Ethiopian Diaspora, US Rights Groups Seek Democratic Progress in Ethiopia ( VIDEO)

Members of the Ethiopian diaspora and U.S. human rights groups want the U.S. government to put pressure on its Horn of Africa ally Ethiopia to implement democratic reform, ahead of parliamentary elections Sunday.  But Africa experts say Washington has little leverage to effect change.

Ethiopian-Americans recently marched from the State Department to the White House demanding that U.S. officials put pressure on Ethiopia’s government to free opposition leader Birtukan Mideksa.
Birtukan, along with other opposition politicians and Ethiopian journalists are currently in jail on allegations of undermining state authority. They aren’t able to report or run in Sunday’s parliamentary elections.

Protesters recently marched by the State Department demanding pressure for democratic change in Ethiopia - photo by Ethiopiaforums.com
Protesters recently marched by the State Department demanding pressure for democratic change in Ethiopia – photo by Ethiopiaforums.com

U.S. human rights groups say Ethiopia’s government is stifling freedom of speech and oppressing the opposition.

Ethiopian-American Hana Haile was one of the protesters in Washington. She says this demonstration would not be possible in Ethiopia.

“There would be a lot of fear of retaliation against us for this march,” she said.  “There could be lots of gunshots and lots of deaths. And that’s what we want people back home to experience the same as we do here.”

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Ethiopian officials say their democracy is a work in progress and that the elections will be free and fair.

Africa expert J. Peter Pham, from the National Committee on American Foreign Policy, says Ethiopia is such an important ally that the U.S. must cooperate with its government, however imperfect.

“Ethiopia has been an important and pivotal state in the Horn of Africa subregion for many years and all the more so in this particular period of history when we have utter chaos in most of the former Somali state, the prospect of a breakup of Sudan and other tensions in the area with Kenya, with elections coming up.”

Terrence Lyons, at George Mason University, says the Obama administration has tried to modify the relationship.

“During the Bush administration, policy toward Ethiopia was very heavily dominated by counter-terrorism concerns,” he said. “President Obama, I believe, is trying to re-calibrate the relationship so that human rights, democracy and other issues reach equal status with the counter-terrorism agenda.”

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Lyons says the United States has little leverage in Ethiopia, where China, India and Saudi Arabia have larger business interests.

Meanwhile, in front of the White House, human rights activist Chris Flaherty staged a week-long hunger strike, demanding that the U.S. pressure Ethiopia to release Birtukan.

He says it takes sacrifice to bring change.

“You know, your freedom is going to come at a cost and it’s going to take tremendous effort,” said  Flaherty. “People are going to get hurt.  People are going to go to jail. People could possibly get killed.  But you have to resign yourself that that is going to be the reality.”

He says demonstrations and sanctions helped topple apartheid in South Africa. And he says that’s a good example of what he hopes will happen in Ethiopia.

Source: VOA

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4 Comments

  1. what i don’t understand is that, how on earth the abesha ppl in the US are so aware of the human right violation and democratic right abuse in ethiopia,ppl please let’s not make things look worse than they are….

  2. Ephrem, the answer is: a) just because you’re not having the bad end of the deal, your experience does not speak to the experience of other ppl in Ethiopia b) human rights professionals both on-site and abroad concur on the standards/abuses of human rights in Ethiopia (it’s not just people in the US) c) there are political prisoners who’ve not committed treason (a medieval practice) d) having the same political party for 20yrs w/o public agreement is called dictatorship, esp when the govt calls itself marxist and democratic at once e) crimes (both white collar corruption and blunt human rights violations) must be held accountable and there is none ex. the case of Birtukan is a reflection of what other Ethiopians (ex. specials like you) are forced to endure g) since you’ve never lived in a democratic society or experienced utter oppression/witnessed genocide as in the case of many outside of Addis, you’re not a good measure of what constitutes as democratic, what human rights violation is, WEZETE. have a nice day. go play soccer or something and let the pros do their job.

  3. @ephrem. what you don’t understand ? I think for anyone who sees what is going on
    in the country it sees clearly what kind of human right situation
    we have. Do you have a basic human rights? can you speak your mind with out worrying
    what will going to happen to you and your family?
    can you criticize the administration on how the govern?
    can you have a meeting without any permission?
    can you even hangout with more than 3 friends on the street with out asking by Federals(tebeten!) why?
    people get arrested without any question.
    publicly being a supporter of another political party is like a crime in
    our country. Please tell me if this not true.
    This people you see they marching and shouting every time for democratic government
    has jobs and families to feed they might take a day off from their work or school to attend
    this to bring at least a basic rights for the people who deserve it.
    So please open your eyes and see what is going on and then tell us if we still don’t need better than this.

  4. …@ misrie n millionalemu… u two have exactly helped me prove ma point, u two obviously have been abroad for a long time,
    … now don’t take me wrong, I’m not saying that EPRDF is perfect or is doing as good as they claim they did,or that the official have not commited any treason against the ethiopian nation so far “talking about the whole eriterea separation story n the border deal with sudan…” or commited any human right abuse…BUT these ppl atleast talk about democracy and basic human right all the time (probably are the first to do so in ethiopian history) …run four elections so far (the upcomming election counted)… there has been some socio economic development…all this event’s whether genuinly aimed for the benefit of the ppl or for political reasons are awakening the ppl here at home, creating awareness about all the democracy and human rights you ppl talk about …there may have been a couple of human right violations, I can’t deny that!!! , and oh yea the story of the ” legendary” BIRTUKAN, (she was pardoned from her sentence because she signed a statement admiting that she was guilty and sorry just like every other kinijit member including birhanu nega and hailu shaul , but then again she went and said she didin’t sign any thing and that she was forced to sign, now who’s to be blamed… YOU PPL WHO LIVE ABROAD LEADING SOME KINDA FANCY LIFE (by fancy I meant three meals a day…) have no right to make it look like hell over here @ home,the country needs economic growth first, education, infrustructure…WEZETE.., and doesn’t mean you know every thing just because you browse through some sites on your mac book, you have to come and see what’s going on here, and what a delicat situation the country is in, your shouting in DC is not gonna help the poor ppl here, so you might as well file for a citizen ship there and stay the hell out of ethiopian affairs
    p.s.
    @millinalemu, please try and watch the pre election debate videos between political parties n judge for your self if there is freedom of speach or not…please do that

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