Dire consequences

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s biggest failure is his inability to make changes to the way the Centre functions

Editorial June 01, 2020

Anew report by Amnesty International, the London-based rights group, slams Ethiopian security forces over grave violations of human rights, during operations in Amhara and Oromia. The long list of violations includes extrajudicial executions, mass detentions, and torture. All of this happened on Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s watch, who took office in 2018. The very next year, Ahmed also received the coveted Nobel Peace Prize for his decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighbouring Eritrea.

While the prime minister can take credit for ending hostilities with neighbouring Eritrea, a longtime foe, he cannot deny that his term in office has been plagued by ethnic conflict and the unlawful displacement of thousands amid a deteriorating security situation in the country. Ahmed’s biggest failure is his inability to make changes to the way the Centre functions. He walked into office slamming the preceding government over authoritarian practices. But little has changed since he took office. The prime minister has not been able to modify the character of the regime and the current abuses, to a great extent, mirror the violations seen under the previous administrations.

The Amnesty report serves as a warning to the world about a situation that has the potential to morph into a humanitarian crisis. The Ethiopian leader does not have many options and Ethiopia as a nation cannot afford to take any chances. The only way forward is to end the extrajudicial executions, arbitrary arrests, forced evictions, and destruction of property owned by opposition supporters. Prime Minister Ahmed will have to take measures to ensure the security forces function within limits. He can only do that if he ends the culture of impunity, and by removing elements from the security forces that are responsible for human rights violations. Failing to do so would have dire consequences for Ethiopia. 

Published in The Express Tribune, June 2nd, 2020.

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