Seye Abraha, Negasso Gidada join UDJ

Elias Kifle | November 26th, 2009

seye abraha 21115 Ethiopian Review had reported 6 months ago that former Woyanne defense minister in Ethiopia, Ato Seye Abraha, was planning to join the Unity for Democracy and Justice Party (UDJ). He and former figurehead president Negasso Gidada today have announced that they are now members of UDJ whose head, Wz. Birtukan Mideksa, is currently in jail as a political prisoner.

Before joining UDJ, Seye had already become an influencial figure behind the party. He has brought with him his supporters and disgruntled members of the ruling Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF) to UDJ. Now that he is officially a member, he is the de facto leader of the party. Thus the stage is set for a face off between Woyanne + AEUP vs. Woyanne + UDJ/Medrek. This is not a real choice for the people of Ethiopia.

No one takes former fake president Negasso Gidada seriously, despite BBC’s report that he is a popular figure. He is popular only among comedians. BBC and Reuters reported the following:

Ethiopia’s former President Negasso Gidada has joined an opposition party, as the country builds up to a [fake] election scheduled for next May.

Mr Negasso, in power [what power?] between 1995 and 2001, said he had joined the Unity for Democracy and Justice Party (UDJ) to try to unite Ethiopia.

Analysts say his defection and that of ex-Defence Minister Seye Abraha are likely to boost the UDJ’s popularity.

Its leader Birtukan Medeksa is in jail over protests after the last poll, in 2005.

She was arrested after violence broke out when opposition parties organized protests, citing election fraud.

Some rights groups have accused Prime Crime Minister Meles Zenawi of trying to ensure election victory by suppressing opposition — allegations he denies.

Pardons

The BBC’s Uduak Amimo in Addis Ababa says the two defections are a significant symbol of opposition to the government.

But she says the UDJ and its allies are unlikely to overhaul (?) the governing party in next year’s election.

Mr Negasso, whose role as president was largely symbolic, is said to be a popular politician. [According to who?]

He told Reuters news agency: “Our joining the UDJ sends a signal that we have to work hard for the unity of the country and the Ethiopian people.”

Some 200 people were killed after security forces opened fire during the protests which followed the 2005 elections. More than 100 opposition leaders, activists and journalists were convicted and jailed but most have since been pardoned.

Ethiopian ex-president, ex-minister join opposition

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – A former Ethiopian president and a former defense minister have joined the same opposition party, strengthening it against a government accused of suppressing critics before national elections in May.

Negaso Gidada, president from 1997 to 2001, and Seye Abraha a former rebel leader who became defense minister for four years from 1991, joined the Unity for Democracy and Justice party (UDJ) on Thursday.

The UDJ is part of an eight-party coalition called Medrek, or the Forum, that most Ethiopians view as the most significant threat to the government at the ballot box. The UDJ’s leader Birtukan Mideksa, 36, has been in prison since last December.

“Our joining the UDJ sends a signal that we have to work hard for the unity of the country and the Ethiopian people,” Negaso told Reuters, adding that if Ethiopian political parties were not ethnically diverse then the country could split.

Ethiopia has about 80 ethnicities and parties have traditionally been formed along ethnic lines. UDJ leaders now come from the three most prominent groups.

Seye was jailed for corruption in 2001 after falling out with Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and, after his release in 2007, he became a vocal opponent of the government, which has been in power for nearly 20 years.

“POLITICAL PRISONERS”

Meles and Seye come from the Tigrayan ethnic group, who make up just 6 percent of the population but dominate politics.

Most analysts agree Meles’ Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) will win easily at the ballot box, despite growing allegations of squashing political criticism.

“They say that because the landscape is unfavourable for free and fair elections,” Seye told Reuters. “There are laws that can be used against voices of dissent. We will be making the release of political prisoners a campaign priority.”

Meles says the opposition is trying to discredit an election that it has no chance of winning and therefore provoke the West into stopping the aid which the poor country relies on.

Opposition leaders told Reuters this month that their members were being refused food aid to force them to join the ruling party. The government denied it.

Ethiopia’s last national elections in 2005 ended violently when security forces killed about 200 protesters in the capital Addis Ababa after the opposition said the government rigged the poll. Seven policemen were also killed.

Birtukan was jailed after a 2005 poll, pardoned in 2007 and sent back to prison for violating the terms of that pardon.

The country has never seen a peaceful change of government. Meles took power in 1991 after rebels led by him, Seye and others overthrew a Soviet-backed regime.

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