November 3, 2015
Bruton on Ethiopia's Counterterrorism Efforts
Were it monitoring only legitimate terrorist threats, its intelligence system could be a model. But like the U.S., Kenya and so many others, Ethiopia hasn't escaped the great irony of counterterrorism: undermining human rights as it tries to protect them. According to recent Human Rights Watch reports, the government has monitored journalists, opposition party members and anyone else perceived to be a threat to its grip on power. Recordings of phone calls have been used during abusive interrogations of people whom, under Ethiopia's vaguely worded 2009 anti-terrorism law, the government labels terrorists, a 2014 HRW report says. "Ethiopia is a police state," says Bronwyn Bruton, deputy director of the Atlantic Council's Africa Center, terming it "almost North Korea–esque."
Critics suggest the country's repressive measures could breed homegrown terrorism. "My big concern with Ethiopia is the way they are behaving ... is actually going to push people into the arms of extremists," Bruton says. For the past several years, thousands of Muslims have marched in protests over government treatment of the Islamic community. Many protests have been violently disrupted.