US legislators tell Ethiopia to reform or lose aid

The United States House of Representatives has passed a Bill that would force Ethiopia, one of Washington’s strongest military partners in Africa, to make democratic reforms or else lose security aid.

The Bill, passed on Tuesday, would also deny US entry visas to Ethiopian government officials involved in what it calls human rights violations, unless the president authorises a waiver, according to a copy obtained from a congressional website.

But the Bill exempts counter-terrorism and peacekeeping operations from any funding restrictions, both roles that Ethiopia is playing in the aftermath of a war to install a US-backed government in neighbouring Somalia.

The vote came nearly two years after two violent protests over May 2005 election results left nearly 200 dead when protesters claiming vote-rigging clashed with security forces.

That, and a subsequent trial of opposition members including those who won seats in Parliament and other positions, led to criticism from rights groups and the withholding of certain aid by the European Union and Britain.

The Bill would withhold aid unless Ethiopia accepts outside human rights monitoring, fosters an independent judiciary and media, and permits US-funded assistance to those ends.

The Bill passed on Tuesday in Washington, DC, still needs US Senate approval and a presidential signature before it becomes a law. – Reuters

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