- The Washington Times - Friday, September 28, 2007

Meddling in Ethiopia

Ethiopian Ambassador Samuel Assefa angrily denounced “misinformed members of Congress” for endorsing a resolution this week that would cut funds to his country unless his government meets certain conditions on democracy and human rights set out in the bill.

The House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Africa and global health “recklessly approved a measure undermining” Ethiopia”s efforts to “build a new democracy while improving the economic fortunes of its 76 million people” in the Horn of Africa, Mr. Assefa said, after the panel Wednesday sent the measure to the full committee for action.

Bill supporters criticized Ethiopia for election abuses and the arrests of opposition leaders who accused the government of fraud in parliamentary elections two years ago.

“I was dismayed to learn of the hundreds of people killed and the thousands arrested as they attempted to exercise their right to protest the outcome of the May 2005 elections in Ethiopia,” said subcommittee Chairman Donald M. Payne, New Jersey Democrat and chief sponsor of the Ethiopia Democracy and Accountability Act, at a hearing on the bill in July.

The ambassador said the measure dismissed the democratic advances that Ethiopia made in the 2005 elections and ignored the country”s cooperation with the Bush administration in the war on terrorism.

“The bill ignores the recent bold democratic initiatives taken by our government, the immense progress in creating a competitive, pluralistic system of government and a more open civil society,” Mr. Assefa said.

The State Department”s latest human rights report cited international observers who judged the elections “generally credible” but cited “irregularities” and voter intimidation at some election precincts.

Mr. Assefa complained that the subcommittee disregarded the border dispute with neighboring Eritrea. The Bush administration last month warned Eritrea that the United States could list it as a state sponsor of terrorism because of suspected arms smuggling to Islamist extremists fighting the Ethiopian-backed government of Somalia.

“We are a proud and ancient civilization, always open to discussion and advice from our friends,” he said. “But under no circumstances will Ethiopia accept what it regards as officious intermeddling by misinformed members of Congress to intrude in our internal politics.”

Myanmar misnamed

The Bush administration took a symbolic step toward supporting the pro-democracy protests in Burma yesterday by explaining its refusal to use the name Myanmar, imposed on the Southeast Asian nation by brutal military rulers in 1989.

White House spokesman Tony Fratto said the use of the name Burma is “intentional.”

“We choose not to use the language of a totalitarian, dictatorial regime that oppresses its people,” he said, as soldiers in Burma”s largest city, Rangoon, killed nine more demonstrators and arrested hundreds of Buddhist monks.

Mr. Fratto explained that the use of the name Burma is intended to send a signal of support to the pro-democracy advocates such as Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest for most of the past 18 years since she was elected to parliament in 1990.

“The democratically elected but never convened parliament of 1990 does not recognize the name change, and the democratic opposition continues to use the name Burma,” he said. “Due to consistent support for the democratically elected leaders, the U.S. government likewise uses Burma.”

The name Myanmar was used as early as the 12th century, but a variation of Burma, Bama, has also been used for centuries. The country was known by the English name Burma in 1948 when it won independence from Britain”s colonial rule.

c Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@ washingtontimes.com.

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