News / Africa

Ethiopia PM Blames Muslim Extremist Group for Church Burnings

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi (file photo)
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi (file photo)

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has accused a little known Muslim extremist group of staging a wave of church burnings to provoke communal tensions in the Horn of Africa country. Meles expressed concern about regional instability, but dismissed the possibility of a North African-style popular uprising in Ethiopia.

Meles says he is aware of attempts to end the ruling party’s nearly 20 years in power, both from within and without. But in a meeting with reporters, he rejected suggestions of a people’s revolution similar to those confronting entrenched authoritarian governments in North Africa and the Middle East.

"It’s simply not possible. The circumstances for it do not exist. That does not mean some people will not try."

The prime minister did, however, express concern about the burning of dozens of churches earlier this month in a Muslim-majority area of Ethiopia’s Oromia region. Christian missionaries have told of thousands of rampaging youth torching places of worship and homes of believers.

Meles blamed an extremist sect called Kwarej for the violence.

"We believe there are some extremist groups within all of the religious institutions within the Muslim community. We believe there are elements of the Kwarej sect and other extremists who have been preaching religious intolerance in the area."

The Ethiopian leader said his government is also keeping an eye on the spread of Islamic extremist and terrorist groups elsewhere in the region. On a day of deadly clashes between police and anti-government protestors in Yemen, just across the Gulf of Aden from Ethiopia’s troubled neighbor Somalia, Meles said failure of the Yemeni state could spread insecurity across the Horn of Africa

"If the demonstrations in Yemen lead to some sort of breakdown of law and order in Yemen, this might give al-Qaida, which is based there, a good opportunity to expand. In any case it’s become a key base of support for al-Shabab."

The prime minister denied sending the Ethiopian army back to Somalia to join an offensive by government troops and African Union peacekeepers against al-Shabab, the insurgent group with ties to al-Qaida.

Ethiopian soldiers were pulled out of Somalia in 2008 after al-Shabab succeeded in turning public opinion against them as a foreign occupation force. But Meles confirmed news reports of Ethiopian involvement in clashes on the Somali side of the border.

"It’s sometimes very difficult not to be sucked in to that type of fighting when you are just sitting a few tens of meters away from a raging battle, and on the other side sits the enemy."

The joint offensive by Somali troops and the AU force known as AMISOM has dealt heavy blows to al-Shabab in recent weeks. But Meles said the reported loss of more than 50 AMISOM peacekeepers had slowed the government advance.

"I think AMISOM has lost the military momentum but I do not believe it is a spent force."

Meles also predicted explosions in the strategic neighboring city-state of Djibouti ahead of next month’s presidential election. He accused Ethiopia’s regional arch-rival Eritrea of supplying explosives to radical elements in an attempt to foment instability in Djibouti. But he said despite recent demonstrations by Djiboutian opposition forces, he was "not particularly worried" about an uprising of the type seen in Yemen or Egypt.


You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More