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

Nigeria Incumbent in Tight Spot as Poll Nears

Muhammadu Buhari is running a strong challenge to Goodluck Jonathan, amid a faltering economy and Boko Haram security worries More

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo tells VOA that despite her fame, life is still a struggle as she waits for government's promise of support to arrive More

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

At least seven different indigenous groups in Ratanakiri depend mainly on forest products for their survival, say they face loss of their land, traditional way of life 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

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