News / Africa

Opposition Leader Labels Ethiopian Government 'Dictatorship'

Ethiopian opposition leader Birtukan Mideksa (C) sits with former Ethiopian president Negasso Gidada (R) at her home in Addis Ababa after she was released from jail by Ethiopian authorities. (File Photo)
Ethiopian opposition leader Birtukan Mideksa (C) sits with former Ethiopian president Negasso Gidada (R) at her home in Addis Ababa after she was released from jail by Ethiopian authorities. (File Photo)

The newly elected leader of Ethiopia's largest opposition group says his party faces a monumental task in trying to unseat what he calls "dictators" bent on silencing dissent. The party held leadership elections even as some of its top officials are being tried on terrorism charges.

Hundreds of regional party leaders clapped in approval as former Ethiopian president Negasso Gidada was elected head of Unity for Democracy and Justice, the largest faction of the Medrek (Forum) opposition coalition. The election was the first since former UDJ leader Birtukan Mideksa fled into exile earlier this year after being freed from prison, where she had been serving a life sentence.

Negasso's acceptance speech was sober, free of the celebration that often accompanies victory. He called for the release of Andualem Arage and Natnael Mekonnen, two rising stars in the party who are on trial in federal court on terrorism charges. They, along with journalist Eskinder Nega, face the death penalty if convicted.

Negasso called on Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's ruling party to open up political space for opposition parties to operate freely. In a VOA interview, he charged that while publicly advocating democracy, the ruling Ethiopian Peoples' Revolutionary Democratic Front, the EPRDF, is intent on suppressing dissent and creating a one-party state.

“The system is from the old communist, it is the Marxist-Leninist way of thinking, and that is why we see, for example, that it is working with the Chinese Communist Party, because they have the same kind of belief. Therefore, it's a character of EPRDF to say it is the only one which is correct and it has to lead.”

Negasso said the current system makes it impossible for the opposition to win elections. He said the only hope for changing the government is through peaceful struggle.

“We have seen dictators cannot exist forever. We have seen that," said Negasso. "At one time, the people will say no. It may not happen this year, or after two years or so, but at some time the people will be angry and will stand up. That's what is going to happen.”

Negasso expressed particular concern about what he called a trend to use the state-run media to demonize opposition groups. He pointed to a recent three-part series on state television called Akeldama, or Land of Blood. The program suggested that UDJ leaders such as Andualem and Natnael were using their political work as a cover for terrorist activities linked to the outlawed Ginbot Seven party.

“Even if they had connection with Ginbot Seven, which the government thinks is terrorist, what the program did was accuse people as criminals and then try to prove what it says by bringing fake evidences, and giving judgment," he said. "People who are accused are innocent until proven by the court. What the program did is a big violation of the constitution.”

Government spokesman Shimeles Kemal, a former prosecutor, said the purpose of the Akeldama series was to warn citizens about the threat of terrorism. In a phone interview, Shimeles said opposition groups have been warned to guard against terrorist infiltrators.

“Medrek and some of its member party organizations have made themselves vulnerable to get infiltrated by terrorist elements," he said. "And the police have time and again advised these organizations to check through their own internal recruiting criteria as well as internal mechanisms so as to sift out infiltrators from their local members.”

Shimeles defended the decision to air Akeldama at a time when Andualem, Natnael and Eskinder are on trial, facing the death penalty. He said the government's Anti-Terrorism Task Force has a duty to disclose its activities to the public, adding “This is perfectly in accord with any democratic practice, including in the United States."

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

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

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs