Goats are valuable possessions in Ethiopia
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, who had been arrested in the past and threatened by officials of the region's ruling party (TPLF), alleged that the party was using his goats as leverage.
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.
Mr Zenawi told the BBC that he had reported the matter to the police.
Three of the goats had managed to escape and find their way home, but 13 remained in detention, he said.
The district police chief confirmed to the BBC that the goats were in captivity, but he would not discuss the matter further.
The TPLF has not yet commented on the allegations.