An Ethiopian-American human rights advocacy group writes a letter to former President Bill Clinton expressing its concern about a large donation made to the Clinton Foundation by a high-profile member of the brutal dictatorship in Ethiopia.
The Honorable William Jefferson Clinton
55 West 125th Street
New York, N.Y. 10027
Dear Mr. President,
We are writing regarding potential conflict of interest between the Clinton Foundation and the government of Ethiopia. We appeal to you to look into this matter immediately and dissociate your name and the name of your foundation from a repressive government.
We are particularly concerned about a $20 million donation to your foundation by Sheikh Mohammed Al-Amoudi, a businessman closely allied with Ethiopia’s rulers. As you may be aware, Mr. Al-Amoudi’s name has been mentioned in connection with the 9/11 tragedies.
We have reason to believe that the huge donation to the Clinton Foundation was made on behalf of the Ethiopian government. Ethiopia’s rulers have deployed tremendous resources to ensure the continuation of the Bush administration’s policy of unquestioning US support for their controversial rule.
Surprisingly, Sheikh Al-Amoudi, along with the Gates Foundation and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, is among the top five donors to your organization.
Although we believe in philanthropy, there is something troubling with this picture. By all accounts, Sheikh Al-Amoudi, the owner of Ethiopia’s famous Sheraton Hotel, is not known for much philanthropy. He has had pet projects where he lavishes cash on soccer players. Beyond that he is known more for throwing extravagant parties and weddings.
Local AIDS organizations that appealed to the billionaire for paltry sums were turned down. So why would a wealthy man from one of the poorest countries in the world say no to organizations in his country and yet easily cough up $20 million for an American organization 10,000 miles away? Is this just a coincidence that the donation was made at the start of US presidential elections?
We have strong reasons to believe Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s government is behind Sheikh Al-Amoudi’s unprecedented donation.
Mr. Zenawi stole the 2005 elections, destroyed all opposition, muffled the press, banned advocacy for human rights and made a mockery out of the rule of law. Following the elections, his troops shot and killed 193 people who protested electoral fraud, massacred innocents in Gambella and the Ogaden. They had also bombed civilians in Somalia on many occasions.
Mr. Zenawi’s government has been one of the worst violators of human rights in Africa. But it escaped any sanctions because it was a friend of the Bush Administration; it successfully exploited the administration’s preoccupation with the war on terror.
Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Genocide Watch International, US Department of State, among others, have extensively documented war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Mr. Zenawi’s government.
Ethiopia’s rulers understand that their very survival depends on the continued financial and diplomatic support of the United States. A brutal minority regime deeply hated by its own people cannot last long without outside protection.
The Zenawi folks understand that they need the continued protection of the United States to stay in power and to avoid justice. They have taken money from the mouth of the starving and spent millions on Washington lobbyists and other policy influencers. They need the legitimacy and respectability bestowed by a US administration and by people like you.
We are appreciative of all the good work done by the Clinton Foundation to alleviate suffering caused by HIV/AIDS in Ethiopia. We are particularly grateful for the work your foundation is doing to arrest transmission of the virus from mothers to children.
The work of the Clinton Foundation in Ethiopia is closely intertwined with government operations. We urge you to go beyond the government and to seek out independent community organizations that are closely working with the poor.
While we laud your AIDS work, we are disappointed that you have never spoken up against egregious human rights violations. We are disappointed Prime Minister Zenawi, a human rights abuser and a war criminal, has been given a forum and respectability at many of your Foundation’s gatherings.
A bad government backed by Western money and using the names of well-meaning people like you have created a hell on earth for 80 million Ethiopians.
In closing, we ask you do the right thing: to speak up on behalf of the poor and the oppressed and not enable a nation’s tormentors. We ask that you speak up against human rights violations in Ethiopia, distance yourself from the Ethiopian regime and disclose all funding from the regime and its allies.
Ethiopian Americans for Justice
New York, NY
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, US Department of State
Ethiopia Desk, US Department of State
Ambassador Donald Yamamoto, US Embassy in Ethiopia,