Ethiopia Human Rights Bill advances through the House

Scott A. Morgan
July 3, 2006
The House of Representatives International Relations committee approved a bill this week that addresses various Human Rights concerns in Ethiopia. This is a huge step as Ethiopia is considered to be an ally of the United States in the War on Terror.
Human Rights Activists and others have been concerned about the Internal Political Climate in Ethiopia since controversial elections led to riots that left dozens killed and hundreds more incarcerated. And the situation has continued to slide closer to chaos.
Recently there has been controversy over the recent steps taken by the Zenawi Government to ensure “stability” in the country. Recently steps have been taken to end the anti-government statement by bloggers by blocking access to the popular blogspot.com site. And an insurgency appears to be growing in the Northeast of the country.
The Bill which was authored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) which the chair of the subcommittee on Africa, Global Terrorism and International Human Rights has several mechanisms within to address the issues. It will provide $20 million over the next two years to assist political prisoners, independent media, civil society, indigenous human rights organizations as well as legal training.
There are two other sections that are interesting to the casual observer. First there will be a limitation on security assistance except for peacekeeping and counterterrorism operations. There have been reports over the last few weeks of Ethiopian Troops in the area of Baidoa in Somalia. These reports have not been independently confirmed however. Also earlier this year the US held back a shipment of Humvees from Ethiopia as the controversy raged.
The other interesting aspect is that those who were involved in either the June or November disturbances will not be granted a visa to enter the United States. This in itself is a message that the rule of law and respect for Human Rights should be and are interests of the United States.
It is interesting to see that Congress is apparently serious about Human Rights. The Horn of Africa is a major factor in the Pentagon for future plans regarding Military Operations. Earlier this year former CIA director Porter Goss himself assessed the situation in Somalia before the Secular Militias were defeated by the Islamic Court Forces. Could the US finally be doing the right thing??

posted by Ethiounited Moderator at3:47 PM

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