Ethiopia: Opposition detained for planning a rally for Obama visit

Semayawi (Blue) party said about eighteen of its members has been detained since last week Friday.

The opposition party, Semayawi, accused the government of targeting its “energetic and popular members.”

The allegation followed the incarceration of the party’s officials and members in three parts of the country, including Addis Ababa.

Six Semayawi candidates, for the May 2015 elections are among the about a dozen members detained last weekend in West Gojam zone and North Shewa zone, according to the party.

Another seven members, including two party officials, Debre Ashenafi and Merkebu Haile, are detained as of last Friday in Addis Ababa.

The latter were brought to court, in two groups, on Monday and Tuesday.

According to Semayawi party’s report of the proceedings, the police alleged, in both cases, that the detainees are suspected of secretly organizing to stage a demonstration during US President Barak Obama’s visit.

President Obama is expected to visit Addis Ababa next week.

Semayawi’s spokesperson Yonathan Tesfaye said, in a phone remark to HornAffairs, “there is no plan to hold a rally. They are just paranoid”.

Yet, the party have a history of challenging the authorities on the issue of demonstrations.

Ethiopian law merely requires demonstration organizers to notify the municipality 48 hours in advance. However, in the last decade, it has become a norm to seek a permit paper, which is often denied.

In the past two years, Semayawi party had a couple of showdown with the authorities as it insisted on going ahead with its planned rally despite the latter’s objection.

The court remanded the detainees to police custody until the end of the week, though police requested a longer time for investigation.


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    New York , USA

    Recently the Washington Post has editorialized about President Obama’s upcoming visit to Ethiopia citing that it is ill-timed and that it ignores the country’s abject record of human rights violations, which includes the arbitrary jailing of journalists and bloggers. The development follows last month’s election results in Ethiopia announced by the National Electoral Board where 100% of the seats were won by the ruling party.
    President Obama’s upcoming trip to Ethiopia has subsequently been heavily criticized by human rights and press organizations citing that it is ill-timed and appears to reward undemocratic practices. The trip would be the first instance that a sitting American president will visit the nation despite a 100-year history of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
    They have also covered the recent rally in front of the White House and interviewed activists and several individuals in the DC community. And while we support and commend these efforts — it is high time that mainstream US media cover the Diaspora’s decades-long concern regarding the deterioration of freedom of expression in Ethiopia — we strongly resent Washington Post Reporter Pamela Constable’s simplistic conclusion that the “sharp division” in opinions can be reduced to Amhara and Tigrayan ethnic group affiliations, or even which restaurants Ethiopian Americans choose to frequent in the Washington DC. metropolitan area.
    For too long mainstream American media expects ethnic communities such as ours to be grateful that they have covered our “issues” or given our concerns a national spotlight even when the coverage is less than nuanced. We would like to draw Ms. Constable’s attention to the work of reporters such as Goorish Wibneh, writing for the Seattle Globalist, who likewise covered Ethiopian American perspectives on President Obama’s upcoming trip citing conversations with an Ethiopian businessman who came to the U.S. in 1971, a PhD student who arrived in America as recently as 2003, and an Ethiopian American who works with a community initiative — all without feeling compelled to reduce the interviewees’ support or opposition of the trip by emphasizing their ethnic affiliations. Wibneh has also excellently covered additionalhuman rights concerns held by the Ethiopian Diaspora community regarding the plight of Ethiopian migrants in the Middle East.
    Ethiopian American diversity consists of more ethnicities and languages than the Washington Post reporter cares to acknowledge, and a quick stop at the annual Ethiopian soccer tournament being held in Maryland this week, for example, could have easily made this diversity obvious to her. Is it too much to ask that a Washington Post reporter venture beyond two cafes and reach out to Ethiopian community centers, academics, houses of faith, festivals, or even the vibrant Ethiopian Diaspora media organizations found in the nation’s capital and across the US? Had this effort been considered we wouldn’t have had to read the negligent assertion in Constable’s article making government opposition or support an issue merely between two ethnic groups, and ultimately depicting the work of community activists as less than what it truly stands for – a movement for dignity for all persons and an unequivocal belief in the fundamental respect for human rights.
    The Tsion Café community members are plenty of us whose support or opposition crosses ethnic lines, just as there are plenty of us who were NOT born in the United States and who are proud of our Ethiopian heritage and consider ourselves core members of the Ethiopian freedom seeking community.

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