In response to what has been labeled the mayor of Addis Ababa’s unwelcoming comments about people flooding into the capital city from all around the country, the public, political parties, and prominent public personalities have all voiced their outrage.
Adanech Abiebie, the mayor of Addis Ababa, met with the city council earlier this week to present her administration’s six-month performance report. Throughout her presentation, she emphasized the massive migration of individuals from several regional states, particularly Amhara, the Southern Nations and Nationalities, and Addis Ababa’s bordering Oromia region.
A considerable number of people have just migrated to the capital with the purpose of violently overturning the constitutionally elected administration, according to the mayor. “We are encountering issues in running the city, especially due to the migration of people from some regions adopting political and religious extremism.”
This, according to her, has created a threat of instability, and the influx of individuals has produced a suspicious feeling among Addis Ababa’s inhabitants, which could lead to conflict.
Similarly, the directors of the Addis Ababa City Police Commission and the Addis Ababa City Peace and Security Bureau shared the mayor’s concern that the influx of people into Addis Ababa, particularly on public holidays, has become a threat to the city.
Article 32 of the Ethiopian Constitution addresses freedom of movement. “Any Ethiopian or foreign national lawfully in Ethiopia has, within the national territory, the right to liberty of movement and freedom to choose his residence, as well as the freedom to leave the country at any time he wishes to,” it states.
The words of an Addis Ababa City official have elicited an unfavorable reaction and comments from the public. Politician and activist Neamin Zeleke wrote in his Twitter account regarding the mayor’s comment, saying, “What a shameful and dangerous incitement against certain regions by a mayor of a multiethnic city!”
In a similar vein, activist and university professor Muktar Ousman responded to the remark made by the city’s officials, stating, “This is embarrassing and disgraceful. How come an entire population of a given region plots to topple a government?”
In a statement released following the mayor’s remark, the National Amhara Movement (NAMA) party demanded that the mayor be removed from her office and face punishment for what she said about people migrating from regions to the city. The statement stated that her comments were divisive, genocidal, and, in any other way, unacceptable.
According to the statement, the right to movement is a natural and guaranteed right under the Ethiopian constitution and international covenants and treaties that Ethiopia has joined. NAMA has described the mayor’s words as “warmongering” and an act of ethnic cleansing, and has urged the international community to intervene before another Rwandan massacre occurs. The party urged the ruling Prosperity Party (PP) to remove Adanech from office and bring her before court.
ENAT party similarly came out against the remark, stating that the right to mobility is not something that is bestowed on a person based on their good intentions but rather something that is legally provided. According to a statement issued by the party, recent actions prohibiting citizens from entering Addis Ababa give the impression that other nationalities are entering another territory, and they urge the public to reject such divisive rhetoric and hold those responsible accountable.
Temesgen Sisay, a law professor at Bahir Dar University, is among many who have seen the recent restriction imposed by the Oromia police to prevent people from entering Addis Abeba via Debre Birhan, Debere Markos, and, on rare occasions, Bishoftu. This is unconstitutional, in his opinion.
“Whatever happened—and the municipal administration is aware of the issue—what has to be done is implement an administrative strategy and appropriately announce the problem to the public rather than disseminating it during a live broadcast event as if it were credible and under investigation,” he said.
In addition to Article 32 of the Ethiopian Constitution, the right to freedom of movement is also stated in international treaties that Ethiopia has signed. These treaties include the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The right to movement is embedded in all rights, but if the federal government needs to restrict motherhood temporarily, it should do so through a state of emergency declaration. This makes Temesgen wonder why the Oromia police restrict people’s freedom, which is not within their jurisdiction and the constitution.
“Because every single comment made by the authorities has meaning and repercussions, such remarks lack constitutional foundation and are tantamount to bringing in troops,” he said.
Adem Kassie is a constitutional lawyer based in The Hague, Netherlands. He stated that Addis Ababa is critical for all Ethiopians for a number of reasons, including the fact that it houses all federal government institutions in the country. Second, Addis Ababa is the country’s largest metropolis, and the citizenry’s desire to relocate to the major city may increase.
However, he believes that the mayor’s recent remark was made without the requisite data investigation, which did not reveal the facts for this claim, and instead used a blanket language that contributes to the growing war of words. He goes on to say that even if this occurs and is right, it is still perplexing because it is normally the jurisdiction and obligation of the appropriate federal intelligence and law enforcement officials.
“Moreover, if the mayor is correct that those individuals are flocking to topple the government, it is the federal government’s responsibility to take action,” Adem added.
The current state of affairs, he says, implies general political insecurity, which justifies the police’s prior entry restrictions and bans as well as the lack of the rule of law, which ultimately puts the poor at risk.
Instead of making a sweeping condemnation that could harm public acceptance and confidence, Adam has urged authorities to conduct a more complete and comprehensive investigation into the incident.