Human rights abuses in Ethiopia require congressional action
Last week, Secretary John Kerry met with the foreign ministers of East African nations in Kenya to discuss the fighting in South Sudan and the U.S.-backed African Union battle against al shabaab militant group in Somalia. But absent from Kerry’s agenda were the human rights abuses and repression that are still plaguing in Ethiopia.
This past November, the Ethiopian security forces mowed down more than 400 people, after the Oromo, the country’s largest ethnic group, protested over the government’s plan to expand the zoning of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital. According to Leslie Lefkow, Human Rights Watch Deputy Africa Director, “Ethiopian security forces have fired on and killed hundreds of students, farmers, and other peaceful protesters with blatant disregard for human life.” Moreover, 100 protestors were killed in the Amhara and Oromo regions three weeks ago.
On Aug. 8, even a crew with PBS Television covering how the government responded to the recent drought, was arrested and their equipment confiscated in the south of the capital by the notorious Ethiopian security services.
The Ethiopians are living in systematic fear and repression across the country: Amhara, Oromo, Somali, Gambela and other regions. “’Mass killings, torture, kidnappings, rape, and pillaging”, is the Modus of Operandi of the ruling Tigrean People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) grip on power in Ethiopia.
Despite that, the Obama administration considers Ethiopia as a regional partner for U.S. counter terrorism efforts in the Horn of Africa. Ethiopia is part of the African Union troops fighting against al-shabab in Somalia.
America is complicit in the human rights violations and crimes against humanity in Ethiopia by the TPLF regime. The U.S. provides billions in aid including humanitarian, development, training and supplying weapons to the Ethiopian security forces, and those weapons have been used repeatedly to maim and kill its own people. Without U.S. and EU aid, the stranglehold the TPLF has on Ethiopians would diminish.
President Obama is the worst American president Africa had, for the past two decades. Obama has failed to promote human rights, good governance, freedom and the rule of law in Africa. Instead, he sided with African despots in Ethiopia, Uganda, Djibouti and others, in pursuit of Counterterrorism efforts in Africa. The Obama administration like Communist China has turned a blind eye to rampant corruption and the human rights abuses that beset Africa.
For example, last year when Obama visited Ethiopia, the first visit by a sitting U.S. president, he had a chance to address the human rights and crimes against humanity of the TPLF regime. Instead, he chose to praise the regime and even called the repressive government of Ethiopia “democratically elected”, despite the 2015 sham election; in which the TPLF won 98.9% of the parliament.
More troubling, instead of scaling down or even cutting aid to the Ethiopian regime because of abuses, the EU is planning to provide millions of additional aid to the worst human rights abusers in Africa: Sudan, Ethiopia and Eritrea, in a scheme to stop migrants from reaching Europe. Yet these nations through tyranny are the ones enflaming the African migrant crisis.
Time is running out for the merchants of terror and corruption in Addis Ababa and their apologists in the State Department and the EU.
Because after a quarter century of power and human rights abuses, and one faction rule, the Ethiopian people are saying enough is enough. The beleaguered Ethiopians are yearning for freedom from fear and oppression and the right to dissent for a peaceful regime change.
But with the repressive TPLF in the helm, a peaceful regime change through the ballot box is impossible. Ethiopia has never had a history of peaceful regime changes. In fact, the TPLF, former Maoist guerilla fighters, came to power through the barrel of the gun, after the overthrow of the Marxist despot Menghistu Haile Mariam in 1992.
The minority TPLF regime is also not going to give up its monopoly on power or reform itself because it is not democratically elected, and has no consent from the majority of the Ethiopian people. And if a free and fair election is held it would lose in a landslide.
So what should we do about the human rights abuses in Ethiopia? America and the EU have tremendous power to end the anguish of the Ethiopian people by holding the vile TPLF regime accountable. We should stop the violence against civilians by the TPLF regime, we should put on travel restrictions and freeze asset of the human rights perpetrators in Ethiopia.
Congress has the power of the purse to stop the massive human right abuses in Ethiopia. Congress should send human rights experts to investigate the atrocities in the Amhara, Oromo and Somali regions by the Ethiopian security forces, and to let the media cover those regions. Secondly, Congress must also act now and cut all non humanitarian aid to the Ethiopian regime until the State Department reassesses U.S. foreign policy in light of the prevailing blatant human rights abuses.
Keeping the status quo would deny the 90 million Ethiopians the right to choose freely a government that has the consent of all of Ethiopia’s multi ethnic and religious society.
This scenario would sow the seeds of ethnic strife, violence and extremism from spreading into the despotic country and region.
And for the west that would mean more migrants crossing the Mediterranean and heading for Europe. The very disaster America and the EU are expending vast resources trying to eliminate now.
Ali Mohamed is the co- founder of the Horn of Africa Freedom Foundation, Lewis Center, Ohio. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org