U.S. Senators’ Call for Postponing Ethiopian Election Is Foolish & Very Dangerous

Ethiopia is scheduled to have parliamentary elections on June 5, 2021. (courtesy of Addis Standard Facebook)

U.S. Senators’ Call for Postponing Ethiopian Election is Foolish and Very Dangerous

May 7, 2021

Lawrence Freeman

On June 5, Ethiopia will conduct national parliamentary elections that will be decisive not only for Ethiopia, but the entire Horn of Africa.  On the eve of Special Envoy, Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman’s first trip to the Horn of Africa, five Democratic U.S. Senators sent him a letter, expressing their concerns about Ethiopia.  29 April 2021 letter to US Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, Jeffrey Feltman,

Unfortunately, in their letter, Senators Ben Cardin, Tim Kaine, Jacky Rosen, Cory Booker and Ed Markey, displayed a shallow understanding, one might even say ignorance, about the conflict in Ethiopia. Furthermore, their suggestion that Ethiopia’s national elections should not go forward, is downright dangerous.

Putting Western arrogance aside, which believes it has supreme right to tell Ethiopia, a sovereign nation, when it should allow it citizens to vote, the letter displays no knowledge of the unique dynamics of Ethiopian society. One wonders if these senators have any knowledge of the last 125 year intricate history of Ethiopia. A period spans from the March 1, 1896 victory at Adwa by Emperor Menelik II against the Italian colonial army, to the present efforts by Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed to unify the Ethiopian nation through the newly created, non-ethnic based, Prosperity Party.  The senators appeared to have based their opinions about Ethiopia almost exclusively on news reports or from Amnesty International.

De-Legitimize the Election? 

The most egregious section of their letter is the following paragraph, which could be construed as election interference against a sovereign nation.

“The destabilizing potential of these trends should not be underestimated, especially in light of the national elections planned for June 5, 2021. These planned elections are not currently on track to meet international standards for freedom, fairness, and transparency. Already, several opposition political parties in Ethiopia have announced plans to abstain from the elections due to a lack of faith that they will be conducted credibly. This fear is based in part on the government’s detention of thousands of opposition leaders and supporters, some of whom have been deprived of due process, tortured, or even summarily executed, according to Amnesty International’s May 2020 Report. We worry that, if elections move forward without the reforms required to earn the trust of the Ethiopian public, growing ethnic and political tensions across the country will boil over into violence.”  (emphasis added)

It is outrageous for members of the U.S. Senate to suggest that a sovereign nation should  cancel their elections. To my knowledge, only one party, not several, has chosen to abstain. However, these U.S. Senators’ accusations are foolishly giving cover for more parties to withdraw.

Given the current climate of ethnic tension in Ethiopia, to suggest that violence would ensue if the nation proceeds with its election, could in fact, be encouraging more violence.

In response to this call to postpone its upcoming election, Ethiopia’s Ambassador to Washington, Fitsum Arega, replied on May 4, in his own letter to Ambassador Feltman:

“The upcoming June parliamentary election will be an historic milestone in the political transformation of Ethiopia. The Ethiopian National Electoral Board, which is [the most] independent electoral body in the history of the nation, has been established and is responsible for organizing, conducting, and oversighting, the election and election related activities. The Ethiopian Government has gone to extraordinary lengths to ensure the election is free, fair, and transparent.”

Despite the best efforts by the Ethiopian government to conduct its most open and transparent election in the last 26 years, no doubt difficulties will occur in the voting process. However, opposition political parties will now be able to opportunistically claim the election is illegitimate, and contest the results, citing allegations from the U.S. Senator’s letter. This could fuel additional ethnic violence, thus making it more challenging for the government to unify the nation following the election.

Sovereign Obligation

The Ethiopian government, and the Ethiopian people are in full preparation for this critical election, which has already been postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It would be irresponsible for the government of Ethiopia to deprive its citizens and all the parties participating, the right to vote. Ethiopia, a sovereign nation, believes it is paramount that its citizens determine the future of their nation by electing its leaders at the ballot box.

The government insists it is vital to conduct these elections, even during these problematic times, striving to emulate the best practices of the U.S. It should be noted that the United States has never postponed a national election, despite severe dislocations of its people. Not during World War II, not during the Great Depression, not during the Spanish Flu, and not during the surge of the Covid-19 pandemic, which led to the largest number of mail-in ballots in U.S. history. Even in 1864, while tens of thousands of Americans were imprisoned or fighting on the battlefield in the midst of the U.S. Civil War, the election was held, and Abraham Lincoln, the unfaltering defender of the Union, was re-elected.

(To the followers of my website. I did not post any articles in the last month because I was traveling Nigeria and Ethiopia.)

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in economic development policies for Africa for over 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com. Mr. Freeman’s stated personal mission is; to eliminate poverty and hunger in Africa by applying the scientific economic principles of Alexander Hamilton

6 thoughts on “U.S. Senators’ Call for Postponing Ethiopian Election Is Foolish & Very Dangerous

  1. Thank u so much for your honest and illuminating discussion of the state of the upcoming election in Ethiopia. It is forthright individuals like u who uphold the sense of fairness and decency that is a trademark of American people that has inspired the world in spite of how different politicians try to influence American foreign policy at various times. For the first time in our long and proud history we are heading to a free and democratic election. This should have been a moment of celebration for our American friends who cherish the building of a democratic Ethiopia. I am confident that with honest and fearless defenders of democracy and the truth Such as u, Ethiopia will triumph and we will remember those who stood with her in her time of need.

  2. I send you my greetings and double the praise and gratitude most Ethiopians pour on you for your standing in this and other matters regarding Africa.
    I came to America in search of the promises in the Constitution of the United States, a document I read and loved from a very early age, a document which was shared to me by the children of an army Seargent who served in Addis with the US MAAG during the Truman era.
    I am now 78 years old. I see today a United States slip-sliding in Its journey to live up to the promise of the constitution.
    It is not only their ignorance of Ethiopia’s history but mediocrity has been incorporated into some of the personalities in the US senate. The contents of and the character of the senate is made questionable by the impregnation of some of its member’s will by greed. I am not in America for economic reasons. I am in America because I cannot find the Constitution of America anywhere else in the world.
    America is not ignorant. America is failed by its leadership and the rest of the world is at war within itself because the Senate is now filled with senators deprived of the education, wisdom, and moral strength of the Senators who espoused the local and foreign policies designed and followed by Presidents Roosevelt, Truman and Eisenhower.
    We have hope as long as there are Americans as honest and courageous as yourself.
    I am writing to the TimKaine’s of this congress. I hope the staff finds my notes of some worth to bring the issue to the attention of the proper recipients. You are the American I expected to meet in America. I am not too disappointed. I will stay for the constitution, an impossible treasure to find anywhere else. thank you for what you do and how you do it. God will grant you blessings a thousandfold for the energy you spend to shine some light on the evil from which Ethiopia. this is not the first time Ethiopia was resqued from evilhands. Please stay Her friend. thank you.

    • I agree with you about the U.S. Constitution. It is a profound document, especially the Preamble . It has guided our nation for over tww hundred years.

  3. Thank you Lawrence for assessing the falsehoods in the latter of the US Senators. These Senators did not stand against the 100% win the TPLF-led Government declared in the last ‘election’ in 2015. As hypocritical as they are, they shy away from criticizing their favorite dictators and attack others who have popular support but resist to be subservient to the whims of the West.
    The US Senators are trying to sabotage the upcoming election by declaring it as unjust and unfair before it is held, vividly showing their callous intent. What they are ignorant of is the unwavering stance of Ethiopians not to bow to the bully in their long history. Come what may, the election will be held and Ethiopians lead their own lives without the US aid.
    Keep up your good work, Lawrence!

  4. It is great to see genuine people like the writer who speaks the truth. Imperialist America knows neither democracy nor human rights. If these senators are good people, they should have known that Trump , once a leader of the self claimed democratic nation on earth, has messed with their election and should postponed their election rather than interfering in others affairs. These same people lined up to accuse Russia of interfering int the US election while doing the same dirty job themselves.Election related problems are not particular to the so-called third world. Besides, Ethiopia is not their banana republic to be dictated by America. America had never been good to Ethiopia ever since relations began in 1903. Its leader viz Carter, Regan and others have done a great harm to our country. Who trusts America? Where ever they go, trails of destruction, death,displacement, and misery follows. So, let them leave us alone and take care of race problems at home. Let them apologize for the lives of blacks killed on daily basis and innocent citizens of Libya, Serbia, Iraq , Afghanistan , etc they killed simply for living their lives their own way.

  5. I don’t know what to say. You are a voice of voiceless poor countries who are forced to do what western wants. Ethiopia is a free country and refuses to western slavery in 21 century. Thank you.

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