Jan 17, 2018

UNPO Welcomes Release of Dr Merera Gudina

Photo courtesy of Africa News

UNPO welcomes the news of the release of Oromo opposition leader Dr Merera Gudina on Wednesday 17 January 2018. Dr Gudina had been a political prisoner for over a year after having been arrested by the Ethiopian government upon his return from meetings with European Union (EU) officials in Brussels. Being the Chairman of the Oromo Federalist Congress, he had addressed institutions such as the European Parliament in November 2016 and giving an account of the arbitrary arrests of thousands of Oromos, the crackdown of the Ethiopian government on the population and the corrupt local and federal governments. Shortly after his return to Ethiopia, Dr Gudina was arrested and charged with terrorism and other criminal offences for anti-government and anti-constitutional activism. 

While the Ethiopian government accused him of communicating, during his visit in Brussels, with opposition leaders labelled as terrorists by Ethiopia, Dr Gudina had objected the case and his lawyers called for his immediate release. Many international observers had since condemned his arrest and urged Ethiopia to release him and other political prisoners. Among these calls was that of the EU which passed a resolution in May 2017 calling for the release of the political opponent and denouncing the use of anti-terrorism legislation as a means of suppressing political opposition. Also within Ethiopia protests against the government have only increased in recent months with claims including the release of opposition politicians, now forcing the Ethiopian government to take action.

UNPO welcomes today’s release of Dr Merera Gudina, while cautiously awaiting the next moves of the Ethiopian government. As promised in early January 2018, the charges of many more prisoners that allegedly were involved in anti-government protests and activism are expected to be dropped. UNPO acknowledges the release of Dr Merera Gudina as a first step by Ethiopia towards admitting that the charges of some of its prisoners are purely “political”, but many more need to be released in order to allow for the emergence of an alternative political discourse and a real opposition within the Ethiopian political system and the involvement of representatives of all ethnic communities. In light of the many lives the country’s conflicts have already taken, the UNPO urges the Ethiopian government to engage in a path toward a more democratic system guaranteeing the fulfilment of its population’s basic human rights.

To follow the human rights situation in Ethiopia, you can refer to our timeline.