Ethiopia's government announces release of political prisoners


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Protest in the capital Addis Ababa against the actions of the Ethiopian government against the Oromo (Photo: Reuters / T. Negeri)(DW) – It is a glimmer of hope after two years of violence: The Ethiopian head of government apparently tried in the bloody conflict with the ethnic groups of the Oromo and Amharen the – peaceful – liberation.
The Ethiopian government has surprisingly announced the release of political prisoners. Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn (photo) said, according to a report by the media association Fana Broadcasting Corporate, that the decision had been made with a view to “improving national cohesion”. Imprisoned “politicians” would be punished, charges dropped. Details did not mention Desalegn, however. Thus, the number of prisoners affected by the amnesty remained as unclear as the time of release.
AI: Maybe the end of an era of bloody repression
The surprising announcement by Desalegn is the first step the Ethiopian government has taken towards its critics since the beginning of civil unrest more than two years ago. So far she has not even acknowledged that there are political prisoners in Ethiopia. Since 2015, more than 11,000 people have been temporarily detained in   protests in the Oromia region against the central government, killing several hundred. Around 2,000 people will continue to be detained. These figures were cited by human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch. The state of emergency was lifted in August 2017 after ten months.
Amnesty International (AI) described the announcement by Desalegn as a significant step. “Today’s announcement could mark the end of an era of bloody repression in Ethiopia,” said Ethiopia Specialist of the human rights organization, Fisseha Tekle. He also called for clarifying abuses and bringing those responsible to justice.
Maekelawi torture prison is to become a museum
Desalegn also announced the closure of Maekelawi Prison, a notorious torture prison, and its conversion into a museum. The institution has been in operation since the days of the Derg military junta, which came to power in the country following the overthrow of Emperor Haile Selassie in 1974 and lasted until 1987. In a report released in 2013 by the human rights organization Human Rights Watch, the police said the police were “abusing all sorts of abuses, including torture.” The government contradicted the presentation.
Desalegns appearance before journalists was preceded by multi-day consultations of the ruling party EPRDF. Apparently, leaders of the Oromo and Amhara communities have pushed for the opening of the traditionally authoritarian policies that have been persecuting the EPRDF for more than 20 years. Members of both ethnic groups had led the protest against the government, many of whom had subsequently been ill-treated or arrested. In the country with around 100 million inhabitants, the opposition has not been represented in parliament since 2015.