Ethiopian police detained 40 opposition supporters distributing leaflets calling for the repeal of an anti-terrorism law they say has been used to stifle dissent, the Unity for Democracy and Justice party said. The arrests in four districts of the capital, Addis Ababa, occurred yesterday as UDJ members distributed pamphlets asking people to sign a petition that also demands the release of jailed opposition members, religious leaders and journalists, the party said in an e-mailed statement. “It is harassment,” UDJ Chairman Negasso Gidada said in a phone interview today from the capital. “There is no law that says you need permission to distribute leaflets.”
The mobile phones of government spokesman, Shimeles Kemal, and Bereket Simon, spokesman in the prime minister’s office, were switched off when called for comment. The opposition campaigners were released on bail late yesterday and the group plans to continue gathering signatories for the petition, Negasso said. Opposition politicians and reporters have been arrested under an anti-terror law passed by Ethiopia in 2009. The U.S. and United Nations have criticized the legislation for curbing freedom of expression after the arrest of several journalists.
Online writer Eskinder Nega and Woubshet Taye, former deputy editor of the defunct Awramba Times, were convicted last year under the law for crimes including trying to incite anti-government protests and having links to terrorist organizations.
Dandi, Negasso’s path is the result of collaboration between Dr. Negasso Gidada and journalist Daniel Tefera. Daniel coauthored the memoir based on a series of interviews he had conducted over a period of three months. He wrote down and arranged the material in the first person and Negasso edited and approved every chapter. Thus, though Daniel actually did the writing, it is reasonable to consider the work an autobiography.
The chapter on the relationship between Negasso and Meles makes a good reading, which is the focus of this post. It emerges that Negasso is a proud socialist in his politics, which is one of the reasons he favored TPLF, which grew out of the Marxist-oriented student movement against the Haile Selassie regime. Marist-Leninist explanation for the poverty of the mass of the population had validity for the TPLF at the start, which Negasso found appealing too. But to Negasso’s bewilderment, Meles started quietly dropping references to Marxism and pursued a political philosophy more acceptable to the West. This development left Negasso “deceived” and “angry,” a recurring state of mind in “Dandi.”
How well does Negasso channel his former comrade and current enemy? Read more…
On 22 August 1995, a mild-mannered soft-spoken man, Negasso Gidada- who represented the Oromos- became president of the newly-formed Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. His position was largely ceremonial as real power rested with Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. Yet the occasion was depicted as a watershed heralding a new chapter in the country’s history in general and the Oromo people in particular.
Before his appointment as president, Negasso, was minister of information, and was closely allied to the EPRDF against the armed Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). Earlier when he was in Germany, Negasso was president of the Oromo Students’ Association, an organization affiliated with the OLF. Eventually, he administered the OLF’s financial department before he parted his ways. Read more…