Washington says ethnic violence and the detentions of opposition figures will raise doubts about the credibility of the vote.
The United States has raised concerns ahead of the Ethiopia election, saying ethnic violence and the detentions of opposition figures will raise doubts about the credibility of the vote.
The second most populous country in Africa is organizing elections on June 21 in which Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who came to power in 2018 with the promise to break with the authoritarian past, is seeking a new term.
But the reputation of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate has been tarnished as he led a military campaign in the Tigray region, where the United Nations on Friday warned that tens of thousands of children risk of famine.
“The United States is gravely concerned about the environment in which these upcoming elections are to be held,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement on Friday.
“The detention of opposition politicians, the harassment of the independent media, the partisan activities of local and regional governments and the numerous inter-ethnic and inter-community conflicts across Ethiopia are obstacles to a free and fair electoral process and to the issue whether the Ethiopians would perceive them as credible, “he said.
“The exclusion of large segments of the electorate from this competition due to security concerns and internal displacement is particularly troubling.
Ethiopian elections continue after two delays. Last year, election officials pushed back polls due to the coronavirus pandemic, then delayed the June 5 vote due to logistical issues.
The United States, Ethiopia’s historically allies, has expressed growing impatience with Abiy and the handling of the conflict in Tigray.
Fighting in Tigray erupted in November 2020 between government troops and the region’s former ruling party, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Tigray (TPLF).
The TPLF led the coalition that ruled Ethiopia for nearly 30 years until Abiy came to power following street protests. Abiy further alienated the TPLF by making peace with longtime enemies, Eritrea upon taking office, and tensions were mounting.
Although Abiy has promised that military operations in Tigray will be brief, nearly seven months later, fighting continues, reports of atrocities proliferate and world leaders warn of a humanitarian catastrophe.
The violence has killed thousands of civilians and forced some two million from their homes in the mountainous region.
In July last year, security forces arrested Jawar Mohammed, an opposition figure and fierce critic of the Prime Minister, after deadly protests following the murder of popular musician Hachalu Hundessa in Addis Ababa.
In September, the authorities filed terrorism charges against Jawar and several leading activists. Jawar’s lawyers have repeatedly claimed that he was locked up because of his political views and demanded his release.