Ethiopia’s economic gains tainted by violent repression

Emergency fails to protect regime from biggest threat to 26-year grip on power

Six soldiers burst into Beckham’s dormitory at Gondar university in northern Ethiopia one evening without pausing to question the student.

“They grabbed me and beat me so hard, I’d have preferred it if they had killed me,” the undergraduate says of the November raid.

Beckham’s crime was to share with the world, via a diaspora network, how 104 other Ethiopian students had been detained for complaining about conditions on campus.

Despite the beating, the smiling Ethiopian, who is studying applied science, considers himself lucky because he is still alive.

Beckham was held in a police station rather than a military camp, unlike many of the tens of thousands of people detained under a state of emergency imposed last October to contain anti-government protests.

“After a few weeks the police let me go. They seemed to sympathise with our cause,” says Beckham, who asked to use the name of his favourite footballer for fear of reprisals.

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