Wednesday, 31 October 2007

There was a massacre. These demonstrators were unarmed yet the majority died from shots to the head... There is no doubt that excessive force was used
.................................... Judge Wolde-Michael Meshesha
November - a tragic month for Ethiopia
Kinijit’s loss of popular respect and division
..... - A time of great grief

In November 2005, the TPLF security forces committed serious crimes against humanity where innocent civilians were massacred in the streets of Addis Ababa. It is time that we offer our prayers and our support to those who lost their lives and their loved ones.

The Ethiopian people have demonstrated that they can, through democratic and nonviolent protests, resolve political differences even in the current political system. The May 2005 election, which pitted Kinijit and the ruling Woyanne against each other in a run-off vote for the National and the Regional Parliaments, was compromised by massacres, voter intimidation, electoral fraud, triggering popular protests all over Ethiopia. In the wake of the election, a number of complaints regarding voting irregularities in favor of the government supported were raised and under intense scrutiny by domestic and international observers the election was declared undemocratic.

In the aftermaths of the election, the nationwide democratic struggle was highlighted by a series of acts of public meetings, followed by peaceful civil disobedience organized by the Kinijit movement. Student demonstrations followed by mass arrests and massacres in various parts of Addis Ababa and throughout the country. Since May 2005, Ethiopia has been under de facto Marital Law where the TPLF army has taken control of almost the entire administration and the justice system. During the October and November 2005, we were thrown into Kaliti jail and became victims of the TPLF-controlled judiciary system along with thousands of others prisoners.

Even now, there are several credible evidences that persons accused of anti-government crimes are denied fair trials. Such trials are commonly held in secret, and the defendants in many cases are not permitted to speak with an attorney until their appearance before the judge at the hearing. Today, thousands of Ethiopians in Oromia and Ogaden are subjected to killings, detention, torture, rape and harassment for being (suspected) members of respectively the OLF and ONLF. In the urban Oromia, the TPLF authorities treat Oromia’s student population in particular with suspicion and mistrust. Students who have the misfortune to be labelled subversives by government officials have been imprisoned, tortured or expelled from school. The ruling party still controls over this vast territory through a highly repressive system of governance that grants power to the local level armed foolish OPDO to harass non-Oromo settlers whom the TPLF referrers to as neftegna. Hence, by fuelling conflicts among ethnic groups, the TPLF leadership is responsible for several cases of killings, arrests, tortures and widespread harassments in rural Ethiopia. The arbitrary arrests, torture, extrajudicial killings and disappearances are all purely politically motivated of innocent people in the face of the ruling party's police and security forces.

The ruling party, TPLF, is the worst ever regime in Ethiopian history when it comes to human rights violations. This dictatorial political system is not pressured into prompt and adequate action to deal with human rights violations because there are no real opposi­tion parties or inde­pen­dent and vigorously active newspapers to campaign on behalf of the masses. In fact, Kinijit is the only political party that could potentially be the strongest opposition to challenge the TPLF regime on human rights issues. As we observe, however, Kinijit itself has become suicidal and self-distructuve. Moreover, it is losing a widespread support and confidence from the voters when its elites are proposing and taking actions without consulting the stakeholders of the party.
Now is the time for Kinijt leadership to work hard in order to legalise the party and solve the internal differences in collaboration with the voters in Ethiopia. The Executives seem have made themselves hostages to the Diaspora public, whose contribution should have been nothing more than financial support and advocating human rights affairs in Ethiopia. They have to make sure that they only serve the primary stakeholders of the party i.e. the Ethiopians people.
In the memory of those who lost their lives in 2005, I pray and hope that the leadership will remain loyal and accountable to those millions of voters in Ethiopia.

I hope the November 2005 violence will not be taken in vain by the Executives of Kinijit. We have learned a lot from the May 2005 election and the horrific massacre that followed. Now it is time go back to Ethiopia, become united again and continue the struggle for freedom and democracy. It is my hope that the leadership will soon pursue the building up and the democratization of the party itself in order to challenge the ruling party, fight for the human rights and continue the struggle in a transparent and democratic manner in Ethiopia.

Let’s remember and commemorate those young boys and girls who never returned to their respective homes for two years ago. May God bless us with enough compassion to pray and comfort those families who mourn everyday and every year.


Monday, 27 August 2007

The Politics of Including & Excluding:
- A Challenge to the CUD Delegation Team

Some individuals may want to create a political monopoly of their interests. I believe having diversity of thoughts and perspectives in party politics is of real value. It is expected that any democratic political party gives a platform to all political ideologies and thoughts but most importantly a democratic party has to be inclusive in engaging non-partisans civic organisations to be the major part of the democratic system.

The Ethiopian Diaspora community has existed long before the establishement of the CUD. I believe it is those several civic activities that have maintained the unity of the Ethiopian communities for decades and these civil societies are the basis for the unity and shared values by the Diaspora community. By civil societies, I mean formally organized non-governmental organizations; think tanks; issue advocates; member based or activist organizations; organized but informally structured citizen groups or networks. These institutions are important because they are built on trust and shared values, which can be transferred into the political sphere, help to hold society together, facilitating an understanding of the interconnectedness of society and interests within it.

While political positioning, antagonism, or obstinate personalities can make partisan-civic cooperation challenging, there are benefits to working through the challenges to build a constructive partnership. Particularly where resources are limited, cooperation can heighten the impact of either partisans or civic groups acting alone. The delegation team should utilize the knowledge, experience and contacts they are capable to establish with civic organs. Improved public trust is important. The CUD delegation and other supporting actors should have complimentary public images. The delegation should also be aware of the potential partisan-ness of the civic organizations. If the delegation wish to gather an unbiased view, it should to discuss to a range of civic institutions to ensure that they are accurately portraying the needs of the entire Diaspora.

I wish the delegation and Kinijit the very best.

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Take No Break !!

While we join our voices to those of concerned humanity in the demand for immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners in Ethiopia, my foremost concern is in the fate of our dear friend Kifle Tigeneh and those charged with him, to whom we bow our heads in respect for the heroism and self sacrifice and whom the fascist oppressors intend to add to their sinister constellation of crimes. We shall not rest until he, his compatriots and all other political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in Ethiopia are released, and until Ethiopia is liberated from the TPLF rule.

Friday, 20 July 2007

Freedom Isn't Free


Our leaders have shown their willingness to endure imprisonment, torture, even risk death itself for the promised benefits and blessings of liberty. Failure to pay that price would only serve to destroy that liberty.
Democracy means fighting everyday for what you deserve, and fighting even harder to keep those weaker groups of our people get what they deserve. Democracy is people of all races, colours, and creeds united by a single dream. Democracy means never having the TPLF secret police show up at your door. Freedom and democracy come with a price tag. Some of the price has been paid on July 20, 2007.

God’s Compassion is the freedom of our body
God’s Concern is the freedom of our dwelling
God’s Love is the freedom of our life.

To all my 38 friends, thank you for your courage and your bravery. Thank you for your endurance.

Kinijit Ashenefowal

Saturday, 7 July 2007

Women’s Human Rights & the Need for Political Reform

In Ethiopia, human rights violations against women remain rampant because they are largely hidden. Since 1991 a growing number of people whom Amnesty International and other human rights organizations consider to be prisoners of conscience, including journalist and civic society leaders have been arrested and sentenced on different false charges. The TPLF leadership claim that there are no political prisoners in the country. Of course, this is far from the truth. The TPLF leadership routinely imprison and sexually abuse women. TPLF’s, systematic torture and rape against women have been used as an instrument of political repression. While dissidents with a high profile may in general enjoy some protection from severe torture, for women, high profile means more vulnerability to torture and sexual violence.

As we all know, Criminal laws are used as provisions to jail political oppositions but the most common reason in almost all cases has been their political views, ethnic origins, language or social origin. In the aftermaths of May 2005 election, people have been jailed under other provisions in the Criminal law on charges of “disturbing public order”, “hooliganism”, “assembling a crowd to disturb public order” etc. The vague language of many of these provisions permits the prosecution and conviction of anyone whose words, actions or associations can be constructed as disruptive of public order, or critical of official policies. A growing number of Ethiopian women have been arrested for non-violent offences often without appearing in any formal justice system.

In our country, torture is inflicted on political and common criminal prisoners alike. Anyone is at risk if they cross the TPLF authorities. Since May 2005, hundreds of mothers who are not suspected of any crime have been arrested and even tortured simply because they were involved in arguments with the police while attempting to protect their children from being illegally arrested. Female victims of human right violations come from all walks of life and include young girls, mothers and the elderly. The most vulnerable to human rights abuses are the less educated or less privileged, such as peasants, the unemployed and vagrants. Of course, women are overrepresented in all these social categories. Today, many wives are suffering for refusing to accept quietly the wrongful jailing or killing of their husbands. They face not just harassement and repression from the TPLF authorities, but also daily worry about their spouses' health in prison and how to keep the family going.

The routinely torture methods used against women are: severe beatings, fisting with a variety of instruments, whipping, kicking, the use of handcuffs or leg-irons in ways that cause intense pain, and suspension by the arms, often combined with beatings, hanging up-side down, the use of electronic wires which gives powerful electric shock in sensitive body parts (often combined with sexual violence), and immersing into frozen water container.

For millions of Ethiopian Women, TPLF has only meant terror, rape, deprivation and the imperative of fighting for justice. Today, what unites Ethiopian women nationally and internationally – transcending class, race, culture, religion, nationality and ethnic origin – is their vulnerability to abuse of their fundamental human rights, and their dedicated efforts to claim those rights. In addition to torture perpetrated by the TPLF authorities, physical, sexual and psychological violence in the family, including battering, sexual abuse of female children, in some areas custom of dowry-related violence, marital rape “telefa” and female genital mutilation and other harmful traditional practices harmful to women. Other abuses are non-spousal violence, and violence related to exploitation, physical, sexual and physiological violence occurring within the general community, including rape, sexual abuse, sexual harassment and intimidation at work, in educational institutions and elsewhere, trafficking especially to the Middle-East and “forced” prostitution.

Now is the right time that the extent and severity of such human rights violation against women are recognized if we are fully to address the context human rights violation in Ethiopia as a whole. By knowingly tolerating abuses such as violence, female genital mutilations and trafficking, the TPLF leadership itself has become part of both the domestic and public violence against women. Hence, these human rights abuses need political solutions.

In order to get solutions for these problems, both the civic organization and all the male-monopolized opposition parties, including, those Diaspora political movements need to consult women. Kinijit International Leadership (KIL) and those Kinijit Chapters should be pioneers in creating a political atmosphere that allows the voice of women is heard, including allowing women participate in the currently male-dominated leadership. One of the future visions of KIL and Kinijit Chapters should be to run programs through established civic organizations and NGOs in promoting development assistance projects for the implementation of human rights, particularly focusing on young girls in Ethiopia.

Today, no one is safe in Ethiopia. Torture against women is endemic. Thousands of political dissidents remain in jail simply for expressing their views. The world cannot ignore what is happening in Ethiopia. As the second most populated country in Africa, Ethiopia plays an increasingly significant role in global affairs and this international cooperation must include human rights issues. Women’s voices must be heard all over world: demanding justice, protesting against discrimination, claiming rights, morning dead husbands and comforting raped young daughters. The job of the opposition movements must be focused on human rights, ensuring that the world listen and making sure that the international community take action to promote women’s human rights in Ethiopia. The Diaspora should stand united and call the international community to take urgent steps to protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of 77 million people.

Kinijit Yashenefal !!

Saturday, 23 June 2007

Loyalty and trust are truly the glue that holds Kinijit together

Meles Zenawi’s systematic murder, extermination, torture, forcible re-settlement, confinement, forced labour, destruction of homes and widespread systematic attack of the public is a crime against humanity. Among the many factors that have been conducive to human rights abuses since 1991 are the lack of independent judicial system. Sixteen years have passed since Meles Zenawi’s crimes against humanity began and yet he has not been held accountable. Party affiliated judges have unbridled power, local TPLF officials use their position to achieve personal gain, conduct vendettas and law enforcement TPLF authorities abuse their power by, for instance, inflicting torture on any individual they dislike.

Absence of justice and independent authority is conductive to widespread mass arbitrary arrest, detention, torture and executions while at the same time denying victims of human rights violations recourse to impartial tribunals whereby they could challenge their detention and present a defence in the course of a fair and pubic trial. All too often, without any trials or following summary trials, death sentences are imposed and swiftly carried out, particularly on peaceful Oromo speaking Ethiopians. The frequently arbitrary nature of the Meles’ administration, so-called federal government permits, among other things, the summary execution of prisoners previously sentenced to imprisonment without the chance of having further judicial hearings, and results in vastly disparate sentences being handed down in different parts of the country.

While I was under detention both at Ma’ekalwi and Kaliti, I used to hear several horror stories of deaths as a result of torture where the body was never returned to the family for burial. There were many cases in which prisoners were released with severe physical injuries after having been severely tortured and died some days later as a consequence. Frequently, torture victims have been denied adequate medical treatment. As in the case of Dr Berhanu Nega, Professor Mesfin Wolde Mariam and Eng. Hailu Shawel, access to specialized medical treatment including hospital treatment has been denied or delayed for long periods.

How would you react if you see a middle-aged man, a father of some beautiful children, a beloved husband and once a respected person in your neighbourhood bound his wrists, pushed violently from one guard to another, being punched, kicked, and beaten indiscriminately all over his body? This is one of the many scenarios of what happened to Kinijit leaders.

Several prisoners, including some of those already released, have untreated wounds – endured torture – becoming septic and malodorous through lack of medical attention and poor hygiene. In Kaliti, the psychological suffering is the worst -humiliation and self-disgust. Sometimes, the anxiety and fear rise when hearing the screams of other prisoners being tortured and being kept ignorant of their fate. Some Kinijit prisoners have experienced feelings of insecurity and vulnerability aggravated by dark solitary confinement and blindfolding for long periods. Kaliti’s extremely poor hygiene and insufficient sanitary facilities, compounded by severe overcrowding, have encouraged the spread of skin disease, scabies and lice. These are the conditions under which our leaders have been living in since they were arrested in October-November 2005.

Regardless of these horrible conditions, our leaders in Kaliti prison never asked for mercy. They were approached by Meles Zenawi who is terribly worried about his already poor reputation, lack of donors’ money and increasing the isolation from the international community. As a result, he has abandoned his harsh and stubborn conditions of previous negotiations and he is in desperate need for face saving. Our leaders know the limits of dictatorship but Meles doesn’t know the limits of their endurance. Now he has given up. He has made a call for final negotiation which the prisoners have repeatedly rejected and re-negotiated.

Whatever outcomes of any negotiation, it is not done out fear of death penalty or long imprisonment. Our leaders know what is best for the democratization, peace and stability of Ethiopia, and most of all, they know what has to be done to maintain the unity of Kinijit. I know all Kinijit leaders personally because I have been privileged to work with them. I know their determination, endurance and loyalty to the Ethiopian people. It is the right time to show respect and loyalty to them. Strongly committed we should accept whatever decision they make on half of the millions that have voted for them.

Young Ethiopians have played a prominent role and some even have given their lives in the movements for peace and justice under Kinijit party. We need to support students and young workers - the two major forces in the broad alliance that is needed to deal a decisive blow to the backward ethnic politics of the current TPLF political leaders. Ethiopians at home and abroad will be standing behind their leaders united and they will keep their loyalty until the fight against TPLF dictatorship is won.

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Congratulation for the formation of Kinijit Youth League, Dallas Texas!!


The political strategy and the moral philosophy of civil disobedience is non-violence. Its untilmate objective is to gain a political change in our country. The great efforts of Ethiopians in Washington DC is honorable and examplary.
Never give up until our leaders are released.

Saturday, 16 June 2007

An Urgent and Serious Problem Demanding Our Immediate Attention

A Personal Call to Action II
What to Consider

Having mentioned the need to act immediately in order to get our leaders released, we need also to think about long-term struggle against human rights abuse. There is, therefore, a need to substantially rethink how we can best put pressure on the US government and European Parliament and win the battle of public opinion. This is not a struggle to form a new ideological hegemony but to allow the people of Ethiopia enjoy the most basic human rights ratified in the Universal Declaration for Human Rights. To do this, we don't have to abandon our existing campaigns. However, we do need to supplement them with a sustained new approach that can undermine the legitimacy of TPLF repression, build up the moral authority and persuasiveness of our demands for democratic rights, and thereby enhance the dignity, respect and support for our struggle.

First, we need to get the prisoners of conscience released. For that we need immediate action, as I already have said it. Civil disobedience might also involve more indirect actions such as blockading of roads and public squares, hunger-striking etc If we see value in our dignity and are proud of ourselves as Ethiopians, then we should be prepared to publicly refuse to obey and to refuse to submit to the will of the local authorities. This should be organised regularly and over a long period of time.

Each and every one of us knows that the road to freedom is long. Hence, a single civil disobedience action is not sufficient to achieve our goals but we have to start somewhere. Many of you have read or even seen how the mass mobilization of African-Americans started in small-scale acts of civil disobedience in the 60s and sparked sustained civil rights campaigns. Although our objectives are not the same, we need to plan week to week actions in various cities and make sure that our actions constitute sustained civil disobedience activities to get the needed attention. We must make sure that our movements for human rights and for justice are acts of civil disobedience that are peaceful and polite while filled with commitment, are sustained and well coordinated in order to get our leaders released.

Friday, 15 June 2007

An Urgent and Serious Problem Demanding Our Immediate Attention

A Personal Call to Action

As you all know, on June 11, 2007, the EPRDF/TPLF controlled court passed a guilty verdict against 38 peaceful individuals on false charges ranging from “outrage against the constitution” to “aggravated high treason”. Most of them face life in prison or death.

We need an immediate plan of Action


Since May 1991, Meles Zenawi has been trying to impose his ethnic policy as the right to self-determination, an old fashioned Stalinist-style control in Ethiopia. The peasant, women, youth, organizations have become embroiled in and victimized by the evil ethnic politics of Meles Zenawi. The federal army and the security guards and the administrative organs down to the village level have become branches of the TPLF party. This is the new apartheid. Regarding this “trial” we know that Meles Zenawi will not hesitate to kill all of them unless we do something very soon. The international human rights groups are on our side and they have entirely condemned this sham trial.

Diaspora Ethiopians therefore must tell their respective governments that Meles Zenawi is a mass murderer himself who has terrorized his people for so long and does not qualify as an ally against terror. He regime does not believe in or exercise democracy and the rule of law. He deprives famine victims of emergency aid and cheats donors. He is harmful for the struggle against poverty in Ethiopia. Meles Zenawi exploits ethnic diversity for his policy of divide and rule. He is a danger to the existence of Ethiopia as a state. His courts have convicted pro-democracy political and civic leaders for exercising their rights, accusing them of the same crimes that he ordered be committed against those who dared challenge him in a peaceful manner. They did not commit those crimes. His forces did.

Despite several calls--peaceful demonstrations, vigils and a variety of appeals--- to get our leaders released, the mainstream media, the international community and especially the US ignored these appeals.

This means that worldwide action needs to be changed into non-violent civil disobedience.

The anti-apartheid movement of the 80s which itself was built upon the powerful and empowering use of civil disobedience by the civil rights movement of the 60’d has a lot to teach us. Diaspora South Africans together with Members of Congress, national labour and religious leaders, students, community leaders, and teachers were involved in civil disobedience every weekday for over a year. Some were fined and others risked arrest. However, in a short period of time, they managed to change the agenda of the international media and the US foreign policy towards South Africa, followed by the subsequent withdrawal of over $4 billion from the South African economy. Today, we see what their efforts have been worth--- an exemplary peaceful transition from the apartheid’s horror-filled regime into a majority democratic government.

Now, I suggest that civil disobedience be the strategy. This struggle is not easy but it is very effective. It comes from our willingness to take personal risk without threatening other people. It also comes from our sustained commitment to the cause and to the strategy. In 2005, our own students at Addis Ababa University and students in Awassa, Jimma, Bahirdar, Gonder and Mekele risked and sacrificed their lives when they got involved in civil disobedience by boycotting classes, participating in sit-ins and blocking the gates of their respective universities. In turn, their actions were reported by CNN, BBC, Channel 4 UK, Al Jazeera and other major news channels followed by an immediate response from the European Parliament and US officials. The question for us now is, what are we willing to pay for the success of this struggle? When so many have suffered and paid so dearly, we can surely contribute a fraction of what they have paid so far. I am sure you will agree.

Learning from the apartheid movements and from our own student heros, the diaspora should set up an immediate plan of action for civil disobedience before the final sentencing, scheduled for June 8, 2007. This is the only way we can get the attention of the international media, the White House and the European Commission in order to get our leaders released.

Most of you live in prosperous and democratic states and the consequence of your participation in non-violent civil disobedience and will face little or no risk at all. Even if you get fined or arrested, it is nothing compared to the death penalty our leaders are facing. It is nothing, compared to what so many people, young and old have paid for the continuity, unity, liberty and prosperity of our country, Ethiopia. I know that you all have to continue to provide for your families, and be there for them, to raise your children, to care for your sick and elderly, to make sure that they are not lacking in anything. For that, your presence in the typical daily routine and your ability to earn a living are critical. However, I respectfully remind you that thousands have sacrificed all of this for the same cause that we all believe in. The challenge now before us is then; Can we sacrifice a fraction of that? If somebody has lost a life or limb and can no longer do that, how could we not sacrifice at least two weeks, if we believe in the same cause? We need to examine ourselves.

My Recommendation

Just like Ethiopia, I know that there are a variety of civic and political groups in the Diaspora. This is a good thing. This is a cause that should unite us, without having to lose our identity in that unity. I respectfully urge each group and organization to call an urgent meeting to discuss right away, as there is no time to waste. We are all in danger.

Each group should discuss their commitment to the cause, and make their own plan, and choose a day or a week when they will engage and contribute the largest possible number of people to participate in actions of civil disobedience.

Each should then reach out to the other. This effort should not be about who the leader is, but how we can launch a successful campaign. Therefore, I urge you to set aside possible differences that are not relevant for this plan.

With a designated core group of volunteer coordinators, the specific actions and the scheduling of groups can begin.

It is important to do this especially in places like Washington DC, Brussels and London.

It is also important to recognize that it takes a long time to see results, but the result will be lasting.

Stay in the fight until the fight is won!!