Ethiopia: Analysis - Continued Crackdown On Tigrayans in Addis Abeba Leave Many Out of Business - Afraid to Talk, Hopeless

A street scene in Addis Ababa in 2017.

Addis Abeba — Tigrayans business owners in the capital Addis Abeba told Addis Standard that their places of business were closed and now face serious challenges after reopening.

Hana (name changed based on request by witness) told Addis Standard, "I'm an owner of a small restaurant and it is the main source of my income," she continued, "It was closed for months, when I asked for explanations, none were offered. I was told that I was violating Covid-19 prevention guidelines when I went to kebele and woreda administration offices. They ignored me mostly and when they talked to me they asked me to wait patiently." She said that her shop was only open for 15 days now.

She continued to explain the financial strains she faced when her business was shut down, "When my restaurant was closed, I had trouble paying its rents and the salaries of my 5 employees, and people would accuse me of supporting TPLF."

She continued tearfully, "I was born in Addis Abeba, I grew up here, I visited Tigray two times when I was a child," adding, "Let alone supporting them [TPLF], I do not have enough to get by." She explained the effects of the closure on her clientele, "My clients are now afraid to come to my restaurant, and because of that fact, I and my 5 employees are almost out of work."

Many witnesses Addis Standard spoke to were fearful that the publishing of their testimonies would endanger them as they have been threatened by authorities not to speak up.

But not Caleb (name changed based on witness request) who told Addis Standard that his bar was closed three months ago. He disclosed nervously and in fear of being overheard by surrounding people, that he and his brother were imprisoned for a week after the shutting down of his place of business.

He said, "They released us on the guarantee of ID cards but still my bar remains closed," he continued explaining the circumstances that led to the opening of this small business that remains closed, "I opened the bar with loans and I pay those loans and the rent of the place every month. Mind you that I don't have any income but I am still required to pay the rent and loans off."

When asked about the complaints and promises made by authorities, he said, "By now 17 different businesses are shut down in my area. Together with the other owners, we are trying to find a solution. We tried to contact government officials who are directly connected to our case but they don't want to give us an answer, while others told us to be patient but I think they forget about us".

Addis Standard contacted the Federal Police Commision who directed the questions to both Addis Abeba Trade and Industry bureau and Police Commision who the spokesperson of the federal police commision said were responsible for the decision to close businesses and carry out orders.

Repeated attempts to reach both Addis Abeba Trade and Industry bureau and Police Commision were to no avail.

According to a report released in September, 2021 by the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC), the number of complaints of closure of businesses owned by ethnic Tigrayan residents in Addis Abeba over the past two months the commission received increased.

The report disclosed that a monitoring team that focused their monitoring on two sub-cities of the capital, learned that although these businesses were suspended on the order of the recently established illegal and contraband trade prevention and control taskforce, many businesses remain closed due to long waiting periods for authorities to evaluate and reach a guilty or not guilty verdict.

The commision called on the Addis Abeba city administration, the Federal Police and other relevant government authorities to ensure swiffer investigation and decision processes.

Ethiopian authorities since late June 2021 have arbitrarily detained, forcibly disappeared, and committed other abuses against ethnic Tigrayans in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Abeba. The authorities should immediately account for Tigrayans' forcibly disappeared, release those being held without credible evidence of a crime, and end all discriminatory treatment.

Between July and August, Human Rights Watch (HRW) interviewed by phone eight current and former Tigrayan detainees, four Tigrayan business owners, and 25 relatives of detainees, witnesses to abuses, and lawyers. Human Rights Watch also reviewed court and police documents and relevant photos. HRW disclosed that on August 11, 2021, it sent an email to Attorney General Gedion Timothewos summarizing its findings and requesting further information but has not received a response. AS

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