Ethiopia releases 1,500 prisoners in eastern Somali region

Police officers on patrol in Addis Ababa. Ethiopia has released more than 6,000 prisoners since January, including some high-profile journalists and opposition leaders. (Reuters)
Updated 22 February 2018
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Ethiopia releases 1,500 prisoners in eastern Somali region

NAIROBI: Ethiopia has released more than 1,500 prisoners in its eastern Somali region, government officials said on social media, days after the government declared a state of emergency to try to tamp down unrest in Africa’s second most populous nation.
“On Wednesday, over 1,500 prisoners were released following a pardon by President Abdi Mohammed Omer,” the Somali Region’s communications bureau said on Facebook late on Wednesday, referring to the regional president.
“The inmates had been jailed on charges that include anti-peace activities,” it added, without giving details.
Ethiopia has already released more than 6,000 prisoners since January, including some high-profile journalists and opposition leaders. They were charged with a variety of offenses, including terrorism.
Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said the releases were designed to increase “political space” in Ethiopia following anti-government protests that began in 2015.
Hundreds of people were killed during two years of protests that convulsed the country’s two most populous provinces, whose ethnic Oromo and Amharic communities complain they are under-represented in the country’s corridors of power.
Friday’s declaration of a six-month-long state of emergency followed Hailemariam’s surprise resignation on Thursday. He remains in office, overseeing the region’s biggest economy, until a new prime minister is appointed.
The government previously imposed a state of emergency in October 2016, which was lifted in August 2017. During that time, curfews were in place, movement was restricted and about 29,000 people were detained. It’s unclear how many remain in prison.


Thousands march in Brussels against UN migration pact

Updated 30 min 1 sec ago
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Thousands march in Brussels against UN migration pact

  • The UN pact was agreed in July by all 193 UN members except the United States, but only 164 formally signed it at the meeting last Monday

BRUSSELS: Thousands of people marched in Brussels on Sunday against a UN pact aimed at fostering cooperation on migration, eclipsing a smaller demonstration in support of the deal, the signing of which brought down Belgium’s government last week.
Police said some 5,500 people marched in the bigger protest, organized by Flemish right wing parties in the part of the capital where main European Union institutions are located.
A separate counter-demonstration of around 1,000 people, organized by left-wing groups and non-governmental organizations, took place in the city center.
Belgian right-wing N-VA, which is the biggest party in parliament, pulled its ministers from the ruling coalition last week after Prime Minister Charles Michel refused its demand that he not sign the UN migration compact in Marrakesh.
Michel had secured a large parliamentary majority in favor of maintaining Belgium’s support of the UN text, with support from the opposition socialists and greens. Critics said the N-VA’s move was the opening shot in a campaign before federal elections in May.
The UN pact was agreed in July by all 193 UN members except the United States, but only 164 formally signed it at the meeting last Monday.
It has run into criticism from European politicians who say it could increase immigration to Europe as the bloc has turned increasingly restrictive on accepting refugees and migrants alike since a 2015 spike in arrivals.
Ten countries, mostly in formerly Communist Eastern Europe, have pulled out of the non-binding pact.
With a record 21.3 million refugees globally, the United Nations began work on the pact after more than one million people arrived in Europe in 2015, many fleeing civil war in Syria and poverty in Africa.