Woyanne’s NGO Law is an instrument of repression, Critics Say – By Jason McLure (Bloomberg)

January 6th, 2009 Print Print Email Email

Ethiopia’s parliament ratified a law that critics say will prevent groups from promoting human rights and democracy in the Horn of Africa country, strengthening the government’s hand to crack down on dissent.


Ethiopia’s parliament ratified a law that critics say will prevent groups from promoting human rights and democracy in the Horn of Africa country, strengthening the government’s hand to crack down on dissent.

The so-called “Proclamation for the Registration and Regulation of Charities and Societies” was passed today by a vote of 327 to 79 in Ethiopia’s parliament. The 547-member legislative body is dominated by members of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front, which has 481 seats.

Zenawi’s party, which has ruled Ethiopia since 1991, backed the law even after Western donors, domestic civil society organizations and members of Ethiopian opposition parties objected. They argue the legislation aims to quash dissent.

“This law goes far beyond any normal effort to regulate civil society,” said Leslie Lefkow, a researcher in the Africa division of New York-based Human Rights Watch. “It’s really an instrument of repression.”

Under the new plan, any charity that promotes ethnic gender and religious equality; human rights; democracy; or conflict resolution and receives more than 10 percent of its funding from overseas, will be banned. Organizations that advocate rights for children and the disabled or promote “the efficiency of the justice and law enforcement services” will also be outlawed unless they source more than 90 percent of their revenue inside Ethiopia.

Blanket Ban

Since nearly all non-governmental organizations, or NGOs, that work in these areas rely on foreign funding, the law is tantamount to a blanket ban, political activists said.

“Ninety-five percent of these organizations will not survive under this legislation,” said Lidetu Ayalew, an opposition member of parliament, during a debate on the law on Dec. 24.

Ethiopia’s government says the new law is needed to regulate the country’s more than 3,800 NGOs. It also argues that it’s the role of the state, rather than foreign-backed organizations, to protect human and democratic rights.

“We need social development,” said Berhanu Adelu, chief of Zenawi’s Cabinet, in a forum on the new law on Dec. 24. “We invite NGOs to do this work, but it is not their role to protect the rights of citizens. That is the role of government. It’s an internal issue.”

The government also disputes claims that the law is intended to silence critics or that groups will close as a result.

‘Clearly Specified Duty’

“No NGOs will be closed as a result of this,” Justice Minister Berhanu Hailu said in an interview on the sidelines of the forum on Dec. 24. “They just have to raise funds locally. This is not a closing of political space. We are not undermining civil society in Ethiopia, but their duty area is clearly specified.”

Amnesty International, the London-based human rights organization, said that while the government had provided assurances that the law was intended to regularize non- governmental activity, it appeared to have emerged out of government fears over political control.

Those fears “manifested as increased repression of civil society activity after the contested 2005 elections and continue to severely limit space for civil society as Ethiopia heads toward elections in 2010,” Amnesty said in an e-mail today.

Government opponents accused the state of rigging the May 2005 elections, sparking protests in Addis Ababa and other cities. A judicial inquiry after the election concluded that government security forces had killed 193 opposition supporters in the unrest.

Opponents Arrested

Ruling party candidates won more than 95 percent of seats in local elections in April after at least two opposition parties withdrew, citing intimidation. In October and November, the government arrested 15 members of the Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement, an opposition party, on suspicion of belonging to a separatist group.

Last month, Birtukan Mideksa, the country’s leading opposition politician, was arrested and jailed for life after a dispute with the government over a pardon agreement that had freed her in 2007.

Among the NGOs likely to be banned is the Ethiopian Human Rights Council, or EHRCO, a non-profit organization that has issued more than 140 reports detailing summary executions, disappearances and unlawful detentions of Ethiopians over the past 17 years.

More than a dozen of the group’s staff and members were arrested in the wake of Ethiopia’s disputed 2005 elections, during which EHRCO ran voter education programs, Yoseph Mulugeta, the group’s secretary-general, said in an interview

Foreign Funding

About 99 percent of the 1,500-member group’s 4 million birr ($400,000) annual budget comes from foreign sources, including the U.S. based National Endowment for Democracy, Canada’s overseas aid agency, and the embassies of European governments.

As a result of the law, many of the group’s 60 investigators and administrators across the country have been notified they’re likely to lose their jobs.

“Who watches when the government violates human rights?” Mulugeta said. “In many countries the government is the biggest violator of human rights. There needs to be independent watchers.”

Ethiopia received more than $1 billion in grants from the U.S. last year, the second-largest U.S. aid recipient in sub- Saharan Africa after Sudan. Between 2006 and 2008, the government received an average of 32 percent of its revenue in foreign loans and grants, according to the Ethiopian Economic Policy Research Institute.

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

  1. fesam HULA
    | #1

    Go woyane- still remain alot to do. those who live in diaspora and don’t have hope and future need regulation very soon. ALMOST all diaspora Ethiopian live for to feed rheir stomach period. they can think positive about their country.they have no choice rather than opposing woyane. diasporas have no goal, plan, and future except funding their money to opposition parties like blood sucker Birhanu Nega and Tamagn Beyene, Birhanu mewa and other false political asylums. woyane will have a regulation for those who live in diaspora so that they sucide themselves. no double standard. The regulation is going to be, ” the Ethiopian diaspora double standard act.” the proposal is already in its way soon. According the proposal,the diaspora voice will be voiceless at all.

  2. Belaye Zeleke
    | #2

    Dear fesam HULA

    I must say your names says it all about you however neither the people you have insulted in your short garbage comment or the Diaspora movement twill be silenced by the TPFL dynasty or their elite Diaspora cadres

    Dear Fesam Hula
    Though you may have failed to understand the key concept of this article the article clearly indicates the continued repression by TPLF nomadic regime even by drafting the so allied “law” to eradicate all NGO’s that may sympathize with prodemocracy movement or humanitarian activities. I can assure you that all TPLF owned and operated so called NGO are not and will not be affected by the newly drafted law, after all we all realize that Ethiopia is ruled by a net work of crime family who are a sworn enemies of our national unity as Ethiopian.

    Long Live Ethiopia !

  3. mulu
    | #3

    BRHANU NEGA finally join Shabea.
    Just watch he is going to pay the price like baby politician Birtukan one day in the future.
    Any Ethiopian who side along Shabea(enemy)to fight woyanne is the Enemy of Ethiopia.
    That is what DR bre is !!

  4. yikerbelen
    | #4

    Mullu,ANTE GODELO. TPLF yefeterewu shabia ayidelem endey. ethiopianoch kemane gare komewu TPLF wogeto ke ethiopia lemasewotate ende ante ayinetun godellon fekade meteyeke ayasefelegem.

  5. yikerbelen
    | #5

    Melese is typical asia’s moneky. ethiopia under ugly monkey’s rule

  6. ቃል ተሰማ
    | #6

    “በቅሎ ገመዳን ቆረጠች በራሳ አሳጠረች” ያሁኑ የወያኔ ጭዎአታ በራሱላይ ስለሆነ መደሰት እንጅ መከፋት የለብንም;; እስኪ ረጅዎች ምን ይሉ እንደዚህ አይነት እነሱን የሚአቅብ አዎአጅ ሲያወታ, ደሮ ጭራ ጭራ ለራሶአ መታረጃ …. ስለሆነ ወያኔ እድሜዉ ማጠርያዉ ደርሶአል እልል በሉ

  7. | #7

    Hi, you all we have to work together and think about the Ethiopa. It is really critical to think about the next generation because we are fighting oneanother and do nothing for our country. Let’s think and cooperate for future Ethiopia.

  8. 1 ethiopia
    | #8

    All those fake parliament members who gave a legitimate to fascist meles zanawe by staying there as real opposition party and watching him when he comate genocide. When the right time come they will pay a big price. They are the one who is covering fascist meles zanawe crime. We must hang all of them. No mercy for HODAM. I can’t wait to see that day.

  9. | #9

    Joke or no joke: I kind tentatively watched the Legesse Z. speech to parliament not to long ago. My whole observation was as not to the usual big mouth Legesse Z. insults and lies but to the so called parliament members. These parliament members look that they were forced to seat and pay attention to the most furious teacher in a class room. Then another funniest of all is when it comes a quetion or so to the pimp pm by the so called opposition or concerned Ethiopia. I bet you guessed it right who are the 3-4 so called opposition who ask the same quetions every time Legesse Z opens his big mouth. Way good emomma Ethiopia and its mafia leadership!

  10. united
    | #10

    For those so called tplf,
    Aren’t you afraid of God when you leave stupid comments here. please think think.we are trying to free our people. And stop saying diaspora diaspora aren’t you one of them. i am sure you don’t live in Ethiopia. so stop accusing us. leba hulu…homadam. agazi.

  11. yikerbelen
    | #11

    have you seen the ugliest monkey on earth?

  12. One Ethiopia forever
    | #12

    Why do you have map showing Ogaden?

    Abugida are you anti-Ethiopian and pro-Ogaden freedom website?

    There is no region,province or state called Ogaden.

    Change that immediately!

  13. Tedla Asfaw
    | #13

    Go to VOA TV and follow the one hour program of Jan. 7 on http://www.voanews.com/english/africa/straighttalkafrica.cfm.

    For those who have less time you can start on the 40th minute and watch the video for the rest of the program.

    We have to use all the media outlets to expose TPLF. It should be the duty of each and one of us and ask ourselves, what did I do for mother Ethiopia while I was in exile ?

    Those who discourage you not to do your part and put the blame on disorganized oppositions or throw their towels and join the regime and rush to buy property for their retirement are selfish “hodams”.

    We saw such collaborators during fascist occupation of mother Ethiopia in the 1930s. Had it not been for brave Ethiopians at home and from far we would have remained slaves of fascists.

    The current homegrown fascists are doing what fascists failed to do more than seventy years ago, divide and rule, destroy all the symbols of Ethiopia and perpetuate the Kilil separation that to be exploited until they are in power.

    The final goal of the fascists is to estabilish mini states which are not viable and will go to war with themselves for survival with foreign sponsors the likes of Eritrea, Sudan etc.

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