Ethiopia will address internal challenges itself not bypass its constitutional mechanisms

Felix Horne, Human Rights Watch’s Ethiopia researcher, has been making yet another HRW effort to interfere in Ethiopia’s internal affairs, this time in Brussels, demanding the EU use its role as Ethiopia’s main cooperation partner to “push Ethiopia” to accept an international investigation into the way the government had responded to recent protests. As usual drawing exclusively on opposition allegations, and totally ignoring what is in fact already being done, Mr. Horne called for the government to take a number of measures, including respecting divergent views and bringing security forces to justice in cases of illegitimate use of force. As is regrettably the norm with HRW’s comments on Ethiopia, it is clear that Mr. Horne didn’t bother to consider any evidence that might disagree with his own preconceptions. He compounds this by demanding outside intervention in Ethiopia’s internal affairs, another of HRW’s attempts to manipulate Ethiopia’s policies, and provide backing to the country’s external opposition sources. Mr. Horne briefed the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights and gave a long interview to Reuters, chiefly notable for its inaccuracies and for Mr. Horne’s carefully phrased innuendos that repeated many of the opposition’s unfounded allegations.

Mr. Horne also wrote a piece on EUobserver last week. Ethiopia’s Ambassador to the EU, Ambassador Teshome Toga, was quick to point out the errors in Mr. Horne’s suggestions which he described as “off-topic”. Mr. Horne, he pointed out, erroneously assumed that EU-Ethiopia cooperation was a unilateral donor-recipient relationship. In fact, as the Ambassador underlined, the relationship was based on mutual interest and respect. Both parties, said Ambassador Teshome, knew how to govern their relationship. The EU is a very important partner of Ethiopia and a constructive dialogue mechanism has been established. Any imposed international investigation would be unacceptable. As Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn said recently, Ethiopia is a sovereign and independent country and it has its own internal institutional mechanisms for investigation and accountability. Bypassing those institutional mechanisms would undermine and discredit the constitutional obligations of the government. The Ethiopian government would, therefore, carry out its own investigations and rectify any shortcomings through its own pertinent constitutional institutions. Indeed. as the Prime Minister has already announced, investigations in to the tragedy at Ireecha are already under way.

Ambassador Teshome pointed out that when the Federal Democratic Republic was established in 1991, Ethiopia started working on democratic and human rights issues not because it was pushed from outside by financial or other incentives, but because its people and government firmly believed it this was the only way to accommodate the multiple identities and diversities in the country and to achieve prosperity and stability. As Prime Minister Hailemariam has stressed those values are central for the very survival of the country which has more than 80 nations and nationalities. Implementing these values is not an easy task, especially when the country’s democratic history is very young. The government has to find a balance between maintaining law and order and delivering genuine solutions to people’s demands over any lack of effective good governance and unemployment challenges. Much work has been done through the country’s progressive constitution in protecting the rights of individuals and groups. More is being done and the government has launched a process of renewal and policy changes to address these challenges with the inclusive and full participation of Ethiopians from all walks of life.

In addition, said Ambassador Teshome, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission has already carried out an independent inquiry into the causes of loss of lives during the first wave of unrest in the two regional states of Oromia and Amhara in November 2015. It has already presented its findings to Parliament. The enquiry concluded that in general the measures taken by law enforcement agents and the federal police to control the situation had been proportionate; however, it also found in some specific cases that the security forces had used excessive force to control the violence. The government has said it will make sure that those responsible for any violence or illegal acts during the protests, or anyone responsible for any undue use of force, would be brought to justice. Incidentally, the inquiry also noted that some violent groups inside and outside the country, especially extremists in the Diaspora, took part in the protests, hijacking legitimate demands by propagating hate speech through social media. Since then, the repeated involvement of several groups trying to undermine and ultimately overthrow the legitimate government of the country through violence had become even more obvious. This had been apparent in the attacks on foreign investments, on public and private property and in the attacks on police.

Ambassador Teshome pointed out that in the last 25 years the country had made tremendous progress in the economy and in infrastructure as well as providing extensive access to health and education and other developments. It could legitimately aspire to become a middle-income country by 2025. This had been confirmed by an independent survey of people’s attitudes in 2010 that revealed that 50% of the population believed they were better off in 2010 than in 2005 and three quarters expected this improvement to continue. Equally, however, new challenges had arisen related to access to jobs for young graduates, and a lack of efficient and effective governance. The government had, therefore, made it clear it is determined to address these challenges effectively.

Ambassador Teshome underlined that the European Union has been a key ally for Ethiopia in its efforts to alleviate poverty and improve the population’s well-being. Indeed, the EU was now more important than ever to Ethiopia as a partner, and its role had increased during the past years following the series of high level political consultations. Following agreements on the Common Agenda on Migration and Mobility in November 2015 and the establishment of a friendship group within the European Parliament in March 2016, Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn and European Commission President, Jean-Claud Junker, signed an Ethiopia-EU strategic engagement document in Brussels in June this year. Ethiopia, said Ambassador Teshome, greatly valued its partnership with the European Union and the EU’s efforts in helping the country address its developmental issues and to face its internal challenges constructively. The EU, he said, also remains keen to expand its partnership with Ethiopia as an inter-service EU Commission delegation currently visiting the country has indicated.

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