Ethiopia’s opposition Ginbot 7 Movement for Unity and Democracy has decided to use armed resistance in addition to peaceful resistance against the government in Addis Ababa. This follows the move of the group’s leader from the United States to Eritrea.
Berhanu Nega travelled to Ethiopia’s northern neighbor following the merger of his Ginbot 7 with the Ethiopian People’s Patriotic Front. “It’s true he travelled to Eritrea, he went on July 17, 2015,” said the spokesman for the group, Dr. Tadesse Biru.
“He is the leader of an organization that strives to bring about democratic order in Ethiopia, and he went to fulfil his leadership role,” he explained in reference to Dr. Berhanu, who was sentenced to death in absentia while living in the US.
Ethiopia’s government classes Ginbot 7 as a terrorist group. It comprises former members of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy, an opposition grouping that made unprecedented gains against the ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front in 2005 elections.
Tadesse confirmed the merger of Ginbot 7 with the Ethiopian People’s Patriotic Front this year. On armed resistance, he said: “We do have a kind of blended strategy to challenge the government in Addis Ababa. We have been trying to stage civic disobedience; we tried peaceful resistance starting in 2005.”
But, a non-violent solution, he said, has been closed by the government in Ethiopia, and the group has been forced to consider all possible avenues including civic disobedience and armed resistance.
Tadesse emphasized, however, that the group is still open to a non-violent settlement. “We are always open to possibilities of a peaceful resolution. The group emerged from a peaceful movement but now we are forced to consider armed resistance. It’s not our choice but there is no other feasible option to challenge the government in Addis Ababa.”
He said civil disobedience will continue, but will be complemented by ‘non-peaceful resistance, like it was done in South Africa’.
Some observers say the move of the group to Eritrea could renew tensions between the Horn of Africa nations, which fought a two-year war that ended in 2000.
The spokesperson dispelled such fears, saying nothing will happen since the two countries had no friendly relationship anyway. “Eritrea has provided us an opportunity to organize our movement there, that’s all. I don’t think it will in any way affect the relationship - it has not been good.”
As to the strength of the group’s armed force, Tadesse said: “yes, there is a small group that has been training in Eritrea, and there is a movement developing.”
Officials in Addis Ababa have dismissed the group’s move. A special adviser to the Prime Minister was reported saying Ginbot 7 is militarily weak and Berhanu’s move to Eritrea is a “publicity stunt.”