News from Addis Ababa give hope for less tensions

Openness to dialogue in Ethiopia A political prisoner who had been sentenced to death was pardoned (Press Release)

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Lemma Magersa the Governor of Oromia.

The Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) is relieved that the political prisoner Andargachev Tsige, who had been sentenced to death in Ethiopia, was pardoned. “This is an important sign to all regime critics that the Ethiopian government is willing to engage in a dialogue with the political opposition,” said Ulrich Delius, the STP’s director, in Göttingen on Tuesday. The human rights activist, who holds both British and Ethiopian citizenship, had been on death row ever since his unlawful arrest in the transit area of an airport in Yemen four years ago – including one year in solitary confinement. The former Ethiopian government had seen him as a terrorist. He was accused of armed insurgency, and sentenced to death (in absentia) in 2009.

“For four years, we have been urging the European Union to denounce the activist’s abduction more consistently – and to demand his immediate release,” Delius stated. “The EU, however, was not exactly eager to advocate for its citizen. The aim was not to spoil the good relations with Ethiopia’s government. Now, we are all the happier that Tsige will finally be released. “The former Secretary General of the democracy network Ginbot 7, which the government dreaded, had already fled to the UK in the 1970s, due to political persecution. He had returned to Ethiopia several times, but was force to seek protection abroad again and again.

Since the new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took office in March 2018, there have been changes in Ethiopia’s politics. Ahmed belongs to the population group of the Oromo, who have been suffering from exclusion and persecution for quite a long time. His aim is to further a dialogue with the government-critical Oromo and Amhara, who were strongly opposed to the government’s policy since 2015. Two and a half weeks ago, Ahmed had invited Oromo opposition politicians to a political dialogue with the government.
“This is the only possible way to defuse the extremely tense political situation in Ethiopia. However, there are still many open questions. More than 20,000 Oromo are still missing. They were arrested or abducted by the security forces during the past three years. The fate of those who went missing must be must clarified – urgently,” Delius demanded. The STP also called for an end to the serious human rights violations in the resource-rich region of Ogaden near the border to Somalia, where the situation could still be described as a civil war. Due to government regulations, it is still very difficult to access the region.

Header Picture: Odaw via Wikimedia Commons