Merera Gudina (PhD), an old hand in Ethiopian opposition politics and Chairman of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), a member party of the four-party front — the Ethiopian Federal Democratic Unity Forum (Medrek) has been arrested right after his return from a trip to the European capital, Brussels, on Wednesday.
Merera was in Europe to appear before EU’s parliament to give a testimony about the current political unrest in Ethiopia, reportedly invited by Ana Maria Gomes, a Portuguese politician and member of the EU parliament.
At the meeting, Merera was reported to have pressed the parliament to exert due pressure on the Ethiopian government regarding its human right record and the handling of the recent political unrest in the country.
In attendance at the same meeting, however, were Feyissa Lelissa, an Olympic silver medalist at Rio who gained instant popularity after crossing his hand at finish line of the Marathon race, and Berhanu Nega, leader of the Patriots-Ginbot 7 party, a group designated a terrorist organization by the Ethiopian Parliament.
According to Negeri Lencho (PhD), head of Government Communication Affairs Office, Merera was arrested because he was found in violation of Article 2 of the State of Emergency (SoE) proclamation which goes by the title “Communicating with Terrorist Groups”.
The specific provision of the SoE states that any communication with proscribed terrorist organizations and anti-peace groups; possessing and distributing various writings of terrorist groups; possessing or promoting their logos; following television or radio programs; displaying, following and reporting terrorist groups’ media such as Ethiopian Satellite Television (ESAT) and Oromo Media Network (OMN) is strictly prohibited.
It is to be remembered that, after months of political turmoil in Ethiopia, especially in Oromia and Amhara regional states, the Ethiopian government has passed a State of Emergency Proclamation which strictly prohibits a range of acts are deemed risky for the security of the country by the proclamation.
Merera is accused of violating the proclamation since he reportedly met and held discussions and gave a joint press conference with the two personalities who are linked with the terrorist organization.
According to reports, Merera was arrested from his home some two hours after his arrival from Brussels, Belgium and security forces have conducted the search and seizure procedure which were according to the provisions stated under the SoE directive.
Tiruneh Gemtta, member of OFC, told The Reporter that six hours of search have been conducted in Merera’s house and that he was taken from his home.
Gomes’s association with Ethiopia’s politics dates back to the 2005 controversial election where she was head of EU’s observer mission in Ethiopia which escalated later turned into street violence.
Following the arrest, Mark C. Toner, deputy spokesperson of the US Department of State stated on Friday that the US government is concerned about the arrest. “We strongly encourage the government to make public any charges it has brought against Dr. Merera. If true, this arrest is yet another example of increasing restrictions on independent voices in Ethiopia and, frankly, further reinforces our view that Ethiopia’s declared state of emergency is perhaps being used to silence dissent and deny the constitutionally protected rights of Ethiopia’s citizens,” Toner said.