Ethiopia opposition threatens protests over anti-terrorism law

June 21st, 2013 Print Print Email Email

(Reuters) – An Ethiopian opposition party called on Thursday for the government to scrap an anti-terrorism law it says is used to stifle dissent, threatening a repeat of protests that brought thousands onto the streets of Addis Ababa early this month.

The rally on June 2, organized by another opposition group, was the first large-scale protest in the Ethiopian capital since a disputed 2005 election ended in street violence that killed 200 people.

Opposition groups in the Horn of Africa country were vibrant until that vote but have since largely retreated from public view, the result, analysts say, of harassment by the authorities and divisions within their ranks.

They routinely accuse the government of intimidating and imprisoning their members and rigging elections against them. Ethiopia’s 547-seat legislature has only one opposition member.

The anti-terrorism law ratified in 2009 makes anyone caught publishing information that could induce readers into acts of terrorism liable to jail terms of 10 to 20 years. Opponents say it is used indiscriminately to target anyone who opposes government policy.

“We shall demand that the anti-terror law be abolished immediately. It contradicts the constitution and violates the rights of people,” Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ) party spokesman Daniel Tefera said at a news conference in Addis Ababa.

In a statement, UDJ said the government was doing too little to tackle unemployment and corruption and announced a campaign of nationwide debates and rallies.

“If there is no positive response from the ruling regime, we shall go to court with the millions of signatures in our hands,” it said.

More than 10 journalists have been charged under the anti-terrorism law, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, which says Ethiopia has the highest number of exiled journalists in the world.

The government dismisses the claims that it is cracking down on dissent and says the law is needed it its fight against separatist rebels and armed groups who it says are backed by arch-foe Eritrea.

Analysts say the opposition may have found renewed vigor since the death last year of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who was praised abroad for delivering strong economic growth but criticized for keeping a tight grip on power for 21 years.

Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn has for now shown no sign of a major shift in policy away from his predecessor.

  1. aha!
    | #1

    The Derg regime was ousted for its military dictatorship and human rights violations, but not for being a totalitarian regime per say, although it fought for Ethiopian unity, and territorial integrity of Ethiopia as one nation against ex-liberation fronts which fought against oppression of nations and nationalities by the colonialist empire of Ethiopia with EPLF and TPLF as the major contenders and against EPRP and others for a civilian perhaps democratic government at the sacrifice of 100′s of thousands of young generation, perhaps with individual freedom and private ownership of land and a constitution centered around the individual rights, rather than ethnic and secessionist rights.

    Upon the fall of the Derg regime, the ex-liberation fronts took over the central government, rather than sending delegates to form a central government to establish a government based on the unity, territorial integrity, sovereignty of Ethiopia and Ethiopians with individual freedom, liberty and equality, the created a constitution with ethnic and secessionist rights and totaliarinism as the center piece of constitution with ideologies of ethnic federalism “ethnic home-lands” of self-rule and separate developments, a divide and rule policy with further allocation of Ethiopian land mass by major and conglomerate ethnic groups, as precursor to secessionism and future boundary disputes, rather than living the original boundaries intact and making them autonomous federated states with TPLF as the architect of the constitution and party alignments along ethnic agenda rather than national agenda and the parties that formed after that were either based with ethnic agenda, labeled as the loyalist opposition then and coalition/front with UDJP with democracy, human rights and justice known as Medrek/OPDO/EFDF/fdre with ethnic agenda in collaboration with that of the subset of the national agenda is nothing father than the truth that you can not establish democracy on top of ethnocracy of either majority or minority ethnic rule as the case now with TPLF that evolved by extinction, eviction and now division and has grip of power for the last 21 years and has to its credit the creation of constitution with ethnic federalism, secessionism and totalitarianism built into the constitution and party alignments along ethnic lines rather national agenda, and non-independent branches of government devoid of check and balances and even challenge laws derived from the current constitution that favors the executive branch with a government and a constitution supported by the teletafi-parties, and opposition parties like Medrek, security forces, federal police and military forces, to call for the repeal of anti-terrorist law is like putting the cart before the horse, nor that it amounts to non-violent uprising to freedom, because what the silent majority of Ethiopians need are economic and political freedom. With that I go along with the protest of Semay Party, KAEUP and EPRP and others, which approximate the political model with national than ethnic agenda.

  2. Sam
    | #2

    Reuters reported “the anti-terrorism law ratified in 2009 makes anyone caught publishing information that could induce readers into acts of terrorism liable to jail terms of 10 to 20 years.” If a government wants the population to be tight-lipped, the statment I quoted serves it well. What really is “acts of terrorism?” The very concept of “terrorism” became poular after some radicals conceptualize the idea of killing anybody around if they think it promotes their agenda and weakens the West. Who in Ethiopia — or more importantly which political party — the Ethiopian government believes wants to kill innocent Ethiopians for the very convenience of uprooting the EPDRF’s rule? I do not name any, nor does the government. How does the government calculates whether Eskinder’s writing “induced” for “act of terrorism?” He is in prison for years now, but I do not see anyone acting “terrorism” becasuse of his writing. The truth is the anti-terrrorism law became law after the 2005 election. The government believed then if a draconian measure is not in place political power might slip. In a sense the anti-terrorism law became the means to save the EPDRF’s control to power. Why on earth Meles chose the phrase anti-terrorism law? It might sound ok for American politicians. They wanted, still do, the Ethiopian government’s help to fight Alqueada, and they might gloss over this injustice imposed on Ethiopians. To some degree Meles was right. True, they did not believe “terrorism” is an issue in Ethiopian politics. But they desperately wanted to believe that because they need the Ethiopian government help to tame Alqaeda around in our neighborhood.

  3. Anonymous
    | #3

    Abugida, so you are into censoring comments that are critical of individuals who oppose peaceful public demonstrations of any kind because they support Tigrayan rule. I thought Tecola, Ghelawdewos, Teodros, Seye, etc wrote they did not advise demonstration by the opposition. You need to go back and read what you posted in your own site.

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