By CAITLIN OPRYSKO
With Daniel Lippman
ETHIOPIA ADDS FORMER CONGRESSMAN: The Ethiopian government has added former congressman Joe Garcia to its team of lobbyists from Mercury Public Affairs, new Justice Department filings show. The one-term Florida Democrat is the first former lawmaker to represent the Ethiopian government, which the Biden administration has accused of “ethnic cleansing” in the Tigray region since a civil war there broke out almost a year ago.
— Mercury, who documents filed with the Justice Department show was hired by Ethiopia’s Ambassador to the U.S. Fitsum Arega at the end of August, is Addis Ababa’s only remaining representation in Washington after the lobbying firm Venable let its contract with the Ethiopian Peace Ministry expire at the end of April. The team from Mercury also includes Avery Rose Royster, a former aide to Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Ashley Bauman, a DNC alum, and William Ogborn, a State Department alum.
— A copy of Mercury’s contract filed with the Justice Department shows that the lobbying firm will provide “government relations and media relations consulting and management services” for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government until November. The Biden administration has pushed for a ceasefire among all parties involved in the atrocities in Ethiopia, which includes allied militias in Eritrea and which Ahmed’s government insists was initiated by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. Last month, Biden signed an executive order authorizing potential sanctions on those involved unless fighting there stops.
— Ahmed was sworn in for a new term as prime minister earlier this week, which came days after his administration expelled seven United Nations aid workers in charge of humanitarian relief in Tigray. UN secretary general António Guterres subsequently warned that the country is facing an “immense humanitarian crisis that demands immediate attention” and called for unfettered access to the Tigray region.
— Earlier this summer, Mercury signed the pro-government diaspora group the American Ethiopia Public Affairs Committee, which has paid the firm $100,000, according to lobbying disclosures. Garcia was initially listed as lobbying on the account, as well as former Rep. Toby Moffett and former Sen. David Vitter. But Garcia was not listed on the firm’s third quarter lobbying report for AEPAC. The group, which insists on its website is not affiliated with any one Ethiopian politician or political party, was formed in April, according to an announcement by Arega on the embassy’s website.