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Ethiopia: US Congress Holds Human Rights Briefing


An Ethiopian Commission of Inquiry report last month found that 193 people were killed in post-election violence in 2005. Some members of the commission who have defected said security forces used excessive force and even committed massacre. But the final report submitted to the Ethiopian parliament said security forces did not use excessive force. Democratic Congressman Donald Payne is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations. He talked with VOA English to Africa reporter James Butty about a briefing he and other members of congress are sponsoring Thursday on human rights in Ethiopia.

“The briefing is going to listen to members of the Ethiopian Commission Inquiry. This was a commission that was established in Ethiopia to review the violence in the post-election period after May 2005. They will brief the members and the public about their report. As you know, the report found that the government used excessive force in dealing with post-election unrest,” Payne said.

Some Ethiopian government sources have called Thursday’s briefing an interference in Ethiopian affairs, but the New Jersey congressman said he and other members of Congress and the public simply want to see whether the two versions of the commission’s report coincide.

Ethiopia has been described by some as an important country to the United States, particularly in the war against terrorism, and therefore would never be punished even if it violates the rights of its own citizens. Congressman Payne agreed Ethiopia is a friend of the United States, but he said the US does not want to repeat the mistakes of the past.

"During the Cold War, United States supported dictators like Mobutu and never really condemned South Africa’s apartheid government because they were anti-communists, and we were fighting the communists in the U.S. And so we’re not going to repeat those mistakes,” Payne said.

Payne says Thursday’s briefing is intended to find out the truth from the members of the Ethiopian commission of inquiry.

The Democrats will be the majority party when congress resumes in January, and Congressman Payne said the Democrats would be more engaged in Africa.

“We feel that Africa is a very important continent. We feel that the countries in Africa most of them are moving in the right direction. We simply like to be partners and support countries as they move forward in trying to have transparency in government, try to increase economic development, try certainly to support education and health services. And so I think the Democrats will be more engaged in Africa,” Payne said.

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