On 6th September 2019, Maekelawi, the infamous police station in the heart of Addis Ababa, was opened for the first time to the publicand former detainees. Most of those who were detained there were those perceived to hold views critical of government, including journalists. For years, Maekelawi had been synonymous with abuse and repression, and will likely be re-purposed as a museum. Human Rights Watch noted that the re-opening was an opportunity for the government to initiate necessary plans to hold accountable those responsible for human rights violations and also bring justice to the victims.

On 24th August 2019, Ethiopia’s parliament passed a new election law ahead of elections scheduled for May 2020. The opposition parties however said the changes make it more difficult for them, and threatened to boycott the election. Some of the amendments made include raising the number of signatures to register a national party to 10,000, up from 1,500 while regional parties will need 4,000 signatures, up from 750, and banning public servants from vying for election. Fifty-seven opposition parties said their proposals were ignored by parliament, whose current members are all from the ruling coalition, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). The opposition parties were opposing the proposal to ban public servants from vying for office.

In mid-August, the Ethiopian government launched a five-year national roadmap to end child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM). The advancement of women’s rights remains an issue due to rigid social norms that often prevent their active participation in public life despite some recent positive developments in the country. Women also often lack access to justice, especially in cases of FGM and sexual and gender-based violence.

Peaceful Assembly

On 25th October 2019, it was reported that protests which began against prime minister Abiy Ahmed erupted into chaos and ethnic violence in Addis Ababa and the Oromia region leaving at least 67 people dead. Violence began after the protest leader, Jawar Mohammed, accused Abiy of acting like a dictator and suggesting he might challenge him in elections planned for next year. Jawar is credited with helping to sweep Abiy to power last year but later became critical of some of the prime minister’s policies. At the time of writing this update, latest reports indicated that at least 400 people had been arrested as authorities embarked on investigations, while the number of those killed had risen to 78.

Expression

In September 2019, popular political satire show, Min Litazez was taken off the air. The show took on current political issues such as government inefficiency, ethnic nationalism and authoritarianism during the three seasons it had been on air, but often faced temporary suspensions and attempts to censor some of its content.The series creators however said they were determined to restart production as soon as possible.