The recently released of US Department of State Human Rights report on Ethiopia makes for a depressive reading. Page after page, the authors of the report accuse the Ethiopian government of engaging in horrible human rights abuses which include arbitrary arrests, torture, rape, extrajudicial killings, and a host of other crimes. In Ogaden, the situation is much worse: the Ethiopian regime is accused of committing there what amounts to war crimes and crimes against humanity in its collective punishment campaign against the civilian population of the region. Though mostly written in a moderate tone, the contents of the Report are somewhat similar to those released about the repressive regimes of North Korea and Burma – two states, which unlike Ethiopia; the US is not in good terms with.

This year’s report is also similar in many ways to the one released last year about Ethiopia, which was critical about the regime’s poor human rights record. Responding to accusations contained in the recent Report, the Ethiopian government said in a short statement released afterwards that “over 80% of the publication reproduces, almost verbatim, claims contained in previous reports.”

Describing the Report as ‘groundless’, ‘unverifiable’, and ‘fictitious’, the Ethiopian government said the authors of the Report had relied heavily on information they received from ‘opposition sources’ and ‘advocacy’ networks like the Human Rights Watch. The statement said the intention of the Report was to ‘tarnish the country’s image’ and questioned whether this was a proper way to help Ethiopia improve its democratic and human rights situation through the channels of the two countries’ joint “Bilateral Dialogue Mechanism” put in place two years ago. “The Government therefore, dismisses the Report in entirety and with the contempt that it deserves and the Government does not intend to respond in detail at this time,” the statement bluntly concluded.

Again, like last year, the pattern is the same: the US government accuses Ethiopia of human rights abuses and of not improving its record. The Ethiopian regime replies the same way as it did last year, describing the 2009 Report as ‘a cut and paste job’ and this report in the same vein. Tit for tat and nothing more. The status quo, more or less, remains same.

But the US is correct and justified to republish and add few cases to its previous Reports. In Ethiopia, the Human Rights situation is getting worse and not better. If truth is to be told, the US Report is a gross underestimation given the dire human rights situation in the country.

When a powerful country like the US accuses its junior partner Ethiopia of misbehaving and tells it to stop doing so, you would think the latter would cringe and beg for mercy, promising to improve its situation. Not Ethiopia. Apparently this beggar nation which receives from the US over 1 billion dollars in aid is able to ridicule America and get away with it, and still continue to receive the aid it needs; thus turning the expression ‘a beggar has no choice’ on its head.

One might ask: what makes Ethiopia so special a partner and untouchable ally to a point where it can say to the United States, with sangfroid arrogance, that it dismisses the US Report with the ‘contempt it deserves’ and does not even wish to respond to it in detail? Geopolitics? The threat of Islamic extremist groups like Alshabaab in the Horn of Africa region? Piracy? The African Union headquarters? Or all combined?

Whatever the reason, there are forces at work in power centers in the US administration which determine that the current oppressive Ethiopian regime remains not only unmolested at home and abroad but also remains a favorable US ally no matter what the cost and how terrible it behaves. The human rights report which the US releases every year against Ethiopia is simply a bureaucratic procedure. For how else can one explain this glaring anomaly other than that? Usually when a country behaves as Ethiopia is doing now, the US insures that it ends up in its bad books, by cutting off aid to it, blacklisting its leaders and freezing their assets abroad, virtually making life difficult for the leaders such renegade country to the point of strangulation.

However the opposite took place in the US this month; the very month the US human rights report about Ethiopia was released. A senior Ethiopian delegation, which comprised noted war criminals like Abdi Mohamud Omer (aka Abdi Iley) of the Somali Regional State (Ogaden), federal ministers and other regional heads, were touring cities in the US and other western nations selling to them and the Diaspora refugees who fled from their tyranny back home a so-called ‘five year development plan’ and urging them to invest in this bonze scheme.

Meanwhile, Ethiopians of all creeds and colors took to the street to protest against these criminals demanding their arrest for the crimes they have committed at home. However, their cries for freedom and justice were ignored by the US administration. Nevertheless, these brave protesters managed to spoil the party for the gangsters sent from Addis Ababa and embarrass those who were hosting them. There is no doubt the regime was caught off-guard and surprised by the organization and dedication of the protesters and the unity and solidarity they’ve shown. A new dawn is clearly rising in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian people are saying in a loud and clear united voice BEKA (enough) to the oppressive rule of Melez Zenawi and his henchmen. Next month, on the 28 of May, the masses of Ethiopia have made a date with destiny: they are planning to hold protest rallies across the country in every city to demand change and the removal of the current oppressive regime.

The Ethiopian people are fed up with this horrible autocratic regime. They want to topple it the same way the peaceful Tunisian, Egyptian, and other Arab masses toppled the dictators that were tormenting them for decades. It’s time for America to take sides, either the side of the people or the dictator Zenawi and his henchmen. Either way, the momentum of this united Ethiopian peoples’ opposition to the tyranny in their country cannot be halted or delayed. Their time has come. Nor will the current status quo – of Washington becoming friends with whoever comes to rule Ethiopia – remain in place after the dust settles and the tyrants are toppled. In any case, what the Ethiopian people demand from the US is not hypocritical human rights report – which amounts to nothing more than useless lip service – but to take action against this regime they accuse of human rights abuses by cutting off aid to it and declaring its leaders war criminals and personas non grata in the US, just as they did to Libya’s Muammar Gadhafi and others of his caliber. If the US cannot do that, it should, at the very least, remain neutral, and not become an enabler of tyranny by inviting torturers to its capitals and providing funds for them to continue their repression at home.

Nuradin Jilani is a freelance writer and a member of Ogaden Youth & Student Union in Sweden



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