Sanctions on Ethiopia Stalled in Congress

New America Media, News Analysis, Donal Brown Posted: Nov 06, 2006

SAN FRANCISCO – Politicans in Washington are balking on legislation to promote political justice in Ethiopia out of concerns over terrorists finding haven in the horn of Africa.

Sanctions on Ethiopia's government over harsh treatment of political opposition are being sacrified in hopes that Ethiopia will carry the torch in stemming the rise of terrorists in its neighboring country of Somalia.

The Ethiopian Americans Council has been lobbying the Congress to pass legislation to bring sanctions on the Ethiopian government for their human rights violations. They have been active in the November elections urging citizens to vote for candidates who will support House of Representatives Bill 5680 but at present the bill’s chances of passing do not look good.

The bill was stalled by Speaker Dennis Hastert just as it was about to go for a floor vote. The bill entitled the “Ethiopia Freedom, Democracy and Human Rights Advancement Act of 2006” is sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith (R) NJ and Donald Payne (D) NJ. It would tie U.S. military and economic aid to Ethiopia’s human rights record and put sanctions on the tyrannical Ethiopian government unless it releases political prisoners.

The Ethiopian government recently retained Republican lobbyist and former House leader Dick Armey, and it is widely thought that the U.S. does not want to alienate Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi as it is counting on Ethiopia to help contain the insurgent Islamist fundamentalists in Somalia. The U.S. fears that the Islamists will establish an Islamic state in Somalia that provides a safe haven for terrorists.

Ethiopian history professor Charles Schaefer of Valparaiso University said that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld visited Eritrea and Ethiopia in December of 2002 to enlist their support in the war on terror, but the countries were too antagonistic to one another, so the U.S. was forced to choose Ethiopia as their key ally in the region.

Regardless of whether the U.S. needs Ethiopia to fight terrorism, Schaefer said, “I very much support HR 5680. The wisdom of those Congressional leaders is right on. It will go along way to definitively say ‘this is what we tolerate; this is what we won’t tolerate.’”

A spokesperson from the African Desk of the State Department said no one there would comment about whether concerns about terrorism stalled the bill and said inquiries should be directed at the offices of the sponsoring Congressmen.

The spokesperson for Smith, the Republican sponsor, did not return calls or respond to e-mailed questions, but Noelle LuSane, foreign policy adviser for Congressman Payne, replied in an e-mail, “I cannot say for sure why the bill was blocked, but it became clear that someone did not want the bill to be considered.”

Schaefer said he was encouraged by the actions of Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi before the May 2005 national elections. The elections were generally open and free and generated unprecedented political activity from opposition parties. The government even allowed a political rally in Addis Ababa that attracted a million people.

But the day after the election, Meles declared a state of emergency, and it will never be known whether the government actually won the election. Even with reported irregularities at the polling places, the opposition won control of the government of the capitol, Addis Ababa, and 174 of the 557 seats in parliament. Emboldened by their success, the opposition attempted to negotiate with the ruling party for a share of governing power and brought pressure on the government with public protests.

The government reacted by jailing protestors, journalists, human rights workers and opposition leaders including the mayor of Addis Ababa. Thousands are in prison and an independent Commission of Inquiry report found that Ethiopian security forces killed unarmed 193 protestors last year.

In the meantime, the Bush administration, who has made a detailed report on the human rights abuses in Ethiopia, released a statement praising Meles as “a lynchpin on the global war on terror”.

The U.S. government wants Ethiopia to continue aiding the new United Nations-backed Somali government in stopping the advance of the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) that now controls the capitol Mogadishu and much of the country. The UIC has declared war on Ethiopia but has not engaged them in battle. Many doubt that an impoverished and chaotic country like Somalia would turn into a haven for Al Qaeda.

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User Comments

ZAGWE on Nov 27, 2006 at 04:47:10 said:

This is a huge mistake by US thinking Meles is a real democrat. He is playing their game on the cover however, he is no democrat supporter of anti-terrorist.

The people of Ethiopia are not going to help this war with Somalia as US is told by Meles. Ethiopians can handle case of ELF, OLF, and, Somalia’s issues when the true democratic election is honored. The blood of 193 people is calling. Time will come soon for US to eat their progressive talk back with their child Meles.

Ethiopia is not Iraq. No matter haw Meles and his Goons tried to break it apart. Soon, very soon he will crumble and US will loose Ethiopians support.

Long Live Ethiopia!

hayal on Nov 15, 2006 at 19:02:34 said:

We know that the current political situation cast the shadow of war in our world is because of an Amercan selfish politics : if we consider the current middil east situation once Americans support Sadam the Talibans to kick the naji bulla socialist government recurit the alqida lidder binladen to punish The former USSR from the old african dectater mobotu to the ccurrent African gang group like Melese Zenawi of eethiopia Issayas Afewerki of Eriteria And Museveni of uganda are some of those who are backed by American politician to terrorize there own people

sam on Nov 10, 2006 at 17:08:01 said:

This clearly shows that America is not willing to fight for freedom and democracy, but for world power and damnation. Ethiopia is not a free country and if this bill did not go through, the Ethiopian government will use this opportunity to mistreat people who will change them. I must say Ethiopian people, everyway, must work together, please do not try to push away other Ethiopian people, get together and fight, remember, two minds is better then one.

Israel on Nov 08, 2006 at 22:44:24 said:

I am so sad by what Meles Zenawi is doing over the Ethiopian people at the moment.He always uses the people to create confussion over the matters flaming against me.But trust me he will no longer stay in power for more than 10 months here after. His cup of crime has been full in front of the Lord.

Berhanu on Nov 08, 2006 at 01:32:42 said:

I hope the congress knows that the bill strongly supports the mission 'war against terrorism'.Terrorism in that region is a concern to Ethiopia and others countries of the horn more than to America. Prime minister Melese Zenawi is doing all it can to keep that area at bay more than before. Even the peace talk among UIC and transitional government is nomore, because of the involvment of Meles Zenawi in the matter. Members of the transitional government based in Badoia have been defected to UIC side in mass. America should have Kenya as a main figure to deal with the Somalia issue, for negotiating and other issues. Having Ethiopia involved in this affair is like having the Apartheid system re-estabolish in South Africa or the Jim Crow in Southern states - a disaster!
Going back 30-40 years both countries, Ethiopia and Somalia have had serious and sensitive relationships. The current involvement of Ethiopia in this sensitive time, only put fuel on the fire. On top of that, Meles Zenawi's mission is not to assure the stability of Somalia but destabilization process to continue. Only then he would have America's support in his pocket. THe witty American leadership must not be so witty after all. Specially, when a street smart psychopath and pathological lier like Meles Zenawi playing them, like a puppy on a leash trying to run for the frisbee. Meles Zenawi is not only working hard to distablize Somalia but Ethiopia also. Since last year election in Ethiopia, his cadrees and politicians have been working hard to ignite religious and ethnic clashs inside Ethiopia. Specially, since his involvement in Somalia, his new mission has been to incite Muslim vs Christian clashes in different parts of Ethiopia. Burning Churches and Mosques is his new style to keep both Ethiopian communities at bay. The American leadership both Democrats and Republican alike should keep in mind a chatoic Ethiopia is more disastrous than anything around the horn. As might as well say "bye bye war against terror". It wouldn't be very smart of The American leadership to ally itself with an evil regime than the people of Ethiopia.
Currently, different Opposition parties of Ethiopia have developed a framework known as AFD - Alliance for Freedom and Democracy. Other parties are currently in talking terms to join this alliance. Ethiopia after the Meles Zenawi regime will never be as chaotic as he try to make out of her. Now, it is time for the American leadrship or the west to do what is best for the sake of mutual good. Keep in mind that Prime Minister Meles Zenawi is in a very good relationship with China and co. Some kind of insurance policy.




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