Opposition party sees chance to grow as Ethiopia vows reform

Nizar Manek, Bloomberg

An Ethiopian opposition party whose chairman was freed after more than a year in prison plans to step up its activity as the Horn of Africa nation’s government pledges greater openness in the wake of mass protests.

Commercial and residential buildings stand along a highway illuminated at dusk in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Feb. 24, 2015.

The Oromo Federalist Congress will open an initial 20 offices in the Oromia region and “start to organize our people,” Chairman Merera Gudina said in an interview in the capital, Addis Ababa. That could make it a competitor to the ruling coalition’s regional sub-party in elections due by 2020 in a central region that’s been roiled by more than two years of often fatal demonstrations.

“We have reached a stage where people have refused to be ruled in the old way, and the ruling party cannot rule in the old way,” Merera said. Arrested in Ethiopia after taking part in a 2016 discussion panel in Brussels, he was freed in January as state-linked media reported the pardoning of a first wave of more than 500 detainees.

Unrest that began in Oromia in late 2015 has damaged Ethiopia’s reputation as an investment destination and posed one of the biggest challenges to the ruling coalition since it came to power in the early 1990s. The government has said the release of some political detainees is intended to “widen the political

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