Ethiopia: A Renewed Open Plea for Birtukan Mideksa’s Release – By Rev. Tegga Lendado, PhD

October 22nd, 2009 Print Print Email Email

What bothers me most is the apathetic silence of the religious leaders more than the adamant insensitivity of Bertukan’s captors. (more…)

What bothers me most is the apathetic silence of the religious leaders more than the adamant insensitivity of Bertukan’s captors. Once again, I am making this plea as, neither a political nor a humanitarian activist but a concerned servant of Christ advocating for truth, justice, peace and reconciliation. It is yet another plea to the government of Ethiopia to release Ms. Bertukan whose pardon was revoked subjecting her to re-imprisonment and solitary confinement for simply telling the naked truth in a foreign land. It might have not been ‘politically correct’ at its best, but unnerving truth to the core. My approach is not only from a Christian social ethics and practical SHIMGILINA role but also from purely apolitical compassion.

Apparently, Bertukan’s issue has been legally moot, politically undemocratic, logically absurd and morally disturbing. I do not think any democratic government claiming to be engaged in a transformational development should waste its precious time and energy in a trivial or minute matter unless it has a different motive.

Many of her friends including her former fellow defendants and prison-mates believe that Miss Birtukan was simply telling the truth, being true to her conscience. Others say neither her former arrest nor the current one is legal. Without further delving into the case, I should say the way the pardon was served and administered was unethical and fishy.

The shimaglena process should have included dialogue and reconciliation as the final objective, not simply leaving the matter in the hands of the government. The pardon only opened the door for further dialogue, rapprochement and reconciliation. It was simply a potion of the package of the shimgelena deal. That not being done, it leaves the door open for any misrepresentations such victimizing the victim. Besides, traditional shimagelena should not be construed as political, judicial and administrative mechanism per se. It is a conflict resolution involving many aspects, scenarios and parameters. Whatever the shimagelaes did to secure the so-called “pardon” was indeed commendable. The elders effectively mediated the deal off-records of the court or administrative systems. That the legal system should re-indict, reconvict, re-sentence and re-imprison her is rather disgraceful to the shimaglaes as well as the government. The fact that she asked for forgiveness should not be seen any different from that of the others. I have heard or at least understood some former co-prisoners/defendants saying almost the same thing but they are not sent back to jail. Could the young woman be the weakest link of the gang to fall prey? Why Birtukan only and now as we are fast approaching the election season. To say the least, Birtukan has become almost like the sacrificial Lamb of God (read Isaiah 53, St. John.3: 15-16) for all the culprits of 2005 massacre.

Was the ‘pardon’ meant for the alleged massacre or for her “illegal” political activities? Did she kill any one or give order to kill any one? Was she a government authority, executive, like an army member or police force to act in that capacity? If she had committed such a heinous crime and lied about it, would she return to Ethiopia after her European tour? Is she trying to win the heart of the people by suffering in the hands of her “enemies”? What is the point? Is anyone trying to make her a hero? Does a government have jurisdiction over a crime committed beyond its borders, like in Sweden, be it “deception” or otherwise? How can a government be so potent and play omni-present or omniscient, all-knowing like the Almighty God to pursue an individual’s motive, intent, state and affair, not even in a good sense? If her crime is just lying, should she then not be prosecuted for that alone? Is the government using the incident for its political consumption? Is this abuse of power or service of justice for the greater good?

I also think the pardon document is misleading and so the PM, the Parliament and the President of the country need to revisit the court’s decision in the interest of primarily all concerned parties and the Ethiopian populace. Certainly, the government has a mandate to safeguard and implement the law and maintain peace. But, at times, cut-and-dry implementation of the law may not be helpful, especially when it come to making peace. In essence, for the sake of peace and democratic progress, the incumbent government should release Birtukan and other prisoners of conscience dropping all the untenable charges.

Birtukan should be freed on humanitarian consideration as she has an aging mother and a child to support at this bad economic time. Keeping her in prison serves no other purpose than escalating political upheavals and popularizing her cause. The Prime Minister’s remark that Birtukan might not be released before the end of the election seems to suggest that there is a political motive behind the imprisonment.

Novice and inexperienced Birtukan should also learn that political ‘science’, unlike law or engineering, is unfortunately, a tricky venture. Justice and political or legal dogmas seem to collide at times. That is why the PM or the President had opted for ‘pardon’ as a way forward.

For the sake of peace and in the spirit of God’s forgiveness granted to humanity and in light of this upcoming Holy Season, Christmas, it is my plea that the Ethiopian government authorities re-forgive (70×7 as per Mt.18: 21-22) Birtukan Mideksa. The Ethiopian president or prime minister should be magnanimous and fatherly enough to forgive a young, may be, the first emerging female politician for the greater good of the country. After all she is not a street criminal but a good citizen standing for justice.

Let me conclude my plea by quoting a young athelete, Bryan Steinhauer, 22, recovering from coma after suffering his friends’ beating on his head he said, “ I am not full of hate; hatred kills progress” (CNN News, April 23, 2009). Let us remember the Savior and Martyr Steven’s utterances, “Forgive them, for they know not what they are doing”. Let us be free from the shackles of our generational revenge; for, revenge begets more revenge. The fear of God and love for humanity should govern our moral conscience, not contempt or hatred. As such, I am praying to God and pleading with concerned authorities for Birtukan’s immediate and unconditional release.

God bless us all! May He bless Ethiopia! Nkosi sekelele Afrika!

By Rev. Tegga Lendado, PhD.
African Community Network
Atlanta, GA, USA

(Source : Ethioguardian http://www.ethioguardian.com/news.php?extend.3181)

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