Guide for Congressional Office Visit

Meeting with The Honorable [ Senator’s FIRST and LAST name] or Staffer/Aide whom you will meet [name, title, email & phone] If others attend, ask for business cards & write date on them]

Date

First Section: Introductions

List and briefly identify all people attending the meeting. Give your business cards if available.

  • [Name and identifying info for all who attend] For example: Bonnie K Holcomb, Anthropologist specializing in the Oromo, Senior Research Associate, ICPS, The George Washington University, Founding Member of Oromo Studies Association
  • [Address, important to confirm which visitors are constituents of the Senator and which are advisors] 5407 Ridgefield Road, Bethesda, MD 20816
  • Note in writing how the appointment was made, by whom and with whom (ex., email from Abalu, dated March xy, 2016 to xyz, confirmed by phone March xyz by name of staffer)
  • Some of us are constituents born in Oromia, the largest of 9 regional states in Ethiopia. The Oromo number 40 million persons, the vast majority of the population of Ethiopia.  We have direct and intimate knowledge of how the situation affects farmers and townspeople at the local and national levels.

_____________________________________________

Second Section: Purpose of the meeting

Start with THE “ASK.” State clearly what it is you want the Senator to DO.

The purpose of the meeting is to request that [or urge] the Senator vote in favor of the Senate Resolution ___ which calls for “Supporting respect for human rights and encouraging inclusive governance in Ethiopia.”

____________________________________________

Third Section: Summary and Supporting Arguments

Bi-Partisan sponsorship for the Resolution is strong.  [Name the Senators who have signed on]

The resolution is compelling, with two robust components that we firmly support:

  • First, it acknowledges a situation of human and civil rights abuse by the Ethiopian regime which reveals a deepening catastrophe in that country that has gone unnoticed and unaddressed by the US Senate.
    • It brings to light, for the first time in the US Senate, specific conditions of horrific brutality and abuse by Ethiopian security forces against the majority Oromo and other people who oppose the on-going confiscation of their land.
    • It affirms the United States commitment to protecting human rights universally and particularly in states with whom the United States has established deep and ongoing partnerships and for encouraging inclusive governance in Ethiopia.
    • It recognizes the peaceful nature of the protests conducted by Oromo, Konso and other people whose lands are targeted for large scale transfer to private investment without consultation, compensation or any form of redress.
    • It condemns the lethal response of the Ethiopian security forces to suppress the protests citing
      • the illegal use of 2009 Anti-Terrorism Proclamation and 2009 Charities and Societies Proclamation to label any form of resistance as “terrorism,” to conduct aggressive surveillance and to quash dissent by taking lethal action against peaceful protesters and those who help
      • the killings of at least 200 students, farmers and supporters since November 12, 2016,
      • forcible and widespread capture and unlimited detention in the thousands – without charge or bogus charges – of anyone suspected of supporting resistance to government policy,
    • It decries the virtual elimination of democratic space, and harsh limits on constitutional right to peaceful assembly in a country that is a strong US ally

 

  • Second, the resolution takes a constructive, proactive stand toward addressing a crisis of governance. For the first time in Senate history, it calls for specific remedies:
    • Immediate halt to use of excessive force by regime forces (including outright killings, arbitrary detention and torture of innocents), investigation into abuses, public accountability of security forces for wrongdoing, release of those wrongly detained for exercising rights, redress options for the dispossessed
    • Specific constructive measures to open democratic space where it has been closed absolutely, i.e., respect for right of assembly, upholding freedom of the press, repeal of misused legislation and consultation on development programs with those affected.
    • Secretary of State to review US security assistance to Ethiopia in light of these developments, and Administrator of USAID to design a comprehensive strategy for supporting democracy and governance in Ethiopia.

 

We wish to underscore the following points as you consider your vote:

  • We are deeply disturbed that shocking violation of human and civil rights by the Ethiopian government, and that the deepening catastrophe of governance have gone unnoticed by the US Senate until now. The resolution recognizes a crisis situation.
  • The large-scale land transfers of Oromo’s ancestral farming and grazing lands are officially conducted or facilitated by the Ethiopian government without consultation. And the violent response to peaceful dissenters is initiated by Prime Minister HaileMariam Desalegn’s government.  This government is an active diplomatic and economic partner of the United States.    This resolution starts a process of the United States exercising its considerable influence in Ethiopia.   It supports US leadership in building strong democratic institutions, respect for human rights, and participatory, accountable governance as crucial elements for improving peoples’ lives.
  • Although Oromo hold different views of the future of the region, the Oromo culture that we honor and share champions peace. We are united in believing that opening democratic space in Ethiopia is an important move toward peace and toward reversing conditions of instability. These conditions were brought on by Ethiopian government policies and violent acts against peoples whose only “offense” is an attempt to exercise constitutional rights to have a say in shaping their own future.

We urge you to vote in favor of this Resolution.  It is the first to support respect for Oromo and other people’s yearning for vital rights like the freedom of assembly and expression in Ethiopia.  It also reverses the current trajectory toward regional instability by providing an essential first step in creating a road map to peace and effective governance for all peoples there.

Oromo Advocacy Group’s Tips on Calling your Senator about the Cardin Resolution 432

Your call should be short and focused.  Phone calls can be left after business hours.  Both messages and live calls will be logged, tallied, and made a part of a record that senators use to determine what issue their constituents think are important. Call as frequently as possible in order to get your voice heard.

Step 1.  Dial the Capitol Switch Board at 202-224-3121 to be connected with your senator’s office.

You will be directed to an operator at the Capitol Switchboard. This switchboard can direct you to both senators as well as representatives. Once the operator answers, ask to be connected to whomever you are trying to reach. They will send you to your senator’s or representative’s office line, and a legislative assistant will answer the phone.

Step 2.    Speak to your senator or his/her representative as follows:

Hello, my name is ____________________.
I am a constituent of Senator ___________.
I live in _____ (City/Town) in ___________( State).

I am calling about Senate Resolution_______.

Can I speak to the staff handing this resolution?

(once connected to staff handling the resolution ask  )

May I have your name?

 

I am calling to urge Senator _________________ to cosponsor the Cardin Resolution 432 called Supporting respect for human rights and encouraging inclusive governance in Ethiopia sponsored by the Maryland Senator Ben Cardin.

Step 3.  Tell them why you want your senator to cosponsor this resolution.

I am concerned about the human rights violations currently being committed by the Ethiopian government against students and protesters in the Oromia region of Ethiopia.  Since November of 2015, the Ethiopian government has killed hundreds of Oromo protesters and jailed thousands of others for peacefully resisting its plan to confiscate and displace thousands of Oromo farmers.  The violent treatment of those who practice legitimate forms of resistance indicates a general breakdown of governance in Ethiopia.  This crisis should be a concern of everyone who wants to see stability in Ethiopia and in the region.   Without a strong rebuke from the U.S. government, Ethiopia will continue kill and forcefully detain peaceful protesters and dissenting voices in the country.

Step 4.  Tell them what you want your senator to do.

I ask that Senator ________________ cosponsor the Cardin Resolution 432 to pressure the Ethiopian government to: allow peaceful protests in the Oromia region, to release jailed protesters, and to institute democratic reforms in a country.

Thank you for your time.

Step 5.   Repeat

Sample Letter to Senators to Support (Co-sponsor) Resolution 432 on Ethiopia

Date _

The Honorable [ Senator’s FIRST and LAST name]

Office Address [Senator’s Washington DC office]

United States Senate

City, State Zip

Dear Senator ___________

I am writing to urge you to vote in favor of a breakthrough Senate Resolution on the situation in Ethiopia that affects the Oromo and other people in that country who are protesting large-scale government sanctioned takeover of their ancestral lands.  Nonviolent protesters are being labelled “terrorists” by the government and attacked in the thousands, with hundreds of innocents killed outright since November 2015.

These Oromo farmers and their educated children are exercising constitutional rights of assembly and expression when they chant and sing “Land is Life,” and similar slogans, calling for an end to dispossession of Oromo and others from their land.  Yet Ethiopian security forces have responded with such a violent crackdown that according to a Human Rights Watch report of February 21, 2016, heavily armed “Agazi” forces have killed over 200 demonstrators using lethal force such as firing live ammunition into large crowds of unarmed demonstrators, throwing grenades at university students, arbitrarily rounding up and detaining thousands (probably tens of thousands) of Oromo to sites unknown.

This Senate Resolution is strong in two ways.  First it brings attention to the extent of the ongoing abuse of civil and human rights and second, it offers remedies that provide steps toward inclusive governance in Oromia and Ethiopia.

In addition to condemning these serious human rights violations, the Resolution enumerates other abuses including:

  • Limits on constitutional right to peaceful assembly and narrowing of democratic space
  • Abuse of its Anti-Terrorism Proclamation to squash dissent, limit freedom of press and persecute bloggers and independent journalists

This resolution demands accountability from the Ethiopian government and calls for the Secretary of State and other US agencies to review their current levels of support to Ethiopia with the aim of devising a comprehensive strategy to democracy and participatory governance.

As a constituent born in the Oromia region (Oromo number 40 million in Ethiopia), I am deeply disturbed by the shocking violation of human and civil rights of the Oromo people by the Ethiopian government and the abysmal state of governance there.  The regime of Prime Minister HaileMariam Desalegn remains an active diplomatic and economic partner of the United States. It is my hope that action by the US Senate will carry some influence.

Thank you for your support of this very important resolution by voting in favor!

 

Your name

Your title

Your Address, phone number, email

City, State, Zip

SENATE RESOLUTION Supporting respect for human rights and encouraging inclusive governance in Ethiopia

Greetings,

We are pleased to share a great response to Oromo and other advocacy from the Office of Maryland Senator Ben Cardin. Since the Oromo protests broke out in November and especially since mid December many who advocate for the Oromo have been working to make various offices of the US government aware of the Oromo plight and the situation in Ethiopia and Oromia. We got the best opening and the strongest response from the legislative branch. It started with a collective effort of Oromos in the Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia Metro area, Many Oromo and friends are signing petitions in great numbers to their Congressional representatives, both Senators and Representatives. A group of us is taking up the challenge to assist with a rigorous follow up.

Everyone’s coordinated effort is paying off. We have just received a strongly worded Senate Resolution (attached here Senate Resolution on Ethiopia – Oromo Protests 392016 – DAV16186) from MD Senator Ben Cardin, ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

This is an excellent development for Oromo advocacy. It is an instrument that can make Senators aware of the situation in Oromia and start conversations about the Oromo protests all across the US. Now the real work of advocacy begins.

In terms of procedure, the draft we attach here is being distributed internally among some specific Senators and will be formally introduced next week. In advance of its formal introduction, Oromos in Tennessee, Georgia, Arizona and elsewhere, whose Senators serve on the sponsoring Committee, will have a chance to work behind the scenes with their respective Senators to garner support – to sign onto the resolution – before it goes public. Once it goes public, every Senator will be asked to support it. Every Oromo and friend of Oromo has a very important opportunity to make a difference here. All need to read and be prepared to meet with their Senators to support this Resolution. If this were to pass the Senate it would be a triumph for the Oromo and for progressive Ethiopians. We need to do everything necessary to make sure that our own Senators in each state where Oromos live know about this and ensure its passage!

A team calling itself Oromo Advocacy Group has committed itself to coordinating the effort to help get this Resolution passed. It is called
“SENATE RESOLUTION Supporting respect for human rights and encouraging inclusive governance in Ethiopia.” When it is made public it will have a number. Meanwhile it is the strongest statement in support of Oromo to reach the United States Senate.

We will be in touch with you and if you have any questions send them to oromoadvocacygroup@gmail.com

Now let’s all do our utmost to pass this Senate Resolution supporting respect for human rights and encouraging inclusive governance in Ethiopia.