By Mesfin Tegenu
I watched the results come in overnight on Tuesday with an ever-growing smile. One after another, pro-Ethiopia candidates celebrated wins. Out of the 34 candidates the American Ethiopian Public Affairs Committee (AEPAC) endorsed, 31 won (with the caveat there a couple of results still to be finalised). This was a significant milestone in AEPAC’s strategy to strengthen US-Ethiopia relations.
This amazing set of results did not happen by accident. AEPAC leaders across the country worked extremely hard over the past 12-months to develop a target list of candidates, initiate relationships, and secure those candidates’ support for AEPAC’s mission. Then the entire AEPAC family and our partners helped those campaigns from raising money, to knocking on doors, and making phone calls.
AEPAC donated tens of thousands to campaigns across the country. We undertook social media advertisement targeted at the American Ethiopian community to help get the vote out in key states like California, New Jersey and Virginia. And hundreds of supporters volunteered their time to campaigns. This was a demonstration of the diaspora’s unity and how, together, we can make our voices heard.
There are too many people to thank and praise to include them all here, but I do want to highlight a few specific success stories. In New Jersey Tom Malinowski, the representative who introduced the sanctions focused HR6600 bill, lost his seat to AEPAC endorsed candidate Tom Kean. AEPAC members in NJ put in a monumental effort to challenge Malinowski, even going as far as flying a plane banner over his district. It paid off.
In Virginia, the American Ethiopian community rallied in support of Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger – a close friend of the community over the past 2-years – and helped drive up turnout in the final days of her campaign. She was predicted to lose to a strong Republican challenge, but she held on and will serve another term. In California, the AEPAC team enjoyed a clean sweep of their 5 endorsed candidates. Karen Bass’ replacement Sydney Kamlager has become an avid supporter thanks to the huge investment of time the CA team provided her campaign.
The election is now over, but the work doesn’t stop. We need to leverage these new friendships and allies in Congress. The peace agreement has dramatically changed the political environment, the debate is now a positive one, but challenges still remain. We need the US and wider international community to hold the TPLF to the commitments it made to disarm and disband. We need to ensure the Government of Ethiopia is fulfilling its commitment to upscale aid and restore services to Tigray, Afar and Amhara. We need to fight to get Ethiopia back within the Africa Growth and Opportunities Act to support the country’s economic recovery. And we need to generally rebuild US-Ethiopia relations based on mutual respect, trade and security.
We will be pursuing an aggressive strategy in the new congress to achieve those tasks. In the first half of 2023 we are aiming to have a new pro-Ethiopia Congressional Caucus and we will be looking to our champions to develop a bill and/or resolution changing the narrative on Ethiopia from condemnation and sanctions to support and trade.
This has been a heart-warming two weeks after two years of frustration and suffering for Ethiopians at home and all over the world, as well as Ethiopian Americans here in the USA. The hard work and patience is paying off.
Mesfin Tegenu is the Executive Chairman of the American Ethiopian Public Affairs Committee
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