Jurist: UN rights chief hopeful for change in Ethiopia

UN rights chief hopeful for change in Ethiopia

[JURIST] UN high commissioner for human rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein [official profile] on Friday praised [press release] Ethiopia for its willingness to openly discuss human rights challenges after completing his second official visit within the year.

Zeid’s invitation to the country came after a recent transition of power from former prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn [BBC profile], who abruptly resigned in March, to the new leader Abiy Ahmed [BBC profile].

Throughout 2017, Ethiopia has experienced unrest in the Oromia region with protesters calling for the release of political leaders Beqele Gerba, Merera Gudina and other political prisoners. There have been additional reports [AI report] of the arbitrary detention of 26,000 prisoners arrested under the Anti-Terrorism proclamation, which includes “overly broad and vague definitions of terrorist acts punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment.”

But with the inauguration of a new leader springs new hope.

One former political detainee said: “we have repeatedly been victims of broken promises.” Ethiopians, young and old, women and men, expressed their eagerness to work constructively with the government to ensure the vision and momentum of the new government is sustained.

After his meetings in the Oromia region, Zeid said that he had heard clear expressions of optimism and hope in regards to the Abiy Ahmed’s leadership.

We heard of the Prime Minister’s recognition of “the need to address existing inequities that led to recent unrest”, that “democracy cannot be realized in the absence of rights—be it civil or economic rights” and that the “right of people to express opinions, rights of people to organize themselves and engage in effective dialogue and participate in the governance system is inherent in our humanity … not for any government to bestow … as it sees fit.”

“We all want to see an Ethiopia with continuous economic development where all people benefit, and where people express their views on public policies, unafraid.”

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