Fourteen members of the United States Senate have through a bipartisan resolution jointly called for the Ethiopia government to respect the rights of opponents and to end all forms of political persecution.
Senators Ben Cardin (Democrat, Maryland) and Marco Rubio (Republican, Florida) were the main sponsors of the bill. They also called for a credible accounting of the excesses of the security forces during massive anti-government protests that hit the country for the better part of last year.
Ethiopia is currently under a state of emergency that was imposed in October 2016 to curb the wave of protests. It was extended in April despite the government saying that peace had returned.
The United Nations and the European Union requested independent investigations into the protest deaths but Addis Ababa flatly refused saying it was capable of such a probe. The country’s rights body recently released a report that said over 660 people died during the protests.
It is not the first time that US top officials are impressing on the Ethiopian authorities to open up the democratic space. The main ethnic groups of Amhara and Oromo continually protest marginalization in the political space is dominated by the minority Tigray ethnic group.
The Senators while admitting that the US partners with Ethiopia especially in the area of counter-terrorism, insisted that that was not enough grounds for rights to be abused and for democratic space to continue to shrink as is currently the case.
What Senator Cardin said:
“The Ethiopian government must make progress on respecting human rights and democratic freedoms. I am deeply troubled by the arrest and ongoing detention of a number of prominent opposition political figures.
‘‘The fact that we have partnered with the Ethiopian government on counter-terrorism does not mean that we will stay silent when it abuses its own people,” said Senator Cardin, ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
What Senator Rubio said:
“On the contrary, our partnership means that we must speak out when innocent people are detained, and laws are used to stifle legitimate political dissent.”
“As the Ethiopian government continues to stall on making progress on human rights and democratic reform, it is critical that the United States remains vocal in condemning Ethiopia’s human rights abuses against its own people,” said Senator Rubio, chairman of the Foreign Relations subcommittee on human rights and civilian security.
“I will continue to work with my colleagues in the Senate to urge the Ethiopian government to respect the rule of law and prioritize human rights and political reforms,” he added.
14 cosponsors of the resolution
The other colleagues who joined them as original cosponsors included: Senators Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Chris Coons (D-Del.),
The remaining were: Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.)