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 Westgate Mall Attack Survivors Confront Painful Memories

On anniversary of terror attack, survivors discuss how they have coped with trauma they experienced that day More

Iraqi Kurdish Leader: Protect Syrian City

Islamic State fighters are besieging Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab, after seizing at least 21 surrounding villages in a major assault against city on Syria's northern border with Turkey More

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

Conservationists hail ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015 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.
Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calaisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 19, 2014 5:04 PM
The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video CERN Accelerator Back in Business

The long upgrade of the Large Hadron Collider is over. The scientific instrument responsible for the discovery of the Higgs boson -- the so-called "God particle" -- is being brought up to speed in time for this month's 60th anniversary of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN. Physicists hope the accelerator will help them uncover more secrets about the origins of the universe. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid