Friday, September 29


On lobbying Washington for HR 5680, The Ethiopia Freedom, Democracy and Human Rights Advancement Act of 2006:
Sometimes that person says, ‘I’ll call you back.’ But sometimes they never call you back. It’s been a tough road, especially in this town, if you don’t know anybody, don’t have any money, and if you have another job.
Mesfin Mekonen
Interview with Jim Snyder of The Hill
August 21, 2006

EthioMedia links to this piece from The Hill, Ethiopian-American group tries to raise profile on Capitol Hill. It begins with the efforts of one Ethiopian and his transformation into an American lobbyist for the interests of his American people in the U.S. and of his people of birth back home in Ethiopia.

As the article points out, his is but one of millions of such defining and purely American journeys over centuries. In the end the wonder that is America was made by the evolution of just laws and a government fearful of its people by (hyphenated) Americans from every corner of the globe.

The spirited Mesfin Mekonen of the article is just the beginnning. We have absolutely no doubt that there will be at least one Ethiopian-American Congressmen within the next decade and that a decade later there will be at least one Senator. In the meantime in every walk of American life they will strive, work and achieve.

Like all other immigrant groups it is natural and singularly American that they are concerned with their place of origin. This is all the more stark because Ethiopians are denied by their government any opportunity to have "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

Below is what two of Mr. Mekonen's fellow Americans had to say on the same subject:
Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans—born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage—and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.
John F. Kennedy
Inaugural Address
Friday, January 20, 1961
We do not accept the existence of permanent tyranny because we do not accept the possibility of permanent slavery. Liberty will come to those who love it.

Today, America speaks anew to the peoples of the world. All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: The United States will not ignore your oppression or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you.

Democratic reformers facing repression, prison, or exile can know: America sees you for who you are, the future leaders of your free country.

The rulers of outlaw regimes can know that we still believe as Abraham Lincoln did: "Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves and, under the rule of a just God, cannot long retain it."
George W. Bush
Inaugural Address
January 20th, 2005

But the world is seldom so simple and the dark side of the force is alive and well. The Hill article reports "To help repair frayed relations, Ethiopia is paying DLA Piper and former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) $50,000 a month. Part of the lobbying strategy has been to stress Ethiopia’s commitment to the war on terror, congressional sources said."

You know who is paying for that gold plated lobbying effort? You are if you are American. You had better believe that this is the tip of the iceberg on this subject. Who knows who else has not registered as an agent of the Ethiopian government or what Freedom of Information Act filings may find out.

Not to mention the expense of the espionage apparatus operating under diplomatic cover designed to silence and intimidate American citizens right on Main Streets everywhere and even right here in River City. The American taxpayer with some help from Europeans and Japanese ones too.

Ethiopia is today the wholly owned subsidiary of a one vanguard party / feudal government most noted for its brutality and corruption. There is no right to own private property in Ethiopia and there is no freedom of speech or press and participation in the economy depends on utter submission to the government.

America's representatives in Ethiopia from Ambassador Brazael, Charge Huddleston onto Future Ambassador Yamamoto have all been together on one common message - but it is not the same one expressed by Presidents Bush and Kennedy above nor has it been in the spirit of Mr. Mekonen. Let us take a quick look at the meaning behind the words of the American representatives in Ethiopia:

First of all regular intimate communication with the common man / woman of Ethiopia clearly shows that ALL want the current government to rule for the indefinite future and that Ethiopian-Americans are ossified interlopers.

Second, Ethiopians shouldn't provoke their government into having to kill them, that jailed opposition and human rights leaders should surrender because they shouldn't have expect democracy anyway and that they should especially surrender because of Somali politics.

Third, that the number one issue between Ethiopia and America is the War on Terror, that the governments talk about human rights 'like all the time' anyway and that Ethiopian-Americans should leave politics alone and worry about investing in Ethiopia.

Sure politics is politics and readers should understand that Ethiopians and friends of Ethiopia don't want divisions of Marines and Air Cavalry deployed there. They just want the U.S. to walk the walk instead of just talking the talk by not supporting a despotic government.

The sons and daughters of America are bravely facing danger today in places like Aghanistan and Iraq because ignoring problems does not make them go away and because seeking stability and the status quo at all costs is like building castles on quicksand.

Ethiopians are today the hostages of their government which rules by making clear its willingness to harm them them to rich nations like America who are the government's real constituency.

America's government and representatives should see clearly that American interest lies with the real mature cold hard realpolitik fact that tyranny always falls, it is just that the longer it lasts the more horrible the end is for all concerned including the interests of America.

Mr. Mekonen and tens of millions more hypenated Americans just like him whether they were here to begin with, came as slaves, fled persecution or just wanted a fresh start - are and have always been pioneers in humanity's service - and quintessentially American.

We remain very guardedly optimistic about HR5680 but are absolutely bullish on the future of this kind of effort. The President, Foggy Bottom, The House & Senate, CENTCOM, Langley, the 4th Estate etc. surely know better than to entertain further delusions of stability with a dictatorship.

In the end the American people must understand to influence the usual suspects listed above - every bit helps. We are particularly delighted that supporters of the bill and critics of the government who are active in the U.S. don't have to be threatened to show up at a demonstration or to do their part. That is rather unlike cadres and agents who do as they are told and raise umbrellas when it rains on the Gibee.

As far as Ethiopian-American political activism goes, this is just the beginning - success and help for Ethiopia will come long before the first kid who ate shiro and hamburgers from birth sits on the Supreme Court.

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