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Will Ethiopia’s Year-Long Crackdown End?

Need for Meaningful Reforms, Accountability

By Felix Horne

(HRW) — When I met 15-year-old “Meti” (not her real name), she felt her dream of becoming a nurse was over. In February, Meti and her classmates joined a protest in East Hararghe, in Ethiopia’s Oromia region, against the government’s displacement of farmers around Addis Ababa, security force abuses, and the repression of opposition voices. When security forces started shooting, she and her classmates ran; she turned to see her brother shot dead. Later that night, security forces arrested her father and two of her brothers. Then school officials informed her they were suspending her from school for her participation in the protest.

Now she is trying to leave Ethiopia for South Africa. “I have no future,” she told me. “The government will not hear our voices. They will keep killing and arresting until we stop our protest.”

This week marks one year since protests in Ethiopia began and, sadly, Meti’s words have come true.

Demonstrators chant slogans while flashing the Oromo protest gesture during Irreecha, the thanksgiving festival of the Oromo people, in Bishoftu town, Oromia region, Ethiopia, October 2, 2016. © 2016 Reuters

Demonstrators chant slogans while flashing the Oromo protest gesture during Irreecha, the thanksgiving festival of the Oromo people, in Bishoftu town, Oromia region, Ethiopia, October 2, 2016. © 2016 Reuters

Security forces have killed hundreds, detained tens of thousands, and shattered the lives of countless families over the last year. Protester anger boiled over following October’s Irreecha cultural festival, when security forces’ mishandling of the massive crowd caused a stampede, resulting in many deaths. In response, angry mobs destroyed private and government property, particularly in the Oromia region. On October 9, the government announced a country-wide state of emergency, signaling an increase in the militarized response to protesters’ demands for reform. So far, the announced measuresappear to codify many of the security forces’ abuses thus far, including arbitrary detention.

The government’s blocking of mobile internet, restrictions on social media, and bans on communication with foreign groups mean little information has gotten out since October 9. Government limitations on free expression and access to information undermine the potential for the inclusive political dialogue needed to understand protesters’ grievances, let alone address them.

Ethiopia’s government has shown little willingness to engage in meaningful reforms over the last year, choosing brutal force over discussion. It’s clear this approach hasn’t worked – as the brutality of security forces increased, so too has the intensity of protests and the calls for reform. Moderate voices have been jailed, and outlets for peaceful expression of grievances shuttered.

The government says it is responding to the needs of the people, and has removed key regional government officials from their posts, shuffled cabinet positions, and stated a commitment to proportional representation. But these changes fall dramatically short of the protesters’ demands for reform. Meti and all Ethiopians have a right to criticize government policies without fear of reprisals, but justice and accountability for people like Meti’s family aren’t even talking points on the agenda yet.

The Ethiopian government and its international allies should refocus attention on the need for justice, accountability, and meaningful reform – or next year’s anniversary will be even less hopeful.

One Response to Will Ethiopia’s Year-Long Crackdown End?

  1. Hunde Lammi November 10, 2016 at 11:30 am #

    It will never end UNLESS we plan and design a functional strategy that helps us to put it to an end!!!

    Meles said , “if TPLF has strong friends and strong army, for what purpose we need knowledge?”
    That is exactly how the regime has been built: Take the idiot uneducated Oromos and Amharas; gave whatever they wanted and have been forcing them to kill their brothers and sisters. Unfortunate!!

    I think he did say “let’s stay and take as much as we can until Oromos say enough is enough” as well; somebody pointed this on the other page. Amazing strategies.

    Melse did speak about the strength of Oromos to control the Horn of Africa as well, actually he said Oromos can control the entire Africa. So wake up everyone let’s proof that.
    It will be so simple, just ask honest commitments of a few millions of the 40 million Oromos. Then, we can establish the strongest Military to take care of our land and our people. After that no nation in the entire Africa will dare to mess up with us. THAT IS THE ONLY OPTION OROMO! OTHERWISE, SHUT-UP and confess for the next 150 years. TPLF is executing/torturing/burning our peaceful people; and recently started to loot everything(cash,gold,cellphones, small cars including the so call Bajaj-taxi, force to withdraw cash from banks you name it) and the worst of all is they rape kids/girls and mothers in front of their families after putting male family members in chains or killing them all.
    This is like a ‘hell’ in the entire Oromia. Hopefully, thanks to wikileak the World has now started to see the truth behind the dramas of the terrorist TPLF government. Thus, it will not be so difficult to establish honest diplomatic ties with the west including the Trump officials.

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