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Opposition holds "Forum for Democratic Dialogue in Ethiopia"

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July 2, 2008 (ADDIS ABABA) — Concerned with what they call "the ever diminishing political space" in Ethiopia, four opposition political parties and two notable personalities have joined forces to form the "Forum for Democratic Dialogue in Ethiopia." The Ethiopian reporter said.

The forum was established by the United Ethiopian Democratic Forces (UEDF), the Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement (OFDM) the Somali Democratic Alliance Forces (SDAF) and the Union of Tigrians for Democracy and Sovereignty known as Arena, Dr. Negasso Gidada, MP and former Ethiopian president and Siye Abraha, former defense minister.

At a press conference given by the parties and the two individuals on Tuesday, members of the forum said that the policies pursued by the ruling party are debilitating the country, and that something has to be done about it.

They expressed their concern about the "unprecedented clashes that had been taking place between neighbouring peoples of adjacent regions of the country that have been causing heavy losses in human life and property."

In a press statement read by OFDM chairman Bulcha Demekesa, the forum members expressed their "outrage" by the inaction of EPRDF’s government to provide solution to the deplorable recurrent carnage.

They stressed that they are concerned by the "inability of the EPRDF government to discharge the responsibility and obligation of upholding the inviolability of Ethiopia’s borders and sovereignty."

Ato Gebru Asrat of the Arena party told journalists that due to the government’s failure to keep the territorial integrity of the country, Ethiopia will be forced to cede about 70 sq.km. of its land to Eritrea.

The parties and the two individual members, at the press statement, pledged that they will "jointly act against the illegal pressures and abuses perpetrated by the ruling party against the opposition political parties and their members and supporters, civic society organizations and individuals and the free press . . ."

Asked what realistic chance they had to act freely in the face of impending laws on civic society, the press and political parties that are in the pipeline, Gebru said that they had no choice but to keep on trying to expand the political space: "Until we are told that we can’t operate legally, we have no choice but try to expand that space."

Ato Bulcha added that they will try to widen the political space by talking to the ruling party also.

Former Defense Minister Siye Abraha accused the EPRDF - led government of trying to legislate laws that weaken the press and civic society but warned that the political process in a country cannot always go the way government wants. "The political life of a country has its own dynamics," Siye stressed.

"Although the narrowing or widening of political space has much to do with the actions of the government, non-governmental actors such as political parties and civic organizations have their roles too to play," Siye said.

"If opposition political parties, civic organizations and other institutions are disorganized and expose themselves to a "divide-and-rule" approach of the government, they will contribute to the diminishing political space in the country," Siye said.

"If, on the other hand, the press, civic organizations and political parties work together for minimum political goals, they might contribute to the expansion of that political space," he added.

"Why do we leave our future in the hands of EPRDF only?" Siye asked. He added that citizens had responsibility to take matters into their own hands.

(ST)

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