Ethiopian PM departure brings no change, opposition says

In this file photo taken on August 17, 2017 Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn speaks during a press conference held with the Sudanese President in Khartoum. (AFP)
Updated 17 February 2018
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Ethiopian PM departure brings no change, opposition says

ADDIS ABABA: Ethiopia’s opposition reacted cautiously on Friday a day after the surprise resignation of the prime minister, warning it did not herald real change since the ruling party remains in power.
Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn resigned on Thursday after weeks of anti-government demonstrations and growing splits within the country’s ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) coalition.
With the EPRDF and its allies controlling every seat in Parliament, it is unclear what difference Hailemariam’s departure will make, said prominent opposition leader Merera Gudina, chairman of the opposition Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC).
“What the people are demanding is fundamental change,” Merera told AFP, saying that Hailemariam’s departure was a matter of internal party politics. “So the change of an individual is really the homework for the EPRDF, not the people of Ethiopia.”
However, Merera said he was “cautiously optimistic,” that Hailemariam’s departure could offer an opening for them.
“There are, after all, possibilities... to move forward,” Merera said.
“The EPRDF as an organization has a serious problem and really blocked the democratization of the Ethiopian state and society — and is really responsible for many of its crisis,” he added.
Hailemariam will remain in office until Parliament and the EPRDF coalition confirm his resignation from the most powerful post in Africa’s second most-populous nation.
It remains unclear if his successor will be sympathetic to the protesters’ grievances, or return Ethiopia to the authoritarian governing style of Hailemariam’s predecessor Meles Zenawi, who led the rebels that ousted dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam in 1991.
Merera was released from jail in January, when the government began pardoning and dropping charges against hundreds of prisoners including many high-profile dissidents.
Hailemariam said it was a way “to improve the national consensus and widen the democratic platform.”
The OFC chairman’s release was a key demand of dissidents from the Oromo people, whose campaign of anti-government protests that began in December 2015 are seen as a key reason why Hailemariam resigned.


Arrests follow rape of Indian anti-trafficking activists

Updated 23 June 2018
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Arrests follow rape of Indian anti-trafficking activists

  • At least 60 NGOS in four networks are working on a memorandum asking the state to protect activists
  • More recently it brought in the death penalty for those who rape children under the age of 12 following a national outcry over the gang rape

NEW DELHI: Police have made a series of arrests in connection with the abduction and rape at gunpoint of five anti-trafficking campaigners in the central Indian state of Jharkhand early this week.

Khunti police station officials, where the incident happened, told Arab News that three people have been arrested, including the head of the school where the play was being performed. 

Police superintendent Ashwini Kumar Sinha said a leader of a local movement called Pathalgadi instigated the accused, saying that the play performers were against the movement and should be taught a lesson. 

Pathalgadi is a political movement whose followers recognize their village councils as the only sovereign authority and views all outsiders suspiciously.

Activists working in the area say the incident has left them shocked and worried for their safety.

Earlier this week, nine activists were abducted while performing a street play in Kochang village and driven into a forest, where they were beaten and the women raped.

The activists were from the nonprofit organization Asha Kiran, which runs a shelter in the Khunti district for young women rescued from trafficking. Activists say that while such incidents are rare, the abductions have shaken the community.

“There is definitely fear now,” said Rajan Kumar, of Sinduartola Gramodaya Vikas Vidyalaya, a nonprofit group campaigning against people trafficking in the district. 

“But people have to work. We need to do more to take members of the village council into our confidence.”

Rajiv Ranjan Sinha, of the Jharkhand Anti-Trafficking Network, a coalition of 14 organizations, said the incident has frightened everyone.

“We’ve never had to face this before,” Sinha said. “But it will definitely have an implication. New people will be scared to go into the field.”

On Saturday, several non-profit organizations called for a silent protest march at 10 a.m. in the state capital Ranchi on Sunday.

At least 60 NGOS in four networks are working on a memorandum asking the state to protect activists and to take seriously the issue of violence against women.

“We are not only NGO workers, but we are female also,” a spokeswoman said. “There is a lot of fear among workers now.”

India has a poor record of sexual violence against women — at least 39,000 cases were reported in 2016, the latest government data available. Activists say many more incidents go unreported.

The country changed its rape laws and introduced Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences legislation after the rape and murder of a 19-year-old student in December 2012 in the Indian capital.

More recently it brought in the death penalty for those who rape children under the age of 12 following a national outcry over the gang rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl in the northern state of Kashmir.

The girl was kidnapped, drugged and raped in a temple where she was held captive for several days before being beaten to death.