[House Hearing, 115 Congress]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]
REVIEWING CURRENT DEVELOPMENTS IN ETHIOPIA
SUBCOMMITTEE ON AFRICA, GLOBAL HEALTH,
GLOBAL HUMAN RIGHTS, AND
COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED FIFTEENTH CONGRESS
SEPTEMBER 12, 2018
Serial No. 115-162
Printed for the use of the Committee on Foreign Affairs
[GRAPHIC(S) NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]
Available: http://www.foreignaffairs.house.gov/, http://docs.house.gov,
U.S. GOVERNMENT PUBLISHING OFFICE
31-452PDF WASHINGTON : 2018
COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS
EDWARD R. ROYCE, California, Chairman
CHRISTOPHER H. SMITH, New Jersey ELIOT L. ENGEL, New York
ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN, Florida BRAD SHERMAN, California
DANA ROHRABACHER, California GREGORY W. MEEKS, New York
STEVE CHABOT, Ohio ALBIO SIRES, New Jersey
JOE WILSON, South Carolina GERALD E. CONNOLLY, Virginia
MICHAEL T. McCAUL, Texas THEODORE E. DEUTCH, Florida
TED POE, Texas KAREN BASS, California
DARRELL E. ISSA, California WILLIAM R. KEATING, Massachusetts
TOM MARINO, Pennsylvania DAVID N. CICILLINE, Rhode Island
MO BROOKS, Alabama AMI BERA, California
PAUL COOK, California LOIS FRANKEL, Florida
SCOTT PERRY, Pennsylvania TULSI GABBARD, Hawaii
RON DeSANTIS, Florida [until 9/10/ JOAQUIN CASTRO, Texas
18] deg. ROBIN L. KELLY, Illinois
MARK MEADOWS, North Carolina BRENDAN F. BOYLE, Pennsylvania
TED S. YOHO, Florida DINA TITUS, Nevada
ADAM KINZINGER, Illinois NORMA J. TORRES, California
LEE M. ZELDIN, New York BRADLEY SCOTT SCHNEIDER, Illinois
DANIEL M. DONOVAN, Jr., New York THOMAS R. SUOZZI, New York
F. JAMES SENSENBRENNER, Jr., ADRIANO ESPAILLAT, New York
Wisconsin TED LIEU, California
ANN WAGNER, Missouri
BRIAN J. MAST, Florida
FRANCIS ROONEY, Florida
BRIAN K. FITZPATRICK, Pennsylvania
THOMAS A. GARRETT, Jr., Virginia
JOHN R. CURTIS, Utah
Amy Porter, Chief of Staff Thomas Sheehy, Staff Director
Jason Steinbaum, Democratic Staff Director
Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and
CHRISTOPHER H. SMITH, New Jersey, Chairman
MARK MEADOWS, North Carolina KAREN BASS, California
DANIEL M. DONOVAN, Jr., New York AMI BERA, California
F. JAMES SENSENBRENNER, Jr., JOAQUIN CASTRO, Texas
Wisconsin THOMAS R. SUOZZI, New York
THOMAS A. GARRETT, Jr., Virginia
C O N T E N T S
The Honorable Tibor P. Nagy, Jr., Assistant Secretary, Bureau of
African Affairs, U.S. Department of State...................... 8
Mr. Girum Alemayehu, co-founder, Ethiopian American Development
Mr. Jamal Said, president, Oromo Community of Denver............. 32
Ms. Emily Estelle, senior analyst, Critical Threats Project,
American Enterprise Institute.................................. 40
Mr. Yoseph M. Badwaza, senior program officer--Africa, Freedom
LETTERS, STATEMENTS, ETC., SUBMITTED FOR THE HEARING
The Honorable Tibor P. Nagy, Jr.: Prepared statement............. 11
Mr. Girum Alemayehu: Prepared statement.......................... 29
Mr. Jamal Said: Prepared statement............................... 34
Ms. Emily Estelle: Prepared statement............................ 42
Mr. Yoseph M. Badwaza: Prepared statement........................ 52
Hearing notice................................................... 70
Hearing minutes.................................................. 71
REVIEWING CURRENT DEVELOPMENTS IN ETHIOPIA
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 12, 2018
House of Representatives,
Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health,
Global Human Rights, and International Organizations,
Committee on Foreign Affairs,
The subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 2:03 p.m., in
room 2172, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Christopher H.
Smith (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.
Mr. Smith. The committee will come to order, and good
afternoon to everyone.
Our first order of business is to note that today many
Ethiopians are celebrating the start of the New Year under the
Ethiopian calendar. So I want to wish our friends a very, very
happy New Year and many more to come.
Many of the hearings that this subcommittee has held over
the years, especially on Ethiopia, have been focusing on
criticism, raising fundamental human rights issues in Ethiopia.
As a matter of fact, I introduced a bill back more than 10
years ago, the Ethiopian Human Rights Act. But today, however,
strikes a far different tone, one not of criticism but of
commendation for the great strides Ethiopia has made since
Prime Minister Abiy assumed authority in April of this year.
Consider where we were just a year ago: A state of
emergency existed, and thousands of political prisoners
languished in jail; a cold war standoff existed between
Ethiopia and its neighbor Eritrea; and, of course, people in
prisons were being tortured and mistreated in the most horrific
As this subcommittee pointed out in a hearing we held in
March 2017, and I quote: Increasingly repressive policy has
diminished political space and threatened to radicalize not
only the political opposition but also civil society by
frustrating their ability to exercise their rights under law.
In response to this, I introduced, along with original
cosponsors Karen Bass and Mike Coffman, my good friend and
colleague, H. Res. 128, a resolution supporting respect for
human rights and encouraging inclusive governance in Ethiopia.
The resolution sets forth milestones which needed to be met
and passed thanks to the leaderships of so many, including our
Chairman Ed Royce, our Ranking Member Eliot Engel, and, of
course, Kevin McCarthy and the Speaker, who ensured that the
bill got to the floor in a timely fashion.
But success of this measure was due in largest part to the
efforts of the Ethiopian diaspora community in the United
States, which came together to demand that egregious human
rights abuses immediately cease and that fundamental human
rights must be promoted and protected for all in Ethiopia.
Indeed, one of the greatest collateral benefits brought
about by the passage of H. Res. 128 is the political
effectiveness of the Ethiopian American community, which
provided a textbook civics lesson for all of us to admire and
to emulate. It is thanks to their tireless efforts of
contacting their congressional Representatives, of providing
very, very good insights as to what was going on on the ground
and making the case in a persistent manner that helps spur
Congress to action.
Since assuming office, Prime Minister Abiy has begun to
implement some of the very reforms that H. Res. 128 called for.
He has released thousands--I say again--thousands of political
prisoners and lifted the state of emergency. But he has also
reached out to the diaspora community, catalyzed an end to the
schism that had plagued the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, and
initiated a historic peace deal between Ethiopia and Eritrea
this past July.
Indeed, it is hoped that his domestic reforms will also
inspire Eritrea, which remains a repressive regime, to
undertake similar internal reforms. As an aside, Eritrea must
reform. Some estimates put it at more than 10,000 prisoners
being held unjustly, including two U.S. Embassy staff, and one
young Eritrean American named Ciham Ali Abdu.
This then is an opportunity and an opportune moment for
Eritrea as well to enact justice reforms, release political
prisoners, and end coercive conscription policies. If that
country did this, it would become too a critical U.S. strategic
partner, and it could be--professionalize its military so as to
contribute to peacekeeping missions.
Just a few weeks ago, Ranking Member Karen Bass and I
visited--and our staff--the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa,
where we met with Prime Minister Abiy, and a very broad array
of individuals and groups including His Holiness Abune Mathias
I. One impression I had was a profound feeling of change and
optimism, the likes of which I have not seen in Ethiopia ever.
For what he has accomplished in less than half a year, the
Prime Minister deserves praise and encouragement, yet we still
must keep in mind that expectations have been raised and the
reforms he has begun must continue. For example, the notorious
charities and societies proclamation and the antiterrorism
proclamation both passed in 2009 remain on the books and thus
retain the potential to stifle legitimate civil society
organizations and political speech.
Many former prisoners and torture victims still demand
justice. Ranking Member Bass and I met with several groups of
tortured victims in Addis, and what they described as having
what they went through was absolutely horrific. One refrain we
heard over and over, including from the Orthodox Church, is
that there is a need for a truth and reconciliation in order
for the country to move forward.
There also needs to be an opportunity for people who have
been displaced to return home. Catholic Archbishop Abraham
Desta of Meki recently brought to my attention that over 2.5
million people are internally displaced and require the
government's immediate attention, especially by providing
education for displaced children as the school year has already
The economy needs to grow to provide jobs for the many
youth, including those who have participated in protests and
civil disobedience; reforms in the economic sector, including
liberalization and deregulation; as well as an opening of the
economy to ethnic groups that have not been fully enfranchised
needs to continue. It also has been said that the reforms begun
by Prime Minister Abiy represent a, quote, deg.
``once-in-a-generation opportunity for Ethiopia.'' It is thus
absolutely crucial that this opportunity be seized and in no
With this in mind, the United States must remain a strong
partner with Ethiopia, someone we know that they can call upon,
and I know we are. We are so grateful to have our Assistant
Secretary, who was the former Ambassador to Ethiopia, here
We collaborate on counterterrorism measures. We support and
are grateful for Ethiopia's contribution to peacekeeping,
indeed with more than 12,000 troops deployed between U.N. and
AU missions. Ethiopia is the largest contributor to
peacekeeping missions worldwide, and we must continue to
encourage Ethiopia to participate in international military
education training, or IMET, military professionalism programs.
I also was encouraged by our conversations with military
Chief of Staff General Mekonen on training Ethiopian
peacekeepers on fighting the blight of human trafficking.
Ethiopian is currently a tier two country. As the author of the
Trafficking Victims Protection Act, I will be strongly
advocating that all antitrafficking training be included in our
IMET training for Ethiopian peacekeepers. Again, they are not
tier one, which is the best tier, to try to help them make
progress in a broad range of trafficking issues in that
I do believe, having met the man and having had an
opportunity to engage in substantive discourse with him, Prime
Minister Abiy is the right man for the right time and therefore
deserving of our support.
Finally, and speaking of support, I want to especially
thank our Ambassador, Mike Raynor, our Deputy Chief of Mission
Troy Fitrell, and political officer Wilson Korol, as well as
all our Embassy staff for the support that they gave for our
delegation. Their professionalism and their designation should
give us great confidence that our relationship with the Prime
Minister and his staff and country will remain strong and we
will move forward together.
I would like to yield to my good friend and colleague, Ms.
Bass, for any opening statements.
Ms. Bass. Thank you. Thank you, Chairman Smith. Thank you,
one, for leading the codel and having us go down--even though
it was a short trip, I think we were able to accomplish a lot--
and especially for holding this hearing today.
I want to welcome the Assistant Secretary. Thank you for
your time coming and addressing us today.
With the transition to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, it is an
opportune time to take a closer look at our bilateral
relationship and what opportunities exist to strengthen the
bond between our two nations.
As Africa's fastest growing economy and its second most
populous country, Ethiopia is a key regional partner for the
U.S. The last few years, while unstable and at times chaotic,
have led to a peaceful transition of power to Africa's youngest
The Prime Minister's initial efforts are promising and have
elicited effusive headlines from international news
publications. However, we do know that he faces daunting
challenges ahead, including regional security issues, the
country's past human rights record, ethnic tensions across the
country, and hardliners within the EPRDF that hope to stall his
And I think holding this hearing today and beginning this
process of examining our relationship, it is really an
opportunity for us to figure out as the U.S. how we can help
move Ethiopia forward especially in this time period.
And then relations with Somalia and Eritrea continue to be
Ethiopia's top security concerns, and we know that the
government will need to address tensions with Somalia as well
as its key role in counterterrorism efforts. Ethiopia will also
need to navigate rapprochement with Eritrea while easing
concerns from its own citizens over recent peace deal ending a
Despite these challenges, I will say, for the last 14
years, I have represented a large Ethiopian community in Los
Angeles. We even have a section of town that is called Little
Ethiopia. And for the last 14 years, the diaspora has been so
concerned and so upset at what was taking place in their
homeland. And to me, it has just been so inspiring to see the
Ethiopian diaspora and the people in Ethiopia--and when we
visited--that are really encouraged and excited about the
possibility of moving forward and recognizing that there are
We did face a little pushback when we were there over our
resolution 128, and some people voiced why did we do it at that
particular time, what was our timing, what were we trying to
say. And the chairman and I had an opportunity to explain that,
you know, the resolution was not trying to--well, it was trying
to be encouraging and wanting things to move forward and was
not trying to slap Ethiopia right when change was occurring. We
had an opportunity to really discuss that with many people.
I am looking forward to seeing how we can provide
continuing support but how our support might change. I mean,
one of the things that we know is going to be a challenge is
governance, preparing for elections. When we met with the Prime
Minister, the Prime Minister was very clear that he wanted to
see change take place, but he was not wedded to be the Prime
Minister forever, and he made that point very clear with us.
We had the opportunity to meet with different ethnic groups
and for them to express their concerns. And I think that one of
the challenges that Ethiopia is going to face now is how to do
the reconciliation, how to account for human rights abuses that
took place in the past, how to account for that, and how to
bring people together at the same time.
And then when we spoke with the Prime Minister, you know,
he was clear: We want to move the country forward, and we will
have to figure out the truth and reconciliation process along
the way, but we can't stop and just focus on the grievances
from the past. We absolutely have to do that healing, but we
have to move the country forward.
I want to welcome my colleague, Mr. Garamendi from northern
California, who is here, and I know he will speak in a minute.
But I was particularly happy to have him come here because Mr.
Garamendi lived in Ethiopia and was a member of the Peace Corps
many years ago and, in all those years since, has maintained
contact with the village in which he served.
Thank you very much. I yield back my time.
Mr. Smith. Ms. Bass, thank you very much for that.
And we will recognize Mr. Garamendi in a moment, but I
would like to yield to Mr. Coffman from Colorado, who has been
a tenacious promoter of human rights in Ethiopia.
And as the ranking member pointed out, you know, when we
brought this up in April, Prime Minister Abiy had already,
obviously, assumed office. But we introduced this in 2017, in
February 2017. We went through some rewrites because things
were changing on the ground, and frankly, we gave to his
government a prescriptive list of what the U.S. Congress, the
House of Representatives, expected would happen.
And it has been very telling just how close many of the
things that, on a bipartisan basis, we had recommended,
starting with the release of political prisoners, have
happened. So we hope that the resolution has made some
And as I said earlier, it does go back to 2005 after I
visited with President Meles and was profoundly disappointed
with his human rights abuses, which was legion at the time, and
stressed--and introduced the human rights bill at that point
toward Ethiopia. So thank you, Ms. Bass. We worked very closely
on this, and the trip, I think, was a great success.
And now I would like to yield to Mr. Coffman.
Mr. Coffman. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Bass.
First, I would like to thank Chairman Smith, Ranking Member
Bass, and the rest of the Africa, Global Health, Global Human
Rights, and International Organizations Subcommittee for
allowing me to participate in today's hearing.
I have the distinct honor of representing the largest
Ethiopian community in Colorado, I think one of the largest in
the United States that is in my congressional district. And
over the past few years, it has been my pleasure to get to know
them, listen to their concerns, and work on their behalf here
in Washington, DC.
I am also very proud to have two of my constituents, Mr.
Girum Alemayehu here today, and Jamal Said, to offer their
thoughts on the current situation in Ethiopia.
What we have seen in Ethiopia over the past few months has
been entirely remarkable. New reforms and changes under the
leadership of Prime Minister Abiy have started Ethiopia on what
I believe to be a stronger path of inclusion, democracy, and
new freedoms. It is of the utmost importance that the United
States can show to Ethiopia and the Ethiopian people that we
stand side by side with them as these reforms occur and that we
are able to provide assistance whenever and wherever possible.
House Resolution 128, which was passed by the House of
Representatives on April 10, has played an important role in
illustrating the commitment that the United States has
concerning the people of Ethiopia. This legislation called on
the Government of Ethiopia to make clear, decisive steps toward
becoming more inclusive, more democratic, and more respectful
of the basic human rights of its own citizens.
I was very glad to see House Resolution 128 enjoy such
bipartisan support from the Foreign Affairs Committee as well
as in the full House of Representatives. While progress has
been made, we must also be aware of the steps that are still
required to be taken to address some of the remaining issues
within Ethiopia. Specifically, there are still very troubling
reports of ethnic violence taking place in the country where
many have died and hundreds of thousands have been displaced
from their homes.
We also still want the results of the FBI's investigation
into the grenade attack on June 24, which occurred at a rally
for the new Prime Minister and resulted in multiple deaths and
injuries as well as what further actions may be required to be
taken. The Ethiopian Government needs to be able to show that
it can protect all of its citizens to be free and also that it
takes great concern with the reports of continuing violations
of human rights.
Again, I would like to thank the subcommittee for inviting
me to today's proceedings, and I look forward to listening to
witnesses' testimonies as we continue this important discussion
on how the United States and the House of Representatives can
support Ethiopia as it works toward addressing some of these
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield back.
Mr. Smith. Thank you, Mr. Coffman.
The chair recognizes my good friend and colleague from
California, Mr. Garamendi.
Mr. Garamendi. I thank you, Chairman Smith and Ranking
Member Bass. It is a privilege to be with you. This committee
has been of extraordinary importance in all the work that you
do and personally important to me because of your work in
Africa and specifically Ethiopia.
It was 50 years ago that my wife and I were Peace Corps
volunteers in southwestern Ethiopia and attempted to--I could
attempt to say [speaking foreign language] to all, maybe
[speaking foreign language]. In any case, yes, we have gone
back and forth to Ethiopia over many, many years.
The current situation in Ethiopia is extraordinarily
positive, and I, along with most others, remain very, very
optimistic about where this new government will lead Ethiopia.
There are certainly going to be issues that will affect the
citizens and the people in the area. It is a complex country
with many ethnicities and languages and incredible economic
challenges and challenges from the neighborhood. I would
encourage all of us to be attentive, not to be patient, but to
also understand the complexities that face Ethiopia.
I know that the current government, Mr. Abiy Ahmed, is
doing everything he can. Of particular note--and I noticed the
Ambassador's time in Ethiopia when the Eritrean-Ethiopian war
was in full--underway with tens of thousands of people dying--
that the peace negotiations that occurred during that time in
which a team of returned volunteers had a role, has apparently
now taken hold after some 17 years of passage. That is a good
thing. It will allow the northern part, in fact, all of
Ethiopian and Eritrea to enjoy the benefits of peace and the
reduction of the military attention that that area has had.
There is much to be done. This committee is extremely
important, and I really want to thank the committee for the
opportunity to be here and to follow along. I know that my wife
and I will continue to always love Ethiopia and the people of
Ethiopia. Thank you very much.
Mr. Smith. Thank you very much.
I would like to now yield to our distinguished colleague
from Virginia, Mr. Garrett.
Mr. Garrett. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Very briefly, as I pointed out during this subcommittee
hearing and the full committee hearings, and as I am sure our
witness today is more aware of than I am, we are really at a
turning point as it relates to Ethiopia's march forward. There
are certain demographic and geographical realities on the
For example, there is 15.5 times as much land area in the
nation-state of Russia as in Ethiopia, and yet the population
of Russia is about 35 plus or minus million greater than that
of Ethiopia. And so we have a lot of people in a relatively
small area, which creates problems in and of itself,
particularly when we consider the birth rates therein.
And this isn't necessarily a good or bad thing; although, I
will point out the amazing diversity and vibrant cultural
contributions as well as contributions in the realms of the
arts and sciences, et cetera. They go back literally millennia
to the region. But if we don't start to get it right, we may
not be able to reel it back in.
And so I am encouraged by Prime Minister Abiy's steps. I
think that we are headed in the right direction but certainly
as it relates to regional stability, which I think I could
articulate and argue plays in the 21st century directly into
global stability, we need to make sure we get this right.
And so, Mr. Chairman, members of the panel, it is important
that what we do here today, that we formulate policy in the
United States appropriate to our role as an outside nation to
encourage and support Ethiopia as it tries to develop
economically, educationally, culturally, socially, and that we
stand and speak with a clear voice as it relates to civil
societies, as it relates to best practices, engaging disparate
elements and opinions, because we won't have today over again.
So, with that, I thank the chairman for calling this
meeting, and I thank the members of the panel. I hope that we
can do good work for the future here today.
Mr. Smith. Thank you, Mr. Garrett.
I would like to now introduce our very distinguished
leader, in the job for a month but certainly a very wise and
experienced Africa hand, a man who has done tremendous work
over the years, Tibor Nagy is the Assistant Secretary in the
Bureau of African Affairs.
Ambassador Nagy has spent over 32 years in government
service, including 20 years in assignments across Africa. He
served as United States Ambassador to Ethiopia from 1999 to
2002 and the United States Ambassador to Guinea from 1996 to
1999. He also served as deputy chief of mission in Nigeria from
1993 to 1995, in Cameroon from 1990 to 1993, and in Togo from
1987 to 1990.
After his retirement from the Foreign Service and before
being called back into service, Ambassador Nagy was vice
provost for international affairs at Texas Tech University from
2003 to 2018. Ambassador Nagy has received numerous awards for
his service, including recognition for helping prevent famine
in Ethiopia and supporting efforts to end the Ethiopian-
Eritrean war. He has lectured nationally on African development
and U.S. diplomacy and serves as a regular op-ed contributor to
the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal Newspaper on global events.
Ambassador Nagy is also coauthor of ``Kiss Your Latte
Goodbye: Managing Overseas Operations,'' the nonfiction winner
of the 2014 Paris Book Festival. He came to the United States
in 1957 as a political refugee from Hungary. He received his BA
from Texas Tech, MSA from George Washington University, and he
and his wife Eva Jane have three children and the first
triplets to be born in independent Zimbabwe.
We welcome you, Mr. Secretary, Mr. Ambassador to the
committee. And, again, we thank you for your extraordinary
service for so many decades and look forward to your testimony.
STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE TIBOR P. NAGY, JR., ASSISTANT
SECRETARY, BUREAU OF AFRICAN AFFAIRS, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Ambassador Nagy. Thank you very much. Mr. Chairman, Ranking
Member Bass, and members of the committee, thank you for the
invitation to testify today on U.S. national interests and
recent developments in Ethiopia.
I also wanted to take the opportunity in this hearing--my
first before you--to address Eritrea and the regional
significance of the improving relationships between Ethiopia
and Eritrea. As a former U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia, this
topic is of great importance to me personally, so it is a real
pleasure to be here with you today.
Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Bass, I also want to thank you
for your recent trip to Ethiopia. I greatly appreciate the
focus that Congress has on this region, which I believe is very
important for our national interests, and I welcome the
opportunity to discuss recent developments with the
Allow me to open our time today with some thematic remarks
on recent developments. In Ethiopia, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed
has initiated groundbreaking reforms across most every area of
Ethiopian society since becoming Prime Minister on April 2,
2018. He deserves tremendous credit for his boldness in
tackling issues that previous governments have not addressed.
We have a strong relationship with the highest reaches of
the new administration which reflects not only our century-long
diplomatic relations with Ethiopia, the only country in sub-
Saharan Africa which was never colonized, but also our great
support for Dr. Abiy's reform vision.
Implementing this reform vision is not without its
challenges, and to make such broad and rapid changes will
require reinforcing the foundation for the relationship between
the Ethiopian people and its government. We have seen Dr. Abiy
do so, actively engaging with the public to support his
government and his works to implement reforms. In July, he came
to the United States to meet with the Ethiopian diaspora
members, many of whom are enthusiastic participants in our own
electoral process and care greatly for their homeland.
Dr. Abiy has also taken dramatic steps to end the former
government's repression of civil liberties, inviting a
diversity of voices, including many who were previously
criminalized to participate in Ethiopia's future. Yet,
strengthening institutions, setting the economy on a firm
footing, and restoring stability to areas facing humanitarian
disaster and ethnic conflict will not be done overnight.
The expectations of the Ethiopian people are also
incredibly high and many of them are young. We estimate that
there are around 70 million Ethiopians younger than 30, many of
whom have participated in protests in recent years due to
frustration with corruption and the lack of economic
The Ethiopian Government has openly sought partnership with
the United States to achieve its ambitious reform plans. We
have a tremendous opportunity to support Ethiopia as a friend
and partner in the process. We are working to provide support
to Dr. Abiy and his administration across all of these
challenges as he continues his work in years ahead.
But looking more broadly at regional issues, we
enthusiastically welcome Dr. Abiy and Eritrean President Isaias
Afwerki working together to end 20 years of conflict between
Ethiopia and Eritrea. There is still much work to do to repair
the consequences of the conflict for the peoples of both
countries, especially in borders regions. But we have already
seen a tremendous outpouring of emotion on both sides
supporting peace, and both governments have highlighted the
positive consequences this will bring for the entire Horn of
We support both sides as they explore possibilities for
peace and continue to encourage and support their long-term
success. But guaranteeing the full benefits of peace for years
to come will depend on the strength of all parties' efforts to
restore friendship and prosperity to both countries, and this
must be done as inclusively as possible including with other
important partners in the region and beyond.
Since Eritrea's mid-June decision to send a delegation to
Ethiopia, there have been several meetings between the two
governments' officials in Asmara, Addis Ababa, and capitals
across the Horn of Africa to discuss trade, development, and
So far, the public and tangible examples of improved
relations are the reopening of telephone service and the
resumption of regular flights between both countries. And since
this was written, they just opened their land borders yesterday
at two points, which was remarkable.
Eritrea is also expanding capacity at the Port of Massawa
for use by Ethiopia, and it was just announced early in
September that an Ethiopian commercial vessel used the Port of
Massawa for the first outbound shipment on an Ethiopian vessel
since the peace agreement. We anticipate that these and other
steps will create the potential for greater development of
people-to-people ties on both sides of the border.
Peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea leads us to another
remarkable story: Eritrea's reemergence onto the regional and
global stage and the many potential opportunities for the
United States stemming from regional peace. With Ethiopian-
Eritrea's conflict ending, we see strong potential for
Eritrea's contribution to improving regional security.
Eritrea has resisted extremist threats and could provide
lessons to others on how to maintain a diversity of communities
free from violent extremism. Eritrea can also contribute to
regional peace and stability, as we have seen with Eritrea's
engagement with Somalia and South Sudan and Eritrea's role-
brokering agreements among Ethiopian opposition groups.
Eritrea, which has a strong tradition of self-sufficiency
and independence, could also promote a stronger regional
approach to countering potentially malign influences of global
competitors operating in the region. Nonetheless, we still have
significant concerns in our bilateral relations with Eritrea
that we will continue to highlight in days ahead.
Eritrea currently continues to imprison several of our
Embassies' locally employed staff members for politically
motivated reasons. We have also raised concerns about the
detention of American citizens who are detained for the same
Though Eritrea has regularly asserted that it has no
substantive relationship with the Democratic People's Republic
of Korea, Eritrea has not fully explained certain past arms
procurement transactions between Eritrea and the DPRK that the
U.N. panel of experts reported. Broader human rights concerns,
such as indefinite obligatory national service, the arbitrary
detention of religious and political prisoners, and a tightly
controlled opaque system of government also hinder our scope
The United States has deliberately engaged with Eritrea in
recent months, with both these opportunities and concerns in
full view, and we will continue to do so. Although we have
already seen many gains from peace, which the President and the
Secretary of State have both hailed publicly, further progress
will require more action, some of these priority issues in
Thank you so much, and I look forward to your questions.
[The prepared statement of Ambassador Nagy follows:]
[GRAPHIC(S) NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]
Mr. Smith. I thank you so very much, Mr. Secretary, again,
for your leadership and for being here today.
I do have a number of questions, and I will ask them in
somewhat succession. We do have a number of members here today,
and I think that is a good sign of the concern that we all
Let me start with sex trafficking and trafficking in
general. Again, it is an area that I have spent more than 25
years working on and written a number of laws on, and I raise
it everywhere every time I go. And Ethiopia does have a
problem. Prime Minister Abiy inherited a very significant
problem with child sex tourism which remains unabated in Addis
Ababa, Bahir Dar, Hawassa, Bishoftu, to name at least some
areas where it is very, very rampant.
Convictions have dropped. In 2016, there were 640; in 2017,
it dropped to 182, a very bad trend line, because we know the
problem has not gone away. And on a positive note, last month,
Sudan and Ethiopia signed an agreement to work together on
their border to fight against human trafficking, and I think
that was a great step forward.
And when Karen Bass and I met with Chief of Staff General
Mekonen, we both really strongly made the point that his
soldiers need to be trained in how to mitigate human
trafficking, to spot it, to be on the side of protection and
not on the side of exploitation.
He seemed very open to it, especially when we mentioned the
IMET training that might be an area where we could include
this. And I wonder if you could just speak to that, because he
has so many issues and problems he has to deal with all at
once, and I think there is a key here or a concern that we need
to all manage expectations. It is not all going to be done in a
day. But I think this needs to be emphasized very, very
Secondly, if I could, and that is on the issue of the
internally displaced, 2.6 million displaced, about 1 million
IDPs in eastern Oromia. What are we doing to try to help them
in their humanitarian crisis, which is obviously severe?
We have also raised on our trip--and we are doing it again
here; we have done it in our resolution and elsewhere--the use
of torture against so many individuals. I know the Prime
Minister has cleaned house of some of the worst of the worst,
but we know in Maekelawi prison, which is finally being shut
down, we heard stories of people who had been grossly
mistreated. And obviously the guards and others who were a part
of that need to be held to account.
And, finally, the whole issue of China's influence--and I
know you are very concerned about that, as well--the debt that
they are piling on one African country after another that will
become unsustainable in exchange for their minerals, their oil,
their wood. It is a one-way ticket to Beijing in terms of the
net benefits of that relationship, and I think Ethiopia is
beginning to understand that themselves.
So maybe you can speak to that as well.
Ambassador Nagy. Sure. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Four extremely important areas to address. Maybe I can take
them in reverse order. The Chinese one is extremely important,
and that is one that is of great personal interest to me. I
think the Ethiopians definitely understand that China is not
the long-term solution for their problems.
I think it is true in just about all of Africa that the
problems--the greatest problems they are going to face is this
demographic wave of the population doubling between now and
2050. And the solution all comes down--it sounds simplistic,
but it is really not, but it comes down to jobs, jobs, jobs for
the young people.
And Prime Minister Abiy, I think, is one of those
enlightened leaders that fully comprehends that to take
Ethiopia on a road to prosperity and stability, it requires
creating jobs, jobs, jobs for those millions and millions and
millions of young people who are, you know, a huge percentage
of the population will be under 15. And that is not going to
come from trade with China.
So he is extremely eager to open up trade and commerce in
Ethiopia with other companies. They are reaching out to us, as
are a number of other African countries, and I think it is
extremely important for the United States to engage with him,
obviously not only that area, but that area is critically
important to their long-term future.
And that will require several strategic steps because, of
course, it will require work on the part of Ethiopia to put on
in the kind of enabling environment which will be welcoming to
other companies besides Chinese, and I think that they are very
eager to proceed on that. It will also require work on the
United States Government's part to help the Ethiopians
technically in those areas.
And then, finally, it will also require us to reach out to
American companies to go to Africa because, unlike China, we
don't have state-owned corporations and state-owned banks to
where we order companies to go to countries X, Y, and Z and
invest so much money.
American companies, I know, are eager to invest in Africa,
especially Ethiopia has now a phenomenal reputation. And in
many cases, companies want to do that, but they find it
difficult because they are not sure that the environment is
right for them. So it is a cycle that we actually have to step
into and work on to help Prime Minister Abiy succeed.
In the area of the use of torture, extremely important
area. The United States, of course----
Mr. Smith. While you are answering, could you just add to
that answer. The Torture Victims Relief Act, and I authored
four of those over the years, provide for that intervention for
PTSD especially. Is that something that you would consider, you
know, helping the Ethiopian Government obtain because those
best practices lead maybe not to a cure but to an ability to
overcome the nightmares to a great extent?
Ambassador Nagy. Absolutely. And we have had experience
doing this before. I remember when I was Ambassador in Guinea,
the whole region was engulfed in Liberian and Sierra Leonean
civil war, and the United States became quite active in working
with the victims of torture to try to help them overcome that.
As a matter of fact, we worked with the Peace Corps to
introduce a brand new program to where third-year volunteers
could actually--had to have the competent abilities to work in
the camps specifically with the torture victims.
So, as you said, Mr. Chairman, the military and the
security forces are having to work on so many issues at the
same time, but this is one that is critically important. And it
is also one that the Ethiopians are going to have to have a
national dialogue on, because different countries in Africa
have had different approaches to this kind of internal peace
and reconciliation post trauma.
Liberians did it one way; Sierra Leoneans did it another
way; the South Africans, of course, did it a certain way. And
it has to be done culturally. But as you said yourself, they do
have to come to some kind of resolution because, otherwise, it
is a poison that will exist in their society going forward.
We, of course,--it is not for the United States to tell
other countries how to do it, but we certainly have to be
prepared to support when asked to do so. And I was delighted to
hear you say that even the military are interested in this. So
that would be another one.
On the internally displaced, as usual, I am--the United
States does step forward very quickly. I was very pleased to
see this, that in July, the U.S. Government announced more than
$170 million in humanitarian assistance for the emergency
response in Ethiopia.
I mean, we are there. The internally displaced numbers are
horrifying. They go back several years, although recently
because of the emergency that happened in Somalia and the brief
violence that took part there that added another great number
of internally displaced. So we are there, USAID, Office of
Foreign Disaster Assistance, Food for Peace, and we will
continue to be there to monitor and to help whatever way we
And let's see, I think the last one was the trafficking in
persons. Again, I think you have a situation with Ethiopia
where you have a transitioning government with the
enlightenment to want to change things. Their problem comes up
is that they have to change things in so many critical areas.
And even the security forces, again, they want to improve.
We want them to improve, would love to see nothing more than to
see them get up to that tier one status. And they want to
engage with us. We want to engage with them. We have made
that--specific recommendations. So we will work with them on
that very actively to help them get there. It is very rarely
that you have a government with so many good intentions.
Mr. Smith. Thank you. It might be worthwhile to configure a
trip with the TIP office----
Ambassador Nagy. Yes.
Mr. Smith [continuing]. Because they are experts and they
have a wealth of best practices that they could share.
Ranking Member Bass.
Ms. Bass. Thank you very much.
And, again, Assistant Secretary, I really appreciate you
being here today, and I look forward to welcoming you on Friday
at the Africa Brain Trust that the Congressional Black Caucus
is doing, and I know the public will look forward to hearing
I wanted to follow up with the discussion that you were
having about the reconciliation process, and specifically my
questions want to know your opinions about what we can do in
Congress to be helpful with the process.
So, you know, when we met with the various groups, you
know, top on their agenda was reconciliation. When we met with
the Prime Minister, you know, you got a slightly different
message. I mean, he understands how critically important it is,
but at the same time, he doesn't want the country to be
consumed by that. And so I just wanted to know your thoughts on
what we might do that might be helpful.
Ambassador Nagy. I believe that the best thing to do would
be for the United States of America, as voiced by the people's
Representatives, to recognize that Prime Minister Abiy has
indicated an interest in going toward national reconciliation,
the importance of national reconciliation, and that the United
States stands ready to support any way possible to make that
happen, as we did with South Africa, as we did with Liberia, as
we did with Sierra Leone, to walk that fine line of not
dictating but recognizing and respecting so that, as I said
before, it does not become a poison in the future environment.
It has to be taken out.
Ms. Bass. Do you think it is helpful to do a resolution, a
sense of Congress, or some kind of statement especially
following on the heels of the resolution that we did?
Ambassador Nagy. I think resolutions are greatly paid
attention to in Ethiopia. During my time as Ambassador, I was
called often by the Ethiopian Government based on actions that
Congress took. So it definitely would receive widespread----
Ms. Bass. That wasn't good, I take it.
Ambassador Nagy. Pardon me?
Ms. Bass. That was not good, I take it.
Ambassador Nagy. Well, yes, I was chewed out a fair number
of times because I was, let me put it this way, credited with
the action that, in fact, Congress took.
Ms. Bass. I see.
Ambassador Nagy. But in that regard, so I think it would
definitely have its purposes, and as I mentioned, it definitely
would be noticed by not only the Ethiopian Government but the
larger Ethiopian community worldwide. And it is not just in the
U.S. diaspora, it is, you know, Ethiopians around the world.
Ms. Bass. Right. Well, you know, when you mentioned
promoting U.S. business involvement in Ethiopia--and I agree
with you 100 percent, but one way we also might look to be
helpful--I mean, the diaspora has been involved in terms of
business, but we might look for ways to promote that,
especially the diaspora that has not felt they could really
engage with the country because of prior administrations. So
something that we might figure out what we could do to help
promote diaspora business involvement as well, in addition to,
you know, the multinational corporations.
I wanted to ask you also about Eritrea. With the opening of
relations between the two countries, do you think or do you
have any sense at all whether the force, national service will
continue on the military side, you know, considering what the
nature of it would be, and especially given that that is one of
the major reasons for the migration out of Eritrea, you know,
and the people getting on the boats and attempting to make it
Ambassador Nagy. Representative Bass, you are absolutely
right on that. Up to now, for the last 20-plus years, Eritrea
has used Ethiopia as an excuse to maintain what I would almost
call a fortress state and have one of the largest standing
armies in Africa, despite the size of their population, plus
the heinous national service, which never seem to end. With the
opening of peace, they really will no longer have a reason to
So we will be very--we will be following events very
closely to see what domestic steps the Eritrean Government now
takes to go along with their outward openings internationally,
because I think it is critically important for Eritrea to do
domestically the types of openings that they are doing
I was astounded also a couple of days ago to see the
Presidents of Eritrea and Djibouti embracing on the tarmac of
Asmara Airport. These events, for me, are mind-boggling. In my
40 years of following Africa, I have never seen this type of
transition happen. I think it is a clear indication of the
wonderful things that can happen from enlightened, strong
leadership, just like we have seen awful things happen around
unfortunately the continent and from other types of leadership,
which is the opposite of that.
And I hope that that serves as an example to President
Isaias as well, that it leads to instant popularity. You don't
have to have a repressive state when you are doing the right
thing and you are taking your people's interests as your first
Ms. Bass. Do you see our relationship having changed at all
with Eritrea since opening with Ethiopia?
Ambassador Nagy. Well, the atmosphere has improved, I
think, remarkably, but now let's get to the heart of the issue
and let's get to actual events and actions, because that also
goes, for example, to the sanctions regime.
You know, Eritrea cannot assume that by saying wonderful
things and opening good relations with the neighbors, that that
will automatically lead to sanctions relief. There have to be
concrete actions taken, and we, of course, will remain very
engaged and, you know, say things that will not always be
popular, but they have to be said.
Ms. Bass. Thank you.
Mr. Smith. Thank you very much.
I yield to my good friend from Denver.
Mr. Coffman. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Real concerned with these extraordinary numbers, high
numbers of displaced individuals in Ethiopia and the ethnic
tensions inside the country. Is there anything else that the
United States can do to influence that situation in terms of
getting better, reducing the tensions, and what is the Prime
Minister able to do?
Ambassador Nagy. That also--thank you, sir. That is a
phenomenal question because ethnicity in Ethiopia is such a
historically interesting issue. In one respect, Ethiopia being
an ethnic federalism offers almost a unique model in Africa
based on how some of the other States have been structured
because of the boundaries. So it offers that example.
So ethnicity in Ethiopia has been a very stark issue. But
then, on the other hand, of all the places I have served in
Africa, I have never met people like in Ethiopia who carry all
of them a sense of Ethiopianess in their DNA going back to
2,000 years of Ethiopian history. So it is one of those, you
know, two forces existing in the same place.
I believe that Prime Minister Abiy recognizes that the best
solution to ethnic friction is economic progress, economic
opportunity for the young people who live there, because if the
opportunities exist and there is really no reason to be having
animosity toward other--that other ethnicity that may be in the
other side of town, and I believe that he intends to work in
We, of course, may be in position to offer programs of
technical assistance in this regard. But I truly believe the
heart of the issue and the heart of the solution really would
be economic progress to where the ethnic groups don't feel that
urgency of competition just based on ethnicity.
Mr. Coffman. Ambassador, you mentioned about the need to go
through--for Ethiopia to go through a process of
reconciliation. You gave some examples of different countries
that have gone through a process of reconciliation. One of your
examples is South Africa. Is South Africa in some way a model
Ambassador Nagy. The only difference being there that in
South Africa, you have, of course, that racial dimension, which
is almost unique to that country. In Zimbabwe, it was at one
time but not to the extent in South Africa, which is quite a
bit different from Ethiopia, because in Ethiopia it was not a
racial dimension or even so much of an ethnic dimension as just
abuse of a segment of the population by a historicity of
regimes, going all the way back, in some respects, you know,
quite frankly, to the Emperor but then, of course, certainly
the Mengistu regime, the successor regime led by Prime Minister
Meles, and the post-Meles government. Now the one that wants to
take the lid off everything, let the light in, transparency,
openness, it falls to them to--in many respects it is unfair
because it falls to them to have to undue the harm that has
been done in previous generations, but it has to be a
restorative but also cathartic experience.
Mr. Coffman. Ambassador, what can we do to assist Ethiopia
to try to make these changes, these reforms from the Abiy
administration, the Prime Minister, sustainable?
Ambassador Nagy. To continue engagement, to take a whole-
of-government approach, to mobilize all of our resources
together, and, in commonality, to maintain an ongoing dialogue
to stay with it, and also to act as quickly as the U.S.
Government is capable of acting because he is moving very, very
quickly. And he realizes also that the changes that he is
bringing in are quite fragile and that his people are expecting
him to move quickly also and to show progress.
So we have to be also very flexible and very deft. And I
would like to also echo what the chairman said that we are
fortunate to have Ambassador Raynor in Addis at this time, an
extremely talented Embassy staff.
Our communications are constant. Their communications with
Abiy's government, Prime Minister Abiy's government, are
ongoing and constant, so we are going to all work together to
be able to maximize the effectiveness of the U.S. Government
because all of us want to see the same thing for a whole
variety of reasons, from U.S. security to our business
prosperity but also to the regional stability in the Greater
Horn of Africa.
Mr. Coffman. Thank you, Mr. Ambassador.
Mr. Chairman, I yield back.
Mr. Smith. Thank you very much, Mike.
We are joined by the distinguished chairman of the full
Foreign Affairs Committee, Chairman Royce.
Mr. Royce. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I will just make some general observations here, but let me
begin by thanking you and ranking member Karen Bass for the
trip that you made to Ethiopia and the arguments you put
And let me also thank Mike Coffman. We worked together on
the resolution. And let me say that this issue, Mike, of
advancing human rights in Ethiopia is one that I think we are
somewhat encouraged by some of the recent events, but your
observation that we need to sustain this progress, we need to
see the Prime Minister's work sort of taken up as a long-term
commitment by the government is important. The focus of the
resolution was for the government in Ethiopia to address these
human rights concerns head on. And we have indeed, as I say,
seen some commendable progress since then.
When he took office in April, the Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed
took some pretty bold steps to reform Ethiopia's government,
some pretty bold moves on the economy as well. And we have tens
of thousands of political prisoners now that have been
released. Many more in exile have felt safe enough to return
home. That is what I am told in Los Angeles and in southern
California by the community. Media freedom certainly has
expanded from where it was. And the government, I think, in
their public recognition about the need to systemically improve
human rights conditions have made the right commitments there.
The economic reforms are encouraging, but many of them are
proposed at this point, so we want to see full implementation
and enforcement. There has also been historic progress toward
resolving the conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia, and we
should comment on that because, during my time as chairman of
the Africa Subcommittee, we held a number of hearings on the
brutal conflict between these two countries.
Years later, we can finally look upon the conflict with
cautious optimism. The recent reconciliation between these two
countries is very encouraging. Genuine peace and improved
economic and security cooperation, of course, would bring
stability, would bring mutual prosperity to both Ethiopians and
But I think this is just the beginning. The road ahead for
Prime Minister Abiy's government will be a very challenging
road. It must increase accountability of government officials.
You have got to do something about accountability of the
security forces. It will ensure that all citizens' voices are
heard and respected.
The U.S. and Ethiopia have long enjoyed a strong, bilateral
relationship, enjoyed the opportunity with the congressional
delegation we took to Ethiopia, and I know my colleague
sacrificed a lot of time and effort there, John, when you were
in Ethiopia at a very difficult time with the Peace Corps.
Americans are rooting for an Ethiopia on the mend, and
everything we see is encouraging.
So our committee will continue to track developments and
look forward to further strengthening the partnership, further
strengthening Ethiopia's efforts toward becoming a more free, a
more inclusive, a more prosperous nation. And I thank the
Assistant Secretary for his engagement in all of this.
Ambassador Nagy. Thanks, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Royce. I yield back.
Mr. Smith. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I would like to yield to Mr. Garamendi.
Mr. Garamendi. Once again, Mr. Chairman, thank you for the
privilege of joining your subcommittee for this hearing, an
extremely important hearing.
Chairman of the full committee Mr. Royce, thank you for
your many years of attention to Africa and Ethiopia in that
And, Mr. Coffman, the same.
Just a couple of things. I am on the Armed Services
Committee, and the new National Defense Strategy emphasizes
Russia and China. The result of that, apparently, is a movement
by the Department of Defense to move away from Africa,
particularly the Sahel and areas of violent, extreme
I draw that to the attention of this committee, the
interrelationship between the work of this committee and the
Armed Services Committee, with regard to the role of the
Department of Defense and the State Department in Africa
deserves our attention.
Of specific interest beyond that is some of the questions
that have arisen with regard to the current famine, drought
that is occurring on the eastern portions of Ethiopia and
probably going to move beyond that. The work of this committee
in pushing back on the $300 million rescission in the food aid
programs is much appreciated, I think by--certainly by
everybody that pays attention to what is going on in those
And I would draw the--and ask the Ambassador and Assistant
Secretary about what specifically is taking place with regard
to support for famine relief in the area as well as security
And, with that, I would yield back.
Ambassador Nagy. Thank you very much.
On famine relief, our Food for Peace for Ethiopia is at
$373 million. And Ethiopia, as you know from your time there,
unfortunately suffers periodic famine, and each time, the
United States tends to be the first one there. I had the same
thing happen during my ambassadorship, where we were actually
able to stem off the famine.
And the types of famine that hit it are of two varieties.
Sometimes, unfortunately, a famine is in the highlands, and
sometimes it is in the lowlands. Totally different
But I am always honored to be associated with the United
States of America, because, thanks to your generosity and the
generosity of the American people, we are always the first ones
there to respond. And we will certainly continue to do so going
forward, whatever it takes. We are always the most generous. In
my lecturing at Texas Tech, I always thanked the American
farmers, because we had many of those kids in the classes.
On the security front, of course Ethiopia is one of our
most important partners, not just in the region but also
throughout Africa. As I believe the chairman mentioned,
Ethiopia is the largest troop contributor to U.N. Peacekeeping
operations. They contribute troops to several operations in
Sudan. And then, bilaterally, they do it in Somalia because it
is their neighbor and Somalia is critically important to their
own peace and well-being.
That is one of the other reasons this ongoing peace process
between neighbors, one after the other, after the other, is so
critically important. From my own experience in Ethiopia, I
recognize the Ethiopian Armed Forces as one of the most
professional I have ever worked with. And we depend on them for
maintaining peace and security throughout the greater Horn, and
we will certainly continue that engagement.
Mr. Garamendi. Could you--excuse me, Mr. Chairman.
Could you speak briefly about Sudan, southern Sudan?
Ambassador Nagy. Well, of course, Sudan, South Sudan,
Kenya--IGAD, everybody--has been devastated by the events in
South Sudan. We were so optimistic when the country gained its
independence, and what has happened since then has been
And a little while ago, I was mentioning what a huge
difference one enlightened leader who actually cares
passionately about their own people, what a difference that has
made to Ethiopia. And I mentioned the opposite of that. And I
fear that that is exactly what we have seen in South Sudan.
The current peace process is the only peace process we have
going. We hope that it will succeed. And, of course, we will do
our best to be supportive, because everybody wants to see peace
and reconciliation there. Unfortunately, the leadership, to say
that it was disheartening is an understatement.
Mr. Garamendi. The role of Ethiopia in that has been long-
term and significant, and I assume it is remaining so.
Ambassador Nagy. Yes, sir, absolutely. Ethiopia, of course,
has been tremendously helpful on a number of fronts, both
Sudan, South Sudan--when Sudan was still one country--because I
remember when I was Ambassador, I had a number of conversations
with then-Prime Minister Meles about Sudan, at the time, the
civil war--and then, of course, the other neighbor, Somalia.
So Ethiopia has been a very positive force for stability
and peace on both of those fronts. Yes, sir.
Mr. Smith. Thank you very much.
Just let me ask a few final questions, if I could.
Mr. Secretary, you know, I have been to South Sudan twice
within the last 2\1/2\ years or so and, like you, am greatly
distressed over Salva Kiir's performance and how destabilizing
it has been, and the loss of life in not just South Sudan but
the explosion of refugees and IDPs from that manmade crisis. So
we wish you well as Assistant Secretary for all of Africa, of
course, in your efforts there.
Just a small recommendation would be to consider bringing
former President George W. Bush back into it. He and Salva Kiir
did hit it off well. Kiir still wears the hat given to him by
Ambassador Nagy. That is right.
Mr. Smith. And I think President Bush would be more than
helpful and effective in saying, ``Get with the program, Mr.
President. End the complicity of your troops with rape and
pillaging of food stuffs,'' the World Food Programme and our
own, of course, being stolen by some of them. It is just awful.
So if you could maybe take that back.
But let me just ask a question. In Abyei, as we all know,
the disputed border between Sudan and South Sudan, Ethiopian
peacekeepers have played a huge role. And we know that there is
consideration being given to downgrading that--their withdrawal
of mechanized artillery units, replacing them with police.
When we met with General Mekonnen, he voiced his extreme
concern about that. And I would hope that you would take that
back, that it could actually make the situation worse. And he
also made the point that he may even withdraw all of his
So I do hope that that is something you might want to speak
to. Because I think every dollar we invest in U.N.
Peacekeeping, especially in a place like Abyei, is a dollar
well-served. The mission supports it. Any efforts at cost-
cutting I think would be not achieved because there could be
the loss of life.
Also, some of our witnesses will follow--so if you could
speak to that--will follow in a moment with panel two,
including Jamal Said.
And we heard this while we were there, and of course we
pushed this in our resolution, and that is the idea of having a
commission, investigation, perhaps a peace and reconciliation
commission that parallels what South Africa did, what El
Salvador did after its terrible war with the FMLN, to try to
weed out the bad apples, hold them to account, and move on to a
reconciliation process that, you know, leads to a stronger and
more human-rights-oriented Ethiopia. So if you could speak to
And, finally, in our witness testimony from Emily Estelle
from AEI, she makes a number of excellent points, but one of
them is that sustained conflicts risk mobilizing Ethiopia's
Somali population, potentially causing a new opportunity for
al-Shabaab to recruit or even expand its attacks in Ethiopia.
Your assessment of that risk of those Somalis who, obviously,
live in and around Ethiopia?
Ambassador Nagy. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Again,
if you permit me, I will take those in reverse.
Mr. Smith. Sure.
Ambassador Nagy. With the Somali situation, indeed, one of
the reasons that the Somali regional state of Ethiopia had such
a large police force, the so-called Liyu police, there were so
many of them, was exactly the reason to make sure that al-
Shabaab stays out of the Ethiopian-Somali region.
Unfortunately, the local political forces were working for
ill. They used the Liyu police for human rights violations, for
repressing the local population. And when Prime Minister Abiy
recently changed the Somali leadership, they were largely
responsible for some of the violence and mayhem in the Somali
Prime Minister Abiy and the Ethiopian leadership is very
concerned with the potential for al-Shabaab influence and entry
into the Somali region, so they are keeping their eyes on that.
And the Ethiopian security forces are also very sensitive to
that issue. So we definitely will engage on that, because that
fits, obviously, in with U.S. Strategic interest on that one.
On the peace and reconciliation commission, again, I
absolutely accept, embrace that suggestion. And I would just
underline that, with the Ethiopians, it is a system that they
will need to develop unique to their culture, their history,
how they want to go about it. And we will be as supportive as
we can be, as we have been in a number of other situations
around the world. And the South African one, obviously, was a
very effective and working model in Africa.
On the U.N. Peacekeeping, of course we have been in contact
also with the Ethiopians on their concerns. And, globally, the
U.N. Peacekeeping forces are very much of an issue for the
United States, and our government is looking at the various
peacekeeping forces and how to put what resources where. So we
will definitely maintain that conversation with them, because
we have heard the same thing that you have, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Smith. Thank you very much.
Mr. Coffman. Oh. Yeah.
Mr. Secretary, just one final point, and that is, how would
you characterize the forces working against the Ambassador
right now, in terms of his trying to move these reforms forward
Ambassador Nagy. As I mentioned, it is certainly not a done
deal. The situation is still very fragile. We know that there
are reactionary forces at work as well. They may have been
partially part of the reason that the Somali region so erupted
in violence recently.
That is why I think it is critically important for the
friends of Ethiopia, at this time, to be as supportive as
possible so that Prime Minister Abiy can go back to the people
and show actual, concrete results.
Because one point I make over and over again is that the
young people of Africa--and they are the young people of
Africa--have exactly the same dreams and ambitions as young
people everywhere else, thanks to modern technology. And that
is the kind of life they want, and that is what they are
expecting from their own leaders. And the enlightened leaders
understand this, and they want to respond very quickly, because
otherwise they won't have much of a future.
Mr. Coffman. Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
I yield back.
Mr. Smith. Thank you so much, Mr. Secretary, and we look
forward to working with you going forward.
Ambassador Nagy. Thank you so, so much, Mr. Chairman and
members of the panel. Thank you.
Mr. Smith. I would like to now welcome our second panel to
the witness table.
And I would like to yield to Mr. Coffman to do the
introductions for our distinguished witnesses.
Mr. Coffman. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I would like to introduce our second panel.
Girum Alemayehu is the cofounder of the Ethiopian American
Development Council. He is also a founding member of a sister
organization, the Ethiopian American Civil Council, based in
He plays a leading role in several civic engagement and
humanitarian projects in Colorado. Mr. Alemayehu is the
cofounder and cochairman of the Taste of Ethiopia, a nonprofit
based in Denver that promotes Ethiopian heritage and community
service in a festival that brings together over 10,000 people
Mr. Alemayehu grew up in Ethiopia and studied philosophy
and played soccer in Addis Ababa University. He pursued a
master's of science in agricultural education from Oklahoma
State University and is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Walden School
of Public Administration.
Thank you for being here today. We look forward to your
Do you want me to do the second one?
Mr. Smith. Yes.
Mr. Coffman. Okay.
And then I am proud to introduce, from Colorado as well,
Jamal Said. He is the president of the Oromo Community of
Denver and a human rights activist. He grew up in the Oromia
regional state of Ethiopia and came to the United States in
January 1999, seeking refuge from persecution.
He graduated from Columbia College in 2009 with a degree in
business administration. He is married and has four children
and lives in Aurora, Colorado.
Thank you for testifying before the subcommittee today.
Mr. Smith. Thank you very much, Mr. Coffman.
I would like to now introduce, as well, Emily Estelle, who
is a senior analyst for the Critical Threats Project at the
American Enterprise Institute and the Africa team lead. She
studies the Salafi-jihadi movement in Africa, including al-
Qaeda, ISIS, and associated groups.
Ms. Estelle specializes in the Libya conflict and has
expertise in the Horn of Africa. Ms. Estelle also coordinates
the Critical Threat Project's training and tradecraft and
manages the integration of technology into the research
Ms. Estelle graduated summa cum laude from Dartmouth
College with a B.A. in anthropology, modified with Arabic
We then will hear from Yoseph Badwaza, who is a senior
program officer for Ethiopia at Freedom House.
Prior to his position at Freedom House, he was the
secretary general of the Ethiopian Human Rights Council,
Ethiopia's foremost human rights organization. Mr. Badwaza fled
Ethiopia in 2009, when government attacks on the Ethiopian
Human Rights Council became more persistent.
When he arrived in the U.S., Mr. Badwaza continued his
advocacy of human rights protection and good governance. In
2010, he received the Alison Des Forges Award from Human Rights
Watch for his activism.
Mr. Badwaza has an LL.B. From Addis Ababa University and an
LL.M. in human rights from the University of Pretoria in South
We will now begin.
STATEMENT OF MR. GIRUM ALEMAYEHU, CO-FOUNDER, ETHIOPIAN
AMERICAN DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL
Mr. Alemayehu. Chairman Smith, Ranking Member Bass, and
distinguished members of the committee, thank you for the
opportunity to testify on the situation in Ethiopia.
I would like to open my testimony first by thanking my
Representative, the Honorable Mike Coffman from Colorado
District 6, for his support to the Ethiopian-American
constituents in his district and for giving us the forum to
voice our concern about current developments in Ethiopia.
I also would like to recognize the active participation of
all Ethiopians, from all walks of life, in advocating the
passage of H. Res. 128.
H. Res. 128 was passed on April 10, 2018, and in the same
month, the long-lived struggles of the Ethiopian people
resulted in disintegration of the EPRDF from within. The former
Prime Minister was unable to control the situation, even after
declaring the state of emergency, and resigned.
Following that, a new, vibrant Prime Minister was
appointed. I give full credit to Dr. Abiy Ahmed, Lemma Megersa,
Gedu Andargachew, and Demeke Mekonnen for their extraordinary
work in transforming Ethiopia from a looming ethnic-based civil
war into unprecedented civil peace.
Ethiopia is undergoing peaceful changes unlike any that has
been seen in its long history. After 27 years of dictatorial
rule, Ethiopians for the first time are now seeing the dawn of
a new day in which they are regaining hope and confidence in
Over the past 6 months, we have seen things none of us
expected in our wildest imagination. To put some examples, the
state of emergency was lifted; many political prisoners were
released; Ethiopians who were denied entry into Ethiopia are
now receiving a hero's welcome.
Peace was finally achieved with neighboring Eritrea. The
phone service and flights are reinstated. They are also working
hard to reconnect the countries through the five roads. Some of
the roads that were heavily mined are now being repaired for
commercial use between the two countries.
The government has made a significant stride toward the
market economy and even offered to partially privatize some of
the government-owned businesses. Ethiopian Airlines and
Ethiopian Telecom are the two biggest that are slated for
The press is operating without being muzzled by the
government, and independent media networks are allowed to work
With all the changes happening there, there are some
All over the country, nearly 2 million people have been
forced out of their homes to escape violence, particularly
Oromos from the Ethiopian Somali region, Gedeos from Oromia,
Wolaytas from South region, and Amharas from Benishangul Gumuz.
Most of them are women, children, and the elderly.
The attempt to take the life of the new Prime Minister at a
public support rally in Addis Ababa this past June has yet to
be resolved in spite of help from FBI investigators from the
USA. There were highly publicized cases of mob justice in
Shashemene in Oromia and Bure in Amhara regions.
The terror unleashed in Jigjiga, the capital of the
Ethiopia-Somalia region, where six churches were burned down,
priests were killed, and people labeled as highlanders were
viciously murdered in public squares.
All these signs, I believe, show the weakness in the
institutions that safeguard law and order, human rights and
democracy. The last 27 years, the EPRDF has weakened the
institutions to be subservient to it.
The U.S. Can help strengthen the institutions by providing
resources for capacity building of the Human Rights Commission,
the Election Commission, and the Broadcast Authority as
independent, competent, and credible institutions.
We would like the USA to urge the Ethiopian Government to:
Create an independent commission to conduct a full, credible,
and transparent investigation into the killings, detention,
torture, and instances of excessive use of force by security
forces, and hold accountable security forces accused of such
actions through public proceedings, and to publicly release the
written findings from such an investigation;
Organize an independent commission that oversees the
reorganization of the Human Rights Commission, the Election
Commission, and the Broadcast Authority to be independent
Conduct a full, credible, and transparent investigation
into the recent ethnic violence that led to loss of life and
displacement of a large number of Ethiopians, including those
that targeted Amharas in Benishangul, Oromos in Somali region,
Gedeos in Oromia region, and Wolyatas in Southern region, and
hold accountable those responsible for those human rights
And to call for an open, constructive dialogue with all the
opposition forces, both at home and abroad, armed and peaceful,
in order to chart the country's future together.
I know, Mr. Chairman, under your leadership, your committee
in this House will do its part for well-being of the Ethiopian
people. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee,
for the opportunity to appear before you today. I stand ready
to answer any question you might have.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Alemayehu follows:]
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Mr. Smith. Thank you so very, very much.
STATEMENT OF MR. JAMAL SAID, PRESIDENT, OROMO COMMUNITY OF
Mr. Said. Chairman Chris Smith, Ranking Member Karen Bass,
Members of Congress, Ambassador Tibor Nagy, fellow panelists,
and distinguished guests, I offer my gratitude to my
Congressman, Mike Coffman, great ally of the Ethiopian-
Americans in his district, for the opportunity to represent not
only Oromo Community of Denver but to speak to the concerns
shared by Oromo and other communities across the U.S. And
When we brought to you the demands of the Oromo youth, who
are known as Qeerroo, we in the diaspora stepped up to speak
for them because their voices were not heard in the
international community. Now, with many of the reforms, voices
that were once silenced are finding expression and they can be
And we are grateful that you, Chairman Smith and Ranking
Member Bass, have followed up with a congressional delegation
to Ethiopia on August 23rd, where you recognized, met with, and
spoke with Qeerroo in Addis Ababa.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's strong reforms are certainly to
be celebrated. Now it is necessary to consolidate and to build
on these reforms in order to bring opportunity and prosperity
to the Qeerroo and to the country.
Everyone thought that Ethiopia was on the verge of collapse
until the Qeerroo proved to be disciplined, sustained, and
nonviolent in their modern form of resistance. They created the
opening that ushered in this era of change.
I want to remind you of the need to ensure that the benefit
and the opportunity created now with the grassroots. Those who
took the greatest risk and have made the greatest sacrifice
must not be forgotten or marginalized again.
At this point, most key demands of the Oromo protesters
have not yet been met, but they have hope and we have hope.
The first is land rights. The first line of resistance was
over the loss of ancestral land. This matter has not yet been
addressed. The land of indigenous Oromo, Anuak, Sidama, and
many other peoples were turned into a commodity for sale or
lease without their knowledge or consent.
Another is language rights. A major demand of Oromo youth
is to gain access to opportunity and shared prosperity. The
need to adapt Afaan Oromo as a Federal working language in
Ethiopia alongside Amharic remains a top priority. In day-to-
day reality, access to a vast array of opportunities is
currently blocked for those who do not speak Amharic.
Another key demand is for justice and accountability. You
should be aware that, despite the release of prisoners in
Ethiopia, the killing and the displacement of Oromo and other
people in some areas has intensified, particularly in East
Hararghe, West Hararghe, Bale, Guji, and Borana. Over 2 million
people are now displaced across the country, destitute, in
urgent need of international assistance to be resettled back in
The many cases of disappearance and imprisonment highlight
the need for an independent commission created to conduct a
full investigation and release its findings and
Regarding the demand of inclusive governance, Ethiopia is
home to multiple communities who have been marginalized. A
democratic Federal system where power is not monopolized at the
center can ensure that diverse views and interests in Ethiopia
are served. To attain a transition to democracy from
authoritarian rule, free and fair elections must be carried out
in the context of a robust civil society, with an in-person and
independent electoral vote.
I summarize my written remarks by saying that the daily
lives of ordinary Oromo and Ethiopian people have not yet
improved, but the people have hope and they have appreciated
the opening offered by Abiy's reform. Even the Qeerroo from the
most deprived areas will point out the marginalization has
become deeply institutionalized. To undo these arrangements
takes vision, time, patience, and collaborative efforts.
The Qeerroo are eagerly committed to joining in the task.
They understand that the U.S. Congress has been a great ally
who has stood with them. We in the diaspora are pleased to
continue to play a supportive role in this journey.
Finally, my written testimony includes my recommendations
to the subcommittee which I believe will help Ethiopia
transition to a democracy.
Thank you for this opportunity, Mr. Chairman. I yield the
remaining of my time.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Said follows:]
[GRAPHIC(S) NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]
Mr. Smith. Thank you so very much.
And I would like to now ask Ms. Estelle, if you could give
us your testimony.
STATEMENT OF MS. EMILY ESTELLE, SENIOR ANALYST, CRITICAL
THREATS PROJECT, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE
Ms. Estelle. Chairman Smith, Ranking Member Bass, and
distinguished members of the subcommittee, thank you for the
opportunity to speak about Ethiopia's strategic importance. I
will focus on the implications of Ethiopia's potential
destabilization and present risks to U.S. national security
interests in the Horn of Africa.
Ethiopia is a key partner to secure U.S. interests. I am
aware of the current optimism about its trajectory, and I want
to share that optimism, but I must raise reasons for concern.
There is a risk that local and regional conflicts,
exacerbated by geopolitical competition, will destabilize
Ethiopia and expose the weakness of partner-reliant U.S.
strategies. Direct U.S. interests are at risk in the Horn of
Africa, including the fight against al-Qaeda and ISIS and
freedom of movement in the Red Sea.
Ethiopia faces a rapid political transition and ethnic
conflict that could escalate and challenge its stability. Much
of the unrest is on the border of the Somali regional state,
where Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed also faces resistance to his
consolidation of power. Sustained conflict could mobilize
Ethiopia's ethnic Somali population, potentially creating an
opportunity for al-Shabaab to recruit or even attack in
The Abiy government approach, which includes mass arrests
and internet blackouts, could exacerbate rather than solve the
problem. Instability in Ethiopia would undermine U.S. efforts
to neutralize al-Shabaab, al-Qaeda's Somalia-based affiliate,
and reverberate regionally. Persistent ethnic violence or an
insurgency from anti-Abiy security officials would draw the
regime's focus inward, affecting regional peacekeeping and
American, Somali, and African Union forces have disrupted
al-Shabaab in central Somalia and improved security in
Mogadishu but have not yet broken its hold on large areas of
southern Somalia. These gains will evaporate if Ethiopia,
Kenya, or Uganda, which faces an escalating political crisis,
falters and redeploys troops home.
The problem of al-Qaeda and ISIS must also be considered
alongside issues of human rights and democracy. These groups
gain strength by defending and governing Sunni populations made
vulnerable by conflict and societal disruption. Conditions in
Ethiopia could create this opportunity.
Ethiopia's conflicts typically divide along ethnic lines
rather than confessional or sectarian ones, but al-Qaeda has a
strategy of coopting ethnic conflicts and is succeeding this
way in West Africa, for example.
Both al-Qaeda's and al-Shabaab's ambitions extend beyond
greater Somalia, which includes parts of eastern Ethiopia, to
all of East Africa. ISIS, which is growing in Somalia, could
also target Ethiopia. Legitimate and responsive governance for
all Ethiopians both protects their human rights and inoculates
them against extremist organizations.
The Ethiopia-Eritrea rapprochement is another positive
development that nonetheless raises threats to U.S. interests.
The UAE's facilitation of the agreement occurs in the dangerous
context of a larger contest among Middle Eastern states.
Escalating geopolitical competition in the Horn of Africa is
layering proxy conflicts onto existing fault lines and
increasing the potential for instability, even while generating
some positive effects.
Power plays by external actors have caused political
turmoil in Somalia, weakening the Federal Government on which
the U.S. counter-al-Shabaab strategy relies. Militarization of
the Horn and the southern Red Sea has already affected
commercial trade and threatens freedom of navigation.
Russia and China are also expanding their influence. The
Ethiopia-Eritrea rapprochement may accelerate this trend, as
Russia strikes basing deals with Eritrea and Djibouti, which is
home to a vital U.S. base, faces potential isolation that may
drive it toward China.
Experiences elsewhere have shown that supporting strongmen
does not guarantee security. Ethiopia is no exception. In
supporting Ethiopia, we must recognize that redressing
legitimate grievances and protecting human rights yields long-
term security dividends. Investment in good governance and
security also prevents groups like al-Shabaab and ISIS from
attempting to coopt local grievances. The U.S. must also weigh
the values of outsourcing foreign policy objectives to partners
against the potential adverse effects of their involvement.
The U.S. can begin to shape its approach to Ethiopia in two
ways: By first using all available tools to help Prime Minister
Abiy demilitarize his response to ethnic violence, resolve
internal disputes, and conduct necessary structural reforms
peacefully and acceptably to all sides; second, ensuring that
the U.S. remains the sole guarantor of its interests in the
region by not relying on the UAE or any other outside power to
manage these interests.
Ethiopia is a critical country in an increasingly important
region. The U.S. must recognize the dangers of rapidly changing
dynamics in the Horn of Africa to prepare for worst-case
scenarios even as we regard new developments with optimism.
Thank you, and I look forward to your questions.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Estelle follows:]
[GRAPHIC(S) NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]
Mr. Smith. Thank you so very much.
STATEMENT OF MR. YOSEPH M. BADWAZA, SENIOR PROGRAM OFFICER--
AFRICA, FREEDOM HOUSE
Mr. Badwaza. Chairman Smith, Ranking Member Bass, and
members of the subcommittee, it is an honor to testify before
you today. And I would also like to recognize the
subcommittee's great leadership on human rights issues in
We are witnessing a pivotal moment in Ethiopia's history.
If reform succeeds, Ethiopia could become one of the world's
few victories for democratic governance, with significant
implications for the entire continent.
Since the selection of Abiy Ahmed as the Prime Minister, we
have seen many positive changes. Since a lot of the positive
developments have been raised in the first panel and by my
distinguished panelists, I would like to focus on the
challenges and the recommendations that we would like to make
to make the change even deeper and more inclusive.
The positive steps of releasing thousands of political
prisoners and the amnesty for opposition party members,
including those that are designated as terrorist organizations
by Ethiopia's Parliament, and also the plan to limit the term
of the Prime Minister's office by making constitutional
changes, and initiating legal reforms, including the charities
and societies antiterrorism law, and the plans to liberalize
the economy, ending the state monopoly, and by appointing
reform-minded executives to key economic positions, is
something we should all be recognizing.
And another key positive step is also the move that the new
Prime Minister took to end 20 years of hostilities between
Ethiopia and Eritrea.
When it comes to the challenge, again, despite the many
positive developments, these challenges still remain.
The first one is, while popular support for Abiy and
reformers in the ruling party appears to be strong, internal
power struggles have not yet been resolved. Powerful members of
the establishment are not completely convinced of the wisdom of
reform measures and continue to lament that EPRDF is abandoning
its ideological foundations of developmental state and
revolutionary democracy in favor of neo liberalism and populist
Because there has been minimal distinction between the
state and the ruling party, the internal EPRDF crisis directly
impacts the way the government conducts its business. As a
result, party and government officials who are not on board
with Abiy's reform agenda are in a position to derail reforms.
There is also a need to revive--the challenge of reviving
independent media and civil society that have been decimated
through years of violence from the government and draconian
legislation. Ethnic-based clashes also threaten the pace and
sustainability of reforms, as fear of protracted violence and
political instability persist. In the past few months, ethnic-
based identity clashes killed hundreds of civilians and
displaced over a million. Government strategy in this area
seems to be largely reactive.
With the liberalization of the political environment and a
new tolerance for free speech, we have seen heightened
nationalistic and identity-based rhetoric putting enormous
strain on the long tradition of coexistence among Ethiopian
The antigovernment protests that led to the current change
in Ethiopia were primarily organized and led by the youth.
Reform measures are generating high expectations among the
youth and could lead to resentment and unrest if left unmet.
Armed members of former insurgent groups are returning
home. It is not clear whether these former fighters have gone
through proper demobilization, rehabilitation, and
reintegration processes. The injection of such forces into an
already-tense environment could easily fuel violence, and there
have been incidents of violent confrontations between
government security forces and these former fighters.
Other than promising to make the next elections free and
fair, the government has not yet rolled out a roadmap for
electoral reforms, nor has it conducted the constitutionally
required census that was postponed in November 2017 for
security reasons. Updated census data is crucial for elections.
Past findings were bitterly contested and led to violence.
Lack of public trust in the security service is also a
challenge. While there have been encouraging signs of restraint
by security forces dealing with crowds in recent months, public
trust in law enforcement remains very low, and numerous
instance of abuse remain unaddressed. Widespread skepticism
about the government's handling of the June bombing at the pro-
Abiy rally in Addis Ababa and also the death of the chief
engineer of the Grand Renaissance Dam reflect that trust
deficit. This in the future poses a serious problem, impeding
legitimate law enforcement work and resulting in extralegal
measures, as observed in recent months in parts of the country.
Some policy recommendations that we would like to propose
are: For the United States to ensure the viability of reforms,
the United States should press the Government of Ethiopia to
mend longstanding ethnic grievances.
Abiy's vision of unity, reconciliation, and inclusion
should include concrete strategies aimed at fostering social
cohesion. The government should seek to prevent and resolve
violent clashes in a manner that involves affected communities
by establishing an early-warning system and investigating and
It is critical that the government address youth
expectations, undertaking economic reforms to generate job
creation, and provide education opportunities that allow youth
opportunities for the future.
With national elections in less than 2 years, the
importance of thorough reforms to ensure free and fair
elections cannot be overstated. Eliminating draconian barriers
to participation, including political party registration rules,
the structure and composition of the National Electoral Board
of Ethiopia, and the number of seats in wereda and kebele
councils are some of the longstanding questions that need to be
addressed before any credible election is to be conducted.
Conducting the overdue census should also be part of
preparations for elections.
The government should accelerate the process of reforming
the criminal justice system too, including revising and
repealing repressive laws that impede freedoms of expression,
association, and assembly; and, importantly, ensuring that the
revision of these laws should be transparent, include all
stakeholders, and occur in a timely manner.
There is also a need to ensure a system of accountability
for serious human rights abuses that occurred over the past 27
years of the EPRDF rule. This may not necessarily mean that
aggressive prosecution should occur, but it could entail a
truth commission or another form of inquiry that allows the
opportunity to air grievances, question officials, obtain
documents, and seek closure. Such an approach can forestall
extralegal acts of vengeance against former ruling party
There is also a need to reform the judiciary and law
enforcement. It is to undertake comprehensive reform of these
sectors to make them independent of political control and
influence. The police forces and courts have been routinely
used to level spurious and politically motivated charges
against critics of the ruling party. Revision of restrictive
laws, such as the antiterrorism proclamation, will have little
impact in the absence of reforms to the criminal justice system
The U.S. could also help deepen political reform in
Ethiopia by increasing U.S. financial and technical support for
elections, including capacity-building for institutions such as
the National Election Board. The 2019 local elections will be a
key test for Abiy's ability to advance his reform agenda and
could build positive momentum and experience leading up to the
2020 national elections.
The U.S. also should provide robust support to strengthen
civil society and independent media. This would take advantage
of the new political space and test its breadth in practice.
To the extent allowed by Ethiopian laws, the U.S. should
also support capacity-building for political parties, which are
underdeveloped after years of repression and in need of
assistance if they are to offer meaningful competition.
The U.S. could also encourage substantive engagement in the
reform process by the U.S.-based diaspora, which could include
exchange programs that aim at mentorship of professionals in
key sectors associated with reform efforts.
Finally, if reforms continue to advance, the U.S. can
strengthen economic ties with Ethiopia and expand U.S. economic
support to assist the new government in providing tangible
democratic dividends to a broad swath of population, enabling
political reform to become clearly associated with an improved
standard of living in what remains a largely impoverished
country where growth has been unevenly distributed.
I thank you, and I look forward to your questions.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Badwaza follows:]
[GRAPHIC(S) NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]
Mr. Smith. Mr. Badwaza, thank you very much for your
I would like to yield to Ranking Member Bass.
Ms. Bass. Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I just have a couple of quick questions, but let me just
begin by thanking all of you, because in each of your
comments--and we have your written documents here--you give
very specific recommendations. So I was just speaking with a
member of my staff that I want to compile all of those
recommendations and look and see, you know, where we might be
But I just have a couple of questions. I believe it was
Alemayehu who mentioned the independent commission.
Did you mention an independent commission? And I wanted to
know--because you said that in the context of how the U.S.
could be helpful. And I wanted to know what you meant. Who
would be on an independent commission?
And you also mentioned, I believe, people being--especially
the Oromo people--being forced out of their homes and people
going back. And how did you see that process taking place?
Mr. Alemayehu. Thank you for the question.
When I meant the independent commission, through the last
27 years, every institution is either diminished or became
subservient of the----
Ms. Bass. No, I understood that.
Mr. Alemayehu [continuing]. Dictatorial rule of the EPRDF.
So, on this----
Ms. Bass. Who would be on an independent commission?
Mr. Alemayehu [continuing]. Independent commission, I am
contemplating Ethiopians who have, you know, an independent
view of this ethnic federalism to be in that part and to watch
the election and to prepare for that, and also putting that
with the watchful eye of the United States, with the support.
Ms. Bass. So it was also mentioned about the Magnitsky
Human Rights Accountability Act and the U.S. Government
applying to Ethiopian Government officials. Why would we do
that right now? And who would you be targeting? I mean, I know
some of the offenders--Prime Minister Abiy has gone after
Mr. Alemayehu. I think all this is related to the capacity
of the Ethiopian investigators and the last June assassination
attempt toward Dr. Abiy at the rally just end up nowhere, and
no public explanation is rendered as far as the attempt was
concerned. Maybe this is an opportune time for the United
States to help in expanding that investigation and let the
Ethiopians know about it.
On the other question, the Oromos were--it is a Somalia
region, where the Somali region leader forced--due to a
territorial or some kind of misunderstanding there, a lot of
Oromos were pushed out from the Somali region, and they were
not reinstated well yet. And this probably goes to the capacity
of the Ethiopian Government.
We are right now with the enthusiasm that Dr. Abiy brought
with the reconciliation and peace and unity. How that is
translated into the ground on that region is still
Ms. Bass. Okay.
Do any other panelists want to contribute?
Okay. Go ahead.
Mr. Said. Thank you, Ranking Member Bass.
You know, over 2 million Oromos were displaced from the
Somali region. It is not--Oromos and the Somalis have never
conflict. They are brothers. They are the same people. Their
displacement is politically motivated by the TPLF regime.
As far as the Magnitsky goes, for the atrocities that have
been committed for the 27 years, the country has been looted.
When you met the youth in the communities in Ethiopia, you have
heard the stories of Kefyalew Tefera, the young Oromo man who
was snatched from the street and put in prison, and then he
lost his two legs----
Ms. Bass. Yeah.
Mr. Said [continuing]. In the torture chambers.
Ms. Bass. So I was trying to get at if you were suggesting
that the Magnitsky Act be enforced before there is a truth and
reconciliation process within Ethiopia, or that that would be
one of the results.
Again, when I looked at your recommendations--and I
mentioned I want to compile them--I am just trying to figure
out how to move forward with them.
So there would be a reconciliation and then the U.S. would
respond? Or are you saying that the U.S. should respond before?
Mr. Said. I am sure--I think in House Resolution 128 the
Magnitsky Human Rights Act apply globally. So----
Ms. Bass. Right.
Mr. Said [continuing]. The U.S. could act now to those
offenders, some of them who are on the run. For example, the
head of security forces, Getachew Assefa, is on the run.
Ms. Bass. Right.
Mr. Said. So the United States can be able to apply that.
Ms. Bass. Okay. Thank you.
Mr. Said. Thank you very much.
Ms. Bass. Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Smith. Thank you, Ms. Bass.
Let me just ask a few questions about, first of all,
trafficking. In the earlier panel with the Ambassador, the
Secretary raised the issue of human trafficking in Ethiopia. I
actually, 15 years ago or so, went to a shelter in Addis that
was funded by the U.S. Government largely, and many of the
women there had been trafficked into the Middle East. And they
were the lucky ones who, obviously, came back, were rescued.
And they were learning some excellent skills so that they could
be employed. And, again, the U.S. taxpayer was funding much of
it. And I think it is a great use of our dollar, to help people
who have been horribly abused.
But Ethiopia remains on Tier 2, and it has some very huge
gaps, particularly in the area of child sex trafficking. And I
would hope all of you, if you want to respond or not, would
take back that we need to keep this as a priority in our
dialogue with the new Prime Minister and his government.
He has inherited, as I said before, just one problem after
another. And certainly the cruelty that is imposed upon women
and children with trafficking is among the worst on the planet.
So I just would encourage you that we all be very proactive and
helpful with his government on that.
And if you wanted to speak to that, please do.
On the issue of truth and reconciliation, you know, the
South Africans really wrote the book on that, with Desmond Tutu
leading the 17-member panel back in 1995. And if my memory is
correct, some 21,000 people were interviewed. It became a very,
very highly visible process. And there were some trying and
successfully destroying documents leading up to its creation
and even after its creation to avoid the accountability that
this would help bring. But it had that incredibly laudable
impact of moving the country forward.
And my hope is--and, Jamal, you had this in your testimony
today. It is certainly something that needs to be very
seriously considered, but, obviously, the call is to be made by
the Ethiopian Government itself. If you wanted to further
elaborate on that, that would be excellent.
And if I could, Ms. Estelle, you brought up--I think one of
the things--my big takeaway as we got on the plane to come back
was that there needs to be a managing of expectations by all
the ethnic communities. This is going to take a long time, even
though some very high-impact things have been done by the Prime
Minister and done very successfully. Everyone is talking
positively, but we have to make sure that everybody does not at
some point say, ``Oh, well, now we are disappointed,'' and then
there is a reversion back to violence, which would be the worst
possible scenario. We need to stay at this, no matter how long
it takes, and to encourage peaceful transition and
reconciliation among all the disparate elements of the
Again, Ms. Estelle, you did bring out that very, very
dangerous situation with the Somali ethnic community, and maybe
you would want to elaborate on that further. I did ask the
Secretary, pursuant to your testimony, about that earlier. I
would appreciate that.
And, Mr. Badwaza, you--on the elections, everyone always
wants an election ASAP, but it has to be done right, with a
full accounting as to who is eligible to vote, and the whole
process. I was there in 2005 when President Meles hijacked the
election, and it was one of the worst processes I have ever
seen for an election.
And so we want a free and fair and totally transparent
election. So the United States, I know, can be helpful to the
Ethiopians. What date should there be? Should it be an
aspirational goal or should it be more hardened, as to when
that date should be?
Parenthetically, Karen Bass and I and our staff, we were
slated to go to the DR Congo right after our visit to Ethiopia,
but we couldn't get in. We were denied a visa by the President.
And, of course, the issue of elections there and the
postponement of, for what I believe to be nefarious purposes,
to stay in power, not because all the i's are dotted and the
But we have to be helpful to the Ethiopians to get that
right as well. And I think you can speak to that very well, if
you would, from Freedom House.
And then I will yield to Mike for any questions he might
have, please. The reconciliation.
Oh, and one other thing if I could. Archbishop Desmond Tutu
had the gravitas to leave that--the respect of so many to leave
that. Are there people within the church community or the human
rights community that would come to mind? You don't have to
name names, but I am sure there are some people who would play
that role fairly and dispassionately so that it can be a very,
very positive experience for the country.
Mr. Alemayehu. Thank you.
On the first question on trafficking women, children from
Ethiopia to other countries, this issue is, you know, very
rampant and very common in Ethiopia in every direction. And it
is--as I see it, it is, you know, it is relies upon the
economic capacity of the country.
Many young women eluded by some dealers in the farmland or
in the remote part of Ethiopia telling them, you know, there is
an opportunity in other countries. Well, there is no
opportunity in their village. So they are subject for this kind
of sex trafficking and as we have been seeing in our recent
So on this situation, you know, I am--the United States can
play a lot in helping small neighborhood capacity building and
creating an opportunity, helping the government, you know, to
create an opportunity within the village so that, you know,
young girls are not travelling from rural area to town to
create an opportunity to earn a living and support their poor
We know that Ethiopians, we are stricken by poverty. We
have only our, you know, determination to succeed. So that is
what the young kids, girls, going to somewhere they don't know
with nothing in their hand to support their family. So it is
capacity building help, an opportunity in the village.
On the second question, on the peace and reconciliation, I
work with churches. I serve in church. And there are--
Ethiopians usually we respect elderly and religious figures, so
we can use religious figure in Ethiopia, the elderly to channel
this very abstract concept of peace and reconciliation, because
the peace and reconciliation process that we are in is good. We
don't know where it ends because sometimes accountability is
missing in that peace and reconciliation.
So my suggestion is an academic think tank was religious
figures we can--you know, the United States help in formulating
or helping the government to formulate some kind of elderly
group who can, you know, explain this peace and reconciliation
to the young people who are expecting a result right now.
And I don't think, you know, the current situation allows
to satisfy all the younger generation to achieve economic
prosperity and what they were expecting from the new
government. So that is my suggestion, trying to formulate the
elderly group based on religious father figures. Thank you.
Mr. Said. Again, thank you.
To respond to the trafficking it is very important to raise
what was happening for the last 27 years. The TPLF and their
families owned trafficking companies. Trafficking has been
legalized in Ethiopia very much. They are the ones who
transport young men and women to the Arab countries and
everywhere but in--in another side they are accepting money
from the United States Government to prevent trafficking, but
in the other side they are the ones who involve it in
trafficking. On this, thanks to our youths and Dr. Abiy, with
Dr. Abiy administration and with the removal of TPLF from
power, the trafficking can be under control.
As far as the truth and the reconciliation goes, I am sure
you have met Abba Gadaa Bayana Sanbato in your visit to Addis
Ababas. He is the leader of Abba Gadaa in Oromo. So the civics
association needs to be strengthened. A civic association like
a Gadaa system need to be strengthened in Ethiopia because for
the last 27 years the TPLF eroded, totally wiped out the civic
societies so with elders we can have significant changes and
then we have a proven result because the Oromo elders have
played a significant role with the Somali elders to bring the
change that we are seeing in Somalia's region now.
So I will say strengthen the civic society in Ethiopia and
repeal the antiterrorism law act in the charity law so that
will help. Thank you very much.
Ms. Estelle. Mr. Chairman, to speak briefly to your
question about the Somali population in Ethiopia, the main
point I want to make is that just because the conflict in that
region is not yet connected to al-Shabaab doesn't mean that it
can't become that way.
So al-Qaeda globally has a strategy of working within local
conflicts and essentially changing their character to serve
their own objective. So if we look at West Africa right now,
there is a case where groups affiliated with al-Qaeda and other
jihadist groups have taken on the rhetoric of local ethnic
conflict and inserted themselves into conflicts and gained
support that way.
And so I think that that is a possibility that we must be
very aware of in Ethiopia if conflict persists and continues to
fester, particularly in an environment where al-Qaeda
leadership is emphasizing East Africa as a place for expansion
So while I don't think this is an immediate concern, it is
one that we certainly need to be prepared for, especially with
Ethiopia's regional importance. Where Ethiopia goes the region
is going to follow, so it is the worst case but one that we
must guard against. Thank you.
Mr. Badwaza. Chairman Smith, thank you.
I would like to make a contribution on the issue of
Reconciliation and Truth Comission. It has been said, I think
rightly, on the first panel that the state of issues in
Ethiopia and elsewhere are clearly different than this calls
for, I think, a deeper examination of what is on the ground in
To start with, we still have the same ruling party
technically in power that is being accused of all the
atrocities that have occurred in the past 27 years, so there is
going to be a lot of interests that are going to be affected
when we embark on this part of ensuring accountability.
But the key is, I think, where the majority of citizens
seem to be in agreement is that there needs to be some process
which may be an opportunity to air grievances, which may be to
provide an official sort of a national closure which may be a
forum for people who have suffered so much over the past 27
years at the hands of the security forces essentially with
torture chambers and even in some cases unmarked graves of
dissidents being accused of.
So the issue for me is to carefully analyze what model
would be effective for Ethiopia and not to lose sight of the
fact that there is an imperative to at least provide this forum
for airing grievances.
On the issue of, I think, the elections, that is where I
see, I think, the enormous task where Abiy's new government is
going to be tested in terms of delivering and addressing
expectations. One thing in this connection that I would like to
make a point is that as the reforms take root and as the change
get broadened there is also a need to expand this new group of
leadership that Ethiopia is having to wider and more reform-
In other words, as we encourage the Prime Minister to carry
on on the path that he has been following, there is a need also
to get him and encourage him to continue some sort of embarking
on some sort of a delegation of power and introducing many
other supporters of the change to the floor so that he should
not necessarily be personally expected to do a lot of the
things that is expecting him to.
Coming back to the elections, if we start with the 2019
local elections which have been postponed from this year, there
is enormous logistical and technical challenges that need to be
met first. The first one is that there is this notion that
there are over 3\1/2\ million seats across the country that
need to be filled by the local and national elections, and this
is partly what TPLF deliberately did since 2008 to discourage
opposition parties to be able to field candidates. So there is
a lot of questions from this newly reviving opposition groups
to fix that system before any election is going to take place.
There is also this longstanding issue of the independence
of the national electoral board of Ethiopia. It has been widely
recognized as a rubber stamp body where successive elections
were won by EPRDF very single handedly with 100 percent
So there is this crucial task of doing these reforms before
thinking of the logistical aspects of elections. And
increasingly these opposition groups are indicating that this
change should be given a priority.
So I think other than in addition to supporting the Prime
Minister and his team to deepen these reforms, it would be wise
to encourage them to roll out their plan first and have the
stakeholders have say in what is being planned. It could be
running--conducting the elections now or it could be maybe
waiting a little bit so that everyone could have their views
aired so that we will not be going back to the types of
elections that have been taking place in Ethiopia for the past
So the logistical and technical and also legal challenge
need to be addressed first. And I think the U.S. could be very
helpful in encouraging the government, one, in providing
technical support to the legal reform process that is taking
place right now that would--that is expected to help civil
society organizations and the independent media speak freely,
engage the government, and other stakeholders in wide-ranging
democratic processes including the elections.
Mr. Smith. Thank you.
Before yielding to Mike Coffman, I just would note that
during our visit, and we have worked on this in this committee
for years, but I raised with Prime Minister Abiy the issue of
the first 1,000 days from conception to the second birthday in
food security. I gave him Roger Thurow's book which is
entitled--he has been one of the experts who has testified
before this committee--on the importance of the first 1,000
days from conception to the second birthday to mitigate child
mortality, to hopefully put a huge dent in stunting, which is a
huge problem in Ethiopia and elsewhere, to increase the
strength and ability of women to overcome some of the problems
that lead to maternal mortality.
If the food and the supplementation is sufficient, both
mother and baby are healthier. And obviously for the child,
some of the cognitive loss that occurs when there is food
insecurity can never be reclaimed. So this is that critical
So for the record, I gave Roger Thurow's book to him. I
made a strong appeal to him to work obviously with his own
government but also to work with us because USAID does have a
very robust program on this led so ably by Beth Dunford at
USAID on the first 1,000 days.
So I hope all of us, while we are working on the political
side--and I know you all do this--continue to emphasize the
humanitarian and health side as well. We will do an additional
hearing on this in the near future, but I just want to get that
on the record.
The Prime Minister seemed very empathetic to those goals
obviously, so the first 1,000 days is transformational. I have
never seen in my entire career one program that can do so much.
I mean, the PEPFAR program, all those do enormous good in
mortality and morbidity really stopping the deaths attributable
to AIDS. But this one, it is just--the kids are stronger. The
mothers are stronger. And the next 25,000 or 30,000 days of
their lives are that much improved when you get the first 1,000
So I would like to yield to Mr. Coffman.
Mr. Coffman. Thank you.
I just have one final question for all the panelists,
starting with you, Mr. Alemayehu, and that is, how do you think
that given the history of the United States and Ethiopia,
sometimes positive, sometimes not positive, but how do the
people of Ethiopia and you feel about the United States right
Mr. Alemayehu. Thank you, Congressman.
It is a really good question, and it has just touched me
deeply. The United States has been helping Ethiopians since the
relationship began in 1903. I am one of the beneficiary of this
United States support to Ethiopia. Sometimes, as you said, it
might be good, sometimes bad because of our leaders in
Ethiopia, not because of United States.
I came to United States from the university which is built
by United States in 1953 in Alemaya. Now it is called Haramaya.
That was the university I was working. It was built by the
United States. I was--my first English teacher was a Peace
Corps gentleman. I love him dearly, and they showed us the good
So I deeply thank the United States for their help and
thank you for that question. And now, with the short past, we
have some, you know, questionable support. It is not because of
the United States support. It is our people who are bad on the
top of, you know, the government who are using that support to
the wrong direction.
So I am thinking--I am, you know, suggesting any help, even
if it is bad, it helps somebody in that country which needs
that help. So we--Ethiopians are mindful of, you know, the
United States' support and we love it. We appreciate it. I am
thankful of that. Thank you.
Mr. Coffman. Thank you.
Mr. Said, how do you think that--how do you view the United
States, but how do you think the people of Ethiopia right now
view the United States?
Mr. Said. Thank you so much. It is a great question.
Let me start from this, from the Member of Congress. Some
of you guys, like Representative Mike Coffman and
Representative Chairman Chris Smith, your names are household
names in the in most of the Ethiopian people. The Karos, not
just me, the Karos who bring, who made this days possible, they
believe that the United States Government and the Members of
Congress are the greatest alive in their darkest time.
We believe the help of the United States played a great
role in bringing the change that we are witnessing, the change,
you know, the changes that we see, the praise that we are
giving to the Prime Minister. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was
ordinary, a normal person about a year and a half ago. So the--
our youth struggle brought him to the frontline.
So I believe, as my colleague said, the role of the United
States it is not something that we see in Ethiopia and here in
the diaspora as something that we see very lightly. So it is
great, and we consider United States as a great ally of
And the other thing, something that I have to add is that
Ethiopia has never been governed by the multiethnic Federal--
democratic federalism in the past 27 years. It is led by
authoritarian rules, so people need to really understand that.
So ethnic--multiethnic democratic federalism has not been tried
in Ethiopia. People have been coexisted this. In some case that
are three different religious in one household, and we cannot
compare Ethiopia to Somalia where it is just one religion.
So we are very much a great example to the entire world
where religion can coexist, you know. We believe that we leave
that to God. So I just want to add that. Thank you so much.
Mr. Coffman. Ms. Estelle, any closing thoughts and about
U.S. influence in terms of Ethiopia and where we are right now
in terms of how the Ethiopian people see us?
Ms. Estelle. Thank you, Congressman.
I think that the U.S.-Ethiopia relationship is certainly
strong. The one point I would add is that we can't take that
strength for granted. I know this committee absolutely
understands that, but looking at the rise of China in
particular in the Horn of Africa, this week we had China
refinancing Ethiopia's debt, for example.
And so I do think the U.S. needs to be aware of competition
in that space and where other states may be gaining influence.
That said, I don't see the U.S. relationship to be particularly
at risk at this time, but that there are more people bidding
for that space than there have been previously. Thank you.
Mr. Coffman. Thank you.
Mr. Badwaza. Thank you, Mr. Coffman.
I would say, I think from the point of view of government-
to-government relationship, I agree that the relationship has
been strong. As much as the Ethiopian population looks up for
the United States and the type of freedom people have here and
the robust democratic process that takes place here, there is
also a sense of disillusionments in some occasions, for
example, that comes from--in recent years from the relationship
being overly focused on the partnership on counterterrorism and
also overly focusing on humanitarian and development support to
Ethiopia instead of publicly supporting the aspirations of
people to advance democratic ideals and freedoms and to show
solidarity when it is much needed.
In many instances that there is, I would say like to say,
there is a mixed sort of sentiment when it comes to assessing
that relationship as far as the regular Ethiopian is concerned.
Yeah. Thank you.
Mr. Coffman. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield back.
Mr. Smith. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Coffman.
And thank you to our very distinguished witnesses for your
wisdom, for your leadership, your insights. Without objection,
your full statements will be made a part of the record, and
this hearing is adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 4:29 p.m., the subcommittee was adjourned.]
A P P E N D I X
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