Democratizing Ethiopia? Turning Promises into Reality

July 25, 2018
09:00 am - 11:00 am



Ethiopia is experiencing a sense of great optimism for a democratic opening. Since becoming Prime Minister on April 2, Abiy Ahmed has promised, and in some cases taken steps to implement, political and economic reforms. The Ethiopian government lifted the State of Emergency, initiated reviews of the Charities and Societies Proclamation and the Anti-Terror Proclamation, opened state enterprises to private sector investment and released thousands of political prisoners, including high-profile opposition leaders and journalists. Prime Minister Abiy held dialogues with Ethiopians countrywide, met with opposition party leaders, welcomed the return of diaspora leaders, called for national reconciliation, and agreed to implement the Algiers Agreement and normalize relations with Eritrea.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Scott Busby will speak about U.S. policy and engagement to promote human rights in Ethiopia. In a panel discussion, Yoseph BadwazaSarah Margon, and Ameha Mekonnen will examine opportunities for democratic reform in Ethiopia.


Scott Busby serves as Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor at the U.S. Department of State where he oversees the Bureau’s work on Africa, East Asia and the Pacific, Multilateral and Global Affairs, including U.S. engagement on human rights at the United Nations, disability rights, LGBTI rights, internet freedom, business and human rights, and International Labor Affairs. Previously, he served as Director for Human Rights on the National Security Council in the White House from 2009 to 2011 where he managed a wide range of human rights and refugee issues.

Yoseph Mulugeta Badwaza is the Senior Program Officer for Ethiopia at Freedom House. Prior to joining Freedom House, he was Secretary General of Ethiopian Human Rights Council (EHRCO, now HRCO), Ethiopia’s foremost human rights organization.

Sarah Margon is the Washington director at Human Rights Watch. In this role, she serves as the organization’s main point of contact with the U.S. government and provides strategic and advocacy guidance, including legislative and policy development.

Ameha Mekonnen is the founder and lead counsel of Ameha Mekonnen and Associates Law Office and has provided legal counsel for journalists, activists, opposition party members, and others who have faced charges under Ethiopia’s anti-terrorism law. Mekonnen is the current chairman of the Human Rights Council.

Lauren Ploch Blanchard is a Specialist in African Affairs with the Congressional Research Service, where she provides nonpartisan analysis on African political, military and diplomatic affairs, and on U.S. policy in the region, to Members of Congress, congressional committees, and congressional staff.