As opposed to what it pledged, the government is making political arrest under the guise of Command Post.
March 9, 2018
When the Ethiopian regime came under intense pressure from within the ruling coalition, and from popular protest across the country towards the end of 2017, it introduced superficial concessionary measures like releasing political prisoners but did not release all political prisoners of course. It also pledged to close down the infamous Maekelawi prison and turn it into a museum. There were measured skepticisms among politicised Ethiopians that the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) is simply buying time to reconsolidate itself.
The measures that are being taken after the introduction of the state of emergency following Hailemariam Desalegn’s resignation seem to bring more clarity that TPLF was indeed buying time to reconsolidate itself when it agreed to release political prisoners, which is presumed to be an outcome of internal bargaining from two members parties in the coalition -Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM) and Oromo People’s Democratic Organization (OPDO).
Two weeks into the controversial martial decree, reports indicate that the regime is arresting supporters of Oromo regional state president, Lemma Megersa, and his team. So far at least five local administrators from Western Ethiopia and South Eastern Ethiopia are arrested with the order of the Command Post, a body that is administering the state of emergency. Administrator of Guraghe Zone, in central Ethiopia, is removed from his post on grounds that he is unable to control the protest in the region. Again, it is the Command Post that did so.
In addition, yesterday, a lecturer at Ambo University and blogger, Seyoum Teshome, was arrested by security forces under the state of emergency legislation which restricts freedom of speech and expression. They picked him from his residence.
That is not it. There are also reports that a popular singer in the Oromo region of Ethiopia, Hachalu Hundessa, is arrested although this one is not confirmed from other sources.
Perhaps, these are measures meant to create a false impression that the TPLF is not weakened or they could be signs that TPLF has indeed reconsolidated its power. There are, in fact, signs that it likely for the case to be the latter rather than the former. At the height of internal resistance, OPDO was a force to be appeased which is no longer the case. In the process, TPLF, now disguised as Command Post, is making politically motivated arrests – something that could be seen as a signal that TPLF already dumped the pledge “widening democratic space.”
Beyond Security Measures
Perhaps another clear sign of TPLF reassertion of power, it is another matter whether it will last or not, is that the “Command Post”, which is instituted under the pretext of controlling deteriorating security situation in the country, is engaged in administrative issues at a regional government level in contravention of the constitution. This matter was raised at the parliament when one member of parliament pinpointed the part of the draft legislation that empowers the Command Post to deal with land issue which is purely administrative matter.
A report by Ethiopian Satellite Television (ESAT) today indicates that the Command Post is overseeing demolition of over 2500 houses in the capital Addis Ababa. And it is a question why demolition is a priority in a situation of the state of emergency.
At the core of resilient countrywide protest for the last three years is a resentment that TPLF government, as is called by Ethiopians, is treating citizens as second-class while it is benefiting ethnic Tigreans economically and otherwise.
The recent measures by the Command Post beg a question if the purpose of the state of emergency, which is vehemently opposed by Ethiopians, a good number of parliamentarians and Human Rights organizations, has an economic and political motive to recover asset, including land, which regional administrative confiscated on grounds of a corrupt deal. If so, the government is simply giving more reasons for Ethiopians to reject this government.
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