News reports from East Africa indicate that Ethiopian Security Forces are using live bullets against unarmed students and farmers who are protesting against Ethiopian authorities’ plan to extend the boundaries of the capital city Addis Ababa to surrounding areas. The protest included university students in Addis Ababa, Ambo, Jimma and other cities and towns. It was reported that hundreds were arrested and dozens killed, others tortured or beaten for exercising their constitutional rights.
According to the Guardian, recently “Ethiopian authorities have arrested nine journalists and bloggers on allegations that they worked for foreign human rights groups or used social media to incite violence.”
Advocacy groups like Africa Faith and Justice Network (AFJN) have been pressing the US government to speak out against human rights violations and land grabs in Ethiopia. In the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014 (US Public Law No: 113-76), section 7042, (d) makes military and police funding contingent on certifying that the Government of Ethiopia is ensuring freedom of speech, assembly, and journalistic expression, among other criteria. Furthermore, the Associated Press reported that State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said one of the goals of Secretary of State John Kerry’s trip to Angola, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo is to “encourage democratic development, promote respect for human rights, advance peace and security.”
If this plan to expand the city of Addis Ababa goes forward it will mean massive displacement of the most vulnerable people, whose livelihoods depend on their subsistence farming. Normally, any changes to the cities’ boundaries would follow due process because these lines are part of the constitution; instead the Ethiopian government is intimidating and killing innocent citizens.
AFJN urges Secretary Kerry to focus on human rights and democratic issues in Ethiopia both during and after his visit to the country.
By Ntama Bahati, AFJN Policy Analyst and Ashagrie G. Abdi, Human Rights and Conflict Resolution and Analysis Professional