US Congress: Presence of Ethiopia Contradicts Goal of G-8 Talks

PRESS RELEASE

Washington, DC — Friday the G-8 leaders will begin a summit at Camp David, MD, with discussions focusing on the global economic recovery and food security in the developing world, with President Obama having invited the leaders of Benin, Ethiopia, Ghana and Tanzania to discuss food security, but the presence of Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Meles Zenawi is causing growing concern because of the land grab issue in his country and unaddressed human rights abuses there.

“Several years ago, I introduced legislation to sanction the Ethiopian government for the killing of peaceful protesters in 2005 and its broader violations of human rights,” said Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04), Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights. “Not only do human rights violations continue in Ethiopia, but the government has now added the element of displacing their own people in favor of foreign interests farming Ethiopian land instead of their own citizens. Having Ethiopia at the table to discuss food security is counter-productive based on their land policies.

“The only way the inclusion of Ethiopia at the G-8 summit makes sense is if this forum provides an occasion to have a serious discussion with Meles about his unacceptable treatment of Ethiopian citizens, including policies that have made more of his people’s food insecure,” Smith said.

According to recent human rights reports, the Ethiopian government is forcibly relocating 70,000 people from the Gambella region in the southwestern part of the country to make land available for foreign investment in agriculture. Those displaced Ethiopians now face a lack of food, new farmland or available health and education services for their families. An estimated 5,000 Anuak people has been forced to flee to Kenya and 8,000 Anuak are now refugees in South Sudan.

Previous State Department human rights reports have consistently cited Ethiopia for such human rights violations as unlawful killings, torture and other abuse of detainees, arbitrary arrest and detention, illegal searches and the use of excessive force by security services in counterinsurgency operations. The new State Department human rights report will be released shortly and is not expected to indicate a reduction of human rights violations in Ethiopia.

The Ethiopian Federal High Court on January 19, 2012, convicted three Ethiopian journalists, an opposition leader, and a fifth person under an anti-terrorism law that one human rights organization claims violates free expression and due process rights. The ruling comes one month after two Swedish journalists were sentenced to 11 years in prison on charges of “rendering support to terrorism,” based on their having illegally entered Ethiopia to investigate and report on abuses in the country’s Ogaden area.

–All Africa

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