There is much confusion and consternation in the Ethiopian community in North America over the fact that the democrats on the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights, and International Operations of the House International Relations Committee voted against a bill in subcommittee titled the “Ethiopian Freedom, Human Rights and Democracy Act (HR 4423), introduced by subcommittee chair Rep. Christopher Smith (R-N.J.). Many Ethiopians are perplexed by the fact that the ranking democrat on the subcommittee, Donald Payne -- an African American supported by other African American representatives on the Subcommittee -- should spearhead the opposition to HR 4423. Perhaps out of a sense misplaced ethnic solidarity, many Ethiopians thought the African American members of the Subcommittee would take the leadership in promoting human rights, the rule of law and democracy in Ethiopia. This turn of events appears to have been an epiphany to many Ethiopians in the
HR 4423 is a piece of legislation designed to promote human rights, due process and the rule of law in
Donald Payne offered a substitute amendment which sought to provide assistance to
Part of the confusion and bewilderment among Ethiopians on the voting patterns of the democrats on the subcommittee may stem from a lack of understanding of the history of the Republican Party and their uncritical allegiance -- bordering on blind faith -- to the Democratic Party. Many Ethiopians subscribe to popular misconceptions about the Democratic Party, and know even less about the Republican Party or its history.
Conventional wisdom has it that the Democratic Party in the
On the contrary, the Republican Party is often depicted as the party of the “rich,” mostly white and conservative, and unconcerned with the plight of the downtrodden and the dispossessed. Republicans are portrayed as indifferent and insensitive to the cause of human rights and individual liberties.
The historical facts negate the conventional wisdom. When the Republican Party was formed in the early 1850s, it was impelled by two factors: an abolitionist ideology committed to the eradication of the institution of slavery -- an institution that is the very antitheses of human rights-- and economic modernization driven by robust business institutions and a strong national government.
In 1856, the first Republican presidential candidate, John Freemont, adopted the slogan “Free soil, free labor, free speech, free men,
The Republican Party did not stop with a proclamation telling the slaves they were free. After the Civil War, republicans played a pivotal role in amending the U.S. Constitution to abolish slavery altogether and guarantee the former slaves the equal protection of the laws and the right to vote. But they did not stop with constitutional amendments. During Reconstruction -- the period after the Civil War when the defeated southern states were reintegrating into the
Republicans continued to defend human rights and remained in the forefront of the struggle for women’s right to vote, providing the decisive ratification victory in the various states for the 19th Amendment.
Unlike Jimmy Carter who pronounced the May, 2005 elections in
HR 4423 is the legislative equivalent of Reagan’s challenge to Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.” The bill states in its preamble that its purpose is “to encourage and facilitate the consolidation of security, human rights, democracy, and economic freedom in
It is obvious and natural that the Republican Party should reflect a diversity of views and opinions across the ideological spectrum. The important point is that there are republicans such as Chairman Smith, Representatives Royce, Tancredo, Flake, Mark Greene, Boozman and Fortenberry on the Subcommittee, who believe in the original republican principles of “Free soil, free labor, free speech, free men” and women. They have proven their commitment to our cause, the cause of human rights in
As we ponder HR 4423, we should perform a reality check and see if we have misplaced our trust and relied upon misguided political alliances. We should candidly ask ourselves whether we believe in equal rights, equal justice and equal opportunity for all regardless of race, creed, gender, age or disability, free enterprise and individual initiative, fiscal responsibility and low taxes, democracy, freedom and human rights throughout the world and the principle that the “the best government is that which governs least.” These are core republican principles. It may be that the moment of truth has arrived for many Ethiopians in