May 19, 2005 The Honorable
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
US Department of State
2201 C. St. NW
Washington, D.C 20520
Dear Dr. Rice:
Ethiopia is at a tipping point. By all accounts, the people of Ethiopia have demonstrated their determination to take an active role in shaping their country's political future. According to the Financial Times of London, they have in particular shown “a dramatic, unexpected level of support for the opposition” at the May 15 elections (Financial Times ).
The ruling party is stunned by preliminary reports of its losses at the polls. All indications are Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s government appears determined to stay in power at any cost. In fact, there are some worrisome signs that the incumbent government is poised to thwart the democratic process, thereby leading the country on a disastrous path. More specifically:
* Mr. Zenawi declared an unwarranted sate of emergency one day after the election, and took control of all the security forces, the police and the local militias, under one command accountable to him.
* Mr. Zenawi’s party claimed an illegal victory two days after the elections even before the counting was over. All parties had previously agreed to wait until the National Election Board (NEB) and the European and American observers released their results. In a country with no sophisticated exit polls and difficult communications, the haste with which the government claimed victory is a source of serious concern.
Given the track record of the government with respect to human rights abuse, as documented by the US State Department, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the Ethiopian Human Rights Council, we are all concerned that the democratic aspirations and wishes of the Ethiopian people may not be realized.
Ethiopia’s long and unprecedented suffering and crushing poverty is largely attributable to lack of democratic governance, absence of accountability, and abuse of power by successive governments. The massive May 8 demonstrations in support of the opposition and the overwhelming turn out at the May 15 elections are clear measures of the resolve of the people to take their destiny into their own hands through democratic means.
We are, therefore, writing to ask your office to closely monitor the rapidly unfolding events in the country and to urge Prime Minister Meles Zenawi to refrain from crushing Ethiopia’s nascent democracy under the pretext of “maintaining order.” We ask you to impress upon Mr. Zenawi to:
* lift the state of emergency and to renounce any threat to use force,
* abide by the results of the elections without any pretext or condition,
* guarantee the safety and security of opposition leaders and their supporters, and
* release all detainees belonging to the opposition parties.
Concerned Ethiopians in New York/New Jersey/Connecticut
161-01 84th Road
Jamaica Hills, NY 11432 -1728