Ethiopia's reaction to post-election unrest "was necessary"

dpa German Press Agency
Published: Monday October 30, 2006

Addis Ababa- An inquiry into post-election violence in Ethiopia has cleared the government of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of any wrongdoing in the conflict, which saw 193 killed and hundreds detained and injured. The report released to parliament on Monday was the work of a commission established in December to determine whether excessive force had been used by the state.

It was also to determine whether human rights were violated during violent post-election disturbances for several days in June and November in the capital Addis Ababa and several other cities.

"The actions taken by the security forces to control the violence was a legal and necessary step to protect the nascent system of government and stop the country from descending into a worse crisis and possibly never ending violence upheaval," the report concluded.

The death toll matched the number leaked to media ahead of the formal presentation of the report on Monday. Opposition parliamentarians questioned the impartiality of the report on Monday.

Ethiopia has come under fire from the EU and human rights groups for its tainted democratic record. This month, two EU delegates were expelled from the country for allegedly trying to smuggle an Ethiopian lawyer across the border to Kenya.

Last year's disturbances came during street demonstrations over alleged fraud during the mid-May third multi-party elections.

The commission's tally of 193 is more than triple the number of deaths reported by government authorities, which was around 60. The independent local press and the foreign media reported the death toll at close to 90.

The government blamed the main opposition, the Coalition for Unity and Democracy Party (CUDP), for instigating and inciting public demonstrations over alleged election fraud when it failed to win the poll. Over 100 party leaders and supporters are on trial on charges of sedition, attempting to overthrow the government and genocide.

The CUDP leaders denied the accusations and claimed they are "prisoners of conscience" over their political differences with Zenawi's ruling EPRDF party.

Only five of the 10 commissioners who tabled the report were in parliament on Monday. Two have fled the country, and the location of the other three was unknown.

© 2006 dpa German Press Agency