A Resolution with a Sober Tone
Amen Teferi 08-10-17
In the last two and half decades, despite some hiccups, Ethiopia has been enjoying a strong support from the US and other foreign donors. The progress registered in development indicators has also created an alluring virtue that gravitate brand global companies to Ethiopia. It has also solid and amicable relationship with most of its regional neighbors and is considered as an important strategic regional player. Its contribution to the UN peacekeeping mission has posited Addis Ababa as an indispensable partner to the global community and an important player in the fight against terrorism. In light of these and other virtues, last year in June, Ethiopia was elected to the UN Security Council and is appointed as vice president to the UN Human Rights Council.
Migration is another agenda that drives Western countries to forge strong partnership with Ethiopia. As a country of origin, transit, and host for large numbers of migrants and refugees, Ethiopia is a reckonable partner to the Western countries in addressing the increasingly pressing issues of our time- migration.
In my view, the recent resolution passed by the US congress is fully cognizant of these facts, as one can deduced from the tone or sub-text of the resolution designated as “H. Res. 128.” Nonetheless, I found it to be anachronistic, for all the issues raised therein, including the State of Emergency Law, are already addressed and dealt with satisfactorily.
t From the word go, the title itself reflects an ambivalent disposition of the US government towards Ethiopia, as it echo hope, on one hand, and signals a pessimistic frame of mind, on the other. Here, it is fair to say the resolution titled “Supporting respect for human rights and encouraging inclusive governance in Ethiopia” is authored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), an amateur in African politics, was held hostage to the views of the Ethiopian opposition in the Diaspora. He succumbed to their longstanding antipathy to a government that refused to live under the tutelage of unwise politicians in Washington, DC.
It is commendable to express commitment to support Ethiopia in its effort to consolidate good governance and ensure the respect of human rights; whereas it would be an affront to demand and encourage Ethiopia to put in place “inclusive governance” for our generous federal dispensation had already ensured an all-encompassing governance as best as it can.
However, regarding the issue of good governance and human rights, “Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn had expressed, during President Barack Obama’s historic visit to Addis Ababa in July 2015, the commitment of his government to deepen the democratic process and work towards improving good governance and respect for human rights, and noted the need to step up efforts to strengthen institutions” as highlighted in the resolution.
In my opinion, the resolution has gone astray with regards to two important points. Firstly, it alleges that “there has been no credible independent investigation into any of the abuses,” and secondly, it declared that “the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front party claimed 100 percent of parliamentary seats in the elections held in 2015.”
It is senseless to affirm that the EPRDF had claimed 100 percent of parliamentary seats in the elections held in 2015 and meaningless to assert that “there has been no credible independent investigation into any of the abuses mentioned herein” for the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) had conducted investigation into the human right abuse related with the sporadic protests witnessed in 2015 and 2016.
EHRC is an independent agent and has recently conducted, the first ever I would say, credible investigation into the human right abuse perpetrated by security forces. We can be self-assured about the credibility of the investigation conducted by the EHRC, as the death-toll recorded by it is in congruent with other reports issued by “rights groups.”
Regarding the accusation hurled on the ruling party about the “100 percent of parliamentary seats,” I want my readers to see the facts for themselves and urge them to surf the internet to the official results of the 2015 general election.
It is to be recalled that in the 2015 general election 58 political parties and 12 private candidates had run for election, i.e. elections to the House of Peoples’ Representatives and Regional State councils. From the total 33,201,969 electors who had casted their vote, EPRDF was endorsed by only 27,347,332 electors, i.e. 82.4% and not 100 % as the resolution “H. Res. 128” has alleged.
In general, in the 2015 general election and EPRDF had won in 500 constituencies found in five regional states and two city administrations. Hence, according to the NEB, out of the 547 constituencies or parliamentary seats EPRDF won:
ü Tigray......................................In38 constituencies
ü Amhara .................................In 137 constituencies
ü Oromia ..................................In 178 constituencies
ü SNNPR .....................................In 122 constituencies
ü Harari .....................................In 1 constituency
ü Addis Ababa ..........................In 23 constituencies
ü Dire-Dawa .............................In 1 constituency
This is the undisputed fact of the result of the 2015 general election. However, the resolution H. Res. 128 authored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) prefer to echo the disparaging political litany of the opposition party leaders who would short-change and unfairly treat the fact saying “EPRDF had won 100 percent of parliamentary seats.”
The resolution also accused the Government of Ethiopia for “imposing a far-reaching, six-month state of emergency that restricts a broad range of actions, including blocking mobile Internet access and social media communication, undermining freedoms of association, expression, and peaceful assembly.” I have no issue here, but I would like to give a passing remark that the state of emergency was surly meant to be such.
In the wake of unprecedented mass protests that erupted in November 2015 in Oromia, Amhara, and the Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples (SNNPR) regional states, authorities at all levels were routinely responded with unbounded patience, as the protests were largely peaceful expressions of dissent, though not legitimate. However, as it had unequivocally learnt that the anti-peace forces who have found a safe-haven in the West are engaged in hell-bent disruption of the hard-won values of our constitutional order, then in October 2016, the Ethiopian Government had declared a six-month nationwide State of Emergency, which was extended for an additional four months on 30 March 2017 after some restrictions were lifted.
Of course, the State of Emergency directives give sweeping powers to the Command Post, which has been appointed by the House of People’s Representatives to enforce the decree, including the suspension of fundamental rights protected by the Ethiopian Constitution and other international human rights treaties to which Ethiopia is party. That was a legal measure endorsed by the Ethiopian constitution and incumbent upon the Ethiopian government to stand firmly in defense of the constitutional order. The ensuing state of things has clearly proved the wisdom of enacting a state of emergency law at that juncture.
It is equally incumbent upon the ruling party to check measures that could be deemed as excess and the Ethiopian National Human Rights Commission, which has a mandate to investigate rights violations, had investigated into the case and concluded in its June 2016 oral report to Parliament that the force used by security forces in Oromia was proportionate to the risk they faced from the protesters, while it identify disproportionate use of forces in some areas in its second report.
In my view, the recent EHRC report has annulled the long-standing concerns about the impartiality and the research methodology of the Commission. It is to be recalled, on 18 April 2017, the Commission had submitted its second oral report to Parliament on the protests, which found that 669 people were killed, including 63 members of the security forces, and concluded that security forces had taken proportionate measures in some areas and disproportionate in others. Both reports are fairly congruent with the findings of other national and international organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. And we know the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions has rated the Commission as B, meaning EHRC satisfactorily meet the Paris Principles. With this I come to an end of this part and will be back with another point in the next part.