The Opposition Pentecostals (INDIAN
OCEAN NEWSLETTER (NO 1222) SEPTEMBER 22,
The welcome certain Ethiopian opposition leaders
have had in Washington from their partisans is revelatory of the influence of the Pentecostal
church holds among their ranks.
The welcome given on 9 September at Dulles Airport
(Washington) to a delegation from the Coalition for Unity and Democracy Party (CUDP, Opposition)
led by Birtukan Midiksa was surprising for more than one reason. To begin with, Hailu Shawel was
not present, nor were any of his partisans, thus illustrating the depth of the split in the CUDP
leadership, whose main leaders were freed recently (ION 1220). Secondly, certain opposition
supporters prostrated themselves in front of Birtukan going as far as kissing her feet… This
kind of behavior has not been seen in Ethiopia since the time with the subjects of Emperor Haile
Sellasie prostrated themselves before him.
For some observers this strange scene at Dulles airport is a
sign of the growing importance of Pentecostals have in the CUDP leadership. This protestant church
has the wind in its sails in Ethiopia where its followers abstain from alcohol and songs. But
until recently it was not involved in politics. Birtukan Midiksa is a Pente (as they are called
pejoratively by the Orthodox Christians who are the majority in Ethiopia) as is her Tigrean
companion Marcos Retta, a former lawyer who drafter certain legislation for the current Ethiopian
government before defecting to the opposition and taking refuge in Nairobi. Ethiopian Pentecostal
adepts now proudly cite the example of Birtukan, the CUDP economist Daniel Assefa, Eyuel Muluneh
and others to prove that their church is now politically active in the opposition.