Ethiopian Muslim election turns violent

By Tinishu Solomon

Posted on October 23, 2012 10:43

The Muslim election in Ethiopia was marred by violence with two protesters reported to have been killed on Sunday.

The incident occurred in the town of Gerba in the Amhara regional state of Ethiopia.

Sources say that other civilians were also injured during the clash, and there are unconfirmed reports of the death of one federal police in the clash.

Muslims across the country were electing a new council.

Ethiopian police declined to give details on the incident, saying police were investigating the incident in Gerba town.

The run up to the elections has also been characterised by widespread protests by the Muslim community in the past few months.

Protesters accused the government of interfering in religious affairs, a charge which has been denied.

Following the protests, dozens of Muslims were jailed.

The government accuses protesters of using religion as a cover for their political agenda.

Ethiopia’s newly elected Prime Minister, Haile Mariam Desalegn, in a recent address to parliament, threatened to take measures against any extremism, which he said was cloaked under religious mantra.

In July 2012 police arrested 71 Muslim and released many of them but dozens are still in jail, awaiting trial.

Ethiopian Muslims are estimated to make up 35 percent of the country’s more than 80 million dominantly-Christian population.

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The Muslim community in Ethiopia continued with its demands for the release of their jailed colleagues, ahead of new leadership polls for the Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council (EIASC) next month.

More than 10 members of a “protest organising committee” in Addis Ababa were arrested by police last July following weeks of protest against the current EIASC leadership, which the Muslim community claims does not represent them. They also claim that the council has allowed government interference in religious affairs.

The jailed Muslim “protest organising committee” members were expected to appear before the Ethiopian Federal court on September 14, but their appearance was delayed due to protests by relatives and supporters at the court. They were later arraigned before the court on Tuesday, September 18 without prior notice.

During court proceedings, the prosecutor asked for another 28 days to undertake “more investigations” into the detained Muslim protestors.

Arguing that their case is “serious and needs ample time”, the prosecutor told the court that “a lot of evidence, including both Arabic and English language messages exchanged between the detainees and other extremists outside the country, had been gathered.”

The police, according to the prosecutor, needed time to translate the messages.

Aside from accusing the detainees of undertaking activities to make Ethiopia a “Muslim nation”, police also told the court that more people behind the protests were being sought.

Local analysts say the Ethiopian government has repeatedly said that extremists have been using religion as a cover for their “hidden agenda”, promoting extremism in Ethiopia.

But the protestors have rejected the accusations saying that government is interfering in their religious affairs.

“We don’t have any agenda. We are demanding to have our own elected leadership at the council in a free election,” said Munir Tofik, who is opposed to the EIASC. “So far, we have not seen anything illegal. None”

Tofik said the Muslim communities… Continue Reading

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