There is no way that elections can be fair, let alone credible, with opposition leaders in jail or unable to campaign freely,
U.S Senator Russ Feingold (Wisconsin)
The first is Ethiopia, which is set to hold elections in May. In his testimony, the Director of National Intelligence stated, “In Ethiopia, Prime Minister Meles and his party appear intent on preventing a repeat of the relatively open 2005 election which produced a strong opposition showing.” Indeed, in Ethiopia, democratic space has been diminishing steadily since 2005. Over the last two years, the Ethiopian Parliament has passed several new laws granting broad discretionary powers to the government to arrest opponents. One such law, the Charities and Societies Proclamation, imposes direct government controls over civil society and bars any civil society group receiving more than 10 percent of its funding from international sources to do work related to human rights, gender equality, the rights of the disabled, children’s rights or conflict resolution. Another law, the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation, defines terrorism-related crimes so broadly that they could extend to non-violent forms of political dissent and protest.
Mr. President, Ethiopia is an important partner of the United States and we share many interests. We currently provide hundreds of millions of dollars in aid annually to Ethiopia. That is why I have been so concerned and outspoken about these repressive measures. And that is why I believe we have a stake in ensuring that Ethiopia’s democratic process moves forward, not backward. With the elections just three months away, several key opposition leaders remain imprisoned, most notably Birtukan Mideksa, the head of the Unity for Democracy and Justice Party. There is no way that elections can be fair, let alone credible, with opposition leaders in jail or unable to campaign freely. At the bare minimum, the international community should push for the release of these political prisoners ahead of the elections. And if nothing changes, we should not be afraid to stand with the Ethiopian people and state clearly that an election in name only is an affront to their country’s democratic aspirations. (read more)