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Ruling party thugs killed Medrek activist in north-west Ethiopia

Addis Ababa (DPA) — An Ethiopian opposition activist has been beaten to death in a politically motivated murder in the run-up to elections in May, an opposition leader said Friday.

“Our activist Biyansa Daba, 23, was attacked at his home in a small town in north-west Ethiopia by members of the ruling party on April 7,” Bulcha Demeksa, leader of opposition party Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), told the German Press Agency dpa.

“He was beaten with the butt of a gun,” he added. “When killings like this happen, many people will be afraid to support us.”

The opposition and international organizations like Human Rights Watch (HRW) regularly accuse Prime Minister warlord Meles Zenawi’s government of intimidation and political repression. Analysts expect a landslide victory for the government in the polls, which are set to take place on May 23.

Information Minister Bereket Simon, Zenawi’s top advisor, accused the opposition of attempting to stir up trouble.

“This has nothing to do with politics,” he told dpa. “The opposition is searching for dead people to say they have been killed.”

“They want to tarnish the whole electoral process and prepare their supporters for acts of violence,” he added.

Simon said Daba was a member of the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), while Demeksa said he was working for the opposition.

According to HRW, many Ethiopians in impoverished rural settings are forced to join the ruling party as a precondition for being eligible to receive foreign aid money.

This was the second killing of an opposition supporter in recent times.

Opposition candidate Aregawi Gebre-Yohannes was stabbed to death in March in what the opposition says was a political murder.

The government says Gebre-Yohannes was killed in a bar fight. A man has been sentenced to 15 years in jail for the killing.

Ethiopia, a major ally of the United States in the fight against growing Islamist fundamentalism in the region, has long been accused of crushing all political opposition.

In the aftermath of Zenawis’ hotly disputed victory in 2005, around 200 protestors were shot during demonstrations.

An unknown number of opposition figures, including Birtukan Mideksa, head of the Unity for Democracy and Justice party, remain imprisoned.

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