NAIROBI – Lawmakers in Ethiopia voted Tuesday to end the country's three-month state of emergency early as mediation efforts to end a deadly war in the north continue in the Horn of Africa nation.
The vote took place after Ethiopia’s Council of Ministers, chaired by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, decided on Jan. 26 to end the state of emergency originally imposed for six months, citing recent developments in the conflict.
The state of emergency was imposed in early November as Tigray regional forces fighting Ethiopian and allied forces moved closer to the capital, Addis Ababa. The Tigray fighters withdrew back into their region in late December amid mediation efforts and under pressure from a drone-supported military offensive carried out by the government.
Thousands of mainly ethnic Tigrayans were detained under the state of emergency, according to witnesses, lawyers and human rights groups. Many were released after December's shift in the war.
There was no immediate word Tuesday on when the rest of the people detained under the state of emergency would be released. They include a freelance video journalist accredited to The Associated Press, Amir Aman Kiyaro.
“We urge that this move be immediately followed by the release of all individuals arrested or detained without charge under the state of emergency,” the U.S. State Department said, adding that “the end of these detentions will facilitate an inclusive and productive national dialogue.”
The state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting reported: “The state of emergency investigation board is instructed to finish any outstanding works within a month and report back to the relevant body. Judicial bodies are also instructed to finish emergency law-related cases within the regular judicial process.”
The United Nations secretary-general encouraged Ethiopian authorities to “take further measures to ensure the decision is followed up by the release of those remaining people that are in detention as a result of the state of emergency, or for the reasons of their detention to be regularly reviewed at least by a court and other independent impartial judiciary,” spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters.
Ahead of Tuesday's vote, an advisory committee within the Ethiopian parliament said the lifting of the state of emergency would help revive the country's economic and diplomatic situation. Parliament speaker Tagesse Chafo said the committee believes the country's security threats can now be dealt with by regular law enforcement.
Fana Broadcasting reported that some members of the advisory committee raised concerns regarding threats posed by the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front and the Oromo Liberation Army, which have been fighting the federal army and its allies.
The parliament speaker said a new “corrective measure” is being put in place to deal with security threats in the Amhara, Afar, Benishangul Gumuz and Gambella regions and the Wellega area in the Oromia region.
Ethiopia’s war erupted in November 2020 and is believed to have caused the deaths of tens of thousands of people and the displacement of millions. Although the war has subsided in several places, notably within the Tigray and Amhara regions, concerns remain in the northeastern Afar region.
Aid for millions in the Tigray region remains severely limited under what the U.N. has described as a “de facto humanitarian blockade.” On Monday, the World Health Organization said it has been granted access to send medical supplies to Tigray for the first time in six months, but said fuel shortages were hampering its distribution.