Ethiopia’s government denies attempted assassination of the opposition

Ethiopia’s government said its plans to bury the murdered political opponent of the government over the weekend was to prevent violence, and they found out about the funeral only after the fact.

Gebru Jember Endalew, 32, was killed by a suicide car bomb and his body allegedly shown on live TV. He was a vocal opponent of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. He went missing Friday night, apparently abducted. Around 20 minutes after his disappearance, a bomb exploded in his van and the dead body of a woman was shown in a public hospital. After being recognized, Endalew’s body was identified and buried late Saturday afternoon.

Birtukan Midekssa, a former academic and a member of Endalew’s Alliance for Change party, was also involved in the opposition. She told The Associated Press that her was made to appear in the TV footage and told her to sign a document because her son had died the day before and she had to appeal to Ethiopians to support the government.

“They did that to disarm people. The more people who understand about the incidents, the more they will understand and understand that we live in a country of law and order. They are part of our country,” she said.

Abiy Ahmed, in a speech late Sunday, called the death of Gebru an “isolated incident.” In a Facebook post on Monday, his official spokesman said Endalew’s death was caused by “an internal criminal gang” rather than a political assassination.

Endalew was released from prison in March and is a key figure in the opposition to the Gebreminga administration. The prime minister has opened the country up to major reform after decades of authoritarian rule and international criticism, prompting protests and violence by people who say they were denied freedom of expression and elections they said were skewed to give Abiy’s party an unfair edge.

Politicians oppose to the prime minister’s policy reforms have turned the issue of the government’s possible poisoning of the political debate, and some opposition activists have been rounded up. Opposition leaders are suspected of having backing from western governments and anti-government activists are believed to be working on their behalf.

An opposition activist who asked not to be named for fear of retribution said Endalew wanted to play a role in solving Ethiopia’s current problems but the ruling party did not want him to be involved in that. The activist also said Endalew and other opposition leaders face serious personal danger for their views.

The country’s opposition movements has denied the allegations that they were working on behalf of foreign governments. In a statement Monday, the alliance for Change party said it was determined to challenge the rule of the Gebreminga administration. “We will continue to remain ready, in the face of any attempt by Ethiopia’s ruling party to demoralize our ongoing battle and demoralize our fighters, we will continue to remain vigilant and we will keep fighting,” the statement said.

In an online comment last month, Endalew posted that if a country doesn’t treat its opposition or deny fundamental freedoms, it should be worried about its future.

“The survival of the country comes first. It should be worried that rulers at government level will go extreme,” he wrote.

Abiy Ahmed was elected in April after 30 years of repressive rule from former leaders Meles Zenawi and Hailemariam Desalegn.

Leave a Comment