ETHIOPIA: Gebru Asrat’s Party in Pieces

With its central committee resigned and some of its prominent anti-Eritrea members thrown into prison, former Tigray Regional State President Gebru Asrat's Arena Tigray opposition party is in tatters.
With its central committee resigned one after the other and some of its prominent anti-Eritrea members thrown into prison, Gebru Asrat’s Arena Tigray opposition party is in tatters.

By African Intelligence,

IT’S all gone wrong for Gebru Asrat’s Arena (opposition) party. Some members of its central committee claim to have resigned, while the executive says they were sacked.

Gebru Asrat, the former President of Tigray Regional State and founder of Arena Tigray for Democracy and Sovereignty, is now watching as his organisation shattered. And yet, he had already been warned last June by members of the party central committee that he should organise a convention.

He is criticised from the inside for his authoritarian style and his narrow nationalism.

He, together with Arena’s present president, Berhanu Berhe, had provoked the departure of four of the movement’s leading figures: Tadesse Bitewlign, Samuel Gebru, Hishaye Azanaw and Asgede Gebreselassie, one of the founders of the ruling TPLF. 

These men claim they resigned and accuse the two leaders of being too conciliatory with the government.

They also reproach them for refusing to form an alliance with any Ethiopian opposition party that Asrat’s partisans accuse of being in the pay of the Amharas.

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Ethiopia Arrests Four Prominent Opposition Figures

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(Ethiomedia, July 8, 2014)

POLICE on Tuesday arrested four young and prominent political leaders: Habtamu Ayalew, Daniel Shibeshi (both Andinet Party leaders), Yeshiwas Assefa (Semayawi Party) and Mekelle University instructor Abraha Desta, also a leader of Arena Opposition Party in Mekelle, Tigrai region.

Habtamu Ayalew, public relations head of the opposition Andinet Party, widely known as a great protest rally organizer and inspirational speaker, is jailed at the notorious Makelawi Prison.

Habtamu was preparing to travel to the United States where substantial supporters of Andinet Party live. In the meantime, police have also arrested Daniel Shibeshi and Yeshiwas Assefa. The house of Daniel Shibeshi was being searched in his own presence, Andinet Party chairman Gizachew Shiferaw told the Voice of America (VOA) on Teusday.

Away from the Ethiopian capital to Mekelle, the regional capital of Tigrai, Abraha Desta, a Mekelle University political science instructor widely known among Ethiopians for his opposition notes on his FaceBook page, was being beaten brutally when scurity men took him to an unidenitifed prison, eyewitnesses told Asgede Gebreselassie, a veteran opposition activist who informed Ethiomedia by phone from the city of Mekelle on Tuesday.

“We have asked seven police stations in the city; we couldn’t find him there. We don’t know if he is jailed at ’06’,” Asgede said, the inference of “06” meaning an absolutely secret underground prison where hundreds or even thousands of opposition supporters have disappeared.

Believed to be on the outskirts of Mekelle, the hellish “06” Prison is unknown to the “legal system”, and no inmate from “06” has ever appeared in any court of law, even if the courts are under the control of the regime.

Abraha Desta, 31, shot to prominence a few years ago via his FaceBook page, for his sharp and witty notes critical of the ruling TPLF/EPRDF regime. As executive committee member of the opposition Arena Party, Abraha has been a lone, fearless voice in a society that has been tormented by the TPLF regime.

Seen by the West as a partner in the war on terror, Ethiopia has used the leverage to weaken and eventually decimate dissenting voices since TPLF came to power in 1991.

Nationwide crackdown in Oromia, Amhara, Ogaden and other regions of the country go unnoticed by the rest of the world. Peaceful and law-abiding Muslims are targets of the government for asking the respect of religious freedom, an activist from Addis Ababa who sought anonymity emailed Ethiomedia following the arrest of the activists.

“Clearly, the political climate is ripe for change,” said Asgede, “what’s left is for the opposition to unite and act.”