U.S. Representatives Smith, Engel, Ellison, Green & Coffman introduce Smith-authored legislation to protect civiliansEthiopian Human Rights Violations Brought to Light
As victims of the repressive Ethiopian government looked on, Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), Rep. Al Green(TX-09) and Rep. Mike Coffman (CO-06) brought international attention to the oppressive actions taken by the Government of President Mulatu Teshome at a press conference held this afternoon.
“When I visited Ethiopia on a fact finding trip, then-Prime Minister Meles Zenawi was nonchalant about the shootings of peaceful demonstrators, arrests of innocents. The head of the main opposition party was refused medicine, threatening his life,” said Smith, Chairman of the House panel on Africa.
“I have remained in contact with the Ethiopian government in an effort to convince them to moderate their behavior toward their citizens,” Smith continued. “Unfortunately this moderation has not taken place—if anything, the actions of the government of Ethiopia have intensified in its effort to shut down political opposition and critics in civil society.” Smith’s opening statement can be found here.
During the conference Smith highlighted Feyisa Lilesa, an Olympic silver medalist who was in the crowd. After raising his arms in a gesture of solidarity with his Oromo people, Lilesa now fears for his life and is seeking asylum in the United States.
“I applaud Rep. Chris Smith for introducing this important resolution that will reiterate to the world Congress’s support for democracy and human rights in Ethiopia,” Green said. “I believe Ethiopia is for all Ethiopians; I believe in stability in Ethiopia; I believe the military and security apparatus of a nation should not be used against those only seeking a voice in their government and equal protection under the law; and, I believe all Ethiopians are entitled to the freedoms and rights we would expect any democracy to extend to all its citizens. I look forward to continuing to work with Rep. Smith in his efforts to raise awareness and make positive progress on this serious issue.”
In response to these continued attacks on a peaceful opposition, Smith, Green and Coffman, along with Rep. Keith Ellison (MN-05), Rep. Eliot Engel (NY-16) and others introduced the bipartisan House Resolution 861. This legislation is the culmination of a long effort to promote democracy and good governance in Ethiopia and, among other key provisions, condemns the actions of the Government of Ethiopia and calls on the Secretary of State to improve the oversight and accountability of U.S. assistance to Ethiopia.
“The Government of Ethiopia undoubtedly sees itself as part of the Global War on Terror,” said Smith. “But violating the rights of its own citizens will only create the kind of frustration that will lead to domestic violence.”
Smith has chaired three hearings on Ethiopia, the most recent of which looked into the deterioration of the human rights situation in Ethiopia and was titled “Ethiopia After Meles: The Future of Democracy and Human Rights.”