Open letter to Semhal Meles Zenawi – By Mahlet Gurmu
I am sure that the first question that is very likely to spring up in your mind can be why anyone wants to write an open letter to you. (more…)
I am sure that the first question that is very likely to spring up in your mind can be why anyone wants to write an open letter to you. To be honest, the simple reason why I have chosen to write an open letter to you, as an adult daughter of our ruler, is to challenge your conscience with some facts you may not have a chance to confront. As the saying goes, the truth is subversive. It helps us confront the reality and compel us to think, behave and act differently.
As you might know, in the age of the Internet, conversations about issues that really matter can easily reach anyone in any part of the world. Now that you are living in the United Kingdom, far from barbed-wired Ethiopia, I am certain that you have unfettered access to the Internet as your dad has no power to filter and block websites and jam radio stations in a free country.
It was in 2005, a time of popular demand for freedom, violent repressions and crackdowns in Ethiopia, I became aware of your existence. In mid-2005, it was reported that you graduated from Sanford community school in Addis Ababa. But your graduation was not an ordinary event in spite of the fact that the tension between your father’s brutal tyranny and the popular demand for democracy and freedom had already reached a critical stage.
According to news reports, your high school graduation was celebrated with a fanfare at the Sheraton Addis Luxury Collection in the presence of your parents, dignitaries, diplomats, tycoons and loyalists who must have brought you dazzling diamonds and expensive gifts. While the celebration and jubilation at the well-choreographed Sheraton party was in full swing, in many corners of the country poor women and their families were thrown in disarray consumed with heart-rending grief. They were wailing and weeping not with the intention of spoiling your party but to mourn the killings and mass detention of their dear children a few days before your graduation party when your dad ordered his army to open gun fire at those defenceless and unarmed young girls and boys who were out in the streets to sing the songs of freedom.
One of the slaughtered young girls whose innocent smile remained frozen on her face was Shibre Desalegn. Young Shibre was just 21 years old and a high school graduate but living with her poor single mum and six siblings in Kotebe. In stead of celebrating anything worthy of calling a party, she was nipped in the bud. You may wonder why she was slaughtered in broad day light.
On June 6, 2005, security forces invaded Addis Ababa University campuses to quell peaceful protests demanding respect for the ballot box as evidence was abound that revealed the fact that your father and his regional puppets stole the election to reverse their electoral defeats. Your father’s ruthless soldiers beat up and rounded up university students and carted them away to concentration camps. When the convoy of prisoners reached Kotebe, local young men and women who felt the injustice blocked roads and demanded the release of the students. Brutality being the hallmark of tyranny, security forces opened fire. One TPLF agent reportedly shot dead Shibre at point-blank range with a high calibre bullet that blew up her tender body into pieces. She died instantly, right on the spot. Even if the killers were known, nobody was held to account for such an abhorrent crime to this day. In fact, Shibre is just one of the countless victims of dictatorship whose country cannot guarantee justice.
Quite recently, your dad brought you back in the media spotlight when he discussed your future as a potential successor. Answering a question from a reporter at a recent press conference about your political zeal he said: “Fortunately, I do not make decisions for her. But if I were to make that decision, I would tell her to stay clear from this kind of life, if she possibly can. But in the end, if there is enough fire in her to make it possible to live such a life – because I do not think you can live it without adequate fire inside – and if she has that fire, then welcome to the club.
“But if she does not have that fire, this should be the last thing she should think of. And my advice to every kid in Ethiopia is “if you have the fire – go for it, if you do not – stay as far away from it as you possibly can for your own health.”
I found his declaration quite amazing. Apparently, he does not make decisions for you. This is truly astounding as he is a classic dictator who has been dictating the fate of 80 million Ethiopians for over three decades. He has made Ethiopia landlocked without the people’s will costing the poor over $800 million annually in port services. He has divided them along genetic and blood lines without their will. He kills, maims and brutalizes them without their will. He cedes Ethiopian territories to neighbouring countries without their will. He mobilized poor children of peasants making them fodders of wa….The list is countless.
He declared that you are free to decide your own fate unlike the masses suffering under his boots. In fact, this can now be true as you are currently living in the United Kingdom, far from his jurisdiction and prying eyes.
The other interesting word he used is fire. Your father may be referring to the ruthlessness, callousness, selfishness and destructiveness that are inherent in every dictator’s heart. He said: “My advice to every kid in Ethiopia is if you have the fire, go for it, if you don’t stay away as far away from it as you possibly can for your own health.” Well, we have witnessed throughout the last four decades that those who have a fire in their hearts of justice, fairness, equality and freedom have been killed, jailed, tortured, maimed and suffered immensely at the hands of ruthless men like Mengistu, Isayas and Meles. As there is no space and time to recount here what these evil men have done to our brothers, sisters, cousins and fellow countrymen, I will leave it to you to do your own research in the pages of our history full of horror stories.
Dear Semal, you may not have heard about Birtukan Mideksa, a woman of immense sense of justice and freedom. Her heart is burning with the fire of justice, freedom and equality. She was a judge who tried to work for justice. But the is not the kind of judges your dad wants. She respect the bail right of Seye Abraha when she was a judge. That was unthinkable in any court in Ethiopia as Seye’s main problem, apart from the corruption scandal, was his rivalry with your dad.
Birtukan is the kind of leader that can open a new chapter in Ethiopian history. She can be a model for the coming generation. Like so many great leaders that have graced the good side of history, she is a visionary who fervently believes that tyranny must end and give way to democracy. Unlike you father, whose life can only be characterized with destruction and bloodshed, this woman of peace has never committed a crime. She has never killed anyone or caused suffering upon a living soul. Her only crime has been speaking out against the brutal dictatorship of your own father, calling for a genuine democracy, not the kind of deception we have been subjected to in the name of election. Birtukan is spending her precious time in your father’s dungeon so that her spirit will be broken, her heart bleeds and her mouth cannot utter a word of truth.
The prisoner, Birtukan, is also a daughter for her mum, a mother for her daughter, a friend for those who love and respect her and a leader for those who follow her. Have you ever asked your father why such a bright young woman with a potential to transform our poor nation and tens of thousands of prisoners of conscience are locked up in jails and dungeons without trial, unjustly shackled and handcuffed in every dark corners of injustice? I assume that is not an easy question to raise with your father.
In Ethiopia, children of rulers like you have never been lucky in terms of inheriting a good and bright future. Despite the fact that you grew up in one of Africa’s most sprawling palaces built by a monarch, those who have been close to the cursed epicentre of power have either been killed or exiled. If you have enough power in your heart to join politics, please reject your parent’s Machiavellian ways of repression, bloodshed, deception, corruption and ruthlessness.
Some children of dictators in history have challenged the tyranny of their fathers. Famous among them is Castro’s exiled daughter Alina, who became his vocal critic. It is not easy to challenge and reject a dictatorial father but think about all the facts all the truth and the countless of victims of your dictatorial father.
I look forward to hearing from you soon.
P.S. In a couple of your photos, you were pictured shooting guns. I do hope you will not turn them to innocent civilians.