Friday, 27 September 2013

Ethiopia: New punches to silence opposition

In late August Ethiopian police broke into the premises of the Blue party in Addis Ababa and arrested 60 people who were preparing a legal, peaceful demonstration. Several of those arrested were beaten by police, according to Amnesty International.
2 June this year, thousands demonstrated in the streets of Addis Ababa, in the largest protests since the unrest in 2005. The protests were organized by the new opposition group Blue Party. Two months later the government to the party.

The  opposition has been very critical of Right to development in Ethiopia, a country that has had frequent visits by Norwegian coalition ministers. Relations with Ethiopia is one of the first development policy clarifications that a new socialist government must do.
Prime Minister  Meles Zenawi's  last year has not made human rights organizations softened towards the regional superpower in the Horn of Africa. Their reports state that critical journalists are imprisoned, is forced farmers and civil society organizations monitored and threatened. Human rights groups have had their bank accounts blocked. Under the new Prime Minister Haile Mariam Desalegn is still Ethiopia some ideal state for human rights.

"Human rights in Ethiopia has deteriorated in recent years, " writes Human Rights Watch. " Critical voices are not tolerated, " Amnesty International.

Forced relocation

The government has ambitious plans to invest in commercial agriculture - both government and the cheap rent of land to large foreign companies. To achieve this, they have run extensive programs to forcibly move people into large villages. This is especially true in the Gambela region and in the lower Omo River where nomads with cattle have survived for centuries. Over 1.5 million people are now affected by compulsive "landsbyfisering."
The country is also underway with the construction of several large hydropower plants. Many villages have been tvangsekspropriert to achieve this.

Anti-terror laws

In early August, two journalists from Radio Bilal detained for a week. The radio station has had extensive coverage of Muslim protests against government interference in religious matters.
Through the use of anti-terror law and private law organizations, the criticisms of Ethiopia's government stifled. Threats have led to many of the country's leading human rights activists have fled the country.The organization Committee to Protect Journalists, based in the U.S., believes that 79 Ethiopian journalists have been forced to leave the country in recent years.
Last year, 30 activists and opposition politicians convicted under the vague and extensive terrorist law. It has also been used against 11 journalists since 2011. HRW wrote in its annual report that they continue to document the use of torture on several police stations in both Addis Ababa and the regions. Amnesty reports that security forces have executed suspects in several parts of the country where there are attempts at resistance against the regime.
The next parliamentary elections in Ethiopia to take place in 2015.


Despite criticism of the country Ethiopia receives over 21 billion in foreign aid each year.Norway channeled 228 million to the country last year. By this it is still only 35 million that goes directly through the Ethiopian public sector, and very little goes through the ministries.
While Ethiopia is criticized for a lack of democracy and weak civil political rights, the country can point to major economic and social progress of the population. Infant mortality in the country has decreased by 67 percent compared to 1990, according to figures from the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF). Poverty is also on the way down. In twenty years these children's access to school increased from 32 to 96 percent.


The Norwegian Foreign Ministry has several times in the last year stressed that they constantly discuss human rights with the Government of Ethiopia. UD also shows that Norway has signed a three-year contract with Addis Ababa University, through the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights. The purpose is to promote access to legal aid for poor people, with particular focus on women and strengthen the center's academic capacity.
Together with the regional office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Norwegian embassy since 2011 chaired the Human Rights and Democracy Sub-group. The forum is intended for discussion and information sharing among a number of embassies on the basis of political rather than developmental interests. In 2012 the Embassy organized monthly meetings on current issues related to human rights and democracy, according to Norad country sides.
One of the reasons why western countries are restrained in their criticism of Ethiopia's regime is the country's key power positions in Africa and the Horn of Africa. Ethiopia has a good relationship with the United States and houses the headquarters of the African Union and contributing troops to peacekeeping operations in both Sudan and Somalia.

Published: 27.09.2013