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

Republican Majority in Congress Off to Rough Start

Standoff over Homeland Security funding exposes philosophical, tactical problems within party More

Pakistan Blocks Baloch Activist from US Trip

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan slams Islamabad officials for stopping people from leaving country to attend human rights conference More

Video Muslims Long Thrived in North Carolina Before Students Killed

Idyll shattered February 10, when three Muslim university students living in Chapel Hill were gunned down by a neighbor More

ILO: Women Still Losing Out in Global Work Place

International Labor Organization says women are marginally better off now than they were 20 years ago 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.
Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Studentsi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
March 05, 2015 9:04 PM
The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Students

The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More