Rep. Ilhan Omar released the following statement on the ongoing situation in Ethiopia.
“My first trip abroad as a Member of Congress was to Ethiopia. I am also entering my second term as a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the subcommittee with jurisdiction over Africa and human rights. This year, I am honored to be chosen as the Vice Chair of the subcommittee. The situation in Ethiopia is deeply alarming on many levels, and I have been following it extremely closely.
“I am deeply alarmed by the situation of the Oromo political prisoners, including Bekele Gerba and other leaders who are on hunger strike. The denial of access to medical treatment is a significant violation of their human rights and is only making the serious crises facing Ethiopia worse. The Ethiopian Government must treat these prisoners according to internationally recognized standards of human rights, due process, and human dignity.
“The ongoing conflict in Tigray has led to a catastrophic humanitarian and human rights situation. By some estimates, hundreds of thousands are facing starvation. Tens of thousands have left the country as refugees. Reports come in daily of new atrocities, including allegations of massacres in churches and villages, rape, and the physical destruction of refugee camps. Their whereabouts and condition are unknown.
“Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed must allow unfettered humanitarian access, and unfettered access to independent human rights investigators in Tigray so we can get a full accounting of the atrocities that have been reported. He must also lift the communications blockade to allow NGOs and other humanitarian organizations to be in touch with their staff on the ground, and to allow people living in Tigray – including many of my own constituents – to finally speak to their families.
“The Tigray conflict risks spilling over into an all-out regional conflict and could claim as one of its casualties the very fragile transition to democracy in Sudan. Our national interests, values, and basic human morality demand that the United States takes decisive steps to document the allegations of human rights violations and support justice mechanisms, at the international level if necessary. The Government of Ethiopia, TPLF, Government of Eritrea, militias, and any other actors in the region must be held accountable where crimes are proven. We must reject any narrative that seeks to absolve anyone who has committed these grave violations of human rights.
“We must also continue to press for unimpeded access for humanitarian organizations, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, journalists, and independent and credible human rights organizations. We must not tolerate these things being carried out under the cover of a blackout.
“As brutal as the situation in Tigray has become, it is not the only problem compounding in Ethiopia. I am also extremely alarmed about the continued reports, which began even before the Tigray conflict, of the targeted murders of Amhara people throughout Ethiopia. The reported massacre at Mai Kadra, among many others, also demands justice and accountability.
“It is a tragedy to see the dream of a pluralistic, democratic, and free Ethiopia slipping away. The layers of legitimate unaddressed grievances held by so many Ethiopians have to be addressed before Ethiopia can conceivably move forward in peace. From my position as Vice Chair of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights, and Global Health, I will continue to strongly advocate for lasting peace and transitional justice mechanisms that take a long view of the injustices perpetrated against too many Ethiopians for too many decades.”