In response to the arrest of longtime Oromo leader Merera Gudina, the Amnesty International organization swiftly condemned the decision of Ethiopian authorities on Thursday.
“The arrest of Merera Gudina is an outrageous assault on the right to freedom of expression and should sound alarm bells for anyone with an interest in ending the deadly protests that have rocked Ethiopia over the past year,” said Michelle Kagari, the Amnesty Deputy Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.
“This is a move that will exacerbate, rather than ease, the underlying tensions currently simmering in the country. Instead of resorting to further repression and clamp-downs, the Ethiopian government must urgently and meaningfully address the human rights grievances that are fuelling unrest.”
Merera, head of the Oromo Federalist Congress, was arrested for violating a provision of Ethiopia’s current state of emergency, according to the government. That rule prevents “communication with banned terrorist organizations and anti-peace groups,” a spokesman told Fana Broadcasting in Addis Ababa.
Merera, he said, faces the charge for meeting with Ethiopian opposition leader Berhanu Nega in Brussels during a recent trip to meet with European Union officials. Merera delivered a speech to members of the European Union Parliament and testified on the Ethiopian human rights crisis along with Nega, the Addis Standard reports, and high-profile Oromo Olympic athlete Feyisa Lilessa. A photo of them together was widely circulated.
Family members say Merera is being held at the Ma’ekelawi prison but they are denied access to him.
Image: Oromo Studies Association