Abiy Ahmed’s Ethiopia is not at peace

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Funeral of three officials, killed in an attack, in the city of Bahir Dar, Amhara region, June 26, 2019. Baz Ratner / REUTERS

“Extrajudicial executions”, “Inter-ethnic murders”, “Mass rape, arrest and arbitrary detention. “ Human rights violations have multiplied in several areas of Ethiopia despite the coming to power of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner.

In a report released Friday, May 29, the NGO Amnesty International accuses the Ethiopian army and regional security forces of having participated in repeated abuses in the regions of Amhara (to the northeast) and Oromia ( west and south), the most populated in the country.

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The British human rights organization investigated between December 2018 and December 2019 on law enforcement responsibilities in the escalation of violence between several communities and the repression of political opponents. For Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s director for Eastern and Southern Africa, “The Ethiopian authorities have made notable progress in improving the country’s dismal human rights record. But it is unacceptable that the security forces can trample on fundamental rights with impunity ”.

Under the eyes of the army

In Amhara, “At least 130 people were killed in an inter-community conflict in which the security forces were complicit”, the report said, noting that at least 58 members of the kimant ethnic group, who campaign for their administrative autonomy, were killed in 24 hours in January 2019.

It was with guns, grenades and stones that a local militia, called “kebele”, allegedly carried out with the help of regional police before burying the bodies in mass graves. These attacks, perpetrated before the eyes of the army, resulted in the internal displacement of thousands of people from the Kimant and Amhara ethnic groups who were forcibly evicted or who lost their homes, were burned down.

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Amnesty’s allegations highlight other crimes committed this time in the Oromia region. Some 39 extrajudicial executions were recorded in 2019, including 25 allegedly committed by the security forces. These cold-blooded people were suspected of belonging to the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA).

The militia is the former armed wing of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), an opposition party long in exile before its recent return to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s reforms. Today, the Ethiopian authorities accuse the OLA and its thousands of members of being behind armed attacks, kidnappings and other acts of terror in Oromia.

Silent federal authorities

In this context, a strong repression of the Ethiopian police forces took place in January 2019. According to the Amnesty report, “At least 10,000 people” Suspected of supporting the OLA and the opposition parties have been arbitrarily arrested and imprisoned in local police stations or in secret places of detention. Victims who testified with the NGO recount particularly harsh conditions of detention with cases of torture and rape identified.

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Beyond the obvious human rights violations in this region, we note that the message sent by the authorities is very worrying. Being in opposition can have serious consequences, including losing your life “Says to World Africa Fisseha Tekle, author of the report and Amnesty International researcher for Ethiopia.

The Ethiopian federal authorities have remained silent in response to questions from Amnesty. Spokesmen for the regional governments of Oromia and Amhara denounced the NGO’s investigation on Sunday “Biased” and ” incomplete “, giving rise to “Biased information” which reflect the version of opponents of the government.

Inter-community conflicts exacerbated

As for the opposition, it was quick to react to these allegations, denouncing an authoritarian turn by Abiy Ahmed and calling for a serious investigation into these facts. ” The report is further evidence that the new administration has not broken with the practice of stifling dissent by force “Said the Oromo Liberation Front and the Oromo Federalist Congress in a joint statement.

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Since coming to power in 2018, Abyi Ahmed has crystallized the hopes of many Ethiopians, having first perceived in him a providential figure capable of restoring the unity of the country, undermined for decades by ethnic and religious rivalries. But the one who was awarded the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize today faces growing distrust from part of the population.

Despite widely acclaimed measures, such as the release of political opponents, the return of opposition movements in exile and the announcement of the end of the 20-year conflict with neighboring Eritrea, the country has seen in barely two years, inter-community conflicts escalate.

Of the country’s nine regional states, five are today in the grip of violence with millions of internally displaced people, according to Amnesty: Amhara and Oromia, but also Benishangul-Gumuz in the northwest, Harar in the northeast, and the region Nations, nationalities and peoples of the South. This climate is partly fueled by certain political leaders who do not hesitate to use ethnonationalist speeches to mobilize their supporters for the next legislative elections, the date of which remains uncertain.

A worried political class

What should have been the first democratic and multiparty election since the 2005 elections will not take place on August 29. The Covid-19 pandemic overcame this deadline, as did the state of emergency established on April 8 to combat the spread of the new coronavirus. But this postponement worries the political class, because it could mark the end of this unity advocated behind the consensual and progressive figure of Abiy Ahmed.

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Indeed, the Ethiopian Constitution does not provide for the postponement of legislative elections, fixed every five years. It is impossible to say today who will be able to head an interim government when the term of parliament ends on October 5, pending the election.

We fear that as a result of all these political tensions in the run-up to the polls, the security forces will prosecute these kinds of human rights violations Alarmed Mr. Tekle. Same fear for the hundreds of Ethiopian opposition parties who do not want to see Abiy Ahmed repeat the mistakes of his predecessors.

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