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US Senate Draft Bill Restricts Foreign Military Financing to Ethiopia

The US Senate Draft Bill S.1434, “Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2010,” has placed some restrictions on the ‘Foreign Military Financing Program’ that the United States provides to Ethiopia. The restrictions are placed due to concerns of human rights violations as noted in the 2008 US State Department’s Human Rights Report on Ethiopia. The draft bill was under review in the Senate’s Appropriations Committee, and has been scheduled for senate review. The House of Representative’s version of the bill (H.R.3081), which has already passed the full House voting, does not have such limitations.

The restrictions on the Senate Draft Bill S.1434 reads as follows:

Sec. 7070. (b) Ethiopia- Funds appropriated by this Act under the heading `Foreign Military Financing Program’ that are available for assistance for Ethiopia may be made available if the Secretary of State–

(1) submits a report to the Committees on Appropriations detailing the nature of United States training and equipment provided to the Ethiopian army including steps being taken to ensure that such training and equipment is not provided to Ethiopian army units or personnel with records of violations of internationally recognized human rights; and

(2) certifies that the Government of Ethiopia is making substantial progress in guaranteeing the rights of its citizens to peaceful expression, association and assembly, and to document violations of internationally recognized human rights without harassment or criminal penalty.

According Foreign Policy magazine, out of the most failed states in the world, Ethiopia is the 2nd big lobbying spender in Washington, DC; a jaw-dropping $4.4 millions was spent by the Ethiopian government for lobbying lawmakers. Although Mr. Obama has put restrictions on Washington lobbying, the Zenawi government can still manage to have the clause (Sec. 7070-b of S.1434) “killed” by spending millions of dollars, mainly to avoid the precedent of such a US policy shift towards its regime.

The Senate draft bill puts the Secretary of State in charge of reviewing the state of human rights in Ethiopia; based on current trends, the Ethiopian regime of Mr. Meles Zenawi may not be eligible for assistance under the Foreign Military Financing Program.

In addition, under the Human Rights Vetting process, the Senate Appropriations Committee requires:

The Committee directs the Department of State to submit a report not later than 90 days after enactment of this act detailing the appropriate number of Embassy personnel to carry out vetting procedures under the Leahy amendment in each country receiving IMET or FMF assistance. The Department should include any criteria used to determine the appropriate number of personnel, including assistance levels and the incidence of human rights concerns.

The Foreign Military Financing Program (FMF) refers to congressionally appropriated grants given to foreign governments to finance the purchase of American-made weapons, services and training.

According to the Center for Defense Information, the US government under the Bush administration increased the military assistance to Ethiopia in the form of International Military Education and Training (IMET) and Foreign Military Financing (FMF) by more than three times between 2002-2006 compared to the previous four years (1997-2001) despite reports of human rights violations in Ethiopia. From 2002-2006, the Ethiopian government received $18,595,000 under FMF. Since 2006, the Zenawi regime has received $2.85-million under the same program.

In addition to the 2008 US State Department Human Rights Report on Ethiopia, all previous similar annual reports of the State Department as well as annual reports of the last two decades from major human rights defenders, such as the Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, have documented the harassment, tortures, imprisonments and extrajudicial killings committed by the regime of Mr. Meles Zenawi in Oromia, Ogadenia, Addis Ababa, Amhara region as well as the South.

One of the critics of the Ethiopian government’s misguided policies, Prof. Alemayehu G. Mariam, wrote the following regarding H.R.1125 – the “Omnibus Appropriations Act, 2009” – a bill that also linked human rights records to the US military assistance to Ethiopia:

“The dictators in Ethiopia have a big problem on their hands. They don’t know what to do with President Obama. They are confused. Most likely, they feel vulnerable and unsure of what will happen next. So, they will try to entice him to support them by re-deploying troops to Somalia to prove once more that the U.S. needs them to fight against al-Shabaab, al-Qaeda and whoever else is hiding behind a rock there. They will try to scare him by threatening to dump America and go to China for their military needs. They will try to sweet-talk him into believing that they will be nice and take steps to be more democratic and stop violating human rights. They will pile lies upon lies in a desperate attempt not to lose American material and moral support.”

In her recent trip to Africa, Mrs. Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, has not visited Ethiopia; many observers of the region agree that this is a clear indication of a change of US foreign policy towards Ethiopia. However, the former US ambassador to Ethiopia, Mr. David Shinn, disagrees (in his interview to the Ethiopian Reporter):

“While I believe Ethiopia would have been an appropriate country to include on Secretary of State Clinton’s schedule, I do not interpret the fact that she did not visit on this occasion as a shift of US policy.”

During the Mid-Year Annual Conference of the Oromo Studies Association (OSA) in April 2009, Prof. Asafa Jalata reiterated on the need for a change of direction in the US foreign policy towards Ethiopia by directly linking human rights records in Ethiopia to US development and military assistance:

“As he [Mr. Obama] has denounced genocide and human rights violations in Darfur, President Obama, as the reformist president, needs to denounce state terrorism, hidden genocide, and massive human rights violations in Oromia and Ethiopia, and to assist the efforts to make Meles Zenawi and his henchmen accountable for the horrendous crimes they have committed against humanity. Any credible U.S. foreign policy should reverse the previous policy that only focused on the U.S. national interest and the interest of the Ethiopian government at the cost of the colonized and oppressed peoples. The U.S. will benefit in security and economic arenas by genuinely promoting democracy and social justice and protecting human rights in Oromia and Ethiopia rather than protecting the interests of the corrupt and repressive Tigrayan ruling class and its state.”

REFERENCES:
* For the following two items: search the Library of Congress (Thomas) at http://thomas.loc.gov
S.1434: An original bill making appropriations for the Department of State, foreign operations, and related programs for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2010, and for other purposes.
H.R.3081: Making appropriations for the Department of State, foreign operations, and related programs for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2010, and for other purposes.
* The Center for Defense Information on Ethiopia (pdf file)
* The 2008 US State Department’s Human Rights Report: Ethiopia
* END GAME (US Military Assistance to Ethiopia and Ethiopia’s Gross Human Rights Abuses) by Prof. Alemayehu G. Mariam
* Interview with the Ethiopian Reporter (Amb. David Shinn)
* SHORTCOMINGS IN U.S. FOREIGN POLICY TOWARD OROMIA AND ETHIOPIA: Will the Obama Administration Introduce Change? (by Prof. Asafa Jalata)
* Foreign Policy – the magazine – on failed states and lobbying.


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