Jun 03, 2010

Oromo: Ethiopian opposition reports mass detention of its supporters

Active ImageEthiopia’s ruling junta has detained about 1,000 opposition activists in the country’s Oromia region since May 22, the day before national elections, a leader of the Medrek opposition alliance said.




Below is an article published by Ethiopian Review:


While most of those held have been released, supporter intimidation hasn’t stopped, Merara Gudina, a leader of the ethnic Oromo wing of Medrek, said in a phone interview today (2 June 2010).

“Beatings have continued, people are still being arrested and receiving instant sentences of five or six months,” said Merara. “Including the eve of election day, about 1,000 of our party poll watchers have been detained.”

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front and its allies won 545 of 547 parliamentary seats in the May 23 poll, according to provisional results posted to the website of the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia. A European Union observer mission declared the campaign failed to meet certain “international commitments.”

Ethiopia’s government denied the opposition claims. “This is an outrageous allegation,” said Shimeles Kemal, a government spokesman, in a phone interview today. “The government doesn’t wish to pursue the perpetrators of any infringements or irregularities.”

Medrek filed a complaint with the country’s electoral board yesterday, calling for the elections to be re-run. Both Medrek and the smaller All Ethiopia Unity Party have accused the ruling party of a widespread campaign of rigging and voter intimidation, including withholding food aid from opposition supporters.

Negasso Gidada, a leader of Medrek, says that four people were arrested in western Ethiopia in the days following the election after they reported finding ballots marked for Medrek stuffed in a latrine. He also said a Medrek activist had been “disappeared” near the eastern city of Harar. “The relatives don’t know where he is, whether he lives or not,” Negasso said in a phone interview from Addis Ababa. Shimeles said he was unaware of the incidents and would look into the allegations.