December 1, 2016

Oromo: Opposition Leader Arrested in Ethiopia

Photo Courtesy of FinFinneTribune

Mr Merera Gudina, a high-level Oromo opposition politician, was arrested shortly after his return to Ethiopia after speaking out against the plight of the Oromo people in front of the European Parliament. In his speech from 9 November 2016, he roundly condemned the arrest of thousands of people under the government-imposed, 6-month state of emergency. During the past year, the Oromo have increasingly been protesting against their historic marginalization, as well as against corrupt local government and land confiscation. So far, at least 700 Oromo have died in the government’s brutal crackdown on peaceful protesters.

Below an article published by The Washington Post:

A top opposition politician from Ethiopia’s restive Oromo ethnic group was arrested after he spoke out against the country’s state of emergency in front of the European Parliament, a colleague said Thursday [1 Decemeber 2016].

Police arrested Merera Gudina and three others from his home in Addis Ababa late Wednesday [30 November 2016] shortly after his return from Europe, which included a Nov. 9 [2016] speech in front of the European Parliament in which he said tens of thousands have been arrested under the state of emergency.

“We don’t know his whereabouts,” Beyene Petros, head of the Medrek coalition of opposition parties that includes Gudina’s Oromo Federalist Congress, told The Washington Post. “In terms of political leadership, he has been around and operating above board, peacefully.”

Government spokesman Negeri Lencho said he had no information about the arrest.

Gudina appeared in front of the European Parliament with Rio Olympics marathon silver medalist Feyisa Lilesa, who sensitized the world to the demands of Ethiopia’s Oromo people when he crossed his arms in protest as he ran across the finish line in July [2016].

Also present was Berhanu Nega of the Patriotic Ginbot 7, an armed rebel group fighting the Ethiopian government, which prompted calls for Gudina’s arrest by pro-government media.

The Oromo ethnic group, the largest in the country, have been protesting for the past year over their historic marginalization as well as corrupt local government and the confiscation of their farm land for factories. At least 700 have died in the ongoing crackdown.

On Oct. 2 [2016], a protest during an Oromo cultural festival turned into a deadly stampede when police fired tear gas into the crowd killing more than 50, according to the government — though the opposition maintains the toll was 10 times higher.

The incident was described as a massacre and prompted riots around the Oromo region and attacks on foreign and government-owned factories, farms and hotels doing millions of dollars of damage.

A state of emergency was declared a week later and since then the government said 11,000 people have been detained.