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Ethiopian gov’t gets opposition support on State of Emergency

Berhanu Nega, one Ethiopian opposition leaders, say prevention work against COVID 19 should be a priority, supports measures taken on the part of government

Ethiopian opposition _
Parliamentary Board established to follow up state of emergency measure started work on Monday. Photo credit : EBC

April 13, 2020

Last week, Ethiopia declared a state of emergency in a bid to enforce COVID 19 prevention measures, including social distancing, as the number of confirmed cases increases in the country daily.  

From Ethiopia’s experience in the recent past, the declaration of a state of emergency usually draws criticism from the opposition and the public. Not this time. 

On Saturday last week, Berhanu Nega, the leader of Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice Party (EZEMA in its Amharic Acronym), appeared on state TV, Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation (EBC).  

“We support the state of emergency because it is intended to protect citizens from an impending worst challenge,” he said. For him, the business of working on COVID 19 prevention should be a priority for the opposition, and that undivided attention needs to be given to it. 

“We can not talk about politics after the people are exterminated,” he said. 

Yeshewas Assefa is the chairperson of EZEMA. Appearing on state TV on Monday, he reiterated that his party supports what the government is doing to prevent the spread of coronavirus. “if anything, the state of emergency is late.” He said.  

Oromo Federalist Congress is an ethnic nationalist political organization with a considerably big support base in the Oromo region of Ethiopia and has accepted the radical activist Jawar Mohammed as a member in late December 2019.  Bekele Gerba, secretary of the party, said on Monday that his party supports the State of emergency legislation. 

Likewise, other opposition parties have supported the measure that the government is taking along the line of preventing the spread of the virus. And there are no, so far, opposition parties that are opposing the new legislation. 

There has been confusion as to what the State of emergency measures entail as detailed guideline was not spelled out. A day after the announcement, the attorney general, Adanech Abebe, appeared on state TV to explain about it. 

One key aspect of the emergency legislation is that it restricts human rights law for the duration of the bill, which is five months, to empower law enforcement bodies more power to enforce prevention measures like social distancing, among other things. 

Legal experts in the country tend to have a positivist view of the legislation too. 

Simeneh Kiros teaches law at Addis Ababa University.  Speaking about the legality of the State of emergency, he said that the constitution granted the Council of the cabinet (ministers) the right to come up with emergency legislation under certain circumstances.  But the House of People’s Representatives needs to approve it before it goes into effect.  

The Council of the Minister prepared a guideline to implement the State of emergency legislation. Practices that are not allowed under the State of emergency legislation and actions that are needed to enforce preventive measures are informed by the need to prevent the spread of the virus, Simeneh Kiros said in an interview with Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation (EBC).  There are things that citizens need to do, and there are also things that citizens are not supposed to do to prevent the spread of the virus; the State of emergency seeks to enforce both. 

The House of People’s Representatives has established a Board under the chairmanship of Petros Woldesenbet to follow up with the implementation of the State of Emergency. 

One of the major challenges in implementing social distancing was a religious gathering. Leaders of major religions in the country acted decisively and closed churches and mosques advising worshipers to practice their faith from home until something is done about the COVID19 situation.  Days later, the Ethiopian religious Council declared a month-long national prayer.  

The Ethiopian government is pursuing a policy of prevention concerning COVID 19, given the reality that the country’s health care system is so weak to withstand a situation of massive infection rate in the country. As it turns out,  the government is getting a positive response not just in its legal response to the situation but also in terms of resource mobilization for the campaign to prevent the spread of the deadly virus. 

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  1. The state of emergency needs clarification in regards to private limited companies employees future .

    The on call employees , the temp workers , the part time workers wages need to continue do these people support their families through the time of this State of emergency with those getting their bonus payments, commission payments and other benefits continuing getting it , no layoffs should be done now.


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