The United States’ Irresponsible Praise of Ethiopia’s Regime — The Washington Post

Hailemariam Desalegn, Prime Minister of Ethiopia, speaks during a groundbreaking ceremony for the Ethiopia-China Light Industrial Zone outside of Addis Ababa on April 16, 2015. (Getty Images)

The Washington Post

By Editorial Board

ETHIOPIA’S ELECTIONS, scheduled for May 24, are shaping up to be anything but democratic. A country that has often been held up as a poster child for development has been stifling civic freedoms and systematically cracking down on independent journalism for several years.

It was consequently startling to hear the State Department’s undersecretary of state for political affairs, Wendy Sherman, declare during a visit to Addis Ababa on April 16 that “Ethiopia is a democracy that is moving forward in an election that we expect to be free, fair and credible.” The ensuing backlash from Ethiopians and human rights advocates was deserved.

Ms. Sherman’s lavish praise was particularly unjustified given Ethiopia’s record on press freedom: It has imprisoned 19 journalists, more than any other country in Africa. According to a new report by the Committee to Protect Journalists, the country ranks fourth on its list of the top 10 most censored countries in the world. At least 16 journalists have been forced into exile, and a number of independent publications have shut down due to official pressure.

Last weekend marked one year since six bloggers were arrested and jailed without trial. The “Zone 9” bloggers, who used their online platforms to write about human rights and social justice and to agitate for a democracy in Ethi­o­pia, were charged with terrorism under the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation, which has been used to clamp down on numerous journalists critical of the regime. Today, the bloggers remain imprisoned, awaiting what will likely be a trial by farce.

As for the elections, opposition parties say the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front , led by Hailemariam Desalegn, has undermined their efforts to register candidates for the May vote. Since last year, members of opposition parties and their supporters have been arrested and harassed. In March, the sole opposition leader in Parliament said he would not run for reelection due to state interference with his party’s affairs.

Read more at The Washington Post »

Related:
U.S. Wrong to Endorse Ethiopia’s Elections (Freedom House)

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