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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

1855 Slave Brochure Starkly Details Sale of Black Americans

Document lists entire families that were up for sale in New Orleans, offering graphic insight into the slavery trade More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs