Give Ethiopia a chance to change; House should reject strongly worded resolution
BY SEN. JAMES INHOFE (R-OKLA.), OPINION CONTRIBUTOR — 04/10/18 07:00 AM
THE VIEWS EXPRESSED BY CONTRIBUTORS ARE THEIR OWN AND NOT THE VIEW OF THE HILL
(The Hill) — Today, the House of Representatives will consider a resolution that condemns human rights and governance conditions in Ethiopia. Now is the wrong time to consider this, and it should be rejected.
Since being elected to the Senate, I have made 156 country visits to Africa. Eighteen of those have been to Ethiopia, where I have watched first-hand the economic transformation that’s occurred. Their middle class is growing, and they have become a regional superpower, who is a friend of the United States. Their military is professional and capable, and they are punching above their weight in the war against terrorism that continues to plague the continent. They promote regional peace and security by being one of the top troop contributors to UN peacekeeping missions around the world.
The last few years have been tough domestically for Ethiopia on a number of fronts, but that’s not surprising for a country that’s continuing to transition from a communist to a democratic nation.
The good news is that the Ethiopian government understands that human rights and governance conditions need to improve. That’s why the timing and negative, condescending tone of this resolution could not be worse and would work against the authors’ intent. It would undercut the new prime minister at just the time he needs to be encouraged.
Just one week ago, Dr. Abiy Ahmed was sworn in as Ethiopia’s new prime minister on a mandate to improve these exact issues. He is a personal friend of mine; in fact, I was with him on my last visit in October, and we prayed together for Ethiopia’s disunity to be healed.
During his inauguration, Prime Minister Abiy stated his commitment to accountability, justice, freedom, and the rule of law. He expressed his commitment to allowing true democracy (and by extension, political parties of all persuasions) to flourish, underscoring why he is the one who has what it takes to bring real change to Ethiopia.
We should give Prime Minister Abiy the opportunity to prove himself as a national leader before having the full weight of the United States House of Representatives tossed against him. A heavy-handed, strongly-worded resolution condemning his government, so soon after being sworn in, will severely curtail Abiy’s ability to enact needed reforms. In fact, they could backfire by fueling opposition groups in Ethiopia to undermine his entire administration.
Now is not the time to move a resolution with a tone like this. Ethiopia is a key friend, and Prime Minister Abiy deserves a chance at a strong start. The House can give him that by rejecting H. Res. 128.
Inhofe is the senior senator for Oklahoma.
HR 2003 was also killed by Senator James Inhofe in 2008
Here is how Al Mariam described it back then
Will the Real James Inhofe, Please Stand Up!?
Al. Mariam (11 August 2008)– Oyez! Oyez! Oyez! Republican Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe, defender and self-described “brother” and “friend” of dictator Zenawi and arch nemesis of H.R. 2003 in the U.S. Senate, is a champion of human rights! Don’t laugh. It is true. I think. Oyez! Oyez! Oyez! Republican Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe is a coddler of thugs, criminals, human rights violators and war criminals! Is he? I am pretty sure of it. Then again, may be not. Will the real James Inhofe, please stand up!?
In June, 2008, Inhofe co-sponsored Senate Resolution 611 (so-called “sense of the Senate” resolution) in “support of the people of Zimbabwe,” and “in condemnation of the Mugabe regime for its manipulation of the country’s electoral process”. In April, 2008, Inhofe co-signed a letter hammering Chinese President Hu Jintao for “not respecting the basic rights of the people of Tibet” and clamping down on the press. In October, 2007, Inhofe furiously condemned and vowed to oppose H.R. 2003 (“Ethiopia Democracy and Accountability Act of 2007”) as a piece of legislation that “enflames tensions already present in the Horn of Africa, threatening regional stability and long term U.S. national security.”