While the human rights situation in Ethiopia has been in the spotlight of international scrutiny for a long time, the ruling government of Ethiopia had been unresponsive until recently. The substance of the critique of the human rights violations in Ethiopia, whether emanating from international human rights non-governmental organisations (NGOs) or the U.S Department of state, is literally analogous. By different indicators, the human rights landscape in Ethiopia is in a downward spiral. On its part, the Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) government argues that it is a victim of an ideologically driven campaign under the pretext of human rights protection. It claims that it is often the subject of criticisms due to its pursuance of an alternative development strategy to the liberal democratic model. The government of Ethiopia’s counter-discourse has been driven by a hard line attitude towards international human rights NGOs, which often borders name-calling. Guided by the expert interviews that we have conducted in the country, which are complemented by the review of additional primary and secondary sources, this study tries to analyse the ideological as well as the strategic roots of the counter-discourse. We argue that while the EPRDF government abuses human rights on a large scale, it gets away with impunity because of the county’s strategic significance. In practice, by putting in place laws that effectively incapacitates domestic human rights organizations’ ability to engage in transnational information exchange, the EPRDF government is attempting to stem the criticism on its poor human rights practices.
Keywords: International human rights reports, counter-discourse, Ethiopia, EPRDF.