(Reuters) - The speaker of Ethiopia's upper house of
parliament said on Monday she was seeking political
asylum in the United States to escape what she called
the persecution of the Oromos, the country's largest
the last two years, the government have been very harsh
on the Oromos because Oromos have been challenging and
calling for their rights," Almaz Meko, speaker of Ethiopia's
Council of the Federation, told Reuters in Nairobi.
was speaking from the United States, where she had stopped
in transit on her way home to the Horn of Africa country
from a convention of women parliamentarians in the Caribbean.
of going on to Addis Ababa, Meko said, she had applied
for political asylum with her eight-year-old daughter.
Her husband and two sons remain in Addis Ababa, she
was no immediate comment on Meko's statement from the
authorities in Ethiopia. As a matter of policy the State
Department does not comment on asylum requests or approvals.
a member of the central committee of the ruling coalition,
the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front
(EPRDF), said she had been increasingly targeted by
the authorities for being a vocal supporter of the Oromo
people, who make up at least 22 million of the 65 million
population. The EPRDF central committee is a key body
in the apparatus of power in sub-Saharan Africa's second
most populous country.
said Oromos were persecuted by the EPRDF government
led by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, adding her own party,
the Oromo People's Democratic Organization, had been
stripped of significance by the ethnically-based federal
named the dominant force in her alleged persecution
as Meles's Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF),
the most influential component of the EPRDF government.
I began as speaker [in 1995] I had one bodyguard. Before
I left I had six, I was surrounded. I could not meet
people, or even talk privately on the telephone," she
of thousands of innocent Oromos have disappeared, perished
in detention centers from torture and many, many more
have been forced to flee the country."
was clear to all Oromos there was neither democracy
nor federalism in Ethiopia, she said. "Talk about democracy
[by the government] is done only to impress Western
said the Oromos had suffered in terms of expenditure
on education and development projects.
budget allocations are made by the upper house, but
I knew we had no real power. I could not follow my convictions,"
she said. "We were just rubber stamping the TPLF plans,
and the responsibility I felt to my people became just
said she had jointed the exiled Oromo Liberation Front,
which commands guerrillas who make sporadic armed attacks
on government forces in some parts of Ethiopia.
has faced a power struggle within the TPLF in recent
months and has sought to consolidate his grip on power.
in Addis Ababa say much discontent in Ethiopia comes
from a perception that the government is dominated by
the minority ethnic Tigrayan community and the EPRDF's
insistence on ruling through an ethnic-based federation.