Mass arrests of regime opponents

Ethiopian government fears spillover from Jasmine Revolution

More than 370 opponents of the regime in Ethiopia were arrested last week. "Among the prisoners are leading representatives of the Oromo population," reported the head of the Africa section at the STP, Ulrich Delius, on Monday in Göttingen. "Obviously the Ethiopian government is afraid that the Jasmine Revolution will spill over into their country." Oppositions forces have called for broad-based protests against the authoritarian leadership of this state on the Horn of Africa to be held on 28 May 2011.

According to information obtained by the STP, 217 members of the Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement (OFDM), an organization critical of the Ethiopian government, and 40 representatives of the Oromo People's Conference (OPC) have been arrested. Both parties belong to the MEDREK oppositional alliance, along with many other groups. Among the arrestees are the former Ethiopian members of parliament Gutu Melisa and Asfaw Angasu as well as the former members of the regional parliament in the state of Oromia, Tadesse Gelalcha and Teshale Edosa.

In addition to these government opponents, 120 leading representatives of the Oromo party in Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's government, the Oromo People's Democratic Organization (OPDO), were arrested, including highly placed employees in the Ministries of Finance, Energy, Culture and Tourism, as well as from other federal agencies. They stand accused of corruption and incompetence. Charges of corruption are routinely brought by the Ethiopian government against critics and competitors. Criticism from the OPDO against the head of government, Zenawi, has increased in recent months. Moreover the prime minister fears that various politicians in the OPDO who question his authority may be gaining in influence.

The Oromo, who make up the majority of the population in Ethiopia, have been suffering under repression for decades. Since 2006 hundreds of Oromo students and schoolchildren have been arrested for political reasons. Furthermore, farmers, teachers, singers and managers from a number of companies have all been arrested solely because of their ethnic origins. They are routinely accused of supporting the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), which has been waging an armed struggle against the Ethiopian government for decades.