For the second time this year, Ethiopian authorities have disrupted a General Assembly of the Ethiopian Teachers’ Association and forcibly shut it down.
The assembly was planned for 30 August to 1 September, 2006 to be held at the Confederation of Ethiopian Trade Unions building in Addis Ababa. The ETA had notified all relevant authorities about the plan.
The General Assembly officially opened this morning in the presence of 300 delegates and all local and foreign guests except the Ethiopian Minister of Education, who had been invited but chose not to attend. Rawane Mbaye, a representative of the International Labour Organization, gave a remarkable opening keynote speech.
During the lunch break, however, armed security officers surrounded the meeting hall, dispersed the audience and shut down the assembly.
ETA officers and foreign representatives from Education International and the National Union of Teachers of England and Wales immediately advised the ILO and foreign embassies. EI is appealing to the ILO for direct intervention with the Ethiopian authorities, urging them to abide by international law guaranteeing freedom of association. This event is the latest chapter in a long history of repression against ETA activists and interference with their activities and finances. Most of the ETA’s meagre funds were invested in organising an earlier assembly, which was also shut down by police on 30 April 2006. And again this month the ETA paid travel and accommodation costs to allow teachers to participate in an assembly that has once more been aborted by government officials.
EI and the ETA are requesting the ILO Regional Office in Addis Ababa to make meeting space available on an emergency basis so the assembly can resume.