PM Dr. Abiy told Ethiopian lawmakers era of state sanctioned torture is over

Addis Ababa, June 19, 2018 (GMN) - Ethiopia’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed made a startling admission that government had sanctioned torture of its political prisoners, which he described as unconstitutional.

Abiy was taking questions from members of parliament after he submitted to them a brief of current affairs of the state including recent decisions to privatize the state telecommunications company and the national airline.

When one of the legislators challenged Abiy on the constitutionalism of releasing prisoners, especially those jailed for corruption and terrorism, the prime minister simply said, ‘jailing and torturing, which we did, are not constitutional either’.

Abiy added that terrorism includes the use of force to unconstitutionally stay in power.

“Does the constitution say anyone who was sentenced by a court can be tortured, put in a dark room? It doesn’t. Torturing, putting people in dark rooms, is our act of terrorism,” Abiy reportedly told MPs.

Since taking office in April this year, Abiy has undertaken radical reforms including reaching out to the opposition groups in exile, extending an olive branch to Eritrea by indicating that his government would leave a disputed town and be imitating a process to liberalize the economy.

Earlier this month, Abiy sacked the country’s intelligence and military chiefs. Abiy also appointed a new central bank governor to likely oversee the implementation of economic reforms.

Abiy gives insight to economic reform, diplomatic achievements

The recent two progressive decisions that have aimed at bringing economic reform and peace with Eritrea are part and parcel of ensuring economic growth and lasting peace in the Horn, said Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed.

Presenting a report on country’s current affairs during the Fourth Special Session of the parliament, the Premier said yesterday that despite registering fastest growth, country’s economy needs reform to curb problems relating to inflation, GDP reduction, and unemployment.

Currently, the country’s per capita income has reached 863 USD. However, the economic growth has dropped to one digit and inflation stands at two digits compared to last year’s same period performance.

The country’s trade imbalance between import and export has reached 2.2 percent despite the 0.02 percent increment in commodities export over the past six months in comparison to last year’s same period.

This year, the capital of investment projects has decreased by 7.7 billion USD. Similarly, the decrement in export has triggered the shortage of hard currency. Therefore, controlling contraband and black market as well as improving the quality of products are crucial to curbing the economic impediments that the country is facing now, he noted.

Country’s debt has reached 24.7 billion USD of which 56.1 percent and 43.9 percent shared by the government and public development enterprises respectively. “This has pushed the country to be in the list of a high risk of debt distress nations in the world.”

He, therefore, said that the opening up of some of the public enterprises to the private investment is significant to solve problems related to the persistent shortage of hard currency, unemployment, and poor service provision.

According to him, the country has registered notable diplomatic achievements like the release of overseas Ethiopian prisoners, the enhancement of economic integration, and the acquisition of foreign currency.

Abiy defends Eritrea decision

Defending the decision to end a border dispute with Eritrea, Abiy told parliament it was in the interest of both countries to end the standoff and focus on developing the affected areas.

A border commission empowered by the December 2000 Algiers Agreement which was signed at the end of the war between the two countries ruled that the town of Badme and other disputed territory belonged to Eritrea.

The ruling coalition’s announcement that it would abide by that ruling sparked protests in Badme and several parts of the Tigray region, where residents said they were not consulted and vowed not to voluntarily leave the town. (African News/ Ethiopian Herald)