Congressman Chris Smith’s Change of Heart: A Shift in U.S. Policy Towards Ethiopia

Editor’s note: Go to 13:33 to listen to the Chairman’s statement.

By the Strathink Editorial Team

An amendment offered by Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Sub-committee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations, to House Resolution 128 has signaled an important shift in U.S. policy towards Ethiopia.

The amendment replaces the preamble to the February draft bill with very different language, focusing on the longstanding partnership between the United States and Ethiopia and Ethiopia’s progress in responding to the domestic challenges of public health, child survival, and food security, as well as the security challenges of an unstable region.

This amendment, introduced by Chairman Smith, sends a strong symbol to the Government of Ethiopia and the Ethiopian people that the United States considers Ethiopia an invaluable partner in a volatile and strategically critical region.

Let’s look at Congressman Smith’s amendment to the proposed resolution.

In the first paragraph, the House Sub-committee, under Chairman Smith, acknowledges the significance of this partnership and recognizes Ethiopia as “a regional leader in promoting economic growth, global health, peace and security.”

In a region of failed states (South Sudan), failing states (Eritrea) and fragile states (Somalia), Ethiopia stands tall as the region’s leader in facilitating an extraordinary economic growth surge. The World Bank says Ethiopia’s economy will be the most expansive in Africa for the year 2017—calling the country an economic giant.

South Sudan has spectacularly squandered its economic potential in a never- ending political struggle between narcissistic fools. Somalia is struggling to reform its economy after decades of war and political turmoil, and now a drought. Eritrea is hobbling towards economic catastrophe.

The narrative of Ethiopia Rising economically is good news for both the embattled region and for Ethiopia’s security partners abroad, including the United States. With a measure of political stability, Ethiopia’s neighbors will benefit from the spillover effect of Ethiopia’s rising economy, underscoring any gains made in the stability of the state.

Ethiopia’s health sector has been singled out as a success story by donor governments and international organizations worldwide. In an editorial written by Zoe Mullan in The Lancet—ranked 2nd globally out of 151 medical journals—she writes, “Ethiopia’s Health Sector Transformation Plan is both deep and broad, embracing leadership, data for decision making, empowerment, accountability, equity, quality, respect, and compassion. It’s hard to find anything not to like. The world will be watching its progress with great interest and expectation.”

It is no accident that Ethiopia’s former health minister, Dr. Tedros Adhanom, was recently elected the first African Director General of the World Health Organization.

The amendment goes further to acknowledge Ethiopia’s regional leadership in promoting peace and stability in one of Africa’s roughest neighborhoods. Congressman Smith fully embraces Ethiopia’s role in the region that has “helped advance the national interests of the United States and regional partners through contributions to international peacekeeping, combating radical Islamic extremism and other forms of terrorism, and regional cooperation through the African Union.”

The resolution calls on the U.S. Department of State and the United States Agency for International Development “to continue to strengthen ties with Ethiopia, including through the provision of appropriate levels and forms of security assistance, in correlation to the Ethiopian Government’s own demonstrated commitment to democracy, rule of law, human rights, economic growth, and peace and security in the region.”

How does this amendment signal a shift in U.S. policy towards Ethiopia?

Congressman Chris Smith has spent years—decades—casting aspirations on Ethiopia’s path towards economic growth and advancing democracy. He held hearing after hearing, along with the late Congressman Donald Payne and political nuisance Ted Dagne, vilifying and disparaging the totality of the Ethiopian Government. Congressman Smith, a neophyte in African politics, was held hostage to the views of the Ethiopian opposition in the diaspora and their longstanding antipathy to a government that refused to be micromanaged from Washington, DC.

This amendment, inserted by Congressman Chris Smith, indicates a sharp turn in the U.S. Congress, led by the President’s party, to recognize and embrace the reality of America’s dependence on the strategic partnership of the Ethiopian Government. Congressman’s Smith’s change of heart is based on political realism—not the fairy tale scenario of an Ethiopian diaspora out of place, out of touch and, increasingly, out of options.

5 Responses to “Congressman Chris Smith’s Change of Heart: A Shift in U.S. Policy Towards Ethiopia”

  1. Seifu says:

    I listened to the video and did not get from it what you claimed to be a change of heart.
    Did I miss something?

  2. Mohammed Kedir says:

    Thank you congressman Christ Smith for witnessing the reality.

  3. Tesfay alemseged says:

    this is quite a rational move which is not biased by the pressure of few ‘stone headed’ diaspora group. The world community is now quite aware about this unusually odd group which works against it’s own country does not reflect the interest of this big and divers nation.
    Ethiopia will be a stronger allay of the US.

  4. Laloo says:

    i will ask reader to get the unbiased information. here is Resolution 128


    H. RES. __

    Supporting respect for human rights and encouraging inclusive governance in Ethiopia.
    Mr. SMITH of New Jersey submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on _______________
    Supporting respect for human rights and encouraging inclusive governance in Ethiopia.
    Whereas the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia has been an important ally of the United States and a regional leader in promoting economic growth, global health, and peace and security;
    Whereas Ethiopia has helped advance the national interests of the United States and regional partners, including through contributions to international peacekeeping, combatting radical Islamist extremism and other forms of terrorism; and regional cooperation through the African Union;
    Whereas Ethiopia has made great strides in addressing significant challenges in global health, child survival, and food security;
    Whereas Ethiopia’s transition from authoritarian rule to participatory democracy has not kept pace with other reforms;
    Whereas general elections in 2005 were marred by violence, manipulation, and the detention of thousands of opposition members, journalists, and civic activists;
    Whereas the ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) claimed to win 99.6 percent of the vote in elections that were deemed neither free nor fair in 2010 and all 546 parliamentary seats in 2015, thereby further consolidating the EPRDF’s single party rule;
    Whereas the Charities and Societies Proclamation and Anti-Terrorism Proclamation, both enacted in 2009, have accelerated the contraction of democratic space, severely limited the practice of fundamental human rights, enabled abuses by security forces, and impeded efforts to promote accountability for such abuses in Ethiopia;
    Whereas government forces launched a violent crackdown on protests by ethnic Oromo and Amhara over their perceived marginalization in 2015, resulting in hundreds of deaths and tens of thousands of arrests;
    Whereas on October 9, 2016, the Government of Ethiopia imposed a six-month state of emergency, which was extended on March 30, 2017, that even further restricts freedoms of assembly, association, and expression, including through blockage of mobile Internet access and social media communication;
    Whereas the 2016 Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices for Ethiopia cited serious human rights violations, including arbitrary arrests, killings, and torture committed by security forces, restrictions on freedom of expression and freedom of association, politically motivated trials, harassment, and intimidation of opposition members and journalists;
    Whereas these persistent human right abuses, including state-sponsored violence against civilians in the Oromia, Amhara, and Ogaden regions of Ethiopia, as well as the abuse of laws to stifle journalistic freedoms, stand in direct contrast to democratic principles, violate the constitution of Ethiopia, and undermine Ethiopia’s position as a regional leader for economic growth, peace, and security;
    Now, therefore, be it
    Resolved, That the House of Representatives—
    (1) recognizes and commends Ethiopia’s efforts to promote regional peace and security, including through the contribution of peacekeeping forces to regional and United Nations peacekeeping operations;
    (2) notes with deep concern persistent reports of widespread human rights abuses and the contraction of democratic space in Ethiopia;
    (3) condemns the use of excessive force by Ethiopian security forces, including the killing of unarmed protesters, and the wrongful arrest and detention of journalists, students, activists, and political leaders exercising their constitutional rights to freedom of assembly, association, and expression;
    (4) calls on the Government of Ethiopia to—
    (A) lift the state of emergency, repeal or amend proclamations used as a tool to suppress human rights in Ethiopia, including the Charities and Societies Proclamation and Anti-Terrorism Proclamation of 2009, and respect the rights of Ethiopian citizens to freedom of assembly and expression, in keeping with Articles 30 and 29 of the Ethiopian constitution;
    (B) end the use of excessive force by Ethiopian security forces and hold accountable those responsible for killing, torturing, or otherwise abusing the human rights of civilians exercising their constitutional rights through fair and public trials;
    (C) release activists, journalists, and opposition figures who have been wrongfully imprisoned for exercising their constitutional rights, including those arrested for reporting about public protests;
    (D) improve transparency around development policies and activities that may infringe upon the human rights of indigenous communities; and
    (E) allow for an independent examination of the state of human rights in Ethiopia by a rapporteur appointed by the United Nations;
    (5) urges protesters in Ethiopia to refrain from the use or incitement of violence in demonstrations;
    (6) urges armed factions in Ethiopia to engage in peaceful negotiations directly with the Ethiopian government and through international intermediaries;
    (7) calls on the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development –
    (A) to formulate a comprehensive strategy, in coordination with other donors, to help advance democracy, rule of law, human rights, economic growth, and peace and security in Ethiopia;
    (B) continue to strengthen ties with Ethiopia, including through the provision of appropriate levels and forms of security assistance, in correlation to the Ethiopian government’s own demonstrated commitment to democracy, rule of law, human rights, economic growth, and peace and security in the region;
    (C) Engage in a cooperative effort with the Government of Ethiopia to help facilitate reforms in the areas of democracy, rule of law, and human rights;
    (D) condemn human rights abuses and the excessive use of force by Ethiopian security forces while pressing for the release of individuals wrongfully detained; and
    (E) hold accountable individuals responsible for gross human rights violations in Ethiopia through appropriate mechanisms, which may include the imposition of targeted sanctions pursuant to the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act (Public Law 114-328); and
    (8) stands by the people of Ethiopia and supports their peaceful efforts to increase democratic space and to exercise the rights guaranteed by the Ethiopian constitution.

  5. Caleb says:

    I am Ethiopian opposition to the Ethiopian government.But I do not even like any USA official sticking their noses in Ethiopia. Even if we have bad government, it is not the business of Mr. Smith or any American official to talk about Ethiopia. I think the American let them do business in Ethiopia and short of their politics. Americans have many problems in USA. They must focus fixing their own home problem before thinking of cleaning other people house. It is funny even to have a bill on Ethiopia from Washington? Ethiopian is not USA colony. Ethiopians they need what they need, not because of USA . I do not like Americans, foreign citizens meddling in other countries.It is ignorance. Whether there is bad or good bill in USA about Ethiopia, it is needed in Ethiopia. They must learn to forget controlling and manipulating other countries. We love Americans, but we do not want them to be meddling in our countries affairs. Let them help fix Iran, North Korea, South Sudan, Somalia, Libya, Iraq, Yemen, … and let them leave Ethiopia for Ethiopians. They can help Ethiopia by investing and doing ethical business with Ethiopia. But I do not believe even Ethiopia needs American democracy. Whatever Ethiopia needs it must be Ethiopians, not American. We have our values. They must be respected. I am not fan of this American bill x, y, z, … it is irrelevant in the first place. Ethiopia is an old country that many things that does not exist in USA. Americans can not mentor Ethiopians to be honest. We need a good government, but that must come from within Ethiopia. We do not want puppets. I recommend any country leave Ethiopia and Ethiopians alone and do ethical business in Ethiopia, without trying to meddle in Ethiopia’s domestic affairs. I do not believe in interference.


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