By Jason McLure
Feb. 17 (Bloomberg) — Ethiopia’s main opposition grouping disputed a government claim that political opponents of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s ruling party are colluding with the country’s arch-enemy, Eritrea.
State radio reported yesterday that the opposition is “covertly and overtly” collaborating with neighboring Eritrea ahead of elections on May 23. Ethiopia and Eritrea fought a 1998-2000 border war that left as many as 70,000 people dead and the two countries’ armies remain deployed along their border.
Such allegations are “dangerous,” Negasso Gidada, a leader of the Unity for Democracy and Justice party, said in a phone interview today in the capital, Addis Ababa. The party forms part of an opposition alliance known as Medrek. “We are clearly a peaceful organization and we stick to the constitution and the rule of law.”
A 2005 crackdown on opposition supporters protesting the results of that year’s elections left 193 people. Birtukan Mideksa, the leader of the UDJ, has been jailed under a life sentence since December 2008, after she said an earlier release from prison was part of a political deal.
Yesterday’s report on government radio said opposition parties plan to claim human rights violations in order to raise questions about the credibility of the elections.
“What is surprising is they are not ashamed of the baseless allegations they make in partnership with the Eritrean government,” the broadcaster said, according to a transcript distributed by the British Broadcasting Corp.’s monitoring service.