A Battle in the U.S. Congress: Lobbyists vs. Human Rights Advocates for Ethiopia

By Scott A. Morgan
American Chronicle

We all noticed last fall when the American Voters decidely threw out a Republican Congress and replaced it with the Democrats. But it is becoming clear that if WE expected a change in how things are run in Washington we were sadly mistaken.

Like in the last Republican-controlled Congress, a Bill that was designed to address the internal climate in an African Country that is an ally was introduced. Sadly it appears that it is travelling down the same road. If certain people have their way this legislation will not see the floor to be voted on.

H.R. 2003, which deals with Freedom Democracy and Human Rights in Ethiopia, was reintroduced in the House after a journey that had some treachery in it. After clearing the House International Relations Committee (now the Foreign Relations Committee) it was tabled by then Speaker Hastert. Now, under the leadership of Speaker Pelosi, it may suffer the same fate as it did in the last Congress.

The Current Government in Ethiopia has a serious image problem. Its actions were recently criticized in a report by Human Rights Watch. It released 38 political prisoners that were mainly members of the Political Opposition after an unfair trial. And the Red Cross was asked to leave the Ogaden region of the country. Also the country faces increasing scrutiny after its U.S.-backed incursion in to Somalia.

What did this African country do to try and shore up its image? It has retained one of the most powerful lobbyist groups in Washington — DLA Piper. Already the group has sent two former members of Congress, Dick Armey and Richard Gephardt, to lobby the Speaker in an effort to prevent this bill from being voted on. The government in Addis Ababa could lose substantial economic and military aid if this bill passes.

The fact is that this attempt at a backroom deal could backfire. The Congress has an even lower approval rating than the President. If this occurs, then who knows how much the average citizen will trust their member of Congress. The Ethiopian Diaspora here in the United States are organizing an effort to bring this bill to the floor so it can be voted on. Maybe Americans themselves should join this effort so that people can be heard and not the lobbyists. Isn’t that supposed to happen in the House anyway?