Dissent =? Terrorism

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On September 6th, the Ethiopian government arrested 29 people on alleged terrorism charges.  This news was widely covered including on Al Jazeera and other news outlets. One of the people that commented in these articles, Andualem Arage, is now in jail under terrorism charges himself. Along with Andualem, Eskinder Nega, who writes regularly on Ethiomedia, and three others have also been arrested. Today’s arrests follow others in recent days where the government has detained two swedish journalists as well as Ato Debebe Eshetu  – all alleged to be involved in “terrorism.”

The government’s definition of terrorism is expansive enough to be meaningless. The mention of the Arab spring in news articles and its appearance in Eskinder’s essays seem to have rattled the government’s nerves.  Back in February, I had thought that something similar to the Arab spring was unlikely to happen in Ethiopia on account of the size of the urban population.  But perhaps the government thinks otherwise.  Rising inflation and the government’s inability to control it may prove to be the catalyst that ignites the simmering frustrations just below the surface.

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