NAIROBI (Reuters) -Ethiopia’s state minister of peace has been fired and arrested on accusations he conspired with rebel groups to overthrow the government, state media reported on Tuesday.
The move against Taye Dendea, a senior member of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s party, follows a series of social media posts he has made in the past week criticising the government for failing to maintain peace in the country.
Sintayew Alemayew, Taye’s wife, said her husband was arrested by dozens of uniformed and plainclothed police on Monday night, and said authorities gave her three days to leave her house or face eviction.
Last week Taye blamed the government for the failure of a second round of peace talks between Ethiopia and the rebel group Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), which took place in Tanzania last month.
A statement sent by the security apparatus to state media said surveillance revealed Taye was in touch with rebel groups, including the OLA, with the aim to topple the current administration.
A spokesperson for the OLA did not respond to requests for comment. Taye was not available for comment and the family had not yet engaged a lawyer, his wife said.
Despite releasing thousands of political prisoners since coming to power in 2018, Abiy’s government has since cracked down on dissent by arresting critics of wars it has waged against rebellions in several regions, human rights groups say.
The government says its actions have been legal and necessary to respond to threats to national security.
A spokesperson for the Ethiopian government did not respond to requests for comment on the arrest.
After he was sacked, Taye lashed out at Abiy calling the prime minister “a barbarian” who plays with “human blood”.
“I understand that you removed me from power because I stand for the for peace so that the killing of the brothers would stop,” he said in a Facebook post on Monday.
A member of the Oromo people, Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, Taye has been a rare critic inside the ruling party of abuses the country’s human rights body says were committed by government forces against civilians in Oromiya.
The OLA is an outlawed splinter group of the Oromo Liberation Front, a formerly banned opposition party that returned from exile after Abiy – himself an Oromo – took office in 2018.
The conflict in Oromiya in recent years has killed hundreds of people and displaced tens of thousands in Ethiopia’s most populous region.
(Writing by Giulia Paravicini, editing by Aaron Ross and Nick Macfie)