Just a few weeks after his release, Andualem Aragie, leader of the largest Ethiopian opposition UDJ party is behind bars again. He was arrested today during a celebration organized for all the political prisoners released recently. Journalist Eskinder Nega was also arrested.
Andualem Aragie headlined a number of opposition officials invited by their UDJ party representative Temesgen Desalegn for the ceremony. The federal police was harassing them through out their meetings. Then, after all opposition officials gathered, the police suddenly accused the group of using the original Ethiopian plain flag, which does not have the new EPRDF blue disc with 5 point star in the middle. Many Ethiopians reject the new EPRDF blue disc star which symbolizes ethnic division.
Ethiopians call the additional blue circle emblem, the Hambasha flag, with similarities to the Hambasha bread popular among the northern Tigrayan people of Ethiopia & Eritrea. Since 1991, the five pointed star with rays has symbolized both ethnic division as well as representing only 5 large tribes by marginalizing the 75 other southern ethnicities in the country.
Ethiopian Opposition groups view the blue emblem as the dawn of government sanctioned racism and tribalism that was institutionalized in 1990s.
After his release, UDJ leader Andualem Aragie has condemned the recent tribal conflicts in the country as “barbarism” that do not belong in the 21st century.
Last week, Andualem told reporters tribalism is worse than dictatorship. He said, “It is very bad to have an ethnic mindset, we must work together for our country. Dictatorship is inhuman but racism is worse. We must fight this kind of barbarism to make a peaceful country. We are not human if we attack somebody based on the languages they speak or the tribe they belong to. “
Despite the TPLF ruling party cracking down on Oromoprotests and Amharaprotests recently, the ruling party historically prefers these tribal divided opposition movements over the return of United Ethiopian opposition Movements. The TPLF views pro-unity Ethiopian nationalists as a systematic and existential long-term threat to its rule, while it views ethnic opposition protesters as temporary problems.
It is unknown when the opposition leader will be released.