The head of Ethiopia’s national human rights commission said Thursday that President Abiy Ahmed’s government is detaining members of the ethnic Oromo people on the grounds of ethnicity and has failed to allow the rights body to carry out a thorough investigation.
Alia Osman, a former constitutional official under President Meles Zenawi, told journalists at the Human Rights Council in Addis Ababa, the capital, that the government has been detaining people it perceives as being opposed to its reforms.
“They are arresting individuals who are member of different ethnic groups, who are opposed to the efforts to put Ethiopia on the path of democracy,” she said.
Asked how many people are being detained and for what reasons, Osman did not give details. She added that President Abiy has done “everything within his mandate” to improve Ethiopia.
Osman also said the commission will soon submit a report on how many Ethiopians are in detention in unnamed camps to the human rights council.
Ethiopia, a Horn of Africa nation of 100 million people, has the highest population growth rate in the world. About 60 percent of people are ethnic Oromos, and many live in areas the government refers to as Oromia. The Tigray-dominated People’s Liberation Front has ruled the nation for decades.
Ethiopia’s government has been in talks with the Oromo rebel group, the Oromo Federalist Congress, to settle a three-year standoff. It has held talks with opposition groups led by Amhara, Garo and Tigrinya. But Oromos and the Amhara say the Ethiopian government is not listening to their concerns and hasn’t been allowing them to hold meetings with the government.
Abiy, a 36-year-old former army officer, ousted Ethiopia’s first Oromo president, Mulatu Teshome Wirtu, in April, and has promised to implement change and revive an economy crippled by endemic corruption.
The United States on Tuesday expressed concern about the detention of youths and farmers, students and members of the opposition and said it was monitoring the situation.