SAN JOSE, Calif. –– Ethiopian Americans, many of whom fled Ethiopia for political reasons, are using democrat
in the U.S. to establish democratic reform in their homeland.
Through elected representatives, the Ethiopian Americans Council (EAC) has introduced a bill (H.R. 5321) in the Representatives that urges the Ethiopian government to run free and honest elections that allow opposition parti participate without fear of violent retribution.
The bill, sponsored by Congresssmen Mike Honda, (D-CA), Donald Payne (D-NJ) and Ed Royce (R-CA), also as to appropriate funds for monitoring the 2005 elections.
The U.S. acknowledged that the 2000 national and 2001 regional elections were mostly free and fair but still tain intimidation, killings and disappearances and unlawful detentions of opposition party supporters, particularly in th region.
The stakes are high as the country faces chronic food shortages. The international community was able to moun successful relief effort to save 13 million people from starvation during 2002 and 2003, but there is no guarantee level of relief will always be available.
According to a report by the Ethiopian government and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humani Ethiopia’s population has doubled in the last 20 years to 70 million and continued to grow by two million a year. S farmers can no longer feed the country and even in good years, five million people depend on western aid.
The report urges prompt action to control population, curtail damage to the environment, and institute land reform Abe Hailu, an EAC spokesperson from San Jose, Calif., said that government entrenchment in business is caus There are a number of enterprises owned by the ruling party or controlled by the government including banks, tra textiles, pharmaceuticals, and telecommunications. Private businesses find it impossible to compete against the and party-owned companies who get the government contracts and control the biggest share of the market.
The leftist government also owns the land so that the farmers are working for the government. As a result, there the capital investment to improve the land and farming methods.
With the government so heavily involved in the nation’s business, it is even more necessary to have a transpare democratic system to limit graft, corruption and ensure efficiency, but the government has prevented the press fr freely.
According to a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report of January of this year, the Ethiopian government has freque and arrested editors, publishers and reporters. They proposed a new press law to tighten government oversight newspapers and shut down the Ethiopian Free Journalists Association who opposed the law.
The government came to power in 1991 after a 10-year struggle to overthrow the despotic Communist regime kn Dergue. But now the government is attaining some of Dergue's notoriety.
HRW also cited the massacres in the State of Gambella, the ethnic cleansing of the Anuak people of western Et December and January. According to a joint report from Survivors’ Rights International and Genocide Watch, the may exceed 1,400, and government forces are alleged to have conducted killings of civilians, mass rapes, forced disappearances, torture, burning of homes and crops and illegal arrests and imprisonments. Government soldier have destroyed evidence of mass graves.
The U.S. State Department called for independent inquires into the atrocities. The Ethiopian government said the comply but has not yet produced any report.
Ethiopia is considered an important ally in the war on terrorism and received $531 million in 2003, 88 percent go relief.
Hailu thinks the United States should use its clout in granting assistance to Ethiopia. “The U.S. should say ‘Bring and then you will get assistance,’” he said.
Says the EAC, “With donor [wealthy nations who contribute money to developing countries] fatigue spreading th world, it is imperative to have a democratically elected leadership in Ethiopia to tackle the pressing economic, so political problems facing the country, before they escalate into a full-blown crisis.”