By Getahun Tsegaye
Addis Abeba, September 14/2021 (Addis Standard) – Yesterday, Agency for Civil Society Organizations (ACSO) said it will take punitive measures against aid agencies suspected of working on issues outside of the purpose for which they were established that threaten Ethiopia’s sovereignty, unity and security.
Deputy Director General of the Agency, Fasikaw Molla, told the state Amharic publication Addis Zemen that various punitive measures will be taken against some charities that are operating outside of the objectives they were established. Fasikaw added, “Depending on the nature of the damage, various remedial measures will be taken, ranging from warnings to suspensions and closures.”
“We will have no mercy on civil society organizations that threaten Ethiopia’s sovereignty, unity and security. We will never negotiate to accommodate such a predicament, ” Fasikaw said, adding, “We have information that some civil society organizations are acting in a way that is against the national interest. Because the situation inflicts danger on the national interest, we will handle it very seriously. The necessary corrective action will be taken as soon as we complete the investigation.”
“THE PHRASE IN PARTICULAR THAT DICTATES “BY ANY MEANS” IS TOO BROAD FOR THE AGENCY, OPEN TO INTERPRETATION AND OPENS THE DOOR TO CLASSIFY ANY ACT AS ILLEGAL ACTIVITIES.”
DEBEBE HAILE GEBRIEL
BBC Amharic quoted Debebe Haile Gebriel, a legal practitioner, criticizing a law governing civil society that was amended two years ago. “Before any law is passed, it should have been published on the Attorney General’s website for comment,” said Debebe,
Debebe who participated in the drafting of the Civil Society Proclamation criticized the regulations stipulated under article 6 that reads, “The Agency may regularly monitor and control organizations in any way it deems fit to ensure that they are operating in accordance with the law.”
According to him, “The phrase in particular that dictates “by any means” is too broad for the agency, open to interpretation and opens the door to classify any act as illegal activities.” Deputy Director, Fasikaw Molla, told BBC Amharic saying,” the agency is holding various discussions before approving the directives and will handle complaints.”
Fasikaw added that more than 50 civil society groups will gather to view the draft and submit their full comments. He also said that ideas raised at each forum will be recorded and efforts will be made to improve them all.
This comes as the ACSO announced the temporary suspension of MSF Holland, the Norwegian Refugee Council and Al-Maktoume Foundation humanitarian operations in Ethiopia.
The agency accused MSF Holland and the Norwegian Refugee Council of disseminating misinformation on social media and other platforms It also claimed that Al-Maktoume Foundation failed to comply with the Ministry of Education’s COVID-19 guidelines, to manage its budget and accused it of misusing its budget in the name of providing affordable education, as well as problems with staff management.
The agency said that the activities of the organizations have been suspended for three months in accordance with Article 77(4) of Proclamation No. 1113/2011 until a final decision is made. Addis Standard contacted the ACSO to clarify some information, however, the repeated attempts were to no avail.