Ethiopia’s Ruling Party Accuses Opposition of Planning Violence

Ethiopia National Election Board
Around 30 million people have registered to vote for Ethiopia's fourth May 23, 2010 elections.
Ethiopia National Election Board
Around 30 million people have registered to vote for Ethiopia's fourth May 23, 2010 elections.

Ethiopia’s opposition plans to use violence to topple the government with backing from Western nations and non-governmental organizations after elections on May 23, a senior ruling party official said.

“We know what their ultimate objective is, they want to instigate violence,” Tedros Hagos, head of the political bureau of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, said in an interview yesterday. “Organizations from outside, sometimes governments, think that the government in Ethiopia can be changed through street violence.”

The comments raise the ruling party’s rhetoric against the opposition at a time when it is accusing Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s government of becoming increasingly repressive. The Forum for Democratic Dialogue, or Medrek, says the elections will not be free and fair and has protested the continued jailing of its leader, Birtukan Mideksa.

The opposition is making false allegations that Meles’ supporters have withheld foreign-funded food aid from its sympathizers and have killed and beaten its candidates in a bid to stir up anti-government sentiment, Tedros said in his office in Mekelle, a city in the northern Tigray region.

The TPLF has ruled the Horn of Africa country in an alliance with other pro-Meles parties known as the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front since toppling the country’s Communist Derg regime in 1991.

Next month’s elections will be the first time an opposition party has widely contested a poll in Tigray, which has been a stronghold of Meles’ support.

Those challenging the TPLF this year include a number of former high-ranking party veterans like Aregash Adane, who fought alongside Meles in the movement’s 16-year guerrilla war against the Derg.

They also include Seeye Abreha, Meles’ former defense minister, and Gebru Asrat, the former president of the Tigray region.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jason McLure in Addis Ababa via Johannesburg at pmrichardson@bloomberg.net.

By Jason McLure,  Bloomberg