Former U.S. Diplomat Calls for Free and Fair Elections in Ethiopia

 Is it possible to have a free and fair election in any African country, let alone in Ethiopia?
The Ethiopian government is currently taking unprecedented steps to restrict political space for the opposition through intimidation and harassment, tighten its control over civil society, and curtail the activities of independent media. All signs ahead of the election day shows an environment conducive to free and fair elections are not in place.

By James Butty,

FORMER U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Herman Cohen said Ethiopia should not be afraid to have free and fair elections or a free press.

Cohen said the government is doing good things that it can win an election on, such as creating jobs, carrying on infrastructure development and boosting trade. But he cautioned that the government has made no move to implement his suggestions. 

“Ethiopia, I believe, should open up more toward multiparty democracy. Right now, you have opposition parties that exist, but they really do not have much access to the public. The press really does not give them much voice, and journalists have been imprisoned for saying things that the government doesn’t like. So, I think it’s time for the government to loosen up because they are doing good things in Ethiopia,” he said.

But Berhanu Nega, professor of economics at Bucknell University and former leader of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy in Ethiopia, said the government can never have free and fair elections.

“The reason why there’s so much repression, the reason why there’s so much muzzling of the press, the reason why the Ethiopian government is arresting opposition figures inside the country is precisely because they know that this is a despised government. It cannot last a day in an environment of freedom. This is a government that will lose catastrophically if there were [a] free and fair election,” Nega said.

Is it possible to have a free and fair election in any African country, let alone in Ethiopia? Is this the type of “democracy” we are forced to install? Sorry, System incompatible! Installation aborted! Thank you.