U.S. Ambassador urges dialogue in Ethiopia

In a speech dubbed as a “major policy speech” held at the Yemen Community School, American Gibbi Center in Addis Ababa, the United States Ambassador to Ethiopia, Ervin Massinga, delivered a speech emphasizing the importance of human rights and dialogue in the country. The speech, which took place on May 15, 2024, addressed the historical significance of the venue and called for a renewed commitment to safeguarding human dignity and promoting peace in Ethiopia.

Ambassador Massinga began by acknowledging the American Gibbi Center’s role as a school for Yemeni children over the years and expressed gratitude to Dr. Abdurahman, the leader of the local Yemeni community, for their stewardship of the building. He also recognized British Historian Ian Campbell, who played a pivotal role in publishing the account of Cornelius Van Engert during the Addis Ababa Massacre.

The Ambassador highlighted the tragic events of the Yekatit 12 Massacre, which occurred 87 years ago outside the gates of the building. He commended the courageous actions of U.S. Chargé d’Affaires Cornelius Van Engert, who sheltered nearly 750 Ethiopians behind the walls of the American Legation, saving them from certain death. Ambassador Massinga expressed deep respect for Van Engert’s commitment to the human right to life, dignity, and respect.

He then turned his attention to the present, underscoring the ongoing challenges faced by Ethiopia in terms of human rights violations and the need for dialogue. The Ambassador called on all actors in the country to learn from the lessons of Yekatit 12 and emphasized that, even in times of war or conflict, human rights and the safety of civilians should never be forgotten or compromised.

Addressing different groups within Ethiopia, Ambassador Massinga urged the Oromia Liberation Army (OLA) to continue efforts for peace through dialogue, encouraging them not to give up. He appealed to the Amhara fighters, known as the Fano, to seek resolution through dialogue rather than violence, emphasizing that innocent civilians were suffering as a result of the ongoing conflicts. He also called on the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) to engage in an inclusive and orderly process to address outstanding issues without resorting to force.

The Ambassador stressed the importance of a comprehensive political dialogue and transitional justice process to address the human rights abuses and conflicts plaguing Ethiopia. He encouraged the government to focus on peace and the protection of human rights, suggesting that the release of key political figures and the establishment of a temporary nationwide ceasefire could be steps towards reconciliation.

Ambassador Massinga acknowledged that all armed actors were contributing to human suffering and displacement, urging an immediate end to the targeting of schools, health facilities, and water infrastructure. He called for unrestricted humanitarian access and emphasized that a resolution to the conflict could only be achieved through dialogue, rather than a protracted military confrontation.

Highlighting the challenges faced by democracies worldwide, the Ambassador emphasized the importance of transparency, inclusivity, and genuine national dialogue in Ethiopia. He acknowledged the United States’ own historical struggles and ongoing efforts to rectify past mistakes, urging Ethiopia to pursue a similar path of healing and justice.

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