18 June 2018

Ethiopia: Why Did the Prime Minister Focus On Releasing Prisoners?

Photo: Pixabay
(File photo).

The release of thousands of prisoners of all kinds by the government over a couple of months back was not a mere decision made at a snapshot. The Executive committee of the EPRDF had earlier discussed on numerous issues including the measures to be adopted in widening the political space in the country as part of strengthening the constitutional democratic order in the nation.

Quite a few of the prisoners, who were popularly known as "political prisoners" were either prisoners of conscience or found to be religious zealots or extremists or were allegedly engaged in terrorist activities. Some were reportedly engaged in counterp roductive activities including corruption, mismanagement of public property and a myriad of offenses which put them at loggerheads with the law.

The release of prisoners, on the other hand was a forefront demand of the opposition parties "(now I think known as competing parties), international development partners and so called international human rights organizations. This was apparently supposed to promote the development of inclusive democratic political process in the country.

The release of prisoners detained in the country or abroad was certainly spearheaded by the prime minister as a process of rectifying older biases, suspicions and sentiments of hatred, money grabbing and political eclecticism. Not my any external pressure though as some seem to assert.

In his inaugural speech to the HPR and the entire nation on his appointment as the prime minister, Prime Minister Dr. Abiy stressed on the need for democracy stating that "Democracy is unthinkable without freedom. Freedom is not a gift doled out to people by a government. Rather a gift of nature to everyone that emanates from our human dignity."

For all Ethiopians who were detained in Djibouti, Kenya, Sudan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, accused of all kinds of offenses, dignity was restored only when they were released from jails in foreign countries. So, it stands to reason that the prime mister had focused on the release of prisoners here and abroad as part of restoring their human dignity as citizens. Being detained in jails in foreign lands can be felt only by those who had passed through an unprecedented agony they might have not experienced in their lifetime.

On the other hand, the prime minister effectively and creatively used diplomacy not only as a tool for requesting the release of detainees in the above mentioned countries but also used all the occasions as excellent opportunities to forge the spirit of transparency, mutual trust, people to people relations, equitable utilization of natural resources and the quest for peace and development with the countries he visited.

The government was previously claiming that there were no political prisoners in the jails in the country but later events indicated that somehow disclosed that there were "members of political organizations" who were detained and later released.

By coordinating the release of prisoners therefore, the prime minister followed his party's position expressed in his inaugural speech as follows. "In a democratic system the government allows citizens to express their ideas freely without any fear." He had also stressed that building a democratic system demands listening to each other. Have all the members of the political parties in Ethiopia been listening to each other? May the reader answer.

The release of prisoners here and abroad was not only a matter of clemency. It was indeed a major process in widening the political space and also a process of rectification in the promotion of good governance in the country.

Over the last several months, this year, thousands of prisoners have been released from jails in various regions of the country. Recently, the Chief Administrator of Oromia stated that some 40,000 prisoners were released from jails in Oromia State. This is almost close to an average population of a zonal town. Other regional states including Amhara, Tigray, Gambella, SNNPRS and a number of other regions have also released prisoners detained in their respective regions for various reasons of offenses.

Lack of good governance has contributed its part to the influx of young Ethiopians in search of employment and better life abroad. Releasing the prisoners who are citizens is therefore part of the efforts underway by the prime minister and his government to ensure good governance in the country.

The release of the inmates across the country also synchronizes with the government policy of inclusive development and promotion of a democratic system in the country. This would mean that those who were somehow at loggerheads with the rule of law are given constructive chances to be part of the inclusive economic development in the country which was widely mentioned in the prime minister's official speech to the peoples of Ethiopia during his official appointment.

Upholding the maintenance of human rights and ascertaining the rights of citizens wherever they may be is a critical agenda for all states and Ethiopia is no exception. The efforts made by the prime minister in working with the neighboring countries to effect the release of citizens who were languishing in jails of foreign countries is a legitimate action geared towards restoring the dignity of citizens whether here or abroad. It is therefore natural for the prime minister to focus on the release of fellow citizens.

The prime minister's effort in ensuring the release of citizens carries a clear message to citizens and development partners on illegal migration and human trafficking. Regrettably enough, however, still more Ethiopians are stranded and caught up at high seas in their quest to use illegal migration as a means to better life.

As a citizen and as a prime minister of Ethiopia, nothing more cans delight the premier more than seeing his detained Ethiopian citizens come home to freedom. Therefore Prime Minister Dr. Abiy touched upon the desire of all Ethiopians who are historically proud of their tangible and intangible heritages.

Again, in his address before the HPR, prime minister called for love tolerance, clemency, respect and commitment to the development of this country. The efforts he made in working on the release of citizens who were arrested abroad is a practical indicator for practicing what he actually professed.

The release of prisoners indicates the ingenuity of the prime minster and the professionalism exhibited by Ethiopian diplomats abroad in building the image of the country and luring potential investors to a country who's prime minister takes a great care and concern for citizens who had remained forgotten in detention centers of foreign lands.

Furthermore, the release of our compatriots from prisons here and abroad creates a national confidence on the leadership of this country and the strategies the government charts out to ensure dignity, respect, and human rights for all citizens wherever they are.

The prime minister was not concerned only about the living but detained Ethiopia's. His decision to retrieve the remains of 32 Ethiopians who were cold bloodily beheaded by ISIS reminds one of his dictum "when were alive we are Ethiopians but when we die we become Ethiopia."

The release of Ethiopian citizens is another process of increasing the contingent of development forces based on the young, vibrant, skilled and energetic youth of Ethiopia which comprised the majority of those who were detained in foreign lands.


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