Ethiopia ex-minister held for ‘collaborating’ with rebels

Taye Dendea, who served as the state minister for peace, was once a staunch supporter of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed but had recently fallen out with the federal government over its handling of the economy and the ongoing unrest in the Oromia region.

Federal police released an official statement on Facebook announcing that Taye was arrested on Tuesday for “collaborating with anti-peace forces who want to destroy Ethiopia”.

The statement was accompanied by images showing weapons, rebel flags, license plates and mobile telephones, items which the police claimed were recovered from Taye’s house and were allegedly part of a “plan to destabilise the country”.

“A member of OLF-Shane who was using three different IDs was also found hiding in his residence and was arrested,” the statement added.

Classified as a “terrorist organisation” and referred to as OLF-Shane by Addis Ababa, the OLA rebel group has been fighting the government since 2018 after splitting from the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) when it renounced armed struggle.

A fresh round of talks between OLA and the government ended without agreement last month, with each side blaming the other for the breakdown.

Taye, an ethnic Oromo from the country’s most populous region, on Monday shared a letter from Abiy announcing his dismissal on his Facebook page, describing the prime minister as “a savage playing with human blood”.

More than 50 civilians have died in attacks last month since talks ended between the OLA and the government, according to the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission.

The OLA’s strength, estimated at a few thousand men in 2018, has increased in recent years, though observers believe it is insufficiently organised or well-armed to pose a real threat to the government.

The Oromo ethnic group accounts for about a third of the 120 million inhabitants of Africa’s second-most populous country.

The OLA has been accused by the government of orchestrating massacres, something the rebels deny. The authorities in turn are accused of waging an indiscriminate crackdown that has fuelled Oromo resentment.

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