Two congress members, Kris Smith and Karen Bass, who have been visiting Ethiopia to assess the “ongoing reforms in the country for the past 120 days,” maintained that the HR 128 resolution passed by the congress will help the government rather than hinder its stride towards reform.
Congressman Chris Smith, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee – subcommittee on Africa stated that “they have heard that there are some in the government who are happy that the resolution was passed.” He also indicated that, in the 1980s, there was a human rights resolution passed on El Salvador which some members of the congress opposed while the president of El Salvador said, “It will help him with his own government”.
Congressman Smith, who said that he has been following the proceedings in the country beginning from the PM’s inaugural speech and called for the changes to be sustained, and the American government will play a supportive role which will be manifested through resources allocation and spreading narrative of change in the country.
“Things have changed in Ethiopia. I was the prime sponsor of HR 128, a bi-partisan resolution,” Smith stated indicating that his government is very serious about human rights violations in the country.
“The Prime Minister also said ‘I am serious too’. I care about minorities and all ethnicities here in Ethiopia. It is a new chapter in this relationship,” he maintained.
Indicating that she is very impressed and excited, Congresswoman Karen bass’s, Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Sub-Committee on Africa, said that the visit was aimed at hearing the stories directly from the people and that they will share what they have seen with their colleagues back home when the congress finishes recess in September.
Regarding the resolution, Bass said that, “We have worked on that resolution for a long time. By the time it came up to a vote, the change has happened. So, we did some adjustments to the resolution and we added points that are encouraging.”
Bass indicated that, when the Congress gets back from recess, they will look at ways to encourage what is moving forward now.
“May be that is the resolution; but also specific resources, specific things we can bring to the table,” she said. The support can be, regarding press freedom, election and so on, she indicated.
Adding, Smith said that, “all we are saying is universally recognize human rights.” And, they are also pushing for the amendment of the anti-terror and charities proclamations.
The House passed the resolution on April 10, just a week after PM Abiy was sworn in, and the government had condemned its passing saying it will hinder the change process in the country.
On April 9, 2018, a day before the voting, Ethiopia’s ambassador to the US, Kassa Teklebirhan, wrote a letter to the members of the Congress requesting the adoption of the resolution be stopped, which he also referred to as “counterproductive”.
After the passing of the resolution, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia, under Workneh Gebeyehu (PhD), slammed the resolution describing it as “untimely and inappropriate.”