Yilkal Getnet, chairperson of the rising opposition Semayawi Party was on his way to attend a US-sponsored Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) fellowship. Security officials kept Yilkal for more than three hours at the airport during which time he missed his flight.
“Yilkal was told to see a TPLF supervisor by airport crew right before boarding time where he was told he would not be flying. His luggage was unloaded from the plane and he stayed at the airport for more than 3 hours, thereafter questioned by TPLF agents,” a Semayawi Party source said. By 2:00 am, Yilkal, a civil engineer by training, had no option but to go back home.
US President Barack Obama launched YALI in 2010 to support young African leaders as “they spur growth and prosperity, strengthen democratic governance, and enhance peace and security across Africa.”
Semayawi Party stands out from the crowd for being overwhelmingly youthful. Most members are under 35 years of age, fearless in the face of police brutality.
On March 9, the BBC reported that some 100 members of Semayawi party were arrested and some badly beaten because of their protest at a 5k Women’s Great Run event. The women, who took part in the run, used the opportunity to denounce the regime for its high-handedness.
Some of the women were taken out at night for interrogation, and were threatened with guns pointed to their heads. In the absence of any wrongdoing, and the usual court drama, the defiant Semayawi Party members were released last Tuesday.
With corruption and poverty rife in the country, the ruling party remains overwhelmingly resented, and political change is only a matter of forging unity among the leading opposition parties like Andinet, AEUP and Semayawi.