The darling of the West in East Africa — Ethiopia has faced unprecedented public uprising since early November of last year, due to protests against Addis Ababa Integrated Urban Development Plan. The criticisms by the United States and the European Union is getting louder by the day.
The United States and United Kingdom are the two biggest aid providers to Ethiopia. Ethiopia has been receiving £300 million each year from UK in aid money. The United States provided $870,054,350 in 2012 alone.
The Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front, the current leading political party in Ethiopia defeated the Derge regime with the help of the western powers in 1991. It now appears the same western governments would like Ethiopian government’s head on the platter.
Although Ethiopia was panned repeatedly by independent organizations like Human Rights Watch for gross human rights violations, it failed to catch the western media’s attention. This time, the media is paying attention. Western politicians are using unequivocal words in their condemnation of Ethiopian government’s disregard for human lives.
Ambassador Samantha Power, United States ambassador to the United Nations urged restraint in use of deadly forces. The ambassador whose advice is rumored to have a heavy weight with President Obama took her condemnation of the Ethiopian government to social media on more than one occasions.
Ethiopia’s recent journalist arrests & troubling response to protests concerning trendline. Urge govt to allow, not stifle, free expression
— Samantha Power (@AmbassadorPower) December 31, 2015
The latest statement from the State Department regarding the behavior of Ethiopian government was one of the strongest yet.
The United States is increasingly concerned by the continued stifling of independent voices in Ethiopia, including the detention of Oromo political party leaders. These arrests have a chilling effect on much needed public consultations to resolve legitimate political grievances in Oromia. We support the Government of Ethiopia’s December commitment to public consultation with affected communities. For these consultations to be meaningful, all interested parties must be able to express their views freely. We reaffirm our call on the Ethiopian Government to refrain from silencing dissent and to protect the constitutionally enshrined rights of all citizens, including the right to gather peacefully, to write, and to speak freely as voices of a diverse nation. We call for the release of those imprisoned for exercising their rights, such as political party leaders and journalists.
In a motion filed Tuesday, Jan 19, 2016, the European Parliament members didn’t mince words in their characterization of current events in Ethiopia. A partial quote from the motion is as follows:
- Strongly condemns the recent use of excessive force by the security forces in Oromia and in all Ethiopian regions, the increased cases of human rights violations and abuses, including violations of people’s physical integrity, arbitrary arrests and illegal detentions, the use of torture, and violations of the freedom of the press and of expression, as well as the prevalence of impunity;
2. Calls for an immediate end to violence, human rights violations and political intimidation and persecution; 3. Urges for the immediate release of all those jailed for exercising their rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression, including students, farmers, opposition politicians, academics, bloggers and journalists ; 4. Calls on the government to carry out a credible, transparent and impartial investigation into the killings of protesters and other alleged human rights violations in connection with the protest movement, and to fairly prosecute those responsible, regardless of rank or position; 5. Welcomes the government’s decision to completely halt the Addis Ababa and Oromia special zone master plan, that plans to expand the municipal boundary of Addis Ababa. Calls for an immediate inclusive and transparent political dialogue, including the government, opposition parties, civil society representatives and the local population preventing any further violence or radicalisation of the population; takes the view that such dialogue, conducing to the democratisation of the country, is not possible under the current political conditions;
Protesters from Oromia Region, the largest regional state in Ethiopia with population of over 40 million, demanded a halt to the Master Plan. Ethiopian government resorted to live bullets and grenades, saying “anti-peace” groups living abroad orchestrated these protests. Even though Ethiopians in the diaspora have been loud in urging western governments to put pressure on Ethiopian government, the protests were solely domestic, at times disorganized. Over 150 lives were lost to lethal Ethiopian security forces.
The government also arrested opposition leaders, students and farmers. Deputy chairman of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), Bekele Gerba was arrested on Dec. 23, 2015 at his home in Adama. OFC is a legally registered political party in Ethiopia. Mr. Gerba was previously jailed for close to 4 years before his release in March of last year. He is very popular in Ethiopia, as the party he leads has been seeking peaceful resolutions to political crisis in Ethiopia. He traveled to North America last year to promote his idea of non-violent opposition, and urge the United States to pay attention to the situations back home.