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Chairman Henry J. Hyde
House Committee on International Relations
2170 Rayburn House Offfice Building
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairman Hyde:

The Union of Tigrians in North America (UTNA)-a more than 32-year old U.S.-based Ethio-American civic organization -is writing to urge you to oppose H.R.5680. This bill is expected to come to a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives after the summer recess. Contrary to its title, “the Ethiopia Freedom, Democracy, and Human Rights Advancement Act of 2006,” H.R.5680 threatens the budding democracy and the dynamic socio-economic transformation in Ethiopia. The country has shown commendable economic growth under the leadership of the current government which should be encouraged--not impeded by enacting H.R.5680--in the United States congress. Recognizing the need of continuing the on-going democratization process and economic activities in Ethiopia, World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz, during his recent official visit to Ethiopia, said,” Ethiopia has made important gains on several fronts, but it is critical that it sustains this momentum.”

Even though Ethiopia is one of the oldest countries in the world, its resume lacked any signs of democracy, freedom and liberty until just fifteen years ago. Since 1991, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF)--the party currently in power-- has opened a new chapter in the history of Ethiopia. The EPRDF has not only rid the Ethiopian people of the horrors of Socialism under the dictator Menigistu Hailemariam, but also ushered in a new Democratic Federal System of government. The ruling party has worked relentlessly and succeeded in speeding up progress in all aspects of life. Under the leadership of EPRDF and in accordance with the new Federal Constitution, Ethiopia has held three national elections that were hailed as fair and free by internationally renowned observers, including former U.S. President Jimmy Carter. Obviously, the massive voter turnout in the May 2005 national elections speaks volumes to the prevalence of an enabling climate in Ethiopia.

However, these great achievements don’t sit well with the remnants of the former communist regime, who reside in Europe and the United States of America and are poised to reverse the course of democratization to the old dark-days mainly by lobbying in their host countries. H.R.5680 is one of the mercenary tactics being promoted by these enemies of a democratic Ethiopia who are relentlessly trying to distract the current democratically elected government from tackling the real problems of the country through good governance and democratization process.

The contents of H.R.5680 are not only in stark contrast to the facts on the ground, but also set a dangerous precedent to the mutual relationship between Ethiopia and the United States of America. Relationships between the United States and Ethiopia date back more than one hundred years, and both countries need one another now more than ever. Located in the Horn of Africa, Ethiopia is a key ally of the United States of America in fighting international terrorism in the region. Ethiopia itself has been the target of terrorist elements mainly since the early 1990’s along its border with Somalia. Even though the terrorist elements had been defeated by the government of Ethiopia, there are signs of regrouping of “Islamist” extremists in Somalia. This current development in Somalia poses a serious threat to peace in the region in particular and the world in general. Thus, during this trying time, the United States government has to support Ethiopia in its endeavor to eradicate terrorism from the region and ultimately from the world. H.R.5680, however, if it passes, may prevent the U.S government from doing just that. In other words, H.R.5680 may put both the Ethiopian and the U.S. governments in a catch-22.

In summary, H.R.5680 as it currently stands, compromises the national interests of the United States and adversely affects the current democratization process in Ethiopia for reasons mentioned above. Therefore, UTNA urges you to oppose the bill.


Union of Tigrians in North America.
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