Vancouver Marked Birtukan’s One year in prison – Tekle and Yonatan
Ethiopians in Vancouver paused Saturday, December 26, 2009, to honour Birtukan Mideksa, the leader of the most popular opposition party, the Unity for Democracy and Justice Party (UDJ), on the first anniversary of her illegal arrest and imprisonment. Ms Mideksa was snatched off the streets by government security forces and taken to the notorious Khaliti prison, at the outskirts of the capital Addis Ababa, on December 29, 2008.
Ethiopians of all ages participated in this town hall style meeting held from 4:00 PM until 7:00 PM. Mr. Zewge Fanta, the first professional Ethiopian Cartographer, who was the keynote speaker drove in all the way from Seattle, delivered a passionate speech about Ms. Mideksa’s courage and perseverance. According to Mr. Fanta, Mr. Meles Zenawi’s plan to intimidate and terrorize the Ethiopian population by imprisoning Birtukan Mideksa has backfired. Instead, Mr. Zewge said, in the public’s eye, Ms Mideksa has come to symbolize the injustices and abuses the Ethiopian people are passing through under the current dictatorship in Ethiopia. Mr. Zewge said every minute Ms Mideksa spends in prison adds countless more to the fight for her freedom and justice for all Ethiopians.
Regarding the recent ceding of land to the Sudan by the government and the contradictory remarks made by Meles Zenawi, Mr. Fanta labeled the action as un-Ethiopian and a historical mistake. Mr. Finta also detailed the map he himself has produced through a detailed survey of the ceded land during his months long visit to Teseney, Humara in Gondar, Omedla, and other parts of western Ethiopia. It is to be recalled that Mr. Fanta received numerous national awards during the reign of King Hailesellassie for many of his works. Mr. Zewge is also known for producing the first color-coded maps of the capital, Addis Ababa and Ethiopia.
Finally, Mr. Fanta presented an alternative governance model for Ethiopia; one that is not based on the discredited, divisive, and harmful policy of ethnic based federalism. He suggested a model based on economical land use and the shared history of the Ethiopian peoples.
The event also featured a discussion panel on the current situation of Birtukan Mideksa and the volatile Ethiopian-Sudanese border. As part of the fundraising conducted during the event, various items were provided for sale by Mr. Kebede Hailemariam, a well-known and respected patriot in the community. All proceeds will be forwarded to the family of Ms Birtukan Mideksa. Several Ethiopians, who left their country for fear of political persecution, narrated the human rights abuses they passed through under the TPLF regime. Alemtsehay Damte, who came to Canada recently for political reasons, expressed her anger against the government.
The event in Vancouver is part of the world wide prisoners of conscience month organized by the Free Birtukan Task Force.
Tekle and Yonatan