“Look Not Where You Fell, But Where It Was Slippery” (An Oromo Saying)

October 8, 2007

The passage of H.R. 2003 in the U.S. Congress has shown a serious division of views among Ethiopians in the Diaspora. Many see the Bill as a very important document that will support the respect of human rights in Ethiopia in the future and bring to account those implicated in human rights violations in the past. On the other hand, there are the supporters of the current Ethiopian government who are fiercely against it in its totality.

The top leadership of the current Ethiopian government officials come from the Ethiopian Students Movement of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s who took their struggle to the jungle in the early days of the Mengistu Haile Mariam regime and spent a significant part of their adult life in the jungle fighting a strong army of the regime. As much as human rights violations of the former regime in the name of protecting Ethiopia were extremely serious, the human right violations of this current government in the name of democracy are in serious question.

One of the provisions of H.R. 2003 calls for identifying and bringing to account the human rights violators during both regimes. Interestingly, the political mouthpieces of the current government who have been calling for the extradition of the human rights violators of the former regime including Mengistu Haile Mariam are now fiercely opposing it when it includes members of their own government. This is a clear indication of how hypocritical these members of the current regime have been all along when they have been talking about the respect for human rights.

The fact of the matter is that, perhaps because of their life experiences in the jungles, it is clear that some of them don’t have the basic idea about the fundamental principles of human rights, the idea of the sanctity of life. In their struggle, they may have developed their own idea of human life as disposable with no questions asked. Now, when they asked by the international community as the Ethiopian people have been asking them, they are out to defend the indefensible which amounts admission of guilt.

In the interest of the peace and security in the country and in the region, the best course for those government officials implicated in human rights violations in Ethiopia may be to step down from their public services, face the Ethiopian people, and accept their judgment with the grace of defeat, if they have any left. That is what public servants in democratic societies do whenever they are implicated in gross allegations. One would expect that self-respecting Ethiopian government officials would do likewise whether the truth of their deeds comes from the Ethiopian public or the U.S. Congress. Whether the U.S. Senate passes the Bill and President Bush signs it into law or not, the verdict of the U.S. Congress is compelling. The Oromo saying of looking where it was slippery instead of where one fell is befitting to the verdict coming out to the international community.

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