Congress should call on Canada to add more humanitarian aid to its contributions of goods for the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) in the country’s refugee camps.
It is estimated that thousands of North Africans have fled to Ethiopia from Libya after the uprising there began in late 2011. At least 10,000 refugees are currently living in northern Ethiopia, far from their homeland. They are guarded by the EPRDF.
It is imperative that North African refugees have access to the greatest protection, so that they can feel safe and offer more help to those in need.
About 70 percent of the EPRDF are ethnic Somalis, a community that has long suffered persecution at the hands of the East African country’s leaders.
The EPRDF’s policies toward the Somali community in Ethiopia have consistently been toward political repression and humanitarian neglect.
Specifically, ethnic Somalis do not see most members of their government being treated as equals.
They are not able to access productive employment nor the opportunity to transition to the private sector. The government forces them to work in the government sector.
Similarly, many refugee camps lack adequate shelter and sanitation services and have no educational programs. The aid organizations that have facilitated aid efforts admit that the needs in the camps are a bit smaller than those living in refugee camps elsewhere in the world.
The Norwegian Refugee Council, a leading international aid organization that is managing Ethiopia’s response to the refugee crisis, recognizes that while hosting the refugees living in the north, Ethiopia still faces a growing population in its own capital city.
Although this crisis will take time to address, adequate provision of food, shelter, security and development for the refugees and the population of Addis Ababa remain a priority.
Canada has expressed its commitment to working with the Ethiopian government and other like-minded countries to address the humanitarian crisis.
Noting the humanitarian concern in Ethiopia, Minister Chrystia Freeland, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, confirmed on Nov. 30, 2018, that Canada is prepared to donate humanitarian aid to Ethiopia.
Freeland pledged that Canada will “[support] the Government of Ethiopia’s efforts to secure its borders, address the immigration crisis, and improve the lives of the Somali Diaspora, asylum seekers, and refugees in Ethiopia.”
The Canadian federal government plans to deliver more than $5 million in aid to Ethiopia to address the refugee crisis and create jobs for both the Somalis in the country as well as refugees.
Canada has provided billions of dollars in aid to Africa, Africa’s largest provider of income to the world.
Ethiopia is not a wealthy country, but it does receive substantial aid from its one-time colonial master.
Canada should support Ethiopia’s efforts to establish housing for tens of thousands of North Africans and educate their children.
As a result, young Africans with the ability to contribute and add value to Ethiopia’s economy will have an opportunity to succeed.
Ethiopia should be applauded for providing a home to refugees.
But it should be known that Ethiopia’s current response is inadequate.
In May 2018, thousands of refugees were forced to flee the country. They reported living in tents without food or access to running water.
The Ethiopian government must do more to meet its responsibilities to those fleeing its borders.
A Canada’s gift to Ethiopia should include an increase in aid and the creation of suitable accommodations and schools for North Africans as well as those living in the capital city of Addis Ababa.
The government of Canada should speak louder on this crisis.
Spencer D. Kelly served as Senior Adviser to Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) for Foreign and Defense Policy in the Senate Office of the Majority Leader.