News / Africa

Human Rights Watch Accuses Ethiopia of Creating Climate of Fear

Mike Sunderland

Human Rights Watch has accused the Ethiopian government of launching a "coordinated and sustained attack" against political opponents, journalists and activists ahead of the country's May 23 elections. In a report released Wednesday, the organization says the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, or EPRDF, has ruled with an "iron fist," and seriously undermined the public's ability to speak out against the government.

Speaking to journalists in Nairobi, Human Rights Watch Africa Director Georgette Gagnon accused the government of creating a climate of fear and oppression in the run up to the May elections.

"Ethiopians, millions of them, are unable to speak freely, organize political activities, challenge their government's policies, either through peaceful protest, voting or publicizing their views without fear of reprisal," she said.

According to the report, Ethiopia's leaders are able to quell almost any sign of dissent through a combination of legislation, intimidation and harassment. Through what it calls a "root and branch structure of surveillance", which extends from the capital Addis Ababa to almost every rural household, Human Rights Watch says the leading party can constantly monitor individuals and exert its influence over millions of Ethiopians.

Gagnon said the EPRDF is aiming to turn Ethiopia into a one party state by arresting political opponents and withholding aid like farming seeds and microcredits from people who refuse to become party members.

"This multi-faceted strategy is extremely effective at monitoring and controlling dissent. The government only needs to punish a few people to create a climate of fear and send a chilling message that makes dissent almost impossible," she said.

Ethiopian government spokesman Bereket Simon called HRW's accusations "ridiculous".  And last week, Prime Minister Meles Zinawi said that his government is committed to making the elections peaceful, democratic and truthful.

The international media has accused Ethiopia of seriously limiting press freedom in the run-up to the elections. Among the moves to anger journalists is a new press code that sets strict guidelines on election day coverage. The new code bans press interviews with all candidates and election observers or voters. It also limits coverage from inside polling stations and disallows predictions before the official results are announced.

VOA is now broadcasting its local Amharic language service to Ethiopia via satellite after previous broadcasts were jammed under orders from Prime Minister Zenawi. He accused VOA of broadcasting "destabilizing propaganda." The U.S. State Department has strongly criticized the jamming and labeled it a contradiction to Ethiopia's commitments to a free press.

With foreign assistance said to account for approximately one third of all Ethiopia's government expenditure, Human Right's Watch is calling on the country's major donors; the World Bank, United States, Britain and the European Union to take a harder line with the government on rights violations before and after the vote.

"If, as expected, the EPRDF wins a landslide victory on May 23rd it is unlikely to be a victory for democracy, rather it will be a vindication of a strategy of repression and control," she said.

Human Rights Watch recommended Ethiopia improve the pre-vote environment by refraining from intimidation and by releasing high profile political prisoners, who, the organization says, should be allowed to stand for election.

You May Like

Multimedia Obama Defends Immigration Action

Obama says with his executive action on immigration, enforcement resources will be focused on 'felons, not families; criminals, not children' More

US-Led Airstrikes in Syria Kill Over 900: Monitoring Group

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the toll includes more than 50 civilians, five of them women and eight of them children More

Report: Obama Broadens US Combat Role in Afghanistan

The New York Times says resident Barack Obama has signed a classified order extending the role of US troops in Afghanistan for another year More

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.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid