Approximately 2,000 Ethiopians from around the United States are demonstrating here in Washington – marking the first anniversary of their country’s controversial parliamentary elections, according to VOA reporters on the scene. The demonstrations come as the political stalemate in Ethiopia continues. Virtually the entire leadership of the main opposition party – the Coalition for Unity and Democracy -- is in jail. The leaders – along with journalists and political activists --- are being tried on treason charges that carry a possible death penalty. Today’s rally was organized by the CUD representative’s office in North America.
Seyoum Solomon heads the foreign relations committee of the CUD’s support group in North America. He described the purpose of today’s demonstrations to English to Africa reporter Ashenafi Abedje. “Exactly a year ago, a day after the election day May 15th, EPRDF declared it had won the election when we knew very well it had lost in a landslide. It also declared a state of emergency in Addis Ababa. Ethiopians lost their basic human rights on that day. The reason we are demonstrating on May 16th is to show our opposition to what happened exactly a year ago and what’s happening up to today.”
Solomon says demonstrations such as the one held today have proved productive in promoting the opposition’s agenda. “A lot of senators and congressmen participated at our last demonstration. Dr. Lowery, the champion of human rights, came and made a beautiful speech. Ambassador Yamomoto addressed us from the State Department. So we are getting visibility and policy makers in the United States are listening to us.”
The opposition spokesman says his party’s platform is clear and best suited for Ethiopia’s short and long term development. “Our platform is based on basic human rights, one man one vote, the protection of individual rights, a liberal free market economy, privatization of land,. It is probably the most robust development, economic and social policy that any party has put together.”