The Sheraton and Imperial Events Comparison: Making a strong Case for Birtukan Mideksa Immediate Release ! – By Girma Kassa

November 4th, 2009 Print Print Email Email

There were two political events held in Addis Ababa last week. Both happened on Friday October 30th. (more…)

There were two political events held in Addis Ababa last week. Both happened on Friday October 30th. Both were held in big hotels. Both were attended by foreign diplomats and reporters. The similarities of these two events end here.

The first event was held at the Addis Ababa Sheraton Hotel. The leader of the ruling party EPRDF Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, the chairman of the All Ethiopia Unity Party Hailu Shawel, the leader of Ethiopian Democratic Party Lidetu Ayalew and a certain Ayele Chamisso were the main speakers.

In the second event at the Imperial Hotel, the feature speakers were more than 20 ordinary citizens, who came from all over the country. An old man from Western Gojam, a young lady from Debretabor Gonder, a farmer from Southern Omo, a woman from Dilla southern region and gentlemen from Mettu Illibabour, Kombolcha Wello, and Eastern Wellega were few among those who shared their stories at the Imperial Hotel.

At Sheraton there were laughter, applauses, handshakes and celebrations. People there, were celebrating the signing of the 2002 Election code of conduct. The message that was being relayed from the podium at Sheraton was that multi party democracy in Ethiopia has made a big progress and that we are in an era of a new beginning. “Gone are the days of mutual destruction, attrition and hate. With the signing of the historic Election Code of Conduct has ensured a bright chapter of the orderly and peaceful political contestation to ascend the ladder of political power through to the pinnacle in our country.” [1]wrote a certain Tsehaye Debalkew from Washington DC commenting on the Sheraton event.

At the Imperial Hotel it was a different story. Shameful and egregious act of atrocities allegedly committed by local EPRDF security officers, on opposition supporters all over the country, were exposed by live witnesses.

Belay Kassa, an old man from Eastern Gojam was taken to a nearby forest and beaten up to near death.. Daniel Wolde-Gabriel, a UDJ activist from Illibabur, testified that his wife and kids were harassed and taken to prison multiple times. According to Ato Daniel Wolde-Gabriel EPRDF security officers even took his 12 years old boy to prison and threatened the boy that he would be killed. A young lady from Debre Tabor, Gonder was beaten up and raped. Genet Gemechu, another UDJ activist from Dilla southern region, was jailed for a month and suspended from her 25 years old government job, solely because she rented her house for the UDJ. A farmer, Mohamed Daoud from Southern Omo was taken to prison by 10 EPRDF armed men and beaten up. Alemu Abayneh, Worku Mulualem from Kombolcha Wello, Getaye Wedajeneh from Wellega and many more shared their sorrowful stories and illustrated the atrocities unleashed on them by EPRDF security officers and local government officials. What are their crimes? …. being members and supporters of a legally registered and recognized political party, the UDJ.

All these are on top of the illegal, unconstitutional and barbaric incarceration of the very popular and loved first woman political prisoner, the Ethiopian “Nelson Mandella”, Birtukan Mideksa . In spite of the constant and sustained call for her release the EPRDF has so far refused to listen. Even calls from its own supporters are being disregarded and ignored by decision makers and hardliners within the ruling party. As reported by Reuters “I don’t agree with jailing Birtukan. She’s a strong opponent, but Meles is good for Ethiopia and I wanted us to debate openly and show the people our economic achievements.” [2]said a senior EPRDF member, who did not want to be named.

Bereket Simeon, the EPRDF head of information, recently told Reuters that nobody has been imprisoned or killed for political activity in Ethiopia. However the testimony of more than 20 citizens who came from all over the country at the Imperial hotel and the incarceration of Birtukan Mideksa indicate otherwise. I would question if there is a second Ethiopia Ato Mereket Simeon is living in.

When the event at Imperial event reflects the Ethiopia of today, the event of Sheraton may be reflecting the Ethiopia that doesn’t exist yet and we all would like to see. We were told by EPRDF officials that there will be free, fair and democratic election. We were told that the signed Code of Conduct is a history accomplishment.

However, how can we be assured that the Code of Conduct is different than the Constitution itself, a document that is being regularly violated by cadres of the rulin party? Would the spirit of mutual trust and respect to one another displayed at the Sheraton event be sustained? Will it be inclusive? Will the parties involved be serious in implementing it? Will the Code of Conduct create a plain field for all opposition parties? Will Birtukan Mideksa and all political prisoners be freed? Will local sadistic EPRDF cadres that are terrorizing our people all over the region be held accountable and prosecuted? Will opposition parties be allowed to hold public rallies at Meskel square and other public places? Will the public media currently working only for the ruling party be balanced to reflect views of all oppositions? ….

All these are questions that need to be answered quickly. If real issues and real questions of the people are addressed by co-signers of the Sheraton agreement, I believe the outcome of the Sheraton events will ultimately be hailed by many. It would become indeed a historic event.

However at this moment the Sheraton agreement is only a paper. We will not give weight to it at all, and does not want to fool ourselves by bragging about its benefit. As long as Birtukan Mideksa is in Kaliti prison and harassments of opposition supporters, as witnessed by regular citizens at Imperial Hotel, are continuing, this document would be considered as a simple paper, solely used by the EPRDF for garnering cheap political and diplomatic advantages.

Which one will it be? A historic document or just a paper? It is something that we will find out in few weeks.

I for one do not want to prematurely dismiss the Sheraton agreement. I want to give the Sheraton gentlemen the benefit of the doubt. I would like to see if Birtukan Mideksa is released. I would like to see if they work hard and make their two months long product an acceptable product by as many people as possible.

I therefore call for EPRDF officials to listen to many of their supporters and do the right thing for the sake of Ethiopia and their own party.

Though arriving to common understanding with AEUP chairman Ato Hailu Shawel may be significant for the EPRDF, that by itself is not enough. Birtukan Mideksa is the “LEADER” of the opposition. She commands the respect and love of tens of millions Ethiopians in all regions of the country and the Diaspora.

With her in prison there can never be a free and fair election and we will loose a big opportunity to come together as one country and one people. Instead of focusing together on bringing out Ethiopia from its poverty and shame, the status quo politics of hate, recrimination, revenge will continue. I am sure no-one would want that. Therefore BIRTUKAN MIDEKSA MUST BE FREED NOW!

[1] http://aigaforum.com/articles/Red_Carpet_Day.htm
[2] http://www.ethiomedia.com/course/4373.html

  1. Meyissaw
    | #1

    Dear Ato Girma Kassa:

    I admire your passion and balanced view. Thank you for your contributions and keep up the good work.

  2. mateos
    | #2

    Meles, his boss Bereket, the rest of the weyane mafia families, and all other weyane stooges had a perfect goldern opportunities to turn the ancient land so called Ethiopia into one of the most exemplery country in Africa after the cold war over; HOWEVER, NOT ONLY DID THEY MISS THE OPPORTUNITIES BUT THEY TURN THE CLOCK IN ETHIOPIA AND FOR ALL ETHIOPIANS BACKWARD OR BACK TO THE FEATURE. NOT ONLY DID THEY CREATE TRUST MISTRUST, HATE, SUSPICION, BLOODY WAR AGAINST SOMALIA AND ERITREA, LOOTING, LYING, SOPHISTICATED SLAVERY, ANARCHY, AIGA JUNGLE LAW, BUT THEY FRACTURED ETHIOPIA AND ETHIOPIANS BEYOND REPAIR. The damages they have done against their own people, brothers, sisters, friends, and others will take generations to be repaired. Unti then expect the big mouth illegal alien Bereket Simon to preach dimocracy, election, rule of law, and so on in a country that do not belong to him; and expect the blood stained hands of the little midget man, Meles, to shake more hands as he is trying to look as a peace maker, a new changed man, when in reality he is a lier, thief, modern slave, and western appeaser. NOT TO WORRY THOUGH! YOU CAN BANK ON THIS IF YOU WAT THAT MELES AND BEREKET WILL BE CAPTURED BY THE REAL ETHIOPIAN PEOPLE AND WILL SERVE TIME TOGETHER IN THE SAME CELL; their days are up because the curse of all the innocent blood they spilled over last 18 years and the innocent little girl that is crying for her mom will consume them for life!

  3. Free Birtukan
    | #3

    You cannnot call it “democracy and rule of law” while maintaining prisoners of conscience like Birtukan and others in jail. It crosses my logic that Hailu Shawel, a former co-prisoner would sign a back-door betrayal deal with his/her political foes. Is he execting a shortcut to power or a dignified position of federal presidency when TPLF/EPRDF comes victorious in May 2010 and PM Meles is re-installed for another term of 5 years? Is that the calculated time that Birtukan and fellow prisoners of conscience are to be released,after all Meles had said he would not let her loose before the election is over? Is that a gimmick? Are the other opposition parties signing their own death warrant now by accepting the so-called “code of conduct”? I think they all should boycott the election until the rulers demonstrate their sincerity by releasing Birtukan and other “conscience leaders” of Ethiopia. Otherwise, the fiasco is an insult to DEMOCRACY and the Western diplomatic who’d never seem to quite understand Ethiopia and Ethiopian of the TPLF nature.

  4. Meles Zenawi
    | #4

    Hi Girma,

    Just give us some time to tidy up a few more things before the election day arrives.Are excited now that things seem to go our way.Happily, Hailu is in the net.Quite a good catch,you see.Was a bit awkward earlier,wasn’t he? Will reward him with something big and fat now.Hope will cut more similar deals with others too.Yes admittedly tough but achievable. Believe me;this journey is long and hard.It ain’t for the faint hearted. Good thing is,we know where we have come from.And we know where we are heading to.Eighteen years?! Hmmm!! What are political gains if one does not convert them into economic ones?? That is our very serious thing, you know.Can’t and shouldn’t’t rest unless we completely do way with the stigma of absolute dispossession imposed on Tigray by the Amharas.EFFORT is only a step.Our effort must continue.At the moment,we are,assisted by our great Anglo-American friends from Ethiopia’s Partners Group,working hard to bring in more people from Medrek also to sign up the code.Very optimistic about results.

    Oh,about Birtukan? No worries,about her, no worries at all.Will release her soon.I mean when she is really ready and of course when we are ready too.You see,Birukan needs to learn a lesson or two;gain some vital experience and grow mature.We need to ensure that she sheds this illusion of taking power from us through elections.Any way,will certainly let her go out of prison shortly before the election time. Perhaps a few days ahead.In the meantime, you may continue with your appeals,protests,vigils and campaigns as you please. All these things are O.K as far as we are concerned. We don’t really mind as long as you do them outside Ethiopia.We perfectly understand your sentiments.Hope you understand ours.
    Yes,thanks Girma for your largely sensible posting.You are one of those few moderate people amongst the extreme Diaspora who paint us reasonable.
    You got it right there,you know,we are truly reasonable.Peaceful too. And legitimate as well,I should add,yes legitimate.Have proven that, through elections,time and time again.So what is the fuss?
    Now,the most crucial thing we seek greater understanding for is this. WHAT WE HAVE WANTED TO DO ALL ALONG AND WHAT WE HAVE BEEN DOING SO FAR IS TO BRING TIGRAY UP,ERASE HER STIGMA.That has been and continues to be our sacred mission.Allow us to do it untethered and undistracted.You know perfectly well that nobody can do that for us.It is only us who can do it for ourselves.We are our own liberators.And what better time than now?!This time was not yesterday and this time won’t be there tomorrow.
    NOW IS OUR TIME.

  5. Kasu
    | #5

    I like your article.It is fine when I see it overall.However,as one of the diaspora,who disappointed by party leaders,I am afraid that those people complaigning in Imperial hotel are lying about mistreatment of the regime.One thing you need to understand is even alleging the regime that torture can put you back in prison.Those people are in Ethiopia and talk about the regime bad. What I see most cases people talk frankly about their ordeal after they left the country,not in Ethiopia.Even this article made suspect you work for the regime,means another Hailom Shawol.

  6. GG
    | #6

    Dear Ato Girma,

    I have followed your writings in recent months and I have no doubt about the sincerity of your commitment to the causes of Ethiopia and their peaceful resolution. However, I have noted some contradictions in your commentary above that I respectfull request you to look into so that they do not mislead readers.

    I will borrow a couple of paragraphs from your commentary to show these contradictions. In expressing your reservations about the so called ‘Code of Conduct’, you have stated the following:

    “However, how can we be assured that the Code of Conduct is different than the Constitution itself, a document that is being regularly violated by cadres of the ruling party? Would the spirit of mutual trust and respect to one another displayed at the Sheraton event be sustained? Will it be inclusive? Will the parties involved be serious in implementing it? Will the Code of Conduct create a plain field for all opposition parties? Will Birtukan Mideksa and all political prisoners be freed? Will local sadistic EPRDF cadres that are terrorizing our people all over the region be held accountable and prosecuted? Will opposition parties be allowed to hold public rallies at Meskel square and other public places? Will the public media currently working only for the ruling party be balanced to reflect views of all oppositions? …. ”

    Your request for ‘assurances’ clearly shows the problem is not lack of a written election code of conduct. In any case, codes governing this issue are either already Constitutionally guaranteed or routinely spelled out in the Election Codes of Conduct issued by the National Election Board prior to any voting exercise. In light of this, to consider the document signed at the Sheraton as a useful exercise let alone a ‘historical’ document is a farce.

    After enumerating all that is wrong with the system and the suffering of opposition members and Ethiopian masses, you conclude,

    “With her in prison there can never be a free and fair election and we will loose a big opportunity to come together as one country and one people.”

    Your above statement refers to Judge Birtukan Mideksa the leader of UDJ. While I am one of those people who find Birtukan’s incarceration intolerable and a serious human right violation; to put her release alone as the yardstick for ‘free and fair election’ is seriously misguided. I am sure Birtukan herself will hate to see her release from prison being used as ‘ransom payment’ in order for the pro-democracy forces to endorse a flawed political process. This is what the short-sighted diplomats in Addis Abeba advocate in order to legitimise the regime’s continued existence. We should not fall for that and send the wrong message! However unfortunate, Birtukan’s imprisonment should be viewed as part and parcel of the struggle to bring democracy, accountability, rule of law and social justice! Our focus should never waiver from this. We should not fall for the regimes traps. If you think about it, this regime will be more than happy to release Birtukan immediately if it will bring it legitimacy and ensures its continued survival. The question we should ask is, who would they imprison and trade for their next scheme? Do we want to encourage this kind of hostage taking? I think we need to stop playing into the regime’s hands. Birtukan should be released immediately because there is no legal basis for her continued incarceration and suffering. Period!

    By the way, please read the so called Election Code of Conduct signed recently. You will realise the 4 parties want to give the Election Board (which is accused of partiality in favour of the ruling party) sweeping powers such as directly removing contestants and parties from the election process. At least, under the existing legislation, the Election Board’s powers were limited to referring such cases to the Courts. Do you consider this a ‘historic document’?

    I hope you will set the record right on these issues.

    Sincerely,

    Girum Geta

  7. tamrat
    | #7

    she is our herio. we will get those people did this to her. your days are numbers. we will get you soon.
    http://www.ethiopianreview.com/content/11132

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