Ethiopian Political Activists Opposed to Meles Claim Power-Cable Sabotage

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By William DavisonMay 23, 2011 12:23 PM GMT

Ethiopian political activists opposed to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s rule said they sabotagedpower lines in the west of the country as part of a campaign against the government.

The Tinsae Ethiopian Patriots Union said it cut electricity cables in Awi Zone on May 20, causing outages in towns including Asosa, 477 kilometers (296 miles) west of Addis Ababa, and Metekel, 400 northwest of the capital. Power still hasn’t been restored in some parts of the region, it said in an e-mailed statement today. The group posted pictures on its website that it said showed the damaged cables.

“They must be joking,” Communications Minister Bereket Simon said a phone interview. “There were problems with power supply, but it’s not related to sabotage,” he said, adding that he had only previously heard of Tinsae on “some foreign blogs.”

Tinsae said it and other groups are planning a campaign of “peaceful civil resistance” to bring about “multiparty Western- style democracy where government exists to serve the people” in Ethiopia. A Facebook group calling for protests on May 28 against the rule of Meles’s Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front said 3,112 people had confirmed they would attend. The date is the 20th anniversary of when rebels marched into Addis Ababa to remove Mengistu Haile Mariam’s Marxist military junta from power.

Crackdown

Tinsae says it is composed of members of the now defunct Coalition for Unity and Democracy that led street protests after a disputed 2005 election resulting in a crackdown by security forces that left 193 people dead.

In March, the group said it distributed pamphlets in three of the major Ethiopian languages calling for protests this month. At the time, the group also appealed to the country’s armed forces to support its campaign.

The EPRDF won more than 99 percent of 547 parliamentary seats in May 2010 elections that European Union observers said failed to meet certain “international commitments.” Ethiopia’s economy has grown by an average of 11 percent for the last 7 years, International Monetary Fund data shows. The country ranks 157th out of 169 countries ranked in the United Nations Development Program’s Human Development Index, which measures life expectancy, education and living standards.

To contact the reporter on this story: William Davison in Addis Ababa via Nairobi atpmrichardson@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Richardson in Nairobi atpmrichardson@bloomberg.net.