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12:21 pm - Sunday June 25, 2017

Ethiopia arrests top Oromo opposition politician after Europe Parliament speech [washingtonpost]

A top opposition politician from Ethiopia’s restive Oromo ethnic group was arrested after he spoke out against the country’s state of emergency in front of the European Parliament, the government announced Thursday.

A colleague said police arrested Merera Gudina and three others from his home in Addis Ababa late Wednesday shortly after his return from Europe, which included a Nov. 9 speech to the European Parliament in which he said tens of thousands have been arrested under the state of emergency.

The Oromo ethnic group, the largest in the country, has been protesting for the past year over its historic marginalization as well as corrupt local government and the confiscation of farm land for factories. At least 700 people have died in the ongoing crackdown.

“We don’t know his whereabouts,” Beyene Petros, head of the Medrek coalition of opposition parties that includes Gudina’s Oromo Federalist Congress, told The Washington Post. “In terms of political leadership, he has been around and operating aboveboard, peacefully.”

A statement by the Command Post formed to manage Ethiopia’s current state of emergency said Gudina had been arrested for “communication with banned terrorist organizations” and alleged he held discussions with Berhanu Nega, the leader of the outlawed Patriotic Ginbot 7 armed group, in Brussels.

Gudina appeared in front of the European Parliament with Nega as well as Rio Olympics marathon silver medalist Feyisa Lilesa, who sensitized the world to the demands of Ethiopia’s Oromo people when he crossed his arms in protest as he ran across the finish line in July.

Ana Gomes, the E.U. parliamentarian who helped organize the meeting, tweeted her outrage at the arrest, calling on Federica Mogherini, the E.U.’s foreign policy representative, to intervene: “You must urge Ethio­pian PM to release Oromo leader Dr. Merera Gudina.”

She noted in a second tweet that the government had ignored previous expressions of concern by the E.U. over the violence. “Ethiopia gov doesn’t care; just jailed Oromo leader Dr. Merera Gudina for speaking @EP.”

Gudina appeared in front of the European Parliament with Nega as well as Rio Olympics marathon silver medalist Feyisa Lilesa, who sensitized the world to the demands of Ethiopia’s Oromo people when he crossed his arms in protest as he ran across the finish line in July.

Ana Gomes, the E.U. parliamentarian who helped organize the meeting, tweeted her outrage at the arrest, calling on Federica Mogherini, the E.U.’s foreign policy representative, to intervene: “You must urge Ethio­pian PM to release Oromo leader Dr. Merera Gudina.”

She noted in a second tweet that the government had ignored previous expressions of concern by the E.U. over the violence. “Ethiopia gov doesn’t care; just jailed Oromo leader Dr. Merera Gudina for speaking @EP.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists describes Ethi­o­pia as the third worst jailer of journalists in Africa after Eritrea and Egypt.

In the past month, two members of the Zone 9 blogging collective were also rearrested along with a newspaper editor. The Zone 9 bloggers had originally been held for a year and a half until they were released in July 2015, coinciding with the visit of President Obama.

Gudina spoke frequently with international media, including The Post, about the plight of the Oromo. While hundreds of his party members and most of his key deputies have been arrested, he expressed doubt the government would ever go so far as to detain him as well.

“I think for them, most of the leaders of the regime, they know me and it is not in their interests to detain me, it could provoke wider Oromo action,” he told The Post in an interview a year ago. “The strategy of the regime, they say is to suspend the leadership in the air, they take the middle level and the grass roots.”

Filed in: Current Affairs / News