The State Department web site below is a permanent electronic archive of information released prior to January 20, 2001.  Please see for material released since President George W. Bush took office on that date.  This site is not updated so external links may no longer function.  Contact us with any questions about finding information.

NOTE: External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views contained therein.

Department Seal


TITLE:  ETHIOPIA HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1993                           
DATE:  JANUARY 31, 1994


The Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) 
took power in 1991 at the conclusion of a lengthy civil war 
with the dictatorial regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam and 
established the Transitional Government of Ethiopia (TGE).  The 
EPRDF also organized a National Conference which approved a 
National Charter to function as the Constitution during the 
transitional period.  The TGE, headed by President Meles 
Zenawi, pledged to oversee the establishment of Ethiopia's 
first multiparty democracy, based on a constitution still being 
drafted in 1993.  The TGE projects elections in 1994 for a 
constituent assembly and a new national government.

The Council of Representatives, comprising 65 members, is 
dominated by the four constituent parties of the EPRDF and 
serves as a quasi-legislature.  The EPRDF and, by extension, 
the TGE are dominated by the Tigray People's Liberation Front 
(TPLF), whose members include the President and most key 
officials dealing with national security.  The accession of 
Tigrayans and a policy promoting ethnic identity and 
regionalism have engendered animosity from Amharas who have 
traditionally held centralized power in Ethiopia.  In 1993 the 
TGE continued to implement its planned devolution of authority 
to regional governments and its planned establishment of an 
independent judiciary comprising regional and central courts.  
The TGE has developed warm relations with Eritrea, which 
formally became independent of Ethiopia on May 24, l993.

The EPRDF domination of the Government and the Council of 
Representatives increased following the departure of the major 
non-EPRDF partner in the TGE, the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), 
in June 1992.  The OLF withdrew over the Government's handling 
of the regional elections--which were flawed by numerous 
irregularities, including fraud, harassment, intimidation, and 
political assassination--and the OLF forces took up arms 
against the Government.  In subsequent clashes, the EPRDF 
forces defeated the OLF units and, at the beginning of 1993, 
the TGE held more than 20,000 OLF prisoners in several camps 
(see Section l.d.).  During 1993 most of these detainees were 
released; the remaining 1,200 are to face criminal charges.  
The OLF remains outside the Government; much of its senior 
leadership is abroad. 

The EPRDF military wing serves as both the national armed 
forces and an internal security force during the transitional 
period, although the Government is slowly reconstituting police 
forces to assume internal security responsibilities.  Progress 
was made in improving the professionalism and effectiveness of 
the regional police forces, although not all regions benefited 
equally.  In 1993 there were credible reports that EPRDF 
security personnel--often from the Oromo People's Democratic 
Organization (OPDO)--were implicated in beatings of detainees 
and arrests alleged to be of a political nature.

The Ethiopian economy is based on agriculture, with more than 
85 percent of the population living in rural areas in very poor 
conditions.  Coffee accounts for 60 percent of Ethiopia's 
export revenue.  The TGE is implementing an internationally 
supported economic reform program designed to undo 17 years of 
Marxist rule.  This program includes an important role for the 
private sector, which in 1992-1993 helped stimulate positive 
economic growth for the first time in many years.

In contrast to the Mengistu years, the human rights situation 
in Ethiopia has improved.  The TGE's actions did not match, 
however, its announced respect for human rights.  In the face 
of opposition, it showed increasing intolerance of political 
dissent.  Following the departure of the OLF in 1992, the TGE 
expelled in 1993 four non-EPRDF parties from the Council of 
Representatives.  Opposition political parties made credible 
allegations that they had been intimidated by the authorities, 
for example, by having their offices closed and their staffs 
harassed.  Further, the TGE circumvented the 1992 press law by 
invoking the Criminal Code to harass and intimidate the 
independent press; interfered with peaceful assembly; detained 
briefly officials of the Ethiopian Human Rights Council (EHRC); 
and infringed academic freedom with the firing of 42 university 

The TGE also continued to deny fair public trial to hundreds of 
detainees.  However, in the course of 1993, the Special 
Prosecutor's Office (SPO) released on bail about 1,300 of the 
2,400 detainees held for crimes committed under the previous 
government.  Although the cases are subject to judicial review, 
none had come to trial by year's end. 


Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of officially sanctioned political or 
other extrajudicial killings by TGE security forces or by 
opposition groups during 1993.  However, there were many 
unconfirmed reports of sporadic, low-level fighting between 
EPRDF forces and various opposition groups in the countryside.  
There was no indication of the number of casualties, civilian 
or military, but reports confirmed that government forces took 
prisoners during those exchanges.

There were also reports of killings, some of which involved 
errant members of the security forces in unclear circumstances. 
For example, in April TGE troops killed Tesfaye Meja, the 
brother of a leading member of an opposition party, and placed 
his body on public display in the town of Sodo.  According to 
the TGE and local sources, Tesfaye was a bandit who had 
recently escaped from prison.  According to the TGE and the 
EHRC, there was no official investigation into the 
circumstances of Tesfaye's death.

Security forces used excessive force on several occasions in 
1993.  The TGE overreacted in containing a demonstration for 
which the students had not given prior notification, as 
required by Ethiopian law.  TGE troops encountered the students 
as they emerged from the university grounds, and, in the 
ensuing melee, at least one student was killed.  Unofficial 
accounts by university students, supported by an international 
human rights organization, put the number at about seven.  The 
Ethiopian Human Rights Council confirms one death but believes 
other deaths may have occurred.  A commission to investigate 
this incident was created in March, and, although mandated to 
report its findings within 3 months, the TGE had not made 
public the commission's findings by the end of the year.

In September TGE security personnel used excessive force to 
quell a disturbance at the Gondar municipality, resulting in 13 
confirmed deaths (see Section 2.c.).  The protagonist in the 
incident, Amha Yesus, was subsequently arrested in Addis 
Ababa.  The Gondar police Department was conducting an 
investigation into the matter; the results of this 
investigation were pending at year's end.

     b.  Disappearance

Since the TGE came to power in 1991, its constituent political 
parties have traded charges and countercharges regarding 
politically motivated violence and disappearances throughout 
the country.  An Ethiopian human rights organization alleges 
that dozens of people arrested when the TGE took power are 
still unaccounted for.  According to the TGE, these arrestees 
were included among the thousands of war prisoners taken by the 
EPRDF, most of whom were released after rehabilitation.  Those 
still held are under investigation and awaiting trial accused 
of crimes committed against the civilian population.  

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading
         Treatment or Punishment

The National Charter prohibits torture and mistreatment, and in 
July the Council of Representatives ratified the U.N. 
Convention Against Torture.  Under the TGE, there have been no 
allegations of systematic torture of EPRDF opponents.  
Nevertheless, there were credible reports that in some 
instances security forces, often OPDO, beat suspects believed 
to be associated with the OLF while they were detained at local 
administrative buildings.  As far as is known, no members of 
the security forces had been punished for these offenses by 
year's end.  There was no evidence of beatings or torture at 
the detention camps where OLF forces and supporters are 

In the latter half of 1992 and early 1993, the TGE detained 
large numbers of Oromo militants and former Mengistu officials 
in special centers (see Sections 1.d. and 1.e.).  According to 
firsthand reports, a small number of persons incarcerated in 
these centers--notably the OLF centers--died of endemic 
diseases.  International inspection of the Didessa and Hurso 
centers in October indicated that conditions were not inferior 
to the living conditions of the local population.  However, 
conditions at the Korea camp near Didessa and at some local 
prisons were poor.  The detention centers were also used for 
the political reeducation of opponents.  The curriculum focused 
on the mechanics of the transition, the merits of the National 
Charter, and the virtues of the EPRDF.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The National Charter and both the Criminal and Civil Codes 
prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention as well as exile.  
Nevertheless, there were credible reports of persons being 
detained for expressing anti-TGE views.  In particular, there 
were many reports of harassment and detention of political 
activists in the rural areas.  There were no confirmed reports 
of detentions for political reasons.  

At the beginning of 1993, the TGE held approximately 20,000 OLF 
soldiers and about 2,400 former officials of the Mengistu 
regime (see Section 1.e.) in several detention camps around the 
country.  For the most part, the OLF soldiers and supporters 
had been arrested in 1992 after taking up arms against the 
TGE.  In the spring, the TGE released most of these soldiers 
but subsequently rearrested about 4,000, ostensibly for 
resuming military activity. 

At the end of 1993, according to the TGE, the detention camp at 
Hurso contained about 2,000 people, most of whom were members 
of the OLF.  Of this number, some 800 were accused of serious 
crimes against civilians, while the remainder, many of whom 
were former OLF detainees at Hurso, were accused of possessing 
weapons.  The 1,600 detainess at Didessa were released in 
October and November.  There remain about 400 detainees 
awaiting trial at the nearby Korea camp who are suspected of 
having committed serious crimes while serving in the OLF 

The Government does not practice political exile.  It continued 
to welcome back to Ethiopia exiles from the Mengistu years.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The TGE is currently restructuring its judicial system along 
decentralized lines.  Each of Ethiopia's regions will 
administer local (Woreda), district, and regional courts.  Each 
will also have a Supreme Court which can hear both original 
cases and appeals.  A federal high and Supreme Court system has 
also been created to hear cases involving federal law, 
transregional issues, or national security.  The lack of 
trained personnel in many regions (some have no trained 
attorneys or judges), the serious financial constraints, and 
the absence of a clear demarcation between federal and regional 
jurisdiction have delayed effective implementation of this 

Under the Criminal Procedure Code, any person being held for 
trial is to be appropriately charged and informed of the 
charges against him within 48 hours and be offered release on 
bail.  Those believed to have committed capital offenses, such 
as murder and treason, may be detained for 4 weeks while the 
police conduct an investigation and for 15 days while the 
prosecutor prepares and brings charges against the suspect.  
Trials are public, and defendants have the right to a defense 
attorney.  Ethiopian law does not grant the defense access to 
accusatory material before trial.  Until regional legislatures 
are established to pass laws particular to their region, the 
Criminal Code will remain the same at both the regional and 
federal levels.

Ethiopia also has Shari'a (Islamic) courts which hear religious 
and family cases involving Muslims.  Some traditional courts 
still function in remote areas but are not sanctioned by law.

In 1992 the Council of Representatives issued a proclamation 
declaring the independence of the judiciary from the executive 
branch.  In 1993 Ethiopia's Supreme Court appeared to enjoy 
judicial independence, as evidenced by its reversal of a high 
court decision in a labor case.  The judge who presided over 
the initial case had close associations with the TGE.  There 
were no known cases in 1993 of judges being dismissed or 
transferred for political reasons.  However, there were 
credible reports that Ethiopian courts, particularly in the 
regions, were subject to executive branch political 
interference, especially when EPRDF members were on trial in 
lower courts.  In one region, the administrator convoked high 
court judges and instructed them to be lenient towards EPRDF 
members who might stand trial in their court.

In August 1992, the Government established the Special 
Prosecutor's Office (SPO) to create a historical record of the 
abuses of the Mengistu regime and to bring those criminally 
responsible for human rights violations and corruption to 
justice.  The SPO is investigating the cases of about 2,400 
persons detained on suspicion of having committed serious 
crimes during the previous government's campaigns, including 
the "red terror" campaign and forced resettlement and 
villagization.  In February the Government lifted the 
suspension of the right of habeas corpus, which had been in 
effect since the change of government, and, as a result, all 
these cases became subject to judicial review.  The authorities 
released about 1,300 of the detainees, either on bail or on 
condition that they not leave the country.  None of the 2,400 
had been formally charged or brought to trial by year's end.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or

Judicial search warrants are required by law, but they are 
rarely utilized.  There have been credible reports of people 
being summarily, and illegally, evicted from their residence by 
security forces who possess neither a court order nor the 
consent of the housing authority.  Many ethnic Oromos believe 
that they have been under surveillance.  The TGE admits that it 
monitors the movements of some people suspected of breaking the 
law.  Since the arrival of the TGE to power, forced political 
membership and forced resettlement have been terminated.  As in 
1992, the TGE continues to search private and commercial 
vehicles, as well as private homes, for unlicensed firearms and 

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

Although by May as many as 65 private publications (weekly 
tabloids and monthly magazines) were being sold on the streets 
of Addis Ababa and to a lesser extent elsewhere, the TGE 
sometimes used the controversial Press Law (Proclamation 
34/1992) to curtail press freedom.  The Law purports to support 
press freedom, stating, inter alia, that "censorship ("prior 
investigation" in Amharic) and restrictions...are hereby 
prohibited."  However, the Press Law also gives the Government 
strong prosecutorial powers to ensure that any printed material 
is free from "any criminal offense against the safety of the 
State...any defamation or false accusation against any 
individual, nation/nationality, people, or organization; any 
criminal instigation of one nationality against another or 
incitement of conflict between peoples; and any agitation for 

Against this background, the TGE undertook a number of actions 
that had the effect of curtailing press freedom.  In May the 
police called in the editors of six leading politically 
oriented magazines to discuss the sources of much of their 
material.  In June the authorities seized and destroyed 
selected magazines.  At midyear the Ministry of Information 
prohibited the managements of private publications from 
advertising in the official media, the principal source of 
public information.  In August and September, the police again 
summoned editors for questioning, presumably about articles 
critical of the Government.  In some of these cases, the 
Government did not bring formal charges but warned press 
officials against undertaking "activities against the Press 

Invoking the Criminal Code, the TGE launched prosecutions in 
August against publishers of what it deemed "pornographic" 
magazines.  Late in the year, the authorities confirmed that 
legal proceedings had been instituted against 19 people 
affiliated with 11 publications for violations of the Criminal 
Code.  In some cases, the courts required editors or publishers 
to post bail equivalent to 3 years' salary.  Such harassment 
and intimidation of the private press led to a considerable 
degree of self-censorship by press officials. 

Radio, the most influential medium in reaching the rural 
population, and the sole television station are government 
owned and operated and reflect TGE policies in their 
programming.  The official media devote little coverage to the 
activities of opposition groups and, when given, coverage is 
either negative or neutral, such as reporting on party 

The TGE also acted to restrict academic freedom.  In April it 
discharged 42 professors from their positions at Addis Ababa 
University, informing them that their services were no longer 
needed due to reorganization.  Another 38 professors were 
placed on probation.  The Government dismissed the professors 
without an investigation by relevant university departments or 
the administration as dictated by custom and, in the case of 
tenured professors, by law.  The professors were also denied 
severance pay, and some may lose their pensions.  Credible 
reports indicated that some of the professors were fired for 
expressing antigovernment views.  TGE officials admitted as 
much by stating that some professors were dismissed for 
inappropriately using their classrooms for political purposes.  
The manner of the dismissals has raised questions of procedural 
fairness and academic freedom and has had a chilling effect on 
campus debate.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The National Charter endorses peaceful assembly, freedom of 
association, and the right to engage in unrestricted political 
activity, including the right to organize political parties.  
There are allegations, however, that the TGE and regional 
governments have employed social and economic pressures and 
existing provisions of law to make it more difficult for 
opposition parties to organize.

The TGE Proclamation of August 12, 1991, requires organizers to 
inform authorities of peaceful demonstrations or public 
political meetings 48 hours in advance.  The authorities may, 
and on occasion do, require that the demonstration or meeting 
be held at another location or time for reasons of ensuring 
public order.  Failure to seek authorization was the reason 
given by the TGE for declaring a demonstration by university 
students against the Eritrean referendum in January to be 

The authorities from region 14 (Addis Ababa) withheld 
permission for the All-Amhara People's Organization (AAPO) to 
demonstrate in Meskal Square in July on the grounds that such a 
rally would interfere with traffic and another scheduled 
demonstration (a hunger strike by laid-off maritime authority 
workers demonstrating against the Government).  The AAPO 
rejected as unsatisfactory the alternative sites proposed by 
regional authorities, including the nearby stadium, and 
ultimately decided not to hold the demonstration.

In December local authorities in Region 14 issued a permit for 
an opposition-sponsored gathering called the "Peace and 
Reconciliation Conference" to meet at the government-owned 
Ghion Hotel in Addis Ababa.  About 165 persons assembled for 
the conference, whose conclusions and press conferences 
presented criticisms of the TGE.  Eight conference attendees or 
supporters were arrested by TGE officials after arriving in 
Addis Ababa from abroad.  The arrestees were charged with 
supporting violence against the Ethiopian Government, based on 
their status as leaders of groups allegedly advocating or 
participating in political violence.  The TGE soon released 
three arrestees, two of whom had issued personal statements 
disavowing violence; five arrestees were still detained at 
year's end.

The TGE permits the existence of independent organizations but 
requires associations to have government-issued permits.  The 
Ethiopian Human Rights Council (EHRC) did not receive a permit, 
and the Ethiopian Teachers Association had its permit revoked.

Credible reports from many sources indicated that harassment of 
opposition political parties took place during 1993.  These 
reports indicated that government officials closed some of the 
regional and local offices of opposition groups, often 
monitoring their activities or arresting local members.  
Opposition political groups have encountered many difficulties, 
including fear of government intimidation, in propagating their 
policies anywhere in Ethiopia, especially in the countryside 
where 85 percent of the population lives.  Much of this fear 
stems from the June 1992 elections, which were marked by 
irregularities, harassment, intimidation, and political 
assassination by both government and opposition parties.  Even 
in the larger cities, including Addis Ababa, political activity 
by opposition parties is minimal, although this reflects the 
inexperience and disorganization of opposition parties as much 
as government efforts to curtail opposition political activity.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

The National Charter provides for freedom of religion, 
including the right of conversion, and TGE officials have 
advocated complete freedom of worship.  There is no state 
religion.  Roughly one-half of the population claims to belong 
to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (EOC).  Most of the remainder 
are Muslims who, for the first time in Ethiopia's history, have 
been able to participate fully in Ethiopia's political, 
economic, and social life.  The TGE recognizes both Christian 
and Muslim holidays.

In 1993 the Orthodox Church enjoyed greater autonomy of 
decisionmaking since it no longer had any state-sanctioned 
role.  However, the installation in 1992 of a new Patriarch 
from the same ethnic group as the President has generated much 
internal controversy within the EOC along ethnic lines.  This 
controversy was reflected in physical harassment--including 
attacks with rocks and other missiles and disruption of church 
services--of the Patriarch, Abune Paulos, by Amharic-speaking 
dissidents during his trip to the United States in late 1993.

There were no reports of official discrimination against 
Muslims, non-Orthodox Christians, or Jews.  Nevertheless, 
tensions mounted in 1993 between Muslims and Protestants on the 
one hand, and the Orthodox community on the other.  A hermit 
(an Orthodox prophesier unsanctioned by the EOC) drew a large 
following in Gondar in September by protesting incursions by 
Protestants and Muslims into this traditionally overwhelmingly 
Orthodox region.  His followers ultimately clashed with 
security forces, resulting in deaths and casualties on both 
sides (see Section 1.a.).  The hermit was subsequently arrested 
and at year's end awaited trial in Gondar.  The authorities 
arrested another hermit, Bahatawi Gebre Meskel, twice in March, 
ostensibly for unlawfully entering the grounds of St. George's 
Church.  Unofficial observers have suggested he was arrested 
for preaching against the EPRDF and against Eritrean secession.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

The National Charter recognizes freedom of movement, including 
the right to foreign travel and emigration.  Nevertheless, 
Ethiopian citizens and residents of Ethiopia are required to 
obtain an exit visa before departing, which is issued in most 
cases.  There are exceptions in the cases of persons with 
pending court cases and persons with debts; there are no 
reports of denial of exit visas for political reasons.  Travel 
within Ethiopia is unregulated.  Citizens may freely change 
their residence or workplace.  There are no restrictions on 
travel for women or minority groups.

Virtually all remaining Ethiopian Jews (Falashas) who wished to 
emigrate from Ethiopia did so during 1993.  Almost all of them 
went to Israel.  Some Falash Mora, a group of Ethiopians who 
claim Jewish heritage but have not been accepted as Jews by the 
Israeli Rabbinate, have begun emigrating to Israel under family 
reunification provisions of Israeli law.

In July the TGE deported from Ethiopia a lay group of eight 
Americans and one Israeli for violations of Ethiopian 
immigration law.  They had been operating without a permit, 
educating the Falash Mora in the tenets of Judaism and teaching 
them Hebrew.  The TGE maintained that this conformance with 
Ethiopian law rather than a restriction on religious 
observance.  In November the group was again directed to leave 
Ethiopia, after their application to register as a 
nongovernmental organization was denied because of TGE concerns 
that the group was engaged in sectarian activities (i.e., 
trying to recruit Ethiopians to go to Israel).

Citizens who have left the country are guaranteed the right of 
return.  According to the United Nations High Commissioner for 
Refugees and foreign diplomatic officials, the TGE is fair in 
its treatment of asylum seekers and cooperative on issues 
concerning the repatriation of Ethiopian refugees.  However, 
the TGE has refused to issue valid travel documents to 
Ethiopian citizens living abroad who are facing deportation 
proceedings in their countries of residence.  No problems were 
reported with treatment of refugees.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens
           to Change Their Government

The right of citizens to change their government has yet to be 
exercised in Ethiopia.  The TGE is preparing for a transition 
to multiparty democracy in 1994, but the Constitutional 
Commission charged with drawing up a draft constitution was far 
behind schedule at year's end.  The new constitution will be 
subject to ratification in 1994 by an elected constituent 

Former members of the Workers' Party of Ethiopia will not be 
allowed to vote in the constituent assembly elections, but it 
is expected that they will be enfranchised thereafter.  An 
election to choose a new national government is planned for 
late 1994.  Voting is expected to be by secret ballot.

The EPRDF, which is actually a coalition of four parties, 
dominates the TGE.  The EPRDF itself is dominated by the TPLF, 
whose members include the President; senior officials in the 
Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Internal Affairs; 
and virtually the entire leadership of the armed forces.

The TGE quasi-legislative Council of Representatives comprises 
65 members representing 25 parties and ethnic groups.  In April 
the TGE expelled five parties belonging to the southern 
coalition from the Council; one was later readmitted.  The TGE 
claimed that these parties had violated the National Charter by 
signing and not repudiating the Paris communique which claimed, 
inter alia, that "at present there is not (a) legitimate 
government in Ethiopia."  The EPRDF, which controls 32 seats in 
the Council of Representatives and has strong ties with a 
number of other parties, completely dominates Council debate.  
No other political party has more than three seats.

The TGE is establishing stronger regional political and 
administrative organs of government.  This devolution of power, 
if completed successfully, would be a radical departure from 
the tradition of strong central government led by an 
authoritarian ruler, usually an Amhara.  The TGE claims that 
regionalization will give people more direct responsibility for 
the decisions affecting their lives.  The regions will be 
responsible for devising and maintaining numerous public 
services, including the judiciary, primary education, and the 
police.  These functions will operate in the language chosen by 
that region, not necessarily Amharic as in the past.  While the 
regionalization policy appears to have widespread support, the 
delimitation of regional boundaries along ethnic lines has 
aroused concern among many people, particularly the Amharas, 
that ethnic tensions will be aggravated (see Section 5).

There are no restrictions in law or practice on the 
participation of women or minorities in politics.  Women hold 3 
of the 20 Cabinet seats; 3 additional women hold ministerial 

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations
           of Human Rights

There are two active human rights monitoring groups in 
Ethiopia:  The Ethiopian Human Rights Council (EHRC) and 
GADADO, Oromo Ex-Prisoners For Human Rights.  Both are 
independent of the Government.  The EHRC has criticized the TGE 
on a number of issues and operates relatively freely.  However, 
the TGE claimed the EHRC is politically biased against the 
EPRDF, refused to grant the EHRC a permit, and arrested the 
EHRC Secretary General in May on unspecified charges.  
Subsequently, the TGE released the Secretary General upon 
presentation of a guarantor and, at year's end, had not brought 
charges against him.  According to the EHRC Secretary General, 
the TGE arrested two other members of the EHRC in 1993:  one 
was released on bail, the other remained in prison, yet neither 
had been formally charged.

The Ethiopian Human Rights and Peace Center (EHRPC) was 
established as an autonomous and neutral body at Addis Ababa 
University in 1993.  It is affiliated with the law faculty.  
The EHRPC's goals are to educate the public about human rights 
and to be a research and documentation center.  The Ethiopian 
Congress for Democracy, Forum-84, and the InterAfrica group 
conduct civic education programs on human rights subjects.

The TGE was willing to discuss human rights concerns with 
diplomatic missions, international, and nongovernmental 
organizations.  The EHRC received an official reply from the 
Government to its fifth report on human rights.  The 
All-Amharic People's Organization received a reply from the 
Addis Ababa police commission to accusations in a press 
release.  International human rights groups are welcomed by the 
TGE and enjoy good relations, access, and freedom to travel 
where they wish.  Amnesty International was granted access to 
prisoners during its visit in 1993.  The SPO actively courts 
and accepts assistance from foreign governments and legal and 
forensic experts.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion,
           Disability, Language, or Social Status

The National Charter does not explicitly address discrimination 
on the basis of race, sex, religion, disability, language, or 
social status.  The Charter does, however, incorporate the 
Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations.  


The TGE took a number of steps to improve the position of 
women.  In September it launched a national policy to promote 
through legislation the equality of women and the inclusion of 
women's concerns in the Government's development planning.  The 
TGE also established a national committee on traditional 
practices considered harmful to women, including female genital 
mutilation, tattooing, and child marriage.  The national 
committee, composed of representatives of various ministries 
and NGO's, is Ethiopia's liaison to the Inter-African Committee 
on Traditional Practices, which is composed of representatives 
from 28 African countries.  It has developed a program whereby 
employees of rural-oriented institutions are trained to educate 
rural populations on the harmful effects of some traditional 
practices.  The Ethiopian Government established a women's 
rights section in the Ministry of Justice in 1992; however, 
this office still was not organized by the end of 1993.  Women 
played a prominent role, including in combat, during the 
rebellion by the TPLF which ended when it and its allies in the 
EPRDF took power in 1991.

Nevertheless, women do not enjoy equal status with men.  Since 
men are considered head of the household and representative of 
the family, rights of land tenure and ownership of property are 
registered in their names.  In the rural areas, where 85 
percent of the population lives, women work over 13 hours a day 
fulfilling household and farming responsibilities.  In urban 
areas, women have fewer employment opportunities than men and 
are considerably less well remunerated.

Domestic violence, including wife beating, remains pervasive.  
While women in theory have recourse to police protection and 
official prosecution in cases of domestic violence, societal 
norms inhibit many women from seeking legal redress.  The media 
do not cover rape because of the stigma attached to the crime.  
There has been media coverage of domestic violence but not on a 
routine basis.


Governmental expenditures on children's welfare are minimal.  
In 1993 the TGE shifted increased resources from the military 
to social services which should benefit children.  The 1993-94 
allocation for education will exceed the military budget for 
the first time in many years.  Many of the few social services 
that exist are operated by private organizations, but their 
resources are limited, and an increasing number of children are 
seen selling goods and begging in urban areas.

The vast majority of Ethiopian women have undergone some form 
of female genital mutilation, which is usually performed at an 
early age.  According to an independent expert in the field, 
the percentage of Ethiopian females who have undergone genital 
mutilation may be as high as 90 percent. 

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Ethiopia comprises more than 80 different ethnic groups.  At 
various times in the past, one or another (usually the 
highlanders) of these groups has predominated in the political, 
cultural, and economic life of the country.  Some ethnic 
groups, such as the Oromos, claim to have been dominated for 
centuries by the highlanders.  The declared aim of the TGE is 
to promote the interests of all ethnic groups through a 
decentralized, federal system of government.  The TGE delimited 
regional boundaries in 1992 to encompass an entire ethnic group 
or a multitude of ethnic groups more completely.  Regions are 
now free to use their local language in public services.  As 
implementation of this plan proceeds, it has aroused opposition 
from some groups, notably the Amharas, who warn against the 
disintegration or Balkanization of Ethiopia. 

The plan has also raised difficulties for people who do not 
know the newly selected language of the region.  For example, 
many teachers and judges, including some ethnic Oromos, in 
region 4 (Oromia) do not speak Orominya.  Many people fear 
being expelled from the region in which they currently reside 
and the possibility of not being able to practice their 
profession.  While some overt discrimination of this sort 
occurred in 1993, the TGE tried to combat it. 

     People with Disabilities

There is no officially condoned or legally sanctioned 
discrimination against people with disabilities.  Nevertheless, 
cultural attitudes towards the disabled are often negative.  
The TGE, with international support, established a commission 
for rehabilitation to provide ex-servicemen and civilians 
injured in the civil war with vocational training, assist them 
in finding employment, and provide them with physical 
rehabilitation.  An official at the rehabilitation agency, a 
semiautonomous institution under the Ministry of Labor and 
Social Affairs, estimates that there are 5.3 million disabled 
persons in Ethiopia out of a population of 53 million.  Limited 
resources restrict assistance to an estimated 20,000 
beneficiaries.  Ethiopia has no legislation mandating access 
for the disabled.  Legislation addressing other problems of the 
disabled was under consideration at the end of 1993.  As in 
many other areas, Ethiopia's extreme poverty is both a cause of 
the problem and an obstacle to its solution.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

Only a small percentage of Ethiopia's 53 million people is 
involved in wage labor employment, which is largely 
concentrated in the capital.  Some 80 to 85 percent of the work 
force lives in the countryside, working as subsistence farmers.

Under the National Charter and the Labor Law promulgated in 
January, most workers are free to form and join unions.

Employees of the civil and security services, judges, and 
prosecutors are not allowed to form unions.  Workers who 
provide an "essential service" are not allowed to strike.  
Essential services include air transport and railways, city 
cleaning and sanitation, urban and interurban bus services, gas 
stations, electricity generating plants, police and fire 
services, post and telecommunications, banks, pharmacies, and 
water supply.

Unions are not affiliated with the Government or political 
parties.  Workers are free to form as many federations and 
confederations as they wish.  The Confederation of Ethiopian 
Trade Unions (CETU) was established in November 1993.  CETU is 
organized by industrial and service sector rather than by 
region.  The elected leadership will take over and transform 
the existing Ethiopian trade union, whose senior level 
management is expected to be released.  The TGE did not 
interfere in the process.  The Ethiopian Teachers Association 
(ETA), which is not affiliated with the National Confederation, 
claims it was subject to governmental interference in 1993.  
ETA alleged that the TGE closed 133 of ETA's 137 branch 
offices, blocked its bank accounts, and fired 22 of its 

The 1993 Labor Law explicitly gives the workers the right to 
strike to protect their interests.  Many restrictions on the 
right to strike apply equally to an employer's right to 
lockout.  Both must make efforts at conciliation, provide at 
least 10 days' notice, and provide the reasons for the action.  
In cases already before a court or labor board, the party must 
provide at least 30 days' warning.  Strikes must be supported 
by a majority of the workers affected by the decision.  It is 
unlawful to strike against an order from the Labor Relations 
Board (LRB).  The Labor Law prohibits retribution against 

If an agreement between unions and management cannot be 
reached, the case may be arbitrated by a Labor Relations Board 
(LRB).  One or more LRB's will be created in each region and at 
the national level.  The Minister of Labor and Social Affairs 
will appoint each chairman.  The Board's four members are 
composed of two each from trade unions and employers 
associations and serve 3-year terms.  Where more than one union 
or employers association exists, the organization with the most 
representative membership will appoint the member to the LRB.

There were no strikes organized by unions in 1993.  There were, 
however, numerous actions taken by former employees of state 
agencies who had been laid off in the process of economic 
restructuring or had lost their jobs in May when Eritrea gained 
its independence from Ethiopia.  In most cases, the TGE offered 
the employees a severance package, but this was not always 
accepted by the affected employees.  Some former employees of 
the Ethiopian Maritime Transport Authority conducted a hunger 
strike for several months in the central square of Addis Ababa 
to protest what they believed to be inadequate compensation.

Independent unions and those belonging to the National 
Confederation are free to affiliate with and participate in 
international labor bodies.

The International Labor Organization's (ILO) Committee of 
Experts noted with satisfaction the issuance of Labor 
Proclamation No 42/1993 repealing the imposition of a single, 
official trade union system and recognizing the right of 
workers and employers to establish and join trade unions and 
employers' associations respectively, in order to represent 
their members in collective bargaining.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Under the Mengistu regime, employees were guaranteed total job 
security regardless of performance or productivity; no worker 
could be fired, and no manager was ever discharged because of 
low productivity.  Collective bargaining had no place in this 
scheme because the government dictated the terms.  The result 
of these and other measures was a labor force with little or no 
motivation to perform on the job.

The TGE undertook to create a new labor culture.  Collective 
bargaining is now protected under the Labor Law and is 
practiced freely throughout the country.  Collective bargaining 
agreements concluded between 1975 and January 1993 are covered 
under the 1975 Labor Code and remain in force.  During 1993 
many unions throughout Ethiopia reorganized themselves in 
accordance with the new guidelines and registered with the 
Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs.  Both the Vice Minister 
of Labor and the Representative of the African-American Labor 
Congress stated unequivocally that a considerable amount of 
collective bargaining occurred in Ethiopia during 1993.  Such 
activities did not occur exclusively in Addis Ababa.  For 
instance, workers at the Wonji Sugar Plantation near Nazret 
negotiated an 11-percent wage increase in September.  Labor 
experts estimate that as many as 90 percent of unionized 
workers in Ethiopia are covered by collective bargaining 
agreements.  Wages are now being bargained at the plant level.

The law prohibits antiunion discrimination.  Grievance 
procedures are in place to hear allegations of discrimination 
brought by individuals or unions.  Employers found guilty of 
antiunion discrimination are required to reinstate workers 
fired for union activities.

There are no export processing zones.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Slavery was officially abolished in Ethiopia in 1942.  The 
TGE's National Charter proscribes slavery and involuntary 
servitude.  Activity which inhibits a person's freedom of 
contract or is deemed a restraint of liberty is illegal.  
Forced or compulsory labor is virtually nonexistent in the 
modern wage sector and in those areas affected by the modern 
sector.  The Criminal Code specifically prohibits forced labor 
unless instituted by court order as a punitive measure.

Local TGE officials outside of Addis Ababa continue to call on 
residents to "volunteer" for uncompensated community work 
projects, such as road building and emergency road repair.  In 
1993 industries were operating at less than half capacity; in 
those state-owned factories still functioning, workers were 
still sometimes compelled by factory managers to "volunteer" 
labor in order to meet quotas, which may result in cash bonuses.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

Under the new Labor Law, the minimum age for wage or salary 
employment is 14.  Children between the ages of 14 and 18 are 
covered by special provisions in the Labor Law.  Workers in 
this category may not work more than 7 hours per day, work 
between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. or on public holidays, 
or perform overtime.  The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, 
which is charged with enforcement, may proscribe children from 
working in dangerous vocations such as transport, electric 
power generation, mines, sewers, and digging tunnels.  Large 
numbers of children perform agricultural work in the 
countryside and work as street peddlers in the cities.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

Ethiopia has no statutory minimum wage.  However, since 1985 a 
minimum wage has been set and paid to public sector employees, 
who are by far the single largest group of wage earners.  This 
public sector minimum wage is $19.40 per month (105 birr) 
effective as of November 1993.  Although studies have not been 
done, the private sector usually pays at least as much as the 

According to the Office for the Study of Wages and Other 
Remunerations, which calculates the annual minimum consumption 
basket, a family of five requires a monthly income of $79.48 
(430 birr) to maintain a bare minimum standard of living.  
Thus, even with two family members earning the public sector 
minimum wage, the family receives only about 50 percent of that 
needed for healthful subsistence.  Many workers earn less than 
the minimum wage.

The legal workweek is 48 hours, 6 days of 8 hours each, with a 
24-hour rest period.  The 48-hour workweek is widely respected.

The TGE, private industry, and unions negotiate to set 
occupational health and safety standards.  These are enforced 
by the Inspection Department of the Ministry of Labor and 
Social Affairs.  However, a lack of human and financial 
resources prevents this office from effectively monitoring or 
enforcing health and safety standards.  Workers have the right 
to remove themselves from dangerous situations without jeopardy 
to continued employment.

[end of document]


Department Seal

Return to 1993 Human Rights Practices report home page.
Return to DOSFAN home page.
This is an official U.S. Government source for information on the WWW. Inclusion of non-U.S. Government links does not imply endorsement of contents.