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Ethiopians Address Human Rights Issues at Washington Conference

  • Douglas Mpuga

A three-day conference on good governance, peace, security and sustainable development in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa ended over the weekend in the suburbs of Washington, DC. The conference drew a cross-section of participants, especially from the Ethiopian Diaspora.

“This conference is going very well; it is by any standard unique and historical,” said Getachew Begashaw, one of the participants, just before the conference ended Sunday.

Getachew, who teaches economics at the William Harper College in Illinois, said the gathering drew participants with a healthy understanding of challenges facing Ethiopia. He said it was also a forum where different views and approaches were entertained.

“The discussions were very candid and carried out in a dignified way,” he said.

The three-day conference was organized by group Advocacy for Ethiopia and Ethiopian National Priorities Consultative Process. Getachew said the conference would generate ideas that will have some policy impact in the long run.

“What we are discussing will help contribute towards shaping US foreign policy towards Ethiopia and Africa,” he said. The economic professor said Ethiopians who participated in this conference will adapt a consensus on the roadmap of how to bring about peaceful change in Ethiopia.

Getachew said the Ethiopian government did not send participants, and that instead, it tried to sabotage it.

“The [Ethiopian] government was opposed to this conference. They do not know how to go into dialogue or any dignified discussion with people who hold different views than theirs.” Attempts to get a comment from the Ethiopian embassy in Washington were unsuccessful.

He described human rights and democratic governance as Ethiopia’s main problems.

“How to democratize the country; a country where all opinions are counted and everyone is involved in shaping the future of the country. These are the issues that will enhance peace, security and sustainable development of Ethiopia.”

Getachew said how these issues are addressed will have a trickle effect on neighboring countries Somalia, Sudan, Eritrea, Djibouti and even Kenya.

In addition to Ethiopian scholars, the Arlington conference was attended by US government officials, former diplomats, analysts, human rights activists, civil society organizations and individuals representing national and international institutions.