RE: Ambassador Mark Lagon, President of Freedom House, testimony on Ethiopia in the House Foreign Affairs Committee Hearing: “Global Human Rights Under Siege Worldwide” on July 12, 2016
On behalf of Ethiopia Advocacy Network (EAN), first and foremost, we would like to commend Chairman Royce for convening the important and timely meeting.
We express our utmost gratitude for the incredible work Freedom House continues to do on behalf of people around the world who suffer oppression and persecution. In particular, we are thankful for the persistent and consistent effort of Freedom House in highlighting the lack of democracy and appalling human rights situation in Ethiopia. We applaud Ambassador Lagon for his powerful testimony during the hearing.
Ambassador Lagon clearly and unequivocally stated that, “there cannot be peace and stability if the government restricts political space and suppresses legitimate dissent with force. And without peace, there can be no reliable access to food or health care or education. A country cannot free itself from dependence on foreign aid without strong and accountable governance. U.S. tax dollars will be wasted as long as Ethiopia lacks rule of law, pluralism, and respect in practice of the rights of all”.
In fact, Ethiopia has consistently ranked as Not Free in successive Freedom House annual reports. The annual report has unwaveringly raised the standards of freedom in evaluating dictatorial regimes such as Ethiopia. It is widely read and used by the United Nations, international organizations as well as by the U.S. State Department to sometimes influence policy. In addition, human rights advocates and pro democracy activists fighting for freedom in countries lacking it are encouraged by what Freedom House's report covers.
It is quite apparent that Ethiopia, instead of providing leadership in the region on democracy, human rights and respect for the rule of law, has become a model for draconian legislation that restricts universally guaranteed freedoms, decimated the political opposition, crushed civil society, and muzzled a range of independent voices.
By leaving no room for dissent the repressive regime has made Ethiopia less stable leading to the current chaos that has engulfed the country. We are afraid the simmering discontent throughout the country, like in Gonder and Oromo regions at the present, are waiting for triggers to engulf the country into further instability and even perhaps chaos.
In his testimony Ambassador Lagon has put a number of excellent recommendations that we believe the Obama Administration and Congress need to look at very seriously to dramatically reverse the deteriorating political trajectory in Ethiopia. Turning a blind eye and continuing the failed policy of business as usual will only exacerbate the uprisings we are currently witnessing in different regions of Ethiopia.
Ethiopia is a country of strategic importance and the regional power in the Horn of Africa. More precisely a stable, democratic and inclusive Ethiopia governed by law and respect for fundamental human rights is in the best interest of the United States. The durable interest of the United States in the Horn of Africa is best served with a democratic and inclusive Ethiopia that guarantees and protects the fundamental liberties of its citizens, observes and adheres to the supremacy of the rule of law, unlike the ruling TPLF/EPRDF that has monopolized all power and has truly become a totalitarian regime in every sense of the word.
It is time for the U.S. to act, and act as promptly as possible. In fact, Chairman Ed Royce, in his opening statement emphatically stated that, “too often, public discussions present a false choice between stability and human rights. That has been the favored dodge of dictators and despots since the last century. But U.S. national security is bolstered when states are stable, and stability ultimately depends on respect for fundamental human rights. America has inspired the human rights movement worldwide for decades Promoting respect for the human rights of all people serves the national interests – and the national values – of the United States.”
We, at EAN, wholeheartedly agree with Chairman Royce, a tireless champion and an eloquent voice for democracy and human rights in Ethiopia and around the world.
Ethiopian Advocacy Network is a grassroots organization that was formed in January 2015 by Ethiopian-Americans, Ethiopian activists and community organizers to promote democracy, human rights, and justice in Ethiopia through advocacy, civic education and grass roots mobilization. EAN has a global presence with members in the USA, Africa, Canada and Europe.