Col. Demeke Zewdu, a former rebel and retired military officer, is considered by many as the leader of the Gondar uprising and resistance in the Amhara region of Ethiopia.
By ESAT News,
The 19th bench of the federal high court in Addis Ababa on Tuesday presided over the case of Colonel Demeke Zewdu and et al, who are leaders and members of a committee that spearheads the demands of the people of Wolkait, Tsegede and Telemt.
The defendants lead the demand by the people of north Gondar to reclaim their land that was illegally incorporated into Tigray region when the Tigrayan-led regime took power 25 years ago.
The prosecutor accused the defendants of taking missions from Patriotic Ginbot 7 to destabilize the country. They were also accused of killing and abduction of local officials in Gondar and Tigray.
Colonel Demeke Zewdu was accused of killing 11 regime security forces and injuring 7 police officers.
Five defendants appeared before the court on Tuesday but the Colonel, considered by many as the leader of the uprising and resistance in the Amhara region, remain at the Angereb prison in Gondar.
Several attempts by regime security forces to bring him to Addis Ababa failed due to resistance by the people and the Amhara police. Six of the defendants are held at the Central Investigation prison in Addis Ababa, while nine are held in Gondar.
They are also accused of causing damages to property worth over 20 million dollars in Gondar and Gojam.
The court is adjourned to January 12, 2017 as per the request by the prosecutor for further investigations.
Trouble began in Gondar in July 2015, when word went around that the authorities intended to arrest Col Demeke Zewdu, a former rebel and retired military officer. When security forces tried to arrest Zewdu, who is a member of a committee campaigning over the contested Wolkait territory, armed Amharas protected him and several people, including security officers, were killed.
Wolkait is an administrative district in Tigray that borders Amhara. The committee says Wolkait and others areas were taken out of Gondar’s control by the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) in 1992, when Ethiopia was divided into a federation along ethno-linguistic lines. Allied rebels led by the TPLF, who unseated a military regime in 1991, introduced the system and still monopolise power.
Critics of the committee point out that a 1994 census found more than 96% of the people of Wolkait were Tigrayan , and that the complaints of annexation stem from the town of Gondar, not the district itself. The activists say the TPLF moved Tigrayans into the area during the rebellion.
The issue struck a chord in Gondar. After Demeke’s arrest, rural militiamen paraded through the city on 31 July, firing bullets into the air during a large, peaceful demonstration. It is thought that the demonstration was facilitated by the Amhara wing of the TPLF-founded Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) – a four-party coalition that, along with allied organisations, controls all the country’s legislative seats.
In the weeks after Col Demeke’s detainment, there was more unrest, amid allegations that Tigrayan businesses were being targeted and Tigrayans attacked. People in Gondar say the companies were targeted because of their connections with the regime, rather than the owners’ ethnicity.
– Written by William Davidson