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Stand for Silenced Ethiopians: October 2006

Friday, October 20, 2006

EU anger over Ethiopia expulsions

The EU cut aid after last year's election violenceThe European Union has condemned the expulsion of two EU diplomats from Ethiopia as "totally unacceptable".
The two were deported after being caught allegedly trying to smuggle two fugitives into Kenya.
These include an Ethiopian lawyer who worked for the European Commission. Ethiopia said they were arrested over "serious crimes" without specifying.
The expulsions come at a time of strong international criticism of Ethiopia over last year's disputed elections.
The EU halted budgetary aid to Ethiopia in the wake of the poll and the wave of violence that followed it.
Any international organisation operating in Ethiopia needs to respect the laws of the host country and face punishment if it violates the law
Interior ministry
Until the election violence, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi had been seen as part of a "new generation" of African leaders.
The chief observer for the EU during the elections, Ana Gomes, on Thursday said a leaked report into an alleged "massacre" confirmed that the government did not respect human rights.
'Torture risk'
An EC official, who did not wish to be named, told the BBC he was very concerned about lawyer Yalemzewd Bekele, following her arrest.
Human rights group Amnesty International says she is at a high risk of being tortured.
The identity of the person arrested with the lawyer has not been revealed but they did not work for the EC, the official said.
Swedish diplomat Bjorn Jonsson and Italian EU official Enrico Sborgi were deported on Thursday night.
The arrests were made after a car with diplomatic number plates was stopped near the southern border town of Moyale, Ethiopian officials say.
Amnesty says it believes Ms Yalemzewd was arrested in connection with the publication and distribution of a calendar of action for non-violent civil disobedience by the opposition party Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD).
CUD was in the forefront of protests over last May's elections, saying it was cheated of victory.
Several CUD leaders are on trial on a number of charges, including one of trying to overthrow the government.
Almost 200 people were killed when the police put down the protests, a leaked report said this week.
Development Commissioner Louis Michel said he had called Ethiopia's envoy in Brussels for an explanation.
"There will be repercussions," he said.
He also said he had been trying since Thursday to contact Mr Meles about the incident, without success.
"Usually I can make contact quite easily with Prime Minister Meles," he said.
A statement from Ethiopia's interior ministry said the attempt to take the Ethiopians out of the country "violates the sovereignty of the country while jeopardising the security of the nation".
"Any international organisation operating in Ethiopia needs to respect the laws of the host country and face punishment if it violates the law," the statement added.

Rep. Smith: Ethiopian Regime's Silence on Report Speaks Volumes

Calls for Immediate Passage of "Ethiopia Freedom, Democracy, Human Rights Advancement Act of 2006" when Congress reconvenes
10/20/2006 11:15:00 AM

To: International Desk, Political Reporter
Contact: Patrick Creamer of the Office of U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, 202-225-3765
WASHINGTON, Oct. 20 /U.S. Newswire/ --

U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) today expressed outrage at the Ethiopian government's continued silence about the report linking their security forces to nearly 200 deaths during two waves of protests over election results in 2005 and called for immediate passage of his bill to promote human rights and democracy in Ethiopia when Congress reconvenes.
Smith -- who is the Chairman of the Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations Subcommittee and author of the "Ethiopia Freedom, Democracy and Human Rights Advancement Act of 2006" (H.R. 5680) -- said "Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's silence speaks volumes. The regime refuses to comment on the report, most likely because they never expected it to see the light of day. We have a responsibility to hold them accountable for their brutal actions as well as their subsequent efforts to suppress this inquiry."
Smith added "this report should prompt the House to move on my bill when we reconvene. We must send a message to the Ethiopian government that these actions will not be tolerated."
The independent Commission of Inquiry report found that Ethiopian security forces fatally shot, beat or strangled 193 people protesting election fraud last year -- a number that far exceeds the Ethiopian government's official death toll. The report also states that these demonstrators were unarmed, yet the majority died from shots to the head.
Wolde-Michael Meshesha, a vice chairman of the 10-member panel who conducted the investigation, said the Ethiopian government tried to suppress the inquiry and he has stated in news reports that he was told to change the results two days before the release of report. Meshesha fled Ethiopia in the wake of controversy surrounding the report and is in Europe seeking asylum.
The report comes well over a year after the first wave of violence, despite the Prime Minister's assurance to Rep. Smith during a meeting in August 2005 that there would be an expeditious and transparent investigation.
"This delayed, secret report, as well as the repeated delays in the trial of the opposition leaders, human rights activists and journalists, demonstrates an outright contempt for rule of law and due-process," Smith said.
The "Ethiopia Freedom, Democracy and Human Rights Advancement Act of 2006" aims to bring democratic reform and accountability to Ethiopia by limiting U.S. security assistance to peacekeeping and counter-terrorism only; denying visas to anyone who was involved in the June and November 2005 killings of demonstrators and by assisting political prisoners, indigenous Ethiopian human rights organizations, independent media, civil society and to promote legal training. Smith's legislation passed the House International Relations Committee last June.
"This legislation helps strengthen the will of the Ethiopian people who want freedom and democracy and will bring positive change to the circumstances that have limited progress in Ethiopia. It should be brought up for immediate consideration when the House reconvenes next month," said Smith.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Ethiopian security forces massacred 193 people -

Nairobi, Kenya - Ethiopian security forces massacred 193 people - triple the official death toll - during anti-government protests following last year's election, a senior judge appointed to investigate the violence said on Wednesday.Unarmed protesters were shot, beaten and strangled to death, said Wolde-Michael Meshesha, vice chairman of the government-backed inquiry. He said he believed the Ethiopian government was trying to cover up the findings.Ethiopian officials refused to comment on the claims.
"This was a massacre," Wolde-Michael said in a telephone interview. "These demonstrators were unarmed yet the majority died from shots to the head.""There is no doubt that excessive force was used," said Wolde-Michael, who fled the country last month after receiving anonymous death threats, leaving his wife and five daughters behind. He is now claiming asylum in Europe and would not disclose his exact whereabouts out of fear for his safety.
Last year's elections were followed by a government crackdown on its opposition and increasing questions about its commitment to democracy.A draft of the team's report, which should have been presented to the Ethiopian parliament in early July and has since been obtained by the AP, says among those killed were 40 teenagers, including a boy and a girl, both aged 14. Both were shot dead.Six policemen were also killed in the June and November 2005 riots, bringing the overall death toll to 199. Some 763 people were injured, the report adds. Wolde-Michael says the figures could be higher because many people were too afraid to speak out.The government claimed at the time that 35 civilians and seven police were killed in November. In June, 26 people were killed.Ana Gomes, who was the European Union's chief observer during the 2005 elections, told the AP the report "exposes the lie" that the Ethiopian government is moving toward democracy."It is time the EU and US realise that the current regime in Ethiopia is repressing the people because it lacks democratic legitimacy and is actually weak," she said by e-mail after reading the report. "It is driving Ethiopia to more poverty, conflict and war."Wolde-Michael and the other commissioners spent six months interviewing more than 600 people, including Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, police officers, witnesses, and other government officials.According to Wolde-Michael, Meles said he did not authorise police to use live bullets.The inquiry's mandate was to determine whether excessive force was used. In early July, shortly before completing its report, the team held a vote and ruled eight to two that excessive force was used.The vote and comments of the commission members were recorded on video, a copy of which has also been obtained."Many people were killed arbitrarily," said inquiry chairman and supreme court judge Frehiwot Samuel, who is also believed to have fled Ethiopia, was heard saying on the video. "Old men were killed while in their homes and children were also victims of the attack while playing in the garden."Ethiopian Orthodox priest, Estatiose Gebrekristos, was recorded as saying, "Based on my eyes, ears and knowledge the actions taken were 100 percent wrong."But two of the commission members said the government responded appropriately."I consider the motives of the protesters was to overthrow the government," Elias Redman, vice president of the Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Council, said on the video. "I therefore fully support the action taken by the police."Wolde-Michael, who was appointed a judge by the current government in 1994, said the inquiry team came under intense pressure once the ruling party learned of its findings.Electricity to their offices was cut and at one point their office was surrounded by security forces, he said. The team was also summoned by the prime minister, two days before the report was to be released, and told to reverse their findings, Wolde-Michael added.The prime minister said at the time that demonstrators were trying to overthrow his government in an Ukraine-style revolution. Prior to the unrest he had banned all demonstrations and announced on state television he had put security forces under his direct control.Wolde-Michael said police records he saw showed 20,000 people were rounded up during the anti-government protests.Of them more than 100 opposition leaders, journalists and aid workers are on trial for treason and attempted genocide.Meles, who was part of British Prime Minister Tony Blair's Commission for Africa, was once thought to be one of Africa's more progressive leaders. However his reputation suffered in the aftermath of the elections. The EU and US Carter Centre expressed serious concerns over the vote.In January of this year, Britain withheld $87-million (about R660-million) in aid because of concerns about the government's handling of the unrest.Ethiopia is one of the poorest country's in the world. More than half the 77 million people live on less than $1 a day. Each year the international community pours in $1,9-billion in emergency aid and funds for development to help alleviate poverty.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Embarrassed Again? Further Notes on The Trial(Donald N.Levine

I. Almost Duped Once

In 1992 I joined dozens of Ethiopia's friends to monitor the "first democratic election" in the history of Ethiopia. Never mind that democratic elections for Parliament had been held in 1957; in 1963; and in 1967. (In 1967, incidentally, one Ato Zenawi of Adwa and others were disputing the ballot counts in their local election.)No matter. Full of good will, we Americans and Europeans had come to celebrate a new era of political democracy following the Derg dictatorship. We were excited that the new regime wanted to demonstrate commitment to an open political process and a pluralistic democracy, and honored to be part of it. My fellow monitors included a Congressman Donald Payne of new Jersey and Professor Edmond Keller of UCLA. My monitoring companion was first political officer at the Russian Embassy-a pairing unthinkable only a few year before. On arrival I told the taxi driver that I had come to support Ethiopia's new experiment in democracy. All he said was: "Wushet Demokrasee." His phrase became a logo for what my companions and I experienced during our brief tour. We found opposition candidates and parties hamstrung by restrictions. Opposition candidates in Amhara districts were reportedly harassed. I was there when the Government kept journalists from covering a new conference of an independent candidate. Together with the American Human Rights officer at the time, I visited a prison where several would-be OLF candidates had been locked up for no apparent good reason. I was there when Profesor Keller was ordered to leave the country within 24 hours simply because as an election observer he had visited an OLF rally. I went to Aliu Amba where the TPLF had installed a cadre from Tigray who insisted on running as an Argobba Liberation Front candidate instead of an authentic Argobba local. "You don't know how to be liberated," the cadre said, "we have come to teach you." My Russian companion said to me, "I know that man. He is a Russian commissar from 1920." It was upsetting to be brought for an open democratic process when little of the sort was being shown. We felt we had been manipulated, as some habeshas do who think they can fool outsiders at will; after all, ferinjotch wustun aygebatchewm, aydelem? Our report embarrassed the Government. From then I became a critic of the Leninist character of the EPRDF regime.II. Meles Zenawi's Reformist CredentialsBy 2004, Ethiopia's political scene appeared to be changing. To be sure, throughout that year, large numbers of Oromos were booted to the Dedessa prison simply for expressing the innocent disagreements about government policy. To be sure, judges continued to work under the thumbs of a centrally-controlled judicial system. But something new was in the air. I caught a glimpse of that when I, known as a critic of the regime, was invited to receive an honorary doctorate Addis Ababa University in July 2004. And during my visit to Ethiopia earlier this year and since, I learned that EPRDF officials went to some lengths to open up the media to competing political parties. I learned that in 2004, Reporters Without Borders had removed the name of PM Meles Zenawi from their list of enemies of a free press for the first time. And recently I learned, from a reliable report on the campaign in rural Shoa, that as the election campaign wore on and opposition candidates appeared to be growing in strength, the Government initially insisted on keeping the process open and not interfering with the local electoral process in any way. That was an amazing change, which I attribute to the sense of confidence and security experienced by the EPRDF elite following the purges of General Siye Abraha and his allies in 2001; heightened appreciation of Ethiopian nationhood following the war with Eritrea; successes in growth of infrastructure; improved handling of famines; and growing respect form the international community. I have cited these liberalizing developments when talking with opposition activists who could not believe that EPRDF ever had any interest in a pluralistic democracy and so should be overthrown by any means possible. One of my critics, confronted by my reference to Meles's liberalization, finally acknowledged that. He wrote: I think everybody was banking on the reformist credentials of Meles. It is difficult to argue that there was no change after the split. There is no doubt that the years between the split and 2005 were the best years of the EPRDF. In fact I am of the opinion that had the reforms started earlier, the EPRDF would have done much better at the polls. As it turned out the reforms were too little too late.Despite these visible reforms, the hatred against EPRDF generated by the policies and actions of their first decade created such intense antagonism that some of the opposition simply could not trust the new openings that EPRDF created. Sensing that CUD elements might be ambivalent about participating whole-heartedly in the constitutionally mandated political process, and fearing that growing popular support for CUD might actually turn them out of office and overturn the major EPRDF reforms in which they believed so strongly, EPRDF leaders engineered an abrupt turn-around in the middle of April. III. Ambivalent Regression to an Older Script A month before the election, party cadres started receiving different signals. Across the country they were told to direct Government resources to pressure the populace to vote for EPRDF. For example, systematic house visits were paid by armed cadres who told peasants that they had better vote for EPRDF or suffer serious consequences. The Government was gearing up for a different sort of denouement than planned, thinking they had to do whatever it took to secure their hold on power (an attitude not unknown to Americans from the presidential elections of 2000 and 2004). Not wanting outsiders to see what was going on, the Government abruptly expelled three American NGOs that had come to monitor the elections. Much of what transpired subsequently-imposing martial law on election night; premature announcement of EPRDF victory; shootings of demonstrators in June, harassment and property confiscation of CUD party members; arrest of thousands of young males and transporting them to distant hardship prisons-is well known. (Much is still not known, including how and why security forces entered college dormitories in Addis Ababa and Bahr Dar provocatively during the night of June 5, and the extent to which opposition property was confiscated and government critics were silenced.) Following the June 6 massacre, the world recoiled in horror, much as in November 1974 when Mengistu's agents carried out their bloody massacre. But then, the regime hurried to pick up the pieces and move on. They convinced themselves if not others that had they not reacted with such violence, mob action would have led to destructive civil actions. They proceeded with initiatives to reform the rules of parliament, re-examine the National Election Board, and draft new legislation regarding the press. They urged the opposition candidates who had won to take over the administration of Addis Ababa and to take their seats in Parliament and to continue their struggle for democratization and economic progress within the constitutionally mandated system. They carried out negotiations day by day with CUD leaders in an effort to avoid further violence and move the country forward. PM Meles said he was looking forward to working with Mayor-elect Berhanu Nega. And then, due to circumstances about which everyone disagrees, the CUD leaders made a controversial decision not to accept their huge electoral victory and build on it. That decision, many CUD supporters believe, was not in anyone's best interest. When they broke off talks and refused to enter Parliament, the regime regressed once more to reimpose a veil of terror. Security forces reportedly drove around the city and randomly assassinated innocent civilians in cold blood. They seized and incarcerated rejectionist CUD victors, civil society leaders, and independent journalists. An independent commission has now reported that 193 civilians were murdered, often in horridly brutal ways. All those detained, plus several Ethiopians living abroad, were charged with crimes punishable by death, including the illogical, unfounded, insulting, and self-defeating charge of genocide. With that, Ethiopia plunged from being a country full of democratic promise and then a polity tragically riven with destructive conflict to being the laughing stock of the international community. IV. Almost Duped Twice or What?Officials and informal leaders from all the donor countries tried repeatedly to encourage the Prime Minister to reconsider those charges. He adamantly refused to budge, and sought to transform his offensive tactics into defense of an autonomous judicial system. He assured all concerned that the defendants would receive a fair and speedy trial, and that this would enhance respect for Ethiopia's legal system. Given the PM's uncompromising attachment to this line of argument, it appeared futile to continue pushing for a politically negotiated release of the prisoners. I sought to direct attention instead to other, consensually supported openings for progressive development. One of these was to see if the trial proceeded in a way that demonstrated his announced commitment to a judicial system bound by high standards of legal procedure. My hope for that process lay behind the exchanges subsequently carried out in Addis Fortune and on the eineps web site. To quote my conclusion: We must respect the forms of a systematic, independent, speedy completion of their trial "as a step toward advancing the role of an independent judiciary." I chose those words deliberately in order to encourage the Government to move forward toward a system in which a judiciary functions autonomously. . . . If legitimate procedures are not respected by the Government, I expect that domestic and international observers will get the word out quickly, and I shall be among the first to voice disapproval. . . . But if the trial is reasonably fair, then its success could be joined with other steps being taken toward reform of the judicial system, the last in the series of four efforts at democratic institution-building.When the trial adjourned after dragging on for many months, I made an interim assessment based on careful analysis of daily records, and concluded that the trial could be considered neither speedy nor fair: No ordinary court case, the trial against selected opponents of the EPRDF regime has divided the Ethiopian body politic as has no other issue since the time of Emperor Susneyos. One would expect the Ethiopian judicial system to go to great lengths to demonstrate its integrity both to Ethiopian citizens and to international observers. Its failure to do so reflects, at the very least, a lack of capacity to mount a fair and speedy trial. . . . Of all flaws in this trial, I consider the most dysfunctional to be . . . the prosecution's repeated failure to link evidence with specific defendants or charges. Lack of adequate differentiation has [marked] these proceedings from the outset. While the Government appears, at best, to possess hard evidence incriminating one or two individuals of one or two categories of action that are possibly illegal, it has included several dozens of individuals under a broad range of criminal accusations. It is this feature of the proceedings that opened up to ridicule what could and should have been a serious juridical process. During this period of recess, it would behoove the Ministry of Justice to re-assess those charges more carefully and demonstrate to the world the high level of legal competence that Ethiopians manifest at their best. That would lend greater speed and fairness to the final sessions of this trial and thereby enable Ethiopians to get back to working together to make their beloved land a better place. If such action were to be matched by a willingness of defendants to avail themselves of counsel, that desired outcome would be facilitated even more. On Thursday, October 5, the trial resumed. One might have thought that the Ministry of Justice would have done something to redress the shortcomings of the first phase. Yet the first day of the resumed trial was abysmal. Lead judge Adil Ahmed Abdullahi and lead prosecutor Shemelis Kemal were simply not present. The trial began an hour and 15 minutes late. Absent a quorum to rule on the admissibility of evidence, the proceedings were quickly adjourned and postponed for eight days. The senior judge and the main prosecutor were not even present. Nothing was accomplished; the trial was delayed yet another week. And so, are we back to square one? Was the notion of putting the prisoners on trial to parade an evolving legal process simply another sort of make-believe to dupe the ferenjis? Or can that ill-conceived theater still be repaired? If not, let us hope that this time the donors will waste no time in confronting the regime with their marked displeasure. And let us hope that another war with Somalia will not becloud the issue of justice and good governance in Ethiopia. It is especially in time of war that a nation needs to be unified. Besides, andnet kala, agarun yakeberal

Open Letter to Richard K. Armey

Ethiopian American Civic Advocacy (EACA) October 12, 2006

Richard K. Armey 1200 Nineteenth Street,
NW Washington, DC,
20036-2412 dick.armey@dlapiper.com

Re: Lobbying for the Ethiopian government Dear Richard K. Armey:

Please refer to our letter about “Lobbying for the Ethiopian government” sent to you on September 28, 2006. We are hereby providing a follow-up to our letter. We are very grateful to learn that you have read our letter and are taking the matter serious. We are also grateful to your staff for taking time to discuss the current situation in Ethiopia and your willingness to hear our side of the story. We believe that this is the right step in the right direction to ending the atrocities that have been committed by the ruling regime on the people of Ethiopia during the last fifteen years. We are deeply concerned about your firm continuing to represent the tarnished image of the Ethiopian Government led by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.
The ruling regime in Ethiopia is responsible for: ethnic conflicts that claimed countless lives; brutal suppression of peaceful protests on numerous occasions by mass killings; disappearances and detentions; political persecutions of opposition leaders/members, civic leaders, free press journalists, civil rights lawyers, and civic activists.
We share the passion of great American leaders such as Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-VA) who recently stated that “lobbying for brutal and dictatorial government would be like fronting for Joseph Stalin during the worst of his murderous reign”. A lobbying firm’s role will be no less crucial than the role of the arm dealers if it helps regimes such as Ethiopia’s to continue to brutalize and suppress its very own people.
The Ethiopian Government is depending on your firm to provide false and misleading information with serious errors of facts to smooth over its horrendous human rights record. Harassment, arbitrary arrest, imprisonment, a political controlled judiciary and lack of due process is part of the government daily activities. The government increased restrictions on freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and press; closure of private media, news papers, and jamming radio are part of its daily manifesto.
Once again, we humbly request your firm to immediately cease its association with the Ethiopian Government that has blood on its hands and is responsible for the plight of millions of its citizens and instability in the Horn region. It is our strong hope that your firm will choose to stand for what is right and we anticipate your positive response.
We are very confident that after carefully weighing the documentations mailed to your office, your firm will cease from associating with the brutal regime of Ethiopia. Awaiting your positive response,
Kassa Ayalew M.D., M.P.H.,
(Chair) Ethiopian American Civic Advocacy (EACA)
Phone: +1 (703) 665-4042 PO.Box 1292 Lorton,
Virginia 22199-1292eacadvocacy@gmail.com

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Two commission members leave to Germany with the report

Woldemichael Meshesha, the Vice president of the Federal First Instance Court was one of the most loyal servants of the TPLF regime. In May last year, he made a decision in favor of Meles Zenawi in case of Kinijit v. Meles Zenawi where CUD represented by Birtukan Midekisa and Yeneneh Mulat contended that the PM's ban of demonstrations was contrary to the constitution. A month latter, he sentenced a pro-CUD lawyer to jail for criticizing that decision. But even for a loyal judge like Woldemichael, what Meles did in June and November when he ordered the killing of scores of demonstrators was an assault to conscience.At the end of November last year the Parliament established the commission of inquiry which was entrusted with the investigation of the June 8 and November 1 killings. It was thought that the investigation would be a white wash. The commission was carefully constituted with members who were supposed to be loyal to the Meles Zenawi government. Woldemichael was was one of the ten members of the commission. Three months into the the investigation, five members resigned from the commission citing conditions of their health. They were immediately replaced and the commission went on with its work. In May, it finalized the investigation. The result was shocking to the government. Eight of the commission members including Woldemichael decided that the government had used excessive force to quell the June and November demonstrations. Meles Zenawi personally asked the commission to reconsider its decision. The members refused. One member of the commission said he better die than play with the blood of innocent victims.Wolde's passport was confiscated. He was also watched very closely by the government.In Mid August Wolde left Ethiopia to a neighbor country and then to Germany with the help of active Kinijit International Members, carrying the report of the commission in his hands, where he joined another of the commission members, Firehiwot Samuel, the president of the Supreme Court of SNNP. Firhewot's story is as epic as Wolde's. Although ever willing to work in the system, Firhewot was known for his compassion and morality as a judge. Midway into the investigation, he got three scholarships from three different universities in Europe. After the decision of the commission where Firehiwot sided with the majority, the government disrupted his plan for study. Newly married to a beautiful fresh graduate from Awassa University, Firehiwot's stable life was turning upside down. The government assigned him a driver who he thought was spying on him. His movements were carefully scrutinized. He decided he had to leave the country quickly. With utmost secrecy, Firehiwot arranged his travel and left to Germany in July. He was soon to be followed by his wife.The result of the investigation was supposed to be presented to the Parliament and published before its summer recession but the PM prohibited the commission from publishing it. It was feared that it would never see daylight unless Meles Zenawi lost power. Yet the defections of two of the commission's most important members have given hope that the world will see the truth through the report.Coming soon....-The full report of the commission-Crisis in the Justice system, resignation of Judges. Source

Commission finds Over 190 killed in government hands

ADDIS ABABA - An independent commission of inquiry set up last year to investigate whether police had used excessive force to put down a nationwide unrest found out that 193 civilians were murdered and six policemen killed during two major episodes of social unrest in the country.

According to a document obtained from the Kaliti Covenant, it was evident that excessive force was used to crush peaceful protests that erupted after the Meles Zenawi regime rigged the May 15 elections widely believed to have been won by the popular opposition parties Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUDP-Kinijit), and the United Ethiopian Democratic Forces (UEDF).
Two key members of the Inquiry Commission - Federal Court judge Wolde-Michael Meshesha, who had served as a long-time loyalist of the Meles regime, and Supreme Court judge Firehiwot Samuel, fled the country to Germany for fear of political reprisals, according to Ethio-Zagol, a blog which often publishes reports closely linked to court findings.

The document enlisting the names of the victims of government brutality shows various methods of killings such as:
a) Shot to death b) strangled to death c) crashed to death (using police cars) d) kicked in genitalia e) found dead in prison f) beaten to death
Political observers firmly believe the killings were personally orchestrated by Meles Zenawi, and his personal aide former Information Minister Bereket Simon.
"Meles ordered an inquiry into the killings for two purposes," said one observer. "First, [he wanted] to appear as amenable to international pressure, and second, he thought he would come up clean if he staffed the commission with his loyalists like those judges who have fled the country."

Friday, October 06, 2006

Christian-Muslim clashes worry Ethiopian Church leaders

Oct. 06 (CWNews.com) - Clashes between Christians and Muslims have left 5 people dead and many others injured in western Ethiopia during the past week, and two churches have been set ablaze. The unrests began on Sunday, October 1, near the town of Jimma, about 300 miles west of Addis Ababa. Reports indicate that the violence began when militant Muslims interfered with a celebration of Meskel, the Ethiopian Orthodox counterpart of the Catholic feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. Islamic protestors reportedly complained that a bonfire started by Orthodox believers, as part of the traditional celebration, was burning on Muslim-owned land.
In May, Christians and Muslims clashed in Jijiga, in eastern Ethiopia. Christian homes and shops were vandalized in rioting there.
Ethiopian Orthodox officials have expressed concern about increasing tension between Christians and Muslims. "This is a worrisome situation for us," one official told local reporters. "These things never used to happen, but they seem to be starting now."
Although Islam accounts for a steadily rising minority, more than 60% of Ethiopia's 77 million people are members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Amnesty Int'l fears for detained teachers

NAIROBI, Kenya - Amnesty International on Wednesday expressed concern for two Ethiopian teachers being held incommunicado at the notorious Addis Ababa prison known as Maekelawi.
In a press release to Ethiomedia, the human rights watchdog also made its fears public that teachers Anteneh Getnet and Wasihun Melese may be mistreated or tortured. Both were arrested on September 23, and so far no charges have been brought against them and police have requested two more weeks for which the detainees are remanded in custody.
Amnesty International urges appeals to pertinent government officials. Following is the full text of the press statement:
Anteneh Getnet, a member of the Ethiopian Teachers Association (ETA), is now reported to be detained incommunicado at the police Central Investigation Bureau (known as Maekelawi). ETA member Wasihun Melese is also held there. Both men were arrested on 23 September. They have not been given access to relatives or legal representation but were allowed to receive food from their families. Amnesty International remains concerned for their safety and fears they may be ill-treated or tortured while in custody.
They appeared at a court hearing in Addis Ababa on 25 September but no charges were filed against them. They were remanded in custody for 14 days, following a request by the Ethiopian police for additional time to investigate their case. The court accepted the police request, and the case was adjourned until 9 October.
Wasihun Melese is a teacher at Addis Ketema High School in Addis Ababa and a prominent activist in the Addis Ababa branch of the ETA. He is an elected member of the ETA's National Executive Committee. Anteneh Getnet is also a teacher and ETA activist who had been in the ETA's office when he was arrested by three plainclothes police officers on 23 September. Anteneh Getnet was previously abducted and beaten in May 2006, allegedly by members of the security forces. He is still suffering from injuries sustained when he was beaten.
These new arrests may be a response by the Ethiopian authorities to a complaint lodged by the ETA and the global union federation Education International with the International Labour Organization (ILO) Committee on Freedom of Association, citing government interference with ETA activities and intimidation of ETA members, including the arrest of numerous teachers since May 2005.
The ETA, which is affiliated to the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) and Education International (EI), is the oldest trade union in Ethiopia, to which half a million teachers in primary, secondary and higher educational institutions belong. The ETA has been critical of government education policies and has been subject to numerous government attempts to close it through court cases which are continuing. There have been attempts by the Ethiopian authorities to replace it with a pro-government union created with the same name.
The ETA issued statements criticizing the government in connection with the post-election crisis in mid-2005. In two incidents in June and November 2005, over 80 opposition party supporters were killed by the security forces, and seven police officers were also killed by demonstrators protesting at alleged election fraud in the May 2005 elections.
Kassahun Kebede, an ETA official arrested in November 2005 in connection with the demonstration, is now on trial alongside the leaders of the opposition Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD), several journalists and human rights defenders. He faces serious charges including ‘outrage against the Constitution’ and could be punished with the death penalty. He is a teacher and the chair of the Addis Ababa branch of the ETA. Amnesty International considers him a prisoner of conscience and has called for his immediate and unconditional release (see AI report Ethiopia: Prisoners of conscience on trial for treason: opposition party leaders, human rights defenders and journalists, AI Index: AFR 25/013/2006, May 2006). The ETA chair, Dr Taye Woldesmiate, a former prisoner of conscience currently in the USA, is also being tried in his absence.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible, in English or your own language:
- expressing concern at the continued deteention without charge or trial of Wasihun Melese and Anteneh Getnet, who have been held since 23 September, and calling for their immediate and unconditional release;
- urging the authorities to ensure Wasihunn Melese and Anteneh Getnet are given immediate access to their families and legal representatives, with medical treatment if required, and are treated in accordance with regional and international standards on the treatment of prisoners.
Minister of JusticeMr Assefa Kesito Ministry of JusticePO Box 1370Addis Ababa, EthiopiaFax: + 251 11 5517775 + 251 11 5520874Salutation: Dear Minister
Minister of Education Dr Sintayehu Woldemikael Ministry of Education PO Box 1367 Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Fax: +251 11 5511355 Salutation: Dear Minister
COPIES TO:Prime Minister His Excellency Meles ZenawiOffice of the Prime MinisterPO Box 1031,Addis Ababa, EthiopiaSalutation: Your Excellency
and to diplomatic representatives of Ethiopia accredited to your country. PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat, or your section office, if sending appeals after 15 November 2006.

ETHIOPIA: Let the healing start with reconciliation

By Aie Zi Guo
October 4, 2006

Ethiopia is a land of contrast where war and peace, poverty and abundance, highland and lowland, Islam and Christianity, nationalism and heroism, traditionalism and modernity coexist in all its forms. It is unique with its alphabet and manuscripts, 13 months calendar, unique cuisine, rich Orthodox with Yared’s lyrics, original immigrants of Islam, ancient civilization amid poverty, flora and fauna as divers as its ecology. This complex metamorphosis of the country remained an enigma to outsiders from biblical times of queen Sheba to the first immigrants of Islam.
To undue the mysteries of this ancient nation, foreigners have time and again tried to control it either by force or with wild diplomacy. However, Ethiopians were steadfast and united to foil the aspirations of aggressors and colonizers. So much so Ethiopia inspired African, Asian, Middle Eastern and L. American nations to demand independence. There has been no reference of history where Ethiopians initiated war against other nations. If there is, it is a war waged to defend their faith, sovereignty and national integrity.
In the midst of this isolation internal struggle for power and resources between traditional rulers, regions or ethnic groups were commonplace. As power monger elephants fight, Ethiopia got crashed in the stampede for power keeping it in the status quo of traditions.
With the emergence of modern education, new breeds of educated Ethiopians armed with different schools of taught and ideology mushroomed. Eager to modernize the political, social and economic system, the elite began to challenge that status quo from within and without. Political discourse among the elite continued unabated aiming to craft a political system that best serves Ethiopia’s interest. For over 40 years, ferocious debates were made on two diametrically opposed schools of thought Re: Communism/Socialism and Capitalism. Behind the Façade of ideological divide one commonality has remained authentic i.e. the universal determination and commitment to liberate the country from poverty, famine and underdevelopment. What is troubling, though, is that the debate has no insight of striking a middle ground. Even when democratic pluralism dwindled and communism died down in the ex-Soviet Union and China, Ethiopians continued their own cold war politics. Now the political and ideological discourses focused on revolutionary and liberal democracy and socialism. Modern day Ethiopia is engulfed with war of ideologies that leads to political unrest and confusion. This has made the country a perfect political laboratory of ideological wars in Africa.
The opportunity cost of these debates and struggles has been immense. Innocent lives of the brightest sons and daughters of the country were lost. Society has been highly divided and polarized. Suspicion and coercion increased. Liberty and precious time for development lost. Incalculable amount of resources wasted. Millions opted to live overseas. The country remained stranded in the chambers of poverty.
Interestingly the ideological war never articulated the objective realities of the country. Discussants have never tried to make their theoretical and ideological arguments spasmodic to the short and long term needs of nation building. As the world makes unprecedented social, economic and political advancement, Ethiopia remained at the goal post of underdevelopment. More importantly the majority of Ethiopians remained bystanders on matters that concern them. The biggest causality of all is Ethiopia as a nation and Ethiopians as a people. Nevertheless, Ethiopians gave the benefit of the doubt to the intelligentsia. For the majority the elite remained to be the beckon of hope and the salvation army of growth and development. In the process the people raised their level of political consciousness simultaneously assessing their choices.
In the late 90s the political geography of the country started to shift from elite based to mass based movement. The multiparty election of May 15, 2005 was reminiscent of that change. On this day Ethiopians overwhelmingly demonstrated their wishes and expectations from the political establishment of the country. At the ballot box the electorates spoke unambiguously their readiness to accept a Communism, Socialism or Capitalism or in short the “ISM” that works for them. And what works for them is the “ISM” that brings the Rule of Law, Peace, Security, Democracy, Good Governance and Representative Leadership. Ethiopians voted for real change and rejected the abuse of power and mal-administration. They wanted a system that guarantees their proper functioning and especially that impact on their living conditions.
Sadly the current leadership that attempted to institute democracy due to diplomatic and international pressure abused it from the outset. A regime that miscalculated the outcome of the people’s vote and quest for democracy was grossly humiliated. Consequently, it incarcerated the opposition indiscriminately and took undemocratic measures to stay in power. To the wider world the regime is worse off from the one it ousted 15 years ago. Several actions of the regime, prior and after the election kindle the way to ethnic sectarianism and possible dismemberment of the nation. No doubt the country is at a critical political crossroads. Appropriate measures need to be taken to undo the political jigsaw that endangers the country’s unity in diversity. In the face of inaction, Ethiopia as a nation and a symbol of independence might have unpleasant ending.
It is high time that the ruling party recognizes the seriousness of the problem. The regime must start working with the Ethiopian people and opposition parties to ensure that the country’s epicenter holds water. If not, when the center holds no more, things fall apart1. And one should not wait until the center disintegrates and things fall apart. Surely the Ethiopian train that carries Ethiopiawinet will continue its journey to destination. Unlike the past, Meles’ regime must be prepared not to miss this train and do things differently. It is regrettable that golden opportunities of healing the wounds of the nation through reconciliation were lost. The fall of the Derg and the Bademe war would have been wonderful rally points to bring the divided nation together. The best opportunity has been pre and post May 15, 2005 election. Knowing election results, the EPRDF should have accepted the verdict given at the ballot box. It is sad that this did not happen. Meles and EPRDF have missed a chance of getting their names engraved with gold at the political books of the AU. In the face of EPRDF’s arrogance, Kinijit and UEDF’s proposal for a negotiated settlement would have been a blessing in disguise for a humiliated and wounded regime. Ethiopians would have given clemency to EPRDF’s wrongs.
After the election and crackdown of opposition parties, Ethiopians remain defiant of the regime from coast to coast. Government propaganda machines are boycotted. Defection of senior diplomats, military officers, journalists, artists, professional bureaucrats etc are becoming routine. Secret documents are leaked from the regime’s administrative machinery. A terminally ill regime is loosing its grip of power by the day. To garner support from the outside world taxpayers’ money is used to hire lobby firms as mediators between the regime and western powers. EPRDF’s system has decayed from within. Its death is eminent. There will be no meaning of clinging to a sinking ship. It is time to reconcile with the Ethiopian people who are the true captains of that ship. And the sinking ship must be saved by collective wisdom. The people’s silence in the face of repression must not be misjudged. This silence is a lull before the storm. When that storm comes it sweeps away all the evil dust on the way. It is true to say that the current government is in doldrums. The ground remains an 3 active volcano ready to kick off anytime. Mr. Zenawi’s EPRDF won’t gain anything by limping from one disaster to another. It is only wise, sober and informed decision that brings tremendous gain to both sides of the political equation.
There is a calculated risk to let people go to ballot boxes when one allows what he does not believe. If the ruling party and the opposition jointly call for national reconciliation, the calculated risk is extremely minimal. Calling everyone for collective wisdom on the country’s future will offset risks. We note that this avenue of problem solving has been proposed and documented by opposition parties repeatedly. The ball is in the ruling party’s court with three options to choose. The decision to choose any one of the options entirely depends on Meles and his team.
Option one would be for the government to take confidence building measures such as dropping all fabricated charges against elected opposition leaders, civic organization leaders, journalists and opposition supporters. Release them from government dungeons with out preconditions. Call for an all-inclusive national or international conference to resolve the political impasse through reconciliation. Arrange a caretaker government that includes the entire political establishment, civic organizations, religious and traditional leaders, and youth and women organizations. Appoint independent international organizations as monitors of the reconciliation process. If the regime chooses to follow this avenue, Meles and his team will become part of the solution than to be part of the problem. This is the best option to anyone with a sober mind. Recent political events in Nepal would be a good example for Ethiopia.
Option two is to continue the status quo of defying the will of the Ethiopian people and the international community. Keep the entire 70 million people hostage at the barrel of the gun. Rule the country with an iron fist. Ultimately the regime will be over thrown by a popular uprising or come to its end by attrition. If EPRDF wants to follow the path of repression then it is its own choosing. The life of Ethiopians will continue with a new leader who will listen to people’s demand. In this situation the only looser will be Meles and his cohorts.
Option three: EPRDF has amassed huge fluid and capital resources over the past 15 years. It has built its army from one ethnic group and district of Tigrai. Militarily it is well fortified. To make the region self-sufficient and govern it, big investments are made to build the socio-economic infrastructures. Meles' card would be to use this force to separate Tigrai from the rest of Ethiopia or ignite an ethnic war with the rest of the nation. Given the demographic size and hostile terrain of Tigrai, it would be difficult for this region to sustain itself without the southern neighbors. There will be no developmental honeymoon in Tigrai while others are in trouble. For TPLF this should not be an alternative. More importantly Tigreans are nationalist people who do not condone the dismemberment of Ethiopia on ethnic lines. It would be impossible for the TPLF to continue as a cohesive regime. In this case Meles and his cohorts will lose while Ethiopia continues to forge ahead with a more determined spirit of democratization.
Cognizant of the proliferation of liberation fronts2 in the country, it is unclear who is going to liberate who and above all from whom. Nevertheless this remains to be the unresolved saga of Ethiopian politics. Meles’ rule has created fear among societies, making the future as scary as one can imagine. While disintegration is a remote possibility one should not doubt that the country is in a terminal political impasse. The political establishment and the public must remain absolutely vigilant to the impeding danger of the problem.
It would be a pity to see a country, which was civilized while others were yet barbarians, the elements of the arts and sciences to be the first one to disappear from the Guinness book of Atlases. Hence indifference and silence are not options to Ethiopians who are diverse in ethnicity, religion, political affiliation, or education. Break the ice of silence to build bridges from within and not walls from without. A journey of one thousand miles starts with one stride. Every Ethiopian must start that first stride from within and without to admit mistakes and give the spirit of forgiveness a chance at heart. If every citizen is ready to accept and take this first stride, then the journey of reconciliation is half done.
Therefore it is time to shade light on the right path of togetherness and growth. It is important that the party in power and opposition parties create an enabling environment for truth and reconciliation. The longer this takes the more the damage will be and the harder to fix. Supporters of the various political establishments, civil society organizations, religious institutions, educated elite, tribal and ethnic leaders, state and independent media, business men, youth and women associations, must start to preach and work towards reconciliation by building trust on their cultural bonds and strengths rather than dwelling on their differences. ‘It is high time that Ethiopian patriotism and the spirit of unity ring laud and clear. It is only through concerted action and belief that we can take the economic, political and social transformation of Ethiopia to the next level. After all, the new Ethiopia has no appetite for violence, hate, and ethnic strife. Let us build our nation Ethiopia by rallying behind the banner of peace, democracy, development and unity based on justice, respect, tolerance and equality. Therefore, UTNA raises its hands aloft and extends them far and near to work with groups or individuals towards the achievement of the lofty and grand ideals of peace, democracy and development in our country, Ethiopia’3.
In conclusion, the writer strongly believes that this has been long overdue for Ethiopia. In the current circumstances of the country there is no other feasible alternative to overcoming the political impasse. There should be no illusion that people have to leave the past for history. Let the wounds heal through the process of truth and reconciliation. For South Africans, P.W. Botha and Apartheid were their worst enemies. They reconciled with people who are different from theirs and lived happily ever after. One can’t see why Ethiopians whose universe is governed by civil and religious systems, who are from the first Homo sapiens and the people whom the British once called the Nobel race of Africa can’t heal itself through reconciliation. What you THE MOST JUST MEN and THE BLAMELESS RACE need is courage, wisdom and determination. You Can Do It. We Can Help.
1 Mr. Chinua Achebe , the Nigerian writer 2Oromo Liberation Front, the Afar Liberation front, the Tigrai liberation front, the Sidama liberation front, the Kembata liberation front, the Anuka liberation front, the Benshangul liberation front, the Southern People’s liberation front, the Ogaden liberation front etc.. 3Leaps Forward with Renewed Vision & Exalted Dedication: The Union of Tigreans in N. America UTNA, Aug. 27, 2006
------The writer would appreciate to receive your comments through aiezuguo@yahoo.com.


Monday, October 02, 2006

London Forum discusses attacks on journalists in Ethiopia

LONDON - Labour sector organizations such as the National Union of Teachers (NUT) must build strong links to support their counterparts worldwide, especially in countries where there are restrictions to the freedom of expression and the press, speakers told delegates at a public debate on press freedom and state control in Ethiopia at the School of Oriental and African Studies on 27 September.
Exiled President of the Ethiopian Free Press Journalists Association (EFJA), Kifle Mulat, now living in Uganda, appeared with his hands bound in chains to give accounts of the struggle of journalists, lawyers and other human rights activists as well as his personal struggle in the face of restrictions by the Ethiopian government.
Mulat is reportedly one of the foremost personalities in African journalism. He has been editor-in-chief of many African and bi-lingual newspapers in Ethiopia and internationally. He has been incarcerated on several occasions by the Ethiopian government for his work of press freedom, and was awarded the "Human Rights Journalism Under Threat" award by Amnesty International (AI) UK in May 2004 amongst other accolades.
He said that "at present, there is no independent media in Ethiopia". Every reporter and editor in Ethiopia must have been arrested at least once for their work, according to the speaker, with many exercising self-censorship or fear long-term jail sentences. He appealed to the international watchdogs to come together to protect the media, which he called the "eyes and ears of the down-trodden masses".
Wondimu Mekonnen, former lecturer and accountant, told delegates of the struggle not only of media workers but teachers, lawyers and judges also. He warned that the Ethiopian government had become adept at creating "clones" of labour organizations, with a more pro-government agenda than their counterparts, such as the Teachers Association of Ethiopia.
Calling on international coordination, support
The UK section of Amnesty International’s Africa Programme researcher, Dr. Martin Hill,called for the solidarity of all human rights defenders in the Horn of Africa against authoritarian regimes. He said that although international watchdogs such as AI, Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF), Article 19 and others were initiating their own projects and response to protect journalists, there was a distinct lack of international coordination. He said that AI wants to build links between international organizations, such as the UK-based National Union of Journalists (NUJ), National Union of Teachers (NUT), and judges and lawyers groups amongst others; to support their counterparts struggling in countries such as Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan.
NUJ President Chris Morely said that the NUJ was working with its international counterparts to support their colleagues in Africa. He stressed the power of "organized labour", not only from the journalistic professions but teachers and lawyers too, to influence politics and highlight "strong stories" for the attention of the media worldwide.
Paris-based RSF Africa desk officer Leonard Vincent reiterated the organization’s concern for the violations of human rights against journalists in Ethiopia. In the past year, he said, Ethiopia "disturbed us". The role of international watchdogs is to create problems to "restrictors" worldwide, he told delegates, producing "bad publicity".
However, he emphasized the need to understand the systems and personalities which fall under the category of "restrictors". He said: "Above all, we do not know our adversary and his point of view enough. We have some idea of their intentions, but are we sure we have understood the meaning of their acts?"
He called on international watchdogs to be "clear beyond personal convictions", to separate personal political perspectives with facts. "If we cannot understand," he said, "we cannot be understood."
Vincent called for the coordination of the varied approaches taken by international watchdogs set out in a "common text".

Ten Government Journalists Defected!

More than ten government journalists had defected to the US, Europe and Asia fearing persecution, subsequent to refusing orders to produce false stories about opposition parties, source said.
According to sources, journalists of the government controlled media in Ethiopia, who refuse order from the authorities to misinform the public are threatened to death.
Escaped journalists say the general manger of the government Press Agency, Kefyalew Azeze, insists all government journalists to produce false news about the popular Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) party. “You have no right to question any orders from the boss”, says one of the defected journalist, “our other option is incarceration with treason charges.” Dereje Tedla, journalist at government news agency and the Amharic daily Addis Zemen, who defected from Ethiopia to Japan, is known for his bravely challenging the Meles Zenawi regime.
In a letter written to EMF on Wednesday, 27 September, 2006, Dereje said the Federal Police Officers came to his home On 25 November 2005, midnight and warned him to stop any opposition against the government, otherwise they were ready to kill him and all his family.
Exhausted with intimidation and harassment, Dereje Tedla, 29, said that when he is approached by a soldier who threatened him by saying, “I am ready to kill you unless you denounce CUD". He had to make his way to escape from the brutal regime and through sponsorship by IAAF; he entered Japan, where he applied for political asylum.
According to the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the government of Meles Zenawi has incarcerated more journalists than any other country in the world.
In its recent statement, the IFJ’s Baglo says, “The Ethiopian Free Press Journalists Association (EFJA) is completely disbanded; there is no independent media in Ethiopia, as most independents journalists have gone underground and about 100 journalists are in exile, including EFJA President Kifle Mulat.”
Below are among defected government journalists over the last six months: Fisha Tegegn - FM 97.1 Radio Getaneh Tsige - Ethiopian Press Agency Aregash Mokennen - Ethiopian Press Agency Yohannies Ayalew - Ethiopian Television Hailu Tsige - Ethiopian Press Agency Andargachew Tamir - Radio Fanna Fasika Girmay - Ethiopian Television Yared Belayneh - Ethiopian Radio Mohamed Ahmed - Ethiopian Television Dereje Tedla Demissie- Ethiopian Press Agency Dagmawi Tariku- FM 97.1 Radio host Abebe Feleke - FM 97.1 Radio host Tesfahun Demissie Dargie- Mass Media Agency/Editor Addis Lessa Martha Belay- Journalist at ETV 2