Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Ethiopia’s path of oppression

It wasn’t the remembrance of Ethiopian rebel leader Jettane Ali, killed by an assassin’s bullet in a restaurant in Nairobi in 1992, that darkened the mood around his grave at Marsabit.

The 36 Ethiopian refugees from the disputed territory of Oromia in southern Ethiopia who gathered in the oasis in northern Kenya to pay their respects ahead of this Sunday’s parliamentary poll were convinced that the election would yield victory for Ethiopia’s ruling People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF).

The ruling coalition, dominated by President Meles Zenawi’s Tigray -People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), came to power in 1991 after ousting president Mengistu Haile Mariam. But human rights groups accuse the front of perpetuating the same abuses that characterised Mengistu’s dictatorship.

In the days before Ethiopia’s election, Amnesty International has received reports of troops executing civilians suspected of supporting rebels and of government critics simply disappearing. And, releasing a report in Nairobi this week on violations in Oromia, Human Rights Watch’s executive director for Africa, Peter Takirumbudde, said: “The authorities have intensified the repression they have used to keep themselves in power for 13 years.”

But the country’s Information Minister, Bereket Simon, told the Mail & Guardian: “This is all lies … the election will be free and fair … If we are anti-democracy, why have we let in more than 300 foreign observers?”

But observers will be stretched — 85% of the population live in isolated rural areas. It is here where opponents of the ruling coalition fear most of the electoral anomalies will happen.

Some government opponents are hoping opposition parties will pull a few surprises in the elections. But Dawud Ibsa, OLF chairperson, labelled the opposition “insignificant … they might make a few gains but the EPRDF will carry on its domination of society.

The OLF is not contesting the poll. Instead, the Oromo People’s Democratic Organisation, one of Zenawi’s coalition partners, will represent it.

Subscribe for R500/year

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and get a 57% discount in your first year.

Darren Taylor
Darren Taylor is a freelance journalist based in Johannesburg. He is a regular contributor to several African and international news organisations.

Related stories


If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Subscribers only

South Africa breaking more temperature records than expected

The country’s climate is becoming ‘more extreme’ as temperature records are broken

More top stories

South Africa breaking more temperature records than expected

The country’s climate is becoming ‘more extreme’ as temperature records are broken

Environmentalists are trying to save South Africa’s obscure endangered species

Scientists are digging for De Winton’s golden moles, working on the mystery of the riverine rabbit and using mesh mattresses to save the unique Knysna seahorse

Shadow states infest Africa’s democracies

Two recent reports show evidence that democracy in Africa is being threatened by private power networks

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…