From: Biniam Tekle (email@example.com)
Date: Thu Mar 24 2011 - 08:18:39 EST
Accused of Detaining Activists to Deter Uprising
Peter Heinlein | Addis Ababa March 23, 2011
Ethiopia has detained dozens of political activists as part of what
opposition groups say is a crackdown aimed at preventing a North African or
Middle Eastern style popular uprising. Our correspondent in Addis Ababa says
the crackdown is focused on the politically sensitive Oromia region, home to
more than one third of the country’s population.
Oromo opposition leaders say as many as 100 of their party members have been
arrested in federal police sweeps over the past two weeks. They say many of
those detained are charged with minor offenses such as quarreling with
Bekele Gerba, deputy leader of the Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement says
the arrests have spread fear among opposition activists in Ethiopia’s
"Anyone who speaks the language and does not belong to the ruling party is a
suspect and can be taken to prison any time," said Bekele Gerba. "They want
to show, if you don’t belong to us or you happen to support any opposition,
this is your fate tomorrow. This is how we are going to drag you into
prison. So people are intimidated now."
Bekele says opposition groups see the crackdown as a warning to anyone
hoping to inspire a popular uprising like those sweeping other countries in
"They are worried about what is going on around the world and what is
happening to dictators around the world, and it is because of that that mass
arrest and intimidation are going around," he said.
Oromia region officials flatly rejected any political motive behind the
arrests. Spokesman Mesfin Assefa says the government respects people’s right
to political dissent.
"There is rule of law in this country," said Mesfin Assefa. "There is due
process of law. Everybody who violates the law or who breaches the trust of
public will be liable. If certain guys commit crime, they will be liable for
The arrests come at a time when government officials are admittedly nervous
about unrest in the region. Prime Minister Meles Zenawi this month said he
was especially worried about political turmoil in Yemen, just 150 kilometers
from Ethiopia’s northern border. Mr. Meles said some domestic opposition
groups were trying to incite a copycat uprising.
"We are aware that some parties who are legally operating in Ethiopia are
praying this happens, and maybe playing a few games to try to accelerate
such an event," said Prime Minister Zenawi. "So we are watching these issues
A sign of the government’s growing unease has been a partial resumption of
jamming of VOA language service broadcasts to Ethiopia. The broadcasts are
often jammed before Ethiopia’s elections, but the jamming stops after the
Opposition leader Bekele says recent broadcast have been audible, except for
loud noises that disrupt the signal when political issues are discussed.
"We have a lot of problem even to listen to the VOA," he said. "The jamming.
There are experts who are standing by and ready to jam the wave every time
if there is any political issue. Immediately the jamming starts. It has
become virtually impossible to listen to the VOA on the radio. It is only
possible on the Arabsat satellite."
VOA last year began broadcasts to Ethiopia by the Arabsat satellite after
Prime Minister Meles authorized jamming its short wave radio signals. The
VOAnews.com website is also blocked to Ethiopian internet users.
VOA is the only international radio service broadcasting in three main
Ethiopian languages, Amharic, Afan Oromo and Tigrayan.
----[This List to be used for Eritrea Related News Only]----