The following information reports U.S Government priorities and activities of the U.S. mission in Ethiopia to promote democracy and human rights. For background on Ethiopia's human rights conditions, please see the 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices
and the International Religious Freedom Reports
Part 1: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives
The U.S. Government is committed to helping Ethiopia progress in its transition to a multiparty democracy. U.S. priorities in the country are to support democratic political development; promote respect for human rights and the rule of law; strengthen key governmental and civil institutions, including the NGO community; and expand press freedom.
Part 2: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance
A number of restrictive laws passed in 2008 and 2009 restrict U.S. ability to promote human rights and democratic governance through foreign assistance. The United States continues to advocate in support of both human rights and democratic governance. For example, in an effort to avoid election-related political conflict in the months before the 2010 national elections, the U.S. Government continued dialogue with the government to expand political space and allow the opposition to operate more freely. Similarly, the U.S. Government has played an active role in encouraging greater participation by opposition political parties in the federal parliament, negotiation of the electoral Code of Conduct, encouraging opposition political party participation in the Joint Council of Political Parties, and in advancing political reforms through dialogue. In the period prior to the 2010 national elections, the U.S. mission sponsored a series of Digital Video Conferences on election-related themes with U.S. experts that brought together senior ruling and opposition party members for discussion and dialogue. A speaker on multi-ethnic democracy in Africa addressed student and faculty groups at universities. The United States continues to support the Constructive Dialogue Forum of Political Parties, although the forum was scaled back during the year due to the closure of political space. The United States continues to provide capacity building support to the House of Peoples' Representatives, the House of Federation, and the nine regional state councils. The United States also continues to encourage the government to roll out programs to improve legal education, training for judges, improved service delivery and economic growth, and respect for human rights legislation and regulations by the police, military, and the courts.
The U.S. Government works with the government and opposition parties to encourage positive and productive engagement to advance the country's democratic transition. For example, in support of the rule of law, the United States continues to encourage a group of local elders to engage in talks with the government to obtain the pardon and release of opposition leaders imprisoned during the aftermath of the 2005 elections: 181 members of the All Ethiopian Unity Party (AEUP) have been released, although the AEUP claims 120 remain in prison. At the end of 2008 the government revoked opposition politician Birtukan Midekssa's pardon on grounds that she violated the terms of her pardon; she remains in detention. The United States continues privately to urge the government to cease the harassment and detention of opposition party candidates and supporters countrywide. The Pardon Board chaired by the President of the Republic has now made it an annual practice on Ethiopian New Year to review the cases of and pardon thousands of prisoners.
The United States continues to engage the government diplomatically on human rights issues; provide training in respect for human rights for law enforcement, local administration officials, and the military; and strengthen civil society organizations in human rights advocacy and monitoring through programming. By presenting open source allegations of abuse by government and ruling party officials against civilians to the foreign ministry, the United States has sought to encourage the government to investigate credible reports of abuse and hold accountable those responsible. The United States seeks to strengthen civil society's capacity to engage local government institutions to improve the planning, implementation, transparency, and accountability of development projects and service delivery. For example, recognizing the role of competition over scarce resources in fueling conflict, the United States supported conflict resolution programs with local groups to identify gaps in service delivery and to engage local governments to respond equitably to mitigate potential intercommunal tensions. The U.S. Government coordinates closely with other donors to try to maximize impact on reform efforts. U.S. programs also provide financial support to small-scale projects initiated by local NGOs, community and faith groups, and civic associations that support short-term activities designed to bring about tangible improvements in citizens' lives.
The U.S. Government utilizes a wide range of diplomatic and programmatic activities to promote freedom of the media and speech. The U.S. Government sponsored stakeholder discussions, roundtables, and other public diplomacy outreach activities to encourage better relations between government and private media and develop the capacity of the media in the country. U.S. officials continue to deliver guest lectures at Addis Ababa University to stress transparency in government-media relations and journalism ethics and techniques, and to foster partnerships between American professors and journalism schools. The United States also sponsored spokesperson training for officials from a wide range of political parties in advance of the elections. The training emphasized strategic messaging, openness, accuracy of information, and quick responses to media queries.
The United States supported conflict resolution programs such as the Joro comic book, (which had 20,000 print runs in Amharic, and will have 20,000 print runs in Somali and 10,000 runs in Oromo languages); the “Unity through the Arts program” which produced a banner in front of the U.S. embassy with art from school children; the "Story tellers gift series" in Addis Ababa schools which was a play to promote ethnic and religious tolerance in youth; and a sports series to promote unity through teamwork in Dire Dawa and Addis Ababa.. All of these programs brought together communities in at-risk areas to address disputes before they erupted into broader conflict. The United States supported conflict mitigation and reconciliation activities in Gambella, Southern Nationalities and Peoples Region, Oromiya, Somali Regional States and at the national level with the Ministry of Federal Affairs. U.S. efforts focus on improving conflict management policies, practices, and government-civil society partnerships; institutionalizing inclusive conflict-sensitive humanitarian response and development planning; improving local service delivery, and reducing intercommunal tensions and violence. The U.S. Government supports programming to decrease the incidence of trafficking in persons and improve protection for victims. Efforts include assistance to Ethiopia's National Anti-trafficking Task Force in developing guidelines and protocols, as well as training for ministry of justice employees. The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom with the government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights. Presentations throughout the country on interfaith communication, cooperation, and tolerance by a prominent American Imam emphasized these messages to Ethiopian youth.