Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Prof. Alemayehu G. Mariam’s Special Message to Ethiopian-Americans in Illinois and in the 14th Illinois Congressional District
My friends and fellow Ethiopian-Americans in Illinois, and those of you particularly in the 14th Illinois Congressional District:
I thank you for inviting me to join you in discussing the fate of H.R. 5680, and what you can do to help it get to the floor of the House for a vote.
I regret that I am unable to accept your invitation now due to prior commitments.
I thought, given the running clock on H.R.5680, I would share with you in this open message a few thoughts about what you can and should be able to do in getting H.R. 5680 to the House floor for a final vote.
Let me first say that, without any action on your part, Ethiopian-Americans in Illinois and in 14th Illinois Congressional district have been dealt a historic role in determining whether our people in Ethiopia will have freedom, democracy and human rights, or continue to swelter with the heat of injustice and oppression.
I am not sure if you would have voluntarily welcomed such a historic responsibility, but I am afraid, being the constituents of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dennis Hastert, that responsibility has now been thrust upon you.
And so, you must now lead the charge to get H.R. 5680 to the floor.
But as I ask you to take up the mission of rescuing H.R. 5680 from captivity in the office of your representative from Illinois, and delivering it to the House floor for a free debate and vote, I must share with you my own personal and profound sadness.
Your representative, Dennis Hastert, Speaker of the House of Representatives, has abandoned Ethiopia.
And forgive me if I offend you, but he has abandoned you as well.
I am not sure why he has abandoned Ethiopia, but you must find out why he has abandoned you!
I have a few thoughts why the Speaker may have abandoned Ethiopia, if you would like to know.
Perhaps the mighty lobbying firm of DLA Piper has something to do with it.
Perhaps Richard Armey, the former House majority leader and right hand man of the Speaker, has a lot do with it.
Perhaps $600,000 paid to a lobbyist has done it!!
But it does not matter. Whether it is 30 pieces of silver or $600,000, your congressman, Dennis Hastert, has chained H.R.5680 to the floor of the International Relations Committee, and will not let it get to the floor of the House.
And as his constituents, you have to hold him accountable. He has betrayed your trust.
As voters in Illinois and his constituents in the 14th Congressional district of Illinois, you have a special covenant with your representative, Dennis Hastert.
It is a covenant of trust.
You trust Mr. Hastert will represent you first and foremost in Congress. Not Richard Armey, the DLA Piper lobbying firm or a foreign government.
You trust that he will be your voice in Congress. Not turn a deaf ear when you plead for his assistance, while listening attentively to the whispers of Richard Armey.
You trust he will serve you as his constituents, help you in whatever way possible when you need help, when you request for help. Not abandon and ignore you, and your plea for help.
But I am afraid, your trust has been betrayed. Dennis Hastert has placed his trust with others, those who can flash crispy notes of $600,000.
And so, I call upon you to undertake a rescue mission to save H.R. 5680.
It is a historic mission that will write a glorious chapter in the annals of Ethiopian Diaspora.
What can you do? What can you do as Speaker Hastert’s constituents? What can you do to restore your faith in him and reaffirm the covenant? What can he do to earn your trust again?
First, you have to demand that you want to be heard while Mr. Hastert sits in his office in Washington, and when he comes back to the district for the midterm elections.
Richard Armey was heard. Loud and clear. And the Ethiopian government was heard. Loud and Clear.
And neither Armey nor the Ethiopian government live in Illinois or in the 14th congressional district. They don’t vote there.
You have a right to be heard!!
You have a right to be heard over the telephone, by mail and by email, by fax and in person.
You need to tell Mr. Hastert that you are concerned, deeply worried about what can happen to your mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, friends and relatives if H.R. 5680 does not make it to the floor.
You need to tell him that H.R. 5680 will bring freedom, democracy, human rights and economic development for those you have left behind.
He needs to know that there is not a single provision, not one, in the bill that will harm to any person or entity in Ethiopia.
You need to tell him that, but for its arrogance and hubris, the Ethiopian government could use H.R.5680 to live out the true meaning of its public declarations that “Ethiopia is a democracy. Human rights are protected. And the rule of law reigns supreme in Ethiopia.”
You need to tell him that Chairman Christopher Smith is not a person of rash judgment, and when he introduced H.R. 5680, and previously H.R. 4423, he had done his homework. He begged and pleaded with the Ethiopian government to observe human rights standards, ensure fair and honest elections, accept the judgment of the people in the elections, investigate the killings of peaceful protestors, and work with opposition groups in the spirit of unity and common purpose.
When his pleas fell on deaf ears, then, and only then, did he introduce H.R. 5680.
And you need to tell Mr. Hastert that it is not fair, not fair at all, for him to chain the hopes and aspirations of an entire nation based on the whispers and insinuations of Richard Armey.
Richard Armey is a hired hand. He does not care about your mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, friends and relatives. You could probably say the same about his clients.
Armey cares only about his fees.
Then you need to ask Mr. Hastert to take a stand:
Is he with you or with the notorious human rights violators, whose flagrant violation is recorded in the annals of the U.S. State Department Human Rights Reports, year after year?
Is he with you or with the jail keepers of Qaliti prison? Killers of peacefully protesting children? And practitioners of state terror?
Is he with you as he is with the Armenian victims of genocide whose cause he
champions as we speak, and whose cause he champions and has promised to bring
(H.R. 398) to the House floor before the end of September?
Does he believe our human rights cause is as important as the human rights cause of
But you can not carry out this mission alone, and you need not carry it alone.
You have allies.
You have allies in people of faith in the Illinois and the 14th Illinois congressional district. I know some of them. They are good moral and God-fearing Americans. They will help you.
Go to the churches and ask church members to help you call Mr. Hastert’s office and ask him to release H.R. 5680 to go to the floor.
Use civic organizations and others in your community including local lawyers and the legal community, human rights groups, branch offices of the NAACP, ACLU, Rotary and Lion’s clubs, fraternal associations, voter groups, and even city council and aldermen’s offices. They are all there for you, and all you need is ask for their help.
And by no means overlook your American friends, co-workers, parents with whom you associate on the soccer and baseball fields.
Ask them to help you. And they will. That is the American way!
But we are running out of time on H.R. 5680, but not out of hope.
Yes, we have 2 weeks left to save H.R. 5680. And we must put out our best efforts.
But two weeks is a lot of time to do good things; to show your Mr. Hastert that may be he did not get a chance to carefully study the bill, that may be he relied on the briefings of his staff.
May be if he took a second look, he may change his mind; once he made sure that H.R. 5680 is concerned only with freedom, democracy and human rights.
I believe that if Mr. Hastert took a careful look at the bill, he will change his mind and let the bill go to the floor. Often times, people in Mr. Hastert’s leadership position do not get a chance to read over every piece of legislation that comes to the floor. That is understandable.
And so you will need to encourage him to take a second look and make up his mind.
You should praise him for changing his mind, if he chooses to do so.
But choices always include alternatives.
You and your fellow American helpers -- from the churches to the soccer fields -- you will all have a chance to be heard again on November 7.
H.R. 5680 may have 2 weeks left on it, but November 7 is a long way away.
You will have a job to do as proud members of a democratic society.
I am confident you will do your jobs then, and in the days preceding November 7.
So, onward with your historic mission.
Unshackle H.R. 5680 from your Congressman’s office.
Work together with your fellow Americans hand-in-hand and shoulder-to-shoulder, and deliver H.R. 5680 to the floor of the House of Representatives.
God Bless you. God bless Ethiopia. God bless America.
Additional information available at: www.hr5680.org