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Human rights in Ethiopia and
U.S foreign policy
By Luqmaan Xakiim
May 02, 2011

Introduction:

One of the basic assumptions made in dealing with human rights is the existence of the universal norms that govern the way in which human beings ought to deal with other human beings. It is on this assumption that United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a Declaration which contains principles that are supposed to apply universally to all people, at all times, and under any circumstances.

The Declaration recognizes the inherent human dignity, the equal and inalienable rights of all people as basic to freedom and justice. It pledges each government to guarantee the following rights, among others, the rights to life, liberty, personal security, the right to religious freedom, the right to freedom of expression, the right to fair trail, the right to protection from arbitrary arrest/ detention, the right to be free from torture, the right to due process of law, the right to vote and participate government, the right to peaceful assembly. When shaky governments facing problems try to clinch on their power by murdering, jailing and torturing those who don’t please their rule, it is likely to be described as violations of human rights instead of simply saying that they are barbaric, unjust, brutal, or corrupted.

Human rights situation in Ethiopia

Although Ethiopia is party to a number of international resolutions, treaties, and conventions concerning human rights such international covenant on political, social and cultural rights--- the Universal Declaration remains the most concrete Ethiopian pledges in respect with the observance of human dignity.  Nevertheless, for long, Ethiopia has been widely accused of violating human rights. 

Variety of international human rights analysts have commented on the repressive nature of Ethiopians’ current government. In its annual report for 2010, the Human Rights Watch drew the following conclusions about human rights records of Ethiopia, based on individual complaints received from the country and reports of internal observers: that the violence in the country has increased.  According to the report, the right to life has been constantly violated. Government troops often fire on unarmed innocent civilians in different towns on daily basis. In the rural communities, murder, rape, torture, and mass detentions are common. Villagers are told to leave their homes or face consequences of their homes being burnt down. On the other hand, in political crisis in Ethiopia,  Melez promised many times that he would hold municipal and legislative election in the future but the evidence of repressive nature of his regime was overwhelming.  

The Human Rights Watch report and other available evidence conclusively demonstrate that the government of Ethiopia has breached its international commitment by engaging in acts that contradict with the international human rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In spite of documented violations of the people’s rights in Ethiopia by their own government, USA authorities continue to support that very government.

 US foreign policy towards Ethiopia

The US foreign policy towards Ethiopia across the time has been highlighted by the inherent contradictions in the traditional formula for hemispheric stability. This policy is based on the notion that the solution to Ethiopia’s conflict can be achieved by bolstering the Melez regime to maintain order and in believe that the regime in Addis Ababa could be good puppet in fight against the terrorism in Horn Africa. As consequence, the human rights concerns of the United State of America have taken a back seat to security concern. Following facts throws lights on the U. S. –Ethiopia relations.

After collapse of Dargeu regime in 1992, the Washington increased its diplomatic tie with Ethiopia escalating to ambassadorial level and all congressional restrictions on assistance to Ethiopia were dropped. From that time, the U. S generosity to Ethiopia listed to the ten top recipients of U. S. tax payer’s contributions. For example, between 1999 and 2008, the U. S. donated to Ethiopia $4.7 billion.  In 2009, the U.S government provided $863 million. At end of 2009 and the beginning of 2010, the U.S government granted to Ethiopia $ 345 million in addition to other military assistance which count billions.

It is an error for U.S foreign policy to render continued support to melez and turn a blind eye to human rights situation in that country. Human rights do offer guidelines for the conduct of foreign affairs. The most reliable measure of social progress in a developing society is the degree to which the government of that society meets needs and shows respect for human dignity. When government tortures its own citizens, then that behavior should affect its relationship with U. S.  Accordingly, the U.S government should not support the current regime in Ethiopia because that regime has demonstrated its inability to rule on behalf of the Ethiopian people. The true national interest of U.S and the rest of the world is having a stable hemisphere, free from human misery and willing to live in peace. The surest way to do that is to encourage the rule of law, democratic alternatives, to empower civil society and to pave the way to good governance.
History shows that human rights have never been the center concern of U.S foreign policy in Ethiopia, but they should be. Given that current situation remains as catastrophic as it is now, it should be our concern not to see another horn Africa country splitting into civil war or to see another scenario of Rwandan Genocide style in Ethiopia.

Luqmaan Xakiim
E-Mail: kulluqmaanxakiim@live.com

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