Re: S. Res. 168-A resolution supporting respect for human rights and encouraging inclusive governance in Ethiopia.
For the past twenty-seven years Ethiopians have endured the terrible dictatorship established by the TPLF (Tigrayan Peoples Liberation Front). The TPLF established a minority-based apartheid like system whereby the most essential functions of government and society (including military establishment, intelligence offices and businesses) are under complete control of one ethnic group.1 The party leaders have blatantly perpetrated animosity between various ethnic groups, intentionally antagonizing the two major ethnic groups in the country (the Amhara and the Oromo) as a tool to secure power.2
The TPLF leaders abhor Ethiopian Nationalism due to their hideous intentions to build a greater Tigray. To achieve their narrow-minded objectives, they have divided the country along ethnic lines deceived a portion of the population and most their allies. Over the years they’ve talked about democracy while they ruled the country in an authoritarian fashion, they’ve talked about free press while turning the country into a massive jailhouse for journalists, they talk about economic development while they loot the country and subject millions to starve, and they’ve talked about peace while waging an unnecessary war with a neighboring sister nation, sacrificing close to 70, 000 Ethiopians.3
Once, the TPLF leaders achieved their goal of divide and rule, their leaders preached on government-controlled TV stations, proclaiming that the “democracy” they’ve established (which is a system of torture and murder) must be protected by any means to prevent the country from falling apart. Over the years, Ethiopians who were fed up of the extreme corruption, displacements, murder, torture and fake election results started popular uprisings that resulted in the killing of thousands of peaceful demonstrators, imprisonments of tens of thousands, disappearances of opposition members, etc.4 The uprisings in turn created a power struggle between the various groups in the ruling party forcing some of the TPLF leaders to refrain from imposing a puppet prime minister, which they have become accustomed to. Along with the uprisings the passage of H. Res 128 came at a critical time for Ethiopians sending a strong message to the TPLF leaders not to continue business as usual.
There is no doubt in the fact that popular uprisings, coupled with international pressure have resulted in the election of the new prime minister, Dr. Abiye Ahmed.5 While the new prime minister has indicated his desire to take some steps towards widening democratic space, the TPLF still remains Ethiopia’s most powerful force, controlling the military, the intelligence and 75% of the country’s wealth which was acquired through illegal means,
While the new prime minister seems to have good intentions, he is already having an uphill battle with TPLF intelligence chiefs and security forces controlled by the TPLF to get a few known political prisoners to be released, as tens of thousands remain in prison. The fact that the TPLF is deceptive regime that held power for twenty-seven years via eliminating its opposition along with the above-mentioned factors indicate how fragile the political situation is as the real power remains in the hands of the TPLF. The recent rhetoric by top TPLF leaders, including the former Deputy Prime Minister and Ambassador to China Seyoum Mesfin, during a party meeting in Tigray (May 28, 2018) is a clear indication that the TPLF is determined to fight and impose the status quo they have enjoyed for more than 20 years.
The day H. Res 128 passed, congressmen Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA, @RepRohrabacher) tweeted saying “Game over TPLF”. The United States Senate should send the same tough message to criminal TPLF leaders by passing S. Res 168 and ensuring they refrain from playing same sinister game they played for so long.
- Res 168 is not a resolution against reforms intended by the new prime minster and instead a resolution that strongly encourages for democratization and accountability.
The eight-point demands included in S. Res 168 ask the government of Ethiopia to:
- address broad and persistent concerns expressed across large swatches of the citizenry;
- end the practice of excessive force by security forces, enforce professional discipline, and hold accountable security forces responsible for such abuses;
- grant the United Nations (U.N.) High Commissioner for Human Rights and U.N. Special Rapporteurs access to conduct a comprehensive examination of the state of human rights in Ethiopia and work with such entities to improve human rights conditions;
- investigate the killings, detentions, and instances of excessive use of force that took place in response to protests in the Oromia and Amhara regions, hold security forces accused of such actions accountable through public proceedings, and publicly release written findings from such investigation;
- release from incarceration all dissidents, members of the political opposition, activists, and journalists who have been jailed for exercising constitutional rights;
- respect the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and guarantee freedom of the press and mass media;
- engage in open consultations relative to its development strategy, especially those strategies that could result in people’s displacement from land; and
- cease proclamations that are used to harass individuals or organizations engaging in peaceful political dissent or that prohibit funding for civil society organizations working for respect for constitutional rights, the rule of law, and protection of human rights.
Among the eight points listed above, only a portion of number five has been addressed thus far by the new prime minister, which resulted in the release of few known political prisoners. However, it is important to note that tens of thousands of political prisoners remain in prisons all over the country. In addition, the TPLF is still actively inciting violence and ethnic cleansing in various areas of the country, including eastern Ethiopia (Harar Region) where the “Liyu” police6 lead by a notorious torturous region president and the right-hand man of the TPLF (President Abdi Elie) is intentionally killing and displacing the Oromo, who are migrating to Kenya and other neighboring nations. In addition, similar displacements and murders are taking place in the northern part of the country, (Benishangul region) where the Amhara are being displaced and persecuted just because of their ethnic group.
The former assistant secretary of state for African affairs, Herman Cohen, clearly states that the TPLF’s monopoly of political and economic power is the major issue in Ethiopia.7 The best plan for solving the continuing political crisis in the country demands for all stakeholders, including opposition inside and outside the country to work together towards a sustainable and far-sighted political solution.
Based on the above facts and current fragile political situation in Ethiopia the only way to stop corrupt and power greedy TPLF leaders from playing their usual game imposing a brutal dictatorship and destabilizing the region is for the US to stand firm in its commitment to human rights and refuse to give tax dollars to a government that is extremely corrupt, murders peaceful demonstrators, tortures its people, and is not accountable to its people.
We ask you to please stand with Ethiopians and co-sponsor S. Res 168 ASAP
NY/NJ Ethiopians Task Force (www.ethionynj.com)
1.Abusing Self-Determination and Democracy: How the TPLF Is Looting Ethiopia. Matthew J. McCracken. Case Western University Journal of International law, 2004, volume 36, Issue 1. Pp183 – 222.
- (a) They started to burn our houses, Ethnic Strife in Ethiopia threatens a key U.S. ally. Paul Schemm, Washington Post. 20 Oct 2017.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/africa/they-started-to-burn-our-houses-ethnic-strife-in-ethiopia-threatens-a-key-us-ally (b) Ethiopia’s ethnic crisis escalates: deaths, displacements reported
- Ethiopia, The TPLF and Roots of the 2001 Political Tremor. Paulos Milkias, Western Michigan University, Center for African Development Policy Research. 2001, pp 1 -31.
- (a) Ethiopia: Dozens Killed as police use excessive force against peaceful protester, AmnestyInternational,08August2016. https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2016/08/ethiopia-dozens-killed-as-police-use-excessive-force-against-peaceful-protesters/ (b)Ethiopia Silences the United States on Human Rights Abuses, By Elizabeth Fraser, Oakland Institute, 19 October 2017. https://www.oaklandinstitute.org/blog/ethiopia-silences-united-states-human-rights-abuses (c) U.S. Congress Should Call Ethiopia’s Bluff. Freedom House, 16 October 2017. https://freedomhouse.org/blog/us-congress-should-call-ethiopia-s-bluff (d) Ethiopia: An Unreliable Ally in the War Against Terror, the TPLF. ECADF, 10 October 2017 https://ecadforum.com/2017/10/10/ethiopia-an-unreliable-ally-in-the-war-against-terror-the-tplf/(e)HumanRightsWatch,EthiopiaEventsof2016. https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2017/country-chapters/ethiopia (f) Ethiopia, What a Disappointment, Amnesty International, 28March 2018. https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/campaigns/2018/03/ethiopia-what-a-disappointment/
(g) Ethiopia: New State of Emergency Risks Renewed Abuses. Human Rights Watch, 23 February 2018. https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/02/23/ethiopia-new-state-emergency-risks-renewed-abuses
(h) Killings of protesters and refusing independent investigations, BBC, April 2017 http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-39619979 (e) Ethiopia: No Justice in Somalia Region Killings, Paramilitary Force killed 21, Detained Dozens, in June 2016. Human Rights Watch, 05 April 2017. https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/04/05/ethiopia-no-justice-somali-region-killings
- Ethiopia’s Great Rift. Will power struggle within the ruling party lead to reform or more repressionTomGardner,February20,2018. https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/02/20/ethiopias-great-rift/
- (a) Amnesty Urges Ethiopian Government to Stop Killings of Oromo People by Liyu Police. May 31, 2018. Newbusiness. https://newbusinessethiopia.com/amnesty-urges-ethiopian-government-to-stop-killings-of-oromo-people/ (b) Ethiopia: it is time to stop the reign of terror of the Liyu Police, by Ali Mohamed, THE HILL, 28 June 2016. http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/foreign-policy/285060-ethiopia-it-is-time-to-stop-the-reign-of-terror-of-the
- Hank Cohen’s Africa Blog. 02 January 2018. Ethiopia at an Ominous Crossroads.
- Documentary, US policy: Ethiopia A Failed State: