Ethiopian diaspora in the USA should avoid acting as unregistered foreign agents

Protestors supporting Ethiopian government in Washington D.C. If they act without support or guidance from foreign governments they are acting within their right of free speech. However if receiving compensation and/or guidance that they are acting for a foreign government this is different.

Many Ethiopian diaspora becoming deeply involved as advocates for the Ethiopian governments genocidal actions should be aware of the differences between free speech and acting as a foreign agent.  The United States government has already imposed sanctions on Ethiopia for violating human rights previously protected in legal treaties with the United States and other countries. In addition now the government of Ethiopia is making threats of physical violence against the United States to the extent of approaching becoming a hostile nation.

Recently at a Washington, D.C. rally in protest of the Tigray famine several Tigrayan women were slapped, punched, and knocked down allegedly by members of diaspora Ethiopian organization. This is currently under police investigation. If for example these assaults were carried out or supported under suggestion of the Ethiopian government this becomes an issue.

Similarly, there appears at least superficially to be communication between Ethiopian diaspora groups in the USA and Addis Ababa about which political candidates should be supported. 

Ethiopian diaspora need to be aware that while serving in the Ethiopian or Eritrean military can ultimately lead to losing American citizenship it is also true that acting as an unregistered foreign agent for Ethiopia or Eritrea can lead to significant prison terms or fines.

The following information is taken from the official Department of Justice website

FARA is an acronym for the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938, as amended, 22 U.S.C. § 611 et seq. (“FARA” or “the Act”)FARA is an important tool to identify foreign influence in the United States and address threats to national security.  The central purpose of FARA is to promote transparency with respect to foreign influence within the United States by ensuring that the United States government and the public know the source of certain information from foreign agents intended to influence American public opinion, policy, and laws, thereby facilitating informed evaluation of that information.  FARA fosters transparency by requiring that persons who engage in specified activities within the United States on behalf of a foreign principal register with and disclose those activities to the Department of Justice.  The Department of Justice is required to make such information publicly available. 

An “agent of a foreign principal” is any person who acts as an agent, representative, employee, or servant, or otherwise acts at the order, request, or under the direction or control of a “foreign principal” and does any of the following:

Engages within the United States in political activities, such as intending to influence any U.S. Government official or the American public regarding U.S. domestic or foreign policy or the political or public interests of a foreign government or foreign political party.

Acts within the United States as a public relations counsel, publicity agent, information service employee, or political consultant.

Solicits, collects, disburses, or dispenses contributions, loans, money, or other things of value within the United States.

Represents within the United States the interests of a foreign principal before U.S. Government officials or agencies.

See 22 U.S.C. § 611(c); 28 C.F.R. § 5.100.