According to Countryaah, Ethiopia is one of the largest countries in Africa. In January, Ethiopian security services and police reportedly tracked and arrested 15 people who were said to belong to an Islamist terror group. According to the authorities, they would have been trained by the terror-stamped organization al-Shabaab in Somalia and Kenya and sent to Ethiopia to carry out attacks.
Since Ethiopian troops entered Somalia in 2011 to join the African Union force fighting al-Shabaab, the Islamist group has sworn to avenge the countries that have soldiers in Somalia. In October, authorities reported that two Somali suicide bombers accidentally released their explosive charges on their way to Ethiopia’s World Cup qualifying match against Nigeria. According to the authorities, the goal of the Somalis was the well-stocked stadium in Addis Ababa.
It was reported during the year that al-Shabaab carried out a terrorist attack on a taxi and that the bomb killed four Christian Ethiopians. The regime then warned of increased attacks against civilian Christians, saying it was “very, very important” to raise the level of security.
The country’s Muslims, who make up a third of the population, accused the Christian-dominated regime of interfering with and wanting to control their religious practice and use the terrorist threat as a reason. The regime was accused of directing the election of members to the country’s highest Islamic council and, in collaboration with the council, to try to indoctrinate the people with a new doctrine, al-Ahbash. It goes against the country’s traditional Sufism, rejects political activism and advocates Islamic pluralism. Muslims said they were forced to participate in religious instruction or risk interrogation or police arrest.
The regime, for its part, feared radicalization and accused the Muslim activists of wanting to create an Islamic state in Ethiopia. To silence the repeated Muslim protests, the regime allowed a number of Muslim leaders to arrest and accuse them of terrorist offenses, which led to more protests demanding the release of those arrested. Human rights organizations have reported violence against protesters and the use of anti-terrorism laws and unfair trials to stop peaceful protests and the abuse of Muslim prisoners. When protests were held around the country in early August, the demonstrations blew down bloody in the Oromo region in the south. State media reported that three police officers were killed, but Amnesty International cited testimony that 14 people were shot dead by the military. Other information talked about more dead and hundreds arrested.
The bloody events in Oromo led to mass demonstrations in the capital, Addis Ababa, at the Islamic festival Id al-fitr, when the fasting month of Ramadan ends. New arrests were made, and Amnesty International demanded that the regime immediately stop its repression of peaceful protesters. The regime was also accused by Amnesty of arresting journalists and silent media and of stifling freedom of expression and meeting. Among other things, the Muslim protests had concerned the closure of a Muslim educational institution.
Following a July 2012 protest, 29 people were still facing trial for conspiracy against the state under the country’s anti-terrorism law. The trial was held behind closed doors, and state television claimed that some of the defendants had ties to Islamic extremist groups. The accused said they only demanded their constitutional right to freedom of religion.
Journalists who watched the protests during the year were arrested. Human rights organizations expressed particular concern for one of them, Solomon Kebede, who was held for a long time without access to a lawyer and then prosecuted under anti-terrorism laws. Two opposition parties stated in August that their members were arrested at a number of locations in the country as they gathered signatures to repeal the Anti-Terrorism Act and release political prisoners.
The secular opposition also held major protests during the year. A party formed in 2012, the Blue Party, held its first demonstration in Addis Ababa in June, protesting against corruption, unemployment and high prices. It also called for arrested journalists and political prisoners to be released. A planned new demonstration in September was hampered by police by a scare against the party’s office and the temporary arrest of many party members.
The old Nile conflict arose during the year, when Ethiopia began diverting water from the Blue Nile tributary to the construction of a huge power plant dam. Egypt feared that the dam construction would change the flow of the Nile, and the Egyptian president declared in strong terms that Egypt’s share of the Nile should not decrease. The African Union urged the two neighboring countries to resolve the conflict through talks.
In June, the Ethiopian Parliament ratified a 2010 agreement in which the countries around the Nile agreed that Egypt should no longer have its old veto rights against dam construction and other projects that could affect downstream water inflows.
In October, Mulatu Teshome was elected by Parliament as Ethiopia’s new president. Like his two representatives at the post, he comes from the largest group of people, oromo. The human rights organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported in October that Ethiopian police routinely torture arrested people and use other coercive methods to enforce confessions at interrogations. Former prisoners from the country’s largest detention center Maekelawi testified about inhumane conditions.
Ethiopia’s economy grew by as much as 9.7% in the 2012/2013 financial year. Still, that figure was a disappointment to the government, which calculated 11%. World market prices for Ethiopia’s most important export commodity, coffee, fell by about a third during the year. Ethiopia was in the midst of a five-year plan. with the goal of building about 9,000 km of new roads by 2015. In addition, 500 km of railway will be built by 2020, and in Addis Ababa, Chinese companies worked during the year with three tram lines which were planned to be ready in 2014.