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Congress Should Condition Military Aid to Ethiopia on Human Rights

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This week, a vote is expected in the House on H.R. 2003, the "Ethiopia Democracy and Accountability Act," introduced by Rep. Donald Payne. If you think that the U.S. shouldn't be green-lighting human rights abuses in Ethiopia, why not drop your Representative a line.

Supporters of democracy in Ethiopia have faced repression from the ruling party since 2005. Residents of the eastern Ogaden region are now at serious risk of starvation because the government has withheld food and other humanitarian aid, the New York Times reports.

Unfortunately, the Bush Administration has accepted these abuses, and continues to provide military aid unconditionally to the Ethiopian government, because - they claim - the Ethiopian government is promoting U.S. interests in the region. The U.S.-backed Ethiopian invasion of Somalia last December, which was condemned by human rights organizations, is cited as an example of how the Ethiopian government is a useful ally, despite the fact that the Ethiopian invasion and occupation have greatly increased the violence and suffering in Somalia.

This week we have a chance to change U.S. policy. The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote as early as tomorrow on H.R. 2003, which would make military aid to Ethiopia conditional on democratic and human rights reforms.

Our government's support for abuses by the Ethiopian government has not received prominent media attention. But advocates for democracy and human rights in Ethiopia have been lobbying Congress. Now we have a chance to change course from a destructive policy in Africa based on the "global war on terror" towards a policy based on democracy and human rights.

Act now.