News / Africa

Political Opposition Has New Energy in Ethiopia

Thousands of Ethiopian opposition activists demonstrate in Addis Ababa, June 2, 2013.
Thousands of Ethiopian opposition activists demonstrate in Addis Ababa, June 2, 2013.
Marthe van der Wolf
— Ethiopian opposition supporters carried out their first peaceful protest against the government in eight years last week.  The demonstration has raised hopes the ruling coalition will give political opponents more room to operate.  Three opposition leaders from the past said that no matter what happens, the opposition faces major challenges. 
 
Thousands of Ethiopians took to the streets last week in the capital, Addis Ababa, in a demonstration against Ethiopia’s government.  It was the first time authorities had allowed such a protest since the disputed 2005 elections and was organized by the Blue Party, a relatively new party with many young active members.
 
Hailu Shawul is one of the opposition leaders imprisoned following post-election demonstrations in 2005 that turned violent.  He said last week’s demonstration was a huge success but he questions the long-term effect.

“I can assure you, not much will change, but it encourages us to probe the people into action," Shawul said. "The whole point of the demonstration is for people to steam off, it's for the government to listen and maybe change their policies, but here, this has never happened.”

Ethiopia has been ruled by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) since 1991.  The four-party coalition controls virtually all of the seats in parliament, and critics have accused it of turning Ethiopia into a one-party state.
 
Opposition leader Asrat Tassie shared his prison days with Hailu and is still politically active as secretary-general for UDJ (Unity for Democracy and Justice), the only opposition party with a seat in parliament.  He too believes the demonstration was a big achievement.
 
“I hope this new spirit after 2005 will gain momentum, and hope all the others will follow.  There is no choice for the opposition parties but to keep on pressuring the government,” stated Tassie.
 
Beyene Petros, an opposition leader since 1991, also applauds the efforts of the Blue Party and its young members, but said there are many challenges ahead.
 
“It may sound like it is an easy road to ride on; they need to be seasoned.  They need to be addressing these complex Ethiopian political parties within a broader perspective, and not only narrow interests," Petros said. "I see their likes simply pick one line of thinking and then try to harp it.  And that will not be a solution.”

During the 2005 elections, four opposition parties worked together and won a large block of seats in parliament.  After disputes over the election results, massive protests broke out and hundreds of demonstrators and opposition members were either imprisoned or killed.
 
Asrat reminds the younger generation in the opposition that fighting for their beliefs comes with many sacrifices. “We have to struggle for our freedom, and freedom is not free.  There are going to be risks, otherwise we have to close our shops if we are not able to courageously confront the government,” he said.
 
The Blue Party says it will hold another demonstration in three months if their demands, such as releasing political prisoners and more political freedom, are not met.  Because of the big turnout of last week’s protests, other opposition parties are currently also looking into organizing public protests.

You May Like

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid