Monday, September 14, 2009

Ethiopians demand Washington end support for Meles Zenawi

One thousand Ethiopians marched from the White House to Capitol Hill Sunday. They urged Obama to reconsider US support for the Ethiopian regime. They came from across the US and Canada, representing various ethic groups -- many of which have seldom worked together toward a common goal.

Increasingly, Ethiopians blame the Ethiopian government for fomenting bloody ethnic conflict. They also blame the regime for political repression and extrajudicial killings.  Over the past 18 years that Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has been at the helm of the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), human rights groups have documented war crimes; unlawful detention, torture, rape, and ethnic killings have been committed by the security forces.

The outrage over human rights abuses mounts at time of heightened US support for the Ethiopian government.  The country has been viewed as an important US ally in the Horn of Africa for the Global War on Terror.   In December 2006 the US supported the Ethiopians when they invaded Somalia and crushed the Islamic Courts Union.  Earlier I reported my conversation with a Somali taxi driver:
It was his view that Somali warlords just had to say, “Hey CIA, we’re fighting Al Qaeda” and they got all the support they needed.
It worked the same way during the Cold War.  Inevitably wrong choices got made, empowering the likes of Saddam Hussein and Bin Laden. 

On the lawn in front of the Congress, organizers asked attendees to sign letters to Congressmen. The letters  called upon Congress to withdrawal taxpayer support for the regime; demand the release of prisoners of conscience such as Mrs. Birtukan Mideksa, Chairwoman of Unity for Democracy and Justice party (UDJ); and demand that the regime respect human rights.

Sunday's demonstration was organized by the Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia, a new group  recently founded by Obang Metho (interview).  Metho became an actist following the December 13, 2003 massacre in the Western province of Gambella.  Some 124 Anuaks were allegedly killed within a three day period by government forces.

"Ethiopia is a country, not a tribe" read one protester's sign -- a moto which captured the spirit of this unique event.

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