U.S. House condemns Ethiopian rights abuses in Coffman-backed bill

Author: Joey Bunch - April 11, 2018 - Updated: April 23, 2018

Ethiopian Israeli woman holds up pictures of relatives in Ethiopia during a demonstration in front of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, in Jerusalem last month. Hundreds of Ethiopian immigrants are protesting outside Israel’s parliament, demanding the government fulfill a pledge to bring some 8,000 of their countrymen remaining in Ethiopia to Israel. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman of Aurora has been pushing a congressional resolution condemning Ethiopia over human rights abuses, and Tuesday he got some real traction.

House Resolution 128, called “Supporting Respect for Human Rights and Encouraging Inclusive Governance in Ethiopia,” passed the lower chamber on a voice vote.

“This is the first time that the United States House of Representatives has condemned the Ethiopian government for its human rights abuses, and it is my hope that the new prime minister will take the country in a new direction by instituting the necessary reforms for a more inclusive government that respects the human rights of its people,” Coffman said in a statement.

The fifth-term Republican represents a diverse east-Metro Denver district with a strong presence of Ethiopian immigrants and descendants who have urged him to address the crisis. They congratulated his results Tuesday.

“We would like to thank our honorable congressman, Mike Coffman, who worked tirelessly to bring this resolution to the floor for a final vote, and who stood with our community in the most difficult time,” Jamal Said, president of the Oromo Community of Denver, said in a statement provided by Coffman’s office.

In February, a group of Colorado Ethiopian advocacy groups joined Coffman in Washington to lobby for help from the House Majority Leader’s Office, which resulted in the resolution being brought to the floor for a vote. The resolution passed the House Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously in July 2017 and has been waiting for a floor vote ever since.

While abuses against protesters, journalists and fair elections have been widely reported, the U.S, has been hesitant to intervene because of alliances with the Ethiopian government to combat terrorism and promote trade in the region, Coffman told local advocates two months ago. The resolution recognizes that at its onset.

But it continues.

“The resolution calls on the Government of Ethiopia to lift the state of emergency, end the use of excessive force, release wrongfully imprisoned protesters, and improve transparency, while at the same time urging protesters and opposition groups to use peaceful discussion and avoid incitement,” the directive states.

Deacon Yoseph Tafari, chairman of Colorado-based Ethiopian-American Civic Council, said the resolution sends a “strong, unambiguous signal from the U.S. demanding concrete reforms is required to avert crisis in Ethiopia and to create a path toward sustainable regional stability.”

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.