ADDIS ABABA, Jan 17 (Reuters) – Ethiopia freed a senior opposition leader on Wednesday, advancing efforts to calm political turmoil following violence and mass protests that shook the country in 2015 and 2016.
Merera Gudina, leader of the Oromo Federalist Congress party, was arrested in late 2015 shortly after a trip to Brussels where he addressed members of the European Parliament as violence roiled the Horn of Africa country.
He was charged with collusion with groups outlawed by the government in violation of rules imposed during a nine-month state of emergency that was lifted in August.
On his release from a detention centre in the outskirts of Addis Ababa, thousands of supporters thronged narrow roads and alleyways as a convoy of vehicles carrying him made its way towards his house in the town of Burayu some 15 km (nine miles) west of the capital.
Holding aloft placards and the provincial flag, supporters – some sporting T-shirts emblazoned with a picture of Merera’s face – sang and chanted “Merera our hero” and “Unity of Oromo people”.