The Ethiopian government has described as “rubbish” allegations that its security forces killed 193 people who were part of an opposition protest against alleged election fraud last year. The allegations were made by Wolde-Michael Meshesha, vice chairman of a 10-member government-appointed independent inquiry commission. That commission has yet to release its findings. But from an undisclosed location in Europe, Wolde-Michael, who said he fled Ethiopia, repeated his commission’s findings in an interview with VOA English to Africa reporter James Butty.
“According to our investigation and conclusion, 193 civilians, most of them were shot dead by the security forces, our finding shows,” he said.
Bereket Simon, advisor to Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, describes Wolde-Michael’s allegations as mere rumors. He says the government is waiting for the commission’s report.
“We have heard this rumors circulating around. We haven’t seen the report. So it’s difficult for me to comment on a report that the government hasn’t seen. Nevertheless, you know that we have had an election, a very good election, and we have had a post-election crisis, which was triggered by the opposition. The opposition wanted to take all the seats. So they initiated street action where the government had to discharge its law enforcement obligation,“ Simon said.
But Wolde-Michael says the government, in carrying out its law-enforcement obligation, used excessive force and might have committed a massacre.
“It is, according to our findings, because according to the constitution and the criminal laws or penal law, one cannot be killed without any conviction. Since, as I said, the demonstrators they only had stones to thrown. Since they do not have any armed weapons such as guns or other similar weapons, how can we say it’s not similar to massacre,” he said.
Simon says the Ethiopian government did not commit any massacre.
“This is absolutely rubbish. The opposition intended to conduct a revolution. They have done this in an open manner. So we have an obligation of law enforcement. That we have done, Nevertheless, what the government did in the past was basically within its mandate. We didn’t massacre any body,” Simon said.
Simon accused Wolde-Michael and others of being affiliated with the Ethiopian opposition and for engaging in a smear campaign against the government to seek political asylum in other countries. But Wolde-Michael says he’s not a member of the opposition or the ruling party. He also says the government is only trying to camouflage the commission’s upcoming report.
“They can’t show any evidence this way. It’s simply defamation, I can say. I can say I am not a member of opposition party or the ruling party member. I’m not. I say myself, I’m an independent person to this inquiry only,” Wolde-Michael said.
Wolde-Michael says he fled the country so that he may tell the truth about his commission’s findings because, he says, the Ethiopian government does not want the truth to come out.
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