How Long Can Ethiopia’s State of Emergency Last?
Government Communication Minister Dr. Negeri Lencho talks to Al Jazeera about the state of emergency which was imposed in October 2016 and the prospects for peace in his country
A decade of development in Ethiopia, one of the world’s fastest growing economies, is at risk if the country continues to ban political opposition and muzzle the media, the UN has warned.
Ethiopia is now in its eighth month of emergency rule, which was imposed in October last year to crush its biggest protests in 25 years.
The unrest started in the Oromia region in 2015, when the largest ethnic group, the Oromo, hit the streets demanding more rights.
Demonstrations then spread to the Amhara region, home to the second major ethnic group.
The state of emergency, initially declared for six months, included curfews, social media blocks, and restrictions on opposition party activity. It was extended for another four months in March amid reports of continuing violence.
Almost 700 people have been killed in the violence, a government sponsored commission said in April, but human rights groups said the toll could be higher.
Zeid Raad Al Hussein, the UN high commissioner for human rights, has urged authorities to allow UN officials to visit the affected region and establish the facts. He has expressed concern over reports of the arrest of more than 26,000 people.
Negeri Lencho, Ethiopia’s information minister, talks to Al Jazeera on the prospects for peace in his country.
Al Jazeera: How does Ethiopia as a country, as a government respond to allegations of human rights abuses?
Negeri Lencho: Thank you. In the first place, Ethiopian government is an accountable government. Ethiopia is in the process of building democracy in the last two decades.
In that process, not only building democracy, but also working to elevate the problem of poverty and escape the majority of the people out of poverty.
And as you’ve also noted, Ethiopia was in dire poverty 25 years before, but now it is one of the fastest growing economy.
Al Jazeera: And yet you’ve run a state of emergency first for six months and another four. That’s going to stifle growth, isn’t it?