The Elders welcome Ethiopia’s political reforms

31 May 2019

A delegation of Elders, led by Mary Robinson, Chair and former President of Ireland, visited Ethiopia in May for their annual bi-annual board meeting where they held meetings with government officials including Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and President Sahle-Work Zewde.

The Elders with Prime Minister Abiy

Founded by Nelson Mandela in 2007, The Elders is a UK-based international non-governmental organisation of global leaders working together for peace and human rights.

In a statement following their visit, the Elders said they “welcomed the wide-ranging reforms in Ethiopia introduced by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and called on all leaders in the country to uphold the rule of law, foster a sense of national unity and defend the rights of refugees and displaced people.”

They also praised Ethiopia for its progress on promoting women’s leadership, including the appointment of women to half of all Cabinet posts, including the Minister of Peace, and the important role played by President Sahle-Work Zewde.

The Elders also recognised the critical role Ethiopia can play in helping to resolve regional conflicts and tensions, including in neighbouring Sudan and South Sudan, as well as how best the country can deal with its high population of refugees and internally displaced people.

Elders Chair Mary Robinson said:

“It has been a privilege to visit Ethiopia at this time of remarkable change.”

“We have greatly valued our conversations with Prime Minister Abiy and President Zewde, and admire their vision of drawing on Ethiopia’s rich history to guide its united future. We urge all political stakeholders to work together to develop a national settlement that respects the rights of all communities.”

As part of their visit, some Elders travelled to a refugee camp in Gambella in western Ethiopia to meet refugees from South Sudan. They commended Ethiopia’s new Refugee Law which offers more opportunities for work and integration.

Other Elders visited a health centre in Addis Ababa to meet community health workers and welcomed the Ethiopian Government’s commitment to delivering free primary healthcare services.

Graça Machel and Ricardo Lagos, with Nane Annan and Health Extension Workers at Feres Meda health centre, Addis Ababa

The Elders also held talks with senior representatives of the African Union and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) on conflicts driving mass displacement across the Horn of Africa. They supported the notion of “African solutions to African problems” and highlighted the risks to peace and stability posed by outside powers using African countries as venues for proxy wars.

Lakhdar Brahimi, Elder and former Algerian Foreign Minister, said:

“These are dramatic times for Ethiopia and the region, which could herald a truly progressive transformation. Young people who have taken to the streets to demand their rights must be heard by leaders. We as Elders stand in solidarity with all who seek a peaceful, inclusive future for their countries and will do what we can to support their vision.”

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