Ethiopian 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 Ethiopia.
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.
Tsige 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 genocide.
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”.