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Is Ethiopia Returning to Iron-fisted Tactics of Past Regimes?

The country’ human rights commission says more than 9,000 people have been arrested after deadly clashes last month, raising fears that a government hailed for reforms is returning to the iron-fisted tactics of past administrations. Among those arrested was opposition activist Dejene Tafa, who police dragged from his bed in the middle of the night on July 8 as he slept next to his pregnant wife. Dejene is a university professor and secretary of the Oromo Federalist Congress party. Aselefech Mulatu, his 42-year-old wife, said her husband is being held without charge and has contracted COVID-19 in prison. “We thought we had transitioned to a democratic system,” she said. Mass arrests were common under the previous administration which used security forces to crush dissent. When anti-government protests propelled Abiy to power, he sped up the release of tens of thousands of political prisoners. But now activists like Fisseha Tekle, Amnesty International’s Ethiopia analyst, fear Abiy’s government is resorting to the arbitrary mass arrests of his predecessor.