Aftenposten – While opposition politicians and critical journalists imprisoned in the hundreds inEthiopia, the Norwegian authorities yesterday received the country’s prime minister with open arms.

 From the conference hall, it was easy to hear the cries of hundreds of demonstrators. They had gathered outside the hotel where Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg today had gathered an impressive collection of world leaders to discuss energy access for poor people.

One of the main guests were Meles Zenawi, Ethiopia’s longtime prime minister.

And it was him demonstrators shouted at. While he spoke to the meeting on economic development, he was a soloist who followed a different tonal scale than the choir standing behind barricades outside.

– This is a man who jails journalists and opposition groups. He has concentrated all political power in an ethnic group constituting a fraction of the population. In Ogaden, south of the country, do not let aid agencies or independent observers to see how civil people are being oppressed and killed. A country become a dictatorship, says Adam Mulualem Zerikun, one of norsketiopierne who organized yesterday’s demonstration.

While taking Meles Zenawi the angry opponents with devastating still.

– What is a cloud. It is part of the weather. If they do not agree with government policy, it is natural that they protest, he said in an interview with newspaper Aftenposten.

Downgraded to “non-free”

He has been in power since 1991. During that time he has lifted Ethiopia economically in a way that few other African leaders have succeeded, which he has received much praise for the Norwegian and other governments. At the same time, he has been very much criticized, not only from eksiletiopiere, but also from a large number of international organizations, to lead the country in the wrong direction when it comes to democracy and human rights.
Last year, (Meles group) downgraded the organization Freedom House Ethiopia from “partly free” to “unfree”, which puts the country in the same class as Syria, North Korea and Iran.

– This is an organization that belongs to a neo-liberal ideology. Our democratic process has not been the neo-liberal, but it has been successful. Therefore I do not agree with their conclusion, said Meles Zenawi.

He makes the point that Ethiopia has never been a colony, and that he did not intend to allow that the country will be with him at the helm. Therefore, he has made it illegal for international aid organizations to engage in political activities – which also involves the promotion of human rights.

– Norwegian and other countries’ organizations believe that they have the right to engage in the African country’s politics. At the same time have not I, an Ethiopian, the right to interfere in Norwegian affairs. We have never accepted this double morality. Therefore we say: Help us in economic issues, say like from what you think. But do not confuse you into our political processes, says the prime minister.

Several protesters were arrested Monday. PHOTO: Christopher Rønneberg

Swedes jailed

In the past year alone is over a hundred journalists and dissidents to be imprisoned in Ethiopia, many of them because of a new anti-terror bill is introduced. Among other things, sit two Swedish journalists, Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson, in jail despite strong pressure from the Swedish government.

– These were people who went into battle with rebels in the Ogaden region. They are not journalists. They are, if anything, messengers of a terrorist organization. This is not a political issue, it is a matter for our courts, where they will get a fair treatment, says Meles Zenawi.

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg yesterday the issue of the Swedish journalists and accusations of murder and mistreatment of civilians in Ogaden with his Ethiopian colleague. Norway has since 2005 provided 1.4 billion in aid to Ethiopia, and both Stoltenberg and International Development Erik Solheim hailed yesterday Meles Zenawi to have contributed to stability and growth in Africa.

– We work withEthiopia to fight poverty. Trade and investment are very closely linked to the improvement of human rights, said Stoltenberg.

Original text of Aftenpotsen:








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