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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants 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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs