An Open Letter to Congressman Christopher Smith (R-NJ)
The Honorable Christopher Smith
Chairman, Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health,
Global Human Rights and International Organizations
2373 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Subject: Subcommittee Hearing: “Ethiopia After Meles: The Future of Democracy and Human Rights”
Dear Congressman Smith,
I followed your hearing on the aforementioned subject and I was extremely disturbed, not only by how you proceeded to have your hearing, but mostly, by the conclusion you have reached to submit a bill to sanction Ethiopia. The century old U.S.—Ethio bond; the development that Ethiopia is registering to surpass the Millennium Development Goal; and the importance of strong U.S.—Ethio cooperation to curtail terrorist threats in a region that requires greater emphasis, I think, are prohibitive reasons that you may have to consider before you submit your bill to sanction Ethiopia.
As U.S. Congressman from New Jersey, I sense the degree of seriousness in you about terrorist threats against your country. I also sense the eagerness and want in you to know about activities of terrorism in and around the Horn of Africa—by al-Qaeda affiliated groups such as al-shebab and others who are subsidized and trained by the Eritrean state. The Eritrean state, as you know quite well, is still abetting terrorism in and out of Somalia and around the Horn. These facts, I believe, are more than well-known to you. But in spite of these facts and in spite of a confession on tape by Berhanu Nega about the $500,000.00 fund that he received from the Eritrean state, you have nonetheless proceeded with your hearing to reach an unwarranted and unjustified conclusion of intending to submit a bill to sanction Ethiopia.
Dear Congressman Smith, I hope you are aware of the fact that $100,000.00 is earmarked to lobby the U.S. Congress and you in person by extension—from a fund provided by the Eritrean state. Not only that, $200,000.00 is also earmarked to be delivered through Dubai for “military and intelligence work”—with the plan to send 10 recruits (from South Africa, South Sudan and Kenya) to Eritrea to join terrorist recruits waiting there. As I have stated earlier, a strong U.S.—Ethio tie is a must have condition in order to curtail terrorist threats that emanate from the Horn. And I think this must have condition as is, is a prohibitive reason that you may have to consider before you submit your bill to sanction Ethiopia.
In addition to all these, your hearing was unbalanced at best and, outrageous at worst. It was unbalanced because it had no diverse source of input and had only leaders from the political opposition side. Had you at least invited Ethio-Americans who beg to differ with most or, part of the assessment of the panelist, your hearing would have benefited, and as a result, you might have not reached an unwarranted and unjustified conclusion. Your hearing was also outrageous because Berhanu Nega, in spite of what you think of him, is a convicted terrorist in abstensia, not arbitrarily, but based on the Supreme Law of the land of Ethiopia, and at a minimum, I expected a measured respect from you toward all Ethiopians who abide by their Constitution.
The century old strong U.S.—Ethio diplomatic tie should not be compromised by unsubstantiated claims of lack of human rights. The issues of democracy and human rights, as you know, do not lend themselves that easy to a hearing session. They are convoluted issues of claims and counter-claims. I strongly believe that democracy and human rights in Ethiopia are revered and practiced, and anecdotes of claims of human right violations lack evidence and hence are still matters of relative judgements. Nevertheless, a disagreement over issues of human rights and democracy should be discussed, and all matters concerning these issues should be the sole responsibility of Ethiopians and only Ethiopians. In other words, any social, political and economic claims of shortcomings in Ethiopia require the agreed on solutions from Ethiopians—not a measure of sanction from the U.S. that dilutes and impedes the agreed on solutions from emerging. To be specific, improvements in human rights are always the result of a genuine discourse among the Ethiopian people, their democratically elected government, the opposing political parties and civil societies of Ethiopia—not the result of a sanction and or other measures by non-Ethiopian entities.
I hope you consider my inputs and refrain from submitting your bill to sanction Ethiopia. Sanction may ephemerally bolster the spirit of terror-sponsoring Eritrean state, al-Qaeda affiliated al-shebab, GINBOT 7, and other terrorist organizations. But, Congressman, please bear in mind that Ethiopians will continue to fight terrorism with or without the help of the U.S. And the U.S., I believe, will not allow for such a scenario to blossom in the Horn, because, bolstering the spirit of any terrorist organization absolutely serves no U.S. interest. To bolster the spirit of any terrorist organization, one way or another, not only is counterproductive, but it is also antithetical to human rights and democracy.
Dear Congressman, I believe that after considering my inputs, you will decipher and consider facts that truly matter to U.S.—Ethio relation. May that be the premise for you sir to set-aside submitting your bill to sanction Ethiopia.
I thank you so much for having the interest about Ethiopians.
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