authorities say the 40 people arrested over a week ago had been planning an
insurrection and not a coup. All are said to be
members of Ginbot 7 (May the 15th), an opposition pressure group based outside
Andargachew Tsige is the secretary
general of Ginbot 7. From London he told VOA’s English to Africa reporter Douglas
Mpuga that it was difficult to tell who exactly was arrested. “The only person
whose name is mentioned is an army general, and the other is an 80 year-old man
who is my father. Other names are not listed so we cannot tell. Also, our
operations in the country are clandestine we don’t even know the names of some
of our members”.
He said his sources within
Ethiopia say that the government had backed away from charging the arrested
people with plotting a coup because it didn’t appear beneficial to the
government politically. “So they turned it (the arrest) into some terrorist activity
so that they (government) could get some diplomatic leverage”.
“Our objective is very
simple. In fact, we are not, in a traditional sense, a political party that
aspires to take political power. We are mainly interested in the political process.
We want the Ethiopian political process to be democratic,” he said.
Tsige emphasized that Ginbot
7 wants democratic institutions to be put in place before any election so that
there can be a democratic, free, and peaceful election.
He admitted that his
organization has people within the country in all sectors of society, including
within ‘the status quo’ and all its military and administrative structures. “We
have very extended clandestine network covering the entire nation. We don’t even
know all the names of our members, and that is alright because revealing their
names would put them in danger”.
Tsige dismissed reports
that the Ethiopian government was planning to extradite members of Ginbot 7 who
are in exile. “I am not worried at all. I heard (Simon)
Bereket (the Communications Minister) says the
government would consider asking for the extradition of Berhanu Nega and other
exiled Ginbot 7 leaders. Doesn’t he know that Ethiopia has no extradition treaty
with the United States”, he asked.
added that Nega was fighting for democracy and freedom which are values shared
by western society and the Ethiopian people. “The American government knows the
status quo is narrowing down the political space, it is accused of the crime of
They know they killed hundreds of peaceful protesters
after the 2005 elections. It is these guys who are in power that are seen as criminals
not those fighting for freedom”.