German Chancellor Angela Merkel signaled support for protesters demanding wider freedoms in Ethiopia during a visit to the country on Tuesday, saying, “a vibrant civil society is part and parcel of a developing country.”
Merkel’s meeting with Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn had been expected to focus on the country’s newly declared state of emergency and other issues including migration.
Merkel also said Germany has offered to train policemen in Ethiopia to deal with the demonstrations that have caused this East African country, one of Africa’s best-performing economies, to declare its first state of emergency in a quarter-century.
“I would always argue for allowing people of a different political opinion … to engage with them and allow them to express their views because, after all, a democratic experience shows that out of these discussions good solutions usually come,” Merkel said.
The Ethiopian prime minister responded to Merkel by suggesting his government may increase dialogue. “We have shortcomings in our fledgling democracy, so we want to go further in opening up the political space and engagement with different groups of the society,” he said.
Merkel’s African tour, with stops earlier this week in Mali and Niger, is meant to highlight the global migration crisis and discuss security issues. Ethiopia is one of the world’s largest hosts of refugees, with hundreds of thousands arriving from nearby Somalia, South Sudan and elsewhere.