Today marks the first anniversary of the May 2005 legislative elections that plunged Ethiopia into a political crisis. Several opposition leaders, journalists, and civil society activists are currently on trial facing charges of treason relating to their demonstrations in response to the outcome of the elections. English to Africa reporter James Butty spoke with Bereket Simon, former information minister and now advisor to the Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, about the state of democracy in Ethiopia.
“Basically things are moving in the right direction in Ethiopia in terms of democracy…. We have had good elections, which [were] accepted by all. There were some problems after the election was conducted. But we have basically solved those problems, and basically democracy in Ethiopia is moving forward.”
Bereket says Ethiopia is now preparing for next year’s local elections. He says Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has no intention of pardoning the detained opposition leaders.
“Prime Minister Meles Zenawi is a law abiding official in Ethiopia, and has repeatedly told the public that he has no intention [or] power to intervene in the independent judicial process. I don’t think he will intervene in this process. That will fundamentally be counter to his democratic principles, which is the rule of law must be respected in Ethiopia.”
Berket says a recent spate of bombings in Addis Ababa are the work of people he refers to as terrorists. In addition, he says neighboring Eritrea is behind the bombings as part of what he says is Eritrea’s interest in destabilizing Ethiopia. Berket says Ethiopian opposition groups have joined forces with the Eritrean government to destabilize Ethiopia.