martinplaut

Journalist specialising in the Horn of Africa and Southern Africa

Africa, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Horn of Africa

Ethiopian opposition leader, Berhanu Nega, ‘moves armed operation to Eritrea’

Berhanu Nega

Berhanu NegaThere are two reports from reliable media that Berhanu Nega, the head of the opposition movement, Ginbot 7, has transferred his operation to Eritrea.

The movement is also said to have decided to launch a military campaign against Ethiopia.

Berhanu Nega was leader of the political party that won the 2005 election in Addis Ababa, but was prevented by the government from taking up his post and went into exile in the USA.

The reports come from Bloomberg and Voice of America. [see below]

Martin

Ethiopia Opposition Head to Run Campaign From Eritrea

Source: Bloomberg

The leader of a U.S.-based Ethiopian opposition group relocated to Eritrea to organize civil and armed resistance against the government in the capital, Addis Ababa, a movement spokesman said.

Berhanu Nega, a former U.S. resident, traveled to Ethiopia’s northern neighbor following the merger of his Ginbot 7 group with the Ethiopian People’s Patriotic Front this year, spokesman Tadesse Kersmo said. Renewed tensions between the Horn of Africa nations, which fought a two-year war that ended in 2000, come before next week’s visit by Barack Obama to Ethiopia, the first by a sitting U.S. president.

“We are following a kind of merged strategy, blending peaceful resistance with non-peaceful resistance,” Tadesse said by phone from London on July 21. Attacks on security installations seek to inspire Ethiopians to engage in non-violent opposition, he said.

Ethiopia has fractious relations with Eritrea, which became independent from its larger neighbor in 1993 after three decades of armed struggle. Sections of the border remain militarized after a failure to implement a 2002 United Nations ruling that awarded disputed territory to Eritrea. Both governments back insurgencies against each other.

Sporadic attacks by anti-government militants haven’t stopped Ethiopia’s economic growth, which is forecast by the International Monetary Fund to exceed an annual rate of 8 percent over the next two years.

‘Appropriate Action’

Ethiopia’s government classes Ginbot 7 as a terrorist group and has sentenced Berhanu to death in absentia. Berhanu’s deputy, British citizen Andargachew Tsige, is on death row in Ethiopia after being captured in Yemen en route to Eritrea in June 2014 to negotiate the merger, Tadesse said.

Ethiopian security forces and the rebel coalition clashed in the northern Tigray region last month, Tadesse said. On July 8, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn warned Eritrea he would take “appropriate action” if regional destabilization continued. Ethiopia says it last conducted strikes inside Eritrea in 2012.

Ginbot 7 is militarily weak and Berhanu’s move is a “publicity stunt,” Getachew Reda, a special adviser to Hailemariam, said Thursday by phone. “The only way they can galvanize support among a dwindling following is by concocting some kind of drama.”

Ginbot 7 comprises former members of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy, an opposition grouping that made unprecedented gains against the ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front in 2005 elections.

Eritrea Deal

Protests occurred after the CUD claimed victory, leading to almost 200 people being shot dead by security forces. Opponents were jailed en masse for treason before being pardoned and leaving Ethiopia. Opposition parties won one seat in parliamentary elections in 2010; this year the ruling coalition took all 547 constituencies.

The merged rebel group’s only deal with Eritrea is using it as a base, Tadesse said. President Isaias Afewerki rules a one-party state that’s banned private media and was accused of possible crimes against humanity by UN investigators last month. The government says wartime powers, including indefinite national service, are necessary because of the threat from Ethiopia, whose population of 96 million is about 15 times larger than Eritrea’s.

The report of clashes “strengthens the hand of securocrats in the government that have wanted to see a more robust military approach towards” Eritrea, said Michael Woldemariam, assistant professor of international relations and an expert on African politics at Boston University. “The situation is volatile, and the potential for heightened conflict is real.”

***

Ethiopian Opposition Group Threatens Armed Resistance

Douglas Mpuga
Source: VOA

Ethiopia’s opposition Ginbot 7 Movement for Unity and Democracy has decided to use armed resistance in addition to peaceful resistance against the government in Addis Ababa. This follows the move of the group’s leader from the United States to Eritrea.

Berhanu Nega travelled to Ethiopia’s northern neighbor following the merger of his Ginbot 7 with the Ethiopian People’s Patriotic Front. “It’s true he travelled to Eritrea, he went on July 17, 2015,” said the spokesman for the group, Dr. Tadesse Biru.

“He is the leader of an organization that strives to bring about democratic order in Ethiopia, and he went to fulfil his leadership role,” he explained in reference to Dr. Berhanu, who was sentenced to death in absentia while living in the US.

Ethiopia’s government classes Ginbot 7 as a terrorist group. It comprises former members of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy, an opposition grouping that made unprecedented gains against the ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front in 2005 elections.

Tadesse confirmed the merger of Ginbot 7 with the Ethiopian People’s Patriotic Front this year. On armed resistance, he said: “We do have a kind of blended strategy to challenge the government in Addis Ababa. We have been trying to stage civic disobedience; we tried peaceful resistance starting in 2005.”

But, a non-violent solution, he said, has been closed by the government in Ethiopia, and the group has been forced to consider all possible avenues including civic disobedience and armed resistance.

Tadesse emphasized, however, that the group is still open to a non-violent settlement. “We are always open to possibilities of a peaceful resolution. The group emerged from a peaceful movement but now we are forced to consider armed resistance. It’s not our choice but there is no other feasible option to challenge the government in Addis Ababa.”

He said civil disobedience will continue, but will be complemented by ‘non-peaceful resistance, like it was done in South Africa’.

Some observers say the move of the group to Eritrea could renew tensions between the Horn of Africa nations, which fought a two-year war that ended in 2000.

The spokesperson dispelled such fears, saying nothing will happen since the two countries had no friendly relationship anyway. “Eritrea has provided us an opportunity to organize our movement there, that’s all. I don’t think it will in any way affect the relationship – it has not been good.”

As to the strength of the group’s armed force, Tadesse said: “yes, there is a small group that has been training in Eritrea, and there is a movement developing.”

Officials in Addis Ababa have dismissed the group’s move.  A special adviser to the Prime Minister was reported saying Ginbot 7 is militarily weak and Berhanu’s move to Eritrea is a “publicity stunt.”

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