EU, US express concern over opposition leader’s arrest

Merrara Gudina, PhD

The European Union (EU) and the United States is raising concerns to Ethiopian authorities about the arrest of prominent opposition political figure Merrara Gudina (PhD).

He was arrested on Wednesday evening from his house when he returned from a trip to Brussels, where he met with EU parliamentarians.

During a mid-day press conference on Friday December 2 the spokesperson of EU’s diplomatic service, European External Action Service (EEAS), said the arrest of the opposition leader was one of the topics raised, according to the Delegation of the EU to Ethiopia.

The EESA spokesperson told journalists that what Ethiopia needs now is political dialogue and interaction to start addressing the legitimate grievances of the population.

“The EU has raised concerns about the arrest of Dr Merrara Gudina with the Ethiopian authorities,” according to the EESA response that Capital obtained from the Delegation of the EU to Ethiopia.

“We have repeatedly insisted with the Ethiopian authorities that the state of emergency should be implemented in a way respectful of human rights that serves the ultimate objective of needed political reforms,” EEAS’s spokesperson in Brussels said.

He added that the arrest of Dr Merrara is therefore detrimental to the process of reconciliation and dialogue which the EU is eager to support.

On Thursday, Mark C. Toner, Deputy Spokesperson of US State Department said, “We are concerned about this report. We strongly encourage the government to make public any charges it has brought against Dr Merrara.”

“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, and that’s contrary, I would say, to the promises of political reform made by the Ethiopian Government when the state of emergency was announced, so we’re watching it very closely,” the State Department Deputy Spokesperson said.

On December 1, state owned national television quoting a statement from the Secretariat of the Command Post said that Dr Merrara was arrested for breaching article 2 of the first directive issued during the state of emergency.

State media said that the article prohibits any contact and communication with outlawed terrorist organizations.

On Friday December 2, in his first press briefing since being appointed Minister of Government Communication Affairs, Negere Lencho (PhD), said that the relationship between Ethiopia and EU and its states is established on a strong basis so the government does not think that the arrest of Dr Merera will have any negative consequences.

Dr Merrara has been active in Ethiopian politics since the Emperor era, when he was put in jail for seven years during the Derg period.

Currently he is chairman of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) party and vice chair of the Ethiopian Federal Democratic Unity Forum (MEDREK), and the Party’s Head of External Relations.

“We call on Ethiopian authorities to clarify his situation,” the EU spokesperson said.

The country decreed a six month state of emergency in October to curb unrest.

In a  picture during his meeting with EU parliamentarians Dr Merrara was seated in the middle between runner Feyisa Lilesa, the Rio Olympic silver medalist, and Birhanu Nega (Prof), the outlawed Patriotic Ginbot 7 leader.