The U.S. has provided almost $3 billion to the Ethiopian regime in 2015. Nearly half of that money reportedly goes to support the military, according to various media outlets and demonstrators.
By Dani Prokop / TMN Interns
WASHINGTON (Talk Media News) –About 2,000 demonstrators marched Monday on Capitol Hill to demand the United States stop funding the Ethiopian regime that human rights groups said has killed hundreds and jailed thousands of peaceful protestors.
“Out here we are wet with rain, back home people are wet with blood,” said Obang Metho, 40, a director of the civil rights organization Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia that spearheaded the march.
Metho wants the U.S. to cut military spending to the Ethiopian government, impose travel sanctions and to freeze assets.
“The United States has done it before in oppressive regimes, we ask them to do it now in Ethiopia,” Metho told TMN. “If it becomes personal it will have a big impact and the government will have no choice but to respond to the people.”
The Ethiopian regime arrested at least 5,000 Oromos between 2011 and 2014 for opposing the regime, Amnesty International reported. Since November 2015, hundreds of people have been killed in protests in the Oromia region, which surrounds the capital Addis Ababa. In January, Human Rights Watch (HRW) claimed that at least 140 people had been killed in the clashes.
The U.S. has provided almost $3 billion to the Ethiopian regime in 2015. In 2012, about$5 million went toward military aid. The money is supposed to earmarked toward development aid, but HRW research “shows that development aid flows through, and directly supports, a virtual one-party state with a deplorable human rights record. Ethiopia’s practices include jailing and silencing critics and media, enacting laws to undermine human rights activity, and hobbling the political opposition.”
The State Department issued the following statement to Talk Media News in response to the recent protest “We continue to actively discuss our concerns with the Government of Ethiopia. The bulk of our assistance focuses on helping to meet the Ethiopian people’s health, education and economic needs. Our relationship with the Ethiopian people is important and we intend to sustain it.”
The human rights groups presented letters last week to Congress detailing the violent crack down on protestors. The groups requested the U.S. and other countries to urge Ethiopia to do the following:
- Immediately cease the use of excessive and unnecessary lethal force by security forces against protesters in Oromia and Amhara regions and elsewhere in Ethiopia;
- Immediately and unconditionally release journalists, human rights defenders, political opposition leaders and members as well as protesters arbitrarily detained during and in the aftermath of the protests;
- Respond favorably to country visit requests by UN Special Procedures;
- Urgently allow access to an international, thorough, independent, impartial and transparent investigation into all of the deaths resulting from alleged excessive use of force by the security forces, and other violations of human rights in the context of the protests;
- Ensure that those responsible for human rights violations are prosecuted in proceedings which comply with international law and standards on fair trials and without resort to the death penalty; and
- Fully comply with its international legal obligations and commitments including under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and its own Constitution.
Congress responded by introducing a resolution calling for transparency and investigations into Ethiopia’s human rights abuses after listening to Feyisa Lilesa, an Paralympic’s Silver medalist marathon runner who testified last week on Capitol Hill.
Metho said the international coverage of the Oromo Paralympian crossing his fists about his head brought much needed visibility to the Ethiopian cause.
“We have been screaming in silence for a long time, but when Lilesa crossed the finish line our voice was heard the whole world found out what’s going on,” Metho said.
Keberie Workue, 42, used her day off from catering in Smithsonian museum cafeteria to march in the demonstration.
“Over here it is a free country to demonstrate in, over there they kill you for this, for nothing,” Workue said.
Metho voiced his optimism that the administration will make the right choice.
“If Obama wants for his legacy, let him side with the Ethiopian people. If he doesn’t it will end up on his legacy as the man who abandoned Ethiopia. We don’t want you to come in and save us, we can do that ourselves. We want to be heard.”