Ethiopia’s ruling party says opposition may incite violence

February 4th, 2010 | by addis portal |

By Jason McLure

ADDIS ABABA (Bloomberg) — Ethiopia’s ruling party said the country’s largest opposition grouping, the Forum for Democratic Dialogue (Medrek), would try to foment violence after elections scheduled for May in an effort to spur foreign governments to intervene.

“They are ready to create violence after the elections,” Hailemariam Desalegn, the parliamentary whip for the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front [a cover for Tigrean People’s Liberation Front (Woyanne)], said in a phone interview this week. “Their ultimate objection is not free and fair elections but to get power-sharing like in Zimbabwe and Kenya. I think this is very dangerous and they should be properly told this.”

He said opposition allegations that elections scheduled for May 23 would not be free and fair were designed to fuel popular discontent that would lead to street clashes as happened following the country’s disputed 2005 poll.

The warning came as the opposition Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ), the largest political party in the Forum, accused the U.S., Britain and other Western aid donors of silence over the jailing of UDJ leader Birtukan Mideksa and other human rights abuses.

The U.S. and U.K. “are following the old way of doing business,” said Andualem Aragie, UDJ’s secretary general. “They are partners in development with the Ethiopian government but I don’t think they are partners in freedom and democracy.”

Following disputed presidential elections in Zimbabwe in 2008 and Kenya in 2007, international mediators brokered agreements that allowed opposition parties to share power with Presidents Robert Mugabe and Mwai Kibaki.

The opposition has sought to raise pressure on the U.S., U.K., and other donors who supply more than $2 billion in aid annually to Ethiopia, saying their silence is tantamount to political support for Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.

The U.K. government has a “frank and full dialogue with the government of Ethiopia on human rights and democracy including Birtukan,” said Gavin Cook, a spokesman for the British embassy in Addis Ababa. “Our development assistance, regardless to who is in power, has helped benefit millions of Ethiopians.”

Michael Gonzales, a spokesman for the U.S. embassy in Addis Ababa, declined comment.

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