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On eve of new year, human rights defenders see risk of further conflict without dialogue

In a joint statement on September 06, over 35 local organizations urged the authorities to facilitate immediate dialogue with all disputing parties across Ethiopia.

The coalition of rights advocates, which includes the Ethiopian Human Rights Council and Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia among others, expressed concerns that ongoing political volatility could further destabilize parts of the country approaching the holiday period.

While the November 2020 agreement halted fighting in northern Tigray, Ethiopia has struggled to achieve a lasting peace amid turbulent domestic politics predominantly involving ethnic divisions between the Oromo and Amhara populations. Repeated incidents of violence in some regions have complicated the humanitarian situation.

Of the many more organizations that expressed their concern, the Consortium of Ethiopian Human Rights Organizations (CEHRO), Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE), Siiqqee Women’s Development Association, Ethiopian Media Women Association and Good Governance for Africa East Africa (GGA-EA)  were among othem.

In her presentation about the previous year’s human rights situation, Mesert Ali, the executive director of the Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE), stated that her organization was gravely concerned about serious safety issues, which also makes it difficult to investigate human rights situations.

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“It wasn’t simple to collect and collate human rights concerns throughout the nation,” she continued, pointing out that when the government is questioned about people who are unjustly detained, including journalists, human rights campaigners, and defenders, it does provide a sufficient information or rarely respond properly.

Meseret added additional concerns that encompassed repeated and prolonged pre-trial illegal detention—even when the court had already ruled innocence—interruptions to the internet, needless designation of specific social groups that make them susceptible to unwanted treatment and abuse, as well as prolonged restrictions and the use of excessive force against those protesting for their rights.

As a civic society, our task is to call upon the government and respective figures to take corrective action in situations of violations of human rights. It is our responsibility as civil society to call on the government and the appropriate authorities to take appropriate action. Dan Yirga, executive director of EHRCO, claims that the government isn’t taking this request seriously because of its lack of caution.

The managing director of Setaweet, Sehin Teferra (PhD), said that she received threats and harassment from authorities for speaking up for the preservation of human rights and voicing concerns on behalf of the general populace, and claims that the situation is enormous.

Sehin is calling for an arrangement of prompt discussion forums and for CSO organizations to be active participants in this dialogue. She says that most human rights groups were unable to track and evaluate the work of the state of emergency inquiry board, which the parliament set up to oversee the emergency decree imposed mainly in the Amhara region.

The group statement comes on the eve of the Ethiopian New Year and notes that nascent and ongoing conflicts that have been observed this year threaten to worsen in the coming year. Those right advocate organizations mainly called for the establishment of a comprehensive national peace convention, as well as independent investigations and accountability, attention to sexual and gender-based violence, a framework for protecting minorities and vulnerable and marginalized groups, meaningful public participation, an early warning system, unrestricted humanitarian aid, and the protection of public space.

An international non-profit organization that maps crises named the Ethiopian Peace Observatory (EPO), which is situated in the U.S., said political violence in Ethiopia accounts for the majority of the occurrences that were reported between April 2022 and April 2023.

Battles in the Tigray, Amhara, and Afar areas are included in the statistics, as are demonstrations in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region (SNNPR), violence against civilians in the Benshangul/Gumuz region, and border crossings in the Gambela region. According to its conflict analysis, EPO noted 2,498 instances of political violence and 336 instances of demonstrations.

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