Merera Gudina advised government to have dialogue with parties that have huge support
January 17, 2018
Chairman of Oromo Federalist Congress, Dr. Merera Gudina, is released today along with 115 other prisoners. His release came weeks after prime minister Hailemariam Desalegne disclosed that government will release politicians who are arrested for “crimes they committed” in order to broaden the democratic political space in the country and in the interest of national reconciliation.
In an interview with state-controlled media, Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation (EBC) and Ethiopian News Agency (ENA), after his release, Merera Gudina advised the government to have a dialogue with opposition parties that have broad support so as to create a democratic Ethiopia “that treats all Ethiopians equally.” Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) is widely criticized for creating an ethnically divided Ethiopia and for dominating politics and the economy of the country. TPLF represents about six percent of Ethiopia’s 100 million people.
Of the 115 Federal government prisoners released today, it is only Merera Gudina who is known to be a political prisoner. Critics of the government based in the country and abroad blame the government for indecisiveness to release all political prisoners. Some seem to think that government is playing ethnic politics even in the way it is releasing prisoners.
There has been a protracted campaign from human rights activists and opposition politicians for the release of political prisoners in Ethiopia. Yet, many political figures, journalists, and bloggers are still behind bars.
While some politicians and activists tend to see the release of political prisoners as a positive step on the part of the government, there are voices,including foreigners, who think that people like Merera Gudina should not have been arrested in the first place. European Member of Parliament Ana Gomes tweeted the following :
— Ana Gomes, MEP (@AnaGomesMEP) January 15, 2018
Felix Horne who works for Human Rights Watch (HRW) tweeted :
Great to see Dr Merera Gudina released today although he never should have been arrested in the first place. The thousands of other prisoners arrested solely for their political views should also be released immediately. pic.twitter.com/hnavafWrhA
— Felix Horne (@FelixHorne1) January 17, 2018
Despite government’s desire to score political points by releasing some political prisoners, critics do not seem to see much significance in the release of prisoners as they focus on the very cause that led to the arrest of politicians; democracy, freedom, and rule of law.
Merera Gudina was arrested in October of 2016 upon return from a working visit to Europe. Certificate of release issued to Merera Gudina from prison authorities classified Dr. Merera’s “crimes”, which are now dropped, as “plotting to overthrow the constitutional order through violence.”
Dr. Merera Gudina was received to a hero’s welcome in his residence in Burayu town on the outskirts of western Addis Ababa. From pictures shared on social media, Merera Gudina’s reception seems more like a political rally. There is also a report that youth group is organizing in Ambo,Merera Gudina’s hometown, for a warm reception. Ambo has been fiercely resisting the ruling government for over two years in a row and the town has a history of hostility to the TPLF rule from the outset.
Merera was in prison for seven years under the military government of Colonel Mengistu Hailemariam. Before his transition to a purely ethnic-based political movement, which is the dominant form of organizing a movement under the TPLF government, Merera Gudina was a member of Me’ison a pan Ethiopian political movement that was struggling against Colonel Mengistu Hailemariam’s government.
Under TPLF, he had a tenure as professor of political science at Addis Ababa University before the current government dismissed him apparently on political grounds.
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