Democracy and rights
In Ethiopia, the ruling Ethiopian People's
Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) has a strong grip
on power and the country can almost be described as a
one-party state. Since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali
took office in the spring of 2018, a period of political
thunderstorms have characterized the country and a large
number of political prisoners have been released. But
the road is long for a functioning democracy.
Both the law and the actions of the police and
security services mean that dissimilar and independent
media still cannot operate completely freely. Freedom
House describes the situation in the country as "not
free". Important decisions on, for example, security
policy are taken by the EPRDF management. The security
service and the armed forces are controlled by senior
party officials. The EPRDF also dominates the legal
system (see below).
Offers a comprehensive list of airports in Ethiopia, including international airports with city located, size and abbreviation, as well as the biggest airlines.
The opposition is divided into a large number of
parties, most of which are ethnically and regionally
based. The space for political opposition was very
limited until spring 2018, when Prime Minister Abiy
initiated a process towards increased democracy and
transparency. Since then, several political
organizations that have previously been stamped with
terrorism have been allowed to operate (see Political
In January 2020, the EPRDF-controlled Parliament
passed a new law replacing terrorism legislation which
received widespread criticism from opposition and
Amnesty International. According to the human rights
organization, the law change is a step in the right
direction, but the law can still be used against
government critics. For example, Parliament retains the
right to identify and ban terrorist organizations, an
opportunity previously used to eliminate opposition
In practice, a law from 2009 put a stop to foreign
support for work on human rights. The number of
organizations working to strengthen human rights then
declined. In February 2018, a new law was passed that
gives organizations the opportunity to work to
strengthen human rights.
In Abi's government, half of the ministers are women,
including the Minister of Defense and the Minister of
Peace, under which both the police and intelligence
services sort. Abiy has also appointed women to the
posts of President, Chief of the Supreme Court and Chief
of the Election Authority. Before Abiy became head of
government, women were under-represented at all levels
of politics and administration.
Ethiopia is suffering from widespread corruption
within the state administration, the judiciary and other
parts of society. The government has said it will give
priority to combating corruption, and in Transparency
International's index of corruption in the world,
Ethiopia in 2019 was ranked 96th out of 180 countries
(see full list here). It was a whole 20 investments
better than the year before.
Freedom of expression and media
In Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index for
2019, Ethiopia climbed as many as 40 rankings, from
150th out of 180 countries in 2018 to 110th. It was the
biggest improvement that any country has achieved that
year. The main reason was that all imprisoned
journalists were released through the 2018 amnesty law
(see below). In the 2020 Freedom of Press Index, the
positive trend continued when Ethiopia was ranked 99
(see full list here).
The constitution guarantees freedom of the press and
opinion, but the reality for a long time looked
different. The media space for a long time was heavily
circumscribed. Anti-terror laws were used to imprison
journalists. Media workers could be prosecuted for
violating or slandering government officials, even
though they have not reported complaints themselves.
Sometimes, fines that were so high that journalists
remained in custody were fined because they could not
pay. Others were sentenced to prison. Newspapers often
risked bankruptcy if they were prosecuted.
Both Swedish freelance journalists Johan Persson and
Martin Schibbye were arrested in 2011 and sentenced to
eleven years in prison for, among other things,
conspiracy with ONLF, which was then labeled as a
terrorist organization (see Political system). They had
entered the closed Ogaden with the help of ONLF, to
report on the difficult conditions for refugees there.
The Swedes were pardoned a little over a year after they
were arrested, but convictions continued to be handed
out to domestic journalists for similar crimes.
Nowadays, newspapers and magazines can express
different kinds of opinions, and digital media is used
as a discussion forum. Journalists are less exposed to
the influence of authorities and holders of power than
before. Before the spring of 2018, the government made
frequent use of the opportunity to filter the news
stream, and also block satellite broadcasts from abroad.
The state owns the only national TV station and almost
all radio channels.
In February 2020, Ethiopia adopted a team against
hate against ethnic groups. A conviction can result in
high fines and up to two years in prison. If the heat
leads to a physical attack, five years in prison can be
sentenced. Human rights groups, such as Human Rights
Watch (HRW), warned that the law could be exploited to
undermine freedom of expression. The law criminalizes
rhetoric that fuels discrimination "by individuals or
groups on the basis of nationality, ethnicity, religion,
gender or disability".
Judicial system and legal security
According to the constitution, the judicial system
should be independent, but in practice the government
exercises considerable influence over the courts. Human
rights are guaranteed in the Constitution but are not
always respected. There are details of torture and
extrajudicial executions. The death penalty is punished
but rarely enforced. Until spring 2018, it was common
for government critics and dissenters to be arrested and
detained for long periods, and then released without
Military brutality has also affected regime opponents
and protesters, and sometimes entire groups. According
to Human Rights Watch , the armed forces have committed
abuses that in some cases can be classified as war
crimes or crimes against humanity.
It is unclear how many political prisoners there are
in the country. In July 2018, however, a new law was
passed that gives individuals and groups who are
investigated or convicted of treason, armed insurrection
or violation of the Constitution the right to apply for
amnesty. Six months after the law was introduced,
according to the prosecutor, more than 13,000 people had
received amnesty with the support of the law.
The conditions in prisons and detention are described
as very bad. In September 2018, the Abiy government
closed the notorious Central Prison ("Jail Ogaden")
prison in Somali state. The prison was run by the state
government and was surrounded by allegations of gross
abuse and human rights violations against the prisoners.
After a twelve-year war criminal trial, former
dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam and 57 others charged
with genocide and crimes against humanity during the
military regime 1974-1991 were convicted in December
2006 (see Modern History). Mengistu was sentenced in
2008 in his absence, after an appeal, to death. A
further 20 of those convicted were abroad. Between
100,000 and 200,000 Ethiopians are estimated to have
been killed under the Mengistur regime.
The border commission is closed down
The UN Border Commission set up after the war against Eritrea is closed down.
Eritrea accepts the proposed border crossing, but Ethiopia does not.
Ethiopia celebrates the turn of the millennium
Ethiopia celebrates the turn of the millennium according to the calendar of
the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (see Customs and customs).
Dozens of opposition leaders are pardoned
Thirty opposition leaders are sentenced to life imprisonment for treason in
connection with election-related violence in 2005 (see December 2005).
Eight defendants are sentenced to shorter prison sentences. In the past, dozens
of defendants have been acquitted. All the convicted are fairly immediately
pardoned by the president after taking on some guilt for the unrest.
Military offensive in Ogaden
The Ethiopian military is carrying out a major offensive in the
Somali-dominated area of Ogaden since the separatist guerrilla ONLF attacked
an oil plant and killed 74 people, including nine Chinese.
Mengistu is sentenced to life for genocide
Former dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam is sentenced in his absence to life
imprisonment for genocide and crimes against humanity during the military regime
1974-1991 (see Modern History). Of the original 73 co-defendants, a number have
died and many are abroad. When the verdict falls, 33 people are in place. Most,
like Mengistu, receive life imprisonment.