Wednesday, June 15, 2005

An Open Letter to the Members of the Congressional Black Caucus

Dear Members of the CBC:

As US citizens of Ethiopian origin or permanent residents, we are quite puzzled by your silence relative to the current situation in Ethiopia. At a time when practically all international civil organizations, the international press, and many governments are speaking out against the atrocities committed against defenseless Ethiopian citizens, your silence sends an appalling message and speaks volumes about the concern (or lack thereof) of the CBC on this issue. It troubles us that you chose to remain silent and convey the appearance of indifference to the plight of more than 60 million defenseless black people, albeit in Africa, whose dream for democracy and civil liberties is being quashed with guns and bayonets, prison cells and torture camps.

One would hope that the background of these victims -- blacks, and their cause -- civil liberties would be among your top causes. That none of the CBC members, nor its chairman, voiced any protest portrays a disinterest and reflects a position that the CBC neither shares our concern nor feels our pain. Yet, many of us have supported many of you in your campaigns with our votes, money and time.

Over the past three weeks, the dictators and murderers masquerading as the Ethiopian government have acknowledged killing well over 36 innocent children, women, men and old people. The actual number is believed to be at least three times more. Additionally, they have maimed, wounded, or otherwise incapacitated several hundred innocent civilians and arrested more than 4,000 simply because those citizens had the audacity to stand up to get their vote counted. Numerous foreign correspondents have written about it including the Voice of America, BBC, Reuters, AFP, CNN, and AP. The Carter Center, the US State Department, the United Nations, Congressman Chris Smith, theVOA, Human Rights Watch, The European Union, Amnesty International, the Canadian Government, a committee comprising of all diplomats in Ethiopia including the US Embassy, and many, many more organizations have publicly condemned the brutal acts that continue to be meted out. We simply find it difficult to believe that you were not willing to speak out immediately against this tragic situation as it unfolded right in front of your very eyes. Your seeming indifference to the plight of the millions of the oppressed black population in Ethiopia makes us question your commitment to the cause of democracy for blacks throughout the world community.

A meeting with Congressman Payne had been requested for a delegation comprised of US citizens of Ethiopian origin which was not honored. A letter was written by Chairman Smith which Mr. Payne did not join on or act upon separately. As the leading Congressional voice on African issues, we are baffled by his inaction.

We also feel that Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee's co-sponsorship of a reception at the Ethiopian Embassy to honor the memory of the late Representative Mickey Leland is ill conceived. To have any celebratory event with the Ethiopian Embassy, even in honor of Congressman Leland, who in the memories of Africans, was one of the greatest human beings that graced the halls of Congress is wrong. Congressman Leland loved Africa, cared for Africans and reserved a special part of his heart for the really needy and helpless in Africa. Congressman Leland gave his life in Ethiopia while on a charitable mission to serve African children. Ethiopians loved and respected him immensely and will always remember him and the cause he work hard for. We all know that if he were alive, this great man would have done the right thing and sided with the people, without prompting or prodding. Congressman Leland must be turning in his grave knowing that his good name is being used so that others would wine, dine and lobby for a cause that is an anathema to his purposes. God save his soul and God forgive those who attend this dinner.

We believe that the situation in Ethiopia is going to escalate, and mirror other world tragedies unless all peace loving people join hands and bring about a change through condemnation of the abusive acts, and through bringing about a change in US government relations with the dictatorial regime. We hope that you will reconsider your position and play the lead role or at least follow the lead of other esteemed politicians such as President Carter and Chairman Chris Smith. At the very least, we urge you to refrain from any action that would further destabilize the situation.

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter and hopefully for your support of the issue contained herein,


Members of the Ethiopian American Community


Britain's Minister for International Development Hilary Benn announces the freeze of a 30 million ($54.1 million) aid increase to Ethiopia outside the ambassador's residence at the British Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, June 15, 2005. Benn said he had met with Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi to express the British Government's 'grave concern' about recent violence following Ethiopia's national elections on May 15. REUTERS/Andrew Heavens

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