The President should advocate for human rights in Ethiopia

Joachim Gauck expected in Addis Ababa (March 17th)

The Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) sent an appeal to President Joachim Gauck, asking him to advocate for more respect towards human rights in Ethiopia. "The human rights situation in Ethiopia is disastrous. Land grabs are a threat to thousands of Anuak natives and Oromo-farmers," reported the STP's expert on questions regarding Africa, Ulrich Delius, in Göttingen on Friday. "Human rights activists, non-governmental organizations and journalists who criticize the Ethiopian authorities are being silenced deliberately. Hundreds of political prisoners remain detained without fair trial – and the freedom of religion for the Muslims is being restricted." The German President will visit Ethiopia on Sunday.

The STP's letter to Gauck explains the situation in the African country, emphasizing that – since the elections in 2005 – new repressive laws were adopted in Ethiopia to obstruct the work of independent journalists, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and opposition politicians. Because of the new NGO-laws (Charities and Societies Proclamation), dozens of human rights groups and humanitarian organizations were forced to stop their work in Ethiopia. The laws – which were adopted in 2009 – introduced a mandatory registration for any NGOs and provide that the organizations are not allowed to receive more than ten percent of their financial budget from abroad. Also, the organizations are not allowed to use more than 30 percent of their funds for "administrative costs". Because of this, the Ethiopian Human Rights Council already had to make more than 75 percent of its staff redundant.

Gauck should not only advocate for better working conditions for independent NGOs in Ethiopia – the STP also asked him to demand the release of political prisoners. Several hundred politicians, intellectuals, students, NGO-representatives and farmers who belong to the ethnic group of the Oromo are being kept as political prisoners. The authorities are accusing them of supporting the armed Oromo movement.

"It would be a great help for the small farmers of Ethiopia, if you could also address the topic of the increasing land grabs," says the STP's letter to the President. More than 60,000 Anuak-natives in south-western Ethiopia are threatened with displacement because their land was let out to foreign companies. Land grabs have become the most serious threat to Ethiopia's small farmers, who are now threatened with a systematic destruction of their livelihoods.