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Ethiopia

Merkel stresses democracy, pan-African unity in Ethiopia

In Addis Ababa, German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged the Ethiopian government to be wary of using brutal police tactics against demonstrators and called on African Union states to help end the chaos in Libya.

 

Chancellor Angela Merkel called on the Ethiopian government to maintain a sense of proportion when dealing with protests by opposition and rebel groups.

"I say that one should seek dialogue with people who have problems and conduct it openly," Merkel said after meeting Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn in Addis Ababa on Tuesday. 

Merkel also offered German assistance for Ethiopian police training in de-escalation tactics.

Ethiopia has experienced a year of unrest which rights groups say has led to about 500 deaths. The violence prompted the Ethiopian government to declare a nationwide state of emergency on Sunday. 

Dessalegn defended the Ethiopian police saying they "did not use force excessively" and if this had happened there would be an investigation. He said protests by young people had initially been justified because of the high level of unemployment. But then groups with explosives and weapons and the backing of foreign governments had become involved, Dessaslegn said.

Afrika Kanzlerin Merkel in Äthiopien (picture-alliance/dpa/M. Kappeler)

Chair of the AU Commission, Nkosaza Dlamini Zuma, (left) Chancellor Angela Merkel (center) and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn open the new Julius Nyerere complex

Last week, protesters ransacked or torched about a dozen mostly foreign-owned factories, flower farms and other sites, accusing the government of building on seized land and stifling opposition. Opponents of the government blamed police for provoking a stampede at a festival in Oromia that killed at least 55 people on October 2.

The Ethiopian prime minister promised changes to electoral law so that the voices of the opposition would be heard, even if they weren't represented in parliament.           

However a senior opposition figure dismissed this as "too little, too late." 

Opposition parties failed to win a single seat in parliament in the 2015 election, accusing the government of rigging the vote, charges which it denies. There was just one opposition lawmaker in the previous assembly.

Opposition role

Merkel said that opposition was essential in a democracy and an opposition represented in parliament was the best option.  Democracy also involved the exchange of views via the media. Such debates were difficult in a democracy but they were infinitely preferable to outbreaks of violence, Merkel said.  

Äthiopien Tote bei Anti-Regierungs-Protesten in Bishoftu (DW/Y. Gegziabher)

Ethiopian police were blamed for provoking a stampede at a festival in Oromia that killed at least 55 people

  

After meeting members of Ethiopian civil society, Merkel said that "a vibrant civil society was a key part of a developing society."

In a speech at the headquarters of the 53-nation African Union in Addis Ababa, Merkel urged the countries of Africa to work closer together. "Africa is gaining in global significance and it is therefore important that African states represent their own interests with the greatest possible unity and harmony," she said.

Merkel opened  a new "peace and security" complex at the African Union headquarters, named after Tanzania's first president, Julius Nyerere. Warming to her theme of "peace and security," Merkel said Libya was a tragic example of what happened when the apparatus of state collapsed. "It is therefore important to focus one's energy on stabilizing Libya. The African Union must utlilize its influence so that a solution to the conflict is found," the German chancellor said.     

 

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