Statement: A Push for Co-Sponsors

Join in celebrating the newly-found power of constituents in diaspora communities from Ethiopia! Together these diaspora groups and their human rights allies have kept H Res 128 alive, despite active Ethiopian government opposition.  

Now we are delighted to learn that this resolution has been placed back on the House Calendar, scheduled for a vote sometime between April 9-16, 2018.  On March 21, 2018 Representative Mike Coffman of Colorado announced this good news. This is a major achievement for the Ethiopian people, particularly for the Oromo, who led the way with peaceful protests and who have persisted since November 2015 in the face of brutal repression. Oromo were joined by Amhara in July 2016 and then by Ethiopians at large who also suffer under the current regime and are yearning for change.  Together, advocacy, diaspora and human rights groups concerned with Ethiopia have worked tirelessly to push for the adoption of this resolution.

We all appreciate the support of Congressional representatives Rep Chris Smith (@RepChrisSmith), Rep Karen Bass (@RepKarenBass), Rep Mike Coffman (@RepMikeCoffman), Rep Keith Ellison (@RepKeithEllison), Rep Eliot Engel (@RepEliotEngel), Rep Ed Royce (@RepEdRoyce) and now, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (@GOPLeader).  There are a record number of sponsors for a foreign affairs resolution — 98 US Congressional Representatives who co-sponsor this Resolution “Supporting respect for human rights and encouraging inclusive governance in Ethiopia.”

As we celebrate this milestone, there are two major hurdles 1) getting the current resolution passed without further amendment (2/3rds majority), and 2) working for implementation.  The Ethiopian government has pushed back successfully against this resolution in the past. In July their diplomats and lobbyists succeeded in amending the text of the resolution to insert several phrases of praise for the Ethiopian government.  The resolution unanimously passed the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and was scheduled to be voted on October 2, 2017. At end of September it was pulled from the calendar due to intense campaigning by Ethiopian diplomats with the help of the lobbying firm SGR.

Now more than ever, we must make our voice heard. The people of Ethiopia, who are sacrificing with their lives to see change in their country, deserve to hear support from the United States Congress. The Ethiopian regime is sending a clear message that it does not intend to reform, but rather it intends to cling to power through violent repression, even at the expense of the stability of the country and the region. The people of Ethiopia are demanding justice, basic freedoms of assembly and expression.  They want democracy. Passing House Resolution 128 sends a clear positive message to the youth in Ethiopia. It lets them know that their demands for democracy are heeded in the US. To allow further delay or to defeat the resolution is to strengthen the hand of the current regime. What signal will the United States Congress send?

Now is a critical time to call, write and visit the offices of your Representatives.  

  • If they have already co-sponsored, let them know that a vote is pending, update them about the situation in the country, and encourage them to inform their colleagues in state delegations or on shared Committees to vote for this measure.  Tell them that it has unprecedented grassroots support for a foreign affairs resolution. Congress needs to be on the right side of history on this vote!
  • If your Representative has not yet cosponsored, urge them to put their names on the list of supporters for House Resolution 128 by contacting Piero Tozzi in Rep Chris Smith’s office (piero.tozzi@mail.house.gov)  Urge them to vote favorably on this very important resolution. To find your Representative go to https://callyourrep.co/.

You can find tools for advocacy on our website (https://oromoadvocacy.org/) for example, sample letters and telephone scripts that you can use and modify to contact your Representative.  We have also included a sample letter below for your convenience.

Best of luck in securing your Congressperson’s co-sponsorship!

Oromo Advocacy Alliance

_______________________________________________________________________

Sample Letter for Congresspersons regarding House Resolution 128:

Dear Representative _________________,

I am writing to ask you to co-sponsor House Resolution 128 on “Supporting respect for human rights and encouraging inclusive governance in Ethiopia.  House Majority Leader has agreed to put it on the calendar for a vote between April 9 and 16, 2018. I urge you to support this excellent legislation by becoming a co-sponsor.  There is unprecedented grassroots support from diaspora constituents with ties to Ethiopia. There are currently 98 co-sponsors!

Ethiopia is in a state of crisis. Nationwide protests, resisting the loss of human rights, closing of democratic space and imprisonment of political opponents and community leaders, have persisted for 3 years. Activists and international human rights groups have documented deaths of thousands of peaceful protesters, killed by security forces.  Tens of thousands of protesters demanding justice have been imprisoned since the protests began. Recently 6,000 were released, welcome news but a fraction of those held without charge.

The scale of this crisis is staggering.  The government attacks it citizens, regarding them as enemies.

  • Far more than 1,000 young people have been shot and killed during peaceful demonstrations in the last two years.
  • Peoples all over the country have been dispossessed of their lands without recourse — in Oromia, Amhara, Gambella, Southern Nations, Nationalities and People Region and Somali Region.
  • Over a million people have been displaced from the Oromia region of Ethiopia since early 2017, instigated by a government-supported police force in the Somali region.
  • Since a State of Emergency was imposed in mid-February 2018, 60 unarmed persons have been killed while participating in peaceful demonstrations.  
  • On March 10, 2018, the government carried out the latest unprovoked attack from a military Command Post established under the State of Emergency.  Unsuspecting civilians in the border town of Moyale were killed. Nine civilians were killed on the roadside and in coffee shops running from sudden gunfire and 12 were injured by heavily-armed Ethiopian security forces.
  • As a result of this attack, at least 10, 000 Oromos have fled to neighbouring Kenya in under a week, creating a humanitarian nightmare.  
  • Inexplicable carnage has become commonplace in Ethiopia since the declaration of the second State of Emergency mid-February, 2018.
  • In addition, Ethiopia remains one of the top jailers of journalists and continues to censor the media.
  • EthioTelecom, the state-owned monopoly supplier of Internet services has imposed a blackout of all services to most of Oromia.

The Ethiopian government has a clear and consistent pattern of failing to respond to the legitimate demands of its people. It clings to power through brutally suppressing both majority and minority populations, placing the stability of the country and the entire region at risk. In the midst of these atrocities, the US has been silent.  Ethiopia has been emboldened by the lack of meaningful action from one of it’s most influential and powerful allies.

The House Resolution effectively addresses the crisis and offers hope to those in Ethiopia who yearn for justice and have held peaceful and disciplined protests.   The United States must send a clear signal to the people of Ethiopia that they are heard and their nonviolent calls for change have been heard. This measure also signals to the government that it must take steps toward real reforms to maintain its support from the US and keep the country from descending into further chaos.

House Resolution 128 is the right first step in sending these signals.  Read it here: https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-resolution/128/text.

I urge you to cosponsor House Resolution 128.

Sincerely yours,

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