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Ethiopia Warns Opposition to Sever Links With Outlawed Groups

Ethiopian authorities may intensify a clampdown on opposition supporters accused of having links to organizations banned by the government, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said.

The government has evidence opposition members are working with outlawed organizations, including the Ogaden National Liberation Front, Oromo Liberation Front, U.S.-based Ginbot 7 and the Islamist group al-Shabaab based in Somalia, Hailemariam told reporters on Oct. 4.

“Some of our opposition members are misbehaving and they’re misbehaving in such a way that connects them with those terrorist groups,” he said in Addis Ababa, the capital. “We will not let them do any harm to this country with such bad conduct.”

Ethiopian courts convicted government critics such as opposition politician Andualem Arage and activist Eskinder Nega on terrorism offenses last year, including collaborating to overthrow the government. The 2009 anti-terrorism law used to jail them has been criticized by the U.S. government and the United Nations for criminalizing dissent.

While the Ginbot 7 Movement for Justice, Freedom and Democracy “firmly believes that Ethiopians have the right to get rid of tyranny by any means necessary, it has no plans to engage the government militarily,” leader Berhanu Nega, who was elected mayor of Addis Ababa in 2005 and is now based in the U.S., said yesterday in an e-mailed response to questions.

The Ethiopian government is aware of plans for possible bomb attacks and it will act when warranted, said Hailemariam.

Liberation Front

In 2011, the Oromo Liberation Front was accused by the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea of working with the Eritrean government to bomb an African Union summit in Addis Ababa. The OLF has waged a 40-year campaign for autonomy in Oromia, the biggest of Ethiopia’s nine federal states, on behalf of the Oromo ethnic group. The group and the Eritrean government denied any involvement in the plot.

The Ogaden National Liberation Front has been fighting since 1984 for more autonomy for ethnic-Somali Ogaden people in Ethiopia, while al-Shabaab, an affiliate of al-Qaeda, is trying to topple the government and create an Islamic state in Somalia.

To contact the reporter on this story: William Davison in Addis Ababa at wdavison3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at asguazzin@bloomberg.net

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