Repression on the Rise in Ethiopia Ahead of General Elections

Opposition Leader Birtukan Mideksa -- Imprisoned

The human rights watch group has today released a report about Ethiopia just barely two months to the first parliamentary general elections since 2005. The 59 page report titled ‘One hundred ways of putting pressure, violations of freedom of expression and association in Ethiopia’’ was today launched in Kenya’s capital Nairobi. “Expressing dissent is very dangerous in Ethiopia, 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 silent’’, said Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at Human Right Watch.

In 2008, the government without rhyme or reason imprisoned opposition leader Birtukan Midekssa, President of the Unity for Democracy and Justice Party. Government repression, with the most prominent being the closure of the independent newspaper in December 2009 and the government jammed Voice of America Radio Broadcast last month,  has caused many civil society activist and journalist to flee the country in the past recent months. Ethiopia is unable to speak freely, organize political activities, and their government’s policies, whether through peaceful protest, voting, or publishing their views without fear of reprisal.

The report also indicated that many civil society activists, rights activists and journalists have in the past month fled Addis Ababa following the government stand on any kind of opposition. Ethiopia is heavily dependent on foreign aid and accounts for one third of the country’s total expenditure. The government has also put intense pressure on all stat employees including teachers to join the ruling party; Georgette added that the government should create a safe electoral climate and release all political prisoners.

The European Union is the only agency sending international observers to monitor the May elections and the human rights watchdog has already cautioned the EU to take into account the pre election repression when assessing the freedom and fairness of the polls.

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