2 Apr 2012 .U.S department of state Diplomacy in action
The Derg’s collapse was hastened by droughts, famine, and insurrections, particularly in the northern regions of Tigray and Eritrea. In 1989, the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) merged with other ethnically based opposition movements to form the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). In May 1991, EPRDF forces advanced on Addis Ababa. Mengistu fled the country for asylum in Zimbabwe, where he still resides.
In July 1991, the EPRDF, the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), and others established the Transitional Government of Ethiopia (TGE), composed of an 87-member Council of Representatives and guided by a national charter that functioned as a transitional constitution. In June 1992, the OLF withdrew from the government; in March 1993, members of the Southern Ethiopia Peoples’ Democratic Coalition left the government.
In May 1991, the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF), led by Isaias Afwerki, assumed control of Eritrea and established a provisional government. This provisional government independently administered Eritrea until April 23-25, 1993, when Eritreans voted overwhelmingly for independence in a UN-monitored free and fair referendum. Eritrea, with Ethiopia’s consent, was declared independent on April 27. The United States recognized its independence the next day.
In Ethiopia, President Meles Zenawi and members of the TGE pledged to oversee the formation of a multi-party democracy. The election for a 547-member constituent assembly was held in June 1994. The assembly adopted the constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia in December 1994. The elections for Ethiopia’s first popularly chosen national parliament and regional legislatures were held in May and June 1995. Most opposition parties chose to boycott these elections, ensuring a landslide victory for the EPRDF. International and non-governmental observers concluded that opposition parties would have been able to participate had they chosen to do so. The Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia was installed in August 1995.
In May 1998, Eritrean forces attacked part of the Ethiopia-Eritrea border region, seizing some Ethiopian-controlled territory. The strike spurred a 2-year war between the neighboring states that cost more than 70,000 lives. On June 18, 2000, Ethiopian and Eritrean leaders signed an Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities and on December 12, 2000, a peace agreement known as the Algiers Agreement.
Opposition candidates won 12 seats in national parliamentary elections in 2000. In controversial national elections in May 2005, the opposition was awarded 170 of 547 seats but claimed fraud; violence ensued. Ethiopian security forces responded and in the process killed more than 200 people, arrested scores of opposition leaders, as well as journalists and human rights advocates, and detained tens of thousands of civilians for up to 3 months in rural detention camps. In December 2005, the government charged 131 opposition, media, and civil society leaders–including the prominent opposition leader Birtukan Mideksa, a former judge and the vice-chairperson of the opposition Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) party–with capital offenses including “outrages against the constitution.” Birtukan was sentenced to life imprisonment, though she and other key opposition leaders and the majority of the 131 arrested were pardoned and released from prison 18 months later. The opposition largely boycotted local elections in 2008 with the result that EPRDF won more than 99% of all local seats.
In June 2008, Birtukan was elected the party chairman of the new Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ) party at its inaugural session in Addis Ababa. In October 2008, the Ethiopian Government arrested more than 100 Oromo leaders, accusing some of being members of the outlawed Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). At the end of December 2008, after briefly detaining Birtukan several times during the month, the government re-arrested her, saying she had violated the conditions of her summer 2007 pardon. Her original sentence of life imprisonment was reinstated and she remained in prison until she was pardoned again and released on October 6, 2010.
In April 2009, the Ethiopian Government arrested 41 individuals, mostly Amhara military or ex-military members allegedly affiliated with external opposition party Ginbot 7, for suspected involvement in a terrorist assassination plot of government leaders. The Ginbot 7 party was founded in May 2008 in the United States by Berhanu Nega, one of the opposition leaders in the 2005 elections, and advocates for change in the government “by any means.” In August 2009, the Federal High Court found 13 of the defendants guilty in absentia and one not guilty in absentia. In November 2009, the court found another 27 guilty.
In simultaneous national and regional parliamentary elections in May 2010, the ruling EPRDF won more than 99% of all legislative seats in the country. In a tally of the popular vote, 91.95% voted for EPRDF and affiliate parties, while only 8.05% voted for the opposition countrywide. Election day was peaceful as 89% of registered voters cast ballots, but independent observation of the vote was severely limited. Only European Union and African Union observers were permitted, and they were restricted to the capital and barred from proximity to polling places. Although those few independent observers allowed access to the process did not question the EPRDF victory, there was ample evidence that unsavory government tactics–including intimidation of opposition candidates and supporters–influenced the extent of the victory.
Observers declared the 2010 elections not up to international standards because an environment conducive to free and fair elections was not in place. According to observers, the EPRDF used the advantage of incumbency to restrict political space for opposition candidates and activists. At the local level, thousands of opposition activists complained of EPRDF-sponsored mistreatment, ranging from harassment in submitting candidacy forms to beatings by local militia members, and complained further that there was no forum free of EPRDF control to which to present those complaints.
In June 2011, the Ethiopian parliament officially designated five groups as terrorist organizations under Ethiopian law, including the OLF, the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), Ginbot 7, al-Qaida, and al-Shabaab. Later in 2011, the Ethiopian Government arrested large numbers of activists, journalists, and political leaders for alleged involvement in terrorist activities and charged many of them under Ethiopia’s controversial 2009 anti-terrorism proclamation. In December 2011, two Swedish journalists were sentenced to 11 years in prison on charges of entering Ethiopia illegally and allegedly supporting the ONLF.
On January 26, 2012, the Federal High Court sentenced Elias Kifle, a blogger, to life imprisonment in absentia; Zerihun Gebre Egziabhier, Chairman of Ethiopian National Unity Party, to 17 years in prison; Wubishet Taye, deputy editor-in-chief of a local newspaper, to 14 years; Reeyot Alemu, a columnist, to 14 years; and Hirut Kifle, a political activist, to 19 years, for conspiring and attempting to commit terrorist acts and participation in a terrorist organization. for more reading