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Ethiopian Opposition Names 68 Oromos Arrested Over Past Month

Ethiopia’s main opposition group listed the names of 68 people detained in the Oromia region over the past month.

The majority of the arrests took place on March 13 and 14, Medrek, a six-member coalition of opposition groups, said in a statement handed to reporters today in the capital, Addis Ababa. Those arrested in towns mostly in the West Shoa and East Wollega areas were either opposition activists or sympathizers, spokesman Beyene Petros said.

Police arrested 121 people in the Oromia region this month, all of whom were members of the banned, Eritrea-based Oromo Liberation Front, government spokesman Shimeles Kemal said in a phone interview yesterday, revising downward a figure of 200 arrests he gave a day earlier.

Medrek said the detentions may be related to government fears of unrest, though the opposition group isn’t advocating anti-government protests, Beyene said.

“The fact that it was directed at politically related people is a basis for suspicion this is pre-emptive,” Beyene said.

Oromos are the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia. The OLF has waged a 38-year campaign for autonomy in Oromia, the largest of Ethiopia’s nine federal states.

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