7 August 2017

Ethiopia: Parliament Finally Lifts State of Emergency

Photo: United Nations
Oromo protests in Ethiopia (file photo).

The ten month long state of emergency imposed to control the public unrest that occurred in Amhara and Oromia regional states was finally lifted by the Parliament during its emergency session held on August 4, 2017.

The Parliament, which was in recession, ended the decree after four months of extension attributed to maintaining the peace and stability that had been gained during the six-month period of the state of emergency.

In the past ten months, the directive set for the state of emergency was amended three times, including lifting the curfews near an industrial area, limiting the role of the Command Post from carrying out arrests of suspects without a court warrant, and ending the travel bans set on diplomats and foreign nationals for over a 25km radius from Addis Abeba.

More than 20,000 suspects were jailed in different parts of the country, of which 7,737 are still under court proceedings, according to the reports of Siraj Fergessa, minister of Defence and secretary of the Command Post.

Beyene Petros (Prof.), a former member of the Parliament and chairman of the Ethiopian Federal Democratic Forum (Medrek), believes that the decision of the government to lift the decree is better than nothing.

"Declaring a state of emergency for ten months was just an act of disguising peoples' quest for freedom practised," Beyene told Fortune, explaining his reflection on the event. "Our party has been opposing the situation from the outset, this is a belated measure."

Lidetu Ayalew, a renowned politician who is a member of a central committee in the Ethiopian Democratic Party, was among those who agreed on the declaration of the state of emergency although he disagrees with the way it was practised.

He believes such a move is obvious when the government loses confidence in itself and feels that the situation is out of control.

"The government used the decree as a muffler to the voice of the people, so what is the use of declaring and lifting the state of emergency?" questions Lidetu, "The government does not seem to learn from preceding governments, the people exhibited their grievances in the form of a riot."

The unrest started two years ago first in Oromia Regional State, with resistance against the proposed master plan for Addis Abeba. The death of a child who was killed by a police bullet while opposing the relocation of his school was an immediate cause for the outspread of the unrest throughout Oromia Regional State.

Although the government cancelled the plan, the protest spread unprecedentedly to more parts of the Region. Later, it even engulfed some parts of Amhara Regional State such as Gondar and Bahir Dar, in August 2016.

The fear and uncertainty that has surrounded the country have caused shutdowns of factories, farms and private offices. Investments worth hundreds of millions of Birr were looted and damaged, which finally resulted in the declaration of the state of emergency.

Furthermore, the consequence of the state of emergency has also cast its shadow in the tourism and hospitality industry, following the fall in the number of tourists in the country, declining by 23,231 during the just-ended fiscal year.

Some hotels were even left with zero occupancies of tourists during the state of emergency after travel bans and alerts were put out by some Western governments, putting a dent on the tourism proceeds of the country.

The hotel industry lost about 380 million Br of revenue three months after the decree, according to the Addis Abeba Hotel Owners Trade Sectoral Association.

"It is a great relief to us," said Zenawi Mesfin, a consultant in the hospitality business and vice president of the Association, and observed the drop in occupancy rate to below 40pc in the country. "The lifting of the state of emergency will help for the revival of our business."


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