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HRW criticizes donors for inaction in Ethiopia

ADDIS ABABA (AFP) – Ethiopia’s regime has tightened media control, stifled opposition and civil society in recent years, and ramped up restrictions ahead of May elections, a rights group said Wednesday.

Since the violent aftermath of the 2005 elections, the regime has arrested and detained several opposition members and threatened and harassed opponents, Human Rights Watch said in a report.

“Ethiopia’s citizens are unable to speak freely, organise political activities and challenge their government’s policies… without fear of reprisals,” said the report.

The New York-based watchdog said the measures had been undertaken to avoid a repeat of the 2005 post-poll violence sparked by opposition claims of irregularities, in which some 200 people were killed.

“Expressing dissent is very dangerous in Ethiopia,” said Georgette Gagnon said, the HRW Africa director.

“The ruling party and the state are becoming one and the government is using the full weight of its power to eliminate opposition and intimidate people into silence.”

Several activists and journalists have fled the country in recent months due to government repression, HRW said.

The country’s most prominent newspaper was closed in December and last week Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said he was ready to censure the Voice of America’s Amharic language service for its “destabilising propaganda.”

Other than limiting political and media freedoms, the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) embarked on a strategy in rural Ethiopia to prevent dissent.

Access to fertiliser, food assistance, health care and schools are conditional on membership of the ruling party, said the report entitled “One Hundred Ways of Putting Pressure: Violations of Freedom of Expression and Association in Ethiopia.”

Local administration leaders wielding huge powers determine eligibility for the services in rural areas, home to 85 percent of Ethiopia’s 80 million people.

“These broad powers have been consistently used to punish and ostracise those perceived to support political opposition,” said the watchdog.

Between 2005 and 2008 EPRDF’s membership has quadrupled from 760,000 to more than four million in the rural areas.

“People are told that if they don’t vote EPRDF, then no fertilisers, no clinics,” Bulcha Demeksa, a leading opposition figure, told the rights group.

However, the HRW said Zenawi’s government denied the restrictions.

Opposition groups have accused the ruling party of repeated harassment in the run-up to the May 23 polls.

Gagnon also criticised Ethiopia’s donors for inaction on the alleged abuses.

“Ethiopia’s foreign backers should break their silence and condemn the climate of fear in Ethiopia,” she said.

“Donors should use their considerable financial leverage to press for an end to the harassment of the opposition and to oppressive laws on activists and the media.”

Around a third of Ethiopia’s government budget is foreign funded.

2 thoughts on “HRW criticizes donors for inaction in Ethiopia

  1. It´s black ppl being harrassed and killed in Ethiopia. So how can Ms. Georgette Gagnon expect Ethiopian foreign backers to break their silence? We all know the blood of black ppl is worth nothing in the eyes of these ppl.

  2. Criticism is the first step to denounce the evil actions of the “Revolutionary democracy” of the meles regime in Ethiopia. But criticism alone cannot bear fruit unless the concerned international and national organisations take a bitter actionor harsh measures against that parasitic-tribalist regime in Ethiopia.
    The ruling clique in Ethiopia knows how to spread selected wordsin order to camouflage its true nature.
    With those word playings pretends to be more democrat, more progressive. But the real behaviour of the clique is masquerading in the name of rule of law, constitution,etc.

    What next?

    i) ignore the fake election of may 23rd,2010 and arrange and apply a transitional government consisting of all organised national groups.
    ii) tribal groups oraganised under ethnic lines should be disolved
    iii) those who ordered the massacre of June and November of 2005 should face court trial.
    iiii) those who have ordered the killings of Gambella Anuaks, the peasantry of highlanders in Arssi and bedeno should face court trial
    v) those who compromised the territorial integrity of Ethiopia should face court trial for treason and betrayal of national interest
    vi)Those who participated in the leasing/selling of agriland should face court trial.
    vii)those who enriched themselves by the riches of the people must face court trial

    Ethiopia shall be free from the jaw of Woyane(TPLF) beasts.

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