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Ethiopia’s Birtukan free: Why now? What now?



It’s now been 15 days since Ethiopia’s most popular opposition leader, Birtukan Mideksa, was released from prison and she still hasn’t said much at all.

Sure, she was “happy”, “elated” even. Prison was “horrible, really horrible.”

But talk of her political future is “for another time.”

The former judge is leader of Ethiopia’s biggest opposition party, the Unity for Democracy and Justice. The country’s 2005 elections ended in disaster when the opposition disputed a government victory and riots killed 193 protestors and seven policemen. Birtukan and other opposition leaders were jailed accused of sparking the trouble and then pardoned in 2007.

But she was sent back to prison in December 2008 for allegedly violating that pardon with a defiant speech in Sweden, which probably explains her caution now.