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May 9, 2010

Ethiopia opposition stab policeman to death – govt

ADDIS ABABA, May 9 (Reuters) – The Ethiopian government said on Sunday a policeman had been stabbed to death, an attack it blamed on the opposition ahead of a national election this month.

Ethiopia’s last election in 2005 ended with street riots and the jailing of politicians after both the ruling party and the opposition claimed victory.

The government said the 2005 violence had been planned to force an unconstitutional change. Security forces killed 193 people and seven policemen also died.

"I can confirm that a policeman was stabbed to death," government head of information, Bereket Simon, told Reuters.

The attack happened on Friday night in Oromia, home to Ethiopia’s biggest ethnic group, the Oromo, who number 27 million out of 80 million people.

State television named the dead policeman as Hassan Regasa.

Bereket said a group of men had been arrested and that they were members of the country’s biggest opposition coalition, Medrek.

"They have admitted their guilt to the police and they have admitted that they are card-carrying members of Medrek," Bereket said.

Medrek spokesmen were not immediately available to comment.

The government said on Saturday that a grenade was thrown into a meeting of the Oromo People’s Democratic Organisation (OPDO), killing two people and injuring 14. The OPDO is part of the country’s ruling coalition.[ID:nLDE64706C]

On Monday, the ruling party accused opposition members of killing one of its candidates. The opposition says one of its candidates was killed by ruling party supporters in March and that an activist was murdered in April.

The ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Democratic Front (EPRDF) is expected to win the May 23 poll comfortably. The opposition says this is because their candidates are harassed. The government says the opposition is trying to discredit the poll. (Editing by George Obulutsa and Myra MacDonald)





May 8, 2010

Two killed, 14 hurt in Ethiopia grenade attack-govt

ADDIS ABABA, May 8 (Reuters) – Three men threw a hand grenade into a political meeting in Ethiopia, killing two and injuring fourteen just over two weeks before national elections, a government spokesman said on Saturday.

The attack on a gathering of the Oromo Peoples’ Democratic Organisation (OPDO) happened on Thursday in the Oromia region, home to Ethiopia’s most populous ethnic group, the Oromo, who number 27 million out of 80 million people.

"It was an attempt to assassinate the region’s deputy president, Abdulaziz Mohammed, but he was unhurt. The suspects have been arrested," government spokesman Shimeles Kemal told Reuters. The OPDO is part of the country’s ruling coalition.

Shimeles said police would investigate whether the men were from any particular group.

Ethiopia has in the past blamed Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) secessionist rebels for similar attacks.

Ethiopia’s last elections in 2005 ended with street riots and the jailing of politicians after both the ruling party and the opposition claimed victory. The government said the violence had been planned to force an unconstitutional change. Security forces killed 193 people and seven policemen also died.

The political climate in Ethiopia is closely watched by foreign investors showing interest in oil and gas exploration and large-scale farming.

Opposition Oromo parties say ruling party officials are attacking and jailing their members ahead of the May 23 poll.

The ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Democractic Front (EPRDF) says the opposition is trying to incite violence because it has no chance of winning the elections. (Editing by George Obulutsa and Matthew Jones)




May 7, 2010

Ethiopia govt, opposition exchange murder accusations

ADDIS ABABA, May 7 (Reuters) – Ethiopia’s ruling party accused the opposition on Friday of killing one of its candidates ahead of this month’s national election, in an allegation denied by the main opposition alliance.

Both sides have stepped up rhetoric ahead of the May 23 election — the first vote in the Horn of Africa country since 2005 when a disputed poll ended with street riots and the jailing of politicians.

Ethiopian government spokesman Shimeles Kemal said one of the ruling party’s candidates had been stabbed to death, in a first murder accusation against Medrek, the country’s main opposition coalition.

"Itana Idossa was stabbed to death by Medrek members a week ago after he left a meeting," he said. "Police have apprehended suspects — Medrek activists."

Medrek dismissed the accusation. "The people who killed him have no connection with us," Merera Gudina, leader of one of the coalition parties, the Oromo Peoples’ Congress, told Reuters.

The ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front is expected to win the election comfortably. Medrek is seen as the biggest political force challenging the 19-year-old government of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.

At the time of the 2005 vote, the government said the violence was part of a plan to force an unconstitutional change. Security forces killed 193 people on the streets and top opposition leaders were imprisoned. Seven policemen were killed.

The opposition says their candidates and voters are harassed and intimidated. The government, for its part, says the opposition plans to incite street violence and discredit the poll because it has no chance of winning.

The political climate in Ethiopia is watched closely by investors eyeing oil and gas exploration and large-scale farming projects there.

Last month, a senior Medrek official, Bulcha Demeksa, said an opposition activist was bludgeoned to death with a gun butt by ruling party members.

The ruling party responded by saying the man died of cancer and vowed to prosecute Bulcha. On Thursday, the man’s father told Voice of America radio station that his son was beaten to death by government militia men.

Both killings happened in the Oromia region, home to Ethiopia’s biggest ethnic group, the Oromo, who number 27 million out of 80 million people.

In March, a Medrek candidate in the north of the huge country, Aregawi Gebre-Yohannes, was attacked and stabbed to death. The opposition says his killing was a political murder, but the government says he died in a bar fight. A man has been sentenced to 15 years in jail for his murder. (Reporting by Barry Malone, editing by George Obulutsa and Maria Golovnina)





Apr 28, 2010

Ethiopian government says opposition wants poll violence

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – The Ethiopian opposition may provoke violence during the first national elections since a disputed 2005 poll ended with street riots and the jailing of politicians, the ruling party has said.

The government said in 2005 that the violence was planned to force an unconstitutional change after a vote in which both sides claimed victory. Security forces killed about 200 people on the streets and the top opposition leaders were imprisoned.

Apr 28, 2010

Ethiopian govt says opposition wants poll violence

ADDIS ABABA, April 28 (Reuters) – The Ethiopian opposition may provoke violence during the first national elections since a disputed 2005 poll ended with street riots and the jailing of politicians, the ruling party has said.

The government said in 2005 that the violence was planned to force an unconstitutional change after a vote in which both sides claimed victory. Security forces killed about 200 people on the streets and the top opposition leaders were imprisoned.

The ruling party said late on Tuesday that Beyene Petros, leader of the main opposition coalition Medrek, told thousands of supporters it was possible to oust the government violently.

"He said that if the public is not happy with a government they can create some kind of problem, can protest and can bring down the government without elections," ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) spokesman, Sekuture Getachew, told Reuters late on Tuesday.

"We can only guess they are inclining towards some kind of violent activities," said Sekuture.

Beyene called the allegations "outrageous" and said his speech only mentioned constitutional means of removing governments, such as votes of no confidence.

"Violence was not implied at all in my argument," Beyene told Reuters. "I was just talking about normal democratic process. They’ve been trying to find something in an effort to incriminate us."



POSSIBLE PROSECUTIONS

The political climate in sub-Saharan Africa’s second most populous country is closely watched by foreign investors showing interest in oil and gas exploration and large-scale farming.

Analysts say the government is keen to avoid a repeat of the 2005 violence and is closely watching the language opposition leaders use in their speeches.

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi is expected to win the May 23 poll comfortably. The opposition says this is because their candidates are harassed and people in remote parts of the country are offered incentives to vote for the EPRDF.

The government says the opposition is trying to discredit the poll.

Meles has agreed an electoral code of conduct with three parliamentary opposition parties. Medrek refused to sign, saying issues including reform of the electoral board were left out.

Meles has warned that politicians who violate the code of conduct may be prosecuted after the elections for contravening the country’s constitution.

"Any statements that propagate violence and illegal ways of changing government are banned by the code of conduct," Sekuture said.

Meles was hailed as part of a new generation of African leaders in the 1990s, but rights groups have increasingly criticised the former rebel for cracking down on opposition. (Editing by David Clarke)




Apr 22, 2010

Ethiopia opposition says activist beaten to death

ADDIS ABABA, April 22 (Reuters) – An Ethiopian opposition activist has been bludgeoned to death with a gun butt in the second politically motivated murder in the run-up to national elections on May 23, an opposition leader said on Thursday.

Bulcha Demeksa, a leader of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), told Reuters the activist, Biyansa Daba, was attacked at home by members of the ruling party.

"Biyansa Daba was beaten on April 7 with the butt of a gun," Bulcha said. "He died in hospital on April 16. He was a very strong up and coming figure."

"Of course it was political," Bulcha said. "They asked him to stop converting people to OFC, they warned him many times. Why else would anyone beat him?"

Government spokesmen were not immediately available to comment but routinely deny that members of the ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front intimidate the opposition.

In 2005, the results of the Horn of Africa country’s last elections were challenged by the opposition and some international observers.

Street riots erupted, security forces killed about 200 protesters and the main opposition leaders were imprisoned. Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said they were trying to oust him.

The OFC and other parties representing the Oromo — Ethiopia’s biggest ethnic group — say ruling party officials are intimidating and jailing their members.

The government denies it targets Oromo politicians and points to the fact that there are several Oromo government ministers and a ceremonial president of the country as proof.

Oromos, who number 27 million of Ethiopia’s 80 million people, have not held power in modern history. Ethiopia has more than 80 ethnic groups.

Prime Minister Meles is from the Tigrayan ethnic group, who make up 6 percent of the population and dominate the political and military elite.

Aregawi Gebre-Yohannes, an opposition candidate for the eight-party coalition Medrek — of which the OFC is a member — was stabbed to death in March.

The opposition says his killing was a political murder, but the government says Aregawi was killed in a bar fight. A man has been sentenced to 15 years’ jail for the killing.

Analysts expect the Meles government to win the election.

The opposition says the government scares people into voting for it. The government says the opposition is weak and is trying to discredit the poll. (Editing by George Obulutsa and Tim Pearce)




Apr 19, 2010
via Africa News blog

Ethiopia elections: Can the EU effectively monitor?

Photo

The Ethiopian press corps put Thijs Berman, the EU’s chief observer for the country’s May 23rd elections, under some serious pressure at his first press conference since arriving last Wednesday – less than five weeks before the poll.

“Won’t you just rubberstamp a precooked election?” said one.

“How can you do your work with less than five weeks left?” another.

“You have 150 observers for 43,000 polling stations?!” a third.

Berman, a seasoned election monitor who has Afghanistan’s mess of a 2009 poll on his CV, took it all in his stride and even showed flashes of humour.

Apr 9, 2010

British geologist shot dead in Ethiopia

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Gunmen in Ethiopia have killed a British geologist working for state-run Malaysian energy firm Petronas and two soldiers protecting him, an Ethiopian government spokesman said on Friday.

The Briton died in the shooting on Monday near Danot town in the Warder zone of eastern Ethiopia, the British Embassy in Addis Ababa said.

Apr 9, 2010

Ethiopia says rebels threatening oil firms surrender

ADDIS ABABA, April 9 (Reuters) – An Islamist rebel group
which had threatened to attack oil and gas firms exploring a
potentially mineral-rich region of Ethiopia has surrendered, the
government said on Friday.

The United Western Somali Liberation Front (UWSLF) had been
fighting since the 1960s for independence for Ethiopia’s Somali
region — which includes the Ogaden and accounts for one-fifth
of the country’s landmass — government head of information
Bereket Simon told reporters.

Apr 8, 2010

Ethiopia opposition leader flees 12-year jail term

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – An Ethiopian opposition leader convicted in absentia of belonging to a separatist rebel group has fled the country, party colleagues said Thursday.

They said Bekele Jirata, secretary general of the Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement (OFDM) who left while free on bail, was targeted as part of a pre-election crackdown on the country’s biggest ethnic group.

    • About Barry

      "Irish journalist who has lived in the Horn and east Africa since 2006 - first in Ethiopia, then in Uganda - covering politics, elections, society, culture and economics across the region. I have also worked for Reuters in Tunisia, Iraq and Libya and was part of the team that dominated coverage of Muammar Gaddafi's killing. Always welcome a good chat over on Twitter: @malonebarry"
      Hometown:
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