More Than 100 Blue Party Leaders Arrested Ahead of Ethiopia Rally

Photo: Peaceful march organized by the Semayawi party in Addis Ababa on June 2nd, 2013. (You Tube)

Tadias Magazine
By Dagnachew Teklu

Updated: Monday, September 2nd, 2013

Washington D.C. (TADIAS) – Federal police in Ethiopia have taken control of the headquarters of the Semayawi (Blue) party in Addis Ababa after they stormed the building late on Saturday. Party officials confirmed that more than 100 Semayawi party leaders have been arrested.

Head of the Semayawi party, Yilkal Getnet, a former engineer, told Tadias Magazine that police broke into the party’s offices located around Arat Kilo and confiscated all property at the site.

“Our members were taken to various police stations around the city late on Saturday,” Said Yilkal who spoke by phone. He said he had just returned from visiting his imprisoned colleagues at Gulele police station. He said a number of them are women. “Some were savagely beaten,” he added.

The dispute with authorities began when the Semayawi (Blue) party made an announcement last week to hold a simultaneous rally along with the government’s planned public gathering on Sunday to counter the two-year-old Mosque sit-ins that turned violent last month attracting international condemnation. Semayawi party leaders say they wanted to use the occasion to bring up the related subjects of “jailed religious and political leaders” as well as journalists, activist and an end to “government interference” in mosque and church affairs. Addis Ababa city administration, however, declared the Blue party’s plans “illegal.”

Police state that they will take all measures if the party insists on holding any protest without permission. Asked about the party’s plans on Sunday the Semayawi President said it’s up in the air. “I told you our office is under control and members and officials are under police custody,” Yilkal said. “It is midnight and I have no other information on what’s going on around here,” he said.

The police commission had contacted representatives of the Blue party for a meeting on Friday to discuss “security issues.” Sources said that police met with opposition leaders Saturday morning to convince them to postpone their protest, but the discussion ended without coming to an agreement. Yilkal indicated that the Blue party was finalizing preparations to stage a march on Sunday.

Hana Walelegne, one of the members who were arrested at the party’s office, said she was taken to Gulele police station. She said she was sitting at the party’s office working on Sunday’s demonstration when she was arrested.

“They released me along with a few other women,” Hana said, claiming that she received a beating with a rubber stick. She said she also saw others being hit with metal objects.

“We just took a contract taxi and are now in a friend’s house,” she said. “I cannot tell you what will happen next.”

In an earlier interview Yilkal had described the government’s decision to bar the Blue party from holding its own demonstration as lacking sound legal basis.

“There is no such thing as legal and illegal protest” Yilkal argued. “What we are required to do by law is to inform the concerned office about the planned demonstration.” He said: “Our party did that a month ago.”

The government-backed demonstration was held as expected on Sunday at the Addis Ababa Meskel square to “denounce extremism in Ethiopia,” which the government says is becoming a major threat.

Related:
Ethiopia denies crackdown on Semayawi opposition (BBC News)
Ethiopia Police Block Opposition Rally, Beat Some (AP/ABC News)
Political Rallies Set for Sunday Over Religious Issue (TADIAS)

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