The goats of an opposition politician in northern Ethiopia have been taken hostage as part of a ploy by local officials to get him to leave politics, the head of the Arena Tigray party has told the BBC.
The 16 goats were removed from a field near Zenawi Asmelash’s house by security agents in Kola Temben, a district in Tigray region, on Wednesday, Abrha Desta said.
Mr Zenawi had been arrested in the past and threatened by officials of the ruling party of Tigray – and now the TPLF was using his goats as leverage, the opposition leader alleged.
Arena Tigray is an established opposition party in Tigray and has been active in trying to increase its membership ahead of elections scheduled for next year.
The news has caused a stir on social media in Ethiopia after Mr Abrha said on Facebook: “TPLF move from people to innocent animals.”
Some mocked the post and others – concerned about the animals’ predicament – started a campaign to free the “politically imprisoned goats”.
But others are taking the matter more seriously as they see it as part of worrying political bullying tactics.
The district police chief confirmed to the BBC that the goats were in captivity, but he would not discuss the matter further.
Three of the goats have managed to escape and find their way home, but 13 remain in detention, Mr Zenawi says.
The TPLF has not yet commented on the allegations.