Ethiopia's TGE Defends Democratic Efforts

I would like to respond to the Opinion page article "Democracy's Bid Fades in Ethiopia," Aug. 18. The Transitional Government of Ethiopia (TGE) does not in any way "crush" its opposition. For the first time in Ethiopa, freedom of speech is guaranteed for all people. There are over 160 newspapers and magazines publishing freely in the country today, many of which are in opposition to the government. And there are over 100 political groups functioning openly in the country; over 20 different groups work wi thin the TGE.

Moreover, any and all other political parties are legally allowed to operate peacefully in the country. It is true that five political groups, one of which has since returned, chose to leave the TGE. But they were not expelled. These groups made their own decision to become part of the opposition by signing the document, produced at the meeting in Paris, that calls for the overthrow of the government.

Regarding the drafting of the new constitution: The participants in the Commission were elected from their relevant organizations, not picked by the government, as the article states. These organizations include a variety of Ethiopian political groups and civic organizations, such as labor unions, teachers' associations, religious groups, the lawyers' association, and women's associations.

They were by no means "handpicked" by the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front or the TGE.

Furthermore, after this constitution is drafted, a constituent assembly will be set up with delegates from around the country where the people themselves will intensively discuss it and have a direct impact on what is contained in their constitution. The mass media will also be used extensively to facilitate people's participation. Many Ethiopian and non-Ethiopian nongovernmental organizations have supported the constitution drafting process.

As to the qualifications of certain Ethiopian officials, I wonder what the level of one's formal education must be in order to be considered able to lead a country? One need not have a PhD from Harvard to become a leader.

These leaders have taken a devastated country on the brink of destruction and brought it back to life as a functioning democracy. They deserve the utmost respect instead of unfounded criticism. Selome Taddesse, Washington Press and Information Counselor Embassy of Ethiopia

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