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!!