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Ethiopia’s Mesfin Woldemariam succumbs to COVID-19

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Veteran Ethiopian human rights activist and political critic, Professor Mesfin Woldemariam, has passed away from COVID-19, according to reports on Wednesday, 30 September 2020.

Woldemariam died on Tuesday, 29 September 2020 in Addis Ababa. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has since expressed his grief upon hearing the news, and extended his condolences to Woldemariam’s family.

Woldemariam founded the Ethiopian Human Rights Council, a rights watchdog, and had been known as critical to successive governments. He joined the opposition Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) during the disputed election in 2005. The CUD managed to win all but one seat in Addis Ababa, and an unprecedentedly high number of seats in federal and regional parliaments.

However, the party claimed it had won even more seats than the number acknowledged by the electoral board. Following the dispute, senior leaders of the party, including Woldemariam, were accused by the government of unconstitutional attempts to grab power and were jailed. Woldemariam left the party later, and described his involvement in party politics as a mistake, saying he was more comfortable in critiquing those in power than seeking public office.

A Geography professor by training, he wrote more than a dozen books on politics, history and culture. He was also a prolific commentator on newspapers and later on, social media circles. Prime Minister Ahmed has described him as “a champion of peaceful struggle” and someone who stood only for what he believed.



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