News

    Ethiopian Parliament Approves Law Criminalizing Many NGO Activities

    Multimedia

    Audio

    Ethiopia's parliament has overwhelmingly approved a law that will sharply restrict the activities of most civil society groups.  The law has been the target of scathing criticism from opposition parties, rights groups and many foreign governments, including the United States.  

    The ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Party used its massive parliamentary majority to push through a law that gives the government broad powers over foreign funded non-governmental organizations.

    The so-called Charities and Societies Proclamation prohibits any group receiving at least 10 percent of its funds from abroad from promoting democratic or human rights, the rights of children, or equality of gender or religion.  Violators could face stiff fines and sentences of up to 15 years in prison.

    Defending the bill in parliament, EPRDF whip Hailemariam Desalegn argued that any group advocating democracy and human rights should be run by Ethiopians, who should have control over the expenditure of funds.

    Minister for cabinet affairs Berhanu Adelo, a top adviser to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, said Ethiopia needs NGOs to help with social development. But he said it is not the job of NGOs to protect the rights of citizens. That, he said, is the government's job.

    Critics say the law effectively gives Ethiopia's increasingly authoritarian government a large say in the affairs of as many as 3,000 charities and civil society groups with a combined budget of $1.5 billion a year, much of which goes to promote open society and multi-party democracy initiatives.

    Opposition leaders were blistering in their criticism of the bill. Temesgen Zewde of the Unity for Democracy and Justice Party, whose party leader was imprisoned for life last week after a spat with the ruling party, called the bill part of a government effort to create a one-party state.

    "This is really a domination agenda, a single party agenda, all the other stuff is simply window dressing. The agenda is to stifle these voluntary public movements that are known to assist the democratic process, the situation of human rights, and all other advocacies are vital and necessary," he said. "They just don't want to see this. The EPRDF cannot survive in that kind of environment."

    Another opposition leader, Dr. Beyene Petros, says the new law will effectively silence those capable of participating in the democratization of Ethiopia.

    "It is totally consciously designed to undermine and restrict the role of civil society, because the ruling party is determined to advance the cause of revolutionary democracy and part of the Communist order that is going to be implemented in this country for the coming 30-40 years without anybody looking or criticizing or having any idea about what is going on. So the idea is to undermine the role of civil society," he said.

    The United States and other western governments have voiced deep concern about the effects of the new law. The Bush administration sent its top human rights and democracy official, assistant secretary of state David Kramer to Addis Ababa twice over the past six months to discuss the bill with top government officials.

    A U.S. embassy spokesperson Tuesday said the Charities and Societies Proclamation appears to restrict civil society activities and the ability of international partners to support Ethiopia's own development efforts.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora