Addis Abeba, February 25, 2018 – The US embassy in Addis Abeba said the US “stands by its statement” strongly disagreeing with Ethiopia’s re-reinstatement of a six month state of emergency.
A local newspaper, the Amharic biweekly Reporter and its English weekly version reported that a meeting between Michael Raynor, US’s ambassador to Ethiopia, and Ethiopian officials at the ministry of foreign affairs has taken place after the ministry summoned the ambassador demanding an explanation on the statement the US embassy condemning the state of emergency.
The statement by the embassy, which was released on February 17, said that the US “strongly disagree[s] with the Ethiopian government’s decision to impose a state of emergency that includes restrictions on fundamental rights such as assembly and expression.”
However, the local newspaper asserted that “the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has called the US Ambassador demanding explanation in regards to the statement issued by the Embassy.” Quoting its anonymous sources, the newspaper further referred to the ambassador as saying to the ministry’s officials that “he [Ambassador Raynor] did not mean to cause any harm and he will commit to closely work with the government in the future.”
Addis Standard received a clarification on whether or not the ambassador has said what was attributed to him and that if the US was reversing or softening its statement condemning the state of emergency.
Nick Barnett, US Embassy Spokesperson, said that “the embassy was not asked to comment” on the claims published in the newspaper and that “the alleged quote do not reflect our position; we stand by our statement,” the spokesperson said in a phone interview.
However, the spokesperson confirmed that a meeting did indeed take place between Ambassador Raynor and officials from the ministry. He also didn’t dispute the account that the state of emergency was a topic of discussion, but clarified the point that the US still stands by its strong disagreement with Ethiopia regarding the state of emergency.
Ethiopia announced the latest round of state of emergency a day after the unexpected resignation of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn.
In its statement that was released soon after, the US said it recognizes “the challenges facing Ethiopia, whether to democratic reform, economic growth, or lasting stability,” but said these were “best addressed through inclusive discourse and political processes, rather than through the imposition of restrictions.” The statement further said that a state of emergency undermines recent positive steps [by the Ethiopian government] toward creating a more inclusive political space, including the release of thousands of prisoners, and cautioned that “restrictions on the ability of the Ethiopian people to express themselves peacefully sends a message that they are not being heard.”
Although more considerate than the US, the state of emergency has drawn widespread criticism and reservations from many of Ethiopia’s traditional western allies including the EU, The UK, Germany, Norway and Sweden.
However, Ethiopia has stood by its decision to impose a six month state of emergency, and on Wednesday Feb 21, Siraj Fegessa, minister of defense, who is also the chair of the command post established to oversee the state of emergency, outlined details of the decree, including restrictions on unauthorized public gatherings and a gag on regional authorities from discussing security issues of their respective regions with media without the permission of the command post. Unlike the 2016 -17 SoE, the fresh decree also restricted citizens from speaking to the media criticizing its provisions and implementations.