Two key opposition members were arrested by Ethiopian police, stoking fears of more protests in the country.
The two are members of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC). They are accused of inciting ongoing protests over the government’s plans to set up a new economic zone near Addis Ababa, that will displace communities.
According the OFC chairman Merara Gudina, police arrested the party’s deputy Bekele Gerba and the assistant secretary, Dejene Tafa on Thursday, 26 December.
They suspect that our party and some of our members are part of the protest movement, that we have been inciting the demonstrations. We do not know when Bekele and Dejene will be released or be charged for anything.
“They suspect that our party and some of our members are part of the protest movement, that we have been inciting the demonstrations. We do not know when Bekele and Dejene will be released or be charged for anything.” Merara said.
However, dissenting groups have accused the the ruling EPRDF coalition of marginalising ethnic Oromos who occupy the Oromia region.
Oromia is Ethiopia’s largest region by size and population.
Government officials were not available for comment, but Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn told parliament on Friday that “anti-peace forces” had incited violence by spreading false information about the “Addis Ababa Integrated Development Master Plan.”
The project is intended to create integrated urban development between Addis Ababa city administration and Oromia region surrounding the capital.
Ethiopia is the among the most populous nations in Africa with an estimated 90 million people. The country has witnessed rapid economic growth, with real gross domestic product (GDP) growth averaging 10.9% between 2004 and 2014.
This progress is gradually lifting the country from being the second poorest in the world in 2000 to becoming a middle income country by 2025, if the growth trajectory continues.