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Education under Attack 2010 - Ethiopia

Publisher UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO)
Publication Date 10 February 2010
Cite as UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), Education under Attack 2010 - Ethiopia, 10 February 2010, available at: [accessed 17 December 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

The Ethiopian Teachers' Association (ETA) was closed down by the Government and ordered to hand over its assets and name, a decision upheld in the courts in February 2008. It was replaced by a new pro-government union by the same name. In 2009, the Government refused to allow the registration of an alternative independent union, the National Teachers' Association. The decision to close the original ETA, the largest independent membership organization in the country, was the culmination of years of harassment and intimidation of ETA members.409 This included the killing of ETA Deputy General Secretary Assefa Maru; the six-year detention of former ETA President Taye Woldesmiat; the imprisonment of many ETA officials; and the detention and torture of ETA activists and their families.410

In mid-December 2006, three ETA officers, Tilahun Ayalew, Meqha Mengistu and Anetenech Getenet, were arrested and tortured in an attempt to extract confessions to being members of the Ethiopian People's Patriotic Front (EPDF), a rebel group. Ayalew, a teacher in Dangella, chair of the ETA Awi region and a father of seven children, had been seized by security agents, taken to a jungle and beaten for four days until he fell unconscious. He was then detained incommunicado until a court freed him, but was recaptured by police and held until the Federal First Instance Court heard his case. When he arrived at court he could hardly walk due to a fractured leg, reported to have resulted from attempts by his captors to obtain confessions from him. They had also denied him medical treatment.411

The court freed Ayalew on 22 March 2007. Meanwhile, Getenet had regularly been suspended with his arms and legs tied; and Mengistu had been severely beaten.412 The 2007 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights, published by the International Trade Union Confederation, reported clear evidence of torture when the three ETA activists appeared in court: Ayalew had suffered a fractured leg bone, Mengistu had a bleeding ear and hearing difficulties, and Getenet had scars on his arms, both of which were twisted.413

After leaving court, Mengistu and Ayalew were prevented from returning to work. Their school directors asked them to provide written justification for their absences during their detention and trial, but the police in Addis Ababa refused to produce the necessary documents.414

Getenet, who almost died of his injuries, suffered severe health problems, among them lung deficiencies, which made speech difficult and forced him to give up teaching.415

Mengistu, chairman of ETA's East Gojam branch and a member of ETA's committee for implementing the Education International/ETA Education for All/HIV-AIDS programme, and Getenet, a member of ETA's Addis Ababa regional council, were rearrested in May 2007. On 28 May, when Ayalew heard that he, too, was due to be arrested, he fled into hiding. His wife was arrested in an attempt to pressure her to reveal his whereabouts, but was later released.416

ETA leader Waldie Dana was arrested in early June. All four teachers were charged with belonging to the EPDF. In August, Dana's wife, Wibit Legamo, and another ETA member, Berrbanu Aba-Debissa, were arrested. At the end of 2007, only Mengistu remained in detention. Four of the other five had been released, but there was no news of Ayalew.417

Also in August 2007, police stormed a meeting of the Addis Ababa branch of ETA and arrested the General Secretary, Tesfaye Tirga, after finding Education International postcards calling for the release of the ETA activists. He was interrogated and beaten before being released.418

In 2009, Meqcha Mengistu and Wibit Legamo were sentenced to three years' and one year's detention respectively on unsubstantiated charges of subversion.419

[Refworld note: The source report "Education under Attack 2010" was posted on the UNESCO website ( in pdf format, with country chapters run together. Original footnote numbers have been retained here.]

409 Fred van Leeuwen, "Refusal to Register EI's Member Organisation in Ethiopia," Education International Urgent Action Appeal, May 27, 2009.

410 Ibid.

411 Fred van Leeuwen, "Arrests of Ethiopian Teachers' Association Activists Resumed," Education International Urgent Action Appeal, June 22, 2007; Wondimu Mekonnen, "Ethiopian Teachers Face Another Cycle of Brutality," Addis Voice, January 3, 2007; and Fred van Leeuwen, "Torture of Ethiopian Teachers' Association Activists," Education International Urgent Action Appeal, January 3, 2007.

412 Ibid.

413 ITUC, 2007 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights (ITUC, 2008).

414 New Zealand Educational Institute, "Teacher Unionists Released from Prison," NZEI Rourou 19, no. 3 (April 19, 2007), 4.

415 Leeuwen, "Arrests of Ethiopian Teachers' Association Activists Resumed."

416 Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, "Ongoing Arbitrary Detention of Five Leaders of the Ethiopian Teachers' Association," October 23. 2007, Ongoing-arbitrary-detention-of-five-leaders-of.

417 ITUC, 2007 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights.

418 Ibid.

419 Leeuwen, "Refusal to Register EI's Member Organisation in Ethiopia."

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