Talk to Al Jazeera

Hailemariam Desalegn: Democracy ‘not only an election’

The Ethiopian prime minister discusses democracy, human rights, press freedom and the future of his country.

Business is booming in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital. There is construction almost everywhere, a symbol of Ethiopia’s impressive economic growth over the past decade.

Gone are the days of famine and grinding poverty, the government story goes. This is Ethiopia 2015, which they say, is on course to becoming a middle-income country by 2025. 

Let our people judge us, not somebody from outside. After all, a democratic, credible, fair and free election should be credible in the eyes of our people, who are responsible for electing all of us.

by Hailemariam Desalegn, prime minister of Ethiopia

To add to this remarkably rosy picture, Ethiopia’s 90 million citizens are part of a healthy, multi-party democracy that holds elections every five years, the government says. 

But not everyone agrees with this inspirational story of growth and democracy in what remains one of the poorest countries in Africa. 

They ask why, if everything is so good at home, are thousands of Ethiopians among the tidal wave of desperate people who make the perilous journey across the Mediterranean in search of freedom and jobs.

The government has been deemed one of the most heavily censored countries in the world, and has been accused of mercilessly stifling political opposition and civil liberties, and of imprisoning those who do not toe the line. Its critics say those who do not go to jail are intimidated into voting for the ruling party.

Ahead of Ethiopia’s May 24 parliamentary elections,we travelled to Addis Ababa to ask Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn about his party’s record, the global criticism of his government, and the reports on human rights abuses. We also talk to him about democracy, Ethiopia’s economy and foreign policy.

You can talk to Al Jazeera too. Join our Twitter conversation as we talk to world leaders and alternative voices shaping our times. You can also share your views and keep up to date with our latest interviews on Facebook