Ethiopia Freedom, Democracy, and Human Rights Advancement Act of 2006

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On June 27th, the International Relations Committee approved a bill “to encourage and facilitate the consolidation of security, human rights, democracy, and economic freedom in Ethiopia.” For several decades, Ethiopia has been prey to abusive governments that have denied
the rights of its people. From the repressive Mengistu Haile Mariam regime to the deterioration of human rights under current President Meles Zenawi, the Ethiopian people have expressed the need for international assistance.

Since the corrupt elections of May 15, 2005, journalists have been forced to flee the country, political demonstrators have been killed, and
opposition party members imprisoned. Last June, a particularly destructive clash between civil society and government officials resulted in the death of 40 political activists. This injurious government has clearly obviated its right to exist without foreign intervention. As such, the United States government will pursue the following:

  •  provision of financial support to human rights groups
  • legal support for political prisoners
  • an effort to increase the independence of Ethiopia’s
    judiciary by facilitating discussions on international human rights standards
  • creation and support of judicial monitoring processes,
    focusing mainly on unwelcome government interventions
  • a program to strengthen private media in Ethiopia
  • the establishment of a mechanism to identify and extradite
    members of the Mengistu Haile Mariam regime, known for their human rights
    abuses, many of whom are living abroad and in the U.S.
  • assistance for promotion of democracy and reconciliation
    between the government and civil society
  • support for economic development in Ethiopia,
    including assistance in tackling economic obstacles
  • support for the sustainable development of Ethiopia’s
    natural resources

$20 million over the course of two years will be supplied to enact this legislation. This is a very important step for Ethiopia, a country, like so many others in Africa, whose destructive government has prohibited the advancement of democracy and civil society within its borders. With these laudable efforts, it is likely that Ethiopia will become more stable and more prosperous. However, this bill is also very broad and addresses many issues within a small resource framework. Great investment, perhaps more than has been suggested, will be needed if  Ethiopia is to fully uphold human rights, promote democracy, and ensure economic advancement. Therefore, members of Congress need to hear that their constituents support the H.R. 5680 bill and would like to see such efforts expanded, not only for Ethiopia, but for an end to  repressive governments across the African continent.

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