Assistant Secretary and Department Spokesperson, Bureau of Public Affairs
October 12, 2016
The United States takes note of the Government of Ethiopia’s October 8 declaration of a State of Emergency in response to recent protests and violence in the Oromia and Amhara regions. We are troubled by the potential impact of the decision to authorize detention without a warrant and to further limit freedom of expression, including by blocking Internet access, prohibiting public gatherings, and imposing curfews. This declaration, if implemented in these ways, would further enshrine the type of response that has failed to ameliorate the recent political crisis.
Political pluralism and respect for fundamental freedoms are essential to addressing the legitimate grievances of protesters and other Ethiopians. We reiterate our longstanding call for the Government of Ethiopia to respect its citizens’ constitutionally-guaranteed freedoms of expression and association, and to release those detained for peacefully exercising those rights. Arresting and silencing independent and critical voices is self-defeating and will lead to greater polarization, and makes it harder to find a solution acceptable to all Ethiopians.
We strongly encourage everyone to refrain from committing further acts of violence in Ethiopia. Peaceful dialogue is the path to resolution of Ethiopia’s need for reform. Too many innocent lives have already been lost and too much destruction has already taken place.
We welcome President Mulatu’s October 10 address to Parliament committing the government to addressing some of these grievances – such as land rights, electoral reform, and recognition of the special interest of the Oromia region in the city of Addis Ababa. We encourage the government to act on these commitments decisively and quickly, and urge it to undertake further comprehensive reforms with the goal of opening political space and ensuring respect for fundamental freedoms and the democratic rights enshrined in the Constitution of Ethiopia. We also note the Prime Minister’s commitment that the state of emergency will not breach human rights protected by the Ethiopian constitution.