Merera Gudina,Chairman of the opposition Oromo Federalist Congress, is finally charged after months of detention. According to a report by Addis Standard, two other figures are also charged in absentia ; Berhanu Nega, former Bucknell University economic professor, now chairman of Arbegnoch Ginbot 7 movement based in Eritrea, and Jawar Mohammed, Head of Omomia Media Network , US based ethnic Oromo nationalist media.
Merera Gudina,arrested on November 30,2016 , is facing three charges one of which is inciting violence and threatening the “constitutional order.” This particular charge implicated Merera and the other two defendants in the year long anti-government protest in most parts of Ethiopia. It is to be recalled that government in Ethiopia initially admitted governance problems including corruption and related anti-government protests to failure on its part to address what it understood to be economic and administrative needs of Ethiopians in the areas where there were fierce anti-government protests.
The second charge against Merera relates to provisions in the legislation enacted to execute the state of emergency which was declared in early October of 2016. In connection with this, article 12/1 of the legislation is cited against him, according to report by Addis Standard. That particular article of the state of emergency legislation banned contact with individuals who are involved in what the government describes as terrorist organizations. Just to make this part clear to readers, Merera Gudina met with Berhanu Nega and Olympic athlete Feyisa Lilesa during a hearing at the European parliament and Feyisa to the European Parliament meeting. These individuals were not invited to the EP by Merera. It was Anna Gomes, a member of EP who initiated it (watch her video below)
The third charge against Merera is that he gave “false and damaging statement about government” to media. His interview with the Voice of America is cited in the charge. however, Addis Standard report indicated that it was not clear as to whether it is the Amharic Service of the Voice of America or Afaan Oromo Service that was cited in connection with this particular charge.
Apart from Merera and two other individuals who are charged in absetia as indicated above, Ethiopian community media outlets based in the United states,ESAT and OMN, are implicated in the charge related to terrorism. These media are charged for serving, as per government allegations, two outlawed political entities – Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and Patriotic Ginbot 7 – and for fueling protest. This ,too, is apparently related to anti-government protest in Ethiopia which led to the state of emergency.
Merera is yet to appear before court as his hearing for today is cancelled following what is made to appear like the courts’ internal house keeping issue. And he is still in Maekelawi, as per Addis Standard report.
His arrest caused,what seemed back then, diplomatic row between the regime in Ethiopia and some of its major donors like the United States. US State Department, for example, condemned the detention and called on the government to release Merera. In all its responses, the regime claimed that his arrest is related to state of emergency (in fact, there were voices that argued he should not be arrested even in light of the state of emergency legislation.)
As it turns out,the arrest is not entirely related to it. In fact, it has a lot to do with one of the ways the ruling TPLF deals with opposition voices – through incrimination with terrorist charges. At the same time, there is a claim of negotiation with “Opposition parties” in Ethiopia.
The US government and European Parliament are yet to remark on the terrorist charges against Merera.
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