April 10, 2018
Today, the House of Representatives will consider a resolution that condemns human rights and governance conditions in Ethiopia. Now is the wrong time to consider this, and it should be rejected.
Since being elected to the Senate, I have made 156 country visits to Africa. Eighteen of those have been to Ethiopia, where I have watched first-hand the economic transformation that’s occurred. Their middle class is growing, and they have become a regional superpower, who is a friend of the United States. Their military is professional and capable, and they are punching above their weight in the war against terrorism that continues to plague the continent. They promote regional peace and security by being one of the top troop contributors to UN peacekeeping missions around the world.
The last few years have been tough domestically for Ethiopia on a number of fronts, but that’s not surprising for a country that’s continuing to transition from a communist to a democratic nation.
The good news is that the Ethiopian government understands that human rights and governance conditions need to improve. That’s why the timing and negative, condescending tone of this resolution could not be worse and would work against the authors’ intent. It would undercut the new prime minister at just the time he needs to be encouraged.
Just one week ago, Dr. Abiy Ahmed was sworn in as Ethiopia’s new prime minister on a mandate to improve these exact issues. He is a personal friend of mine; in fact, I was with him on my last visit in October, and we prayed together for Ethiopia’s disunity to be healed.
During his inauguration, Prime Minister Abiy stated his commitment to accountability, justice, freedom, and the rule of law. He expressed his commitment to allowing true democracy (and by extension, political parties of all persuasions) to flourish, underscoring why he is the one who has what it takes to bring real change to Ethiopia.
We should give Prime Minister Abiy the opportunity to prove himself as a national leader before having the full weight of the United States House of Representatives tossed against him. A heavy-handed, strongly-worded resolution condemning his government, so soon after being sworn in, will severely curtail Abiy’s ability to enact needed reforms. In fact, they could backfire by fueling opposition groups in Ethiopia to undermine his entire administration.
Now is not the time to move a resolution with a tone like this. Ethiopia is a key friend, and Prime Minister Abiy deserves a chance at a strong start. The House can give him that by rejecting H. Res. 128.
Inhofe is the senior senator for Oklahoma.