In a scathing letter written to United States Secretary of State, Mr. Michael Pompeo by 20 members of the United States Congress expressed grave concern over the deteriorating security situation in Ethiopia.

The strongly worded letter addressed to Secretary Pompeo begins with “We write to convey our serious concerns about the recent unrest in Ethiopia. Reports of security force abuses, ethnic and religious violence, and the departure from democratic norms are alarming and have led to a more dangerous and unstable environment.” and urges him to engage with the Ethiopian government to prevent violence and protect civilians.

Ethiopian musician Haacaaluu Hundeessaa poses while dressed in a traditional costume during the 123rd anniversary celebration of the battle of Adwa in Addis Ababa. Photograph: Tiksa Negeri/Reuters

The latest spat of unrest that claimed the lives of hundreds of people in ethnic violence and security forces crackdown follows the killing of popular Oromo singer Hacaaluu Hundeessaa on June 29th in Addis Ababa.

The Ethiopian Prime Minister Mr. Abiy Ahmed was widely viewed as a reformer for his early steps of freeing political prisoners and working with regional leaders including Ethiopia’s long term enemy Eritrea on peace and reconciliation. As a result of his efforts, Mr. Abiy was awarded Nobel Price in 2019.

Areas of concern of Ethiopia’s current trajectory includes the regression of democratic values including the indefinite delay of elections and the imprisonment of political opponents.

The letter signed by the 20 congressmen to Secretary Pompeo questions Ethiopia’s long-term viability as a US strategic partner and an ally “An unstable Ethiopia with violence, ethnic division, and politically motivated prosecutions will be a less reliable partner for the United States and will fail to project our democratic values. Ethiopia’s current situation will create lasting and harmful instability if it is not addressed, undermining its future and U.S. interests.”

Ethiopia is one of the largest recipients of US aid in Africa with nearly a billion dollars of year allocated.

The letter urges Secretary Pompeo to work with the Ethiopian government, as well as political opposition and local activists, to call for and advance respect for basic human rights and democratic principles in Ethiopia, including by encouraging the following steps:

  • Dialogue with all political parties on a plan for rescheduling elections, and renewed efforts to ensure a free and fair pre-election environment;
  • An open internet and full freedom of speech for citizens, opposition parties, and the press; • A revision to the state of emergency measures to reflect international standards, to safeguard against abuse and ensure that they are time-bound and in force only as absolutely necessary;
  • • Respect for due process and a fair and fully transparent judicial process for all those arrested during the recent unrest;
  • A transparent and independent examination of human rights abuses reported by leading international groups and the media;
  • A denunciation of ethnic and religious violence across the country, including those who may have used the murder of Hacaaluu Hundeessaa as a pretext for targeting those from other communities;
  • A transparent and independent investigation into the murder of Hacaaluu Hundeessaa.

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