Addis Abeba, February 17/2018 – The US Embassy in Addis Abeba has issued a statement saying the US “strongly disagree[s] with the Ethiopian government’s decision to impose a state of emergency that includes restrictions on fundamental rights such as assembly and expression.”
The statement came after the council of ministers imposed yet another six months nationwide state of emergency last night, the partial details of which was laid out by Siraj Fegessa, minister of defense, this afternoon.
In what looks like a copy paste of the 2016 state of emergency, the defense minister told local journalists that the new state of emergency will include provisions that prohibit “preparing, printing and circulating via media writings that could cause disturbance and suspicion among people as well as displaying or publicizing signs which could stir up violence.”
It also provided the security, which will be in charge of implementing the decree via a command post set up for this purpose, that citizens can be subjected to confiscations of materials suspected of being “utilized or could be used to commit crimes”; the army could also “search houses, neighborhoods and vehicles as well as stop, ask and search a person without a court warrant.”
It also allows the military or law enforcement bodies “to detain without court warrant” individuals suspected of “orchestrating, leading and organizing” as well as “taking part in suspected criminal activities against the constitution and constitutional order”.
The statement said the US “recognize[s] and share[s] concerns expressed by the government about incidents of violence and loss of life, but firmly believe that the answer is greater freedom, not less.”
“The challenges facing Ethiopia, whether to democratic reform, economic growth, or lasting stability, are best addressed through inclusive discourse and political processes, rather than through the imposition of restrictions,” the statement further said, adding the declaration of a state of emergency undermines recent positive steps toward creating a more inclusive political space, including the release of thousands of prisoners. “Restrictions on the ability of the Ethiopian people to express themselves peacefully sends a message that they are not being heard.”
The statement urged the government in Ethiopia “to rethink this approach and identify other means to protect lives and property while preserving, and indeed expanding, the space for meaningful dialogue and political participation that can pave the way to a lasting democracy.”
Tens of thousands of Ethiopians were rounded up by the military during the first nine months state of emergency in 2016 -17, and were subjected to disturbing rights abuses.
The announcement of the latest round of state of emergency was shrouded in several confusions; it was also preceded by a trail of chaotic events, leaving many Ethiopians suspect a deliberate tactic to pave ways for a military takeover in the wake of the resignation of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn.
However, the national parliament is currently in recess and the decree, which would give the council 15 days to enforce the emergency rule until the parliament convenes. However, some have already expressed skepticism on whether the national parliament would give the decree a blanket pass like the previous one. It is expected that MPs from the OPDO and ANDM will resist endorsing the decree. AS
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