Ottawa must speak out on Ethiopian crackdown

by Selam

Felix Horne, an Ottawa resident, is the senior Ethiopia researcher at Human Rights Watch.

In the past 10 months, Ethiopian security forces have killed at least 500 protesters and detained tens of thousands of people during largely peaceful anti-government demonstrations. In one August weekend alone, security forces gunned down at least 100 protesters.

A few days after that bloody weekend, Canadian officials, including Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, met with Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. A media briefing included pledges from Mr. Sajjan of commitments to future partnerships on peacekeeping, trade and security. There was no condemnation from Canada of the killing of non-violent protesters, nor a call on the Ethiopian government to allow peaceful demonstrations.

The protests began last November in Ethiopia’s largest region, Oromia, in response to the government’s approach to development. Demonstrations spread to the Amhara region and grievances began to focus on long-standing discrimination, questions of ethnic identity and the dominance of those connected to the ruling party in economic and political affairs.

There has been no sign that security forces intend to change their tactics or that the government will offer meaningful concessions, and the protesters have vowed to continue.

In short, Ethiopia is in the middle of a political and human rights crisis that could jeopardize Canada’s long-term interests in the Horn of Africa.

Ethiopian-Canadians have also been protesting in Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary and Saskatoon, keen to challenge Canada’s support for the repressive government. Ethiopia, with 85 million people, was the No. 3 recipient of Canadian aid dollars in 2014-2015.

Foreign agencies and development organizations understand that in exchange for access to Ethiopia, they need to limit and mute their public criticism of the government. As a

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