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This statement was originally published on africafex.org on 21 March 2017.
A total of 183 deaths were recorded from July to December 2016 following clashes between protestors and security agents in three countries – Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Mali.
In each of the three countries, security agents used excessive force to disperse protestors who were demonstrating against specific issues in their respective countries. The police brutalities resulted in several deaths. A death toll of 150 was recorded in Ethiopia, 32 in DRC and one in Mali.
To date, not one security agent has been prosecuted for any of the killings in the three countries.
Unfortunately, this is just one of the many violations perpetrated against protestors, journalists and media organisations in Africa as reported in the maiden edition of the Freedom of Expression Situation in Africa report by the African Freedom of Expression Exchange (AFEX) compiled for the period July to December 2016.
The periodic Freedom of Expression Situation in Africa Report is an intervention by AFEX that seeks to monitor and report on FOE violations (including violations against freedom of assembly and association) and other developments in Africa for the timely intervention by appropriate stakeholders.
Over the six-month period, 63 incidents of violation were recorded in 19 countries across the African continent. State security apparatus were the main perpetrators of the violations. Together, they were responsible for 57 percent (36) of the 63 violations.
State security agents were not only responsible for the killing of the 183 protestors in the three countries; they were also the perpetrators of all 19 incidents of arrests and detentions in 10 of the 19 countries covered in the report. in addition, five out of six media organisations were shut down by state security agents.
State officials were also found to be perpetrators of media and FOE rights violations both online and offline. Of the 63 violations, 10 were carried out by/on the orders of state officials. Thus, state actors were generally the main perpetrators of the various violations reported in the Freedom of Expression Situation in Africa report.
Sadly, only seven out of 63 recorded violations received some form of redress actions.
For the full report on the types of violations cited, other perpetrators, the 19 countries monitored and the targets of the violations, click here.
Ethiopia: The most significant human rights problems were security forces’ use of excessive force and arbitrary arrest in response to the protests, politically motivated prosecutions, and continued restrictions on activities of civil society and NGOs.
Security forces used excessive force against protesters throughout the year, killing hundreds and injuring many more. The protests were mainly in Oromia and Amhara regions. At year’s end more than 10,000 persons were believed still to be detained. This included persons detained under the government-declared state of emergency, effective October 8. Many were never brought before a court, provided access to legal counsel, or formally charged with a crime. On June 10, the government-established Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) reported and presented to parliament a summary of its report. The EHRC counted 173 deaths in Oromia, including 28 of security force members and officials, and asserted that security forces used appropriate force there. The EHRC also asserted Amhara regional state special security had used excessive force against the Kemant community in Amhara Region. On August 13, the international NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported an estimate that security forces killed more than 500 protesters. In October the prime minister stated the deaths in Oromia Region alone “could be more than 500.” The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights requested access to Oromia and Amhara regions, which the government refused. Following dozens of deaths at a religious festival in Bishoftu on October 2, groups committed property damage. On November 9, international NGO Amnesty International reported more than 800 persons were killed since November 2015.
The most significant human rights problems were security forces’ use of excessive force and arbitrary arrest in response to the protests, politically motivated prosecutions, and continued restrictions on activities of civil society and NGOs.
Other human rights problems included arbitrary killings; disappearances; torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest, detention without charge, and lengthy pretrial detention; a weak, overburdened judiciary subject to political influence; infringement on citizens’ privacy rights, including illegal searches; a lack of participatory consultations and information during the implementation of the government’s “villagization” program; restrictions on civil liberties including freedom of speech and press, internet freedom, academic freedom and of cultural events, and freedom of assembly, association, and movement; interference in religious affairs; only limited ability of citizens to choose their government; police, administrative, and judicial corruption; restrictions on activities of civil society and NGOs; violence and societal discrimination against women; female genital mutilation/cutting; abuse of children; trafficking in persons; societal discrimination against persons with disabilities, persons based on their gender identity and sexual orientation, and persons with HIV/AIDS; societal violence including violence based on ethnicity, property destruction, and the killing of security force members; and limits on worker rights, forced labor, and child labor, including forced child labor.
Impunity was a problem. The government generally did not take steps to prosecute or otherwise punish officials who committed abuses other than corruption.
Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:Share
a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings
There were numerous reports the government and its agents committed arbitrary and unlawful killings. Security forces used excessive force against protesters throughout the year, killing hundreds. The protests were mainly in Oromia and Amhara regions. A March 14 report from the independent Ethiopian NGO Human Rights Council (HRCO) covering 33 districts in Oromia from November 2015 to February 20 described more than 100 extrajudicial killings. On June 10, the government-established EHRC reported to parliament that it counted 173 deaths in Oromia, including 28 of security force members and officials, and asserted security forces used appropriate force there. The EHRC also asserted Amhara regional state special security had used excessive force against the Kemant community in Amhara Region. The EHRC did not publicly release its report. On August 13, HRW estimated security forces killed more than 500 protesters.
On August 6 and 7, security forces reportedly killed approximately 100 persons in response to demonstrations in major cities and towns across the Oromia and Amhara regions. Political opposition groups reported government forces killed more than 90 protesters in Oromia. The Amhara regional government reported seven deaths; other sources reported more than 50 were killed in Amhara Region.
Individuals reportedly arrested by security forces as part of the government’s response to protests disappeared. In a June report on the government’s response to Oromo protests, HRW reported hundreds of persons were “unaccounted for” including children.
Due to poor prison administration, family members reported individuals missing who were in custody of prison officials, but whom the families could not locate.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Although the constitution and law prohibit such practices, there were reports security officials tortured and otherwise abused detainees.
In its June report, HRW reported security force members beat detainees, including minors. Security force members used wooden sticks, rubber truncheons, and whips to do so. According to the report, several students stated they were hung by their wrists and whipped, four said they received electric shocks to their feet, and two had weights tied to their testicles. Several female detainees reported security force members raped them. The report stated, “Most of the individuals interviewed by HRW who were detained for more than one month described treatment that appeared to amount to torture.”
Mistreatment reportedly occurred at Maekelawi, official detention centers, unofficial detention centers, police stations, and in Kilinto federal prison. There were reports police investigators used physical and psychological abuse to extract confessions in Maekelawi, the federal crime investigation center in Addis Ababa that often held high-profile political prisoners. Interrogators reportedly administered beatings and electric shocks to extract information and confessions from detainees. HRW reported abuses, including torture, that occurred at Maekelawi. In a 2013 report, HRW described beatings, stress positions, the hanging of detainees by their wrists from the ceiling, prolonged handcuffing, pouring of water over detainees, verbal threats, and solitary confinement. Authorities continued to restrict access by diplomats and NGOs to Maekelawi, although some NGOs reported limited access.
The United Nations reported that during the year (as of December 20) it received one allegation of sexual exploitation and abuse against Ethiopian peacekeepers for an incident alleged to have occurred during the year. The allegation, against military personnel deployed to the UN Mission in the Republic of South Sudan, was investigated by the Ethiopian government and found to be unsubstantiated.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Prison and pretrial detention center conditions remained harsh and in some cases life threatening. There were reports that authorities beat and tortured prisoners in detention centers, military facilities, and police stations. Medical attention following beatings reportedly was insufficient in some cases. Prisoners died in fires.
The country had six federal and 120 regional prisons. During the state of emergency, effective since October 8, the government announced detention centers in Awash, Ziway, and Dilla and stated suspects could be detained at various police stations in Addis Ababa. There also were many unofficial detention centers throughout the country, including in Dedessa, Bir Sheleko, Tolay, Hormat, Blate, Tatek, Jijiga, Holeta, and Senkele. As part of the government’s response to the protests, persons were also detained in military facilities, local administration offices, and makeshift government-owned sites.
A local NGO supported model prisons in Adama, Mekelle, Debre Birhan, Durashe, and Awassa; these prisons had significantly better conditions than those in other prisons.
Pretrial detention often occurred in police station detention facilities, where conditions varied widely, but reports indicated poor hygiene and police abuse of detainees.
Physical Conditions: Authorities sometimes incarcerated juveniles with adults. Prison officials generally separated male and female prisoners, although mixing occurred at some facilities.
Severe overcrowding was common, especially in prison sleeping quarters. The government provided approximately nine birr ($0.40) per prisoner per day for food, water, and health care, although this amount varied across the country. Many prisoners supplemented this amount with daily food deliveries from family members or by purchasing food from local vendors. Other reports noted officials prevented some prisoners from receiving food from their families. Medical care was unreliable in federal prisons and almost nonexistent in regional ones. Prisoners had only limited access to potable water. Water shortages caused unhygienic conditions, and most prisons lacked appropriate sanitary facilities. Many prisoners had serious health problems but received little or no treatment. There were reports prison officials denied some prisoners access to needed medical care. In 2012 the Ministry of Health stated nearly 62 percent of inmates in jails across the country experienced mental health problems due to solitary confinement, overcrowding, and lack of adequate health-care facilities and services.
The June HRW report on government response to Oromo protests stated detainees reported overcrowding, inadequate access to food and water, and solitary confinement, including in military camps. The report stated men and women were not held in the same cells in most locations, but children were detained with adults.
Fires in prisons occurred in Gondar in December 2015, in Ambo on February 19, in Debretabor on September 1, and, on September 3, at Kilinto Prison where at least 23 inmates died.
Visitors of political prisoners and other sources reported political prisoners often faced significantly different treatment compared with other prisoners. Allegations included lack of access to proper medication or any medical treatment, lack of access to books or television, and denial of exercise time. In at least one case, when such complaints were openly raised in a court of law, the presiding judges referred the complaints to the prison administration, which had already refused to look into the complaints.
Administration: Due to the lack of transparency regarding incarceration, it was difficult to determine if recordkeeping was adequate. There were reports prisoners mistreated by prison guards did not have access to prison administrations to complain. Prisons did not have ombudspersons to respond to complaints. Legal aid clinics existed in some prisons for the benefit of prisoners, and at the regional level had good working relations with judicial, prison, and other government officials. Prison officials allowed detainees to submit complaints to judicial authorities without censorship. Courts sometimes declined to hear such complaints.
The law permits prisoners to have visitors. According to the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation (ATP), a lawyer is permitted to visit only one client per day, and only on Wednesdays and Fridays. Authorities allegedly denied family members access to persons charged with terrorist activity. There were also reports authorities denied the accused visits with lawyers or with representatives of the political parties to which they belonged. In some cases police did not allow pretrial detainees access to visitors, including family members and legal counsel.
After the September 3 fire in the federal prison at Kilinto, attorneys reported visitation for several prisoners was restricted to closely prison visits by family members only. Conversations could not touch on subjects such as trials, politics, and allegations of abuse. This was reported in the prisons in Kilinto, Shewa Robit, and Ziway. These restrictions also applied to political prisoners.
Officials permitted religious observance by prisoners, but this varied by prison, and even by section within a prison, at the discretion of prison management. There were allegations authorities denied detainees adequate locations in which to pray. Prisoners could voice complaints regarding prison conditions or treatment to the presiding judge during their trials.
Independent Monitoring: During the year the International Committee of the Red Cross visited prisons throughout the country as part of its normal activities. The government did not permit access to prisons by other international human rights organizations.
Regional authorities had allowed government and NGO representatives to meet with prisoners without third parties present. By September such allowances were severely curtailed, however. Prison officials reportedly denied access to prisoners for civil society representatives and family members, including in undisclosed locations. The government-established EHRC, which is funded by parliament and subject to parliamentary oversight, monitored federal and regional detention centers and interviewed prison officials and prisoners in response to allegations of widespread human rights abuses. An NGO continued to have access to various prison and detention facilities around the country.
Improvements: The government constructed two new prisons.
d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention; however, the state of emergency regulations allowed law enforcement to arrest and detain individuals without a court warrant. There were thousands of reports of arbitrary arrest and detention related to protests. Security forces arbitrarily arrested and detained protesters, professors, university students, musicians, businesspersons, health workers, journalists, children, and others. Security forces went door-to-door after protests to conduct arrests and arbitrarily detained opposition party members and supporters, accusing them of inciting violence.
ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS
The Federal Police report to the Office of the Prime Minister and are subject to parliamentary oversight. The oversight was loose. Each of the nine regions has a state or special police force that reports to regional civilian authorities. Local militias operated across the country in loose and varying coordination with regional and federal police and the military. In some cases these militias functioned as extensions of the ruling party. The military played a significant role in responding to the protests. The constitution provides for the military to perform duties assigned to it under a state of emergency.
Impunity remained a serious problem, including impunity for killings of and violence against protesters. The internal mechanisms used to investigate abuses by federal police were not known. On June 10, the government-established Ethiopian Human Rights Commission reported to parliament on the protests, stating it confirmed 173 deaths in Oromia, including 28 security force members and officials, and asserted security forces used appropriate force there. The EHRC also asserted Amhara regional state special security had used excessive force against the Kemant community in Amhara Region. The commission did not publicly release its report. The government rarely publicly disclosed the results of investigations into abuses by local security forces, such as arbitrary detention and beatings of civilians.
The government continued to support human rights training for police and army personnel. It continued to accept assistance from NGOs and the EHRC to improve and professionalize its human rights training and curriculum by including more material on the constitution and international human rights treaties and conventions.
ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES
The constitution and law require detainees be brought to court and charged within 48 hours of arrest or as soon thereafter as local circumstances and communications permit. Travel time to the court is not included in the 48-hour period. With a warrant, authorities may detain persons suspected of serious offenses for 14 days without charge and for additional and renewable 14-day periods if an investigation continues. The courts allowed security officials to continue investigations for more than 14 days without bringing formal charges against suspects.
Under the ATP police may request to detain persons without charge for 28-day periods, up to a maximum of four months, while an investigation is conducted. The law permits warrantless arrests for various offenses including “flagrant offenses.” These include offenses in which the suspect was found committing the offense, attempting to commit the offense, or just completing the offense. The ATP permits a warrantless arrest when police reasonably suspect a person has committed or is committing a terrorist act.
The law prohibits detention in any facility other than an official detention center; however, local militias and other formal and informal law enforcement entities used an unknown number of unofficial local detention centers. As part of the government’s response to the protests, persons also were detained in military facilities.
A functioning bail system was in place. Bail was not available for persons charged with terrorism, murder, treason, and corruption. In most cases authorities set bail between 500 and 10,000 birr ($22 and $444), which most citizens could not afford. The government provided public defenders for detainees unable to afford private legal counsel but only when cases went to court. There were reports that while some detainees were in pretrial detention, authorities allowed them little or no contact with legal counsel, did not provide full information on their health status, and did not allow family visits. There were reports officials held some prisoners incommunicado for weeks at a time, and civilians were also placed under house arrest for an undisclosed period of time.
The constitution requires authorities under a state of emergency to announce the names of detainees within one month of their arrest. In practice, the names of those detained under the state of emergency were generally announced. The names were not always made available within 30 days and civilians were not always able to locate the rosters of names of those imprisoned.
Arbitrary Arrest: Authorities regularly detained persons arbitrarily, including protesters, journalists, and opposition party members. There were thousands of reports of arbitrary arrest by security forces in response to protests. The March 14 HRCO report listed 84 individuals under “illegal detention,” with four having subsequently been released.
On March 8, authorities detained 20 students from Addis Ababa University and charged them under the criminal code with inciting the public through false rumors, holding an illegal demonstration, and encouraging the public to disobey the ATP. On August 1, the Federal First Instance Court acquitted nine of the students and reduced the charges against the 11 others, whose trial continued at year’s end.
The government continued to arbitrarily arrest journalists and those who express views that oppose the government (see section 2.a.). On March 3, federal police temporarily detained a foreign correspondent, a freelance journalist, and their translator near Awash Town. Police reportedly took their phones and identification cards and then escorted them back to Addis Ababa. On March 4, authorities released them without giving any explanation for their detention.
In December 2015 police arrested and detained former Blue Party spokesperson Yonatan Tesfaye. On May 4, the federal attorney general charged Yonatan with incitement of terrorism through posts under a pseudonym on Facebook, citing article 4 of the ATP. The court hearing the trial changed the charges to article 6, which pertains to encouragement of terrorism and carries a lesser sentence. Yonatan’s trial continued at year’s end.
There were developments in the case of three individuals detained in March 2015 at Bole International Airport while on the way to Nairobi. In mid-November a court reduced the charges against Omot Agwa Okwoy to the criminal code and dropped the charges against Ashinie Astin Titoyk, and Jemal Oumar Hojele, who were both released.
Pretrial Detention: Some detainees reported being held for several years without charge or trial. The percentage of the inmate population in pretrial detention and average length of time held was not available. Lengthy legal procedures, large numbers of detainees, judicial inefficiency, and staffing shortages contributed to frequent trial delays. The state of emergency regulations allow authorities to detain a person without a court order until the end of the state of emergency.
Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The law provides for detainees to be informed of the nature of their arrest. It also provides persons accused or charged of a crime the ability to appeal. During the year there were no reported cases of a court ruling that a person was unlawfully detained. The law does not provide for persons who are unlawfully detained to receive compensation.
Amnesty: In September, in keeping with a long-standing tradition of issuing pardons at the Ethiopian New Year, the government released more than 12,000 prisoners, including prisoners convicted under the ATP such as Abubeker Ahmed Mohamed and other members of the Muslim Arbitration Committee. Of those, 757 were released from federal prisons and more than 11,000 from regional prisons.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The law provides for an independent judiciary. Although the civil courts operated with a large degree of independence, criminal courts remained weak, overburdened, and subject to political influence. The constitution recognizes both religious and traditional or customary courts.
By law accused persons have the right to a fair public trial “without undue delay”; a presumption of innocence; the right to legal counsel of their choice; the right to appeal; the right not to self-incriminate; and the right to present witnesses and evidence in their defense, cross-examine prosecution witnesses, and access government-held evidence. In practice, however, detainees did not always enjoy all these rights, and as a result, defense attorneys were sometimes unprepared to provide an adequate defense. Defendants were not always presumed innocent, able to communicate with an attorney of their choice, provided timely free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals, or provided access to government-held evidence. Defendants were often unaware of the specific charges against them until the commencement of their trials. There were reports of detainees being subjected to torture and other abuse while in detention to obtain information or confessions.
The federal Public Defender’s Office provided legal counsel to indigent defendants, but scope and quality of service were inadequate due to the shortage of attorneys, who in some cases may individually handle more than 100 cases and many more individual clients at the same time. Numerous free legal aid clinics, based primarily at universities, provided services. In certain areas of the country, the law allows volunteers, such as law students and professors, to represent clients in court on a pro bono basis.
Many citizens residing in rural areas had little access to formal judicial systems and relied on traditional mechanisms for resolving conflict. By law all parties to a dispute must agree to use a traditional or religious court before such a court may hear a case, and either party may appeal to a regular court at any time. Sharia (Islamic law) courts may hear religious and family cases involving Muslims if both parties agree to use a sharia court before going to trial. Sharia courts received some funding from the government and adjudicated a majority of cases in Somali and Afar regions, which are predominantly Muslim. Other traditional systems of justice, such as councils of elders, continued to function. Some women stated they lacked access to free and fair hearings in the traditional court system because local custom excluded them from participation in councils of elders and because of strong gender discrimination in rural areas.
POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES
The number of political prisoners and detainees at years’ end was not known. The government detained journalists and political opposition members.
Police arrested Bekele Gerba, deputy chairman of recognized political party the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), and 21 others in November and December 2015. On April 22, the attorney general charged them under the ATP. Authorities reportedly mistreated Bekele and others, including denying adequate medical care and access to visitors, including legal counsel. Their trial continued at year’s end.
Police arrested other leaders and members of political parties during the year, including Merera Gudina on November 30 (see also section 3, Elections and Political Participation, Political Parties and Political Participation).
There were further updates in the cases of 10 persons including opposition party leaders and others whom police detained in 2014. On May 10, the Federal High Court sentenced Zelalem Workagegnehu to five years and four months in prison, Tesfaye Teferi to three years and 11 months, and Solomon Girma to three years and seven months in prison. The other two defendants in the same trial, Yonatan Wolde and Bahiru Degu, were acquitted and released on April 15. Separately, the prosecution appealed the August 2015 Federal High Court acquittal of Habtamu Ayalew, Yeshiwas Assefa, Daniel Shibeshi, Abraha Desta, and Abraham Solomon. On December 2, the Supreme Court upheld the High Court’s acquittal of Habtamu Ayalew, Yeshiwas Assefa, and Abraham Solomon but remanded to the High Court the cases of Daniel Shibeshi and Abraha Desta.
There were also developments in cases of the Zone 9 blogging collective. In October 2015 the Federal High Court acquitted Natnael Feleke, Atnaf Berahane, Abel Wabella, and Soleyana Shimeles Gebremichael (in absentia) and reduced the charges against Befekadu Hailu. The prosecution’s appeal of the acquittals continued at the Supreme Court, and the Federal High Court continued to hear the trial of Befekadu Hailu. On October 4, Natnael Feleke was arrested again. He was later released on bail and charged with “inciting the public through false rumors” in relation to having made critical remarks regarding the government during a private conversation at a restaurant. On November 11, authorities arrested Befekadu Hailu again. On December 21, he was released without charge.
CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES
The law provides citizens the right to appeal human rights violations in civil court. Citizens did not file any such case during the year.
f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The law generally requires authorities to obtain court-issued search warrants prior to searching private property, however, after the state of emergency, prior court approval for searches was suspended. In an amendment to the state of emergency provisions, security officials had to provide a reason, an official identification card, and be accompanied by someone from the community before conducting a search. The law also recognizes exceptions for “hot pursuit,” in which a suspect enters premises or disposes of items that are the subject of an offense committed on the premises, and when police have reasonable suspicion evidence of a crime punishable by more than three years of imprisonment is concealed on or in the property and that a delay in obtaining a search warrant would allow the evidence to be removed. Moreover, the ATP permits warrantless searches of a person or vehicle when authorized by the director general of the Federal Police or his designee or a police officer has reasonable suspicion a terrorist act may be committed and deems a sudden search necessary.
Opposition political party leaders and journalists reported suspicions of telephone tapping, other electronic eavesdropping, and surveillance, and they alleged government agents attempted to lure them into illegal acts by calling and pretending to be representatives of groups–designated by parliament as terrorist organizations–interested in making financial donations.
The government reportedly used a widespread system of paid informants to report on the activities of particular individuals. Opposition members, journalists, and athletes reported ruling party operatives and militia members made intimidating and unwelcome visits to their homes and offices and intimidated family members. These included entry into and searches of homes without a warrant.
There were reports authorities dismissed opposition members from their jobs and that those not affiliated with the EPRDF sometimes had trouble receiving the “support letters” from their kebeles (neighborhoods or wards) necessary to get employment (see section 3, Political Parties and Political Participation).
Security forces continued to detain family members of persons sought for questioning by the government.
The national and regional governments continued to implement the policy of Accelerated Development (informally known as “villagization”) plans in the Afar, Benishangul-Gumuz, Gambella, the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’, Oromia, and Somali regions, which might include resettlement. These plans involved relocation by regional governments of scattered rural populations from arid or semiarid lands vulnerable to recurring droughts into designated communities closer to water, services, and infrastructure. The stated purposes of accelerated development were to improve the provision of government services (health care, education, and clean water), protect vulnerable communities from natural disasters and attacks, and change environmentally destructive patterns of shifting cultivation. Some observers alleged the purpose was to enable large-scale leasing of land for commercial agriculture. The government described the program as strictly voluntary. The government had scheduled to conclude the program in 2015, but decided to continue it.
International donors reported assessments from more than 18 visits to villagization sites since 2011 did not corroborate allegations of systematic, grave human rights violations. They found delays in establishing promised infrastructure and inadequate compensation. Communities and families appeared to have agreed to move based on assurances from authorities of food aid, health and education services, and land; some communities were moved before adequate basic services such as water pumps and shelter were in place in the new locations. Follow-up visits suggested the government had done little to improve consultations with affected communities, and communities were not fully informed when consenting to cede their rights for land projects.
Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:Share
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The constitution and law provide for freedom of speech and press, however the state of emergency regulations included restrictions on these rights. Authorities harassed, arrested, detained, charged, and prosecuted journalists and others perceived as critical of the government, creating an environment of self-censorship.
Freedom of Speech and Expression: The state of emergency regulations contained several prohibitions that restricted freedom of speech and expression and resulted in detention or disappearance of numerous independent voices. The regulations prohibited any covert or overt agitation and communication that could incite violence and unrest (interpreted to include the popular Oromo protest sign of raising crossed arms over one’s head), any communication with designated terrorist groups or antipeace forces, storing and disseminating text, storing and promoting emblems of terrorist groups, incitement in sermons and teaching in religious institutions to induce fear or incite conflict, speech that could incite attacks based on identity or ethnicity, exchange of information by any individual with a foreign government in a manner that undermines national sovereignty and security, and any political parties from briefing journalists in a manner that is anticonstitutional and undermines sovereignty and security. Individuals self-censored as a result of these prohibitions.
Authorities arrested, detained, and harassed persons for criticizing the government. NGOs reported cases of torture of individuals critical of the government. The government attempted to impede criticism through intimidation, including continued detention of journalists and those who express critical opinions online and opposition activists, and monitoring of and interference in activities of political opposition groups. Some feared authorities would retaliate against them for discussing security force abuses. Authorities arrested and detained persons who made statements publicly or privately deemed critical of the government under a provision of the law pertaining to inciting the public through false rumors.
Press and Media Freedoms: The state of emergency prohibited listening to, watching, or reporting information from Ethiopian Satellite Television (ESAT) and Oromo Media Network.
Independent journalists reported problems using government printing presses. Access to private printing presses was scarce to nonexistent.
In Addis Ababa, nine independent newspapers and magazines had a combined weekly circulation of 70,711 copies. Four independent monthly and biweekly magazines published in Amharic and English had a combined circulation of 21,500 copies. State-run newspapers had a combined circulation of 85,500 copies. Most newspapers were printed on a weekly or biweekly basis, except state-owned Amharic and English dailies and the privately run Daily Monitor. Addis Standard magazine temporarily suspended the print edition of its publication soon after the state of emergency was declared.
Government-controlled media closely reflected the views of the government and ruling EPRDF. The government controlled the only television station that broadcast nationally, which, along with radio, was the primary source of news for much of the population. Six private FM radio stations broadcast in the capital, one private radio station broadcast in the northern Tigray Region, and at least 19 community radio stations broadcast in the regions. State-run Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation had the largest broadcast range in the country, followed by Fana Radio, which was reportedly affiliated with the ruling party.
The government periodically jammed foreign broadcasts. The law prohibits political and religious organizations and foreigners from owning broadcast stations.
Violence and Harassment: The government continued to arrest, harass, and prosecute journalists. As of mid-December, at least 12 journalists remained in detention.
In December 2015 police detained Fikadu Mirkana, who worked as news anchor and senior reporter for Oromia State TV. He was released in April.
In December 2015 authorities detained journalist Getachew Shiferaw, editor in chief of a web-based opposition-affiliated newspaper. On May 19, authorities charged him with terrorism and his trial continued at year’s end.
The trial of two journalists affiliated with Radio Bilal whom authorities arrested in February 2015 and charged with terrorism continued at the Federal High Court.
Censorship or Content Restrictions: Government harassment caused journalists to avoid reporting on sensitive topics. Many private newspapers reported informal editorial control by the government through article placement requests and calls from government officials concerning articles perceived as critical of the government. Private sector and government journalists routinely practiced self-censorship. Several journalists, both local and foreign, reported an increase in self-censorship, especially after the October 8 implementation of the state of emergency. The government reportedly pressured advertisers not to advertise in publications that were critical of the government.
National Security: The government used the ATP to suppress criticism. Journalists feared covering five groups designated by parliament as terrorist organizations in 2011 (Ginbot 7, the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), the OLF, al-Qaida, and al-Shabaab), citing ambiguity on whether reporting on these groups might be punishable under the law.
The government restricted and disrupted access to the internet. It periodically blocked social media sites and internet access in areas of Oromia and Amhara regions, especially during protests. At times the government blocked access throughout the country. There were credible reports the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority. State-owned Ethio Telecom was the only internet service provider in the country.
On June 7, parliament passed the Computer Crime Proclamation. There were concerns its provisions were overly broad and could restrict freedom of speech and expression. This included, for example, a provision that provides for imprisonment for disseminating through a computer system any written, video, audio or any other picture that incites violence, chaos, or conflict among people, and another provision that provides for a prison sentence for intimidation.
In July officials blocked social media sites for days across the country until the national school examination concluded. The government stated blocking these sites was necessary to provide for an “orderly exam process.” In May the national exams were reportedly leaked on social media, causing the government to postpone the exams.
On August 6 and 7, the government imposed a nationwide internet blackout.
The state of emergency regulations included prohibited agitation and communication to incite violence and unrest through the internet, text messaging, and social media.
Starting in early October, the government shut down mobile access to the internet in Addis Ababa, most parts of Oromia Region, and other areas. Wired access to several social media and communication sites were also denied. These included social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Skype, WhatsApp, and Viber, news websites such as the Washington Post and the New York Times, and many other sites, including foreign university homepages and online shopping sites such as Amazon.
The government periodically and increasingly restricted access to certain content on the internet and blocked numerous websites, including blogs, opposition websites, and websites of Ginbot 7, the OLF, and the ONLF, and news sites such as al-Jazeera, the BBC, and RealClearPolitics. Several news blogs and websites run by opposition diaspora groups were not accessible. These included Ethiopian Review, Nazret, CyberEthiopia, Quatero Amharic Magazine, and the Ethiopian Media Forum.
Authorities monitored telephone calls, text messages, and e-mails. Authorities took steps to block access to Virtual Private Network providers that let users circumvent government screening of internet browsing and e-mail. There were reports such surveillance resulted in arrests. According to the International Telecommunication Union, 11.6 percent of the population used the internet in 2015.
In March 2015 Citizen Lab, a Canadian research center at the University of Toronto, reported on attempts in 2014 to infect the computers of U.S.-based employees of ESAT with spyware. ESAT is a diaspora-based television and radio station. According to Citizen Lab, its research suggested involvement of the government and that the attacker may have been the Ethiopian Information and Network Security Agency.
ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS
The government restricted academic freedom, including student enrollment, teachers’ appointments, and curricula. Authorities frequently restricted speech, expression, and assembly on university and high school campuses. The state of emergency regulations prohibited strikes in educational institutions and closing them or damaging property, gives authorities the power to order educational institutions to take measures against any student or staff member who violates the prohibitions in the regulations, and provides law enforcement the authority to enter educational institutions and take measures to control strikes or protests.
The ruling party, via the Ministry of Education, continued to favor students loyal to the party in assignment to postgraduate programs. Some university staff members commented that students who joined the party received priority for employment in all fields after graduation.
Authorities limited teachers’ ability to deviate from official lesson plans. Numerous anecdotal reports suggested non-EPRDF members were more likely to be transferred to undesirable posts and bypassed for promotions. There were reports of teachers not affiliated with the EPRDF being summarily dismissed for failure to attend party meetings. There continued to be a lack of transparency in academic staffing decisions, with numerous complaints from academics alleging bias based on party membership, ethnicity, or religion.
A separate Ministry of Education directive prohibits private universities from offering degree programs in law and teacher education. The directive also requires public universities to align their curriculum with the ministry’s policy of a 70/30 ratio between science and social science academic programs. As a result the number of students studying social sciences and the humanities at public institutions continued to decrease; private universities focused heavily on the social sciences.
Reports indicated a pattern of surveillance and arbitrary arrests of Oromo university students based on suspicion of their holding dissenting opinions or participation in peaceful demonstrations. According to reports there was an intense buildup of security forces (uniformed and plainclothes) embedded on university campuses preceding student protests, especially in Oromia, and in response to student demonstrations.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY
The constitution and law provide for freedom of assembly; the state of emergency regulations, however, prohibited demonstrations and town hall meetings that did not have approval from the command post, the entity that oversees the state of emergency. The government did not respect freedom of assembly and killed, injured, detained, and arrested numerous protesters throughout the year (see also sections 1.a., 1.b., 1.c., 1.d., and 1.e.). The majority of protests were in Oromia and Amhara regions. On August 13, HRW reported an estimate that security forces killed more than 500 protesters since November 2015. On January 21 and October 10, UN experts called on the government to end the “crackdown on peaceful protests.” The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights requested access to the regions, which the government did not provide. On November 9, Amnesty international estimated at least 800 had been killed.
On August 6 and 7, security forces reportedly killed approximately 100 persons in response to simultaneous demonstrations in major cities and towns across Oromia and Amhara regions (see section 1.a).
On October 2, dozens were reportedly killed at a religious festival in Bishoftu. Security forces’ response to agitation in the crowd, including the use of teargas and firing into the air, reportedly led to a stampede that left many dead. On October 7, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) called for an investigation and urged the government allow independent observers access to Oromia and Amhara regions. On October 10, a group of UN human rights experts highlighted the October 2 events and urged the government to allow an international commission of inquiry to investigate the protests and violence used against protesters since November 2015. The government-established EHRC conducted an investigation into the incident. The results of that investigation were unknown.
Prior to the state of emergency, organizers of public meetings of more than two persons or demonstrations had to notify the government 48 hours in advance and obtain a permit. Authorities could not refuse to grant a permit but could require the event be held at a different time or place for reasons of public safety or freedom of movement. If authorities determined an event should be held at another time or place, the law required organizers be notified in writing within 12 hours of the time of submission of their request. After the state of emergency, prior-issued permits were deemed invalid.
Prior to the state of emergency, the government denied some requests by opposition political parties to hold protests but approved others. Opposition party organizers alleged government interference in most cases, and authorities required several of the protests be moved to different dates or locations from those the organizers requested. Protest organizers alleged the government’s claims of needing to move the protests based on public safety concerns were not credible. Local government officials, almost all of whom were affiliated with the EPRDF, controlled access to municipal halls, and there were many complaints from opposition parties that local officials denied or otherwise obstructed the scheduling of opposition parties’ use of halls for lawful political rallies. There were numerous credible reports owners of hotels and other large facilities cited internal rules forbidding political parties from utilizing their spaces for gatherings. Regional governments, including the Addis Ababa regional administration, were reluctant to grant permits or provide security for large meetings. After the state of emergency, the prohibition on unauthorized demonstrations or town hall meetings limited the organization of meetings, training sessions, and other gatherings. For example, members of at least one opposition political party reported they were prevented from having a four-person meeting.
FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION
Although the law provides for freedom of association and the right to engage in unrestricted peaceful political activity, the government severely limited this right (see sections 3 and 5).
The state of emergency and the accompanying regulations restricted the ability of organizations to operate (see also section 5). The prohibitions relating to communication and acts that undermine tolerance and unity resulted in self-censorship of reports and public statements. The prohibition on unauthorized town hall meetings limited the organization of meetings, training sessions, and other gatherings. The prohibition on exchanging information or contact with a foreign government or NGOs in a manner that undermines national sovereignty and security reduced communication between local organizations and international organizations and others.
The state of emergency regulations also prohibited any political party “from briefing local or foreign journalists in a manner that is anticonstitutional and undermining sovereignty and security.”
The Charities and Societies Proclamation (CSO) law bans anonymous donations to NGOs. All potential donors were therefore aware their names would be public knowledge. The same was true concerning all donations made to political parties.
A 2012 report by the UN special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association stated, “The enforcement of these (the CSO law) provisions has a devastating impact on individuals’ ability to form and operate associations effectively.”
International NGOs seeking to operate in the country had to submit an application via the country’s embassies abroad, which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs then submitted to the Charities and Societies Agency for approval.
d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons
Although the law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, the state of emergency regulations restricted internal movement. The government also restricted freedom of internal movement and foreign travel.
The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons (IDPs), refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern. At times authorities or armed groups limited the ability of humanitarian organizations to operate in areas of insecurity, such as on the country’s borders.
In-country Movement: The state of emergency regulations prohibited diplomats from travelling more than 25 miles outside of Addis Ababa without prior notification to and approval from the command post. The government lifted this restriction in early November. Security concerns forced a temporary halt of deliveries of food and other humanitarian assistance in limited areas in Amhara and Oromia regions.
Foreign Travel: A 2013 ban on unskilled workers travelling to the Middle East for employment continued. The ban did not affect citizens travelling for investment or other business reasons. The government stated it issued the ban to prevent harassment, intimidation, and trauma suffered by those working abroad, particularly in the Middle East, as domestic employees.
There were several reports of authorities restricting foreign travel, similar to the following case: On March 23, National Intelligence and Security Service officials at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa prevented Merera Gudina, chairman of the OFC, from departing the country. On June 15, Merera was permitted to leave. Authorities arrested him on December 1.
Authorities restricted travel of persons in the Zone 9 case. For example, authorities confiscated blogger Zelalem Kibret’s passport in November 2015 and prevented him from boarding his international flight. Airport security officials said he could not leave the country because he had previously been arrested. Authorities returned Zelalem’s passport on June 1, and he was later permitted to travel abroad.
Exile: As in past years, citizens including journalists and others remained abroad in self-imposed exile due to fear of government retribution should they return.
INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS
According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), there were 684,064 IDPs between August 2015 and August, including protracted and new cases, many of them due to the impact of the El Nino weather phenomenon. This was an increase compared with previous years.
Of the IDPs, 397,296 were displaced by flooding and conflict while 188,244 were displaced due to the effects of the drought related to El Nino. Another 33,300 were displaced due to resource-based competition. Most of those affected by El Nino returned to their places of origin.
IOM estimated 657, 224 individuals were considered “protracted IDPs,” meaning they lacked durable solutions such as local integration, internal resettlement, or return to home. The reasons for protracted displacements included interclan and cross-border conflict, natural disasters, political or community considerations in IDP resettlements, and lack of resettlement resources. Of these IDPs, 283,092 resided in Somali Region; 148,482 in Afar; 144,295 in Oromia; 47,950 in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region; 13,245 in Amhara; 2,290 in Dire Dawa; and 2,055 in Harar. An additional 15,815 individuals displaced by flooding were still on the move and thus could not be attributed to any one region.
IOM reported in August 41,316 individuals or 7,844 households were internally displaced in Amhara, Oromia, and Somali regions, due to conflict and flooding. From August 24 through mid-September, approximately 8,000 individuals moved from Amhara Region to northwestern Tigray Region. Many of the IDPs cited as the reason for their departure recent conflicts in the region and a generalized sense they could be targeted because of their ethnicity (Tigrayan). The federal government allocated six million birr ($266,361) to Tigray Region for the IDP response. The funds were distributed among Hemera, Axum, Mekele, and Shire, which were the towns with the greatest IDP influx. The largest volume of arrivals was in Shire, which received 2.6 million birr ($115,423) of the region’s total. The federal government established a committee led by the Tigray Regional Agriculture Department to seek permanent integration options for the IDPs.
The IOM estimated an April 15 attack in Gambella Region by Murle ethnic group from South Sudan displaced more than 21,000 individuals (see section 6, Other Societal Violence or Discrimination).
The government, through the Disaster Risk Management Food Security Sector (DRMFSS), continued to play an active role in delivering humanitarian assistance to IDPs. Federal and local DRMFSS officials coordinated with IOM and its partners in monitoring IDP populations.
PROTECTION OF REFUGEES
Access to Asylum: The law provides for granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. The state of emergency regulations prohibited entering the country without a visa.
According to UNHCR, the country hosted 743,732 refugees as of August. The majority of refugees were from South Sudan (281,612) and Somalia (254,277), with others from Eritrea (161,615), Sudan (39,317), and other countries. There were 1,554 registered Yemeni asylum seekers.
UNHCR, the Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs, and humanitarian agencies continued to care for Sudanese arrivals fleeing from conflict in Sudan’s Blue Nile State, averaging 1,500 new arrivals per month, according to UNHCR. The government also extended support to asylum seekers from South Sudan, mostly arriving from Upper Nile and Unity states. Persistent conflict and food insecurity prompted the flow of South Sudanese refugees into the country; there were an estimated 2,712 arrivals during August.
Eritrean asylum seekers continued to arrive. Approximately 23 percent were unaccompanied minors. Many who arrived regularly departed for secondary migration through Egypt and Sudan to go to Europe and other final destinations.
Freedom of movement: The state of emergency regulations prohibited leaving refugee camps without permission from an authorized body. The government continued a policy that allowed some Eritrean refugees to live outside a camp. The government gave such permission primarily for persons to attend higher-education institutions, undergo medical treatment, or avoid security threats at the camps.
Employment: The government does not grant refugees work permits.
Durable Solutions: The government welcomed refugees to settle in the country but did not offer a path to citizenship or provide integration. The government supported a policy allowing some refugees to live outside camps and engage in informal livelihoods. Refugee students who passed the required tests could attend university with fees paid by the government and UNHCR.
Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political ProcessShare
The constitution and law provide citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage. The ruling party’s electoral advantages, however, limited this ability.
Elections and Political Participation
Recent Elections: In May 2015 the country held national elections for the House of People’s Representatives, the country’s parliamentary body. In October 2015 parliament re-elected Hailemariam Desalegn prime minister.
In the May 2015 national parliamentary elections, the EPRDF and affiliated parties won all 547 seats, giving the party a fifth consecutive five-year term. Government restrictions severely limited independent observation of the vote. The African Union was the sole international organization permitted to observe the elections. Opposition party observers accused local police of interference, harassment, and extrajudicial detention. Independent journalists reported little trouble covering the election, including reports from polling stations. Some independent journalists reported receiving their observation credentials the day before the election, after having submitted proper and timely applications. Six rounds of broadcast debates preceded the elections, and for the most part they were broadcast in full and only slightly edited. The debates included all major political parties. Several laws, regulations, and procedures implemented since the 2005 national elections created a clear advantage for the EPRDF throughout the electoral process. In addition the “first past the post” provision, or 50 percent plus one vote required to win a seat in parliament, as stipulated in the constitution, contributed to EPRDF’s advantage in the electoral process. There were reports of unfair government tactics, including intimidation of opposition candidates and supporters. Various reports confirmed at least six election-related deaths during the period before and immediately following the elections. The National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) is politically dependent on the prime minister, and there is no opportunity for nonruling political parties to have a say in its decisions concerning party registration and candidate qualification. NEBE has sole responsibility for voter education and broadcast radio segments and distributed manuals on voter education in many local languages.
In a preliminary election assessment, the African Union called the elections “calm, peaceful, and credible” and applauded the government for its registration efforts. It raised concerns, however, regarding the legal framework underpinning the election. NEBE registered more than 35 million voters, and did not report any incidents of unfair voter registration practices.
Political Parties and Political Participation: The government, controlled by the EPRDF, unduly restricted political parties and members of certain ethnic groups, particularly the Amhara and Oromo, who stated they lacked genuine political representation at the federal level. The state of emergency regulations restricted political parties’ ability to operate. For example, the regulations prohibit any political party “from briefing local or foreign journalists in a manner that is anticonstitutional and undermining sovereignty and security.”
Authorities arrested and prosecuted political opposition members including under allegations of terrorism (see section 1.e., Political Prisoners). Government officials alleged many members of legitimate Oromo opposition parties were secretly OLF members and, more broadly, that members of many opposition parties had ties to Ginbot 7.
The OFC reported that authorities have kept OFC general secretary Bekele Nega under house arrest since December 30, 2015. Security personnel reportedly told him not to leave his house in Addis Ababa, use his phone, or give any interviews to media. Authorities also arrested other OFC leaders and members including Merera Gudina and Bekele Gerba (see section 1.e., Denial of Fair Public Trial, Political Prisoners and Detainees).
On October 11, authorities arrested Blen Mesfin and three other members of the registered Blue (Semayawi) Party. Blen Mesfin was charged with “inciting the public through false rumors.” Authorities ordered her release on bail. On the day scheduled for her release, authorities rearrested and detained her without charge. She was released on December 21, although it was unclear whether she still faced charges.
Constituent parties of the EPRDF conferred advantages upon their members; the parties directly owned many businesses and were broadly perceived to award jobs and business contracts to loyal supporters. Several opposition parties reported difficulty in renting homes or buildings in which to open offices, citing visits by EPRDF members to the property owners to persuade or threaten them not to rent property to these parties. There were reports authorities terminated the employment of teachers and other government workers who belonged to opposition political parties. According to Oromo opposition groups, the Oromia regional government continued to threaten to dismiss opposition party members, particularly teachers, from their jobs. There were reports unemployed youths not affiliated with the ruling coalition sometimes had trouble receiving the “support letters” from their wards necessary to get jobs.
Registered political parties must receive permission from regional governments to open and occupy local offices. Opposition parties reported difficulty acquiring the required permissions for regional offices, adversely affecting their ability to organize and campaign. Laws requiring parties to report “public meetings” and obtain permission for public rallies were also used to inhibit opposition activities.
Participation of Women and Minorities: No laws prevented women or minorities from voting or participating in political life, although highly patriarchal customs in some regions limited female participation in political life. Women were significantly underrepresented in both elected and appointed positions. As of the October change in cabinet assignments, women held three of the 22 federal government ministerial positions, including one of three deputy prime minister positions, and also held 212 of 547 seats in the national parliament. The Tigray Regional Council included the highest proportion of women nationwide, at 50 percent (76 of the 152 seats).
The government’s policy of ethnic federalism led to the creation of individual constituencies intended to provide for representation of all major ethnic groups in the House of Federation (one of the two chambers of parliament). There were more than 80 ethnic groups, and small groups lacked representation in the other chamber of parliament, the House of People’s Representatives.
Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in GovernmentShare
The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials. Despite the government’s prosecution of some officials for corruption, many officials continued to engage in corrupt practices with impunity. Although the government cited fighting corruption as a high priority in its public statements, there were perceptions corruption increased in the government.
Corruption: Corruption, especially the solicitation of bribes, including police and judicial corruption, remained problems. Some government officials were thought to manipulate the land allocation process, and state- and party-owned businesses received preferential access to land leases and credit. The federal attorney general was mandated to investigate and prosecute corruption cases.
The government attributed some of the unrest in Oromia to corruption. For example, on June 9, authorities detained Zelalem Jemaneh, former head of the Oromia Regional State Agriculture Bureau with the rank of deputy chief administrator, on allegations of corruption.
The trial of Wondimu Biratu Kena’a, former head of the Revenues Bureau of Oromia Region who was arrested in August 2015 on allegations of grand corruption and embezzlement, continued at year’s end.
On May 17, the High Court sentenced former intelligence deputy chief Woldeselassie Woldemichael, who authorities arrested in 2013, to 10 years in prison and a fine of 50,000 birr ($2,220) after convicting him of abuse of power and generation of wealth from unknown sources.
Financial Disclosure: The law requires all government officials and employees to register their wealth and personal property. The law includes financial and criminal sanctions for noncompliance. The president and prime minister registered their assets. The Federal Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (FEACC) reported it registered the assets of 26,584 appointees, officials, and employees between July 2015 and April. The commission also carried out reregistration of previously registered assets in the stated period. As of November 2015, 95,000 officials had registered their assets as required by law.
The FEACC held financial disclosure records. By law any person who seeks access to these records may make a request in writing; access to information on family assets may be restricted unless the FEACC deems the disclosure necessary.
Public Access to Information: The law provides for public access to government information, but access was largely restricted. The law includes a narrow list of exceptions outlining the grounds for nondisclosure. Responses generally must be made within 30 days of a written request, and fees may not exceed the actual cost of responding to the request. The law includes mechanisms for punishing officials for noncompliance, as well as appeal mechanisms for review of disclosure denials. Information on the number of disclosures or denials during the year was not available.
The government publishes laws and regulations in its national gazette, known as the Federal Negarit Gazeta, prior to their taking effect. The Government Communications Affairs Office managed contacts between the government, the press, and the public; the private press reported the government rarely responded to its queries.
Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human RightsShare
A few domestic human rights groups operated but with significant government restrictions. The government was generally distrustful and wary of domestic and international human rights groups and observers. State-controlled media were critical of international human rights groups such as HRW.
The CSO law prohibits charities, societies, and associations (NGOs or CSOs) that receive more than 10 percent of their funding from foreign sources from engaging in activities that advance human and democratic rights or promote equality of nations, nationalities, peoples, genders, and religions; the rights of children and persons with disabilities; conflict resolution or reconciliation; or the efficiency of justice and law enforcement services. The law severely curtails civil society’s ability to raise questions of good governance, human rights, corruption, and transparency and forced many local and international NGOs working on those issues to either cease advocacy, or reregister and focus on activities other than rights-based advocacy.
Some human rights defender organizations continued to register either as local charities, meaning they could not raise more than 10 percent of their funds from foreign donors but could act in the specified areas, or as resident charities, which allowed foreign donations above 10 percent but prohibited advocacy activities in those areas.
The state of emergency and the accompanying regulations restricted the ability of organizations to operate. The prohibitions relating to communication and acts that undermine tolerance and unity resulted in self-censorship of reports and public statements. The prohibition on unauthorized town hall meetings limited the organization of meetings, training sessions, and other gatherings. The prohibition on exchanging information or contact with a foreign government or NGOs in a manner that undermines national sovereignty and security reduced communication between local organizations and international organizations and others. Curfews in certain areas impeded human rights investigations. The obligation of all organizations to give information when asked by law enforcement raised concerns regarding confidentiality of information.
In July, August, and October, authorities arrested seven members of HRCO. On October 23, authorities dispersed a fundraising event celebrating HRCO’s 25th anniversary. Authorities claimed the organization did not seek additional approval from the command post for the gathering, though it had sought and received approval for the event prior to the start of the state of emergency. As of November 27, at least three members of HRCO remained in detention.
The government denied most NGOs access to federal prisons, police stations, and undisclosed places of detention. The government permitted a local NGO that has an exemption enabling it to raise unlimited funds from foreign sources and to engage in human rights advocacy to visit prisoners. Some NGOs played a positive role in improving prisoners’ chances for clemency.
Authorities limited access of human rights organizations, media, humanitarian agencies, and diplomatic missions in certain areas.
The government continued to lack a clear policy on NGO access to sensitive areas, leading regional government officials and military officials frequently to refer requests for NGO access to the federal government. Officials required journalists to register before entering certain regions or denied access. There were reports of regional police or local militias blocking NGO access to particular locations on particular days, citing security concerns.
The United Nations or Other International Bodies: The government did not cooperate with requests for investigations from the OHCHR or UN experts. In August the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights urged the government to allow independent observers into Oromia and Amhara regions. The commissioner reportedly said allegations of excessive use of force across the two regions must be investigated. The government dismissed the request through its spokesperson, who, on August 11, told an international media the United Nations was entitled to its opinion, but the government was responsible for the safety of its own citizens. The spokesperson stated the government would launch its own investigation. On October 7, following the deaths at the religious festival in Bishoftu, the OHCHR reiterated the request the government allow independent observers access to Oromia and Amhara regions. On October 10, a group of UN human rights experts urged the government to allow an international commission of inquiry to investigate.
Requests from the UN special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment to visit the country remained unanswered.
Government Human Rights Bodies: The EHRC reportedly investigated hundreds of human rights complaints, organized field investigations, conducted prison visits to provide recommendations on improving prison conditions, and produced annual and thematic reports. On June 10, the EHRC reported to parliament that it counted 173 deaths in Oromia, including 28 of security force members and officials, and asserted security forces used appropriate there. The EHRC also asserted Amhara regional state special security had used excessive force against the Kemant community in Amhara Region. The commission did not publicly release its report. The EHRC also investigated the September 3 fire in Kilinto prison. The commission operated 112 legal aid centers in collaboration with 22 universities and two civil society organizations, the Ethiopian Women Lawyers’ Association, and the Ethiopian Christian Lawyers Fellowship.
The Office of the Ombudsman has authority to investigate complaints of administrative mismanagement by executive branch offices. From July 2015 to June, the office received 2,849 complaints; the ombudsman opened investigations into 1,231 (including 209 cases from the previous year) and referred 1,827 cases outside its mandate to other offices. Of the 1,231 cases the office investigated, it reported resolving 1,010 (82 percent); 221 remained pending. The majority of complaints investigated dealt with land, administration of public service, delay in service delivery, unjust decisions, social security, and access to information.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in PersonsShare
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape and provides for penalties of five to 20 years’ imprisonment, depending on the severity of the case. The law does not expressly address spousal rape. The government did not fully enforce the law, partially due to widespread underreporting. Recent statistics on the number of abusers prosecuted, convicted, or punished were not available.
Domestic violence is illegal, but government enforcement of laws was inconsistent. Domestic violence, including spousal abuse, was a pervasive social problem. Depending on the severity of damage inflicted, penalties range from small fines to up to 15 years’ imprisonment.
Although women had recourse to police and the courts, societal norms and limited infrastructure prevented many women from seeking legal redress, particularly in rural areas. The government prosecuted offenders on a limited scale.
Domestic violence and rape cases often were delayed significantly and given low priority. In the context of gender-based violence, significant gender gaps in the justice system remained, due to poor documentation and inadequate investigation. Gender-based violence against women and girls was underreported due to cultural acceptance, shame, fear of reprisal, or a victim’s ignorance of legal protections.
“Child friendly” benches hear cases involving violence against children and women. Police officers were required to receive domestic violence training from domestic NGOs and the Ministry of Women, Children, and Youth Affairs. There was a commissioner for women and children’s affairs on the EHRC.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): FGM/C is illegal, but the government did not actively enforce this prohibition or punish those who practiced it. According to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), 74 percent of women and girls had undergone FGM/C. The penal code criminalizes the practice of clitoridectomy, with sentences of imprisonment of at least three months or a fine of at least 500 birr ($22). Infibulation of the genitals is punishable by five to 10 years’ imprisonment. No criminal charges, however, have ever been filed for FGM/C.
The prevalence of FGM/C was reportedly declining. UNICEF cited a 2011 Welfare Monitoring Survey as finding 23 percent of girls between birth and age 14 had undergone FGM/C. Although statistics on FGM/C varied, one report from 2013 cited Afar, Somali, and Dire Dawa regions as having the highest prevalence of FGM/C. It was less common in urban areas.
The age at which FGM/C is performed depends on the ethnic group, type of FGM/C performed, and region. In the north FGM/C tended to be performed immediately after birth; in the south, where FGM/C is more closely associated with marriage, it was performed later. Girls typically had clitoridectomies performed on them seven days after birth (consisting of an excision of the clitoris, often with partial labial excision) and infibulation (the most extreme and dangerous form of FGM/C) at the onset of puberty. The government’s strategy was to discourage the practice through education in public schools, the Health Extension Program, and broader mass media campaigns rather than to prosecute offenders. International bilateral donors and private organizations were active in community education efforts to reduce the prevalence of FGM/C, following the government’s lead of sensitization rather than legal enforcement.
Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Marriage by abduction is illegal, although it continued in some regions despite the government’s attempts to combat the practice. Forced sexual relationships accompanied most marriages by abduction, and women often experienced physical abuse during the abduction. Abductions led to conflicts among families, communities, and ethnic groups. In cases of abduction, the perpetrator did not face punishment if the victim agreed to marry the perpetrator.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment was widespread. The penal code prescribes penalties of 18 to 24 months’ imprisonment, but authorities generally did not enforce harassment laws.
Reproductive Rights: Individuals and couples generally have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children; manage their reproductive health; and to have access to the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence. Traditional practices such as marriage by abduction in which forced sex occurred limited this right in practice. According to a 2016 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS), the maternal mortality rate declined to 412 deaths per 100,000 live births. An article surveying maternal mortality listed obstructed labor/uterine rupture, hemorrhage, hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, and sepsis/infection as the top four causes from 2000 to 2012. The 2016 DHS found a modern contraceptive prevalence rate of 35 percent nationwide among married women and 55 percent among sexually active unmarried women. For married women the rate increased compared with that found in previous DHS surveys. According to the 2016 DHS, the percentage of births delivered by a skilled attendant increased to 28 percent and those that occurred in a health facility increased to 26 percent. Abortion is illegal but with numerous exceptions. The incidence of illegal, unsafe abortions had declined since legislation changed, which accounted in part for the drop in maternal mortality. All maternal and child health services were provided free of charge in the public sector; however, challenges persisted in accessing quality services in more remote areas of the country due to transportation problems.
Discrimination: Discrimination against women was a problem and was most acute in rural areas, where an estimated 80 percent of the population lived. The law contains discriminatory regulations, such as the recognition of the husband as the legal head of the family and the sole guardian of children more than five years old. Courts generally did not consider domestic violence by itself a justification for granting a divorce. Irrespective of the number of years a marriage existed, the number of children raised, and joint property, the law entitled women to only three months’ financial support if a relationship ended. There was limited legal recognition of common-law marriage. A common-law husband had no obligation to provide financial assistance to his family, and consequently women and children sometimes faced abandonment. Traditional courts continued to apply customary law in economic and social relationships.
The constitution states ownership of land and natural resources “is exclusively vested in the State and in the peoples of Ethiopia.” Both men and women have land-use rights that they may pass on as an inheritance. Land law varies among regions, however. All federal and regional land laws empower women to access government land. Inheritance laws also enable widows to inherit joint property they acquired during marriage.
In urban areas women had fewer employment opportunities than men did, and the jobs available did not generally provide equal pay for equal work. Women’s access to gainful employment, credit, and the opportunity to own or manage a business was limited by their generally lower level of education and training and by traditional attitudes.
Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from one’s parents. The law requires all children to be registered at birth. Children born in hospitals were registered; most of those born outside of hospitals were not. The overwhelming majority of children, particularly in rural areas, were born at home. During the year the government initiated a campaign to increase birth registrations.
Education: The law does not make education compulsory. As a policy primary education was universal and tuition free; however, there were not enough schools to accommodate the country’s youth, particularly in rural areas. The cost of school supplies was prohibitive for many families. The number of students enrolled in schools expanded faster than trained teachers could be deployed. The net primary school enrollment rate was 90 percent of boys and 84 percent of girls
Child Abuse: Child abuse was widespread. Uvula cutting, tonsil scraping, and milk tooth extraction were amongst the most prevalent harmful traditional practices. The African Report on Child Wellbeing 2013, published by the African Child Policy Forum, found the government had increased punishment for sexual violence against children. “Child friendly” benches heard cases involving violence against children and women. There was a commissioner for women and children’s affairs in the EHRC.
Early and Forced Marriage: The law sets the legal marriage age for girls and boys at 18; however, authorities did not enforce this law uniformly, and rural families sometimes were unaware of this provision. In several regions it was customary for older men to marry girls, although this traditional practice continued to face greater scrutiny and criticism. The government strategy to address underage marriage focused on education and mediation rather than punishment of offenders.
According to a 2015 UNICEF report, 16 percent of women ages 20-24 were married before age 15 and 41 percent before age 18. According to the 2011 DHS, the median age of first marriage among women between ages 20 and 49 who were surveyed was 17.1 years, compared with 16.5 years in 2005.
In Amhara and Tigray regions, girls were married as early as age seven. Child marriage was most prevalent in Amhara Region, where approximately 45 percent of girls marry before age 18, and the median first marriage age was 15.1 years, according to the 2011 DHS, compared with 14.7 years in 2005. Regional governments in Amhara and, to a lesser extent, Tigray offered programs to educate girls, young women, parents, community leaders, and health professionals on problems associated with early marriage.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): Information is provided in the women’s section above.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The minimum legal age for consensual sex is 18, but authorities did not enforce this law. The law provides for three to 15 years in prison for sexual intercourse with a minor. The law provides for one year in prison and a fine of 10,000 birr ($444) for trafficking in indecent material displaying sexual intercourse by minors. The law prohibits profiting from the prostitution of minors and inducing minors to engage in prostitution; however, commercial sexual exploitation of children continued, particularly in urban areas. Girls as young as age 11 were reportedly recruited to work in brothels. Customers often sought these girls because they believed them to be free of sexually transmitted diseases. Young girls were trafficked from rural to urban areas. They also were exploited as prostitutes in hotels, bars, resort towns, and rural truck stops. Reports indicated family members forced some young girls into prostitution.
Infanticide or Infanticide of Children with Disabilities: Ritual and superstition-based infanticide, including of infants with disabilities, continued in remote tribal areas, particularly South Omo. Local governments worked to educate communities against the practice.
Displaced Children: According to a 2010 report by the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, approximately 150,000 children lived on the streets, of whom 60,000 were in the capital. The ministry’s report stated the inability of families to support children due to parental illness or insufficient household income exacerbated the problem. Research in 2014 by the ministry noted rapid urbanization, illegal employment brokers, high expectations of better life in cities, and rural-urban migration were adding to the problem. These children begged, sometimes as part of a gang, or worked in the informal sector. A large number of unaccompanied minors from Eritrea continued to arrive in the country (see section 2.d.).
Institutionalized Children: There were an estimated 4.5 million orphans in the country in 2012, according to statistics published by UNICEF. The vast majority lived with extended family members. Government and privately run orphanages were overcrowded, and conditions were often unsanitary. Due to severe resource constraints, hospitals and orphanages often overlooked or neglected abandoned infants. Institutionalized children did not receive adequate health care.
The constitution does not mandate equal rights for persons with disabilities. The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical and mental disabilities in employment and mandates access to buildings but does not explicitly mention intellectual or sensory disabilities. It is illegal for deaf persons to drive.
The law prohibits employment discrimination based on disability. It also makes employers responsible for providing appropriate working or training conditions and materials to persons with disabilities. The law specifically recognizes the additional burden on women with disabilities. The government took limited measures to enforce the law, for example, by assigning interpreters for deaf and hard of hearing civil service employees (see section 7.d.). The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs and the Public Servants Administration Commission are responsible for the implementation of the Proclamation on The Rights of Disabled Persons to Employment.
The law mandates building accessibility and accessible toilet facilities for persons with physical disabilities, although specific regulations that define the accessibility standards were not adopted. Buildings and toilet facilities were usually not accessible. Property owners are required to give persons with disabilities preference for ground-floor apartments, and this was respected.
Women with disabilities were more disadvantaged than men with disabilities in education and employment. The 2010 Population Council Young Adult Survey found young persons with disabilities were less likely to have ever attended school than those without disabilities. The survey indicated girls with disabilities were less likely than boys to be in school: 23 percent of girls with disabilities were in school, compared with 48 percent of girls and 55 percent of boys without disabilities. Overall, 48 percent of young persons with disabilities surveyed reported not going to school due to their disability. Girls with disabilities also were much more likely to suffer physical and sexual abuse than girls without disabilities. Of sexually experienced girls with disabilities, 33 percent reported having experienced forced sex. According to the same survey, approximately 6 percent of boys with disabilities had been beaten in the three months prior to the survey, compared with 2 percent of boys without disabilities.
There were several schools for persons with hearing and vision disabilities and several training centers for children and young persons with intellectual disabilities. There was a network of prosthetic and orthopedic centers in five of the nine regional states.
The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs worked on disability-related problems. The CSO law continued to affect negatively several domestic associations, such as the Ethiopian National Association of the Blind, the Ethiopian National Association of the Deaf, and the Ethiopian National Association of the Physically Handicapped, as it did other civil society organizations. International organizations and some local CSOs were active, particularly on issues concerning accessibility and vocational training for persons with disabilities.
The right of persons with disabilities to vote and otherwise participate in civic affairs is not restricted by law, although lack of accessibility can make participation difficult. In the May 2015 national elections, African Union observers reported voters requiring assistance were always provided with assistance, either by a person of their choice or by polling staff. Most polling stations were accessible to persons with disabilities, and priority was given to them as well as to the elderly, pregnant women, and nursing mothers.
The country has more than 80 ethnic groups, of which the Oromo, at approximately 35 percent of the population, is the largest. The federal system drew boundaries approximately along major ethnic group lines. Most political parties remained primarily ethnically based, although the ruling party and one of the largest opposition parties are coalitions of ethnically based parties.
HRCO reported that a few Oromo protesters in Ameya, South West Shoa Zone of Oromia, burnt down homes and property of Amhara residents on December 12, 2015. According to the HRCO report, the attack displaced several hundred farmers and destroyed more than 800 homes. A number of Amhara farmers reportedly retaliated by burning down homes of 96 Oromo farmers. The two communities held joint meetings and condemned the attacks on both sides. They were working together to rebuild the destroyed houses.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
Consensual same-sex sexual activity is illegal and punishable by three to 15 years’ imprisonment. No law prohibits discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) individuals. There were some reports of violence against LGBTI individuals; reporting was limited due to fear of retribution, discrimination, or stigmatization. There are no hate crime laws or other criminal justice mechanisms to aid in the investigation of abuses against LGBTI individuals. Individuals did not identify themselves as LGBTI persons due to severe societal stigma and the illegality of consensual same-sex sexual activity. Activists in the LGBTI community stated they were followed and at times feared for their safety. There were no updates on reports of persons incarcerated for allegedly engaging in same-sex sexual activities.
The AIDS Resource Center in Addis Ababa reported the majority of self-identified gay and lesbian callers, most of whom were men, requested assistance in changing their behavior to avoid discrimination. Many gay men reported anxiety, confusion, identity crises, depression, self-ostracism, religious conflict, and suicide attempts.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
Societal stigma and discrimination against persons with or affected by HIV/AIDS continued in the areas of education, employment, and community integration. Persons with or affected by HIV/AIDS reported difficulty accessing various services. There were no statistics on the scale of the problem.
Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
Violence occurred, including in Gambella Region and during protests.
On April 15, armed men from the Murle ethnic group from South Sudan who crossed into the country reportedly killed more than 200 women and children in three woredas of Nuer Zone in Gambella Region. The attackers also reportedly abducted more than 100 children and stole thousands of cattle. The Murle attack added to the instability of the region, which was already under pressure because of interethnic clashes between Nuer and Anuak groups that started on January 20.
On April 21, South Sudanese refugees living in Jewi camp in Gambella Region reportedly killed 10 Ethiopians contracted by an international NGO to build a secondary education facility. The violence was triggered when an NGO-contracted truck hit and killed two refugee children. Authorities detained 53 refugees suspected of the killings and, on August 15, filed criminal charges against 23 of them. According to the Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs, the government provided two public defenders to represent the refugees at their trial. The UNHCR Protection Unit as well as the International Committee of the Red Cross had access to the detainees and monitored the legal process.
On June 29, residents of Hana Mariam, Furi, and Mango Cheffe localities of Nifas Silk Laphto Subcity in Addis Ababa clashed with police and killed two police officers and a local official during the start of the city government’s operation to evict residents forcibly. Both Addis Ababa Police Commission and Government Communication Affairs Office confirmed the killings.
Section 7. Worker RightsShare
a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining
The constitution and law provide workers, except for civil servants and certain categories of workers primarily in the public sector, with the right to form and join unions, conduct legal strikes, and bargain collectively, although other provisions and laws severely restrict or excessively regulate these rights. The law specifically prohibits managerial employees, teachers, health-care workers, judges, prosecutors, security-service workers, domestic workers, and seasonal and part-time agricultural workers from organizing unions.
A minimum of 10 workers is required to form a union. While the law provides all unions with the right to register, the government may refuse to register trade unions that do not meet its registration requirements including because of a nonpolitical conviction of the union leader within the previous 10 years and the presence of illegal union objectives. The government may unilaterally cancel the registration of a union. Workers may not join more than one trade union per employment. The law stipulates a trade union organization may not act in an overtly political manner. The law allows administrative authorities to appeal to the courts to cancel union registration for engaging in prohibited activities, such as political action.
Other laws and regulations that explicitly or potentially infringe upon workers’ rights to associate freely and to organize include the CSO law, Council of Ministers Regulation No. 168/2009 on Charities and Societies to reinforce the CSO law, and the ATP. The International Labor Organization (ILO) Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations noted the CSO law gives the government power to interfere in the right of workers to organize, including through the registration, internal administration, and dissolution of organizations’ processes.
While the law recognizes the right of collective bargaining, this right was severely restricted. Negotiations aimed at amending or replacing a collective agreement must be completed within three months of its expiration; otherwise, the provisions on wages and other benefits cease to apply. Civil servants, including public school teachers, have the right to establish and join professional associations created by the employees but not to negotiate better wages or working conditions. Arbitration procedures in the public sector are more restrictive than those in the private sector. The law does not provide for effective and adequate sanctions against acts of interference by other agents in the establishment, functioning, or administration of either workers’ or employers’ organizations.
Although the constitution and law provide workers with the right to strike to protect their interests, the law contains detailed provisions prescribing extremely complex and time-consuming formalities that make legal strike actions difficult. The law requires aggrieved workers to attempt reconciliation with employers before striking and includes a lengthy dispute settlement process. These provisions apply equally to an employer’s right to lock workers out. Two-thirds of the workers concerned must support a strike before it is authorized. If a case has not already been referred to a court or labor relations board, workers retain the right to strike without resorting to either of these options, provided they give at least 10 days’ notice to the other party and the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs and make efforts at reconciliation.
The law also prohibits strikes by workers who provide essential services, including air transport and urban bus service workers, electric power suppliers, gas station personnel, hospital and pharmacy personnel, firefighters, telecommunications personnel, and urban sanitary workers. The list of essential services exceeds the ILO definition of essential services. The law prohibits retribution against strikers, but it also provides for civil or penal penalties against unions and workers involved in unauthorized strike actions. Violation of this procedure is an offense punishable with a fine not exceeding 1,200 birr ($53) if committed by a union or of 300 birr ($13) if committed by an individual worker. If the provisions of the penal code prescribe more severe penalties, the punishment laid down in the code becomes applicable. The government may dissolve unions for carrying out strikes in “essential services.”
The informal labor sector, including domestic workers, was not unionized and was not protected by labor laws. Workers are defined as persons in an employment relationship. Lack of adequate staffing prevented the government from effectively enforcing applicable laws for those sectors protected by law. Court procedures were subject to lengthy delays and appeals.
Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining were respected, but some legal problems remained. The ILO was critical of the government’s alleged use of the antiterrorism law to punish ringleaders, organizers, or commanders of forbidden societies, meetings, and assemblies. The government refused for the fourth year to register the National Teachers Union (NTA) on grounds a national teachers’ association already existed and that the NTA’s registration application was not submitted in accordance with the CSO law. In 2013 an ILO mission made a working visit and signed a joint statement with the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, stating the government was committed to registering the NTA. The ILO’s Ethiopia office reiterated this message and characterized the dispute as an administrative issue focused on naming rights and diaspora membership.
While the government allowed citizens to exercise the right of collective bargaining, enterprise unions are allowed to negotiate wages only at the plant level. Unions in the formal industrial sector made some efforts to enforce labor regulations.
Antiunion activities occurred but were rarely reported. Despite the law prohibiting antiunion discrimination, unions reported employers terminated union activists. There were unconfirmed reports that some major foreign investors generally did not allow workers to form unions, often transferred or dismissed union leaders, and intimidated and pressured members to leave unions. Lawsuits alleging unlawful dismissal often took years to resolve because of case backlogs in the courts. Employers found guilty of antiunion discrimination were required to reinstate workers dismissed for union activities and generally did so. The law prohibits retribution against strikers, and there were no reported cases of violations. Labor officials reported that high unemployment, fear of retribution, and long delays in hearing labor cases deterred workers from participating in strikes or other labor actions.
b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
In August 2015 the federal government enacted a comprehensive overhaul of its antitrafficking penal code. The code prescribes harsh penalties of up to life imprisonment and a fine of 500,000 birr ($22,197) for human trafficking and exploitation, including slavery, debt bondage, forced prostitution, and servitude.
Although the ban on labor migration to the Gulf States remained in effect, in February the government enacted the Revised Overseas Employment Proclamation (Proclamation No. 923/20 16), a major precondition for lifting the labor migration ban.
The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor but permits courts to order forced labor as a punitive measure. Slavery, even in disguised form, is punishable with five to 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine. The government did not effectively enforce the law, and forced labor occurred. Police at the federal and regional levels began to receive training focused on human trafficking and exploitation. Both adults and children were forced to engage in street vending, begging, traditional weaving, or agricultural work. Children also worked in forced domestic labor. Situations of debt bondage also occurred in traditional weaving, pottery making, cattle herding, and other agricultural activities, mostly in rural areas. Girls were exploited in domestic servitude and prostitution in neighboring African countries. Ethiopian women who migrated for work or fled abusive employers in the Middle East were also vulnerable to sex trafficking. Men and boys migrated to the Gulf States and other African nations, where some were subjected to forced labor.
The government sometimes deployed prisoners to work outside the prisons for private businesses, a practice the ILO stated could constitute compulsory labor.
c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment
By law the minimum age for wage or salary employment is 14. The minimum age provisions, however, apply only to contractual labor and do not apply to self-employed children or children who perform unpaid work. The law prohibits hazardous or night work for children between 14 and 18. The law defines hazardous work as any work that could jeopardize a child’s health. Prohibited work sectors include passenger transport, work in electric generation plants, factory work, underground work, street cleaning, and many other sectors. The law expressly excludes children under age 16 attending vocational schools from the prohibition on hazardous work. The law does not permit children between ages 14 and 18 to work more than seven hours per day, between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., or on public holidays or rest days.
Child labor remained a serious problem. The small number of trained labor inspectors and a lack of enforcement resources resulted in numerous violations. Occupational safety and health measures were not effectively enforced, and significant numbers of children worked in prohibited work sectors, particularly construction.
School enrollment was low, particularly in rural areas. To underscore the importance of attending school, joint NGO and government-led community-based awareness-raising efforts targeted communities where children were heavily engaged in agricultural work. The government invested in modernizing agricultural practices and constructing schools to combat the problem of child labor in agricultural sectors.
In both rural and urban areas, children often began working at young ages. Child labor was particularly pervasive in subsistence agricultural production, traditional weaving, fishing, and domestic work. A growing number of children worked in construction. Children in rural areas, especially boys, engaged in activities such as cattle herding, petty trading, plowing, harvesting, and weeding, while other children, mostly girls, collected firewood and fetched water. Children worked in the production of gold. In small-scale gold mining, they dug mining pits and carried heavy loads of water. Children in urban areas, including orphans, worked in domestic service, often working long hours, which prevented many from attending school regularly. Children also worked in manufacturing, shining shoes, making clothes, parking, public transport, petty trading, as porters, and directing customers to taxis. Some children worked long hours in dangerous environments for little or no wages and without occupational safety protection. Child laborers often faced physical, sexual, and emotional abuse at the hands of their employers.
d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation
The law prohibits discrimination based on race, ethnicity, national origin nationality, gender, marital status, religion, political affiliation, political outlook, pregnancy, socioeconomic status, disability, or “any other conditions.” The law specifically recognizes the additional burden on pregnant women and persons with disabilities (see section 6). Sexual orientation, gender identity, and HIV-positive status are not specifically protected. The penalty for discrimination on the above grounds is a fine of 1,200 birr ($53). The government took limited measures to enforce the law.
Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to women, who had fewer employment opportunities than did men, and the jobs available did not provide equal pay for equal work.
Discrimination against migrant workers also occurred (see section 7.e.).
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
There is no national minimum wage. Some government institutions and public enterprises set their own minimum wages. Public-sector employees, the largest group of wage earners, earned a monthly minimum wage of approximately 420 birr ($19). The official estimate for the poverty income level was 315 birr ($14) per month.
Only a small percentage of the population, concentrated in urban areas, was involved in wage-labor employment. Wages in the informal sector generally were below subsistence levels.
The law provides for a 48-hour maximum legal workweek with a 24-hour rest period, premium pay for overtime, and prohibition of excessive compulsory overtime. The country has 13 paid public holidays per year. The law entitles employees in public enterprises and government financial institutions to overtime pay; civil servants receive compensatory time off for overtime work. The government, industries, and unions negotiated occupational safety and health standards. Workers specifically excluded by law from unionizing, including domestic workers and seasonal and part-time agricultural workers, generally did not benefit from health and safety regulations in the workplace.
The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs’ inspection department was responsible for enforcement of workplace standards. In 2015 the country had 423 labor inspectors and, according to the ministry, they completed 37,500 inspections in 2015. The labor inspectors did not enforce standards effectively. The ministry’s severely limited administrative capacity; lack of an effective mechanism for receiving, investigating, and tracking allegations of violations; and lack of detailed, sector-specific health and safety guidelines hampered effective enforcement of these standards. Maximum penalties for different types of violations range from 300 birr ($13) to 1,000 birr ($44), which by themselves are insufficient to deter such violations
Compensation, benefits, and working conditions of seasonal agricultural workers were far below those of unionized permanent agricultural employees. The government did little to enforce the law. Most employees in the formal sector worked a 39-hour workweek. Many foreign, migrant, and informal-sector workers worked more than 48 hours per week.
Workers have the right to remove themselves from dangerous situations without jeopardizing their employment; there were no reports that workers exercised this right. Hazardous working conditions existed in the agricultural sector, which was the primary base of the country’s economy. There were also reports of hazardous and exploitative working conditions in the construction and industrial sectors, although data on deaths and injuries were not available.
The US capitol building. Credit: Orhan Cam/Shutterstock.
One member of Congress is hoping for a “serious policy review” by the Trump administration of the United States’ relationship with Ethiopia, citing human rights abuses by the government there.
“To truly stop violence abroad, Ethiopia must stop violence at home,” Rep. Chris Smith, chair of the House subcommittee on Africa and global human rights, stated at a press conference outside the U.S. Capitol building on Wednesday.
“Since 2005, untold thousands of students have been jailed, have been shot during demonstrations or have simply disappeared in the last 11 years,” Smith stated Feb. 15. “Ethiopia’s next generation is being taught that the rights that democracy normally bestows on a country’s citizens don’t apply in their country.”
Smith and Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) introduced a House resolution (H. Res. 128) Wednesday “highlighting the crisis in Ethiopia due to government violations of the human rights of its citizens,” Smith stated.
“With this resolution, we are showing that the United States remains committed to universal respect for human rights, and that we will not tolerate continued abuse of those human rights by Ethiopian security forces,” Coffman said.
There has been a “steady erosion” of democracy in Ethiopia since 2005, the congressmen maintained.
Government dissidents have been jailed, citizens have been tortured and killed by the government’s security forces, and freedom of the press has been infringed upon. Ethnic groups have been the victims of violence perpetrated by the government.
Peaceful protests in the Oromia and Amhara regions of the country were met with hundreds of killings and tens of thousands of arrests by security forces in 2016, Human Rights Watch said in its recent report on the country. Citizens released from jail claimed they were tortured while in custody.
“Instead of addressing the numerous calls for reform in 2016, the Ethiopian government used excessive and unnecessary lethal force to suppress largely peaceful protests,” Felix Horne, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch, stated in the report released in January.
One protest in the Oromia region resulted in the police using tear gas, rubber bullets, and rounds fired into the air to break it up, claiming that the crowd was getting out of hand. An ensuing stampede killed 50. The Inter-religious Council of Ethiopia, on which Catholic leaders sit, called for prayer and peace amid the protests and asked government leaders to listen to the people.
The recent protests in the Amhara region of the country have showed a sense of “identity” on the part of embattled citizens, and their “need to survive,” Tewodrose Tirfe of the Amhara Association of America, a refugee who came to the U.S. in 1982, noted.
“The U.S. and the West cannot sympathize with a government that kills people,” Seenaa Jimjimo, a human rights advocate who was born and grew up in Ethiopia, insisted in her statement at Wednesday’s press conference.
Amidst protests, a state of emergency was declared by the state in October and is “being used as a method to crack down even further on basic human freedoms,” Coffman said.
Thus, the resolution is the “first step by our representatives to let the Ethiopian government know that the U.S. policy is changing, that their continued human rights violations on innocent civilians will not be tolerated,” Tirfe stated.
“We invoke the Global Magnitsky Act,” Gregory Simpkins, staff director of the House subcommittee on Africa, said on Wednesday of the law which enables sanctions against specific “entities and persons who violate the human rights of people.”
Ethiopia has acted as a key ally in fighting international terrorism, Smith noted, but if it fails to protect human rights at home then extremism could fester within its own borders.
“What Congressman Smith and I are asking is for the Congress of the United States to join together and pass this resolution condemning the Ethopian government for its human rights abuses,” Coffman stated.
“And I think it’s important for all Americans to care about human rights to encourage their member of Congress to co-sponsor this resolution so that we can pass it in the Congress.”
Following the death of at least 55 people in the weekend, Ethiopia is coming out of a three-day national mourning with a complete internet shutdown and more protests engulfing the country. Anti-government protests have broken both in the outskirts of the capital Addis Ababa, with reports of closed roads, a heavy presence of riot police…
(Africa Times) — Oromo rights activists said Friday that Bontu Bekele Gerba, daughter of the imprisoned Oromo political opposition leader in Ethiopia, had been released after security forces detained her in the town of Mojo.
Independent Oromo journalist Mohammed Ademo, a former al Jazeera America columnist based in the United States, said the family’s lawyer confirmed the late-afternoon disappearance.
Ademo and other Oromo advocates immediately took to social media, some demanding that U.S. officials and international NGOs confirm her whereabouts and intervene as necessary.
Journalist Jawar Mohammed, executive director for the Oromio Media Network in the U.S., reported that she was released after being detained for questioning at a Mojo police station.
Bontu Bekele Gerba is a political activist in her own right, speaking often to media organizations and Ethiopian activists on behalf of her father, a leader of the Oromo Federalist Congress, and the movement.
The elder Bekele Gerba was most recently detained at Ethiopia’s Kilinto Prison in Addis Ababa, a maximum-security facility where high-profile political prisoners and anti-government protesters are incarcerated. He was rearrested in December following a short release and since remained at the facility, where a fire claimed 23 lives in early September, according to official Ethiopian government totals.
Bontu Bekele Gerba led a search for her father when prison authorities failed to provide information to anxious families who knew nothing of their loved ones’ fate, and spoke publicly again on their behalf.
Her father’s initial 2011 arrest followed a meeting with Amnesty International researchers that led to terrorism charges, which are often used by Ethiopia to silence political dissidents including the Oromo.
Global concern for the 30 million Oromo living under President Mulatu Teshome has increased, following a year in which at least 500 hundred Ethiopians died in violent clashes with security forces.
That visibility was raised following the protest of Ethiopian Feyisa Lelisa at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro and his subsequent application for U.S. asylum. Activists in the U.S. have held large protest marches, most recently on Thursday in Washington D.C., on behalf of the Oromo.
U.S. Representatives push for legislation targeting Ethiopia after Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch document human rights abuses.
A bipartisan group of U.S. Representatives has proposed legislation targeted at the government of Ethiopia, after Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch documented hundreds of cases of alleged human rights abuses. House Resolution 861, titled “Supporting respect for human rights and encouraging inclusive governance in Ethiopia,” was introduced by Reps. Chris Smith (R-NJ), Keith Ellison (D-MN), Al Green (D-TX), Mike Coffman (R-CO), and Eliot Engel (D-NY).
“It is an abomination when any country tortures its own citizens,” said Rep. Smith, at a September 13th press conference on Capitol Hill. The human rights abuses, waged primarily against the Oromo and Amhara populations, have come to light despite Ethiopian authorities efforts preventing independent screeners from conducting transparent investigations.
Ethiopia is a strategic ally of the United States. The country headquarters the 54 nation African Union, and, critical to U.S. interests, assists in counterterrorism efforts against al-Shabab, an Al-Qaeda aligned jihadi terrorist group based in Somalia. Ethiopia is also host to a staggering 750,000 refugeesfrom the war torn region.
In a press statement Rep. Ellison said, “While Ethiopia is an important ally for the United States, continuing to let the Ethiopian government oppress its own people will only further destabilize the region. We must do all we can to ensure that the human rights of all Ethiopians are respected.” Rep. Smith added, “A valuable contributor to global peacekeeping missions, growing unrest in Ethiopia in reaction to human rights violations by the government threaten to destabilize a nation counted on to continue its role on the international scene”.
Resolutions, like the one proposed, tend to be more of an opinion that often do little in themselves because they lack the political leverage to prompt much action. They often fail to hold allied nations to a standard of conduct, as countries and international organizations are hesitant to regulate how other nations behave within their own borders.
Noteworthy, is that the bill also seeks to apply financial and other pressure towards the government, by calling for the Secretary of State to “conduct a review of security assistance to Ethiopia” and “improve transparency” with respect to such assistance, and to “improve oversight and accountability of United States assistance to Ethiopia”.
Despite the good intention of the bill, critics highlight that it doesn’t go far enough. Henok Gabisa, a visiting Academic Fellow and faculty member at Washington and Lee University School of Law, stated in a personal interview:
“H.RES.861 is generally a good gesture from the United States Congress. It is very specific in a sense that it points out the consistent and constant patterns of corrosion of civil and economic liberties in the country. It also seems to give scrupulous attention to the marginalized groups who remain on the receiving end of the pain. That is really great. Nonetheless, owing to the mammoth financial aid transported to Ethiopian government by the U.S. under their bilateral security partnership, H. RES. 861 failed to deploy the political leverage of the [United States Government], and as a result it is nowhere nearer to fulfilling the goal it promises. In fact, Resolutions by merit are just declaratory statements or positions of a government. They may not be considered law in a positivist school of law. Yet again, H.RES.861 has no teeth to bite those who fail to comply the soft obligations it enumerated under the last sections 3-6.”
In a country of over 86 million, Oromos and Amharas constitute the two largest ethnic groups, combining for over 61% of the population. Yet, they are the most politically marginalized andeconomically disenfranchised. In 2015 Ethiopia’s ruling party, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, won every seat in parliament despite little ethnic diversity. The EPRDF has remained in power since the overthrow of Ethiopia’s military government in 1991.
J David Thompson (US Army) is a Juris Doctor candidate at Washington & Lee University School of Law focusing on International Human Rights Law. He is a Veterans in Global Leadership Fellow, and brings experience on human rights, international relations, strengthening civil society, refugee issues, interagency collaboration, and countering violent extremism. Prior to Washington & Lee, he served in the US Army as a Military Police officer and Special Operations Civil Affairs with multiple deployments to Afghanistan and one to Jordan—receiving a Bronze Star amongst other decorations. In Jordan, David worked at the US Embassy in countering violent extremism, strengthening civil society, and refugee response with other United States Government organizations, the United Nations, and various non-governmental organizations.
The United States is very concerned over the situation in Ethiopia, particularly the instability in the Oromia and Amhara regions.
The United States is very concerned over the situation in Ethiopia, particularly the instability in the Oromia and Amhara regions, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield said in an interview. Speaking in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting, Assistant Secretary Thomas-Greenfield called the response by the government to protests an “intense and somewhat harsh crackdown:”
“We have had discussions with the Ethiopian government encouraging that they have dialogue, and that they open the possibly for press freedom, civil society’s ability to function, and that many of the people who have been put in jail be released.”
In Oromia anti-government protests began in November 2015, and they have also occurred in the northern Amhara region.
Assistant Secretary Thomas-Greenfield said the United States believes that the situation in the country could deteriorate and that the Ethiopian government is aware of that possibility as well.
“We’ve met with Prime Minister Hailemariam [Desalegn] in New York, and we have encouraged him to look at how the government is addressing this situation.”
“We think,” she said, “it could get worse if it’s not addressed – sooner rather than later.”
The Ethiopian leadership remains in denial. The long meetings of its ruling bodies have culminated in a report on 15 years of national “rebirth”, in which it awards itself good marks, while acknowledging the existence of a few problems here and there.
Nonetheless, the odd warning signal may be heard – though very seldom – in counterpoint to the general complacency. Hailemariam Desalegn, prime minister and chairman of what is essentially the single party, has gone so far as to warn that the issues facing the regime are a matter of “life or death”,and that Ethiopia is “sliding towards ethnic conflict similar to that in neighbouring countries”.
Well, these neighbouring countries include Somalia, epitome of the ‘failed state’, and Sudan, which has split in two and where civil war is raging in the new Southern State. In this, unusually, he is in agreement with Merera Gudina, head of one of the main opposition parties still permitted to operate, whospeaks of the probability of “civil war […] if the government continues to repress”. There is every sign that Ethiopia is plunging into a crisis whose scale, intensity, and multiple and interdependent drivers are unprecedented since the founding of the regime in 1991, although the impossibility of field research precludes any in-depth and conclusive assessment.
The first, very discreet signs of this crisis appeared in the spring of 2014 in a part of the country where they were probably least expected: in Tigray, where the Tigrean People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), pillar of the quadri-ethnic party ruling coalition – the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) – seemed both unopposed and unopposable.
Yet the Tigreans loudly and clearly accused “their” Front of neglecting them by only looking after its own interests or, as Hailemariam Desalegn expressed it, of using “public authority for personal gain at all levels”.
The crisis erupted into the open a few weeks later in Oromya, with additional grievances. In the most populous of the nine states and two municipalities that make up federal Ethiopia, a state that is also the country’s economic powerhouse, students took to the streets to protest against the Addis Ababa Master Plan. Their suspicion was that this would inevitably lead to a transfer of sovereignty from the Oromo region to central government and be accompanied by “land grabbing”, the expulsion and dispossession of the local peasant farmers. Protests resumed in November 2015 and continue today at a larger scale that now includes the general population and almost the whole of Oromo State.
Turning up the heat
The heat was turned up a further notch in mid-July with the advent of protests in the historic heart of Amhara State. Together, Amhara and Oromo account for almost two-thirds of the country’s total population. The diversity of the ways of life that characterizes Oromo – farmers and pastoralists, of its religions – Orthodox Christian, Muslim, Protestant, animist, together with its very loose traditional structures, prompts Merera Gudina to emphasise “the chronic division between Oromo political forces”. By contrast, the homogeneity of the Amhara population – in its vast majority small farmers and Christian Orthodox – fosters unity, while its mobilisation is favoured by its sense of hierarchy and discipline. Finally, the parallel protests by Oromo and Amhara, with largely shared reasons and objectives, breaks with their historical antagonism: the dispossession and subsequent exploitation of the Oromo by an Amhara – and Tigrean – elite from the late nineteenth century onwards, embedded their relations in a system that the Oromo have described as colonial.
The toughest demonstrations that the regime had faced followed the contested elections of 2005. They were essentially confined to Addis Ababa, with the young unemployed playing a major role. In all, they lasted only a few days, in two surges. They came in response to a call from established political forces for a very clear outcome – respect for the verdict of the ballot box. The regime reacted in unison with violent repression – killing almost 200 and arresting tens of thousands – immediately followed by a large-scale strategy of political reconquest through the expansion of the quasi-single party and a rallying of the elites. The protests very quickly died down, and the opposition forces collapsed.
This time, the protests affect the country’s two main states. Despite the repression – hundreds killed, thousands arrested – it has been going on for nine months, with varying degrees of intensity. The attempts at dissuasion through fear have not been enough – at least for the moment – to demobilize the protesters, as evidenced by new forms of protest such as the recent “dead city” operations in the Amhara region and the just launched boycott campaign in Oromya.
This time, a whole generation of young people is in the forefront of the protests – the 15-29 age group represents more than a quarter of the population – starting with, but not confined to, all those who have benefited from mass education, who have carried their elders with them. This time, their anger derives from widespread discontent, focusing on three areas.
First, they are fed up not just with the regime’s authoritarianism, but more so with the way it is exercised: supervision and control that are stifling, intrusive and infantilising, imposed everywhere, all the time, on everyone, by a Party that has swallowed up the State. The second focus is the implementation of a federalism that is in theory equitable, but in reality profoundly unbalanced. Tigray, representing 6% of the population, was the epicentre of the rebellion, which threw out Mengistu Haile Mariam’s military-socialist junta in 1991, the Derg. It was headed by the Tigrean student elite that founded the TPLF. This historical role justified its initial primacy.
Twenty-five years on, however, this elite remains vastly overrepresented at the apex of political power, the army, the security services. In addition, through public and para-public companies, it controls two thirds of the modern economy, excluding traditional agriculture.In the specific Ethiopian case… a tentacular and increasingly voracious and arrogant oligarchy… has ultimately filtered down to village level.
The third focus of discontent is the backlashes of the “developmental state”. This system centralises revenues at the summit of power, which supremely decides on its optimal use for development across the country. This strategy has been decisive in the exceptional economic growth of the last decade – probably around 6% to 7% per year – and in the expansion of education and health services alike. However, the centralisation it entails is evidently incompatible with authentic federalism. Moreover, in the specific Ethiopian case, the fact that the functions of political leadership, economic decision-making and the management of public and para-public enterprises are concentrated in the hands of the same people at the summit of the party-state, free of any control and political counterweight, has led to the creation of a tentacular and increasingly voracious and arrogant oligarchy, which has ultimately filtered down to village level.
These flaws have had a cumulative and mutually reinforcing impact. In Oromya in particular, the implementation of development projects dictated from above and often controlled by nonindigenous oligarchs, has frequently been marked by authoritarianism, spoliation and ethnic favouritism. In the case of “land grabbing”, there are multiple instances of land being brutally appropriated and embezzlement of the compensation owed to evicted farmers. The triggering factor for the protests in Amhara region was the authorities’ refusal to tackle the dispute arising from the incorporation into Tigray of the Wolkait region – a thin strip of land in the north that was part of the imperial province of Amhara – imposed after 1991 without public consultation of any kind, together with the transfer of western areas to Sudan, a process conducted in total secrecy.
The demonstrators’ slogans and targets speak for themselves. They have attacked prisons to free the inmates. They have ransacked public properties, not just offices, vehicles, etc., but also health centres, unemployment offices and cooperatives, places they see as existing more to control the population than to perform their purported functions.They have ransacked public properties… they see as existing more to control the population than to perform their purported functions.
They have gone after local party bosses and their possessions – the lowest layer of the oligarchy – targeting government representatives as much as the despoilers. They have burned businesses owned by national and foreign investors (farms, factories, hotels, etc.) because they symbolise an external stranglehold over Oromya and the Amhara region. “Oromya is not for sale” was one favourite slogan. In short, the demonstrators are targeting both the persons and property of those they see as having obtained position and/or wealth at their expense, through the patronage of the ruling power. “Thief!” is one of the most oft repeated slogans.
In Oromya, the conviction of having remained second-class citizens in a system dominated by a “northist” minority, and in the Amhara region of having become second-class and of feeling permanently “humiliated and marginalized” because a part of the Amhara elite was dominant in the imperial era, is less and less tolerated. The assertion of ethnic identity and the demand for the full rights associated with it are at the heart of the demonstrations. “We want genuine self rule”, cry the Oromo, “We are Amhara”, declare the crowds in the historical capital Gondar, or in Bahir Dar, the new capital. However, these claims are also taking a very worrying turn. In Oromo, demonstrators have gone after Amhara and Tigreans, as well as their properties. Tigreans have been targeted in the Amhara region. However, distortions of every kind in the propaganda war make the reality difficult to grasp. In particular, were the rioters targeting arrivistes more than Tigreans, or vice versa? Anyway, Tigreans are even beginning to leave certain areas, notably in a “mass exodus” from Gondar. Some go so far as to speak of “ethnic cleansing”.
There are pressing calls for these practices to cease, both on social media and from the legal opposition. But as Beyene Petros, one of its leaders, explains:“we’re just watching… people are coming out spontaneously… political parties are bypassed”. By contrast with 2005, this popular protest is largely independent of the legal opposition, and even the illegal opposition groups, such as the Oromo Liberation Front, the oldest and most radical of the Oromo “nationalist movements”, and Ginbot 7, heir to one of the big opposition parties of 2005 and considered a pan-Ethiopian movement.There is no secret central command orchestrating events.
There is no secret central command orchestrating events, although there is no doubt that informal clandestine networks, with links to the diaspora, are contributing to basic coordination and the exchange of information. “These protests are at the level of an intifada”, claims Merera Gudina, or rather at the level of what could be called an “Ethiopian Spring” reminiscent of the “Arab Springs”.
In addressing this situation, the ruling power clings stubbornly to a binary, reductive and simplistic analysis. True, it quickly shelved the Master Plan, an entirely unprecedented turnaround. It also reaffirmed the self-critique that emerged from the congresses of summer 2015: beyond the immense benefits that it has brought – peace and development – its action has been marred by failures and deficiencies, notably with regard to corruption, bad governance, unaccountability and youth unemployment. The narrative is that these are the only failings that the “public” condemns, which makes them “legitimate”. It has undertaken to correct them and “to discuss with the people” in order to tackle them more effectively.
So the legitimacy of these “public” claims is accepted. But those who demand more are supposedly driven by a “destructive agenda” manipulated by “destructive”, “anti-peace”, “anti-development elements”, “bandits”, or even “evil forces” and “terrorist groups”, “extremist Diaspora members who have negotiated their country’s chaos for money”, which are puppets of “foreign actors” or “invaders”, starting with Eritrea. It is they who are “hijacking” peaceful demonstrations and turning them into illegal and violent protests. Websites close to the TPLF, among the few accessible in Ethiopia, are more explicit: according to them, the wave of protest is simply the outcome of an Arab plot, led by Egypt, in which Asmara, the OLF and Ginbot 7 are mere “foot soldiers”. Their real purpose? “To destabilise” Ethiopia, repeats the government, “the total disintegration of Ethiopia as a country”, according to these websites.
To attribute the crisis to external, foreign conspiracy is unjustifiable. Eritrea, still in an on/off state of war with Ethiopia, and Egypt, deeply alarmed by the construction of a colossal dam on the Nile, would undoubtedly welcome a weakening of Ethiopia. It may even be that they are trying to fan the flames. But they do not have the means to light the fire and keep it burning. And the ruling power’s claim that they have been able to do so is itself an admission of weakness: for them to succeed, the regime must already have been resting on weak foundations.
This externalisation also exempts the government from having to consider the grievances at the heart of the protests, going far beyond a few personal failings and deficiencies in implementation. Externalisation is also used to justify repression as the only possible response: there can be no compromise with the enemies of the motherland. It would therefore be pointless to move beyond the use of force and engage in the political sphere, as it did in 2005. Above all, however, the government rejects this option because a political response to the protesters’ demands would require it to question its whole political structure and policy.
The TPLF is a child of the student movement of the end of Haile Selassie’s reign, radically Marxist and above all Leninist. From its creation, it adopted the movement’s analysis of Ethiopian society. The peasantry – still 80% of the population today – backward and illiterate, the working class tiny and in any case ‘trade-unionist’, the ‘national’ bourgeoisie equally small and anyway indecisive, assigned an irreplaceable role to “revolutionary intellectuals”, as Lenin defined them. They are the only ones able to develop the path that would bring Ethiopia progress and well-being, and therefore the only ones with the legitimacy to impose it on Ethiopians, willingly or by force if necessary.
This conviction remains. Just a few years ago, Hailemariam Desalegn explained: “due to poor education and illiteracy, the Ethiopian public is too underdeveloped to make a well reasoned, informed decision”; so the “enlightened leaders” have “to lead the people”. At the other extreme, every local official is convinced that his position places him within the circle of “enlightened leaders” and that he has the right and duty to assume all the authority associated with that role.
This messianic vision creates an unbridgeable divide between a handful of ‘knowers’, an ‘intellocracy’, which alone has the legitimacy and the capacity to exercise power, and all the others, the ‘ignorant’, in other words the people, reified and bound to obey in its own interests, whatever it may think. It justifies a totalising ascendancy in every sphere, exercised through an age-old hierarchy on which the Leninist formula “democratic centralism” confers a modern and revolutionary dimension. Or, in this particular case, “revolutionary elitism” or “elitist centralism”. Of course, the outcome has been exactly the same: centralising excess and denial of democracy, culminating with the installation of a “strong man” at the apex of a pyramid of power. Meles Zenawi, the prime minister until his death in 2012, would become the acknowledged fulfiller of this role, drawing on immense rhetorical skills backed by an exceptional intelligence.
In this binary vision, the political spectrum is inevitably polarised at two extremes. The ruling power is the sole promoter of peace and development. Those who oppose or merely question it are assigned to the “anti-peace”, “anti-development”, “anti-federalist” camp, as “chauvinists” or “narrow nationalists”, threatening the Ethiopian state and the integrity of the country. Although masked in the early days of the TPLF by the collective operation of the leadership, this conception of ruling, monopolistic and exclusive to the point of extreme sectarianism, is in essence undemocratic. It legitimises the use of force whenever those in power deem it appropriate.
A new middle class
However, a growing section of the population is no longer prepared to be stifled, undervalued and marginalised. A new middle class has emerged, essentially in the public sector, in services and – largely unrecognised – in the countryside, where a rump of recently enriched farmers has emerged. 700,000 young people are in university, 500,000 have obtained degrees in the last five years. In a country of close to 100 million inhabitants, the number of mobile phone customers has reached 46 million, internet users 13.6 million, compared respectively with fewer than a million and 30,000 ten years ago. Satellite dishes have sprouted on the roofs wherever electricity is present, breaking the public television monopoly. It is estimated that 4 million Ethiopians live abroad, but still maintain close relations with their native country. Millions of Ethiopians are suddenly connected to the world. More globally, the demands society now places on the regime are commensurate with the upheavals brought about by the development it has driven. In this sense, the regime’s very successes have come back to bite it.
Ethnic faultlines are also imprinted in the regime’s DNA. From the mid-1980s onwards, the TPLF carried its combat against the Derg from the regional to the national level. At least within the country’s two major “nations”, Oromo and Amhara, it thus had to find ethnic political movements to join it. But rather than forming partnerships, which would have entailed power-sharing, it imposed its grip on them. That is the original sin of federalism ‘Ethiopian style’.
Rather than reaching agreement with the spearhead of anti-Derg struggle in Oromya, the OLF, it created the Oromo People’s Democratic Organisation (OPDO), drawn from among its Oromo or simply Oromifa-speaking prisoners. This structure would be confined to the rank of ‘junior partner’, even more than the Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM), the Amhara component of the EPRDF, although its initial nucleus had been an autonomous group. The new Oromo and Amhara elites that joined this structure did so more out of opportunism than by conviction, and in general at least without recognising their leaderships as legitimate representatives.
Federalism, which was supposed to achieve a harmonious balance in inter-ethnic relations, has in fact as practised led ultimately to their deterioration. It faced an insurmountable contradiction. On the one hand, it promoted new ethnic elites to political, administrative and economic functions; on the other, it continued to keep them subordinate, while sharpening ethnic identities. Large parts of these elites, and moreover large swathes of their nations, are no longer prepared to tolerate this.
Ultimately, the exclusiveness and top-down approach are having a negative impact on the economy. In the first phase, the party’s control over the State and the modern sector encouraged the mobilisation and effective use of resources. At this time, the ‘developmental state’ proved its worth by delivering remarkable economic growth. It has to continue if the regime wishes to tout it as a pillar of its legitimacy.
However, this model is on the wane. The developmental state has gone off the rails, diverted by the oligarchical dynamic. The onus is on private investors, in particular foreign investors, to take over from public investment to drive structural transformation towards a globalised market economy. However, the governing power’s obsession with maintaining control is stifling those investors.
Finally, the party political discipline imposed on the technocracy smothers its professional capacities and its confidence. This is one of the primary sources of frustration. It also hampers the effective use of the resources essential for growth in an increasingly complex economy. Yet even at its current rate, that growth is unable to absorb the two to two and a half million young people entering the labour market each year, including new graduates, contributing to the anger that is now exploding in the streets.
In light of these contradictions, the fault lines are deepening. The discontent of the Tigreans has triggered the emergence of a ‘reforming’, pragmatic and politicised current inside the TPLF, which wants to rally them by making the Front work for them again. It advocates breaking with the “rule of force”, an immemorial feature of Ethiopian history.
It underlines that the only way to achieve long-term stability, beginning with peaceful changes of government, is through the step-by-step introduction of the “rule of law” by full and integral application of the constitution, notably the separation of powers, the exercise of fundamental liberties and an authentic federalism. It would have to be “consociationalist”. The chief nations would be equally represented, with decisions taken by consensus, so each would possess an effective right of veto. The second “traditionalist” or “conservative” current rejects significant change and argues for continuity. Essentially, it takes the view that Ethiopia is not yet mature enough for democratic move, and still needs to kept under iron control. A website close to the TPLF argues:“the people are not ready yet in every aspect and meaning of the word (democracy). Any attempt to accelerate that process other than its natural course… can only lead to darker places”.
Reflecting the intensity of this division, these websites are full of heated debate between those who show real understanding of the protests and those who utterly condemn them, between those arguing for immediate political openness and those calling first and foremost for the crushing of the unrest. However, they agree on one point: an unprecedentedly virulent condemnation of the leadership of the Front, which is deemed inept and incapable of handling the situation.
This political division has also reached the ranks of the ANDM and OPDO, but here the focus is on federalism. The “ethno-nationalists” reject the asymmetries of the current federal system and are keen to assert their party’s autonomy from the TPLF. Their adversaries are considered too weak to fend for themselves and vitally in need of the TPLF’s support. So, the OPDO base has literally disintegrated. At its summit, there is overt opposition between Abadula Gemeda, who expresses understanding for the claims of protesters and is the only leader who enjoys real popularity, and Muktar Kedir, who is perceived as an insubstantial apparatchik imposed by the TPLF. The same applies to the problematic destiny of Gedu Andergatchew, President of the Amhara region, number two in the ANDM and the Movement’s real heavyweight in terms of popularity, and the official number one, Demeke Mekonnen, a much criticised figure who is nevertheless supported by the TPLF.
This ethnicisation of the political landscape is also apparent in the deterioration of relations between TPLF, ANDM and OPDO. Discussions with their rank and file members and a reading of their websites give an insight into their mutual mistrust.
In the TPLF, there is an iron belief that the “rotten chauvinists” and “revanchist”Amhara, controlled remotely by Ginbot 7, have “hijacked” the ANDM, are intent of restoring their former hegemony by “overtaking the position of TPLF in the Ethiopian politics” and are even once again forcing Tigreans “to defend our existence from extinction”.
In the ANDM, there is a conviction that the TPLF wants to continue to make Amhara pay for the former dominance of some of their elite, to marginalize them and to dispossess them of ancestral lands. For the ordinary OPDO party official, nothing has changed since the nineteenth century conquests: exploitation, oppression, marginalisation, or even quite baldly “genocide”. Hackneyed as it clearly is, the word is widely used, symptomatic of a paranoia that casts doubt on what remains of the unity at least at the base of the EPRDF.
These fractures were born since the initial formation of the ruling power. Meles Zenawi widened them, but succeeded in masking them by maintaining an iron grip over the tensions that they engendered. The present wave of protests has exacerbated them. They are splitting, not to say cracking, the party, from its summit to its 7 million member base, which is torn between loyalty and discipline, the material advantages of membership, and the ever-growing swell of popular aspirations within it.
In Oromya, part of the OPDO pushed behind the scenes for overt opposition to the Master Plan. The regional police were unable to cope or adopt a prudent ‘wait and see’ strategy. Today, they are virtually out of the game, and the federal police and army have had to intervene. The OPDO has essentially been relieved of the government of Oromya, which is under military administration via a “Command Post” based in Addis Ababa and headed by Hailemariam Dessalegn. In the Amhara region, at least the big initial demonstrations were held with the support or tacit approval of part of the ANDM, although officially forbidden. Out of their depth, the Amhara State authorities had to request army intervention. The region has been placed under military command.
The growing number of leaks of documents and recordings of discussions at the highest level of government and the State-Party are testament to the fact that frontline leaders now have one foot in the government camp and one in the protesters’ camp. Villages and entire local areas are taking advantage of the dilution or even disappearance of public authority to set up embryonic forms of self-government. In places, the State-Party’s local structures have placed their organisations at the service of the protesters. Armed men, who can only be village militiamen in principle strictly under local government control, have fired in the air alongside demonstrators. They are necessarily involved in fatal ambushes on soldiers and attacks on military depots. Desertions and overt acts of insubordination are taking place.
By contrast with 2005, when neither the federal nor regional governments lost control, today – at least at certain times and in certain places – they have lost authority over their own agents and even their monopoly on the use of force. Hailemariam Desalegn had to concede: “chaos” has broken out “inparts of Oromia and Amhara states”.. There has been a shift from demonstrations to riots, and then from riots to pockets of insurrection. Militiamen and farmers hold hundreds of thousands of weapons. The transition from unrest towards a scattered armed peasant revolt (a “jacquerie”), is a possibility.
The crisis is not only about a change of government, or even regime change. It is systemic, because it is rooted in the form in which contemporary power has been exercised since its bases were laid down in the middle of the nineteenth century. This has been theocratic, authoritarian, centralised, hierarchical, ethnically biased, monopolising the country’s resources.
“Intellocracy” has replaced theocratic feudalism, but other main traits have been more or less transposed in an updated form. The ruling power faces more or less the same demands as those it addressed to Haile Selassie’s regime forty years ago: rule of law; fair use of assets, beginning with land (“land to the tiller”, went the slogan; denunciation of “land grabbing’” now); the “national question”, in other words a balanced relationship between Ethiopia’s 80 “nations, nationalities and peoples”; and, at the crossroads of the land issue and the “national question”, the border conflicts between the states.“They want to rule in the old way, and people are refusing to be ruled in the old way”
“They want to rule in the old way, and people are refusing to be ruled in the old way”, is Merera Gudina’s concise summing up. What the protesters – and indeed the “reformists” – are demanding is huge: the shift from an imposed, exclusive and closed system, to an accepted, inclusive and open system. This would require a total reconstruction, an outcome that the successors of Haile Selassie, then of Mengistu, failed to bring about.
For the moment at least, this goal is well beyond the EPRDF’s capacities. Firstly, it is paralysed by its divisions. These range from personal conflicts to business rivalries, from old ethnic tensions to new political disagreements. Secondly, the Front would risk disintegration if the “reformists” tried to force through their views. Whatever side they are on, its leaders know that a split would be fatal to everyone. They are obliged to maintain unity, with the result that they seem for now condemned to immobility.
The majority of the Front perceives opening up as a leap in the dark and a fatal threat to its positions and its interests.
Opening up to the opponents of the Front would have to go hand-in-hand with an internal opening up. It would inevitably threaten numerous unfairly acquired positions.
Until now, the rule of winner-takes-all has reigned. In the general perception, or at least ‘Abyssinian’ perception, authority is either absolute or moribund: if it accepts concessions, it implicitly acknowledges that its end is imminent. To open up would therefore trigger a sharing of power, which could culminate in total loss of power.
Opening up would also mean a historic shift. For centuries, power has been “northern”, Abyssinian. A fair representation of the different ethnic components is inconceivable without the Oromo, the largest ethnicity, playing a central role, a role moreover that they are demanding.
That would be an even more hazardous leap for the TPLF, abandoning its domination and betting that a genuinely democratic federalism would emerge. In other words, that nations or a coalition of nations much more populous than the Tigreans would not impose majority rule, threatening the preservation of what for the Front is non- negotiable: Tigreans remaining in charge of Tigray.Finally, power and enrichment go together.
Finally, power and enrichment go together. From the summit of the state-party to its most modest ranks, official positions and oligarchical rents are mutually reinforcing. This material dimension is an overwhelming reason to preserve the status quo. In particular, the vast majority of the Front’s members think that it is right that their commitment and obedience should be rewarded with direct or indirect favours.
To open up, but to whom, in what domain, and to what point? Everyone agrees that the protest movement has neither a recognised leadership nor a clear programme, which is its major weakness. Would it consider itself authentically represented by the legal opposition, enfeebled through repression and its own divisions, or by the more radical illegal opposition, whose real representativeness is impossible to assess? Would these very diverse forces agree on a sort of shared programme of demands?
Up to now they have always stumbled over two crucial points: whether to maintain public ownership of land – far and away the primary asset – or to privatise it; and whether to accentuate or to temper federalism. For the moment, the voices making themselves heard cover a very wide spectrum of demands, from the launch of a national dialogue through to the total and immediate overthrow of the EPRDF. And history tells us that in such circumstances the extremists quickly prevail over the moderates.But the word compromise has no direct translation in Amharic…
Yet short of plunging the country into chaos, there exists no credible alternative to the existing authority, except in the long term. Supposing the EPRDF were to decide “to rule in a new way”, it would only do so on condition that it remained in control of a very gradual and therefore very long process of change. Which of its adversaries would accept this? On one side or the other, all-or-nothing politics have so far been the rule. But an inclusive and open system cannot be created unless all the stakeholders, without exception, are ready for compromise, in other words ready to make reciprocal concessions in order to reach an agreement. But the word compromise has no direct translation in Amharic…
Worst case scenario
So every scenario remains possible, including the worst-case. The regime may decide to continue on the same trajectory, relying on repression and the acceleration of its recovery plan for the state-party. It could be that the machinery of repression will stifle the protest movement. This machinery is extensive and experienced. It is even possible that the army could decide to take matters into its own hands, if it thought that the political leadership was failing. Its effective head, Samora Yunus, has always said that “the army is always vigilant to safeguard the constitutional order”.
But will it be able to, especially if protest intensifies, and in particular if it takes root in the rural areas? From a leaked record of a meeting of army chiefs, it seems that some are uncertain about the physical capacity of the troops to hold firm on multiple fronts, and above all about the risks of insubordination, or even mutiny, resulting from the ethnic divisions in their ranks.“Killing is not an answer to our grievances”
Even supposing that simple repression works, the probability is high that it would only offer the regime a period of respite before, sooner or later, a new – even more devastating – surge of unrest. To prevent this, it has just decided to put on the table the question of Wolkait and the relations between Addis Ababa and the Oromo lands around it, and above all to “sack and reshuffle party and government officials including Ministers” in the coming month, all through wide-ranging discussions “with the people”.
But even the legal opposition judges these reforms to be “cosmetic”. Up to now, these discussions have always consisted in a massive process of self-justification, with no genuine consultation of the people, which is unable – or does not dare – to make itself heard. Moreover, this promise is an old chestnut. The struggle against the dark triad of corruption, bad governance and unaccountability, on the agenda since the early 2000s, has had no impact. The campaign to “purify” the state-party of its black sheep, launched with much fanfare in the autumn of 2015, has been a damp squib. It touched only minor officials, while none of the senior figures – some are notorious for their corrupt practices – was affected, leading the population to conclude that the campaign was nothing but a smokescreen.
This triad of failings extends from top to bottom of the EPRDF. It is hard to see how the Party could put an end to them in response to what it sees as the main demand emanating from the people, without putting itself at high risk.
“Killing is not an answer to our grievances”, cry the demonstrators. For the moment, however, no other genuine answers are to be heard or seen, unless basic common sense, not to mention democratic aspirations, were to prevail in the ruling power.
Our police sources said they witnessed 60 unidentified bodies in the compound. Hospital sources also confirmed that they have received over 60 bodies from Qilinto prison on Saturday.
All of the victims died from gunshot wounds. Their bodies were riddled with bullets.
Fire broke out at the Qilinto prison outside the capital Addis Ababa on Saturday sending a shockwave to the entire nation on the safety of several political prisoners held at the notorious dungeon. Prison sources said the fire was started as a cover up for the extrajudicial killings at the prison.
The majority were shot dead by snipers from the rooftop as they run away from the engulfing flames to save their lives. Some actually were shot and killed as they try to dowse the fire that broke out in one quarter of the maximum security prison
A visit by families of hundreds of prisoners at the various other prisons where the remaining prisoners were reportedly transferred were to no avail as security forces would not tell them if their loved ones were in those prisons.
A total of 50 bodies were reported at the Abiyot Hospital and the Defence Hospital. Some bodies were transferred from Abiyot Hospital to undisclosed location.
Some families of prisoners who went to the Qaliti prison on Monday run into the guards who work at Qilinto and asked them if their loved ones were alive and transferred there. The guards told them to come back after five days.
An estimated 3000 prisoners of conscience, mostly Oromo opposition figures and Ethiopian Muslims who demanded political and religious freedoms were being held at the notorious dungeon when fire broke out on Saturday and most of them are the political prisoners.
This is the third time in a span of short period when a prison filled with political prisoners catches fire. A prison in Gondar and Debretabor caught fire as the brutal forces of the TPLF shot at inmates who were trying to run away from the fire.
A fire that broke out at the Qaliti prison nine years ago killed at least 150 prisoners in November 2005.
Qilinto Prison Massacre Update: The death toll continue to raise. In addition to 22 bodies taken to Paulos hoospital, 13 death reported at Tor Hahloch Hospital and 14 at Police Hospital. Death reported among those taken to Turunesh Beijig hospital as well.
3 September 2016, fascist Ethiopia’s regime set Qilinto Prison on fire.
Exclusive: Rights groups raise concerns over fate of political prisoners held in facility at the time
By Adam Withnall, The Independent, Africa Correspondent, 6 September 2016
Rights groups have raised serious concerns over the fate of political prisoners held at a facility on the outskirts of the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa after 23 inmates died in a huge fire at the high-security complex.
While the cause of the blaze remains unknown, the Ethiopian government has admitted at least two of the prisoners were gunned down by the authorities as they fled the burning building.
The Kilinto prison has become notorious as a holding facility for jailed members of the opposition, including members of the Oromo ethnic group.
And the Oromo Federalist Congress, a key opposition party, said there were fears for the lives of its “entire leadership”, which it said was being detained at Kilinto at the time.
Amnesty International and New York-based Human Rights Watch, which has been monitoring the deaths of the Oromo people during a government crackdown on political protests, told The Independent it was vital the authorities released the names of those killed in the incident.
ESAT, a TV broadcaster based outside Ethiopia, showed grainy footage of the fire visible from a great distance (ESAT)
Local media groups reported gunfire could be heard from the scene, while a TV station based outside Ethiopia broadcast footage of the fire live.
Initially, the Ethiopian government said one person was killed in the fire. But in a statement released this week via the state affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate, it said 21 died from “stampede, fire burns and suffocation”.
Video of the fire also emerged on social media, though official reports were slow to come through (ESAT)
“The remaining two were killed while trying to escape from prison,” Fana reported, adding that two buildings were damaged in the blaze.
The government statement provided no details of how the fire began, only stating that the police were investigating, nor did it give the names of any of those killed.
And on Tuesday, OFC’s Assistant Deputy Chairman Mulatu Gemechu told the Reuters news agency: “Our entire leadership is being held in that place and we have no idea what has happened to them.
Ethiopian state TV censors marathon runner’s finishing line protest
“The government has a responsibility to explain to the public, no less their families. We have no idea why it is taking that long.”
Some local media have questioned the official version of events. They cited unnamed witnesses saying the prisoners were shot by wardens.
Ethiopian journalist Tesfalem Waldyes, who was detained in Kilinto prison for more than a year before his release in July 2015, told The Independent it was hard to believe reports that the fire began as an attempted jailbreak.
“It is difficult for inmates to access fire,” he said. “Prisoners are not allowed to cook or smoke. And the remand facility is a highly guarded place and security cameras are everywhere.”
Though it has become known for political imprisonments, Kilinto is a facility where suspects of all sorts of crimes are held, sometimes for many years, before trial.
As such, none of its inmates have actually been convicted of their alleged crimes. Yet Tesfalem said the prison still operates under a ruthless regime, with those who complain about abusive treatment subjected to the “Kitat Bet” (punishment house) or the “dark house”, a form of isolation.
“The political prisoners mostly face harassment, intimidation, confiscation of their written materials, denial of their visitation rights and sometimes physical abuse,” he said.
It was impossible to know, until the government releases more information, how many of those killed were political prisoners. Tesfalem said all those who are arrested on political grounds are sent to the facility to await trial, and they make up a significant proportion of the 3,000 or so inmates, though not the majority.
Human Rights Watch says more than 500 people have been killed in clashes between the security forces and protesters demanding greater political freedoms in the province of Oromia.
Last week, the African Union – which is based in Addis Abiba – expressed concerns about the unrest for the first time, while on Sunday the US ambassador to the UN said her country had raised “grave concerns” about what it called the excessive use of force against protesters in Ethiopia, a long-time ally.
Felix Horne, Human Rights Watch’s senior researcher in the Horn of Africa, told The Independent: “Numerous witnesses describe hearing heavy gunfire during the fire at Kilinto, raising serious questions about the safety and wellbeing of the prisoners held there.
“Family members of those held at Kilinto also still do not know the whereabouts of their loved ones. The authorities should immediately account for the whereabouts of all prisoners to their families, and provide details about those who died during the incident.”
Amnesty International’s Fisseha Tekle said the charity was concerned about all prisoners held at the facility, including those detained on political charges.
“We call on the authorities to inform the families of prisoners of the situation of their loved ones,” Ms Tekle said. “They have the right to know whether their relatives are dead or alive.”
In January, 2016, Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom was nominated as Africa’s candidate for director general of the UN World Health Organization.
Just this past week, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg was named global ambassador for noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) by the WHO, a position in which he will serve under whoever is ultimately appointed as the WHO’s director general. While Bloomberg, with his impeccable record of public health advocacy and international philanthropy, is clearly over-qualified for this role, what frightens me is the potential appointment of Adhanom as his superior. A rudimentary comparison of these two men’s records highlights the latter’s extreme unfitness for the office he seeks to assume and the absurdity of his even being considered.
During his unprecedented three-term tenure, mayor Bloomberg took direct control of the troubled New York City school system and oversaw a marked increase in children’s test scores; he banned smoking in restaurants, bars, parks and other indoor and outdoor public arenas; he partnered with and empowered citizens of the city by calling upon them to notify authorities of suspicious happenings they observed; he established a comprehensive information hotline that provides vital factual data to city dwellers and visitors in more than 170 languages; he banned trans-fats and mandated the posting of calorie counts in New York restaurants, measures that have since been adopted in major cities throughout the nation toward combating rising obesity rates in both adults and children; he used his own private funds to pay for a Super Bowl ad promoting stricter gun control.
And this is a mere sampling of his contributions to the quality of life of the people he governed. Now that his terms as mayor have ended, he has expanded his health, well-being and justice initiatives to the broader global community and continues to work tirelessly, and to donate generously, to promote causes at the core of human flourishing.
No model of leadership could be more divergent from Bloomberg’s than the one Ethiopian Foreign Minister Adhanom, along with his political associates, represents. The current Ethiopian government is widely recognized as a criminally organized group with high rates of human rights abuses. According to The New York Times and Human Rights Watch, tens of thousands of peaceful protesters against the government have been incarcerated, and over 700 have been killed, in recent months. The Ethiopian athlete Feyisa Lilesa made a powerful public gesture in solidarity with his oppressed countrymen at the Summer Olympics in Rio last month and was warned not to return home afterward.
The International Committee to Protect Journalists reports that Ethiopia is among Africa’s leading jailers of journalists and has destroyed its own independent civil society. The UN Commissioner for Human Rights has requested an independent evaluation of the deaths of hundreds of peaceful civilian protesters in recent months at the hands of the Ethiopian army. However, Foreign Minister Adhanom and his government have refused external evaluation of human rights abuses complained of by large numbers of citizens.
THE LOCAL independent Ethiopian citizens’ news agencies are reporting outside the country that there is a huge popular mobilization against the government.
The local citizens are demonstrating peacefully, with the following complaints: that the government is killing them indiscriminately and robbing the country of power and economic resources, which are being funneled to one small, elite tribal group (known as the Tgria Peoples Liberation Front), and that their land is being sold to the Tgrian tribe, or that this tribe is selling their land to foreign investors.
On the day that the athlete Lilesa showed his support at the Olympics in Rio, there was a demonstration planned in the capital city of Addis Ababa, but the government deployed military force to put down the peaceful citizens who organized it. Only Lilesa could make his statement, safely insulated, for the moment, from the army’s threatened violence, by a couple thousand miles.
His fellow citizens at home were not so fortunate. Just this past week, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn announced on national television that all military personnel would be ordered to open fire on peaceful demonstrators, which, on the first day following, resulted in dozens of civilian deaths.
Britain Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond recently warned, in a meeting with Adhanom, that Ethiopia’s “repeated failure to deliver on our basic requests” regarding an Ethiopian-born English citizen being held on death row simply because he is the opposition party leader had led him be begin “looking carefully at the bilateral relationship” between the two nations. This is yet another example of the current Ethiopian government’s pervasive corruption and lawlessness.
As a chief agent of this depraved, bloody government body, how can Adhanom be considered as a prospective director general of the WHO? How does his candidacy reflect on the WHO itself, or, more broadly, the UN’s role as the world’s moral anchor and arbiter? Clearly, there is no just way forward but for the UN to investigate the current Ethiopian government’s reported abuses and to renounce the candidacy of its foreign minister for the position he seeks at the WHO.
It is perhaps in the values that underlie the actions of Bloomberg and Adhanom, respectively, that the starkest contrast between these two men might be drawn. Bloomberg has often been quoted as saying, “The thing about great wealth is that you can’t take it with you,” by way of explaining why he is choosing to give so much of his private fortune away – a total of $4.3 billion thus far, including $510 million distributed by his philanthropies in 2015 alone. Adhanom, on the other hand, is a prominent member of the Ethiopian government whose former leader, Meles Zenawi (the man who appointed Adhanom to his position), had a reported net worth of over $3b., having amassed this amount entirely during his years in office.
He took power in 1991 with an officially listed salary of $220 per month, and had no private financial resources to his name at that point. Today, all the top leaders of the TPLF are billionaires, though their nation remains an impoverished member of the Third World. Sadly, the source of these leaders’ newfound wealth is not too hard to surmise.
I have lived, for years, under the governance of both mayor Bloomberg and Finance Minister Adhanom and can thus attest, on a personal level, to the disparate impact of their leadership on the people they’ve ruled. I know, first hand, what it has been like to live under the policies of Bloomberg’s and Adhanom’s administrations, and how each has affected the daily life of his constituency.
More than all the facts and figures I have cited above, these real-life, on-the-ground experiences have shaped my conviction that Adhanom and his cronies must go if my native land is ever to prosper as my adopted city has in the past few decades. The WHO’s recent appointments, within the broader context of rising unrest in Ethiopia, where my family resides, and my own relatively secure life in New York, have brought this realization home to me as never before. I can only hope that the world will begin to see things in kind.
Protests reportedly began in the Oromia region in November 2015, opposing the Federal Government’s plan to expand the boundaries of Addis Ababa. Reports indicate that despite the termination of the expansion plan, the protests continued due to the detention of activists, the use of excessive force, and killing of protestors by law enforcement officers.
More recently, protests reportedly erupted in the Amhara region of Gondar in July 2016 when armed police arrested members of the Welkait Committee who called for the recognition of the Welkait community, currently within the Tigray region, as part of the neighbouring Amhara region.
Reports further indicate that from 6 – 7 August 2016, thousands of people around the country took to the streets calling for political reform, equality, justice and the rule of law. The Commission is seriously disturbed by reports which aver that law enforcement agents responded with excessive force, including firing live bullets at protestors in Bahir Dar killing at least 30 people, and beating protestors with batons in Addis Ababa. Reports indicate that nearly 100 protestors were killed from 6 – 7 August 2016.
The Commission has also received information that the Government completely blocked internet throughout the country for 48 hours in an attempt to stop the use of social media to organise further protests. It is alleged that most social media applications are still blocked, hampering communication.
Reports allege that following the first protests in November 2015, hundreds of protestors have been killed, and many more have been beaten, arbitrarily arrested and detained.
The Commission is equally concerned about reports that members and human rights monitors of the Human Rights Council of Ethiopia (HRCO) have been arrested and detained in the Amhara and Oromo regions, while allegedly monitoring and documenting the crack-down on protestors in these regions.
Without reaching conclusions on the above allegations, the Commission is concerned that if these allegations are correct they would amount to violations of Articles 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 11, 13 and 19 of theAfrican Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Charter), as well as other regional and international human rights instruments to which the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia is a party.
In view of the above, the Commission calls on the Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia to:
Fully investigate or allow the African Commission and other international/regional human rights mechanisms unimpeded access to the concerned areas in order to carry out prompt and impartial investigations into the allegations, so that these reports can be verified;
Ensure due process of law for those arrested and detained;
Respect peoples’ right to freedom of assembly, freedom of expression and access to information;
Ensure that perpetrators of the alleged violations are held accountable;
Ensure that the victims and their families obtain full redress, including restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction and guarantees of non-repetition; and
Uphold its obligations under the regional and international human rights instruments to which it is a party, in particular the African Charter.
When Ethiopian security forces killed dozens of peaceful protesters in a hail of gunfire last month, the Canadian government responded with a brief tweet to say it was “disturbed” by the deaths.
But Canada’s Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan did not cancel his scheduled visit to Ethiopia.
Three days after the killings, he arrived in its capital and held a friendly meeting with Ethiopia’s defence minister and prime minister, making no public comment about the government’s actions.
Canada’s muted response to the lethal crackdown on the biggest protests in Ethiopia’s recent history is a sign of its continuing close relationship with the East African country.
Ethiopia is often among the first stops for Canadian cabinet ministers when they visit Africa, and it remains one of the biggest beneficiaries of Canadian foreign aid, receiving $108-million from Ottawa last year.
The Liberal government, which has promised a “re-engagement” with Africa, must decide how to engage with Africa’s human-rights abusers, of which Ethiopia is among the worst.
The government in Addis Ababa has a long record of jailing and killing its critics, manipulating elections and using Western food aid to reward its supporters and punish its opponents.
The question many are asking now is whether the Liberals will turn a blind eye to these abuses as it tries to revive Canada’s often-neglected relations with Africa.
The growing wave of protests against the Ethiopian government over the past 10 months, especially in the Oromiya and Amhara regions, has been the most significant in this authoritarian nation for more than a decade.
And they have spread to the Ethiopian diaspora around the world, symbolized by Ethiopian marathon runners who made protest gestures as they crossed the finish line at the Rio Olympics and elsewhere.
The protests reached Canada last Sunday, at the Quebec City Marathon, when the winning runner, Ebisa Ejigu, a Canadian resident of Ethiopian origin, clenched his fists and crossed his arms in an “X” sign above his head as he crossed the finish line.
The gesture is a sign of solidarity with the Oromo people, the largest ethnicity in Ethiopia, who have been demonstrating against government plans to expand the capital, Addis Ababa, into traditional Oromo farmland.
A week earlier, Ethiopian runner Feyisa Lilesa made the same protest gesture as he crossed the finish line at the Olympics.
He won the silver medal – and then refused to return home to Ethiopia, telling journalists that he is afraid of being imprisoned or killed for his protest actions.
“The Ethiopian government is killing my people,” he told journalists.
“My relatives are in prison, and if they talk about democratic rights they are killed.”
Ethiopian security forces killed more than 400 protesters in the Oromiya region – and arrested tens of thousands more – from last November until June, according to a Human Rights Watch report.
This was followed by the killing of a further 100 protesters last month, reports say.
Canada and other Western countries have long regarded Ethiopia as a useful ally in the fight against Islamist extremism in Somalia and elsewhere in East Africa.
Canada has been one of the biggest donors to Ethiopia in recent years, providing several hundred million dollars in development and humanitarian assistance.
The Liberal government could use this leverage to put pressure on Ethiopia to halt its killing of protesters, according to human-rights groups and Ethiopian-Canadian activists.
“We’ve been very concerned that the Ethiopian government has had a bit of a free ride from Canada and the international community,” said Alex Neve, secretary general of the Canadian branch of Amnesty International.
He said it is “utterly unacceptable” that Canadian officials and cabinet ministers don’t apply strong pressure on the Ethiopian government to halt the killing of protesters.
“It is absolutely time for Canada to make clear that this has to stop.”
Aside from the short tweet of disapproval from the Global Affairs department, there is no record of public statements by the Liberal government about the killings last month.
But a Global Affairs spokeswoman said Canada is “deeply concerned” about the reported deaths of the protesters.
“Canada has raised these concerns directly with the government of Ethiopia, and will continue to do so,” spokeswoman Jocelyn Sweet said in response to questions from The Globe and Mail.
“We continue to monitor the situation closely.”
Renée Filiatrault, deputy chief of staff to Mr. Sajjan, said the issue of the killing of protesters was “raised in private bilateral conversations” during the defence minister’s visit to Ethiopia.
“While I can’t go any further, I can say that the protection and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms is key to our foreign policy and was a topic of discussion in every meeting that we had,” she said.
Some activists are urging the Liberal government to halt the flow of Canadian aid to Ethiopia and find ways to penalize the regime for its crackdown on protesters.
“Canada’s aid to Ethiopia has been a failed experiment in turning brutal dictators into democrats,” said Yohannes Berhe, an Ethiopian-Canadian human-rights activist.
“Spending taxpayers’ money without any measure of accountability and without demanding true political reform is, at the very least, a wasteful endeavour, and at worst, tantamount to encouraging one of the most repressive regimes in Africa.”
A group of civil society organizations are calling for an independent and impartial international investigation into human rights violations in Ethiopia, including the unlawful killing of peaceful protesters and a recent spate of arrests of civil society members documenting this crackdown.
DefendDefenders (East and Horn of African Human Rights Defenders Project), the Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE), Amnesty International, the Ethiopia Human Rights Project (EHRP), Front Line Defenders, and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), are concerned about the levels of persecution and detention of civil society members in the country. Since last month, four members of one of Ethiopia’s most prominent human rights organizations, the Human Rights Council (HRCO), were arrested and detained in the Amhara and Oromia regions. HRCO believes these arrests are related to the members’ monitoring and documentation of the crackdown of on-going protests in these regions.
On 14 August, authorities arrested Tesfa Burayu, Chairperson of HRCO’s West Ethiopian Regional Executive Committee at his home in Nekemte, Oromia. Tesfa, who had been monitoring the protests for the organization, was denied access to his family and his lawyer, and released on 16 August without charge. Two days earlier on 12 August, Abebe Wakene, also a member of HRCO, was arrested and taken to the Diga district police station in Oromia. Abebe Wakene remains in detention with no formal charges against him. In addition, on 13 August, Tesfaye Takele, a human rights monitor in the Amhara region, was arrested in the North Wollo zone and is still detained without charge.
The lack of independent and transparent investigation of human rights violations in Ethiopia strongly implies that the Ethiopian government’s investigation of the ongoing human rights crisis will not be independent, impartial and transparent.
HRCO’s human rights monitors were arrested for attempting to document the large-scale pro-democracy protests and the following violent crackdown by the authorities in the Oromia and Amhara regions, as well as in the capital Addis Ababa on 6 and 7 August. Amnesty International reported that close to 100 protesters were killed and scores more arrested during the largely peaceful protests.
Three journalists were also arrested and detained by Ethiopian security officials for 24 hours on 8 August 2016 in the Shashemene area of the Oromo region. According to the Foreign Correspondents’ Association of Ethiopia, Hadra Ahmed, a correspondent with Africa News Agency, was arrested along with Public Broadcasting Services (PBS) reporters Fred de Sam Lazaro and Thomas Adair, despite having proper accreditation. They were reporting on the government’s response to the drought in the Oromia region, where protests have been ongoing since November 2015. Their passports and equipment were confiscated and they were forced to return to Addis Ababa.
“Despite the systematic repression of peaceful protestors, political dissents, journalists and human rights defenders, the absence of efficient and effective grievance redress mechanisms risks plunging the country into further turmoil,” said Yared Hailemariam, Executive Director of AHRE.”
Ethiopia’s National Human Rights Commission, which has the mandate to investigate rights violations in Ethiopia, has failed to make public its own June report on the Oromo protests, whileconcluding in its oral report to Parliament that the lethal force used by security forces in Oromia was proportionate to the risk they faced from the protesters. Since November 2015, at least 500 demonstrators have been killed and thousands of others arrested in largely peaceful protests in the Oromia and Amhara regions and other locations across the country.
“The lack of independent and transparent investigation of human rights violations in Ethiopia strongly implies that the Ethiopian government’s investigation of the ongoing human rights crisis will not be independent, impartial and transparent” said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes. “It is time to step up efforts for an international and independent investigation in Ethiopia.”
DefendDefenders, AHRE, Amnesty International, EHRP, Front Line Defenders, and FIDH urge the Ethiopian authorities to (i) immediately and unconditionally release civil society members targeted for their work and (ii) facilitate access for international human rights monitoring bodies including the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to conduct thorough, independent, impartial and transparent investigations into the ongoing human rights violations in the Oromia, Amhara and Addis Ababa areas.
30 August 2016 – The Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, is deeply alarmed by the deteriorating human rights situation in Ethiopia, and especially, the arbitrary killing, arrest and detention of protesters.
According to reports, the Ethiopian government forces have killed more than 500 protestors since November 2015, and have arrested and detained thousands.
We recall that on the eve of calls for protests, the Ethiopian Prime Minister Haile-Mariam has warned that measures will be taken against protesters. Eventually, when protests took place in the Amhara and Oromia regions in August 2016, nearly a hundred protesters were killed. The public statements of warning by the senior government officials stirred the suspicion that the ongoing human rights abuses by government forces are happening by the approval of the Ethiopian government.
The Ethiopian government has rejected the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ (UNOHCHR) request that the government allow international observers to assess the human rights violation in Ethiopia. The government has stated that it would establish a domestic body to investigate the matter.
However, the findings of the commissions of inquiry established in the past by the Ethiopian Parliament (House of Peoples’ Representatives) have generated mistrust by stakeholders, human rights organisations and other bodies. In the past, instead of the main perpetrators of the violence that actually committed the arbitrary killings and detentions, individuals who took part in the protests have been held accountable on charges like incitement and terrorism. The commissions of inquiry have not implicated members of government forces and senior government officials, and as a result, they have not been held accountable. These commissions of inquiry have also lacked adequate participation of stakeholders and transparency.
Moreover, the fact that senior government officials have been, and continue to make statements threatening protesters from making peaceful protests amounts to approving the human rights violations. Such statements send a signal to the Ethiopian security and military forces to assume that the ongoing arbitrary killings, arrests and detentions are legitimate.
With a view to addressing these problems, making a credible, independent, impartial, effective and transparent inquiry is imperative. To this end, the Centre is convinced that international or regional inquiry mechanisms are better suited than domestic commission of inquiry in Ethiopia.
Therefore, the Centre for Human Rights makes the following requests:
The United Nations Human Rights Council should put the serious human rights violations in Ethiopia in its agenda on the 33rd regular session in September 2016. It should be noted that Ethiopia is currently a member of the Human Rights Council. The Council should consider whether to suspend Ethiopia’s membership of the Council for having committed “gross and systematic violations of human rights” (as provided for under A/RES/60/251 paragraph 8).
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Killings should make an urgent appeal to the Ethiopian government, and undertake a visit to Ethiopia with a view to gather first-hand information of the arbitrary killings according to its mandate, and to release it reports.
The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions should investigate the arrests and detentions of protesters in Ethiopia.
While we take note of the letter expressing grave concern about the violations by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, we urge the Commission to undertake a visit into the country and in order to assess the human rights violations.
The Chairperson of the African Union, with its seat located in Addis Ababa, should denounce the human rights violation in Ethiopia
The Ethiopian government should consent to fully cooperate with international and regional inquiry mechanisms to undertake their investigation; it should release political detainees; it should respect the right to peaceful demonstration, which is protected in art 30(1) of the Ethiopian Constitution and various human rights treaties to which Ethiopia is a party; it should note that the limitations of this right are to be construed narrowly; and it should desist from further using excessive force and violence to disperse peaceful protests.
For more information, please contact:
Prof Frans Viljoen
Director, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria
Tel: +27 (0) 12 420 3228 / 3810
Mobile: +27 (0) 73 393 4181
The Obama administration’s top official promoting democracy and human rights,Tom Malinowski, says the Ethiopian government’s tactics in response to protests in the Oromia and Amhara regions of the country are “self-defeating”. Writing ahead of the arrival of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Nairobi for talks on East African issues, including security, Malinowski says Addis Ababa’s “next great national task is to master the challenge of political openness.”
The United States and Ethiopia have years of strong partnership, based on a recognition that we need each other. Ethiopia is a major contributor to peace and security in Africa, the U.S.’s ally in the fight against violent extremists, and has shown incredible generosity to those escaping violence and repression, admitting more refugees than any country in the world. The United States has meanwhile been the main contributor to Ethiopia’s impressive fight to end poverty, to protect its environment and to develop its economy.
Because of the friendship and common interests our two nations share, the U.S. has a stake in Ethiopia’s prosperity, stability and success. When Ethiopia does well, it is able to inspire and help others. On the other hand, a protracted crisis in Ethiopia would undermine the goals that both nations are trying to achieve together.
The recent protests in the Oromia and Amhara regions present a critical challenge. They appear to be a manifestation of Ethiopian citizens’ expectation of more responsive governance and political pluralism, as laid out in their constitution.
Almost every Ethiopian I have met during my three recent trips to the country, including government officials, has told me that as Ethiopians become more prosperous and educated, they demand a greater political voice, and that such demands must be met. While a few of the protests may have been used as a vehicle for violence, we are convinced that the vast majority of participants were exercising their right under Ethiopia’s constitution to express their views.
Any counsel that the United States might offer is intended to help find solutions, and is given with humility. As President Barack Obama said during his July, 2015 visit to Addis Ababa, the U.S. is not perfect, and we have learned hard lessons from our own experiences in addressing popular grievances.
We also know Ethiopia faces real external threats. Ethiopia has bravely confronted Al-Shabaab, a ruthless terrorist group based on its border. Individuals and groups outside Ethiopia, often backed by countries that have no respect for human rights themselves, sometimes recklessly call for violent change.
Ethiopia rightly condemns such rhetoric, and the United States joins that condemnation. But Ethiopia has made far too much progress to be undone by the jabs of scattered antagonists who have little support among the Ethiopian people. And it is from within that Ethiopia faces the greatest challenges to its stability and unity. When thousands of people, in dozens of locations, in multiple regions come out on the streets to ask for a bigger say in the decisions that affect their lives, this cannot be dismissed as the handiwork of external enemies.
Ethiopian officials have acknowledged that protestors have genuine grievances that deserve sincere answers. They are working to address issues such as corruption and a lack of job opportunities. Yet security forces have continued to use excessive force to prevent Ethiopians from congregating peacefully, killing and injuring many people and arresting thousands. We believe thousands of Ethiopians remain in detention for alleged involvement in the protests – in most cases without having been brought before a court, provided access to legal counsel, or formally charged with a crime.
These are self-defeating tactics. Arresting opposition leaders and restricting civil society will not stop people from protesting, but it can create leaderless movements that leave no one with whom the government can mediate a peaceful way forward. Shutting down the Internet will not silence opposition, but it will scare away foreign investors and tourists. Using force may temporarily deter some protesters, but it will exacerbate their anger and make them more uncompromising when they inevitably return to the streets.
Every government has a duty to protect its citizens; but every legitimate and successful government also listens to its citizens, admits mistakes, and offers redress to those it has unjustly harmed. Responding openly and peacefully to criticism shows confidence and wisdom, not weakness. Ethiopia would also be stronger if it had more independent voices in government, parliament and society, and if civil society organizations could legally channel popular grievances and propose policy solutions. Those who are critical of the government would then have to share responsibility, and accountability, for finding those solutions. Progress in reforming the system would moderate demands to reject it altogether.
Ethiopia’s next great national task is to master the challenge of political openness, just as it has been mastering the challenge of economic development. Given how far Ethiopia has traveled since the days of terror and famine, the United States is confident that its people can meet this challenge – not to satisfy any foreign country, but to fulfill their own aspirations. The U.S. and all of Ethiopia’s friends are ready to help.
Tom Malinowski is the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.
‘People like TPLF leaders are those who never change no matter how much one tries to explain to them about the brutality of their ruling system and barbaric actions of their military and special commandos. This article expose the failed policy of the TPLF and their new destructive plan to slow-down the Oromo people movement for freedom.’
“The government’s repression of independent voices has significantly worsened as the Oromo protest movement has grown,” said Yared Hailemariam, Director of the Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE). “The international community should demand the end of this state-orchestrated clampdown and the immediate release of peaceful critics to prevent the situation from deteriorating further.”
UNPO: Oromo: Protesters Achieve Postponement of University Exams
After an exam paper had been leaked by Oromo protesters, the Ethiopian Ministry of Education had to cancel upcoming university entrance exams. Mostly student-led protests over the rights of the country’s marginalized Oromo people have effectively led to the months-long closure of the region’s high schools. Therefore, Oromo students had less time to prepare than students in other parts of the country. The leak of exam papers by Oromo students, thereby buying more time for students to prepare for university entrance exams, is thus a major success for the beleaguered movement.
Residents protesting as the fascist Ethiopia’s regime is to demolish their houses in Hanna Furi, Finfinnee, 29 June 2016. Roads are blocked. ” ታሪኩ የተባልው የአፍራሽ ግብረ ሀይሉ መሪ በህዝቡ ተገድሏል.”
OromoProtests 29 June 2016: Oduun Waxabajjii 29 bara 2016 nannoo Finfinneeti qaxxamuree Asi ga’e akka ibsuuti humni polisii wayyaanee kan meeshaa waraanaa hidhatee jiru humna Ummata Oromoo kan meeshaa Uumama ykn dhagaa hidhate jiru wajjiin warrana gaggeeffamaa ture irratti loltun diina 17 ajjeefamanii hedduun immoo hojiin ala akka ta’an Odeessii gamaa sanaa ifa godhee jira. Garuu soba polisii amma kana miti kan du’e jechuun motummaan kan ufiin jettu fashitii wayyaanee wakkachuu akka jirtus himame.
17 Armed fascist Woyane officers killed and seven civilians injured in a clash at Hanna Furi Area, Lafto Subcity of Finfinnee (Addis Ababa). Residents have been protesting the governments decision to demolish some 30,000 houses in the area with the aim of giving the land to TPLF. The commander of the woyane police was ambushed and his motor cycle was burned down as you see below.
June 28 /29 2016: #Oromo protests in Oromia (finfinnee, Hanna Furi) as the regime engaged in destroying residential houses for land grabs.
This is not just a political slight of hand. This is downright tragic. This is simply brutal. This is an act of state terror. This is bureaucracy deployed to disrupt life and terrorize poor citizens. This is a heartless exposure of people to a miserable death on the streets in these dark rainy days. You can’t call out women and children to a meeting and yet demolish their houses in their absence. We say NO to this in the strongest possible terms! NO! to a continued infliction of unnecessary suffering to poor people! Tsegaye Ararssa.
18 years old young Oromo woman Sabrina Abdalla was shot by fascist Agazi of the TPLF Ethiopia’s regime on 20 June 2016 in Chalanqo, East Hararge, Oromia. She has died at upon arrival at Harar hospital. She was shot in a small hut she uses to sell tea and coffee.
#OromoProtests 20 June (Waxabajjii) 2016: Students in Shamene staged mass protest against the killing of their classmate, Harun Haji Tusu, who was murdered by unknown assailants. The students marched through the town and paid a mass visit to Harun’s family. Students have demanded those responsible must be identified and held accountable at the court of law. Shashemene Police has announced arresting several.
Waxabajjii 16-17/2016 Godina Lixa Shagar Ambootti Goototni Barattootni Oromoo M/B Amboo Sadarkaa 2ffaa Fi Qophaa’inaa Qormanni Kutaa 12ffaa Utuu Nuti Hin Baratiin Nuuf Kennamuuf Jiru Kun Kan Keenyaa Adda Ta’uun Nu Midhuuf Kan Karoorfamedha Jechuun Warraaqsaa
Qormaatni Biyyoolessaa kutaa 12ffaa utuu hin baratiin nuuf kennamuuf jiru kun akka guutuu biyyattiitti j`alqaba baatii Adoolessaa kennamuuf kan jiru Kana Godina keenyaa Addatti M/B Amboo sadarkaa 2ffaa fi Qopha’inaa fi Maneen Barnootaa tokko tokkoo keessatti guyyaa adda ta’eetti kennuuf karoorfachuun kan nu miidhuuf karoorfamee fi nu shororkeessuu malee bu’aa tokkoo iyyuu hin qabuu waan ta’eef yoo kan qoramnu ta’ee haaluma wal fakkaatuun qoramna malee ofumaa itti fakkeessiif guyyaa adda ta’etti qabuun kun bu’aa hin qabu jechuun gaaffii mirgaa dhiyeeffachuun deebii waan dhorkatamaniif warraaqsaa keenyaa daran jabeessuun itti fufuun uummata Oromoo hundaaf furmnaata jechuun Warraaqsaa biyyoolessaa Oromiyaa FXG bifa adda ta’een Waxabajjii 16/2016 irraa eegaluun kan qabsiisaan guyyaa har’a Waxabajjii 17/2016 warraaqsaa FXG daran jabeessuun sagalee daadannoo guddaa gaaffii mirga abbaa biyyummaa fi kabajamuu mirgoota dimookiraasii fi dhala namaaf deebiin nuuf kennamuu qaba, abbaan irree qawween nu bulchaa jiruu aangoo irraa haa kaafamu jechuun mormii isaanii jabeessan.
Motummaan bakka bu’insa uummataa hin qabne abbaan irree Wayyaanee akkuma amala isaa loltoota agazii barattootatti ol seensisuun gaazii
summaa’aa nama imimmeessuun irratti dhukaasuun barattoota hedduu akka malee reebuu fi madeessuun, kaan immoo hidhatti ukkaamsuun gabaafame jira.
Director M/B sadarkaa 2ffaa fi Qopha’inaa kan ta’ee Namni Ambassee Tulluu jedhamuu waraana agaazii barattoota qalama malee waatu of harka hin qabnetti seensisuun yakka waraanaa barattoota irratti rawwachisaa jira. Namni Ambasee Tulluu jedhamu kun asiin Fuldura bara 2013 yeroo Directora Mana Barumsaa Geedoo sadarkaa 2ffaa fi Qophaa’ina turettis barattoota Oromoo 30 Ol barnootarraa guutummaatti kan arii’achaa turee fi bara kana illee Barattoota Oromoo 8 M/B Amboio sadarkaa 2ffaa fi Qopha’inaa irraa maqaa barattootni kun shororkeesitoota jedhuun dabarsee diinatti kennuun kaan hiisisee kaan barnootarraa arii’achuun daba daangaa hin qabnee barattoota Oromoo fi barsiisota Oromoo irratti dalaguun kan beekamu waan ta’eef uummatni Oromoo sabboontootni Oromoo lukkee diinaa kana irraa of eegachuu fi bakka argameetti gumaa barattoota Oromoo bara dheeraa akka bahaattan dhaamsii Oromomummaa isiniif dabarfamee jira. Warraaqsii itti fufa, garboomsaan ni kufa!!
#OromoProtests 11 June 2016: The Oromo and Ogaden protesters in action in Canberra, Australia; they forced cancellation of TPLF’s meeting, 11 June 2016. All ‘presidents’ forced to leave through emergency door….then the room was left only by protesters.
#OromoProtests 11 June 2016: Guyyaa Har’aa walgahii Wayyaanee Canberra, Australia’tti godhame hawaasni Oromoo fi Ogaaden harkaa fashaleessanii jiru.
three people have been arrested from Rift Valley University, Labu Campus today.
1. Chalchisa Damtew
2. Gololcha Bali ( Dean of the College, an Italian educated academic who returned to the country with hope of serving his people)
3. Abiyot Nugissie Head accountant
OromoProtests 9 June 2016: Residents Qarsa and Kontoma villages in Lafto Subcity of Addis Ababa who are facing eminent eviction from their homes marched to the prime minister’s palace to plead their case. But they were stopped near a place called ‘Total’ where several of them have been arrested. Its reported that the people have been protesting for the last four days. Over 7,000 homes have been marked for demolition.
OromoProtests 9 June 2016: The brave faces of Dill University Oromo students who were incarcerated at Maekelawi for four months and now being tried at local court in Dilla. Hundreds of students gathered at the court house but the session was adjourned without any hearing at the prosecutor continues to ask for extension.
Waxabajjii 9 bara 2016: Barattoonni Oromoo Yunivarsitii Dillaa kan baatii afurii oliif Maakkallawiitti rakkifamaa turanii gara mana murtii Dillaatti deebifman kunoo har’as dhihaatanii turan. Barattoonni hedduun mooraa mana murtiitti deeggarsaaf argamanii turan. Garuu abbaan alanagaa yeroo dabalataa waan gaafateef dhaddachi osoo hin taa’amin hafee jira.
#OromoProtests 9 June 2016: The emergency meeting of Oromia Regional Parliament ( Caffee) has removed presidents and vice president of the Supereme Court, Damoze Mame & Boja Tadesse. They have been replaced by Addisu Qabeneessa ( President of SW Shawa High Court) and Hussien Adam ( president of Arsi Supreme Court) , respectively. The change of guard at supreme court is a result of TPLF’s accusation of the Oromia judiciary of being lenient towards Oromo Protesters. The parliament also removed immunity for Zelalem Jemaneh, former OPDO executive committee member and head of the agricultural department.
#OromoProtests 9 June 2016 (Waxabajjii 9, bara 2016): Yuuniversitii Haromaayyaatti dhiyoo doormiin barattoota dhiiraa gubatuu irraa kan ka’e mooraan yuunniversitichaa humna waraana Wayyaaneen kan toohatamee fi buufata waraana tahe gabaasuun keenya ni yaadatama. Haala kanaan barattootni waggaa tokkkoffaa baratanis mootummaan wayyaanee akka galan dirqisiisee akka galan taasifameetu jira. Guyya doormiin barattootaa gubatee kaasee barattootni hedduunis yeroodhaa yerootti hidhaatti guuramaa jiraachuunis hubatamee jira.
barattootni hedduunis kan gara qe’ee galan mooraa alatti tika diinaan butamanii mana hidhaa darbamaa jiraatuunis Qeerroon gabaasee jira.
#OromoProtests 9 June 2016: Dhaamsa hatattamaa qeerroo guutummaa oromiyaa keessa jirtaniif .Konkolaataan abbaan qabeenyummaa isaa kan tujaarota tigirootaa ta’e kun gidduu kana magaalaa naqamtee keessatti tarkaanffiin irratti waan fudhatameef mootummaan wayyaanee sodaa guddaa keessa seenuun humnoota federaalaa konkolaatota kanaaf ramaduun akka isaan dirqiin oromiyaa keessa hojjetan gochaa jira.Nuti qeerroon guutummaa oromiyaa keessa jirrummoo konkolaataa kana duwwaa irratti xiyyeeffachuu hin qabnu.Maaliif yoo naan jettan konkolaattonni kanneen akka
star bus, sky bus, tata fi kanneen albuuda oromiyaa saamuuf kutatanii ka’an fakkeenyaa dhagaa daalattii kan jedhamu kan naannoo mandii keessaa ba’u .Dhagaan kun albuuda oromiyaan yeroo ammaa kana albuda qabdi jedhamee abdatamu keessaa isa guddaadha.Kanaaf nuti qeerroon guutuu oromiyaa keessa jirru yeroo kamiyyuu caalaa tarkaanffii qabeenyaa diinaa fi lukkee lee diinaa irratti fudhachuuf qoophii ta’uu qabna.Kanaaf adaraa keessan yeroo tarkaanffii fudhannu bifa qindoomina qabuun hojjechuummoo akka qabnu isiniif eeruun fedha.
#OromoProtests 8 June 2016: Naqamtetti Waxabajjii 08 bara 2016 qabeenyaa TPLF kan ta’ee fi SELAM BUS bakka kan bu’e Kan GOLDEN BUS jedhamu akka malee caccabsanii jiru. karaa Cinasaa fi Fuula duraan caccabee wajjira Polisii Ganda 07 fuldura dhaabachaa jira.
5. Ulee diinaa ta’uun Ilmaan Oromoo sadarkaa hundatti lafarraa fixaa kan jiran keessaa Muktaar Kadir, Bakar Shaallee, Asteer Maammoo, Kumaa Dammaqsaa, Abbaa Duulaa fi fakkaattoota isaanii ta’uu hubachuun sabboontootni ilmaan Oromoo sirnicha keessatti argamtan gadi fageenyaan caasaa sirna kanaan ijaarame irraa akka of eeggattan. Sirni kun akka diinaaf tolutti maqaa OPDO jedhamuun diinni namoota isaaf amanamoo fi ergamtuu ta’aniin ijaarrate kun ilmaan Oromoo kamiif iyyuu diina malee qaama mirga keessan kabachiisuu fi isin bakka bu’u akka hin taane hubachuun sirna badaa fi hirmii uummata keenyaa ta’e kana of irraa gara galchuu irratti akka fuulleeffattan dhaamsa keenya!!
6. Master Plan Finfinnee fi Magaalota addaa Oromiyaa ifaan ifatti ibsi fi labsiin baldhaan mootummaa Federaalaa irraa kennamee akka haqamu gadi jabeessuun gaafatna!!
7. Ilmaan Oromoo sababaa Oromummaa isaanii fi Sochii Warraaqsaa FXG Oromiyaa keessatti hirmaattee jirta jedhamuun sobaan himatamanii hidhaatti guuraaman hidhamtootni Oromoo hundi haalduree tokko malee hatattamaan akka hiikaman kallattii hundaan ilmaan Oromoo Poolisii, mana murtii, abbootii alangaa, abbootii seeraa hojjettoota fi ogeessootni sadarkaa garaagaraarratti argamtan dhiibbaa barbaachisu roga hundaan akka gootaan gadi jabeessuun waamicha lammummaa isiniif dabarsina!!
8. Manneen kondominium Magaalota naannawaa Finfinnee fi Naannawaa Finfinneetti Ijaaramanii jiran Hundaa kan hirmachaa jiruu fi carraa itti fayyadamuu kan argataa jiran sadarkaa 1ffaatti ilmaan Tigrota, sadarkaa 2ffaatti dabballootaa fi ergamtoota sirna wayyaanee dhalootaan Oromoo hin ta’iinitu itti fayyadamaa jira. Ilmaan Oromoo biyya abbaa isaanii irratti akka lammii 2ffaatti ilaalamuun hirmannaa qabeenya abbaa isaanii keessaa illee moggaatti dhiibaman. Oromoon sirnichuma keessatti ogummaa fi hojiilee garaagaraan argamu carraa kana dhorkatamee kan jiru ta’uun hubatamee waan jiruuf, Sochiin ijaarsa manneen kondominium fi ijaarsi kamuu fedhii uummata Oromoon alatti gaggeeffamaa jiru bakkuma jirutti akka dhaabbatuu fi manneen ummataa humnaan diiguun qe’ee irra buqqisaa waan jiranuuf uummata qe’ee irraa hin buqqaanu jedhee qe’ema isaa irratti dhumaa jiruuf dirmachuun qe’ee fi qabeenyaa isaa irratti sabni keenya wareegamee akka falmatuu fi carraan manneen kondominium ijaaramanii jiran carraan dursaa abbaa qe’eef akka eegamu ummatni keenya bakka hundaa harka wal qabatee ka’uun haa falmannu.
Injifannoon Ummata Oromoof!!
Gadaan Gadaa Bilisummaa Oromoo ti!!
Qeerroo Bilisummaa Oromoo
#OromoProtests 7 June 2016: What could be the reason why OPDO gave 30 million birr to Mekelle Technical and Vocational Education and Training college? The source say its a payment for the demands made by ‘people of Tigrai’ during the organizations 25th anniversary which was when they were forced to admit they were founded in Adet, Tigray rather than Darra, Oromia. J.M.
Tarkaanfii loltoota ishee irratti fudhatametti kan aarte wayyaaneen ABO tu itti gala waan ta’eef, bosonni kun gubachuu qaba waan jeetteef ummatni nu fixxu malee bosonni kun hin gubatu jedhanii akka dura dhaabbatan gabaafameera.
#OromoProtests 5 June 2016: This piece of paper contains plight of four Dire Dawa University students who are being held underground at one of the military camps. They appeal to their fellow citizens to save them. The letter was found on street near the camp.
The letter lists four students, their department, year and place of birth)
1. Gada Ebisa, English 2nd yr ( from Mandi, West Walaga)
2. Amanuel Etefa, Sport 3rd yr ( Dambi Dollo, Qellam Walaga)
3. Oli Zewde, Law 2nd yr ( Mandi, West Walaga)
4. Bedhasa Endale, Biology 2nd year (Naqamte, EastWalaga)
#OromoProtests News (3 June 2016):In another dramatic turn of events, Bekele Gerba attended court naked ( only underwear) and not even shoes and socks. The took this unusual step after they were prevented from wearing black color cloths.
#OromoProtests News (3 June 2016): The TPLF regime expels the entire class of 1st year engineering students of Haramaya University. This decision is passed in the name of the university senate but sources tell us that the faculty including the president are strongly against it. The decision is attributed to the security command post using the chairman of Board of Governors Mr Sileshi ( Minister of Fish) to over rule the faculty. The students are vowing not to leave campus until the entire university is closed down. You might recall that students have been boycotting class for the last three weeks demanding release of their classmates and removal armed forces from campus.
UNPO Side-Events at UN Human Rights Council Raise Awareness of Gross Human Rights Violations in Ethiopia
UNPO, 24 June 2016
Aiming to raise awareness of the gross human rights violations perpetrated by the Ethiopian government against its own citizens, the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), in cooperation with the Nonviolent Radical Party (PRNTT), the Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa and the Ogaden People’s Rights Organization, convened two side-events to the XXXII Regular Session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, on 22 and 23 June 2016, respectively.
On 22 June 2016, a conference entitled ‘Business and Human Rights in Ethiopia: Double-Digit Growth at What Cost?’ looked at the systematic and large-scale violations of human rights committed hand-in-hand by transnational corporations and the Ethiopian government, with particular focus on the Ogaden region.Mr Abdirahman Mahdi, Chairman of the Ogaden People’s Rights Organization (OPRO), provided the audience – comprised of human rights defenders, diplomats, politicians, journalists and academics from all over the world – with an introductory overview of the Ogaden, a region that has recently seen its territory divided into 22 blocks to be then assigned to transnational corporations, with no regard whatsoever to the local inhabitants, who are being forcefully displaced and denied access to their grazing lands. Mr Mahdi reminded the audience that, although the Ethiopian constitution stipulates that the land is owned by the state and the people of Ethiopia, “the Somali people in Ogaden have no say or right in deciding the fate of their land and are never consulted”.
In a region where aid is severely restricted and international NGOs are denied access or operate under direct supervision, “detention, rape, summery execution and torture are rampant”, Mr Mahdi explained. Even the International Committee of the Red Cross has been banned from working in the Ogaden since 2007, while it is allowed in other parts of Ethiopia. Only during the last six months, several civilians in 69 localities were rounded, detained, beaten, looted or killed. On 6 June 2016, 51 people were killed in Jama Dubad, in the Gashamo District On 15 June, more than 400 civilians, relatives of Ogaden diaspora members were detained and tortured in Qabridahar, Dhanaan, Wardheer, Godey and Dhagahbur, after some demonstrations against the regional president had taken place in Australia.
Following Mr Mahdi’s presentation, journalist and director Mr Graham Peebles screened for the first time his recent short documentary “Ogaden: Ethiopia’s Hidden Shame”. The film is based on interviews conducted in Dadaab Refugee camp in Kenya in October 2014 and reveals the state-sponsored terrorism taking place in the Somali Ogaden region of Ethiopia, showing related stories of extreme violence, torture and rape at the hands of the security forces. After the screening of his poignant film, Mr Peebles shared with the audience the experience of shooting and producing the piece. Mr Peebles remarked that, in addition to Ethiopian military and paramilitary being engaged in killings to clear the area for resource exploration, the Ogaden has also been severely affected by drought and famine. “Although the WFP is providing emergency food aid in the Ogaden, the relief programme has been forced to recruit locals who are said to be working for the Ethiopian security services”, he explained. As a result, food aid is increasingly being diverted from WFP warehouses to local agencies, “who reportedly transfer it to the army or government regional administrators, who then divide the food amongst themselves with the purpose of being sold on the black market or given to groups that support the ruling party”.
Scene of the film “Ogaden: Ethiopia’s HIdden Shame’ by Graham Peebles, screened at the UN in Geneva
Followed by a debate, this first conference sought to address the complex relationship between business and human rights in Ethiopia, where the most basic rights of the local population are sacrificed on the altar of major economic interests and so-called ‘development’.
On 23 June 2016, the second side-event, in collaboration the Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa (HRLHA), shifted the focus to the Oromo region of Ethiopia where, in November 2015, national security forces responded to largely peaceful protests with excessive and lethal force. The roundtable was entitled “Violations of Freedom of Assembly and Demonstration: Brutal Crackdown on Peaceful Oromo Protests”.
Mr Garoma Wakessa, Director of the Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa, opened his presentation by offering a comprehensive overview of the situation of the Oromo, who despite being the largest ethinic group, are largely socially and politically marginalized. Mr Wakessa presented the origins of the protests that broke out across Oromia, in 2015, when civilians took to the streets to protest against the so-called ‘Integrated Master Plan’, the central government’s intention to expand Addis Ababa’s municipal boundary into Oromia regional territory. Mr Wakessa emphasized that the demonstrations were mainly led by Oromo students and while the protests started as an opposition to the ‘Master Plan’, they gradually evolved into a wider Oromo movement levelled against the central authorities.
Mr Felix Horne, Ethiopia Researcher for Human Rights Watch, offered with his most recent report, “‘Such a Brutal Crackdown’: Killings and Arrests in Response to Ethiopia’s Oromo Protests,”, further details of the Ethiopian government’s use of excessive and unnecessary lethal force and mass arrests, mistreatment in detention, and restrictions on access to information to quash the protest movement. His publication was based on interviews with more than 125 protesters, bystanders and victims of abuse, who documented serious violations of the rights to free expression and peaceful assembly by security forces against protesters and others, between the very beginning of these protests in November 2015 and up until May 2016. Moreover, Mr Horne explained that Ethiopian government’s pervasive restrictions on independent human rights investigations and media have meant that very little information has been coming from affected areas. Since mid-March , the Ethiopian government has restricted access to Facebook and other social media, as well as restricted access to diaspora television stations.
The well-achieved goal of convening two side-events to the XXXII Regular Session of the UN Human Rights Council was to raise awareness of the dangerous misconception that Ethiopia is ‘an African democracy on the make’ and ‘a beacon of stability in an otherwise troubled region’. Both events informed human rights defenders, diplomats, politicians, journalists and academics from all over the world about the dire human rights’ situation in Ethiopia, firstly by shedding a light on the damage caused by large-scale business operations, notably in areas inhabited by ethnic groups who are already being systematically marginalized and suppressed by the central government. Secondly, by looking at how an authoritarian regime uses brutal and lethal force against peaceful protestors, such as the case of Oromia. The international community clearly has an active role to play in ensuring investigations into the mass atrocities taking place in Ethiopia, to hold perpetrators of crimes responsible and to end the enduring impunity.
Mr Abdirahman Mahdi, Chairman of the Ogaden People’s Rights Organization (OPRO)
Mr Graham Peebles, Journalist and Film Director
Mr Garoma Wakessa, Director of the Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa
Mr Felix Horne, Ethiopia Researcher Human Rights Watch
The Blues is said to be based on musical traditions drawn from African roots. The slave trade to Arabia and the east – in total, much bigger than the better-known trade routes west – despatched misery on a similar scale.
Except that Oromo and other slaves taken from and through Abyssinia (up to the 1930s incidentally, and continuing now under the guise of domestic servants) were more likely to become freed women and men, and become political and military leaders. Not so much now.
The majority pay to travel on false papers, often with exaggerated ages, to work, for many in a state of slavery, for Arabian families. They flee from persecution because they have dared to stand up for Oromo rights.
Between November 2015 and March 2016 over 400 Oromo students and civilians have been shot dead on the streets of Ethiopia, where they demonstrated. Or when they opened their doors to the house-to-house searches which followed. Local informants report many more killings. Names, dates and locations of over 250 extra-judicial executions have been given.
Where is the clamour from left and right, complaining about misuse of our generous aid to Ethiopia? This aid amounts to about £300 million yearly – Ethiopia receives more aid from the UK than any other country in the world.
Well, the clamour is not coming because, allegedly, the government is in control and the opposition is weak and divided. Small wonder, that an oppressive regime with western support and intelligence can render an opposition weak and divided
Meanwhile, students bleed on Ethiopian streets and there is martial law in Oromia. Tens of thousands of young people are incarcerated in concentration camps. Is this the sort of stability that the UK wants to encourage?
This picture is of a young woman killed in central Oromia Region, at a place named Galesda. Her name is Nato Guluma. She was shot dead in Jaldu, West Showa, on 14 December 2015.
What do we want the UK’s foreign policy to look like in Ethiopia, East Africa, the Middle East? Like this? An sweeping under the rugs of innocent lives lost in the struggle for freedom from persecution? Then again, so few of us know about these lives. After all, Oromo students being shot dead is sometimes just not media material, and will never make it to the UK’s front pages.
Well, now you know. Dr Trevor Trueman learned about the unfair treatment of asylum-seekers when providing expert witness reports on Ethiopia to immigration appeal tribunals and courts. He has developed an expertise on human rights abuses in Ethiopia as a result of reporting abuses against Oromo and other peoples of Ethiopian publicly since 1994. He trained Oromo health workers in three long field trips from 1988 to 1991. He is now a member of the steering committee of Amnesty’s Asylum Justice Project.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn (left), walks alongside President Obama during the U.S. president’s visit to the African nation last July. Critics say Ethiopia has cracked down hard on the opposition, but makes modest gestures to give the impression it tolerates some dissent.
SIMON MAINA/AFP/Getty Images
The Oromo Federalist Congress, an opposition party in Ethiopia, represents the largest ethnic group in the country, the Oromo.
Yet its office in the capital Addis Ababa is virtually deserted, with chairs stacked up on tables. A chessboard with bottle caps as pieces is one of the few signs of human habitation. In a side office, the party’s chairman, Merera Gudina, explains why the place is so empty: Almost everyone has gone to prison.
The deputy chairman? Prison. The party secretary general? House arrest. The assistant secretary general? In prison. Six members of the party’s youth league? All in prison.
Critics of the Ethiopian government regularly land in prison. So why isn’t Merera Gudina, the chairman of the party and an outspoken critic of the regime, also behind bars?
The reason, he says, is what he calls “the game of the 21st century.” Less-than-democratic regimes are getting more sophisticated, and instead of completely crushing dissent, they seek to create the appearance of tolerance or even a multiparty democracy, explains Merera. (Ethiopians go by their first names).
In the case of Ethiopia, a strategy was laid out by the late former prime minister, Meles Zenawi, after the 2005 election, in which opposition parties won 32 percent of parliament and appeared poised to challenge the government.
Merera says he is the current example of that strategy. He describes himself as a “floating head,” while the legs of his party — all his deputies, his candidates, his organizers — are either imprisoned or threatened.
Criticism On Human Rights
Human rights groups are extremely critical of Ethiopia, but it is a member of the international community in good standing.
“We are very mindful of Ethiopia’s history, the hardships that this country has gone through,” Obama said. “It has been relatively recently in which the Constitution that was formed, and elections put forward a democratically elected government.”
A number of human rights groups criticized Obama, saying he should have pressed much harder.
Shortly before Obama’s visit, Ethiopia released several noted opposition journalists and politicians. The deputy chairman of the Oromo Federalist Congress, Bekele Gerba, was among those freed, and he promptly flew to Washington to sound an alarm bell.
Bekele said his wife, a high school teacher, was also forced out of her job because of his politics. Bekele declined to use this trip to the U.S. to stay and apply for asylum. Instead, he said, he was determined to go back to Ethiopia, no matter what would happen.
Opposition Figure Re-Arrested
Soon after his return, Bekele was arrested again, and remains in prison today. Bekele is considered a moderate and he counsels nonviolence. He used his free time in prison to translate the writings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Merera, the party leader, says that targeting Bekele has a boomerang effect.
“When you are suppressing the moderate voice, then what you get is the radical voice,” he warns.
The arrest of moderates inside the country may be amplifying more radical rhetoric in the diaspora, such as rhetoric about “government overthrow” that Ethiopian officials are quick to highlight.
Genenew Assefa, a government spokesman, points out that Ethiopian opposition “tends to be extremist,” but also takes his own Justice Ministry to task for arresting so many opposition members.
“And then we put them in jail, and then it’s a vicious circle,” he says with a sigh. “And this is how it works. I personally, you know, would like to deal with this differently.”
He says that he would like Ethiopia to counter criticism with politics, not with police.
But Ethiopian politics appears to be moving away from democratic freedoms, not toward them. In last year’s election, the ruling party won 100 percent of the seats in parliament. Even the “floating heads” no longer have a token parliamentary seat.
Merera says that the Ethiopian strategy isn’t working.
“You can’t arrest everybody,” he says. He says that what is brewing is “an intifada (uprising), an Ethiopian intifada — even now, they don’t need leadership.”
Last November, ethnically Oromo regions of the country erupted in popular protests. Activists say 350 people have been killed, and thousands more arrested. There’s a growing fear that Ethiopia’s “cut off the legs” strategy is splitting the country.
Oromia & Ethiopia: #OromoProtests: With whom are the European Union, the United States, and the African Union Officials meeting to discuss and end the exclusion and marginalization of the Oromo people in Ethiopia? April 8, 2016
This is a hand written defense statement of Okello Ukuay, former president of Gambella region who was recently sentenced to 9 years imprisonment. In this defense statement he explains that he left his presidency in 2004 because Meles Zenawi and his regime pressured him to lie saying the massacre of over 400 people in the region was caused by enter-ethnic conflict between Agnuak and Nuer groups.Instead he asserts that the massacre was planned by TPLF leaders and carried out by the army. Okello also claims that the Ehtiopian regime was able to capture him in Juba ( South Sudan) by paying 23 million dollars to buy him and 6 Oromo refugees. This is an interesting read which gives us some insight about the ongoing conflict and mass killing in Gambella region. Source: Social Media and Jawar Mohammed