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The Upcoming May 2015 Ethiopian General Election and Ethiopian-American Action

By Dallol Kiros
February 6, 2015
2010-10-18_004046Two years ago I participated in the “Ethiopian American Convention” that was held in Washington Middle School in Alexandria, Virginia.  Throughout the 2012 November election, Loudon county which is not far from where most Ethiopia American reside in northern Virginia was a battle ground. More than any time Ethiopia-American voters in swing states like Virginia has mattered and candidates  should put into consideration the demand  Ethiopian American constituents are  making.
On 2014 mid-term election, the democratic candidate Senator Mark Warner won by small margin 49 percent versus 48 percent for the republican candidate Ed Gillespie. Historically there is a low voters turnout in mid-term election and let’s assume that most Ethiopian American did not cast their vote.  But that would not be the case in upcoming 2016 presidential elections.
Therefore, Ethiopian American should follow suit on what they have started two years ago in November.   The ‘Ethiopian American Convention’ that was held on Sunday October 14, 2012 “Vote Free Ethiopia’ and other civic organizations was the beginning of that process.  Ethiopian community need to articulate.
When it comes to human right in Ethiopia, the Obama administration have not made a strong condemnation let alone take serious action.  To our surprise in the dawn of the November mid-term election in November 2014, the US State Department has made a press releases concerned about the recent sentencing of journalist Mr. Temsegen Desalegne, which is was a little late in getting Ethiopia Americans to  cast their votes for a democrat.
The Ethiopian government is tirelessly working with Washington lobbyist and spending millions.  Hiring  firms such as DLA Piper and Good Works International , chaired by Andrew  Young former UN ambassador under President Jimmy Charter.  According to Corporate watch dog few of the favourite  African government lobbyists are Herman Cohen, former State Department official under president George Bush.
On the flip side the Ethiopian-Americans have put at the bay the TPLF operatives in most major United State cities and Western Europe.  One  group that works tirelessly is the DC task force, is a group that consists of human right activist such First Hijarh Foundation and opposition political members from EPRP,  Ginbot Seven and other human right activists.
Because of effective group such as  DC task force, the TPLF regime has not been able to rally the Ethiopian Diaspora for any public meeting and fund raising events.  No government official can freely mingle among the Diaspora community without being confronted by DC area task force,
All over the Western Europe, including Norway, Sweden, Canada and Australia, Ethiopian government official are confronted by protestor. Video of egg throwing on Ethiopia Ambassador in Sweden have surfaced all over the social media.
But this time around the “ the DC task force” has made a very bold move, removing Ethiopian national flag with TPLF/EPRDF rebel group emblem with the true Ethiopian flag at Ethiopia Embassy in Washington DC.  This has been a big blow for Ethiopian government and regime supporters. The Prime minster of Ethiopia was so aggravated had to address the rubber stamp parliament about the group naming  the participants Eritrean government agents.
A video has surfaced all over the media outlets.  Showing the Ethiopian embassy security attaché Mr. Solomon Tadesse Gebre Sellasie,  a former TPLF guerrilla fighter was caught on camera  shooting point blank at unarmed protesters and activists Mr. Mekonnen  Getachew inside the embassy grounds.
The resistance against the regime is at all time high, especially in the Washington DC metro area where large  Ethiopian-Americans population reside in the North America. The Ethiopia bond purchase program is a total failure.  The Ethiopian government TV channel is off the cable channels in DC metro area.  Whereas more than any time in past 23 years, the Ethiopia population in Ethiopia and overseas with access to radio and TV are getting their news from the Diaspora financed TV and radio program called Ethiopian Satellite Television (ESAT).
VOA-Amharic, on time popular outlet has been accused by civic and oppositions forces for making favourable reporting for the Ethiopia regime and has lost its creditability among its listeners. In which the chief of horn African program Peter Peter Heinlein as Chief of the Horn of Africa was demoted for  deliberate distortions and professional misconduct. The allegation of misinforming by his subordinate  Henok  Semaegzer on Ethiopia prime minster cancel award by Azusa Pacific university was first aired by  ESAT radio.
The TPLF regime is also trying very hard to silence dissent among Ethiopian-American with a total failure. After the Ethiopian communication minister  Rewdan Hussien was confronted and humiliated at Arlington’s  Marshal store on 08/07/14 by two Ethiopian activists, the regime took the case to Arlington court where the prosecutor decided not to prosecute the case” Nolle Prosequi” against Mekonnen Getachew, the same activity from the Ethiopian Embassy flag incidence. Similarly, a German court in Munich had dropped the charge made against Tibebu Assefa for protesting against bond purchase program held by TPLF operatives for the Grand Renaissance Dam building.
Few months  ago Ethiopian Americans have launched a task force  to bring to justice  70 TPLF high ranking and Ethiopia government official that are accused of war crimes, crimes against humanities, genocide, extrajudicial killing, torture, illegal imprisonment, rape, corruption, extortion and embezzlement.  The spoke person for the task force activist Mr. Tamagene Beyene have announced there is an effort with U.S  law enforcement agencies and human right organizations.
On its official  website  the task force have listed Ethiopian officials and security officers and army officers according to their crimes committed, at the top of the list  Mr. Abay Teshaye Minster of Federal Affairs, Dr. Debrestsion Gebre-Michael Deputy prime mister and in charge of Ethiopian National Intelligence and Security Service, Mr. Tesgay Berhe National Security Affairs Adviser Minister ,  Mr Abay Woldu  president of the TPLF and the Tigray Regional State,  Mr Arkebe Oqubay  the prime minster policy advisor and former Addis Ababa mayor followed by the current prime minster of Ethiopia Mr. Hailemariam Desalegn, accused of crime  when he was a President of the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Region (SNNPR) from November 2001 to March 2006.
Ethiopian in Sweden has also submitted a charge against 13 Ethiopian government and Defense Force officials that are also on the list above to the Swedish International Criminal Tribunal and Courts.
More than any time the Diaspora opposition forces are organized, coordinated, committed and above all aggressive.  But with all this success stories, the Ethiopia- Americans have been unable to influence the US policy toward Ethiopia.
The US together with has its strong board of directors presentence at the World Bank,  has continued to write a blank check.
As recently as September 2012, the World Bank Group have mobilized US$600 million in development financing for the third phase of the Promoting Basic Services (PBS III). These are the type of programs they need to be identified.  Ethiopian- American should  chose a candidates for United State Senate and congress that understand their  cause only vote for those candidates, preferably this time around  republican candidates.
The World Bank loans are literally providing a budget support to the government of Ethiopia, which means the Ethiopian government is only accountable to donor governments, and not to the Ethiopian people.
Ethiopian-American should  not be requesting that that the World Food Program’s US humanitarian assistance be stopped to Ethiopia either, but for US government to make sure food aid and humanitarian assistance are not diverted, or used to coerce the Ethiopian peasants for political gain.
Ethiopian-American that voted for Obama in good faith and had received in return a flat out insult by Ambassador Susan Rice , calling the Ethiopia American voters   “Fools” in Addis Ababa on the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi funeral in Addis Ababa.  This is a strong indication that Ethiopian- American vote by Obama administration has been taken for granted.
In 2016 presidential election, the Democratic party should not be getting the usual support it gets from Ethiopian American specially in Washington  DC metro area.
Ethiopian-Americans should indentify a candidate that will serve the interest of the opposition Ethiopia American and endorse and vote for that candidate.
This time around the opposition Diaspora and the Ethiopian-American at large need to vote for a republican candidate.  Ethiopian Americans should endorse and announce their choice on the local media and news outlets. The candidate should back its promise with strong actions.
Following the footsteps of African Americans that predominately votes for the Democratic party,  Ethiopian-American have been voting for the democratic party,  this needs  to change. For the upcoming 2016 presidential election, what Ethiopian-American should be demanding from both the Republican and the  Democratic parties is for congress  to stop writing a blank check to the government of Ethiopia.  Specially, candidates in swing states like Virginia should realize Ethiopia- American vote matters.
Ethiopian-American should demand that the US government to pressures for the release of all political prisoners and journalists and give room for the Ethiopian opposition to organize freely to mobilize its supporter and raise funds, without being persecuted.  They should request that the US administration make a strong statement backed by action.  ESAT and Ethiopian opposition groups and civil organization coordinate their effort to mobilize and frame the agenda.
On September 25, president Obama meet prime minster Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia who was also at New York to attend the 68th United Nations General Assembly.  The Obama administration officials including Susan Rice and Secretary of State Kerry were present.  In which, President Obama spoke in the interest of United States peacekeeping in Africa, Ethiopia being a hired gun. At least in front of the camera, good governance, democracy, corruption, the jailing and persecution of journalist and the Ethiopia oppositions were not part of his statement.
Going forward, candidate especially in swing states should not just award their votes to candidate just because they are running on the Democratic Party platform.
Ethiopian-Americans need to articulate there demand and most importantly educate voters in their community about make specific demands.  Ethiopian Americans need to support only a candidate that can address their specific demand.
The 2016 elections would be the greatest one time opportunity for Ethiopian Americans to get the attention of the US legislative body.
There are groups that have no faith in the US policy maker and  believe  Ethiopia’s destiny should not be with the next US administration or the democratic or republic party, but Ethiopians democratic aspirations. That would flatly reject the above notion and suggestions,  it does not matter who Ethiopian American should vote in the November 2016 and upcoming elections.  Rehearse the famous quote from former American foreign secretary Henry Kissinger   “ America has no permanent friends or enemies, only interest”
By May 2015 Ethiopian general election if the Obama administration does not have a strong stance against the TPLF regime. The current Ethiopia- American policy must have an alternative plan toward the Ethiopia regime.  The 2014, USAID and USADF foreign assistance program for Ethiopia excluding multinationals, military assistance and emergency food assistance disbursed $417 million.
The Ethiopia Diaspora have more financial leverage than the US foreign assistance program to Ethiopia.  Specially for groups that believe in peaceful struggle this should be and encouraging sign. A simple action such as economic leverage by suspending remittance for 2-3 month, provided that Diaspora family members are willing to make sacrifices,  is an effective method to bring the regime to its knees.
This will have one time impactful pressure on TPLF regime that is try hard to keep afloat.   Ethiopian Ministry of Finance government annual Budget for 2014 is $8.92 billion of which $3 to $4  billion is financed by remittance. The Ethiopian economy is stretched beyond it means, there It is a strong indication that the National Bank Reserve is depleting with evidence that the government is cash strapped.
Group such as “ DC task force” are effective but the struggle needs more commitment.

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