Merkel vis­it­ing Ethiopia as state of emer­gency un­folds

Visit high­lights global mi­gra­tion cri­sis, se­cu­rity is­sues

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel sig­naled sup­port for pro­test­ers de­mand­ing wider free­doms in Ethiopia dur­ing a visit to the coun­try yes­ter­day, say­ing “a vi­brant civil so­ci­ety is part and par­cel of a de­vel­op­ing coun­try.” Merkel’s meet­ing with Prime Min­is­ter Haile­mariam De­salegn had been ex­pected to fo­cus on the coun­try’s newly de­clared state of emer­gency and other is­sues in­clud­ing mi­gra­tion.

Merkel also said Ger­many has of­fered to train po­lice­men in Ethiopia to deal with the demon­stra­tions that have caused this East African coun­try, one of Africa’s best-per­form­ing economies, to de­clare its first state of emer­gency in 25 years. “We are al­ready work­ing in Oro­mia to de-es­ca­late the situation there by of­fer­ing me­di­a­tion be­tween groups,” she said. “I would al­ways ar­gue for al­low­ing peo­ple of a dif­fer­ent po­lit­i­cal opin­ion ... to en­gage with them and al­low them to ex­press their views be­cause, af­ter all, a demo­cratic ex­pe­ri­ence shows that out of these dis­cus­sions good so­lu­tions usu­ally come,” Merkel said.

The Ethiopian prime min­is­ter re­sponded to Merkel by sug­gest­ing his govern­ment may in­crease di­a­logue. “We have short­com­ings in our fledg­ling democ­racy, so we want to go fur­ther in open­ing up the po­lit­i­cal space and engagement with dif­fer­ent groups of the so­ci­ety,” he said. Merkel also said the Ger­man busi­ness com­mu­nity has crit­i­cized the busi­ness cli­mate in Ethiopia and added she hopes the Ethiopian govern­ment will dis­cuss the crit­i­cism openly.

Global host of refugees

Merkel’s African tour, with stops ear­lier this week in Mali and Niger, high­lights the global mi­gra­tion cri­sis and se­cu­rity is­sues. Ethiopia is one of the world’s largest hosts of refugees, with hun­dreds of thou­sands ar­riv­ing from nearby So­ma­lia, South Su­dan and else­where. The Ethiopian leader ap­pealed for Ger­man sup­port to help the refugees. “Ethiopia is one of the global hosts of refugees ... the first in Africa, with 780,000 refugees here. I think Ger­many can sup­port us on this,” Haile­mariam said.

Merkel also in­au­gu­rated the new African Union Peace and Se­cu­rity Coun­cil build­ing that was con­structed with Ger­man fund­ing of 27 mil­lion eu­ros. The head of the con­ti­nen­tal body’s Peace and Se­cu­rity Coun­cil, Is­mael Cher­gui, said dur­ing the in­au­gu­ra­tion cer­e­mony in Ad­dis Ababa that the new build­ing will pro­vide a base for the op­er­a­tion of a con­ti­nen­tal early warn­ing sys­tem and the co­or­di­na­tion of peace­keep­ing mis­sions. The Ethiopian govern­ment de­clared a state of emer­gency Sun­day, faced with wide­spread anti-govern­ment protests. More than 50 peo­ple died last week in a stam­pede af­ter po­lice tried to dis­perse pro­test­ers. The in­ci­dent set off a week of demon­stra­tions in other parts of the coun­try. One Amer­i­can was killed in a rock at­tack. At least 400 peo­ple have been killed in anti-govern­ment protests over the past year, ac­cord­ing to hu­man rights groups and op­po­si­tion ac­tivists.

The pro­test­ers demand more free­doms from the govern­ment ac­cused of be­ing in­creas­ingly author­i­tar­ian. On Mon­day, a day af­ter the govern­ment de­clared the six-month state of emer­gency, Ethiopia’s pres­i­dent an­nounced dur­ing a Par­lia­ment ses­sion that the coun­try’s elec­tion law would be amended to ac­com­mo­date more po­lit­i­cal par­ties and op­pos­ing views. But the coun­try’s in­ter­net ser­vice con­tin­ues to be largely blacked out af­ter last week’s un­rest, which in­cluded the tar­get­ing and burn­ing of both for­eign and lo­cal busi­nesses over sus­pected ties to the govern­ment. The United States and oth­ers have called on the govern­ment to use re­straint against pro­test­ers, and the UN hu­man rights of­fice has asked for ac­cess to al­low in­de­pen­dent ob­servers into the trou­bled Oro­mia re­gion. —AP

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