Ethiopia: Government Arrested Two Prominent Opposition Politicians

Two prominent Ethiopian opposition politicians have been detained, at least one of them on terrorism-related charges. But opposition leaders are questioning the charges, saying the detentions appear politically motivated.
Bekele Gerba
Government spokesman Shimeles Kemal says senior opposition figure Bekele Gerba was detained Saturday, charged with having ties to the newly-outlawed Oromo Liberation Front, or OLF, which is fighting for independence for Oromos, Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group.

Beyene_petros
Prof. Beyene Petros

“Bekele Gerba was arrested, detained by the Federal Anti-Terrorist Task Force in his alleged connection with his involvement with the recently proscribed terrorist organization OLF,” said Shimeless.

Bekele, an English teacher at Addis Ababa University, is a member of the executive committee of Ethiopia’s main opposition coalition, Medrek, and deputy chairman of the Oromo Federal Democratic Movement (OFDM).
Olbana Lelisa

Medrek leaders say another prominent Oromo opposition politician, Olbana Lelisa of the Oromo People’s Congress, was also detained. It was not immediately clear whether Olbana was also charged with terrorism.

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Mogga Frissa, who currently serves as chairman of both Medrek and OFDM, says both men were involved in external communications for their parties. In that capacity, they had been disseminating data about drought and malnutrition in remote regions of southern Ethiopia, data that sometimes contradicts government information.

Mogga said Bekele in particular had told of the arrests of people who had supplied information for a recent BBC news report. That report alleged Ethiopia has used billions of dollars in development aid as a tool for political repression.

“Bekele was talking about the famine in Ethiopia, and people were giving information to these people,” said Mogga. “He heard some people who gave information to the BBC have been imprisoned in [the] south.  So we suspect this is the cause.”

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Ethiopia’s government strongly denied the BBC report, calling it irresponsible. A statement posted on the foreign ministry website noted that opposition parties and the group Human Rights Watch had made the allegations previously, and they had been found to be groundless.

The statement argues that allegations of aid misuse are aimed at persuading donors to cut off assistance, at a time when millions of people are suffering from one of the worst droughts in decades.
Opposition: Detentions a “witch hunt”

Veteran opposition leader Beyene Petros was among those quoted in the BBC report. In a telephone interview Tuesday, he said he stands by allegations of aid abuse. Beyene called the arrests of Bekele and Olbana part of a “witch hunt” that will have a chilling effect on anyone who might provide embarrassing information to the press.
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1 Comment

  1. The information professor Beyene petros had provided is completely ture and correct.
    I am the man from southern ethiopian, where many country’s citizens have been starving form hunger and drought , which has not happened since 6 decades.
    What surprised me is that, where is the huge donation from international community and specially from EU?
    where government has taken this billions of Euros from EU and billions of Dollars fro other communities?
    I am student from from the Borena and Guji community of southern oromia regional state of ethiopia, really people are dying from the envirnomental catestrophic drought, even we have taken the summer student initiatives to visit some affected and vurnalabled areas.
    Government is simply seatigand looking at people dying as an inresponsible body.

    shame upon the Ethioipian government. really I dare say that this government is sielent killer.

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