The U.S.-based Carter Center is urging Ethiopian rulers and opposition parties to show restraint after a week of violence that killed more than 40 people.
The charitable organization headed by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter called on security forces to avoid the use of excessive force, and urged protesters to demonstrate peacefully.
The Carter Center statement also urged the ruling EPRDF (Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front) and opposition leaders to resolve their differences through dialogue.
The center sponsors numerous health projects in Ethiopia and sent an election monitoring team to the country earlier this year. President Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, visited Addis Ababa and toured several rural health projects in September.
Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has defended his government’s response to last week’s unrest, blaming the opposition Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) for fomenting violence.
Text of Carter Center Statement on Ethiopia
ATLANTA -- The Carter Center expresses its alarm at the outbreak of violence in Ethiopia rooted in the ongoing dispute over the May 2005 elections. We send condolences to the families of those who have lost their lives, and urge that every effort be made to avoid further death and injury.
Both government and opposition party supporters must show restraint. Leaders from each side must seek meaningful, constitutional, and peaceful mechanisms for bringing election disputes to a conclusion and allow the country to move forward.
The Center calls upon the government to insist that state security forces refrain from excessive use of force in response to protests and respect and protect the human rights of those who seek to express their opinions peacefully. Free expression and the right of association, including peaceful public demonstrations, are essential to all democracies, and the Ethiopian government has the responsibility to allow such constitutionally protected actions.
The Center encourages the opposition parties associated with the actions to exercise influence over their supporters to bring the current crisis to a close. The constitution’s rights of association and protest also have strict limits. They exist within the context of the law.
The Carter Center calls on all parties and the Ethiopian people to recommit themselves to the pursuit of peace and democracy. All parties should seek to re-invigorate channels of communication and peaceful debate while disavowing violence.