Rights group: Ethiopia cracks down before May vote – By RONALD BERA (AP)

March 25th, 2010 Print Print Email Email

Ethiopia’s government is waging a coordinated attack on rights activists, journalists and political opponents ahead of the country’s national elections in May, a leading human rights group said Wednesday. (more…)

Ethiopia’s government is waging a coordinated attack on rights activists, journalists and political opponents ahead of the country’s national elections in May, a leading human rights group said Wednesday.

Some radio broadcasts from the Voice of America were jammed by the government earlier this month, and the country’s most prominent independent newspaper was shut down late last year, said New York-based Human Rights Watch, which presented its report in neighboring Kenya. Journalists and activists have fled the country recently because of government repression, the report said.

“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,” said Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

Attempts to reach Ethiopian officials for comment were not successful.

Since country’s last general elections in 2005, the ruling party, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, has systematically punished opposition supporters, Human Rights Watch said. Today, it is punishing critical voices and putting pressure on all state employees, especially teachers, to join the ruling party.

The U.S. State Department said in a report this month that prior to local elections in April 2008, ruling party members and supporters used “coercive tactics and manipulation of the electoral process, including intimidation of opposition candidates and supporters.”

After winning the local elections, the ruling party consolidated its control over villages and district administrations and ruled with an iron grip, the report said. Following those elections, residents in districts visited by Human Rights Watch reported that government officials and militia members monitored households for signs of dissent.

Local administrations withheld government services as a way of punishing those who criticized the government or did not support the ruling party, it said.

“Ethiopians are unable to speak freely, organize political activities, and challenge their government’s policies — whether through peaceful protest, voting, or publishing their views — without fear of reprisal,” said the report.

Human Rights Watch said the U.S., UK, EU and the World Bank — the country’s principal donors — have been timid in their criticism of Ethiopia’s deteriorating human rights situation.

Ethiopia considers itself a close ally of the U.S., and consulted with American officials before sending troops into neighboring Somalia in 2006.

But the landlocked Horn of Africa nation has a long history of human rights abuses and flawed elections. Government security forces killed 193 civilians protesting alleged fraud in the 2005 general elections, which the EU said were flawed.

  1. henok
    | #1

    Understanding all the situation,why is the United states, the Britain and Other nation that supports Ethiopia kept silent while the prime minister Meles Zenawi tortured,killed,abused and imprisoned thousands of its own citizens?
    It is very amazing seeing Western money is being used to oppress people of Ethiopia. May be wrongly, we have assumed this nations(mainly the United States and the U.K) to bring solution to the people. May be, because they are less concerned and are busy on their own issue,they don’t have time to spent on Ethiopian’s issues. May be, we overestimated them on issues like human right and democracy. May be, they have other interests which they give priority with the ruling oppressive government that they are not concerned much with whatever is going on there.
    Although I personally do not support war, the opposite of peaceful struggle, the people is being forced to choose to go to war against the regime. I suggest, the United States should maintain stability on the horn of Africa by truly supporting actions respecting human right and democracy.

  2. Melkamu
    | #2

    The actions of the EPRDF regime in times of election are quite predictable. All these evil doings are well known for the Ethiopian public. The people have endured too much. No African country has made too much sacrifieces as the Ethiopian people did for the past 40 years. Yet We are behind so many African states in making democracy and freadom of speach a reality. The EPRDF is systematically opressing the people to a degree even more than that of the Dergue and the Atse regimes. The thing which is very difficult to understand is why the western nations repeatedly stand by the side of the oppressors instead of the people. The truth is quite visible and known to the people. This report should be for the western allies who consistently failed to put pressure on this mafia regime. we ask the US and european countries to be on the right side of history. God willing, the Ethiopian people will come out of such opression and enjoy democracy. We should join hands in bringing that day in the near future. . No country on earth lived without freedom forever. We are not different and we will reach that stage- I believe.

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