Canada ‘s ambiguous statement on the situation in Ethiopia

October 12,2016

In light of six months state of emergency in Ethiopia, Government of Canada issued brief statement on Wednesday. Howeever, the statement issued by Stéphane Dion, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada, didn’t unequivocally condemn killings of Ethiopians by forces loyal to the regime. To Ethiopians, the statement even sounds ambiguous,uninformed and not serious. It seem to be motivated public relation stunt to avoid silence regarding unfolding political crisis in Ethiopia that is making headlines in mainstream media the world over.

“Canada urges Ethiopian security forces to exercise restraint and to respect all fundamental rights and freedoms” read a portion of Stéphane Dion statement. It does not spell out the way in which the state of emergency endangered the lives of Ethiopians and condemned them.Restriction of freedom of expression including showing cross handed gesture which Rio Olympic Marathon silver medalist made as he crossed the finishing line, prohibition of public gathering, arbitrary arrest without evidence, authority given to security forces to take “appropriate measure” – often times it means shoot and kill, and searching houses without court order are some of the ways state if emergency curtailed constitutional rights. In fact, the wide spread protest was partly an outcome of unofficial state of emergency like situation that prevailed in the country for a long time.

A reference to the opening session of Ethiopia’s parliament on October 10 is made in the statement and Canada seem to believe that it is “a pathway for an inclusive dialogue to address the concerns of citizens.” The parliament in Ethiopia is totally controlled by the ruling Tigray Peoples Liberation Front which is the dominant force in the ruling ethnic based party coalition of Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). There is no opposition voice,what so ever, in the parliament. German chancellor Angela Merkel turned down invitation to speak at the parliament,when she visited the country this week, on grounds that there is no meaning to make a speech when the parliament is totally controlled by the ruling party.
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As well, Canada’s statement “hope that” dialogue in the parliament “will lead to a comprehensive set of reforms that strengthens democracy and generates increased opportunities for Ethiopians.” Why Canada believes that an inclusive dialogue could come out of the parliament while there is no single opposition voice in it is somewhat bizarre. There was none for the past twenty fives years.

Another ambiguous part of the statement is that it urges “all stakeholders to demonstrate their commitment to peaceful civic engagement and we believe strongly that inclusive dialogue is the best way forward.” Staging peaceful demonstration is constitutional right and that what demonstrators have been doing. Demonstrators absolutely demonstrated desire and commitment for peaceful civic engagement.On the contrary, the regime in power, just because it can out owing to its military muscle, denied Ethiopians the right to peacefully demonstrate. And thousands have been killed.

Still another point that the statement seem to miss is that the popular protest all over Ethiopia is not about reforming a regime that has been in power for more than twenty fives years now with all its crimes against humanity, even there is a strong voice that accuse the government of genocide in places like Gambella, Ogaden and Amhara among others, as it is about changing the regime which actually represent less than 6% of ethnic Tigre population. This same regime imposed institutionalized inequality making Ethiopians feel like a second class citizen in their own country. Key government positions in the military, security apparatus and federal structures are controlled by Tigray People’s Liberation Front. Proportion of Tigrains in the public service at the federal level of government is not proportional to their size.

The state of emergency in Ethiopia was officially declared on October 8. However, reports on social media and statements from opposition quarter indicate that most parts of Ethiopia have been under state of emergency like situation at least for about a year now. Internet and phone lines are disconnected in a apparent effort to cover the extent of attack on Ethiopians.

This week, regime in Ethiopia deployed the 5th brigade of its defense force in North Gonder region and a total war is declared on villagers in Tacharmachio. Ethiopian government media reported that security forces killed what it described as Eritrean supported bandit with links to Ginbot 7 opposition movement. The truth is residents in the area are living state terror and some can not afford responding to it rather than dying folded arms.Arbitrary house searches and extrajudicial killings are reportedly intensified following the state of emergency.

On October 2 more than 700 Ethiopians were killed during Ireecha religious festival in what many believed to be is a government triggered stampede the city of Bishoftu.

This week, United States demanded clarity about the state of emergency. Like Canada, the United States seem to be thinking in terms of policy reform in Ethiopia rather than hearing the loud and clear voice of Ethiopians – an end to brutal minority government of Tigray People’s Liberation Front.

Ethiopian activists are not too happy about inconsistency of Canada and United States in their claim of commitment and support to human rights and democracy in the world.

Indeed, the level of egregious rights abuse and widespread killings of Ethiopians would have caused serious diplomatic and political, if not military, response if the regime in Ethiopia was not a client regime to Canada,United States and their allies.Probably, which is why Canada avoided to send stern message against the regime which is massacring Ethiopians, to say the least. If any thing, the statement made the point that Canada is not serious about human rights in Ethiopia – and this is not like Canada. Canada, so to speak, has been taken seriously,for the good part of the last century, in terms of its commitment for human rights.

While its humanitarian development programs in Ethiopia is appreciated, it does not make sense if it is tacitly supporting the regime in Ethiopia. The guarantee for Canadian investment ventures in Ethiopia or any other national interest is not the regime in Ethiopia. It is building relation with Ethiopians.

Written by Dimetros Birku. Tweets : @dimetros
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