Ethiopian American Civic Advocacy
18. September 2007 Terry Riley President National Black Caucus for Local Elected Officials (NBC-LEO) c/o National League of Cities 1301 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20004-1763 Dear Mr. Riley, It has come to the attention of the Ethiopian American Civic Advocacy (EACA) that the National Black Caucus for Local Elected Officials (NBC-LEO) has accepted an invitation from the Ethiopian government to undertake a trade mission in Ethiopia. We are writing this letter because we are very concerned that your action of supporting this oppressive regime will undermine the cause for democracy in that country. An esteemed organization of NBC-LEO should not associate itself so closely with a government that has a long track-record of human rights violations and maltreatment of its own people. If NBC-LEO turns a blind eye to the serious situation in Ethiopia and agrees to implicitly condone or ignore the actions of the current oppressive regime, this will hurt the image of NBC-LEO. EACA admires the important work that you do to support and represent African American elected officials, thereby also strengthening the democratic representation of the interests of the African American community. We also wish that you would, in a manner consistent with your mandate, undertake actions that show support of the effort of Africans to be represented by democratically chosen governments which respect the human and civil rights of their people. We ask you not tread along a path similar to that of the Chinese government, which has continued to work with the Sudanese rulers, neglecting the abuses of Black Africans in Darfur1 . As you might have been aware, the current government in Ethiopia has been in power for more than 16 years, and is soon to exceed the longevity of the preceding dictatorship. The “free election” that was held in Ethiopia in May 2005 ended with the deaths of 193 civilians demonstrating election irregularities, and the imprisonment of the entire opposition party leadership for two years2 .This government does not represent its people, and international election observers such as the European Union have voiced concerns over the failure of the election to meet international standards3. The current Ethiopian government has committed gross human rights violations. Human Rights Watch states that the Ethiopian government continues with “…campaigns of repression and brutality in many parts of the country.”4 In recent news, the Ethiopian government has been accused of massacring its own people in the Ogaden region in Eastern Ethiopia. The New York Times has reported the “widespread and longstanding
Kilgour, David “China aids Darfur genocide” The Suburban.com http://thesuburban.com/content.jsp?sid=20600902193059814131305958677&ctid=1000004&cnid=1012609 2 Mitchell, Anthony “AP: Judge says Ethiopian forces killed 193” Associated Press Writer - October 18, 2006 3 BBC NEWS - http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/africa/4608753.stm 4 Human Rights Watch: World Report 2007 - http://www.hrw.org/wr2k7/wr2007master.pdf
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reign of terror, with Ethiopian soldiers gang-raping women, burning down huts and killing civilians at will”5 in the Ogaden region. These malicious actions undertaken by government forces are reminiscent of the situation of Darfur, even if at an (as yet) smaller scale than the atrocities taking place there. In fact, Genocide Watch, the widely-respected international non-governmental organization, has reported on the abuses of the Anuak people in the Gambella region of Ethiopia (a region bordering Southern Sudan). Genocide Watch has enumerated various actions conducted by the government that it states constitute genocide. The actions include: “ 1) The intentional killing of members of the Anuak ethnic group, targeted solely because they are Anuak, destroying a substantial part of the Anuak group 2) The deliberate targeting of members of the Anuak ethnic group to cause serious bodily or mental harm. 3) The deliberate infliction on the Anuak group, through burning of homes and destruction of food supplies, of conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction. 4) The systematic use of rape as a weapon against a large number of Anuak women in order to destroy the Anuak ethnic group, by: a. Forcing Anuak women to bear the children of non-Anuak fathers. b. Intentional infection of Anuak women with HIV/AIDS so as to cause future death. c. Rapes of Anuak young girls so as to prevent them from having children in the future.” 6 Ethiopia has been referred as the cradle of humanity and civilization. It is the place where the oldest humanoid fossil, Lucy, has been recovered; it is the place of the birth of great Black civilization. Ethiopia’s history is exemplified by majestic monuments in the city of Axum and Lalibela as well as great medieval castles in the city of Gonder. We should work to preserve the powerful image and imagination such a remarkable country inspires for all of Africa and all people of African descent. The actions of the current government, with the facts highlighted in this letter being only a few examples, will only demise the strong and positive inspiration this country offers. We therefore respectfully ask you to strongly reconsider your affiliation with a regime in Africa which has shown disdain for its own country, and instead work with the Ethiopian people in fulfilling their dreams of freedom and democracy. Sincerely, Kassa Ayalew, M.D., M.P.H. Ethiopian American Civic Advocacy (EACA)
The Ethiopian American Civic Advocacy (EACA) is a US based, non-profit, non-partisan civic organization striving to empower Ethiopian-Americans and Ethiopians to fight for the respect of human rights, promote democratic governance, and demand donor accountability in Ethiopia. For more information about EACA, please visit the website: www.eacamoveon.org.
Gettleman, Jeffrey “Ethiopia - In Ethiopian Desert, Fear and Cries of Army Brutality” The New York Times - June 18, 2007 6 A Genocide Watch and Survivors’ Rights International Field Report “Today is the Day of Killing Anuaks” 25 February 2004
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