U.S. Urges Ethiopia to Improve Human-Rights Record – By Jason McLure (Bloomberg)

December 11th, 2009 Print Print Email Email

The U.S. called on Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s government to re-examine a law that limits foreign funding of human rights and pro-democracy groups, and expressed concern over the closure of the country’s biggest privately owned newspaper.

The law cutting foreign funding, which was passed in January, “will constrain rather than promote the long-term democratization, governance and stability of Ethiopia,” according to a U.S. Embassy statement e-mailed to reporters yesterday in the capital, Addis Ababa.

Ethiopia has been a key ally of the U.S. in recent years. U.S.-backed Ethiopian troops invaded Somalia in December 2006, occupying Mogadishu for two years and assisting the U.S. in pursuit of suspected al-Qaeda members. The U.S. trains Ethiopia’s military and American aid to the country topped $850 million this year.

The U.S. criticism comes as political tensions in Ethiopia rise ahead of national elections scheduled for May, which the country’s opposition has said will not be free and fair.

Earlier this month, Addis Neger, a newspaper critical of government policies, closed after its top editors fled the country accusing the government of using a new anti-terror law to silence the press.


“We are concerned about the recent closure of the Addis Neger newspaper, and the allegations of harassment and intimidation of private media,” the U.S. Embassy said.

The embassy said the Ethiopian government’s pursuit of charges against newspapers closed after the country’s disputed 2005 elections “contribute to a perception that space for independent media in Ethiopia is constrained.”

Shimeles Kemal, a spokesman for the Ethiopian government, denied that Addis Neger reporters had been harassed.

“No government organs would interfere to stifle free expression of the media in Ethiopia,” Shimeles said in an interview today in Addis Ababa. “Their allegations are entirely baseless.”

Shimeles also defended the new law on funding for human rights groups, saying there was “nothing repressive or restrictive” about the legislation.

“It boosts the free operations of home-grown and local non- governmental organizations and it delimits the tasks and functions of international NGOs,” he said.

In an interview yesterday, Gizachew Shiferaw, the acting chairman of the opposition Unity for Democracy and Justice, accused Meles’s government of selecting ruling-party militia members and party cadres as election monitors.

The National Electoral Board of Ethiopia is investigating the complaint, Shimeles said.

UDJ leader Birtukan Mideksa has been jailed since December 2008 after the government accused her of violating terms of a pardon that released her from jail in 2007.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jason McLure in Addis Ababa via Johannesburg at pmrichardson@bloomberg.net.

  1. peace
    | #1

    It is so funny, how West acts when it feels threatened by Meles. Eventhough Meles is enemy of Ethiopia, West has been sitting back and laughing as Ethiopians have been suffering. Why now they are writing articles from right to left? The reason is that, Meles and his co- African dictators are demanding high sum for climate change caused by the West. Not that the money will go to any useful service in Ethiopia. West resents this high demand and therefore, Meles has touched their ego that is why they are writing articles now coming out about human right issue. The West is like a prostitute moves when it fits only its interst.

  2. B.Tufa
    | #2

    This is a lip service for public consumption.

  3. Demeqetch
    | #3

    Did you hear what Meles said about Birtukan this evening in Copenhagen?
    He said he never discussed her release with anyone before including Hailu shawel and co and he will never ever discuss her release, period.
    Please, Hailu shawel followers: STOP the LIE.
    I know there are political prisoners, thousands of them, in Ethiopia. But, Birtukan is the symbol of all. The reminder that all is not well with Ethiopia that nothing has changed in the political space since the repression and massacre of 2005.

  4. Anbese
    | #4

    If any one, Who will Loving his/her Motherland Ethiopia and people from the bottom of his/her Heart, Do you recognaized that, WEYANE never ever give up the Authorization to the Republic?
    Please everyone do not be silly following Hailu Shawl and his Pupies. An Ethiopian never ever scarring to fight & remove the Ethiopian enemies.
    forget the Election acting Drama and join to the G7 MOVEMENET FOR JUSTICE, FREEDOM & DEMOCRACY.
    People of Ethiopian, Who are in deep sleep be awake to save your Country, people.

    Victory to Ethiopian!!!

  5. elis
    | #5

    For all clarity, the name of the news paper “Addis Neger” means new thing in Amharic. It has nothing to do with racism.

  6. elis
    | #6

    It is indeed a lip service and propaganda.

  7. Basamen zare
    | #7

    Dear Jason McClure :-
    Thank you for your constant effort in understanding and paying attention to the situation.

    There is going to be such a disgrace for TPLF Govt. when world prominent politicians start acknowledging the facts on the current and ardent situations of Ethiopians political climate.

    The harassment of free press, the systematic and injustice of imprisonment or eliminating citizens or their jobs ,because they oppose or criticize EPRDF/TPLF. This negativity alone put the leader of such a nation in a big hole. Civilized and developed nation has a moral obligation to stop this kind of harsh and undemocratic rule, it is long over due.

    Indeed, the Meles Govt. under his leader ship has been in a major transformation of economical changes around major cities and some suburbs. But, these cosmetic changes are known to have benefiting only the TPLF elites and some prominent industrialist or former Diaspora loyal opportunist merchants. The infrastructures that have been glamorizing the capitals of our Ethiopia, might fool the diplomats, and the city dweller NGO aristocrats to certain extent. But, they know that Ethiopia’s poor has suffered deep enough for the past half century, and probably they are concluded that the poor citizens are better off today under the TPLF leadership .

    But, we the Diaspora and freedom loving citizens clearly understands why Human right groups around the globe are only focusing on countries or leaders that are under the umbrella of “Threat or unfriendly nations to the west”.
    It is clear that TPLF/EPRDF leader Meles emboldened by the West especially by USA , for his war against terrorism. This gave our Dear beloved leader to do what ever he wishes to do to any moving human sole under him. He is Mr. Justice, THE GODFATHER.

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