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4 U.S. senators write to Ethiopia’s dictator

U.S. Senate

U.S. Senators Russell D.Feingold, Johnny Isakson, Patrick J. Leahy, and Richard J. Durbin wrote the following letter to Ethiopia’s dictator Meles Zenawi [pdf]:

Dear Mr. Prime Minister,

We write to express our concern about several recent developments in your country, which we fear could make the important partnership between the United States and Ethiopia more difficult. We are deeply troubled that these events together appear to indicate an erosion of political freedom and the rule of law in Ethiopia.

First, we are concerned by the re-arrest of Unity for Democracy and Justice Party leader Birtukan Midekssa and reports that her life sentence in prison has been reinstated. As you know, a political opposition with the right to freedom of speech, press and association is essential to any vibrant democracy. We worry that Birtukan’s re-arrest signals your government’s waning commitment to those democratic principles. This is a disappointing signal in advance of your country’s elections next year, which we believe have great potential.

Second, we were disappointed to learn of the passage of your government’s law restricting civil society groups receiving more than 10percent of their funding from sources outside Ethiopia from doing any work related to human rights, gender equality, the rights of the disabled, children’s rights or conflict resolution.

While we respect your government’s right to regulate non-governmental organizations operating within Ethiopia, we fear that as written, this law will undermine the important work done by many organizations in those respective fields. We hope you will ensure that the broad discretionary powers granted to the government by this law are not used as a political tool to impede the independence of civil society.

Third and finally, we are concerned by reports over the last year that several civil society leaders and traditional elders in the Ogaden region of Ethiopia have been detained for extended periods without charge and then tried without due process.

Many of those arrested have reportedly been involved in important and much needed peace efforts in the region. We appreciate the fact that Ethiopia has legitimate security concerns in the Ogaden, but fear that this pattern of arrests, if true, risks exacerbating local grievances and contributing to radicalization rather than effective counter-insurgency and stabilization. As you know, civil society is a critical partner in the work of building peace, and we urge you to work with it as much as possible.

We feel strongly about the importance of our countries’ partnership and hope it will continue in the years ahead. That is why we are writing to you now to raise our concern about these troubling developments in your country that risk undermining democratic progress and the rule of law. If these trends persist, we believe they will have adverse impacts on our close relationship. We hope this is not the case and look forward to working together toward our shared goals of peace and prosperity.

Russell D. Feingold
Chairman, Subcommittee on African Affairs
United States Senate

Johnny Isakson
Ranking Member, Subcommittee on African Affairs
Committee on Foreign Relations Committee on Foreign Relations
United States Senate

Patrick J. Leahy
Chairman, State & Foreign Ops Subcommittee
Committee on Appropriations
United States Senate

Richard J. Durbin
Chairman, Human Rights & the Law Subcommittee
Committee on the Judiciary
United States Senate

1. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
2. U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia Donald Yamamoto

13 thoughts on “4 U.S. senators write to Ethiopia’s dictator

  1. Well ok i think we all want Bertukan Midekesa to be released
    from Jail above all she is just one person but there are many
    ethiopians in jail for so long which there name has never been called or remembered also where wore the US administration when innocent ethiopians wore killed on the street they did not gave a dam because meles was there Tool
    what are they writing now after all meles was doing what the
    US Govt told him to do they told him to kill ethiopians he did
    and they told him to invade somalia he did it also i don’t know what this US govt want now i hope they ask meles to steep
    dawn ones for all so we all can get a lasting peace.

  2. It is a good start and let us hope there is a follow up and also a recognition of all human rights violations in every part of Ethiopia, not only in Oromo and Ogaden.

  3. One thing must be very clear to all American politicians. The tplf is a ruthless rebel group that is in power elligally and intends to stay in power untill it is thrown out like yesterday’s garbage. The only language it understands is a stern warning by it’s major backer – the United States, “weyane, you have 2 choices. Either you open up and allow the deomcratic process to take root or we will disconnect your life support system.” The tplf will not stand a day without the uniconditional support of the US administration. Therfore, what the senators should do is strongly lobby to the administration to take the required steps to force this criminal group to comply. Short of that, it will only be considered as a waste of their valuable time.

  4. Melese is their boy. No doubt. My guess is he was told to step aside in 2010. Birtukan is a candidate to fill his shoes. Siye will stand on her side and calm down the stupid, Belegirent Weyanes.

  5. I thank the senator for writing this important letter. However, they should send strong and resolute message to the Ethiopian tyrant and they should treat him like the Zimbabwean tyrant. In fact, the Ethiopian tyrant has killed far more innocent people than the Zimbabwean tyrant. The Ethiopian tyrant also has rigged national elections for three times like the Zimbabwean tyrant. I hope and I believe Democrats as well as President-elect Obama will restore respect for the U.S. by supporting people who aspire for their democratic rights.

  6. The word of democracy is not found in the TPLF’s books. Opression, intimidation, cold-blooded murder, torture and mass-arresting are the only things that Zrnawi and his heartless security elements know well.

    For the last hundred years, Ethiopia has been ruled by the worst dictators on the earth who came to power not by the choice of the people, but by force. those dictators could nor rule Ethiopia for so many years under constant killing and arresting without external power, which protected it from falling apart, and that external power was USA.
    we hope the Obamma administration will come up with a new idea, energy to deal with Zenawi and his murderous regime.

  7. When one writes a letter to Hitler and they write it like these three stooges did one should notice that they are insulting those whome he has killed.So much for world Justice we the Ogaden People must fend for our selves and not to wait outside help from anyone

  8. It’s a welcome development.It’s a precusor to president Obama’s hoped for decisive anti-dictators foreign policy.Obama saw the plights of the people of Ogaden in Ethiopia and the people of Darfur in Sudan when he was a Senator.He plegedged promise to sensitize the U.S government about these people.Now at the mantle of the highst political power on earth we,Ethiopians and Africans as a whole, for that matter,have every reason to believe that he would deal with this gross violation of human righs issue- the re-arrest of our heroin democratic party leader-Birtukan Mideksa-and the arrest and imprisionment of the elderly persons Of Ogaden region.
    Let’s continue our peaceful struggle for democracy rallying behind the democratic forces which have adopted a fixed goal to liberate our people who are deprived of all their political and economic freedoms and rights by anti-unity, anti-development racist group-Woyane.

    Let’s pray for a sucessful inaugural ceremony for president Obama and his crew.God bless America! God bless Ethiopia and the entire world so that deocracy and the rule of law and peace prevail prevail,the down turn of the world economy restored!

  9. Comparing Zimbabwe’s president Mugabe with Meles is not a fair assessment. Meles came to power to look out for himself and his cronies. The last eighteen years speak for it self. Mugabe loves his country and his people very much. His problem started as soon as he started taking back white owned lands and give it back to the previous owner of Zimbabweans. But Meles is selling Ethiopia to highest bidders, and giving the land our ancestors died for to Sudan. Zimbabwe wouldn’t be where it is now, if Mugabe had kiss the same kit Meles has been kissing for the last eighteen years. Meles has gone even as far as Somalia and kill Somalian women and children to get benefit.

    Let’s hope the new Obama’s administration notice that Meles is the worst dictator Africa has ever seen and help us get rid of him and his gangsters.

  10. Well, I read the 4 senators concern about Ethiopian democracy process and I also try to see the law passed to govern the N.G.O’s activity. I think the Ethiopian Government has an obligation to keep the right of the people. Any organization political-non political, profit-non profit, religious-non religious must clearly perform their duties with what their frame work they organize. the senators also raised about internal affairs.
    It is ridicules to hear the re-arrest of Bertukan.I think the Ethiopian people, need to hear from both the ruling party and opposition party a fresh idea that will pick them up with new hope to the peace and democracy. a new idea to eradicate poverty and HIV Aids, a new idea that changes the current traditional agriculture system in to modern system. As we all know, The EPRDF government is doing its best to solve the problem by identifying the sources of the problem and formulating a right path strategy. a strategy that center the rural agriculture, because 85% of our people is engaged in agricultural sector, off course there is an implementation problem, however this can be solved by participating and teaching the people not by standing and shouting in front of the white house or lobbying senators.

  11. This is the time we’re going to change our life, every one should stand up the freedom of their people and their country. One thing I would to make clear is that Ogaden is no longer be part of Ethiopia, be sad or not that’s the truth of our power we created in our country. There’s a lot of men and women who sworn to defent their dignity and to gain an Independence for the rest of their life Insha’allah.

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