9 June 2018

Ethiopia: Legislators Beat Back Emergency Decree

The decree has stayed active for four months since February 2018

The parliament has ended the state of emergency, which the country has been under for the past four months, two months ahead of its cessation.

The emergency declaration was lifted during the session that was held last Tuesday. Out of the 348 MPs, who attended the session, eight of them abstain from voting. The declaration was reinstated in February, just a day after the announcement of the former Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn's resignation, following massive political unrest across the country. It was put in effect with the intention of quelling the civil unrest.

In the four months time, the command post has arrested 11,000 people, who are currently released from prison before they were taken to court, according to a report by Tadesse Hordofa, chairperson of the State of Emergency Inquiry Board, which was formed to monitor the operations of the command post in relation to handlings of human rights.

"The dangers posed against the constitution and law of the country are improved, and the condition is reached at the level where the regular law enforcement system can control it," reads the proclamation endorsed by the Council of Ministers on June 2, 2018.

The massive, recurrent and widespread protests ignited in Oromia and Amhara regional states in mid-year of 2016, forced the cabinet of the former Prime Minister Hailemariam to declare a state of emergency on October 9, 2016, for six months. The decree was the first time since the EPRDF hold power. It was then extended for additional four months, and later it was lifted in August 2017. Within its ten months stay, the proclamation was amended twice lifting travel bans, the curfews imposed near industrial sites and mega projects.

The unrest and the former state of emergency cast their shadow in the tourism and hospitality industry as the number of tourists flowing to the country fell by 23,231 during the 2015/16 fiscal year. A report from the Addis Ababa Hotel Owners Trade Sectoral Association stated that the hotel industry has lost about 380 million Br of revenue during the first emergency decree.

During the recent unrest, over 302 investments were attacked by the protesters, according to a data from the Ethiopian Investment Commission (EIC). Of the total, 53 were floriculture and horticulture farms, while 48 were coffee processing industries. Six public enterprises were also attacked during the unrest. As a compensation for the damages, the government has paid millions of Birr to the owners of the companies securing the fund from the Development Bank of Ethiopia (DBE) and Commercial Bank of Ethiopia (CBE).

The lift of the emergency declaration and the current political stability are good news for the business community.

"With the existence of unrest and emergency decree, the economy will suffer as investors will refrain from coming to the country," says Zafu Eyesuswork, a prominent business leader in the financial industry. "The decision of lifting the decree is sound."

Yilikal Getnet, an opposition leader, argues differently.

The government has a lot of assignments in addressing the questions raised by the people, which is causing unrest and violence. Lifting the state of emergency does not mean anything if the problem between the people and the government persists, according to him.

"If the government addresses the questions of the people, then no conflict would happen," said Yilikal.

Ethiopia

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