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Friday, March 31, 2006

Memorandum on the current situation in Ethiopia

(EthiopianPolitics received the following statement signed by 16 influential Ethiopians from Tigrai, concerning the current political impasse in Ethiopia.)


Following the demise of the other Ethiopian alternative forces by the Dergue and the creation of a ‘power vacuum’, the seizure of power by the TPLF/EPRDF in 1991 after the fall of the Dergue was received with a mixture of relief, skepticism and a general passiveness by the people of Ethiopia.

To some people who did not know the leadership of the TPLF properly, the end of the military regime seemed to be the end of terror and they hoped that peace would prevail and the recurrence of famine would be prevented by economic development. Those who felt relieved took the rhetoric on democracy by the new power holders at its face value and they expected changes for a better future. Those who received the TPLF with skepticism had also lack of information on the TPLF and gave the new regime the benefit of doubt.

For those, who knew the undemocratic nature of the TPLF leadership, it was easy to extrapolate from the past experience of the organization and foresee that the take over of power by the TPLF/EPRDF would be the continuation and extension of the tyrannical rule of Meles Zenawi all over Ethiopia, with dire consequences for the sovereignty of the country and human life. The TPLF had never practiced democracy in the organization, within the people of Tigray in whose name the struggle was waged and with other rival organizations throughout the course of the armed struggle. This was a source of concern that the country may get out of the frying pan, into the fire.

The EPRDF was therefore, neither welcomed nor opposed by mass rallies. The people were already made passive and incapacitated to take any concerted action, because they were intimidated and not allowed to freely organize themselves under the military regime.

As soon as it seized power, the TPLF/EPRDF regime, like an occupation force, began dismantling all national and state institutions such as trade unions, professional associations, and the national defense establishment to pave the way for ethnic politics. The regime pursued a policy of division, terror and control of the people by adapting its ethnic politics to its Stalinist form of organizational structure of centralism and hierarchy, thereby eroding human and democratic rights, the unity of the people as well as the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country.

The TPLF leaders propagate the erroneous notion that ethnic based parties are the sole means of articulation and representation of interests of the people of any language group. The TPLF promoted this notion from its organizational programme, elevated it to a state policy and imposed it on Ethiopia by intrigues and brutal force. The current conflict between the TPLF and the opposition has its roots in this dangerous policy of the ruling party, which equates unity with domination and suppression.

The imprisonment and consequent accusation of the opposition leaders of inciting violence against the people of Tigray is a misleading act of irresponsibility. The charge of genocide and treason against the active and critical elements of the population is simply so ridiculous that this trumped-up charge will add up to the shameful crimes committed by the prime minister against Ethiopia and the Ethiopian people. This act is a last ditch attempt by the regime to mobilize the people of Tigray against any party which poses any threat to the absolute power of the mass murderer, Meles Zenawi. The people of Tigray have been living with their fellow Ethiopians for thousands of years in peace. For Tigrayans, Ethiopia is not a grant but their achievement; it is their identity. However, Meles Zenawi is driving a wedge between Tigrayans and Amharas, as he is doing between several ethnic groups.


The Prime Minister has failed Ethiopia in defending the sovereignty of the people and the territorial integrity of their country, internal peace and harmony. He is unwilling to free the people from the humiliating dependency on handouts for survival. The ruling group collaborated with enemies of Ethiopia to undermine Ethiopian unity and access to international waters. The regime conspired with forces, which wanted to benefit at the cost of Ethiopia and Ethiopians.

The current crisis is the creation of the leaders of the TPLF/EPRDF in general and that of the prime minister, who has an absolute power, in particular. The rigging of the elections, the use of ruthless force to suppress the legitimate rights of the people who demand the restoration of their verdict, the brutal crack down on the opposition and the press, the accusation of the opposition and the attempt to silence all concerned and critical elements of the society is upsetting the people, destroying peace, harmony and a sense of security. The regime is practicing a reign of terror. The Ethiopian people rejected Meles Zenawi and his clique in the polls and reiterated their rejection by defying his attempt to forcefully silence them and the opposition by force. More betrayal, suppression, lies and more court dramas orchestrated by Prime Minster Meles Zenawi and co. will not bring stability and peace in the country.

After examining the situation prevailing in Ethiopia in depth, we the undersigned Ethiopians from Tigray, out of devotion to the integrity of our country, peace and prosperity of its people, have issued the following declaration in full solidarity with all fellow Ethiopians.

1.We call for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of the false and ridiculous charges of genocide and treason against the leaders and members of the opposition, the press people and other activists. We condemn the court drama against the members of legally registered political parties and their leaders, who have been elected in the May 2005 elections and all prisoners of conscience. We call for their immediate and unconditional release.

2.The Prime Minister is responsible for the series of massacres which have been committed in Ethiopia (in Gambella, Awassa, Jimma, Gonder, four times in Addis Ababa etc.), for the incarceration of citizens with concocted accusations, for wreaking havoc amongst the Ethiopian People and misusing the name of the people of Tigray in this connection. Meles Zenawi is also a danger for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of our country as he has been repeatedly showing his anti-Ethiopian position in connection with the conflict with Eritrea. It has to be born in mind that his machinations of creating ethnic contradictions is also part of his scheme to abort a united opposition against his policy of eroding Ethiopian sovereignty

3.We condemn the use of lethal means against demonstrators and the sinister act of sowing ethnic conflicts. We call for the release of all political prisoners, the closure of all the concentration camps and an end to the violent suppression of the democratic and human rights of the people. We oppose the suppression of all-Ethiopia institutions and/or encompassing organizations that had hitherto been promoting nation-wide unifying agendas.

4.We call for the resignation of Meles Zenawi as Prime Minister of the country and as chairman of the EPRDF to create a conducive atmosphere for members of TPLF/EPRDF, who have not committed crimes against humanity to make a fresh start and commence negotiations with all opposition parties based on the results of the May 2005 elections and form a government of national unity with the objective of eradicating the politics of hate and organizing an early democratic election.

5.We call upon the members of the TPLF/EPRDF, who have not committed crimes against humanity, opposition forces, human rights activists, civic and professional organizations to organize a platform of national reconciliation and the unity of the Ethiopian people should be given utmost priority.

6.We call upon all democratic and patriotic Ethiopians to examine the current political crisis in Ethiopia beyond ethnicity and local interests. Ethiopian unity is at stake and we must constantly and vigilantly combat ethnocentric politics that could undermine our unity. Each and every Ethiopian has an historical obligation to secure the unity of the Ethiopian people.

1. Abraha Belai
2. Mamu Gebre Medhin
3. Berhane Girmay
4. Teka Kesete
5. Godofai T. Giorgis
6. Mehari Abera
7. Gebre Medhin Araya
8. Haile Selassie Yohannes
9. Beyene Gebray
10. Berhe Abay
11. Ghirmay Gezehegn
12. Ghidey Zeratsion
13. Aregawi Berhe
14. Dr. Gidey Assefa
15. Tesfay Atsbeha
16. Kahsay Berhe

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Congressional Hearing on Ethiopia’s Troubled Internal Situation

(By Paulos Dandego, Ethiopian Politics Contributor)

Photo By Endale Getahun ECTV
[Congressman Chris Smith poses for picture with Mr. Obang Metho]

Yesterday's (March 28, 2006) Congressional hearing on the deteriorating situation in Ethiopia highlighted the Zenawi administration’s disturbing journey towards complete totalitarianism.

Mr. Donald Y. Yamamoto, deputy assistant secretary for African Affairs was the first to testify. Mr. Yamamoto gave the usual lukewarm, wishy-washy speech he’s been giving for the past six month. His testimony made it very difficult to predict what the U.S government plans to do, other than sit on the side lines hoping for a favorable outcome.

“Ethiopia is currently at a crossroads; it can continue to move forward, or it can lapse into the sort of government that’s best encountered in history books.”

Mr. Donald Y. Yamamoto

Ethiopia is no longer at a crossroads. Mr. Zenawi’s government has decided which path it would take, and it is not “forward”. The “government that’s best encountered in history books” is already a reality.

Ambassador Fesseha A. Tessema was the next to testify. With a straight face he informed the audience that there are no political prisoners in Ethiopia. This drew chuckles from the crowd. Chairman of the subcommittee, congressman Chris Smith asked the ambassador if reports of political detainees by amnesty international and other major organizations were false; to which the ambassador replied, we used to have political prisoners but now they are all released and all that remain are 170 something criminals that are charged. (Crowd murmurs in disapproval)

Congressman Chris smith concluded the ambassador’s testimony by asking the government of Ethiopia to release all opposition prisoners as a show of good will. (crowd erupted into wild cheers)

Mr. Andargachew Tsege was the next to testify, he urged the U.S to act

“It is both a moral and strategic imperative that America's leaders demand the immediate release of all political prisoners, without preconditions.
The continued support of this tyrant will prolong the misery of Ethiopia.”
When the time came for Mr. Obang Metho to testify, most in the crowd and those watching the live feed had no idea who he was. Some were speculating he may be an official of the AU, others thought he was the leader of the new armed opposition group “patriotic front”.

But Mr. Metho belonged to none of those groups. He was the Director of International Advocacy, Anuak Justice Council (AJC): a little known organization to many Ethiopians. As we reported yesterday, Mr. Metho’s testimony was the highlight of the whole hearing. Articulate and very passionate, he captivated everyone’s attention. It was so quiet in the auditorium; you could hear a pin drop.

"My name is Obang Metho. I am an Anuak. I grew up in Gambella. I am not here as part of a political party. I am not here as an expert. I am here as a witness and human rights defender to speak up for the 424 educated Anuak who were massacred on December 13, 2003 and who can no longer speak up for themselves. I am here for the children who lost their fathers on that day. I am here as the voice of the woman who lost her husband or son and for the grandparent who lost their grandchild. I am here to speak for the families whose husbands, sons and fathers have been in prison for years with little hope of release. I am here for the four thousand Anuak refugees in Pochalla, Southern Sudan who still cannot return home………… But, I am not only here today for the Anuak. I am here for the Tigrayans who disagree with their own government. I am here for the Oromo, the Somali, the Afar and for any in other ethnic groups throughout Ethiopia who have been oppressed. I am here for the Ethiopian woman whose son or daughter was shot dead on the streets of Addis Ababa after the national elections. I am here for the CUD leaders and young student protesters who have been taken away from their families and put in prisons and detainment centers. I am here for those courageous prisoners of conscience, languishing in prisons throughout Ethiopia"

Mr. Metho’s testimony is one that will be talked about for years to come.

Dr. Mekdes Mesfin, daughter of Professor Messfin w/mariam was eloquent and to the point:

“I respectfully urge the continued attention to these points I have mentioned in considering the most meaningful legislative steps to take. Not just because Mesfin is my father, but also because of the strength of his commitment his track record as a peaceful advocate of the people during three successive regimes, his exemplary academic and social contribution and his faith in the democratic process and the rule of law, my biggest wish is that this man who will turn 76 in a few weeks, will live to see the empowerment of his people.”
The last person to testify was Ms. Lynn Fredricksson, Advocacy Director for Africa (Amnesty International).

Amnesty International holds that the charges of “treason,” “organizing and inciting armed rebellion” and “acts of genocide”1 levied against some 1312 CUD leaders, human rights defenders and journalists (most of whom are in physical custody) have no merit.”
And then she proceeded to name names:

“These prisoners of conscience, who were peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of speech, association, assembly and press, include:

Hailu Shawel (70), president of the CUD
Professor Mesfin Woldemariam (75), former chair of the Ethiopian Human Rights Council(EHRCO)
Dr. Yakob Hailemariam, former UN Special Envoy and former prosecutor at the InternationalCriminal Tribunal for Rwanda
Ms. Birtukan Mideksa, former judge and CUD vice president
Dr. Berhanu Negga, recently elected mayor of Addis Ababa and professor of economics
Daniel Bekelle, anti-poverty activist working for ActionAid, an international development NGO
Netsanet Demissie, anti-poverty activist heading the Organisation for Social Justice in Ethiopia(OSJE)”
Before the hearings concluded Congressman Chris Smith informed the audience of the plan to change the name of the bill from “Ethiopia Consolidation Act of 2005” to something more potent that may include words like “freedom” and “democracy”. He also promised to strengthen the bill by adding more measures that will help insure democracy in Ethiopia.

Meeting adjourned.

Complete transcript of Yesterdays testimonies:
The Honorable Donald Y. Yamamoto
Mr. Andargachew Tsege
Mr. Obang Metho
Meqdes Mesfin, M.D
Ms. Lynn Fredricksson

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Mr. Obang O. Metho

Mr. Metho, Star of today’s congressional hearings on Ethiopia stole the show with his memorable speech which was truly one for the history books. Mr. Metho is the Director of International Advocacy, Anuak Justice Council (AJC)

The following is an excerpt from his speech:

"But, I am not only here today for the Anuak. I am here for the Tigrayans who disagree with their own government. I am here for the Oromo, the Somali, the Afar and for any in other ethnic groups throughout Ethiopia who have been oppressed. I am here for the Ethiopian woman whose son or daughter was shot dead on the streets of Addis Ababa after the national elections. I am here for the CUD leaders and young student protesters who have been taken away from their families and put in prisons and detainment centers. I am here for those courageous prisoners of conscience, languishing in prisons throughout Ethiopia."

To read the complete transcript of Mr. Metho’s testimony click here

Monday, March 27, 2006

Faces of a Dictator

(By Paulos Dandego, Ethiopian Politics Contributor)

EPRDF’s officials are running Ethiopia applying the slave (capo) mentality, a slave who has been promoted to a higher rank by his master and is willing to do anything to keep his status. It is part of the job description for such a slave to oppress those beneath him (his fellow slaves) so they will not dare challenge his authority and keep his masters happy by tending to their every need.

This mentality is what earned Prime Minister Meles Zenawi the “progressive leader” label in Europe and the “dictator” label in his own country. Premiere Meles is convinced his authority comes from his western donors and considers citizens in his country as inconsequential.

Last Tuesday Charges were dropped for 18 defendants who had been accused by the government of genocide and treason. This follows a recent visit by a top western diplomat who at a meeting with EPRDF officials demanded on behalf of the U.S government that charges brought up against U.S employees be dropped ASAP. A few weeks to save face and voila! charges are dropped.

There are two versions of Mr. Zenawi. Most English speaking Ethiopians have known this for years. His lack of respect for his fellow citizens and his unholy reverence of foreigners is clearly depicted in his speeches. His Amharic speeches are designed to scare and intimidate Ethiopians while his English speeches are designed to appease and please the west.

Here’s one example:

On July of 2005 Mr. Zenawi made the following statement on HardTalk to BBC's Stephen Sackur

“Leaders have to stay as long as the people want them to stay, and do so through freely-contested elections. The decision has to be that of the people in the final analysis. ……..The longevity of political leaders, in my view, depends on the quality of the democracy in the country. ………however, more frequent changes of leaders is a safer and healthier approach.”

Just a few days earlier he had made the following statement in Amharic on the state run ETV....

“These are the four choices that are facing opposition leaders at the moment
1) Go into exile
2) pick up arms and engage in armed struggle
3) submit and live quietly
4) Languish in detention for the rest of your lives.”

This translation may seem exaggerated to some who only know the “well mannered” side of Mr. Zenawi, but Ethiopians who had heard that speech in “Amharic” will no doubt attest that we have in fact watered it down a bit.

What distinguishes the current government of Ethiopia form those in the past is not its dedication to democracy as some have suggested but rather its willingness to bend over backwards to be on the good side of its donors.

It will be interesting to see what will happen the day the U.S stops calling for a fair trail and demands an unconditional release of all political prisoners, human rights activists and journalists.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Historical footage

The last time we posted a historical footage on this site, we received criticism from some of our readers who took it as a political statement on our part. Historical footages that were posted in the past and those that will be posted in the future on ethiopianpolitics are strictly for informational purposes only. We are not supporting nor condemning the person/persons featured on these video-clips.

(Length - 49min 39sec)

Thursday, March 16, 2006


(By Tewodros Abebe)

For more poems visit Tewodros Abebe’s website

Click on poem to enlarge!

[Click here] to read in pdf format.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

A poem by the late Tsegaye G/Medhin

(Translation by Fikirte Hagos, Ethiopian Politics contributor)

"dreaming a dream unrealizable
tending a disease incurable
weeding a plant uncultivable
helping other lives be livable
to live my own, I was incapable"

Rest in peace.
[For the original Amharic version click here.]

Also see:
-POET LAUREATE TSEGAYE GABRE-MEDHIN OF ETHIOPIA - A Short Walk Through His Literary Park (By Professor Negussay Ayele)