Ethiopia and EU Discuss Human Rights Issues in State of Emergency

Caroline Theuri October 17, 2016
European Commission Vice-President Federica Mogherini and Ethiopian Premier Hailemariam Desalegn. Photo Credit: Ethiopian Diplomacy

The High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (HRVP) of the European Commission says there is need for political reforms in Ethiopia. During a phone call between Federica Mogherini, who is also the vice president of the European Commission, and Ethiopian Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, they discussed the effect of the country’s week-old state of emergency on citizens’ rights.

According to a press release published on the European External Action Service (EEAS) site, the HRVP expressed her concern about the state of emergency’s possible effect on democratic principles and civil rights of Ethiopian citizens, while acknowledging the Prime Minister’s commitment to ensure that the state of emergency will not breach human rights protected by the Ethiopian constitution.

Mogherini requested the Ethiopian government to offer transparent and determined engagement while responding to the grievances of the population.

She urged the Prime Minister to respect fundamental freedoms and they both agreed that dialogue should take place very quickly between all stakeholders, emphasizing that there should be “space and no restrictions” to ensure that the government is able to conduct the necessary political reforms to achieve this goal.

Mogherini’s advice adds credence to those in the international community (E.U., U.S., and U.N.) who have decried the use of force by the Ethiopian government to curb protests.

Human Rights Watch has also challenged the Ethiopian government to open an independent investigation into how 55 citizens were killed during the the Irreecha festival on October 2nd, 2016.

Protests by the Oromo and Amhara communities have resulted in over 500 deaths since last year. Both communities argue that they have been locked out of political and socio-economic opportunities in Ethiopia.

Some human rights group’s in the country have stated that the number of deaths could be much higher. Prime Minister Desalegn finally agreed with this assertion during last weeks visit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Prior to that, the Ethiopian government reacted defensively when questioned about the deaths and how it dealt with the protests.

The Ethiopian state of emergency has the potential to exacerbate the country’s problems. For instance,  a recent report titled “Tackling the Global Refugee Crisis: From Shirking to Sharing Responsibility,” reveals that Ethiopia is home to 736,100 refugees, and the state of emergency could see that number increase.

According to Global Skin Rights, foreign investors who have found themselves in the middle of the Ethiopian protests are already packing up. In recent weeks, eleven factories have been burned, and 90 percent of flower farms between Ziwag and Hawassa, in Oromia have been attacked.

Executive Director of the Oakland Institute, Anuradha Mittal, discussed the fears associated with doing business in the country:

“If I am a foreign investor, I look for opportunities. I understand that there are risks but in the face of this growing unrest where foreign companies have been targets, given all that has happened in terms of displacement of people and their lands given away to foreign investors, it would be astute to not go into a country like that.”

Last Edited by:Charles Gichane Updated: June 19, 2018


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