By: Mesfin Mekonen
Washington Update, April 21, 2016
1. The U.S. government is responding to the deteriorating food security situation in Ethiopia. Thomas Tauras, Disaster Operations Advisor for Africa at USAID informed me that 20 million people in Ethiopia need food assistance, including many in rural areas, including many who are very difficult to reach because they are in remote locations. USAID is providing $267 million in food assistance -- 450 metric tons of food -- to Ethiopia this year. He also said that the government of Ethiopia has stopped all infrastructure development activities in order to deploy its assets to delivering food to the affected areas.
2. The Ethiopian Medahnlem Orthodox Church in Temple Hills, Maryland, recently gathered its members and supporters to raise funds to help address the food disaster in Ethiopia. The church has raised almost $200,000 for food assistance.
3. On a more positive note, Lemi Berhanu Hayle won the men's and Atsede Baysa won women's first place titles in the Boston Marathon on April 18. The Ethiopian sweep is historic. It is the first time that both titles have been won by individuals from a single country.
4. On April 20, Senator Ben Cardin (D-Maryland) introduced Senate Resolution 432, "A resolution supporting respect for human rights and encouraging inclusive governance in Ethiopia." 11 other Senators have co-sponsored the resolution, including one Republican, Marco Rubio (Florida), and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Christopher Coons (D-Del.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). The resolution condemns the lethal violence used by the government of Ethiopia against protestors, journalists, and others in civil society for exercising their rights under Ethiopia’s constitution. It calls for the Secretary of State to conduct a review of U.S. security assistance to Ethiopia in light of allegations that Ethiopian security forces have killed civilians. It also calls upon the government of Ethiopia to halt violent crackdowns, conduct a credible investigation into the killing of protesters, and hold perpetrators of such violence
The resolution specifically condemns: "the arrest and detention of journalists, students, activists and political leaders who exercise their constitutional rights to freedom of assembly and expression through peaceful protests; and abuse of the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation to stifle political and civil dissent and journalistic freedoms." The resolution also calls on the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development to "immediately lead efforts to develop a comprehensive strategy to support improved democracy and governance