US concerned at restrictions on Ethiopia opposition

A senior United States official voiced concerns on Friday about the restrictions on opposition parties and human rights abuses in Ethiopia ahead of elections next year.

“The US is concerned by what we see as reduction in political space and the ability of opposition parties to operate and do what opposition parties should do,” Karl Wycoff, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East African Affairs, told reporters.

“There are continuous reports of human rights abuse,” said Wycoff, who is in Ethiopia for an official visit.

Ethiopia’s polls on May 23 2010 will be the first since 2005 when disputed election results sparked violence that claimed about 200 lives.

More than 60 parties, including the ruling EPRDF, have agreed to a code of conduct for next year’s polls, but a leading opposition group has shunned the rules as insufficient in confirming the electoral board’s neutrality.

The Forum for Democratic Dialogue in Ethiopia has also accused Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s government of arresting its members and supporters in a bid to discourage its following ahead of the polls, a charge the government has repeatedly denied.

The head of Ethiopia’s now-defunct opposition Coalition for Unity and Democracy, which won unprecedented seats in the 2005 polls, is currently exiled in the US.

He fled the country after a two-year detention and now chairs another opposition group that has vowed to wage a war against Addis Ababa.

Authorities have accused him of masterminding an alleged coup plot over which 26 suspects were convicted on Thursday.—Sapa-AFP

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