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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

US Secret Service Head: White House Security Lapse 'Unacceptable'

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after a recent intrusion at the White House: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus 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.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid