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

WHO: Anti-Ebola Efforts Should Focus on West Africa

Official says WHO is 'reasonably confident' countries bordering those hardest hit by the Ebola outbreak are not seeing the virus crossing their borders More

South Sudan Crisis Threatens Development

Economic costs and lost development opportunities in South Sudan have erased what little progress the country has made since independence in 2011 More

Ukrainian PM Warns: Russia May Try to Disrupt Sunday Poll

Arseniy Yatsenyuk orders full security mobilization for parliamentary election to prevent ‘terrorist acts’ from being carried out 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.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid