Ethiopia: High Level Delegation to provide support to EI affiliate
A four person EI delegation is currently in Ethiopia to enter into a dialogue with the Ethiopian authorities to press the case for the respect of trade union and human rights. The delegation is composed of the General Secretaries of the British and Ugandan teachers unions, respectively Steve SINNOTT and Teopista BIRUNGI MAYANJA, as well as the EI Chief Regional Coordinator Assibi NAPOE and EI Coordinator Emanuel FATOMA. In Ethiopia, the delegation is joined by the General Secretary of the Ethiopia Teachers’ Association, Gemoraw KASSA.
The sending of a delegation to support EI’s member, the Ethiopia Teachers’ Association (ETA), had been called for in an urgent resolution on Ethiopia adopted by the 5th World Congress of EI in July 2007. This resolution was prompted by the interference of the Government in the legitimate activities of the ETA and the repeated repression against ETA activists and their families. The interference in trade union affairs, as well as the continued detention and ill-treatment of ETA activists have been highlighted as blatant infringements of the rights of teachers to freedom of association by the International Labour Organisation and stressed again at the International Labour Conference in June 2007.
EI has repeatedly conveyed to the Ethiopian authorities that it wants to work with the Government to the greatest extent possible to assist in meeting the goals of Education For All and furthering the cause of building a democratic society. However, EI has also protested against the human and trade union rights abuses faced by members of the ETA. EI is also committed to support its member ETA in the legal battle to regain rightful property and assets claimed by the new ETA set up in 1993.
Refusal of visas EI deplores that the Government has not responded yet to requests for audiences with the delegation. The Government has also tried to prevent the delegation by refusing visas to three members who should have been on the delegation: Walter Dresscher, President of the Dutch teacher union AOb, Janice Eastman, EI Deputy General Secretary and Dominique Marlet, EI Trade Union Rights Coordinator. No reason was provided for the refusal of visas. Neither has the embassy responded to EI’s request for a meeting.
The EI delegation in Ethiopia will seek to meet with Government officials, and will have audiences with the ILO and some Western embassies. Audiences were also requested with UNESCO and the African Union. The delegation will also have a meeting with the Confederation of Ethiopian Trade Unions and possibly with the new ETA.
The EI delegation will press for the right of teachers to be members of the ETA and for the recognition of the ETA through peaceful coexistence of two teacher associations, or other appropriate means.
Detention of ETA officials For the last 18 months, ETA elected officials have been detained. Currently, one ETA representative is still imprisoned in Kality. Three ETA members have been released on bail - Anteneh Getnet on 29 October 2007, Berhanu Aba-Debissa and Woldie Dana on 27 December. However, Meqcha Mengistu, Chairperson of the ETA East Gojam Zonal Executive and a trained member of the ETA Committee for the implementation of the EI/ETA Education For All-HIV/AIDS programme, has been denied bail. A fifth colleague, Tilahun Ayalew, Chair of the ETA Awi zone, disappeared on 28 May 2007 and is still reported missing.
Two members of the EI delegation will also attend the final hearing of the Federal Supreme Court on the ownership of the property and assets of the ETA. The ETA set up in 1993 claims ownership of the headquarters and membership fees of EI’s member organisation, which was created and registered in 1949 and has never stopped representing the legitimate interests of teachers in Ethiopia. The final hearing of this court case which started in 1994 is due on 7 February. More updates on the achievements of the delegation to come.