News / Africa

Ethiopia Detains Two Prominent Opposition Politicians

Ethiopia Detains Two Prominent Opposition Politicians
Ethiopia Detains Two Prominent Opposition Politicians

Two prominent Ethiopian opposition politicians have been detained, at least one of them on terrorism-related charges. But opposition leaders are questioning the charges, saying the detentions appear politically motivated.

Bekele Gerba

Government spokesman Shimeles Kemal says senior opposition figure Bekele Gerba was detained Saturday, charged with having ties to the newly-outlawed Oromo Liberation Front, or OLF, which is fighting for independence for Oromos, Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group.

"Bekele Gerba was arrested, detained by the Federal Anti-Terrorist Task Force in his alleged connection with his involvement with the recently proscribed terrorist organization OLF," said Shimeless.

Bekele, an English teacher at Addis Ababa University, is a member of the executive committee of Ethiopia’s main opposition coalition, Medrek, and deputy chairman of the Oromo Federal Democratic Movement (OFDM).

Olbana Lelisa

Medrek leaders say another prominent Oromo opposition politician, Olbana Lelisa of the Oromo People’s Congress, was also detained. It was not immediately clear whether Olbana was also charged with terrorism.

Mogga Frissa, who currently serves as chairman of both Medrek and OFDM, says both men were involved in external communications for their parties. In that capacity, they had been disseminating data about drought and malnutrition in remote regions of southern Ethiopia, data that sometimes contradicts government information.

Mogga said Bekele in particular had told of the arrests of people who had supplied information for a recent BBC news report. That report alleged Ethiopia has used billions of dollars in development aid as a tool for political repression.

"Bekele was talking about the famine in Ethiopia, and people were giving information to these people," said Mogga. "He heard some people who gave information to the BBC have been imprisoned in [the] south.  So we suspect this is the cause."

Ethiopia’s government strongly denied the BBC report, calling it irresponsible. A statement posted on the foreign ministry website noted that opposition parties and the group Human Rights Watch had made the allegations previously, and they had been found to be groundless.

The statement argues that allegations of aid misuse are aimed at persuading donors to cut off assistance, at a time when millions of people are suffering from one of the worst droughts in decades.

Opposition: Detentions a "witch hunt"

Veteran opposition leader Beyene Petros was among those quoted in the BBC report. In a telephone interview Tuesday, he said he stands by allegations of aid abuse. Beyene called the arrests of Bekele and Olbana part of a “witch hunt” that will have a chilling effect on anyone who might provide embarrassing information to the press.

"They are harassing our supporters and people down in the south, especially one individual whom they alleged has been guiding them to some locations where the BBC reporters obtained information," said Beyene. "The government has dispatched security operatives to the area trying to dig up charges against individuals providing information, which the government finds sensitive and wants to hide."

The latest arrests come at a time when two Ethiopian journalists who were critical of the government are facing charges of involvement in terrorist activities.  Those arrests have raised concerns from international human rights and press freedom groups, who say the pretext of terrorism is being used to silence dissent.

Prosecutors, however, allege the journalists were involved in plot to sabotage electricity and telephone lines, and say the charges have nothing to do with their professional activities.

You May Like

Multimedia Obama Defends Immigration Action

Obama says with his executive action on immigration, enforcement resources will be focused on 'felons, not families; criminals, not children' More

US-Led Airstrikes in Syria Kill Over 900: Monitoring Group

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the toll includes more than 50 civilians, five of them women and eight of them children More

Report: Obama Broadens US Combat Role in Afghanistan

The New York Times says resident Barack Obama has signed a classified order extending the role of US troops in Afghanistan for another year 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.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid