The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zied Raad Al Hussien, has hinted that the ongoing state of emergency in Ethiopia could be lifted in the context of reforms being undertaken by the country’s new Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed.In an interview with the state run television on Wednesday evening, Al Hussien said “there was clearly hope that the state of emergency would be lifted under the ongoing reform, there will be further release of political prisoners and closure of major detention facility in Addis Ababa.”
Al Hussien who has been visiting Ethiopia this week, went to the Oromia and Amhara regional states where there were anti-government protests in 2015 and 2016, and the government was accused of using excessive force and violating human rights.
“I had two days to visit those areas where I spent the great deal of time in listening to people, including Aba Gadas (traditional Oromo leaders). I must say that I heard many expression of optimism about the new Prime Minister said in his inaugural address. There was a sense of anxiety as to whether the prime minister and the government will be in a position to realize much of the vision that he expressed in his inaugural address”.
Ethiopia declared a state of emergency in mid-February this year in a move to stem repeated waves of anti-government protests. The nation had been in a 10-month state of emergency that ended last year.
“Aba Gadas spoke frankly and openly in the presence of officials from the government. They need to be involved in the design of the reforms and deep renewal of the government. They need proper investigation of on what has happened recently. They spoke of the need for accountability,” Al Hussien added.
In a discussion with Ethiopia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr Workneh Gebeyehu, Al Hussien urged the government to strengthen the protection of human rights and democracy in the country.
“During my stay in Ethiopia, I have observed a new hope and inspiration within the people and huge belief in the government”, he said adding: “I think the new prime minister affected the mood with in the country; this was what I heard from many.”
Meanwhile, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between Ethiopia and the UN rights agency to open a regional office for Easter and Southern Africa in Addis Ababa. The bureau would help provide support for 17 countries within the two regions.