UN calls on Ethiopia to allow opposition
The UN’s human rights chief is calling on the Ethiopian government to allow political opposition in the country.
Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the UN high commissioner for human rights, says the single-party state needs to release the political pressure placed on its people or risk jeopardising more than a decade of impressive economic development.
Al-Hussein’s comments come at a time when Ethiopia is under a prolonged state of emergency, following a year of deadly violence and anti-government demonstrations.
At least 500 people were killed by security forces during the unrest and thousands have been arrested in clear-up operations since the government declared a state of emergency in October last year. Those detained were sent to “retraining” programmes with those released so far promising to “never again” protest against the government.
However, there have been reports of continued violence in rural parts of the country and numerous activists promising to resume demonstrations as soon as the country’s state of emergency is lifted.
Al-Hussein warns this kind of social pressure could lead to political instability if Ethiopia’s government doesn’t allow more space for opposition to voice their concerns.
‘A point where dramatic things happen’
Al-Hussein is calling on Ethiopia’s government to “ensure a far more substantive, stable and open democratic space for all its people.” Otherwise, he fears continued dissent among the country’s major ethnic groups, who were most active in recent anti-government demonstrations, “will build to a point where dramatic things happen.”
The demonstrations originally stemmed from government plans to expand the capital, Addis Ababa, into land occupied by the countries largest ethnic group. Large groups of Oromo citizens demonstrated against the proposal and the government eventually dropped the plans.
However, demonstrators were left angry by the brutality shown by security forces during the initial protests and the ongoing detention of those arrested, which prompted further dissent and additional violence. The Oromo protesters were joined by members of the Amhara community and these two ethnic groups alone make up around 60 percent of the country’s entire population.
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