Elected mayor of Addis Ababa in 2005, now Ginbot 7’s founder & commander-in-chief Berhanu Nega (PhD) spoke from Eritrea with Global Journalist’s Bryce Arthur

Ethiopian rebel leader Berhanu Nega has tried democratic politics before. Now the former Bucknell University professor and one-time mayor-elect of Ethiopia’s largest city is trying to topple his home-country’s repressive government through the barrel of a gun – all in the name of democracy.

To do so he’s allied his Ethiopian rebel group, Ginbot-7, with the government of neighboring Eritrea – a country often referred to as “the North Korea of Africa” and labeled by Human Rights Watch as a “giant prison” for its widespread use of forced labor and government conscription.

But back in 2005 Berhanu was a leader of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy, a new opposition alliance that was challenging the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) in what promised to be the East African nation’s first democratic elections. The EPRDF itself had taken power as a rebel group that helped topple the country’s former Communist regime in 1991. For its first 14 years in power, it had run the country as a virtual one-party state, but now it was allowing a broad-based opposition to challenge it in national elections.

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On election day, support for opposition was much stronger than expected. The CUD won the capital Addis Ababa overwhelmingly, and Berhanu was chosen as mayor. But the EPRDF claimed a majority in the national parliament – a result the opposition disputed. Over a series of tense weeks of negotiations, opposition demonstrators were met by security forces firing live ammunition. Berhanu and other opposition leaders were jailed on charges including treason and genocide.

Continue reading the full interview on Global Journalist
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