Joe Biden applauds Ethiopian PM for releasing political prisoners

Joe Biden

US President Joe Biden speaks about the December jobs report on January 7, 2022, from the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, DC.

Photo credit: AFP

What you need to know:

  • President Biden stresses the need for safe humanitarian access and protection of aid workers across Ethiopia.
  • Ethiopian government disputed a report that it is mistreating thousands of Tigrayans deported from Saudi Arabia.

The United States President Joe Biden has in a phone call meeting applauded Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on the recent release of political prisoners. 

In statement released by the White House on Monday, President Biden stressed the need for safe humanitarian access and protection of aid workers across Ethiopia. 

"President Joseph R. Biden spoke today [Monday] with PM Abiy Ahmed to discuss the ongoing conflict in Ethiopia and opportunities to advance peace and reconciliation. President Biden commended PM Abiy on the recent release of political prisoners, and the two leaders discussed ways to accelerate dialogue towards a negotiated ceasefire," the statement reads.

"The need to address human rights concerns of all affected Ethiopians, including concerns about detention of Ethiopians under the state of emergency. President Biden expressed concern that the ongoing hostilities including the recent air strikes continue to cause casualties and suffering," the statement further read.

Biden reaffirmed the United States' commitment to work with the African Union and regional stakeholders to have Ethiopia's conflict solved. 

"Both leaders underscored the importance of the US-Ethiopia relationship, the potential to strengthen cooperation on a range of issues, and the need to concrete progress to resolve the conflict," Biden's office said. 

Three days ago, the Ethiopian government disputed a report issued by the Human Rights Watch (HRW) that it is mistreating thousands of Tigrayans deported from Saudi Arabia.

Human Rights abuses

Ethiopia Foreign Affairs Minister Ambassador Dina Mufti described the HRW report as an irresponsible move to undermine his government’s efforts.

On Wednesday last week, the HRW, in a report, said Ethiopian authorities had arbitrarily detained, mistreated, and forcibly disappeared thousands of ethnic Tigrayans recently deported from Saudi Arabia.

The rights group said in January 2021, the Ethiopian government announced it would cooperate in the repatriation of 40,000 of its nationals detained in Saudi Arabia, beginning with a 1,000 a week. 

Over the weekend as well, three Eritrean refugees, including two children, were killed by an airstrike that hit a refugee camp in Ethiopia's Tigray region, where the government has been waging a year-long war against rebels, according to the United Nations.

The war broke in November 2020 when Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops into Tigray after accusing the region's dissident ruling party, the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), of attacks on federal army camps.

The Nobel Peace laureate declared victory but rebel fighters hit back, recapturing most of Tigray and pushing into neighboring regions.

The rebels reportedly reached around 200 kilometres (125 miles) outside the capital Addis Ababa by road, but at the end of December they announced they would withdraw to Tigray, marking a turning point in the war.