DEPARTMENTS OF LABOR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, AND EDUCATION APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2008, Continued -- (Senate - October 17, 2007)
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Mr. INHOFE. Mr. President, the House of Representatives has recently passed the Ethiopian Democracy and Accountability Act of 2007, H.R. 2003.
Although this legislation states that its purpose is to encourage and facilitate the consolidation of democracy and security in Ethiopia--words right out of the resolution--in reality it focuses on the shortcomings, on the problems that they face, and not on the successes the country has made.
Ethiopia takes great pride in being the oldest independent country in Africa. It continues to be a close friend of the United States, a strong ally in the war on terrorism in the Horn of Africa. I have to say that this is significant because if you kind of use your mental map of northeastern Africa and you think about the terrorist activity that has taken place in the Middle East and how it is now coming down through the Horn of Africa, through Djibouti and that area into the Uganda-Ethiopia area, it is a very significant area right now.
Now, as many of you know, I have had quite an extensive background in Africa. I think I am safe to say that I have been to Africa more than any Senator in the history of America. I have been really tied to that continent and recognize the significance in the future of our country as well as their country. It is an area of strategic importance globally to this Nation.
I have traveled to the country on several occasions, both on my own and as a Member of the Senate and the House. A short while ago, I was there with Congressman Boozman from Arkansas. Throughout my travels in the region, I have met and developed friendships with many political and religious leaders.
In Addis 6 years ago, we found a little baby. The little baby was 3 days old. The baby was almost dead. It was not unusual. In some countries in Africa, they throw away mostly young baby girls. Then after about 3 days, when they die, the dogs get them. We were there before the dogs got there. I have 20 kids and grandkids of whom I am very proud. My daughter Molly had nothing but boys. She always wanted a girl. So we were able to take this little girl from Ethiopia and nurse her back to health. She had several very close calls. She is healthy and has now been here in the United States and is my adopted granddaughter. Her name is Zegita Marie, which is a very common name in Ethiopia. I say that because I do want to impress upon this group that I know something about Ethiopia. I know something about its background. I know something about its significance to our safety.
In Ethiopia, recently, I met with Prime Minister Meles, his wife. I met with members of the Parliament and with all the individuals there who are trying to do a good job. While there, I saw firsthand their democratic progress and commitment in fighting terrorism. Although I appreciate the increased attention being given to Africa, particularly Ethiopia, I believe the bill is misguided and takes the wrong approach by placing demands on a friend and ally that has made obvious advancements in democracy and human rights. While I continue to agree that the violence and intimidation that took place after the 2005 election was an unnecessary use of excessive force, the Government of Ethiopia has taken significant steps again to regain a democratic process that is fair and respectful of human rights.
On July 20, 2007, following convictions and sentencing, 38 opposition leaders were granted full pardons. All remaining members of the opposition were pardoned and released on August 18, 2007. Since these events, reforms have been made in the election process. So often we use America as a standard by which to measure democracy in other countries. It is the same problem we have in the Middle East. People say they are not reaching the goals we want them to reach, having a democracy in Iraq. Why would they? It took this country several years to come up with a democracy. Why should they be able to do it?
The same thing is true in Africa. There are some 52 countries in Africa. Just recently have they come into democratization. It has been incredibly successful in many of those areas. The United States has recognized the ongoing efforts by the Government of Ethiopia and continues to play an important role for human rights in Ethiopia. The State Department recently hosted a group of opposition political leaders and members of Parliament in DC, providing an opportunity for dialog and reconciliation. By providing training in public relations, human rights and logistics planning and coordination for military procedures, the United States is developing the Ethiopian National Defense Force into a professional and apolitical machine.
We need to understand the significance of what is going on right now. We made a decision about 6 years ago to help the Africans establish five African brigades. They are located in the north, south, east, west, and central. It happens that Ethiopia is the headquarters for the East African Brigade. This is not something we are imposing upon them, but we are saying to them: If you want to do these, we are here to help you. Our idea is, as I mentioned, there is a squeeze in the Middle East. As terrorism starts going down through Djibouti and the Horn of Africa into northeastern Africa, this is an area where if they are prepared to take care of themselves, we would not be sending our troops there. It is a well-conceived idea. There is no one area in Africa that is as significant as northeastern Africa.
Let me digress a little bit. Go to their next-door neighbor, Uganda, northern Uganda. We hear so much about problems in the Sudan and other areas. But we don't hear anything about Uganda. In northern Uganda there is a butcher by the name of Joseph Knoy who, for 30 years, has been mutilating little kids. You have heard about the children soldiers. Those soldiers are taken over by these people and trained to fight at ages 10, 11, and 12. Then once they learn to be soldiers, they have to go back to their villages and murder their parents and family. If they don't do that, they dismember them. I have been up there to Gulu and other areas, and I have seen that taking place. This is right next door. This is what is happening in that region. Ethiopia has been our strong ally in the war on terror and stands on the frontlines of the conflict in Africa. The growing instability in Somalia and the Ogaden region, combined with the unresolved border disputes between Ethiopia and Eritrea, creates serious problems. Remember what happened the other day. A few weeks ago, we were sending our troops down to Mogadishu and the Ethiopians were fighting right there by our side. That was not an easy thing for them to do. That endangered them because there are many opposition groups who would then go into Ethiopia, and they paid dearly for supporting us. But they did so. They have remained committed to promoting regional stability and eliminating any staging area for al-Qaida or other terrorist organizations. In 2006, they sent roughly 100,000 troops with us into Somalia, into Mogadishu. We were successful in defeating the Islamic coalition. They did that for us. Despite these advancements, Somalia remains a continued concern for growing extremism and the violence continues to escalate. The Ogaden region which borders Somalia is also a growing place of hostility and Islamic terrorism. The ongoing insurgency in the region has taken a drastic toll on the civilian population, significantly affecting commercial trade and humanitarian aid.
In April of 2007, due to escalating violence, the ENDF initiated a campaign against the insurgency in Ogaden. The ongoing border dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea threatens the stability in the Horn of Africa. I have talked to Eritrea, trying to get the two parties together. It hasn't happened yet. But the Eritrean Government, along with extremist organizations in Somalia, is providing support and assistance to the Ogaden National Liberation Front. Our friend in this fight is clearly Ethiopia. The United States remains concerned about human rights violations and the lack of religious and political freedoms in Eritrea. The United States will continue to work with Ethiopia to bring stability to the region and foster respect of human rights and freedom from political or religious persecution.
Ethiopia is so significant to the Horn of Africa. It remains an area of strategic importance in the war on terror. This area is critical to stability of the entire continent of Africa and is a national security interest of
the United States. Ethiopia continues to be the central bulwark in the fight to deter the growth and disrupt the influence of Islamic extremism in the region. Our country's strong support of Ethiopia during this significant time is imperative.
In spite of all these successes, in spite of what we have talked about and the significance of Ethiopia, I think we have to oppose H.R. 2003. I have talked to several people who didn't know any differently. They didn't object to this. I think it went through on a UC over there. But a lot of people couldn't find Ethiopia on a map. I don't think they realized the significance. This resolution's idea of encouraging and facilitating is to impose restrictions and ultimatums. These punitive actions could damage the bilateral relationship between the United States and the Government of Ethiopia, as well as derail progress Ethiopia has made in furtherance of democracy and supporting human rights.
I fully support the State Department's assessment. Quite often I am criticized for coming down here and opposing the State Department. More often than not, that is the case. But in this case they are exactly right. They say: The bill risks damaging our ability to influence the Government of Ethiopia, advance reform, and to deliver effective development assistance.
I will only say, then, this is a success story we have had. I can't think of anything worse for the surrounding states, and I would say all other 51 countries in Africa, than if we were to punish the very country that is being friendly to us, is helping us, fighting with us side by side, sending 100,000 troops with American troops down to Somalia and working on our side.
I hope when it comes to this side, if it does come in this form, that we will be able to resoundingly defeat it. I look forward to being in Ethiopia in about 3 weeks. I will certainly hope that I don't have to go over there after having something like this pass the Senate.
With that, I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.