Is Ethiopia sliding back to the dark days?

dark days
Thousands of demonstrators gather at Meskel Square to protest against the attacks resulted in the deaths of 23 people, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on September 17, 2018. FILE PHOTO | MINASSE WONDIMU HAILU | ANADOLU

(The East African) — The change in leadership in Ethiopia in 2018 heralded a new era that earned Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed a Nobel Peace prize in 2019 for sweeping reforms that saw the release of thousands of political prisoners, and the return of opposition politicians from exile and registration of their political parties in the country.

Repressive laws such as the Anti-terrorism Proclamation Act, that had been used by past governments since 2009 to curtail civil liberties, were also repealed.

However, after the government opened up the democratic space giving rise to ethnic nationalism, inter-communal violence broke out in Oromo, Harar and Amhara regions as citizens sought to compensate for decades of marginalisation.

The flipside of the reforms is now contained in a report of research finding by Amnesty International, released on May 29. The findings claim that repression is creeping back into Ethiopia.

Amnesty says Ethiopian security forces, in an attempt to quell the inter-communal skirmishes, committed human-rights violations, extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests, detention, torture, detention of children on behalf of their families, burning and destruction of homes and livelihoods as well as forced relocations without allowing the evicted families to take their household items, including their stored food stocks.

Human-rights violations

Amnesty International now says it is concerned that human-rights violations and abuses will escalate in the next general election, scheduled for August, which is expected to be highly contested after the return of exiled opposition political parties.

“The political reforms introduced in Ethiopia by the incumbent government in 2018 presented the country with an opportunity to break with its abysmal human rights record,” said the report.

The researchers found evidence that at least 39 people were extra-judicially executed in Goro Dola District of East Guji Zone and Dugda Dawa District of West Guji Zone in Oromia since January 2019.

Amnesty International noted that while the government has taken bold steps to towards improving the human rights environment in the country, a persistence of old-style patterns of violence by the security forces threatens to derail sustained long-term gains.

Ethiopia’s ambassador to Kenya, Meles Alem Tekea, told The EastAfrican that he is still waiting for an official government response from Addis Ababa on the report.

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