June 29, 2016
On 28 June 2016, Julie Ward MEP (S&D) and the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), together with the Peoples Alliance for Freedom and Democracy (PAFD), organised a roundtable discussion at the European Parliament. Participants agreed that Ethiopia’s oppression policies can be put to an end only through dialogue and joint action of all marginalised and suppressed peoples in the country, and highlighted the importance of support from democratic platforms, such as the European Parliament, in this process.
The latest in a series of initiatives and events on human rights in Ethiopia jointly organised by UNPO and Julie Ward MEP, this roundtable sought to introduce the PAFD – a pan-Ethiopian alliance founded in October 2015 – to European policy-makers and other interested parties. To that end, representatives of PAFD presented the alliance’s goals and guiding principles and provided updates on the deteriorating human rights situation in Ethiopia. Mr Abdirahman Mahdi, Team Leader of the PAFD International Relations Bureau, drew attention to the opportunities that PAFD can offer and elaborated on why it is only through the concerted effort of all of Ethiopia’s suppressed groups that democratic change and freedom for all Ethiopians can be brought about. Dr Baro Keno Deressa, in turn, gave a chilling account of how the Ethiopian government continues to harass, forcefully disappear, torture and kill ordinary Ethiopians with impunity, stressing that urgent action and strong alliances are needed to put an end to the immense suffering of Ethiopia’s marginalised peoples.
Julie Ward MEP highlighted the importance of giving a voice to the voiceless and reiterated her commitment to supporting the peoples of Ethiopia in their quest for the respect of human rights. UNPO General Secretary Mr Marino Busdachin underlined the challenge encountered by the EU in ensuring that development funds to Ethiopia actually reach the beneficiaries, rather than being misused by the government. Ana Gomes MEP (S&D), who also attended the event, concurred, stressing that the EU cannot shirk its responsibility, calling it “unacceptable that the EU is turning a blind eye to the situation” and urging the European Parliament to be bolder and more outspoken on this issue.
All speakers could agree that the January 2016 EP resolution condemning the crackdown on peaceful Oromo protesters was a much-needed and overdue step in the right direction, but at the same time acknowledge that this is only one avenue of supporting Ethiopia’s democratisation process. Above all, unity and an accommodating plan of action must come from within, which confirms the significance of alliances such as PAFD. Overall, while this roundtable opened up space for awareness raising and discussion, the lively debate confirmed that much more needs to be done to promote peaceful dialogue on the democratic and inclusive future of Ethiopia.