An Open Letter to Congressman Christopher Smith

Juba, August 24, 2013 (GSN) - To the Honorable Christopher Smith, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International organizations.

Dear Honorable Congressman,

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you and all congress members for their concern for humanity and democracy as well governance system in Africa.

I followed attentively the recent hearing on Future of Democracy and Human Rights in Ethiopia. However, and to my surprise and disappointment the hearing that deals with a working system that need to be inclusive, impartial and that guarantees freedom of expression seemed to be otherwise.   Let me pinpoint the issues that illustrate my disappointment in the following sentences:

First as I already mentioned in a meeting that suppose to discussion about inclusiveness as one of the virtues of democracy,  there was no attempt by the subcommittee to include views that represent the other side of the story, which, had it been so would have aided members of the subcommittee gain a more balanced picture of realities in Ethiopia.

Without including all the players in the committee hearing to conclude about the instruments and tools that needed to be considered to improve democracy and human right in Ethiopia, can be considered as extra judiciary judgment which we have been opposing for many years.

The other issues that lipped into my mind is how you selected Doctor Birhanu Nega as representative of the country or somebody who should represent the plight of the people.

I strongly believe that Guerilla fight cannot bring sustainable peace and democracy for Ethiopia and Eritrea. Doctor Berhanu Nega and other Ethiopian opposition leaders have been engaged in armed struggle. If they believe this is the last option then instead of sending poor Ethiopian and Eritrean youth to the bush, they themselves need to lead the guerilla warfare and practically engaged in the fight! Here is where the difference lies between Meles Zenawi and Doctor Berhanu and other Ethiopian opposition leaders. Unlike self proclaimed guerilla leaders, the former fought alongside his comrades for almost seventeen years to triumph over the Derg regime! But Doctor Berhanu and some guerilla leaders from both Ethiopia and Eritrea are right now seating in United States and sending poor youths from both country to fight against their brothers and sisters! These people either they have to stop the guerilla warfare or they need to be physically in the middle of the struggle if they think that guerilla fight is the only means to an end!

The great African father, Mandela, Said, if you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy and later you will make him your partner. This is how they should solve intricate problems and settle disputes through negotiations around table. If belligerent rhetoric flying back and forth, accusing each other; they cannot be a remedy for the problems we are facing. Rather it can only aggravate the existing tensions and animosity between different factions!

As African I want to stay optimist and refrained from all kinds of efforts that can end up in siege in which case each faction’s stands against the other.  So I am disappointed by your extensions of support and good will gesture to Doctor Birhanu Nega who has been proposing guerilla warfare as a solution to the existing problems. If he and other parties in conflict desire to settle the problems peacefully, then they need to steer their exchange beyond inflexible positions and toward more fundamental conceptions of equity and justice. Trust building for both sides need to go beyond repletion of familiar sets of positions in order to consider different kinds of interests and how they might be addressed in productive ways. Hence, I want the instruments to be geared toward supporting peaceful resolutions instead of igniting belligerent rhetoric between government and opposition parties over the issues.

I strongly believe that if we have to bring fundamental change with regards to democracy and human right we need to  opt and strongly support the establishment of working system that guarantees freedom of expression, belief and association, free and competitive elections, respect for the inalienable rights of individuals and minorities, free communications media, and the rule of law. In this regards, we also need to consider that change needs contributions from both side and it is a process through which we build a normative standards and values as pillar and ignite the mentality of change in the minds of all citizens of Ethiopia.  Likewise, in a country that has been under yoke of poverty for many years, transforming the nation towards common normative values and standards, it needs more support and constructive engagement.

To the delight of Doctor Berhanu Nega a man that admitted to receiving $500,000 from unknown source to overthrow the existing government through violent movement, you concluded the Hearing on June 20th 2013, by announcing that you will soon introduce a bill to sanction Ethiopia. I believe it is totally unhelpful and unfair to sanction a country that is struggling day and night to reduce and eliminate extreme poverty which has been one of the stumble block to assert successfully democratic and human rights. The stick approaches and sanctions in African couldn't bring democracy and build public centered government for decades.  On top of this, I don't think my starved mother rather cares about democracy and human rights as priority then feeding her starved child.

Finally, the sanctions that you are planning will not in any way assist to improve the human rights situation in Ethiopia. The human rights situation in Ethiopia will sustainably improved by a constructive engagement that will take place between the Ethiopian political parties and the Ethiopian civil society; with practical supporting in system building from countries like USA. It is better to opt for change through capacitating public institutions so as to make them public centered rather than crippling the efforts of the government to emancipate the people of from yoke of poverty.

Petition to Urge Representative Christopher Smith Stop his drive to introduce an Anti-Ethiopian Bill. Sign this petition now


By Samuel Zewdie Hagos  @

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