Resolution highly critical of the Ethiopian regime unanimously passed

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The U.S House Foreign Affairs Committee passed a resolution Thursday condemning the Ethiopian security forces’ use of excessive force and arbitrary arrest, in response to sustained protests in Oromia and Amhara regional states.
Chair of the House panel on Africa, congressman Chris Smith, who introduced the resolution said that “H. Res. 128, is like a mirror held up to the Government of Ethiopia on how others see them, and it is intended to encourage them to move on the reforms they agree they need to enact,” adding “for the past 12 years, my staff and I have visited Ethiopia, spoken with Ethiopian officials, talked to a wide variety of members of the Ethiopia Diaspora and discussed the situation in Ethiopia with advocates and victims of government human rights violations. Our efforts are not a response merely to government critics, but rather a realistic assessment of the urgent need to end very damaging and in some cases inexcusable actions by the government or those who act as their agents.”
The resolution cited the State Department’s current human rights report on Ethiopia that emphasizes that “the most significant human rights problems were security forces’ use of excessive force and arbitrary arrest in response to the protests, politically motivated prosecutions, and continued restrictions on activities of civil society and NGOs”.
H. Res. 128, entitled “Supporting respect for human rights and encouraging inclusive governance in Ethiopia,” condemns the human rights abuses of Ethiopia and calls on the Ethiopian government to lift the state of emergency, end the use of excessive force by security forces, investigate the killings and excessive use of force that took place as a result of protests in the Oromia and Amhara regions, release dissidents, activists, and journalists who have been imprisoned for exercising constitutional rights, allow a United Nations rapporteur to conduct an independent examination of the state of human rights in Ethiopia and hold accountable those responsible for killing, torturing and detaining innocent civilians who exercised their constitutional rights; and investigate and report on the circumstances surrounding the September 3, 2016, shootings and fire at Qilinto Prison, the deaths of persons in attendance at the annual Irreecha festivities at Lake Hora near Bishoftu on October 2, 2016, and the ongoing killings of civilians over several years in the Somali Regional State by police.
“It is important to note that this resolution does not call for sanctions on the Government of Ethiopia, but it does call for the use of existing mechanisms to sanction individuals who torture or otherwise deny their countrymen their human and civil rights,” said Smith.
The Ethiopian government has not formally reacted yet. However, on July 13 the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia, Workneh Gebeyehu was in Washington D.C trying to urge congressional members who are involved in US policy making toward Africa to discard the resolution. Workneh talked with Senator Bob Corker, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations, and Senator Jim Inhof, a frequent visitor to Ethiopia.
The Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front that came to power in 1991 has always been supported by the US government and is viewed as a valuable security ally and a bulwark against terrorism. However in 2007, the House of Representative approved the Ethiopian Democracy and accountability Act over objections of the US State Department and Ethiopian government. However, the act never reached the Senate for a vote and did not become a law.
(Update: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA)’s spokesperson Meles Alem just made a reaction to the news, saying the relationship between the governments of Ethiopia and the US that was cemented on strong bilateral interests. Meles was quoted by the Reporter as saying that the Ethiopian government regards the resolution as being of no consequence and it will just end up on the shelf.)

Arefayné Fantahun
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