In a surprise move, Ethiopia’s leader on Wednesday announced plans to drop charges against political prisoners and close a notorious prison camp in what he called an effort to “widen the democratic space for all.” This is the first time the government has acknowledged holding political prisoners.
Prime Minster Hailemariam Desalegn’s comments came after anti-government protests engulfed much of the restive Oromia and Amhara regions in recent months, bringing many businesses, universities and transport networks to a standstill. The sometimes deadly protests, the most serious since the current government came to power in 1991, spread into other parts of the East African country, leading to a months-long state of emergency that has since been lifted.
“Political prisoners that are facing prosecutions and are already under arrest will be released,” Hailemariam said. “And the notorious prison cell that was traditionally called Maekelawi will be closed down and turned into a museum.”