An opposition activist has been bludgeoned to death with a gun butt in the second politically motivated murder of Ethiopia’s election campaign, it was claimed on Thursday.
Biyansa Daba was attacked and killed at home by members of the ruling party, according to Bulcha Demeksa, a leader of the opposition Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC).
“Biyansa Daba was beaten on 7 April with the butt of a gun,” Bulcha told Reuters. “He died in hospital on 16 April. He was a very strong up-and-coming figure.
“Of course it was political. They asked him to stop converting people to OFC, they warned him many times. Why else would anyone beat him?”
Government spokespersons were not available to comment but routinely deny that members of the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front intimidate the opposition.
Last month Aregawi Gebre-Yohannes, an opposition candidate for the eight-party coalition Medrek — of which the OFC is a member — was stabbed to death in what the opposition described as a political murder. The government insists that Aregawi was killed in a bar fight. A man has been sentenced to 15 years in jail for the crime.
The government has been accused by Human Rights Watch of waging a coordinated assault on political opponents, rights campaigners and journalists ahead of the national elections on May 23.
Ruling party and state are becoming one
A report by the group said journalists and activists have fled the country because of government repression. Some radio broadcasts by the Voice of America have been jammed.
Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said: “The ruling party and the state are becoming one, and the government is using the full weight of its power to eliminate opposition and intimidate people into silence.”
The results of the last elections in 2005 were challenged by the opposition and some international observers. Street riots erupted, security forces killed at least 193 civilians and the main opposition leaders were imprisoned. The prime minister, Meles Zenawi, claimed they were trying to overthrow him.
The OFC and other parties representing the Oromo — Ethiopia’s biggest ethnic group — say ruling party officials are again intimidating and jailing their members.
The government denies that it targets Oromo politicians and points to the fact that there are several Oromo government ministers and a ceremonial president of the country as proof.
Oromos, numbering 27-million of Ethiopia’s 80-million people, have not held power in modern history. Ethiopia has more than 80 ethnic groups.
Meles is from the Tigrayan ethnic group, who make up 6% of the population and dominate the political and military elite.
Analysts expect the Meles government to win the election. – guardian.co.uk