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Ethiopia’s opposition leaders implicated in Oromia violence

By Tesfa-Alem Tekle

February 28, 2016 (ADDIS ABABA) – An Ethiopian minister has accused leaders of a popular opposition party of having allegedly played a role in instigating the recent unrest that rocked the Horn of African nation.

A group of protestors carry placards in support of Oromia region (Opride.com)

Ethiopia’s communication minister, Getachew Reda claimed that leaders of the Oromo Federal Congress (OFC) party had an active role in instigating the deadly violence that erupted in larger parts of the Oromia region.

He said some of the opposition parties in Ethiopia, particularly the OFC, are very opportunistic and often take advantage of situations.

He claimed the OFC was largely linked to people who were long working with groups that had for a while been designated as terrorist entities.

Getachew said there was a tendency by some in the leadership of the opposition party to use both legal and illegal protest means in Oromia region.

“Senior members of the Oromo Federal Congress party were involved throughout the protests in western Showa and South western showa,” he said.

The minister accused the OFC of backing such unrest to get out of control and there by trying to take advantage of it to accomplish a hidden agenda.

According to the minister, some legal opposition parties particularly the OFC is using its legality as a pretext to accomplish missions of other exiled outlawed groups.

“There is a growing tendency within the OFC itself to rather focus on the violence aspect of their moves than to stick to a legal and peaceful means,” he said.

The government has pledged to hunt down and bring to justice all those perpetrators behind the violence.

Dozens of people, including members of security force were killed and hundreds of others injured during the recent violence that began in protest to government plans to expand boundary of the capital, Addis Ababa, to parts of the Oromia region.

University students first began the protest in November, but later on hundreds of farmers who fear could face eviction from their ancestral lands as a result of the master plan joined the protest movement as it continued.

“An organized and armed terrorist force aiming to create havoc and chaos has begun murdering model farmers, public leaders and other ethnic groups residing in the region”, said the minister on 16 December 2015.

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn earlier said his government “will take merciless legitimate action against any force bent on destabilizing the area”.

Last week Human Rights watch accused Ethiopian security forces of violently suppressing the “largely peaceful protests” in the Oromia region.

The Ethiopian Human Rights commission is undergoing investigation over the recent violence and the Ethiopian government couldn’t, at this point, determine death figures.

Human Rights Watch said it has not been able to verify the total numbers of people killed and arrested “given restrictions on access and independent reporting in Ethiopia”. Almost daily accounts of killings and arbitrary arrests have been reported to Human Rights Watch since this year began. Activists claim over 200 people have been killed since 12 November, 2015 based on materials gathered on social media photos and web posts.