Herculean Task Awaits Abiy Ahmed on Human Rights in Ethiopia

Ethopia's new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali with the former Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn after taking his oath of office on Monday, April 2, 2018. (Photo: Twitter @povonewsafrica)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: APRIL 2nd, 2018

New York (TADIAS) — Ethiopia is welcoming a new Prime Minister, Dr. Abiy Ahmed, this week to fill the vacated position by the former PM Hailemariam Desalegn. This month, Ethiopia is also facing an unprecedented vote in the United States Congress denouncing its human rights record.

Resolution H. RES. 128, which is scheduled for a vote next week, calls on the U.S. State Department in coordination with the Department of the Treasury “to apply appropriate sanctions on foreign persons or entities responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture, or other gross violations of internationally recognized human rights committed against any nationals in Ethiopia as provided for in the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act.”

Whether the measure passes or not, the fact that such a proposal is being debated on the floor of the U.S. Congress should give pause to current Ethiopian government officials of all ranks who may be otherwise inclined to ignore their citizens’ constitutional rights.

According to Human Rights Watch the Global Magnitsky Act allows the U.S. “to impose visa bans and targeted sanctions on individuals anywhere in the world responsible for committing human rights violations or acts of significant corruption. The act received widespread bipartisan support. Senator Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat, introduced a version of the bill, and five Republican senators and five Democratic senators signed on as co-sponsors. President Barack Obama signed the law on December 23, 2016.”

“I’m happy to announce that after months of hard work (by all involved) #HRes128 is scheduled for a vote the week of April 9,” announced Rep. Mike Coffman of Colorado, one of the main backers of the bill via Twitter on March 21st. “The fight for respect of human rights & inclusive governance in #Ethiopia continues.”

Most importantly, we hope Ethiopia’s new Prime Minister shares the vision of the vast majority of Ethiopians of all ethnic and religious backgrounds to finally set Ethiopia on a peaceful road to genuinely free and fair elections as well as create the much needed democratic political space for all opposing views, including those who want to organize on the basis of common ideas and not necessarily based on ethnic politics and tribal affiliations.

As the U.S. embassy in Ethiopia stressed in a strongly worded press release in February: “The challenges facing Ethiopia, whether to democratic reform, economic growth, or lasting stability, are best addressed through inclusive discourse and political processes, rather than through the imposition of restrictions…We strongly urge the government to rethink this approach and identify other means to protect lives and property while preserving, and indeed expanding, the space for meaningful dialogue and political participation that can pave the way to a lasting democracy.”

We hope that Ethiopia’s new PM will have the courage to act swiftly to lift the draconian State of Emergency proclamation and bring an end to this vicious cycle of arrests, pardons and re-arrests of journalists, academics and opposition activists.

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