By Jason McLure | Bloomberg
[the Woyanne regime in] Ethiopia criticized a British official’s call for the release of an Ethiopian opposition leader, saying it displayed “warped symptoms of a neo-colonial disposition.”
In a statement published on March 6 in the Addis Ababa-based Reporter newspaper, British Minister of State for Africa Baroness Glenys Kinnock said Ethiopia’s imprisonment of opposition leader Birtukan Mideksa “undermines” trust in the Horn of Africa country. A copy of the statement was e-mailed to Bloomberg today by the British embassy in Addis Ababa.
Kinnock also urged Meles Zenawi’s government to probe “serious allegations” that the distribution of foreign aid in Ethiopia was being used to win votes for the ruling party in elections scheduled for May 23.
Ethiopia’s government was surprised at “the temerity with which she took on the role of a mission-school mistress whose task it is to supervise the natives lest they slide back to their ‘primitive’ ways,” Ethiopia’s government’s said in a statement in the state-owned Ethiopian Herald yesterday.
Ethiopia’s opposition has claimed that it faces continued harassment and intimidation in the run-up to this year’s vote.
On March 2, an opposition candidate for parliament was stabbed to death in a restaurant he owned in northern Ethiopia. Earlier that week, a second opposition candidate was hospitalized after being beaten.
Opposition leaders have said Meles’ ruling party was behind both attacks. The government has denied the claims, saying both men were attacked by people who were not ruling party members.
Security forces loyal to Meles killed 193 protesters in unrest following a disputed 2005 vote and jailed many leading opposition leaders, including Birtukan. European Union observers concluded that the election fell short of international standards and was marred by irregularities in vote-counting.
Ethiopia also accused Kinnock of being “an ardent champion” of Eritrea, which fought a 1998-2000 border war with Ethiopia.
In addition, it said Kinnock had colluded with the 2005 EU electoral observer mission in an effort to foment a “revolution” to overthrow Meles’ government.
The dispute with Kinnock comes as Ethiopia’s Supreme Court today ordered four newspaper publishers that were closed after the 2005 ballot to pay fines imposed as a result of the treason trials that followed that year’s election.
The U.K. granted Ethiopia 220 million pounds ($333.2 million) in aid in the current fiscal year, according to the British embassy in Addis Ababa.