Tampere University of Technology sought to honor Ethiopian tyrant with honorary degree – its opponents expect an apology

30 Mar

Posted by The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)
by Mikko Paakkanen* Helsingin Sanomat  

    The Tampere University of Technology (TUT) was about to honor the Ethiopian tyrant with honorary doctorate degree. This action by the university has caused offense and there is a feeling apology is in order.

    The decision to confer on the Ethiopian prime minister honorary doctoral degree was made already a while ago, although the decision to rescind it is influenced by the political situation in the country.

The Tampere University of Technology was at a point literally to give the honor to Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, whose regime has been constantly accused of the crimes of human rights violations.

The President of the Tampere University of Technology Mika Hannula says the decision to award the prime minister was made at the end of last August. The university claims this was based on consideration of the significant merits in the development of water supply and the promotion of sustainable development.

Hailemariam Desalegn completed his education to obtain an MSc in Water Technology. He is remembered as a hard-working student, the Helsignin Sanomat was told nearly two years ago. [It is not indicated who told the paper this two years ago].

For several years, Finland has given Ethiopia development aid associated with water supply development.

The President of the University maintains that the TUT Academic Body reversed its August decision, because the prime minister could not be here. Accordingly, he says, “Last week, a representative of the prime minister indicated that he would withdraw. Acceptance of the withdrawal, according to Hannula, was accepted last Monday as part of the decision of the Academic Board not to award him the degree.

As it happens, Mika Hannula claims, while largely the political situation in Ethiopia/1 has influenced the Academic Board’s decision, Hailemariam’s inability to attend the ceremony at Tampere has also become factor in its cancellation. It is reported that in recent years the university has been closely following the situation in Ethiopia. 2/

“In particular, the proclamation of a state of emergency, of course, took the university to reconsider its position,” says Hannula.

The Ethiopian government declared a state of emergency last October, when the government followed the course of suppressing the mass protests in the country that has run for almost a year. During the state of emergency, The Guardian reported, mass arrests of at least 25,000 people.

Hailemariam Desalegn is a leader of the ruling EPRDF, which holds all the seats in parliament. The only representative of the opposition in parliament also lost his seat in the 2015 election. Consequently, the victory by the ruling party of one hundred percent of the election results has been attributed mainly to effective silencing of the opposition.

This situation in Ethiopia has been a preoccupation for many nations. For example, the US State Department last October expressed the concern that the state of emergency was empowering the ruling party to arrest without warrants, tighter restrictions on freedom of expression, as well as curfews and bans on freedom of assembly.3/

As far as the question of the honorary degree is concerned, President Hannula says, it does not get rescinded automatically when the recipient cannot make to the place of the ceremony.

“The practice varies on a case by case basis however,” he says.

Ethiopians living in Finland are displeased with the fact that the tyrant Hailemariam Desalegn was even considered to receive such an honor from the Tampere University of Technology.

One such resident is, a startup entrepreneur Michael Argaw, who has demanded an apology from the University in a twitter message for that. In his opinion, it is not enough that the conferment is cancelled for whatever reason.

Desalegne has run a system of governance in which people are arrested, disappearances are common and also killings by the state, wrote Human Rights Watch. Those criticizing the ruling party are sent to prison, without court decisions.

Many Ethiopians have been driven by the ruling party’s actions into exile.

*Mikko Paakkanen is a Finnish journalist with the Finnish largest circulation Helsinki Sanomat. The above article is a generous translation of his article, appearing on today’s paper.


    1/ Ethiopian Community letter drawing TUT attention to crimes of human rights violations by its 2017 nominee for honorary degree

    2/ Finnish Foreign Ministry

    3/ UN Human Rights Council’s 33rd session


One Response to “Tampere University of Technology sought to honor Ethiopian tyrant with honorary degree – its opponents expect an apology”


  1. Tampere University did the (human) right thing | Quatero News and Views - April 12, 2017

    […] March 29, President Mika Hannula of the Tampere University of Technology issued a statement that announced: “It is the decision of the Academic Board that [Prime Minister of Ethiopia] […]


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