On November 30, 2016, Ethiopian authorities detained Dr. Merera Gudina, a prominent Ethiopian scholar and chairman of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC). He was arrested at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, upon his return from Belgium, where he testified before the European Parliament about human rights abuses in Ethiopia.
At the November 9, 2016 hearing, Dr. Gudina testified alongside Dr. Berhanu Nega, an exiled opposition party leader, and athlete Feyisa Lilesa, whose solidarity gesture at the 2016 Rio Olympics raised the profile of the protests in Ethiopia’s Oromia Region. Dr. Nega is a leader of the Patriotic Ginbot 7 (G7), an opposition group that is considered to be a “terrorist organization” by Ethiopia’s ruling party.
Dr. Gudina is accused of violating Ethiopia’s six-month state of emergency by associating with Dr. Nega. The state of emergency, which suspends constitutionally guaranteed rights and gives sweeping powers to the security sector, was declared on October 9, 2016 in response to ongoing anti-government protests in the Oromia and Amhara regions. Lily Mengesha, an Ethiopian journalist described the state of emergency as a continuation of the government’s escalating attacks on media freedom and human rights in the country that “will not deliver needed stability.”
Dr. Gudina’s arrest means that almost all of OFC’s senior leaders are in detention. Currently, six of his colleagues are on trial for terrorism charges, another is under house arrest, and many members of the party have been jailed. Since protests began in November 2015, more than 400 people have been killed in Ethiopia and at least 11,000 have been detained.
Dr. Gudina is a former member of the Ethiopian parliament, and leads the Ethiopian Federal Democratic Unity Forum (MEDREK). He is also an internationally respected scholar and published author. In 2014, Dr. Gudina was chosen for the Reagan-Fascell fellowship at the National Endowment for Democracy where he explored “opposition politics, political polarization, and the role of the Ethiopian diaspora in facilitating democratization in Ethiopia.”
The World Movement for Democracy is alarmed by the Ethiopian government’s escalating crackdown on dissent, and urges the state to respect the human rights of its people.