Ethiopian American Forum

HR 2003

"Ethiopian American Forum: why are you Hodam representing a TPLF regime?"
If it were not for the stolen election of May 2005 and the measures the Ethiopian Government took in its aftermath, we would not have had a bill formulated condemning the TPLF-led Government. The US Congress is not obliged to pass bills every time any government commits transgressions, even if the government contravenes international human rights laws and conventions.
We Ethiopians have to realize that we have been accorded the greatest respect and privilege by the US Congress in that they listened to our grievances and took action because we have been able to better organize ourselves.  
The world is aware that the TPLF-led Government has continued to commit atrocities throughout Ethiopia, since the day its rag-tag army arrived in Addis Ababa, but for almost 17 years the Ethiopian people have been unjustly let down by the West and its multinational organizations. All we were asking was not to support EPRDF financially or materially, so that their assistance would not be used to traumatize the Ethiopian people morally, spiritually and physically.
We will endeavor to address below the various concerns raised in the Diaspora Forum last week-end on whether the bill will compromise the sovereignty of Ethiopia. We do not believe that we should read into HR 2003 something that is not there. The Bill is about peace and security, respect for human rights, democracy, accountability and economic freedom.
Indeed, we have not forgotten the students who were massacred for demonstrating outside the US Embassy in 1991. Then, there was the massacre of: 154 civilians in Arba Gugu in December 1991; 46 civilians in the former Harerghe province in December 1991 which recurred again in July-August 1992; 150 civilians in Bedeno in April 1992; dozens of innocent civilians in a church in Gondar in September 1993; over 40 Addis Ababa University students in April 2001; (approx.) 250 civilians in Tepi and Awassa in 2002; 424 Anuak civilians in Gambella in December 2003, to mention but a few.
Concern No.1:
Why is humanitarian assistance being provided to the Ogaden to alleviate the hardship caused by the Ethiopian government while there has not been any assistance provided to other regions that have suffered similar fates.
Response No. 1:
Every time similar atrocities took place in the past, we reacted with shock and   were not as organized at that time to bring these heinous acts to the attention of the International Community. In addition, the fact that those criminal acts which   took place and are still taking place outside Addis Ababa, in areas where the  international media or community are not present, make it difficult to draw international attention. The US Congress can only act when we produce credible supporting documents with concrete facts and figures within a reasonable time frame. In the Ogaden case, human rights organizations, the international media and local indigenous civil society organizations, like the Ogaden ….have put across their concern to Congress in a timely fashion.
HR 2003 also advocates for human rights organizations to monitor and investigate abuses in all regions of the country. This implies that once the Bill is  passed all crimes against humanity will be investigated. There is also a movement within the United Nations for an investigation of crimes against humanity in the Ogaden region, which would most likely include an investigation on the murders of the Ethiopian and Chinese workers.
Concern No. 2:
What is the meaning of the phrase “(c) Sense of Congress- It is the sense of Congress that the Government of the United States should-- (1) encourage the     Government of Ethiopia to enter into discussions with opposition political groups interested in reconciliation to fully participate in the political and economic affairs  of Ethiopia, including their legalization as political parties, and provide such assistance as is warranted and necessary to help achieve the goal described in this paragraph; and”
Response No. 2
‘Sense of Congress’ means that the Congress would advise that the US Government encourage dialogue between the Ethiopian Government and political groups. It is a recommendation and does not place conditions on the Ethiopian Government. If the LFs are willing to participate in a democratic political process, they would have to abandon their quest for cessation, as well as their armed struggle. We have heard that Meles and OLF have often tried to have a dialogue but nothing has come out of it so far. This would seem to indicate that    Meles is stuck between a rock and a hard place because of Article 39 of the Constitution. We also have to keep in mind that the OLF does not represent the majority of the Oromo people.
Concern No. 3
Some have questions as to who would be the beneficiary of the $20,000,000 appropriated for each of the fiscal years 2008 and 2009. (This amount does not include other US financial assistance provided for various programs annually).
Response No. 3
            The Bill will provide: financial assistance to local and national human rights groups, to relevant civil society organizations to monitor and report on human rights conditions; legal support for political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, as needed; establishment of a program for judicial monitoring of proceedings throughout Ethiopia focusing on unwarranted government intervention on matters strictly judicial in nature;
establishment of a program to provide support to strengthen independent media including training and technical support; expansion of the Voice of America; support for the prosecution of individuals of Mengistu’s regime and officials of the current Ethiopian government who were engaged in gross human rights violations who may be residing in the USA or Ethiopia; assistance to local, regional and national parliaments and governments, as needed; establishment of a program for reconciliation efforts between the Ethiopian government and political parties, including in minority communities, to enable participation in the political process; training for civil society in election monitoring; compensation of victims of unlawful imprisonment and torture and their families for their suffering and losses and assistance for rehabilitation of torture victims; assistance, as needed, for development of Nile and Awash rivers resources, including technology for construction of irrigation systems and hydroelectric power, material support to hospitals, clinics and health care centers, especially in rural areas.
Concluding Remarks:
The last but important aspect of HR 2003 is Sec.5, paragraph 3 “CERTIFICATION”, which could be termed as the “operative” paragraph of the Bill. HR 2003 becomes operative when the 11 conditions (A-J) are certified by the US President. There is no mention of LF groups in these 11 conditions, which in essence validates the claim that HR 2003 does not infringe on Ethiopian sovereignty.
Please read the latest version of HR 2003 below: