Letters to Representatives to Gain Support for H. Res. 128

Please see the two letter options below.  The first is a short, general letter and the second is more detail about H. Res. 128.

Option 1: Short Letter

Address

City, State Zip Code

[Date]

 The Honorable [Insert Representative’s Name]

Address

City, State Zip Code

 Dear Representative [Last Name]:

 My name is [Your  Name].  As one of your constituents, I am very concerned about the deteriorating human rights conditions in Ethiopia.  I am writing to ask that you co sponsor H Res 128, which proposes measures that can improve the rapidly deteriorating situation in the country and push Ethiopia toward democratization.  The resolution text is here: https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-resolution/128/text.

 Ethiopia has become one of the worst abusers of human rights in Africa.Over the last decade and more rigorously in the last two years the Ethiopian government has been dismantling democratic rights and intensifying human rights abuses in the country, yet, it remains a recipient of over a half a billion dollars in aid from the United States.  Ethiopia has recently received international attention for its mishandling of the Oromo protests that broke out in November 2015 over the government’s plan to displace indigenous farmers from their land without consultation or adequate compensation. These protests spread to address a wider set of issues concerned with the denial of human, civil and economic rights. Human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch corroborate that the protests have been peaceful.   Yet, security forces have killed over 600 people and injured thousands of others since the protests began.

On October 9th, 2016 Ethiopia issued a six-month State of Emergency to contend with the protests movement.  It blocked mobile internet, shut down social media, and restricted travel.  The State of Emergency provided a cover for the government to increase its brutality without having to rely on due process.  Media professionals, opposition leaders, and anyone suspected of participating in or aiding the peaceful protest movement have been arrested.   The government announced that it had detained 20,000 people in October of 2016 alone (see the March 9th Human Rights Watch report:https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/03/09/us-stand-ethiopians-government-stifles-protests-jails-journalists). Though the protests have declined in number, on March 30, 2017, the government announced that it would extend the State of Emergency for an additional four months. 

Your co-sponsorship of H. Res. 128 is a strong signal that that the United States will take a firm stance on Ethiopia’s violent treatment of peaceful protesters.  If Ethiopia is not given an official rebuke to discourage it from brutally repressing dissent, the country could descend into instability. 

Thank you for your time and considering my request.

 Sincerely,

[Insert Your Name]

Option 2: Longer Letter

Dear Representative [LAST NAME]

I am writing to bring your attention to deteriorating human rights conditions in Ethiopia and to ask for your co sponsorship of House Resolution 128.  It proposes measures to address directly what is now a crisis. The United States thus far has ignored or dismissed the Ethiopian government’s abysmal record of abuses and many brutal actions, which escalate tensions and place its country on a trajectory toward chaos and instability.

Ethiopia remains an active United States ally and receives over half a billion dollars in aid money from the US annually. The current regime has made promises to democratize the country. Yet, Ethiopia has remained one of the worst abusers of human rights on the continent. Over the last decade, and more rigorously in the last two years, the Ethiopian government has been dismantling democratic rights and intensifying human rights abuses in the country without any significant challenge from any of its allies including the US.  Since the 2015 national parliamentary election when the ruling party and its affiliates declared 100% victory, the democratic space narrowed even further. The Oromo protest has been the largest and most significant peaceful, popular uprising since the current regime rose to power nearly three decades ago. Rather than addressing the legitimate grievances of its people, the government has responded with brutal crackdown to stifle dissent and has taken measures which threated to completely close off democratic space.

Oromo protests broke out in November 2015 in response to the government’s plan to displace indigenous farmers from their lands around the capital city Addis Ababa without consultation or adequate compensation. The protests then persisted over wider issues of denial of human, civil and economic rights. Rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch corroborate that the protests have been peaceful. Yet security forces throughout most of 2016 systematically shot into crowds, killing over 600 people, and detained tens of thousands, according to figures from those reputable rights groups. The government continued violent crackdown, progressive obliteration of democratic rights, particularly the opportunity to express peaceful dissent.

On October 2, 2016, at the largest cultural and spiritual event that takes place in Africa, the Oromo Irreecha celebration of peace and reconciliation, where between one and two million people were present, several hundred people died at the hands of the Ethiopian government security when crowds ran from the sound of gunshots and massive tear gas release. The government triggered a massive stampede sending hundreds over cliffs near the waterside into ravines and into the lake itself. Hundreds died a terrible death on this sacred day as they attempted to escape. One week later, the government declared a State of Emergency.

The State of Emergency declared on October 9th, 2016 has blocked mobile internet, shut down social media, restricted travel and thus provided a cover for the government to increase brutality. Without the possibility of investigation, the government has stepped up arrests that are now officially illegal and has killed suspected individuals with impunity in order to eliminate opposition. Intense crackdown on the media has continued.

Arrests of opposition figures tracked down in their homes, as well as government’s own announcement of detentions of well over 20,000 civilians from the month of October, signal the Ethiopian government’s commitment to use repressive tactics to silence all opposition and to completely eliminate democratic space in Ethiopia. On March 30, the government declared the extension of the state of emergency for another four months.

Dr Merera Gudina, the leader of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), was arrested on November 30th, 2016 upon returning from Europe, where he had been invited to speak at the European parliament. Despite being a legally registered opposition party, the bulk of the leadership of OFC has been languishing in prison under inhumane conditions and without due process for nearly a year. This includes the prominent proponent of peaceful resistance Bekele Gerba, Deputy Chair of OFC, who translated Martin Luther King’s work while in prison.

Human Rights Watch has issued a statement titled US: Stand Up for Ethiopians as Government Stifles Protests, Jails Journalists, on March 9, 2017, in support of the introduction of H. Res. 128 https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/03/09/us-stand-ethiopians-government-stifles-protests-jails-journalists

United States’ own security interests in Ethiopia are seriously undermined by these official responses to the current political crisis. The actions by the regime threaten the stability of the entire region. Ethiopia will not be able to sustain economic growth or maintain stability. The United States must take action to change the current course toward chaos in the region.

We ask that you:

·         Go on the record by cosponsoring H. Res. 128

Strengths of H. Res. 128 include,

·         To condemn the use of excessive force, bringing an end to state-instigated violence.  This is required to establish confidence among dissenters that other provisions may be honored.

·         To call upon the Ethiopian government to lift the state of emergency.  This is the most immediate step to ensure the functioning of democratic space in the country, allowing communication to flow within and outside the country and to engage the youth.

·         To call for investigations of killings, the fire at Qilinto Prison, the massive death toll at the Oromo festival of Irreecha and the deadly incursions from the Somali regional state.  This is a very important step toward holding the worst perpetrators accountable.

·         To release political dissidents, activists, and journalists.  Legitimate opposition party leaders such as Bekele Gerba and Merera Gudina are moderates who have the respect of the protester generation and can contribute greatly to finding paths to democracy.

·         To repeal or amend the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation which strips rights of expression away from all people.  This law became a weapon against persons innocent of crime, subjecting them to sentences up to the death penalty. Amending or repealing ATP will give breathing space for democracy to find expression.

·         For the Secretary of State to conduct a review of security assistance to Ethiopia.  This introduces a connection between continued assistance and benchmarks in the steps toward democracy.

·         For the USAID to lead efforts to support democratization.  This commits the US to assess the condition of civil society groups and determine what supports can introduce viability after extended deprivation.

·         For both the State Department and USAID to provide oversight and accountability regarding all U.S. assistance to the Ethiopian government. This attention to monitoring the allocation and effectiveness of US aid to Ethiopia is critical to ensure that aid is not diverted or worse, used to retaliate against dissidents in the majority populations.

·         To apply the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act.  This brings sanctions against persons responsible for gross violations of internationally-recognized human rights committed against any nationals in Ethiopia.

I look forward to decisive action toward Ethiopia in the current Congress.

Your co-sponsorship of H Res 128 which supports the above steps will open the way for strong US policy regarding Ethiopia.

Sincerely

FIRST LAST name, address, phone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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