26 Jun

The Ethiopia rally bomb will test the prime minister’s reform agenda

At least two people died and 156 were wounded in a grenade attack at a political rally in Addis Ababa addressed by reformist Ethiopian prime minister Abiy Ahmed.

Abiy was a surprise guest on the day and, moments after sitting down once he’d made his speech, there was an explosion meters away. He was not hurt, but the rally’s organizers have claimed he was the main target.

Was this an unprecedented moment in Ethiopia’s history?

The attempted assassination on a national leader isn’t entirely new to Ethiopia. There was, at least, one such attempt in 1976 targeting Mengistu Hailemariam, a former leader who now lives in Zimbabwe as a fugitive. He survived with slight injuries.

That attack was interpreted by many as the incident that triggered horrendous political violence known as “Red Terror”, which left thousands of young people dead.

But the scale and the audacity of this attack is unprecedented. It appears that those who planned it couldn’t deliver on the scale they might have wanted. Had they succeeded, the human cost and its political implications would have been immense.

What is the current political context?

The ruling party, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front which has been in power for nearly 30 years, is decaying.

It lacks the political will to introduce fundamental reforms which would address issues like endemic corruption, the incarceration of journalists and political opponents and widespread economic marginalization.

These concerns precipitated protests from various segments of society and forced former Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn to resign.

Abiy emerged from within the ruling party amid this disarray. His message was markedly different. He spoke the language of the people and tapped into society’s aspirations and fears.

While it was expected that he’d be a safe pair of hands for ordinary people as well as the ruling elites, nobody expected him to be as direct and decisive as he has turned out to be in his reform efforts.

To read the full article, click here.

 

14 May

Journalists, bloggers weigh in on media freedom in Ethiopia

The new Ethiopia Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is said to have increased transparency in governance since his assumption into office. His critics cite his outreach to opposition political parties, journalists and human rights activists as a good move.

Thousands of prisoners have been released since January. Prominent Ethiopian journalist and human rights activist, Eskinder Nega has not seen his wife and son, both settled in the United States, for 5 years. In total, he’s spent nearly 9 years behind bars.

“They wanted to break my spirit, they want to break the spirit of political prisoners. They want you to say, I finally give up, it’s too much for me, I’ve suffered enough. In this story, I’m happy to say that they didn’t break my spirit and that’s why I’m talking to you”, Nega said.

Eskinder is one of the founders of one of the first opposition newspapers. In 2011, he was sentenced to 18 years in prison on anti-terrorist law charges.

‘‘This is my work published on the internet after I was forbidden to publish on paper. We were forbidden to publish in newspapers after our release from prison in 2008”, he added.

His colleagues agree. Manaye studied journalism at the Addis Ababa University and worked in the state press for a year. He tells our correspondent, Nathalie Tissot that news covered are sometimes ‘buried’.

“I have found it difficult to work as a free journalist in a government media. I was sent to cover public meetings and press conferences of opposition parties. I covered them when I came back to the office and returned my article, I didn’t find it in the next day’s edition’‘, Belay Manaye said.

Today, he follows the trials of activists in the Federal High Court of Justice. Like Eskinder, this human rights activist welcomes the new Prime Minister.

To read the full article, click here.