Congressional Delegation Visits East Africa for First Time in 14 Years

Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, and fellow Democratic Reps. Joe Neguse (Colo.) and Ilhan Omar (Minn.) returned home Tuesday from an official visit to Ethiopia and Eritrea — the first time in 14 years that a congressional delegation has visited the East African region.

The goals of the trip were to support peace and security in the Horn of Africa and to encourage countries to place human rights at the center of the reforms.

“It was important our first congressional delegation trip of this Congress be to the Horn of Africa because of the change the region is going through following the historic peace agreement between Ethiopia and Eritrea that ended 20 years of conflict,” Bass said. “Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came into office with a serious reform agenda aimed at ending political repression. Since coming into office, the prime minister has freed thousands of political prisoners, opened the media and appointed women to half of the cabinet posts.

“I was in Ethiopia shortly after the Prime Minister took office and looked forward to an update on his progress,” she said. “Our delegation was fortunate to meet with the president of Ethiopia and several of the new female cabinet members.

“In addition to wanting to send the signal that we support Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s reform agenda, our delegation was also meant to encourage the new peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea,” Bass said. “We discussed the need for transformation and urged officials to be vigilant about human rights abuses in Eritrea and to implement respect for civil liberties, [as well as] Eritrea’s unlimited national service requirement, which is one of the main reasons why thousands have fled the country. The government officials we met with informed us that the policy is under review now that the security situation in Eritrea has improved.”

Neguse said he appreciated the opportunity to travel with Bass.

“I look forward to further discussions with my colleagues and the State Department on how to further promote peace, security, human rights and democratic reforms in the region,” he said.

Omar also expressed appreciation, adding that she was impressed with the peace that’s been made in the East African region.

“As a member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, my focus has been on peace and human rights and shifting our focus on humanitarian aid to developmental aid,” she said. “It was a great honor to join Chairwoman Bass for the first official CODEL to the Horn of Africa. The United States has been supportive of Prime Minister Abiy’s reform agenda, and I believe we must use this opportunity to foster prosperity in the region and make investments that will fundamentally transform our relationship with the region.”

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