Ethiopian Lift State Of Emergency After 10 months
East Africa Correspondent (Financial Times)
Ethiopia has lifted a 10-month state of emergency imposed to quash anti-government protests across the country that left hundreds of people dead.
The restrictions on movement, gatherings and access to media were initially imposed for six months and then extended, albeit in diluted form.
The protests and the imposition of the state of emergency tarnished Ethiopia’s reputation as a fast-growing and secure country that had been a darling of the international investment community for the previous decade.
Befeqadu Hailu, who has been detained several times in recent years for his anti-government views, believes lifting the state of emergency will make little difference to people’s lives in a country where there is little tolerance of opposition views.
“The government used to do what it has done in the state of emergency even before it was declared,” said Mr Hailu. “So I don’t see any chance of it not doing so in the future. It’s more public relations than a relief to society.”
Ethiopia’s parliament voted to lift the state of emergency after hearing a report from Siraj Fegessa, the defence minister.
Mr Fegessa said the country’s “stability is in far better shape”, according to the Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation. He acknowledged there were possibly “minor problems in a few parts of the country” but that these could be controlled by the local authorities.
A government-sanctioned inquiry said 669 people died in the protests that preceded the state of emergency while human rights groups say the toll was much higher. The UN has been denied access to investigate claims of alleged atrocities .
The protests began in November 2015 when people in Oromia, the most populous region, demonstrated against government plans to extend the footprint of Addis Ababa, the capital, into their area.
The government, which has ruled the country with an iron fist for 26 years, responded harshly. This triggered further demonstrations, which developed into a wider anti-government protest movement in Oromia, Amhara and elsewhere.
The demonstrators protested against a lack of democracy and freedom of expression, and economic marginalisation by the ruling elite. That ruling elite is dominated by the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front. Tigrayans account for only 6 per cent of the population.