Saturday, September 23, 2006

Supporting HR 5680

Here is a link to
an article on Ethiomedia where you can get some sound advice on how you can continue to support HR 5680. Please, by no means, do not consider your efforts to support HR 5680 the end of your engagement with your elected representatives.

And, here is an article ("Lobbyists' Power Wanes as Election Day Nears") from which sheds light on the challenges of advocating for a legislation, such as HR 5680, in the United States Congress in this fiercely contested mid-term election year. Even lobbyists for special interest causes that are popular with most Republican lawmakers are having a tough time getting their bills passed this year!

Realistically speaking, it looks like that the chances of HR 5680 being brought to the house floor for a vote next week is very slim. But, whatever happens next week, it will not be the end of the road for Ethiopian Human Rights and democracy advocacy. The spirit of HR 5680 will live on as long as tyranny and injustice continue to be the norm in Ethiopia.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Let's Give HR 5680 the Support it Deserves

By Fikru Helebo

I was having a conversation last night with a friend about the fate of HR 5680, the legislation that is currently making its way in the United States House of Representatives, which is designed to advance the cause of Human Rights and democracy in Ethiopia, and my friend asked me what are the chances of the bill getting passed in the House. I commented to my friend, with no hesitation I might add, that the bill has a pretty good chance of passing in the House with the required two thirds of the votes and that, if the bill faces trouble, it may be in the US Senate where the rules are more stringent and allow for a single senator to hold and kill a legislation.

And then I got up this morning and saw
this article on Ethiomedia which stated that HR 5680 is in danger being killed in the House of Representatives because the Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, is not allowing it to come to the floor of the House for a vote as a result of a lobbying effort by the Meles regime. So much for my prognostication and I apologize for misleading my friend! I guess this means that we all need to work very hard to make this bill a reality. If we do not work hard and/or the Addis Ababa regime succeeds in killing the bill despite our efforts, that will not be the end of the world for the advancement of democracy in Ethiopia but it will sure make it more difficult. So, compatriots, let's roll and give HR 5680 the support it deserves and let the chips fall where they may. Let's not disappoint those who are paying a heavy price in the cause of freedom and democracy in Ethiopia.

Let's us all contact our representatives in the US House and tell them that this bill will not only help advance forward the cause of freedom and democracy in Ethiopia, but it will also put the United States' interest in the Horn of Africa and the Red Sea region on a much more solid footing. So far the US has been mainly giving lip service to the advancement of freedom and democracy in Ethiopia and it is about time for a change. Passage of HR 5680 will herald a clear shift in US policy in the region and will express, in no uncertain terms, that the United States government is on the side of the people of Ethiopia who are still yearning for a representative form of government.

Here is how to contact your representatives
in Congress. All you need to do is enter your state and your zip code and the web site tells you who your represetative is. And after that just enter the required fields and click on the "continue" button and write your representative. You may want to follow up your email with a phone call a few days later. You can find the phone number to call your representative by locating his/her name here.

If you are a registered voter in your district, please remind your representative that whom you vote for in this election cycle will depend on what happens to HR 5680 in the next few weeks. I am not a proponent of a single-issue voter, but there are times when a single issue is so important to voters that they must set aside ideological or party affiliations once in a while and give their votes for the candidate that supports their cause. For the Ethiopian-American voter this single issue is the support for Human Rights and democracy in our country of birth and what our respective representatives in the United States Congress do to help pass HR 5680 should determine whether we vote for or against our representatives in the coming mid-term elections in November.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Urgent Appeal for the Victims of flooding in the Omo River Valley, Ethiopia

The recent devastating flood that affected SouthernEthiopia followed the catastrophic flooding in DireDawa that claimed the lives of 260 people. Theflooding in the Omo River Valley is part of anationwide crisis following the unusually intense andcontinuous rainfall that has resulted in flashflooding and overflowing of rivers. The heavy rainsthat washed the central plateau and highlands ofSouthwest Ethiopia forced the backing of water fromLake Turkana (Lake Rudolf), a lake without an outletthat receives most of its water from the Omo River.This forced the river to leave its banks and wash awaythe people and their livelihoods. By any account,this area is one of the worst affected by theprevailing floods in Ethiopia. According to theelderly and local officials, the rain and the OmoRiver have never been so hostile to the people ofGeleb and Bume as they have been this past August whenthe deluge raised the death toll to nearly 400 andmarooned over tens of thousands of people. There are confirmed reports that flooding in SouthernOmo has claimed the lives of about 400 residentsmainly in the Dassenach (Galeb) and Nyangtaom (Bume)woredas (administrative subdistricts) of the South Omozone, and has displaced approximately 10,000 peopleand washed away more than 3000 livestock and 800traditional grain stores (silos). The affected area isin the isolated delta of the Omo River in bothDassenach and Nyangataom woredas, about 800 km awayfrom the capital, Addis Ababa. Around 14 villages inthese two woredas are flooded and isolated from eachother by the water. The flood has destroyed largeareas covered by crops and much of the pastureland.

In some places the flood completely immersed a villageand killed all the residents. No survivor came out. Itis heart-breaking to learn that dead bodies could notbe found in some places because the river has takenthem down to Lake Turkana. As more information isobtained from the remote villages now encircled byfloodwaters, the level of casualties is expected to beeven higher. There are still gaps in the search andrescue mission; much of the affected populations havebeen stranded by the floodwaters because of thecontinued rainfall and the absence of enablinginfrastructure. The water level is continuing torise, increasing the population at risk andexacerbating the humanitarian crises.

Ethiopians abroad and the international community andhave on many occasions assisted Ethiopian victims ofnatural and man made calamities. In the spirit of thistradition, we appeal to all Ethiopians and others tohelp the Dassenach and Nyangataom people affectedmassively by the continued flooding that has claimedmany lives and caused immense property damage.

A team, Committee for the Rehabilitation of FloodVictims of Southern Omo has been established tocoordinate the assistance efforts to the victims offlooding in South Omo. This committee is establishedunder the auspices of the Southern Advancement SupportOrganization Inc., a certified and legally operatingnonprofit organization. The Committee for theRehabilitation of Flood Victims of Southern Omo willdo its share of increasing the awareness of theinternational community and Ethiopians abroad aboutthe gravity of the humanitarian crises in South Omo,and will coordinate the collection of funds foremergency aid (food, shelter, medical care) andrehabilitation. We have opened an account at SunTrustBank (account # 1000043166833 and routing # 061000104) for this effort. We plead to you to pledge money tothis effort and deposit or transfer your contributionsto this account. The Committee for the Rehabilitation of Flood Victimsof Southern Omo will continue to inform the public andhumanitarian agencies about the immediate needs forand the required assistance to the flood victims inSouth Omo. Please address any questions or suggestionsyou may have to the Committee at

Committee for the Rehabilitation of Flood Victims of Southern Omo

September 7, 2006

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

New Year Message from Kality Prison

Please click here to read a New Year message from the unjustly imprisoned Kinijit leadership in Kality prison in Ethiopia.

Happy New Year (1999!) to our readers in Ethiopia!