inhumane “relocation of over 1,500,000 people, including indigenous Anuaks in the Gambella region.”

The resolution calls on the government of Ethiopia to stop illegally killing and detaining its citizens, release those who have been unlawfully imprisoned, and take a number of other steps to respect basic human and civil rights.

Importantly, the resolution requests that the Secretary of State “conduct a review of security assistance to Ethiopia in light of recent developments and to improve transparency with respect to the purposes of such assistance to the people of Ethiopia.” It also request the “Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development to immediately lead efforts to develop a comprehensive strategy to support improved democracy and governance in Ethiopia.”

 

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