September 5, 2013 (ADDIS ABABA) - Ethiopia’s newly-established opposition Semayawi Party (Blue Party) on Thursday vowed to stage anti-government rallies after the group was banned from holding demonstrations last week.
Blue Party Chairman, Yilkal Getnet, told Sudan Tribune that the group will soon stage a protest rally to call upon the government to make political reforms.
However, he declined to reveal when the protests will be held but said they will be announced soon.
The planned protests also intend to call for the release of all political prisoners including journalists who have been arrested under Ethiopia’s controversial anti-terrorism proclamation.
The Blue Party first planned to stage a protest on Sunday, the same day as the government called for a huge counter-extremism rally. However, the Blue Party said it was banned from staging the rally then.
Hundreds of thousands of residents in Addis Ababa on Sunday gathered at Meskel square to denounce a growing extremism in the predominantly Christian nation.
The pro-government demonstration was aimed at promoting centuries-old religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence among religious groups in the Horn of Africa nation.
The opposition official alleged that dozens of its members and supporters were arrested following Sunday’s anti-extremism rally.
However, communication minister, Shimeles Kemal, dismissed the allegations and denied there were arrests against members of the opposition party.
Kemal said the Blue Party wasn’t granted a permit to stage their rally on Sunday.
Government officials said the Blue Party was not banned from staging its rally but it was only asked to postpone it for security reasons.
The opposition group further alleged that government agents have confiscated or destroyed over $20,000 worth of belongings of the party during the crackdown and vowed to take the case to court.
After the Blue Party held a rare demonstration against the government in June along with Muslim protesters, some government officials have suspected the opposition party of having links with local extremist groups.
The group is accused of backing an emerging religious extremism to advance its own political agenda, an allegation it denies.