Second opposition activist beaten to death

22 April 2010, By Barry Malone (Reuters) – An Ethiopian opposition activist has been bludgeoned to death with a gun butt in the second politically motivated murder in the run-up to national elections on May 23, an opposition leader said on Thursday.

Bulcha Demeksa, a leader of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), told Reuters the activist, Biyansa Daba, was attacked at home by members of the ruling party.

“Biyansa Daba was beaten on April 7 with the butt of a gun,” Bulcha said. “He died in hospital on April 16. He was a very strong up and coming figure.”

“Of course it was political,” Bulcha said. “They asked him to stop converting people to OFC, they warned him many times. Why else would anyone beat him?”
Government spokespeople were not immediately available to comment but routinely deny that members of the ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front intimidate the opposition.

In 2005, the results of the Horn of Africa country’s last elections were challenged by the opposition and some international observers.

Street riots erupted, security forces killed about 200 protesters and the main opposition leaders were imprisoned. Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said they were trying to oust him.

The OFC and other parties representing the Oromo – Ethiopia’s biggest ethnic group – say ruling party officials are intimidating and jailing their members.

The government denies 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, who number 27-million of Ethiopia’s 80-million people, have not held power in modern history. Ethiopia has more than 80 ethnic groups.

Prime Minister Meles is from the Tigrayan ethnic group, who make up 6 percent of the population and dominate the political and military elite.

Aregawi Gebre-Yohannes, an opposition candidate for the eight-party coalition Medrek – of which the OFC is a member – was stabbed to death in March.

The opposition says his killing was a political murder, but the government says Aregawi was killed in a bar fight. A man has been sentenced to 15 years’ jail for the killing.

Analysts expect the Meles government to win the election.

The opposition says the government scares people into voting for it. The government says the opposition is weak and is trying to discredit the poll. – Reuters

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