Ethiopians embrace freedoms, but are also willing to trade certain liberties for the sake of public security, Afrobarometer survey finds

Wednesday, 10 February 2021 23:42

A large majority of Ethiopians say they feel free to express their thoughts, to join political organizations, and to vote for the candidate of their choice, according to a recent Afrobarometer survey.

But while most citizens think that people should have the right to associate freely, more than half would be willing to accept restrictions on certain freedoms in the name of security. If public safety were under threat, a majority would endorse the government’s right to impose curfews and roadblocks, to monitor private communications, and to regulate what is said in places of worship.

Key findings

  • By large majorities, Ethiopians say they feel “somewhat” or “completely” free to say what they think (79%), to join political organizations of their choice (71%), and to choose whom to vote for (76%) (Figure 1).
  • Two-thirds (66%) of Ethiopians say people should be able to freely join any organization regardless of whether the government approves of it. Only one-third (34%) think the government should be able to ban any organization that goes against its policies (Figure 2).
  • But a majority of Ethiopians would be willing to give up some of their freedoms in the name of public safety. In particular, if public safety were threatened:
    • 55% say the government should have the right to impose curfews and set up roadblocks to prevent people from moving around (Figure 3).
    • 55% would allow the government to monitor private communications, such as mobile-phone conversations, to make sure that people are not plotting violence (Figure 4). The opposing view, that citizens have a right to communicate in private without government monitoring, is somewhat more popular among men and more educated respondents (Figure 5).
    • 54% would endorse the government’s right to regulate what is said in places of worship (Figure 6).

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