A Resolution with a Sober Tone
Amen Teferi 08-10-17
I have another point to argue with regard to the 2009 Charities and Societies Proclamation the “H. Res. 128” had alleged to be “used to restrict the operation of civil society organizations in Ethiopia, especially those investigating alleged violations of human rights by governmental authorities.” Here “restriction” pertains to the issue of fund secured from abroad. The proclamation has prescribed that local Charities and Societies working in the area of alleged violations of human rights to raise funds from local sources and restrict them to be within the limit of 30% in their expenditure in administrative activities.
This is a pertinent prescription to see effective home-grown Charities and Societies that are working to meet the interests of the society they claim to represent and not the wishes of their foreign financers. I believe that home-grown Charities and Societies can only be pertinent to a society that aspires to consolidate democratic governance.
However, the Ethiopian government has been responsive to some concerns raised by Charities and Societies and only last year had made some amendments to the proclamation under discussion. Moreover, the proclamation is set as an agenda to be deliberated on the on-going inter-party negotiation.
Let us again began with the positive tone of the resolution. We have learnt that the House Sub-committee had acknowledged the significance of the partnership of two countries and recognizes Ethiopia as “a regional leader in promoting economic growth, global health, peace and security.” It has also reaffirmed the fact that Ethiopia is the region’s leader in facilitating an extraordinary economic growth surge as the World Bank has recently declared Ethiopia’s economy will be the most expansive in Africa for the year 2017 and named Ethiopia as an “economic giant.”
As a matter of fact, Congressman Smith fully embraces Ethiopia’s role in the region that has “helped advance the national interests of the United States and regional partners through contributions to international peacekeeping, combating radical Islamic extremism and other forms of terrorism, and regional cooperation through the African Union.”
Furthermore, the resolution calls on the U.S. Department of State and the United States Agency for International Development “to continue to strengthen ties with Ethiopia, including through the provision of appropriate levels and forms of security assistance, in correlation to the Ethiopian Government’s own demonstrated commitment to democracy, rule of law, human rights, economic growth, and peace and security in the region.”
In a nutshell, I dare say that the resolution would unambiguously reflect the fact that Ethio-America relationship is at its all-time high. Despite the long list of demands or accusation it now and then the resolution make friendly twists to reaffirm the fact that Ethiopia is trusted ally and partner to the US.
Apparently, the epicenter of this relation seems to lie on the war on terrorism, but the potential of this partnership goes beyond war on terrorism. Of course, the resolution issued last week condemns the human rights abuses of Ethiopia and calls on the Ethiopian government to take measures to put things right.
“For the past 12 years, my staff and I have visited Ethiopia, spoken with Ethiopian officials, talked to a wide variety of members of the Ethiopia Diaspora and discussed the situation in Ethiopia with advocates and victims of government human rights violations. Our efforts are not a response merely to government critics, but rather a realistic assessment of the urgent need to end very damaging and in some cases inexcusable actions by the government or those who act as their agents.”
Smith, Chair of the House panel on Africa, said that “H. Res. 128, is like a mirror held up to the Government of Ethiopia on how others see them, and it is intended to encourage them to move on the reforms they agree they need to enact.” Smith also said, “It is important to note that this resolution does not call for sanctions on the Government of Ethiopia, but it does call for the use of existing mechanisms to sanction individuals who torture or otherwise deny their countrymen their human and civil rights.”
Hence, the resolution calls on the U.S. government to implement Magnitsky Act sanctions, targeting the individuals within the Ethiopian government who are the cause of the horrific abuses. H. Res. 128 urges the Ethiopia government to:
· lift the state of emergency;
· end the use of excessive force by security forces;
· investigate the killings and excessive use of force that took place as a result of protests in the Oromia and Amhara regions;
· release dissidents, activists, and journalists who have been imprisoned for exercising constitutional rights;
· respect the right to peaceful assembly and guarantee freedom of the press;
· engage in open consultations with citizens regarding its development strategy;
· allow a United Nations rapporteur to conduct an independent examination of the state of human rights in Ethiopia;
· address the grievances brought forward by representatives of registered opposition parties;
· hold accountable those responsible for killing, torturing and detaining innocent civilians who exercised their constitutional rights; and
· Investigate and report on the circumstances surrounding the September 3, 2016, shootings and fire at Qilinto Prison, the deaths of persons in attendance at the annual Irreecha festivities at Lake Hora near Bishoftu on October 2, 2016,
In fact the government has already revoked the State of Emergency Law and has addressed every single issues raised by the resolution name as H. Res. 128. The problem is that Smith did not try to consult with the government and learn about the progress made in all issues he is concerned.
The report produced by the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has outlined the shortfalls and measures to be taken to rectify the wrongs made by security forces. The report also shows the glimpse of hope in further widening the democratic political environment in the country through such transparent, outright clear, professional reporting that would further contribute to the development of Ethiopia’s democratic political order.
However, the resolution fails to point-out measures that Ethiopia has taken to amend the 2009 Charities and Societies Proclamation (CSO law) that it alleged to have severely curtailed the ability of independent nongovernmental organizations to operate. The law envisaged to create conducive environment to the operation of organic civil society organization that would work on human rights, governance, conflict resolution, and advocacy on the rights of women, children and people with disabilities.
This was a decision made after an appraisal into the truck records of the organizations who receive hundred percent of their funds from foreign sources and devote themselves either in promoting foreign agendas or squandering the resources in advancing the personal benefits of the leaders of the organizations who claim to work in areas mentioned above.
The report, among other things, indicates the willingness of the EPRDF’s government for self rectification. Contrary to proxy and third party reports that are being fanned by human rights organizations in the west, Ethiopia is already reporting on its own status of human rights as the legal and principles of developmental democracy in the country demands.
The EHRC report is not a report prepared by mere speculations. Rather it was prepared after a thorough investigation of the issue in the field and put forward staggering fact that had disproved all the fake news or social media speculations.
In its efforts to investigate the situation, the Commission conducted discussions with the concerned authorities in the areas under investigation, referred to eye witness accounts from witnesses, reviewed documents relating to the situation, talked to victims of the situation and also held investigative meetings with government and private persons on the scale of damage done on property.
The EHRC report indicates that Ethiopia has all the capacity to prepare comprehensive reports not only on human rights issues but also on the entire operation of the democratic political system. The report was inclusive, participatory with a loud and clear message for all to know. This is a new trend of self review reporting in Africa showing a new trend in developmental democracy that is growing in Ethiopia.