Published: Sat, January 13, 2018
People | By Leon Thompson

Ethiopia to free jailed politicians to 'foster national reconciliation' - PM

Ethiopia to free jailed politicians to 'foster national reconciliation' - PM

Martin Plaut is a journalist specialising in the Horn of Africa and Southern Africa, and senior research fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies.

Several dissident politicians have since been jailed having been charged with involvement in terrorism and collusion with the secessionist Oromo Liberation Front, which the government has branded a terrorist group.

Hailemariam Desalegn, the country's prime minster, issued the order, as part of what he said was an effort "to create a national consensus and widen the democratic space for all".

In what appears to be a concrete answer to the preoccupations of the public, the Ethiopian government had been undertaking various measures over the past two and half years, which include a large scale anti-corruption investigation and arrest of government officials.

"Also, the notorious prison cell that was traditionally called Maekelawi, will be closed down and turned into a museum".

The government in Addis Ababa has been denying imposing political restrictions.

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Defense Minister Siraj Fegessa said in August that more than 29,000 people were arrested during a 10-month state of emergency that ended that month, Reuters reported.

Hailemariam made his announcement after the ruling EPRDF coalition concluded a weeks-long meeting meant to thrash out policies to address grievances.

It remains unclear how many political prisoners are being held in the country or when they will be released.

Human rights groups have accused the administration of resorting to mass arrests and detention to suppress opposition.

Ethiopia's government has attempted to downplay the prime minister's announcement.

And in an interview with NPR, Tekle adds that the Ethiopian government is faced with a choice: "My wishful thinking is that there will be reform because through [the] hard way, through crisis and through unrest, the Ethiopian government. has learned that repression is not going to work in Ethiopia".

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