Right of reply to Euractiv’s interview with Feyisa Lilesa

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EuractivOn 8 November 2016, Euractiv published an interview with Feyisa Lilesa with the title «Olympics dissident: Ethiopia could ‘become another Libya’». During this interview, Feyisa Lilesa accuses the Ethiopian authorities of killing at least 1,000 demonstrators, of «trying to create tensions between the Amhara and Tigray» and of leading the country to a similar situation than Libya.

Though Feyisa Lilesa has the right to share his opinion about the situation in Ethiopia, it is important to give a nuanced view of the reality in the country.

The exact number of demonstrators who died during the protests is still investigated by the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC). A previous report by EHRC in June 2016 on the unrests that started in November 2015 established that the measures taken by the defense forces and the federal police in collaboration with the public to control the situation were proportionate, though in some specific cases security forces used excessive force to control the violence. According to this report, 173 people died including 14 members of the security forces and another 14 public administrators. Following this report, the Ethiopian Prime Minister H.E. Hailemariam Desalegn has shared the regrets of the government for the avoidable deaths which occurred despite the professional conduct of security forces.

Furthermore, the claim that the Ethiopian authorities are «trying to create tensions between the Amhara and Tigray» is not grounded in reality. Each region is self-administrated, and the national Parliament, the government cabinets and other institutions are representing the different peoples according to their size. With more than 80 ethnic groups in the country, the authorities have no better option than insuring peaceful coexistence between the different communities and exercising democracy, which has yet a very young history in the country − merely 25 years.

Finally, Feyisa Lilesa is implying that Ethiopia could become «another Libya», probably thereby meaning that the country could fall into chaos and instability. This might in fact precisely be the agenda of extreme anti-peace forces trying to divide the country and take advantage of a situation of chaos which would suit their hidden agendas. Widespread attacks encouraged by some extreme diaspora elements targeting public and private properties, including several foreign investments providing thousands of jobs to local communities testify of this agenda of destruction and chaos. However, the government is fully committed to restore order in the country for the benefit of the citizens and development of the country. The Prime Minister has, in accordance with the Constitution and with the approval of the House of People’s Representatives, announced a State of Emergency beginning of October. Since then, peace and order have been restored throughout the country, and some of the measures have been eased in the meantime, including lifting of travel restrictions for diplomats.

It is to be hoped that the commitment of the authorities and the public will further improve the situation in the country. However, unbalanced and biased comments in the media such as this interview are not helping to advance in this direction.

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