It isn’t that often that Ethiopia makes it into the news these days — and now when it does, it’s not for the right reasons. I spent two years of my life in Addis Ababa and the hinterlands of Ethiopia at a time when the country was Africa’s equivalent to Cuba — a hardline communist regime with thousands of Soviet and East German advisors. It emerged from that in the 90’s with something approaching democracy, and there was real hope for a better future. I have a very high regard for Ethiopians, and dwindling high hopes for the future of democracy in this country that has so much potential.
So what’s the deal with arresting Swedish journalists?
Turns out, the two journalists entered the country illegally in July and linked up with the banned Ogaden Liberation Front, a dissident group involved in conflict in the Ogaden region between Ethiopia and Somalia — a conflict that was going on ten years before I got there in the 1980’s, and is still going on. They claimed that their reason for linking up with the rebels was that they were preparing a report on a Sweden linked oil company that had operations in the disputed area — getting rebel permission was essential if they were to gain access to the area in question.
Ethiopia, however, has a law that provides the government with extraordinary leeway in determining what constitutes “giving aid to terrorists” — a law that include simply “giving advice”. The government claims that the journalists were putting out propaganda that aided the rebels — and so they seized the journalists, put them on trial, and convicted them. International human rights and journlism watch groups are raising a ruckus; it is unclear what will come of it.
Interesting full article can be read here at the Christian Science Monitor.