ESFNA considers inviting PM Abiy Ahmed and a representative of opposition parties

The Ethiopian Sports Federation in North America (ESFNA) is preparing for a historic event this coming July 4th weekend in Dallas, Texas, where for the first time in its 34-year history the head of Ethiopian government will be one of the guests.

This is a huge change — almost a revolution. Before Dr Abiy Ahmed came to power two months ago, it was unthinkable to invite any Ethiopian government official to the annual gathering because of the human rights violations in Ethiopia. Most Ethiopians hated and detested Ethiopian government officials.

But today, Abiy Ahmed is perhaps the most popular and consequential politician in present-day Ethiopia. It is for a good reason — he has been keeping all of his promises so far. Of course, there are more things to be done, but we must recognize the fact that Abiy cannot do everything by himself. He has already done much more than we have hoped for. Those in the government and the ruling coalition who are trying to block his reform agenda must know that the people of Ethiopia firmly stand behind him. Otherwise, the negative forces that have tormented us for the past several decades will bring him down. He will be like Patrice Lumumba, who tried to transform Congo in a breakneck speed out of a brutal colonial rule, but he was cut short because he didn’t yet have overwhelming public support.

The invitation of PM Abiy to the ESFNA event is not without controversy, which is being fomented by the Eritrean regime-backed Ginbot 7. They argue that the invitation of PM Abiy by ESFNA will hamper the passing of SR 168 human rights law in the United States Senate, but they say that if their chairman Dr Berhanu Nega is also invited to ESFNA, they are fine with that. Isn’t that audaciously self-serving? If Ginbot 7 is truly concerned about human rights, why doesn’t it demand its partner, the Eritrean regime, to release Col. Tadesse Muluneh and other Ethiopian patriots from Eritrean jails? Ginbot 7 has not said a single word about these patriots ever since they were arrested in 2011.

For the sake of unity, ESFNA is considering to invite PM Abiy Ahmed and a representative of Ethiopian opposition groups. If his health permits, inviting Andargachew Tsige would be a great thing. But the choice must be left to all opposition groups to come together and select one person to represent them. They have 5 weeks to decide, which is plenty of time.

The U.S. Senate will take into consideration many things in voting for or against SR 168, most importantly the real changes that are taking place in Ethiopia. They are briefed by U.S. diplomats and intelligence agents on the ground in Ethiopia. ESFNA activities have zero influence on their decision.

More importantly, whether it is passed or not, SR 168/HR 128 is a toothless bill on its own, even though symbolically it is important. There is a more powerful tool for human rights activists in Ethiopia and around the world — the Magnitsky Act. It has already been passed and signed by President Trump. It holds government officials anywhere in the world personally responsible for human rights violations. Why not start employing Magnitsky Act against the likes of Samora Yenu, Getachew Assefa and other mass murderers in the Ethiopian Government?

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