News / USA

Ethiopian Diaspora, US Rights Groups Seek Democratic Progress in Ethiopia

Protesters recently marched by the State Department demanding pressure for democratic change in Ethiopia
Protesters recently marched by the State Department demanding pressure for democratic change in Ethiopia

Multimedia

Members of the Ethiopian diaspora and U.S. human rights groups want the U.S. government to put pressure on its Horn of Africa ally Ethiopia to implement democratic reform, ahead of parliamentary elections Sunday.  But Africa experts say Washington has little leverage to effect change.

Ethiopian-Americans recently marched from the State Department to the White House demanding that U.S. officials put pressure on Ethiopia's government to free opposition leader Birtukan Mideksa.

Birtukan, along with other opposition politicians and Ethiopian journalists are currently in jail on allegations of undermining state authority. They aren't able to report or run in Sunday's parliamentary elections.  

U.S. human rights groups say Ethiopia's government is stifling freedom of speech and oppressing the opposition.

Ethiopian-American Hana Haile was one of the protesters in Washington. She says this demonstration would not be possible in Ethiopia.

"There would be a lot of fear of retaliation against us for this march," she said.  "There could be lots of gunshots and lots of deaths. And that's what we want people back home to experience the same as we do here."

Ethiopian officials say their democracy is a work in progress and that the elections will be free and fair.

Africa expert J. Peter Pham, from the National Committee on American Foreign Policy, says Ethiopia is such an important ally that the U.S. must cooperate with its government, however imperfect.

"Ethiopia has been an important and pivotal state in the Horn of Africa subregion for many years and all the more so in this particular period of history when we have utter chaos in most of the former Somali state, the prospect of a breakup of Sudan and other tensions in the area with Kenya, with elections coming up."

Terrence Lyons, at George Mason University, says the Obama administration has tried to modify the relationship.

"During the Bush administration, policy toward Ethiopia was very heavily dominated by counter-terrorism concerns," he said. "President Obama, I believe, is trying to re-calibrate the relationship so that human rights, democracy and other issues reach equal status with the counter-terrorism agenda."

Lyons says the United States has little leverage in Ethiopia, where China, India and Saudi Arabia have larger business interests.

Meanwhile, in front of the White House, human rights activist Chris Flaherty staged a week-long hunger strike, demanding that the U.S. pressure Ethiopia to release Birtukan.

He says it takes sacrifice to bring change.

"You know, your freedom is going to come at a cost and it's going to take tremendous effort," said  Flaherty. "People are going to get hurt.  People are going to go to jail. People could possibly get killed.  But you have to resign yourself that that is going to be the reality."

He says demonstrations and sanctions helped topple apartheid in South Africa. And he says that's a good example of what he hopes will happen in Ethiopia.

You May Like

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Role in Fighting IS Carries Domestic Risks

There are Western concerns Islamic State militants soon may unleash offensive in kingdom that could create upheaval - though nation has solid intel, grip on banking system More

Asian-Americans Enter Public Office in Record Numbers

A steady deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid