intimidate Call for The Government from Amhara Region


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intimidate Call for The Government from Amhara Region The challenge of financial self-sustenance faced by civil society organizations working on causes related to human rights, democracy, and conflict, among otbers, owing to the prohibition of external funding above the 10 % maximum has not only forced such bodies to close or re-organize themselves as purely humanitarian organizations or relocate themselves as foreign or ‘resident’ NGOs, it also severely limited their voice as an alternative articulation of socio-economic challenges of the people from the perspective of daily lived experience [viii]. The government increasingly became the only source of information on vital socio-economic and political issues of various sectors of the society. The invocation of the anti-terrorism law for trivial reasons such as having a contact with foreign journalists, international non-governmental human rights organizations (such as Amnesty International and the Human Rights Watch), or foreign diplomats and embassies has effectively smothered people into watching their contacts and relationships. People feel that their relationships and exchanges (physical and electronic) are monitored. The invocation of the anti-terrorism law in relation to the Muslim activists protesting government intervention in religious affairs [ix]and the ‘Zone 9’ [x] bloggers and journalists jailed and currently standing trial has unveiled to us how the law can be strategically deployed against those the government perceives as opponents. This and other cases have shown the extent to which one can freely and peacefully express dissent without harassment, intimidation, and the terror of standing trial under the anti-terrorism law. The pattern of government denial of the right of assembly and peaceful political demonstrations, especially when organized by political groupings perceived as fierce opponents of the regime (such as the Semayawi Party), selective permission of such meetings to factions of parties the government seeks to weaken (e.g. the faction within Unity for Democracy and Justice, UDJ), denial of meetings even within the premises of private organizations such as hotels to some groups (e.g. UDJ at the Imperial Hotel, 2009), the constant outlawing of meetings and demonstrations by unreasonably exploiting the “notification” duty under the Freedom of Assembly Proclamation (Proclamation No-3/1991) – where the duty to notify the municipality is interpreted as the duty to seek and secure prior permission – have all contributed to the practical stifling of freedom of assembly and peaceful demonstration. Through this strategy – and the rhetoric of averting “street action” and “color revolutions” [xi] – the government has effectively silenced political protest to its decisions, policies, and laws. This in turn has weakened and subverted participatory democracy envisaged in the constitution (art 8(3)). In practice, such violation of the right to assembly and peaceful demonstration has been repeatedly witnessed in the Muslim protest to the government’s unconstitutional intervention in the choice of leadership of, and doctrines for, the Muslim population (since 2011). Freedom of association of political parties has repeatedly been violated in the process of political party registration by the NEBE. The recent intervention by the NEBE to ‘recognize’ the leadership of factions within the UDJ and the All Ethiopian Unity Party (AEUP) is not only meddling with the internal issues of political parties, but also unconstitutionally limiting the freedom of association of members and their right to a choice of the leaders they deem fit to lead them. Apart from this, one can say that there is a healthy ‘electoral climate’ only when – in addition to the right to vote and be elected – citizens have the right to administrative justice, i.e., the right of access to justice in a free, fair, and impartial court or tribunal, in the event that these rights are violated or threatened. The voter intimidation historically observed in the process of voter-registration by the kebeles (often suggesting possible deprivation of vital social and public services sought from local offices) are violative of the very basic political rights that are constitutive of the very essence of democratic practice. At times such intimidations tend to forget that their right to elect includes the freedom not to vote. They forget that in Ethiopia, voting is a right, not a duty. The enhanced developmentalist gestures of the incumbent which views individual civil and political rights as less important in the face of the colossal “war on poverty”; the unabashed emphasis on growth (even in the Growth and Transformation Plan, GTP); its increasing turning away from its ‘original’ (1991) commitment to liberal policies (also charted out in the constitution); its continued neglect, or deliberate weakening, and strategic and manipulative use of democratic institutions (i.e., institutions of representation [House of Peoples’ Representatives, HPR, and House of Federation, HOF], empowerment [NEBE, Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, Ombudsman], and of accountability and monitoring [e.g. the judiciary, Anti-corruption Commission, Auditor General] are not helping to create an environment conducive for a free and fair election. To that extent, there are complaints, grumblings, and disaffection among most of the opposition political actors who have a stake in the election. So, the rules and rulings around the process suggest that the mood is less than ideal. But a more complete account of the mood is revealed only when we examine the contradictions that come from the state form in Ethiopia. In the next sub-section [which will come in the form of a second instalment in this series of reflection around Elections 2015], I will turn to considering these contradictions that emanate from the state form and the constraints they impose on electoral democracy.


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