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News: Ethiopia security detain communication and PR head of Oromia justice bureau, move signals growing crackdown against the region


Etenesh Abera

Addis Abeba March 15/2018 – It has been confirmed that members of the command post overseeing the current state of emergency have this morning detained Taye Dendea, an outspoken senior member of the Oromia regional state’s justice bureau. Taye is the head of the bureau’s communication and PR department.

Taye Dendea is one of the growing numbers of officials from within the OPDO, the largest of the four parties that make up the ruling EPRDF, who took a public stance in criticizing the army’s killing of innocent civilians in Moyale town last Saturday. At least nine civilians were killed and 11 others were wounded in what many of the residents of the town said was an unprovoked attack by the army. The secretariat of the command post said the killing happened due to an intelligence report error.

“They have arrested Taye this morning,” confirmed Taye’s colleague.

In an interview he gave to the VOA Amharic on Tuesday, Taye said he did not believe the killings were committed by intelligence report mistake, instead all indication show it was a deliberate act, he said. He also called on the federal government to investigate and bring to justice the entire chain of command that is responsible for the killings and not just five army members who were responsible for firing at the civilians. The violence has displaced close to 39,000 civilians, according to the national broadcaster EBC.  Of these, more than 8000 are currently being taken care by the Kenya’s Red Cross Society across the border inside Kenya.

Since the first announcement by council of ministers on February 16 and the subsequent legislation by members of parliament on March 03 of the current controversial state of emergency,  members of the command have detained several government employees from the Oromia regional state including the chief administrator of the east Hararghe zone, the deputy police commissioner of the Oromia regional state, the deputy administrator of the east Wellega zone, the Mayor of Nekemt city and the head of the justice bureau of Kelem Wellega Woreda.

The move to arrest Taye therefore lays bare the growing crackdown against individuals and institutions within the Oromia regional state, a region whose members of parliament have led a fierce opposition against the emergency rule.  “Time will tell if arresting Taye could bring peace to Ethiopia,” wrote Dereje Gerefa Tulllu, who is known for his enthusiastic advocacy of reform from within the OPDO. “Taye has been previously detained twice; for three years and seven years; but his detention didn’t bring peace to the country. It will not bring peace this time too; in fact it will make things worse,”Dereje wrote on his Faceboook.

This is the third time for Taye to be detained. He has already served two jail terms of three years and seven years each after having been accused of being a member of the banned Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) while he was a university student between 2003 and 2016. It took Taye a total of 16 years to graduate with his first degree in Law before he joined the Oromia justice bureau in 2017.

In addition to these officials from the Oromia regional state, however, the crackdown by the command post also saw prominent blogger and university lecturer Seyoum Teshome detained. Seyoum is currently held at the infamous Ma’ekelawi prison in the capital Addis Abeba.

The police have already brought Seyoum to a court and have been granted 14 days to investigate and establish a case against him. Seyoum has already been arrested during the first state of emergency in 2016-2017  for nine months.

So far, the names of those detained has not been released to the public and the a parliamentary inquiry board established to look into the conducts of the command post said today that it will make the names public by the end of this month in Ethiopian calendar or first week of April. AS


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