Posts filed under ‘Human Rights’
Addis Ababa – An Ethiopian court on Thursday dismissed the appeal of blogger Eskinder Nega and opposition leader Andualem Arage who were jailed last year for terror-related offences.
“The sentencing is still correct so there is no reduction,” said Supreme Court judge Dagne Melaku, confirming Eskinder’s jail term of 18 years and Andualem’s life sentence.
One of the charges – serving as a leader of a terrorist organisation – was dropped, but had no effect on sentencing.
After the ruling, Eskinder made an emotional appeal to the court which was crowded with family, friends and diplomats.
“The truth will set us free,” he said. “We want the Ethiopian public to know that the truth will reveal itself, it’s only a matter of time.”
Both men are accused of links to the outlawed opposition group Ginbot 7.
“The walls of justice will be demolished,” Andualem told AFP.
Four other men also jailed for terror-related charges had their appeal quashed.
One other defendant, however, Kinfe Michael, had his sentence reduced from 25 years to 16 years.
Rights groups have called Ethiopia’s anti-terrorism legislation vague and accuse the government of using the law to stifle peaceful dissent.
“I am very sad, I am very angry, I cannot talk rationally,” Eskinder’s wife Serkalem Fasil told AFP after the decision.
Defence lawyer Abebe Guta said that justice had not been served, and that if his clients agreed, they would appeal to the court of cassation, Ethiopia’s highest court.
The US was “deeply disappointed” that Ethiopia’s federal supreme court upheld the men’s “conviction and harsh sentencing,” acting deputy State Department spokesperson Patrick Ventrell said.
“Today’s decision further reinforces our serious concern about Ethiopia’s politicised prosecution of those critical of the government and ruling party, including under the anti-terrorism proclamation.”
He did not say if the court’s decision would impact a planned trip to Ethiopia by US Secretary of State John Kerry at the end of May.
Ethiopia has one of the most restricted media in the world and the highest number of journalists living in exile, according to US-based press watchdog, the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Last year Eskinder was awarded the prestigious PEN America’s “Freedom to Write” annual prize.
Justice is supposed to be blind. Judges aren’t supposed to be when it comes to justice. When one thinks of court, one thinks of justice. The famous picture of the lady with the blindfold covering one eye – but that blind fold is starting to look more like an eye patch on a pirate, as many Ethiopians and foreigners as well are being robbed of their day in court. There are good judges out there, but sadly there are quite a few bad ones like Judge Dagne Melaku.
His conduct, among others, is the subject of a forthcoming Sonustar film titled “Justice and Truth.” Thanks to this dirty judge, I got to see firsthand, the sweeping corruption present in the Ethiopian judicial system that in my opinion is the most corrupt in the world.
Rights groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch condemned the initial conviction of Eskinder in July 2012.
By Martha van der Wolf
ADDIS ABABA — The United Nations Development Program has released its 2013 Human Development Index. Despite recent economic growth, Ethiopia is still near the bottom of the index.
Ethiopia ranks 173 out of 187 countries in the Human Development Index 2013, unveiled by the United Nations Development Program, UNDP, on Friday.
The Index is part of the Human Development Report that is presented annually and measures life expectancy, income and education in countries around the world.
Since 2000, Ethiopia has registered greater gains than all but two other countries in the world – Afghanistan and Sierra Leone. But it still ranks close to the bottom of the Index.
However, Samuel Bwalya, an economic advisor for UNDP, says that not only the ranking is important.
“I think what matters in the index is how you’re moving, your own human development progress within the country, so you’re moving from 0.275 to 0.378, that movement is what matters,” said Bwalya. “It means that your country is making progress in human development. Now the ranking depends on how other countries are also faring.”
This year’s Human Development Report focuses on the major gains made since 2000 in most countries in the global South.
UNDP believes sub-Saharan Africa can achieve higher levels of human development if it deepens its engagement with other regions of the South.
But those countries must overcome many challenges, such as low life expectancy, high levels of inequality and the growing threat for environmental disasters that could halt or reverse the recent gains in human development.
Bwalya says that government policies are central to human development in Ethiopia:
“The most important is to continuously commit to two policy arenas: the economic program in the country is robust and the government should have continuous commitment to development,” he explained. “The second is that it should continue the social protection program that has been so important in reducing poverty.”
While the Human Development Report and Index celebrate improvements across the developing world, a hard fact remains – 24 out of the 25 lowest ranked countries are on the African continent.
Armed Eritrean mutineers have left the information ministry that they seized on Monday, with the capital Asmara reported to be calm, diplomats and opposition members said Tuesday.
“The situation today is very, very quiet. There is no visible military presence in the city, the tanks have gone,” a European diplomat in the city told Agence France Presse.
“The information ministry is back to business as usual,” the diplomat added, noting that Asmara was back “to normal”, with banks and public buildings open.
Opposition website Awate.com, based in the United States but with close connections inside Eritrea, said that the commander of around 100 rebel soldiers had agreed to leave the ministry, something believed to have happened late Monday.
“The face-off was ‘solved’ when the government ‘accepted his terms’,” Awate said, although there were no further details as to what will happen next.
“All is calm today, as it was indeed yesterday,” read a message from Yemane Gebremeskel, the director of Eritrean President Issaias Afeworki’s office, although officials have otherwise remained tight-lipped over the events.
It was not possible to confirm the reports independently.
Amanuel Ghirmai, an Eritrean journalist in Paris for independent Radio Erena, said the army mutineers stormed the hill-top ministry — which towers over the capital of the Red Sea state — early on Monday morning.
They reportedly ordered news readers at the government-run television and radio station — the only source of media for the authoritarian state — to read a statement that they would implement the country’s constitution enacting democratic principles and stopping arbitrary arrests.
The constitution was suspended during the 1998-2000 border war with Ethiopia.
The statement also reportedly ordered the release of prisoners of conscience.
While the state-run Eri-TV television and radio broadcasts were taken off air Monday, several sources said they had resumed broadcasting by Tuesday.
“Eri-TV, under regime loyalists, has resumed broadcasting live,” Awate said. “All Ministry of Information employees have been released.”
Multiple sources reported that one of those held inside the information ministry was the daughter of President Issaias, who has ruled the Horn of Africa nation with an iron grip from independence in 1993, following an epic 30-year liberation war from neighboring Ethiopia.
The European diplomat said all information ministry workers had been released, but that there had been “no official information” on the events, nor was there yet any clear sense of who the mutineers were.
Multiple rumors have swirled on social media, with officials dismissing the majority.
“I don’t want to dignify nonsense and garbage reports,” Eritrea’s ambassador to the African Union, Girma Asmerom, told AFP on Tuesday as he refused to comment.
Awate claimed the mutineers were led by an army commander called Saleh Osman, a hero of the 1998-2000 border war, when he refused orders to abandon the key southern port of Assab, defending it and beating back invading Ethiopians.
“The ‘uprising’ appears to have been a case of Saleh Osman trying to jolt back negotiations for democratization he had been having with the president’s office that have stalled,” Awate added.
Britain’s foreign office said Monday it had received reports of “unusual military movements in and around” the capital, while the U.S. Embassy in Eritrea said Monday it had “been made aware of increased military presence” in parts of Asmara.
Impoverished Eritrea even falls below North Korea on the Press Freedom Index of the Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders, ranking last out of 179 countries.
All independent media were shut down after Issaias launched a draconian purge in 2001, while Eritrea expelled the last registered foreign correspondent in 2010.
Opposition parties are banned and those who challenge the regime are jailed without trial, often in the harshest of conditions.
After 15 top officials wrote an open letter in 2001 calling for democratic reforms — dubbed the Group of 15, or G-15 — Issaias launched a brutal political purge, jailing 11 and with the others fleeing into exile.
It left Eritrea effectively under the control of the army, usually veterans of the decades-long independence war with Ethiopia, with government ministers mostly sidelined from the seat of real power.
Religious minorities are also persecuted in Eritrea, which is officially split equally between Muslims and Christians.
(New York) – Four Ethiopian journalists have received the prestigious Hellman/Hammett award for 2012 in recognition of their efforts to promote free expression in Ethiopia, one of the world’s most restricted media environments.
Eskinder Nega Fenta, an independent journalist and blogger; Reeyot Alemu Gobebo of the disbanded weekly newspaper Feteh; Woubshet Taye Abebe of the now-closed weekly newspaper Awramba Times; and Mesfin Negash of Addis Neger Online were among a diverse group of 41 writers and journalists from 19 countries to receive the award in 2012. Eskinder, Reeyot, and Woubshet are imprisoned in Ethiopia; Mesfin fled in 2009. All four journalists were convicted in 2012 under Ethiopia’s draconian anti-terrorism law.
“The four jailed and exiled journalists exemplify the courage and dire situation of independent journalism in Ethiopia today,” said Leslie Lefkow, deputy Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Their ordeals illustrate the price of speaking freely in a country where free speech is no longer tolerated.”
The Hellman/Hammett grants, administered by Human Rights Watch, are awarded annually to writers and journalists around the world who have been targets of political persecution and human rights abuses. The prize is named after two American writers who were harassed during the 1950s anti-communism investigations. Lillian Hellman suffered professionally and had trouble finding work while Dashiell Hammett spent time in prison. A distinguished selection committee awards the grants to honor and support journalists whose work, activities, and lives are suppressed by repressive government action.
The journalistic work and liberty of the four Ethiopian award-winners has been suppressed by the Ethiopian government in its efforts to restrict free speech and peaceful dissent, clamp down on independent media, and limit access to and use of the internet. They represent a much larger group of journalists in Ethiopia forced to self-censor, face prosecution, or flee the country, Human Rights Watch said.
Eleven Ethiopian and foreign journalists have been charged and sentenced under Ethiopia’s anti-terrorism law in 2012. Critical blogs and internet pages are regularly blocked. The Ethiopian parliament passed a new telecommunications law in 2012, further controlling internet usage, just weeks after the biggest state printer, Birhanena Selam,issued a new contract for its publishers stipulating that it could censor the content of any publication it deems to violate the law. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, the third-largest number of journalists forced to flee their countries since 1992 has been from Ethiopia, after Somalia and Iran.
Like many other journalists in Ethiopia, the four award-winners have suffered greatly, both personally and professionally, in following their profession and exercising their right to free speech, Human Rights Watch said.
On July 13, after nine months in detention, Eskinder Nega, a veteran Ethiopian journalist and the foremost critic from the media of the ruling Ethiopian government, was sentenced to 18 years in prison for conspiracy to commit terrorist acts, as well as participation in a terrorist organization and treason. His case is under appeal. He has been jailed numerous times. Eskinder and his wife, the fellow journalist and newspaper publisher Serkalem Fasil,were arrested, detained for more than one year, and charged with treason following the contested 2005 elections. They were acquitted of all charges in April 2007. Since his release, Eskinder has faced ongoing harassment, surveillance, and intimidation. The authorities denied him a publishing license. In February 2011 he was once again briefly detained. Despite the ongoing harassment, he refused to leave Ethiopia and continued to write and speak out until he was again imprisoned.
Woubshet Tayewas the deputy editor of the Awramba Times prior to his arrest on June 19, 2011. He was convicted, along with Reeyot Alemu, on three counts of terrorism in January 2012. Woubshet alleged in court that he had been tortured during his pretrial detention, but the complaint was never investigated by the court. His arrest was not the first threat he faced as a result of his work. In 2010, prior to the general elections, an official from the government’s media licensing office accused him of “intentionally inciting and misguiding the public.” Woubshet was also briefly detained following the 2005 elections.
Reeyot Alemu was an English teacher and a columnist with one of the last remaining independent papers, Feteh. Reeyot was arrested on June 21, 2011, and convicted on January 19, 2012, on three counts of terrorism. In August, an appeals court reduced her sentence from 14 to 5 years, maintaining one of the terrorism charges against her.
Mesfin Negash works for Addis Neger Onlinewebsite, which he established along with other colleagues after fleeing the country in 2009. Mesfin was convicted in absentia in the same trial as Eskinderunder the anti-terrorism law’s article on support for terrorism, which contains a vague prohibition on “moral support.”Mesfin was one of the editors of the now-defunct popular analytical Addis Neger newspaper, but was forced to close the paper and go into exile in November 2009, with most of the paper’s senior staff, after the authorities threatened him.
Source: Human Rights Watch
He was arrested in 2011 and sentenced in July this year to 18 years in prison under the country’s broad anti-terrorism proclamation. An appeal hearing is scheduled for tomorrow (19 December).
He had written online articles and also spoken publicly about the possibility of an Arab spring-like movement taking place in Ethiopia. After his trial, the government initiated proceedings to seize his assets, including the home where his wife and young son live.
The letter from the MEPs, who are drawn from across the political spectrum, begins by registering “our grave concern” at Nega’s detention.
It notes that the Ethiopian government has an obligation to uphold the right to free expression, and it tells the newly-elected prime minister that he has “the unique opportunity to lead Ethiopia forward on human rights and bring the country fully within the community of nations.”
It closes by urging Desalegn to take all measures within his power “to facilitate the immediate and unconditional release of Mr Nega.”
Among the signatories are three British MEPs – Charles Tannock, Conservative (London); Fiona Hall, Lib-Dem (north east England) and David Martin, Labour (Scotland).
Source: Freedom Now
With six journalists in prison, Ethiopia was the eighth-worst jailer in the world. The authorities broadened the scope of the country’s anti-terror law in 2009, criminalising the coverage of any group the government deems to be terrorist, a list that includes opposition political parties.
Among those jailed is Eskinder Nega, an award-winning blogger whose critical commentary on the government’s extensive use of anti-terror laws led to his own conviction on terrorism charges.
“Basically, they are criminalising journalism,” said Martin Schibbye, a Swedish freelance journalist who was jailed along with a colleague, Johan Persson, for more than 14 months in Ethiopia.
Egypt’s highest body of judges has called President Mohamed Morsi’s recent decrees of authority “an unprecedented attack” on the independence of the judiciary, and judges in Alexandria have gone on strike in protest.
Members of the judges’ group, the Supreme Judicial Council, made their statement Saturday after an emergency meeting. Alexandria judges announced they will halt their work until the decree is withdrawn.
President Morsi on Thursday declared that his decisions are protected from judicial review, sparking outrage and protests in the streets of major cities.
Demonstrations in Cairo’s Tahrir Square continued into Saturday, spurring Egyptian security forces to fire tear gas at protesters, many of whom spent the night in the iconic protest hub.
On Friday, protesters in several Egyptian cities attacked the offices of the Muslim Brotherhood party, as rival pro- and anti-government groups demonstrated in Cairo about the new presidential decree. In the cities of Port Said, Ismailia and Alexandria, crowds lobbed stones and explosives at Muslim Brotherhood offices.
The protests came a day after President Morsi put himself above oversight and declared that his decisions cannot be appealed by the courts or any other authority.
In a speech to supporters Friday at the presidential palace, Mr. Morsi said he wants to move Egypt forward as a stable and safe nation and does not want sole control of the country.
Mr. Morsi’s decree also bars Egypt’s judiciary from dissolving the upper house of parliament and an assembly drafting a new constitution – two bodies dominated by Mr. Morsi’s Islamist allies.
In addition, Mr. Morsi has ordered retrials of former officials who used violence in efforts to suppress last year’s popular revolution against longtime president Hosni Mubarak.
President Morsi’s action follows international praise he received for mediating a cease-fire between Israel and Palestinians in Gaza..
Ethiopia has a rich tradition of independent, intelligent women. From the Queen of Sheba to wedding gown designer Amsale Aberra, these women have helped shaped the cultural and historical trajectory of Ethiopia and beyond. The seven women on this list are members of an extraordinary generation of diasporan Ethiopians who are flourishing throughout the world, in large part thanks to the sacrifices and dedication of their parents. Many of them left Ethiopia during the political upheaval of the mid 1970′s. They have since found their places on North American soil, even while remaining connected to their Ethiopian roots.
All seven women, and many of their equally successful peers, can be found in Tsehai Publishers’ new book, “Flowers of Today, Seeds of Tomorrow.” A complete project description and book preview is at: http://kck.st/RK9aNc
1. Sossina M. Haile. A graduate of MIT, Dr. Haile spends her days teaching and researching at CalTech, where she is Professor of Materials Science and of Chemical Engineering. She received attention, both from the scientific community and from media sources such as Newsweek, in 2007 after she discovered a way to create a new type of solid-acid fuel cell. Dr. Haile’s focus on creating new solar-derived forms of fuel stems from her philosophical approach to science: “As you add to the body of knowledge, what can you do with it that is truly useful and exciting, that can actually change people’s lives?”
2. Mimi Alemayehou. In 2010, US president Barack Obama appointed Mimi Alemayehou Executive Vice President of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC). Before that, Mimi was the first African-born person to ever serve as US Executive Director for the African Development Bank. Mimi put herself through college working 40 hours per week as a hotel clerk and diligently pursuing opportunities such as US Senate internships. Her career in politics stems directly from personal experience: “For Ethiopians of my generation who lived through the early years when there was so much political turmoil . . . it seemed like politics controlled our destiny so much,” she explains.
3. Fanna Haile Selassie. Fanna Haile Selassie is a broadcast journalist for ABC-affiliated WSIL-TV, a station serving southern Illinois, western Kentucky, and southeast Missouri. The daughter of Ethiopian immigrants who came to the United States to attend university and were unable to return due to the Red Terror, Fanna began her journalism career in college. She rose quickly through the ranks of local television stations in Minnesota before landing regional work. She focuses on political stories and hosts a short weekly segment on political issues. “I actually find new role models almost on a weekly basis in my career. I have told many stories about strong women breaking barriers,” she says of her work.
4. Weyni Mengesha. An award-winning theater director and dramaturge, Weyni founded both the Sound the Horn Leadership Program and the annual Selam Youth Festival in order to bring together artists of Canadian, Ethiopian, and Eritrean origin. She also co-directs The A.M.Y Project, an annual theater training program for young women. Weyni rose to prominence in the theater world when she directed Trey Anthony’s Da Kink in My Hair, which ran at the Toronto Fringe Festival and Toronto’s Princess of Wales Theater, Canada’s most prestigious venue. Among her numerous other credits, she directed Hosanna at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in 2011. Weyni’s productions continue to earn her accolades and awards from theater critics in Toronto and beyond.
5. Meklit Hadero. Singer and songwriter Meklit Hadero combines jazz, soul, hip-hop, art rock, and folk traditions of America and East Africa to create her own unique sound. Her 2010 Album, “On A Day Like This,” attracted attention from music lovers and NPR, PBS, and National Geographic. She studied political science at Yale, and served as an artist in residence at New York University, the DeYoung Museum, and the Red Poppy Art House in San Francisco. Meklit is the founder of Arba Minch Collective, a group of diasporan artists who perform in Ethiopia in collaboration with local artists. Meklit became a TED Global Fellow in 2009 and a TED Senior Fellow in 2012.
6. Mehret Mandefro. Dr. Mandefro earned her M.D. at Harvard Medical School, where she began studying HIV and AIDS, not just on a medical level, but also in social and psychological terms, examining how the disease affects communities and individuals. Her work in communities led Mehret to co-found Truth Aids, an organization that uses ethnographic research to produce multimedia content to spur social change. Through documentaries and narrative films, Mehret explores the issues she examines in research and field work. A former White House Fellow, she continues to serve as an advisor for the Department of Veterans Affairs. Mehret is an instructor at George Washington University’s School of Public Health.
7. Alfa Demmellash. Alfa Demmellash is the founder of Rising Tide Capital, a nonprofit organization devoted to helping entrepreneurs find their footing. Based in Jersey City, New Jersey, the organization offers courses in starting and running a small business, and helps participants in the program secure funding for their business ventures. Demellash was inspired to help entrepreneurs by her mother, who attempted to obtain small business loans when Alfa was an adolescent, but gave up after becoming frustrated with the endless red tape and bureaucratic complexity of the process. For her efforts with Rising Tide, Demmellash was selected for CNN’s “Hero” series and received recognition from President Obama.
“Meaningful Reforms, Reconciliation and the Restoration of Justice”
SMNE Urges New Prime Minister to Take Bold Steps That Will Lead the Country to a New Ethiopia
September 26, 2012
His Excellency Hailemariam Desalegn,
Prime Minister of the Federal Republic of Ethiopia
Office of the Prime Minister
P.O. BOX – 1031
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Dear Prime Minister Hailemariam,
We are writing this letter to you, first of all to congratulate you in your appointment as the new prime minister of Ethiopia—only the third Ethiopian leader to assume this position within the last nearly forty years and the first of the three to assume it through a smooth transition—only because the former prime minister died; yet, this is an unprecedented development in Ethiopia’s recent history and we urge you to take hold of your God-given opportunity to help bring truth, honesty, justice, equality and reconciliation and healing that are so needed by for the survival of our severely wounded and divided nation. It is a significant moment to seize if you are to make a historical and meaningful contribution to a genuinely more inclusive Ethiopia where the humanity of each and every Ethiopian is valued more than their ethnicity, the religion they practice, the region they come from or their political party membership.
You are now the leader of Ethiopia; meaning you are the leader not only of the EPRDF or the TPLF or the leader of those who agree with you, but you are also the leader of all Ethiopians, including those who disagree with your party and have been labeled by them as enemies or extremists. Based on the presumption that you will assume your position of responsibility to all the people of Ethiopia—something which hopefully will be proven through concrete action within a very short period of time—we are writing to you, as the new head of the country, to urge you to boldly implement meaningful change from the status quo—moving Ethiopia from a deeply entrenched system that excludes the majority of Ethiopians to one that will free all within our society to realize their God-given gifts.
Mr. Prime Minister,
For your information, the Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia (SMNE), of which I am the executive director, is a social justice group, established specifically to break the pattern of Ethiopian destruction that has led ethnic-liberation fronts like the TPLF from grievance, to resistance, to revenge, to overthrowing the Derg, to taking control of the country, to making the country landlocked through splitting it in two, to implementing a system of ethnic-apartheid-domination, to presenting a false picture of a unified Ethiopia through a flawed system of tribes (nations and nationalities) rather than as the Ethiopian people in order for a tiny elite from one ethnic group to cover up a system of ethnic, crony, party, and regional favoritism, to the present stage which is the exploitation of the oppressed and the rest of the people by a few in the TPLF who run the entire country under the pseudonym of the EPRDF.
We in the SMNE strongly disavow any right of any oppressed group to use their past oppression as an excuse to tyrannize or subjugate others; yet, this is exactly what the TPLF has done, in company with the EPRDF. It is epitomized in the recent case of a young person who applied to Addis Ababa University but was rejected because the “quota” for Amharas had been met rather than accepting students based on giftedness, academic credentials and drive. One’s ethnicity should never give you preferred status or be the basis of rejection. This is wrong and immoral.
This was the reason the SMNE was created; not as a political party but as a movement to empower and unify all diverse Ethiopians around these principles in order to build a New Ethiopia where we value the humanity of everyone, not only those like ourselves. We stand for a country where the “system” is structured and well-protected by checks and balances to protect the rights of all for until then “no one will be free until all are free.”
For a “New Ethiopia” to emerge, it means the old Ethiopia must be reformed. You are in a position to drive those reforms forward. Without such reforms, we know many will reject being part of an Ethiopia where they have been oppressed, marginalized, discriminated against, mistreated and/or seen as “impediments to be removed” rather than being accepted as active and contributing partners and beneficiaries in the life of Ethiopian society. This is something we all know is true. Such an Ethiopia is an old Ethiopia, a dying Ethiopia and an Ethiopia that must be discarded if we are to become a New Ethiopia that is good for everyone.
Mr. Prime Minister,
Who would have ever thought that a young man from the Boloso Sore district of the Wolayita Zone in southern Ethiopia, who walked to school some kilometers away with his younger brother, whose dream was to become a doctor, would be the new prime minister of Ethiopia and the leader of more than ninety million people? This may only be about God’s plan to use you, as someone from one of our rich and proud ethnic groups in the South and from a humble beginning, to help bring the family of Ethiopians together to plant a garden for the future of all of us. This garden of beautiful, multi-colored and multi-shaped blooms symbolizes the over 80 different, but all precious, ethnicities of Ethiopia.
The fertile soil of this garden must start with clean and repentant hearts, with our minds open to the truth and by souls filled with pure intentions. Transformational change must be based on love rather than hatred; dialogue rather than violence; reconciliation rather than vengeance; restored justice rather than oppression. This is the only way we can pass on a blessing rather than a curse to the next generation of Ethiopians. We now call on you, Mr. Prime Minister, to move Ethiopia in this new direction. This was the reason the SMNE created—to bring respectful dialogue as we honestly confront our problems so that we might carve out solutions. This is not only about the people but it is about doing what is right in the eyes of our Almighty God who sometimes calls some of us, like yourself, to do very difficult things, but promises to be faithful to those who trust Him and walk in His ways. By what you decide to do, you will show who you will please. These are moral issues with clear directives that lead to freedom of souls, people and nations.
We in the SMNE also posed such moral choices to Meles in two open letters, on two occasions, Open Letter to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, and read in English.. Or read in Amharic.. but he chose to close his ears and ignored us like he ignores the majority of Ethiopians. Instead, he continued to advance his own plans of pleasing those he considered to be his own. We were not surprised, but look where it has led us as a people and now he is gone. Today, you can make a difference, but only if you recognize God’s call in this unique opportunity. Are you willing to take whatever steps God has given to you to do your part in bringing light and life back to Ethiopia?
Mr. Prime Minister,
Our people have suffered so much. If you go from one corner of our beautiful country to each of the others to listen to the people—starting from the south to the north and from the east to the west—you will hear the same stories of their pain, grief, suffering and hard lives. These heartbreaking stories do not come only because of the difficulties of life we all face, but much of their hardship, poverty, lack of opportunity and abuse has come as the result of government policies and harmful actions. Even their chronic poverty and lack of food security can be related to the lack of freedom, the lack of property rights, the failure of the rule of law, the rampant corruption and regime repression.
A nation is like a body. When one part of the body is inflicted with pain, it affects the rest of the body. This one body we call Ethiopia, which is shared by all of us—binding us together—has suffered so much in the hands of the people who have been in charge. These leaders who have led our country all these years are the ones who have failed in their responsibilities to nurture, protect and care for all the people of Ethiopia who are loved by God and precious to Him. It is not an easy responsibility you are being asked to assume, but nevertheless, this responsibility for leadership is now in your hands. If you choose to do what is right in God’s eyes, God will help you, but if you choose to continue to oppress the people and to unfairly exploit them and their resources, you will be on your own.
Mr. Prime Minister,
We know that many Ethiopians are assuming that the TPLF is in total control of you and these people are watching every action you take to prove it. They assume the TPLF is simply pretending that a Southerner is leading a country, when in truth; it is those on the TPLF Central Committee who are doing so. This is the general speculation of the people, but it may not be true.
We know you know much of what is wrong in Ethiopia and might want to change it but will have limits set on you by some, but you may find many, even within the TPLF, who recognize the opportunity to jump from a sinking ship of the TPLF and they may help you more than most expect. We know you cannot do it alone. We also know your party cannot do it alone. The only way is to do it together with the rest of the people of Ethiopia and through the power of God as He works in the hearts and minds of the people to accomplish purposes greater than we can now see.
God may have placed you in this position for such a time as this, but if you do not rise to the purpose, God will find another way. Up until now, the TPLF has not been with the people, but you must reach out to them; especially to your enemies or the people with whom you may disagree with and take concrete action even if it is not popular.
Mr. Prime Minister,
Ethiopia needs deep reforms, not simply cosmetic reforms that skim the surface. All political prisoners must be released. Political space must be restored. You must meet with the political oppositions. Repeal laws that block civil society and freedom of expression and information. Stop the land grabs and the human rights abuses by the Ethiopian military and security forces. They are on the Ethiopian payroll. Stop religious repression and government interference in religious affairs. Call for National Reconciliation and tell the people within the TPLF/EPRDF that they are needed parts of this beautiful body—the country of Ethiopia. They will not be harmed and will have a deserved place in a New Ethiopia for they are “us.” Those who committed crimes will face justice but not on the street. This beautiful country of all of us will not survive by pretending. Ignoring the problems without taking an active role in bringing meaningful change will bring consequences none of us want. Take the necessary bold moves that must be done for the wellbeing, safety and security of our people.
We all live once and have opportunities that will pass us by if not taken. This may be the moment for good that God planned in advance for you. Stand up for the harassed people of Ethiopia. Our country needs transformation and you cannot do it alone. In light of this, reach out to people and be on their side. You are appointed to be a leader of all the people. May God give you the words, the strength, the wisdom, the openings and the support you need to change the direction of Ethiopia from doom to dawn; giving your all to provide a structure to bring reforms, reconciliation and justice so that a dying nation may be revived; so that the favoritism of an unjust ethnic-apartheid system be ended, the shackles of injustice unlocked and a people and nation be inspired to lift up their hands to their Creator God.
Mr. Prime Minister,
As for us, in the SMNE, we are always ready to do whatever we can because we are part of this body of Ethiopia and humanity and are committed to the betterment of all our people. We will not compromise in what we believe meaning we cannot settle for pretense without change, for small goals when we need deep reforms or for benefits for only a few for no one will be free until all are free.
We must care about all our Ethiopian sisters and brothers so that Ethiopia is a better Ethiopia rather than a beggar Ethiopia; an Ethiopia where our children can live in whatever part of the country they want; where they can live and flourish rather than risking their lives as they flee beyond our borders for freedom and opportunity; an Ethiopia where Ethiopians dispersed throughout the world can feel safe to return home to help rebuild this beloved country of ours—a country of freedom and opportunity for all.
We believe this is doable and have hope in our people from every ethnic group, region, religious group, and political group from all over the country that they will rise to the challenge by doing their share. As long as there is strong leadership that puts the interests of humanity ahead of the self-interests of a few; there is no reason that will prevent our Ethiopia from overcoming the negative images for which we are known throughout the world as a starving and dying people.
In conclusion, if you choose to take these strong steps forward, we understand that it may cost you great sacrifice, but you will be choosing the side of righteousness. The people will know it and stand by you! The past is the past and we must move ahead. Take that step now! May God help us all!
Executive Director of the SMNE
910-17th St. NW, Suite 419
Washington, DC 20006 USA
Phone 202 725-1616
Source AllAfrica-Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia (Saskatoon, SK)