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The Urgent Need for Human Rights-Based U.S. Investment Policy in Ethiopia
For nearly a quarter of a century, the ruling coalition in Ethiopia led by the Tigrean People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) has imposed a repressive one-party system and maintained itself in power by using brute force, criminalizing free expression and censorship, secrecy and a broad “anti-terrorism law” to crush dissent and opposition politics. The 2013 U.S. annual human rights report identified “arbitrary killings, torture, detentions without charge, illegal searches and life-threatening prison conditions” as critical human rights problems. Human Rights Watch concluded, “The use of draconian laws and trumped-up charges to crack down on free speech and peaceful dissent makes a mockery of the rule of law” in Ethiopia.
The TPLF regime in Ethiopia claims to have achieved double-digit economic growth over the past decade. They claim, “Everyone is now talking about the Ethiopian renaissance”. The unpleasant facts are Ethiopia is in the top tier of failed states in the global Failed States Index. The Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHDI) Multidimensional Poverty Index recently
ranked Ethiopia as the “second poorest” country in the world. Ethiopia also ranks at the top of the Transparency International’s Corruption Index. In 2011, Global Financial Integrity reported, The people of Ethiopia are being bled dry. No matter how hard they try to fight their way out of absolute destitution and poverty, they will be swimming upstream against the current of illicit capital leakage.” The Economist magazine observed, “Beyond the government-directed state, funded substantially by foreign aid, there is–almost uniquely in Africa–virtually no private-sector business at all” in Ethiopia.
The U.S. State Department in its 2013 Investment Climate Statement noted the poor business climate “due to limited opportunities for the private sector to leverage the large public investment, crowding out of private sector credit, and entrenched inflation expectations.” The World Bank’s Doing Business report for 2013 dropped Ethiopia’s abysmal ranking even more because of “declines in scores for investor protections, tax payments, contract enforcement, and resolution of insolvency.” The TPLF regime has used this authority to evict people and sell their land and livelihood to Chinese, Indian, Saudi and other investors often at much below-market prices and without fair compensation to the ancestral landowners. This has resulted in the displacement, forced relocation and “villagization” of millions of poor farmers in areas targeted for massive industrial plantations.China, willfully blind to the massive human rights violations in Ethiopia, has provided the TPLF regime with interest-free loans, preferential trade agreements and investments effectively maintaining the regime and its cronies.
Disregard for the rule of law and property rights, reckless land giveaways and flagrant violations of human rights should not be tolerated or condoned. The U.S. is not China. As President Jimmy Carter said, “America did not invent human rights. Human rights invented America.” That is why the U.S. must follow a human rights-based investment policy in Ethiopia and be guided and informed by its fundamental values of protecting life, liberty and property. As minimum conditions in any U.S. investment policy in Ethiopia, the U.S. should Insist on the release of all political prisoners in the country, including journalists and bloggers.
Demand greater freedom of action for human rights and civil society groups. Support independent media operation and elimination of all censorship. Demand prosecution of persons who have committed gross human rights violations. Promote dialogue and negotiated settlement of political disputes.
Global Alliance for the Rights of Ethiopians (GARE)
Telephone: ( (877)746 -4384
All Lives Have Equal Value info@DefendEthiopians.org