The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) on Friday downplayed a resolution that was proposed by US Congressman Chris Smith that accuses the Ethiopian government of committing human rights violation.
The full House Foreign Affairs Committee voted on Thursday to advance a resolution, authored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), highlighting the human rights violations of the Ethiopian government, and offering a blueprint to create a government better designed to serve the interests of the Ethiopian people.
However, MoFA’s spokesperson Meles Alem downplayed the resolution, and spoke of the current relationship between the governments of Ethiopia and the US that, he said, was cemented on strong bilateral interests.
The resolution, which passed without objection, also calls on the US government “to implement Magnitsky Act sanctions, targeting the individuals within the Ethiopian government who are the cause of the horrific abuses.”
It is to be recalled that the State Department’s current human rights report on Ethiopia notes, “[t]he most significant human rights problems were security forces’ use of excessive force and arbitrary arrest in response to the protests, politically motivated prosecutions, and continued restrictions on activities of civil society and NGOs.”
“H. Res. 128 is like a mirror held up to the Government of Ethiopia on how others see them, and it is intended to encourage them to move on the reforms they agree they need to enact,” said Smith, chair of the House panel on Africa. “For the past 12 years, my staff and I have visited Ethiopia, spoken with Ethiopian officials, talked to a wide variety of members of the Ethiopian diaspora and discussed the situation in Ethiopia with advocates and victims of government human rights violations. Our efforts are not a response merely to government critics, but rather a realistic assessment of the urgent need to end very damaging and in some cases inexcusable actions by the government or those who act as their agents.”
However, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the Ethiopian government regards the resolution as being “of no consequence”.
“It will just end up on the shelf,” he told The Reporter.
H. Res. 128, entitled “Supporting Respect for Human Rights and Encouraging Inclusive Governance in Ethiopia,” condemns the human rights abuses of Ethiopia and calls on the Ethiopian government to, among other things, lift the state of emergency; end the use of excessive force by security forces; investigate the killings and excessive use of force that took place as a result of protests in the Oromia and Amhara regions; release dissidents, activists, and journalists who have been imprisoned for exercising constitutional rights as well as other concerns related to rights.
“It is important to note that this resolution does not call for sanctions on the Government of Ethiopia, but it does call for the use of existing mechanisms to sanction individuals who torture or otherwise deny their countrymen their human and civil rights,” said Smith.
“What Smith had done is nothing unusual. He did what he has been doing for some time now,” Meles told The Reporter, adding that, “The resolution is not binding; but rather one in which the congressman reflected his usual anti-Ethiopian government stance he was known for.”
Referring to Foreign Minister Workneh Gebeyehu’s (PhD) recent visit to the US, the spokesperson further said that the bilateral relationship of the two countries has rather gotten stronger. At that time, the minister gave briefings on the state of affairs obtaining in Ethiopia, which is at variance with what the congressman depicted, the spokesperson added.
By Yonas Abiye