Opposition slams Ethiopian govt

February 27th, 2009 | by addis portal |

Addis Ababa – An Ethiopian opposition party on Thursday accused the government of arbitrarily arresting its members and closing down its branches ahead of the 2010 general elections.

The Unity for Democracy and Justice party (UDJ), one of Ethiopia’s largest opposition groups, said in a statement that its members had been the victims of systematic intimidation by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s regime.

“Regional governments have ordered the closure of our regional branches, threatened and incarcerated our members, while our properties have been vandalised under the sole pretext that UDJ lacks legitimacy,” the party said.

In December, UDJ leader Birtukan Midekssa was also detained after having her pardon from a life sentence for treason revoked on charges that she denied expressing remorse.

The 35-year-old’s arrest sparked a fresh outcry from international rights groups, with New York-based Human Rights Watch warning of “a growing trend of political repression” in Ethiopia.

Weaken opposition parties

Ethiopian authorities have insisted that revoking Birtukan’s pardon for a life sentence was not a political decision.

Another opposition leader, secretary general of the Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement (OFDM) Bekele Jirata, was only released from prison last month after serving several months for plotting terrorist attacks.

“As the next general elections approach, we believe that the ruling party as usual is doing its best to weaken opposition parties in order to stay in power,” the UDJ said.

The party made its most spectacular electoral gains ever in the 2005 polls but cried foul over reported fraud, claiming it was robbed of victory by Zenawi’s ruling party.

The ensuing unrest left close to 200 people dead and drew wide international condemnation.

– AFP

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