Birtukan is released: Ethiopians are Glad and at the same time Sad – by Ture Hirbe
Millions of Ethiopians at home and abroad are relieved and glad because Birtukan Midaksa, a popular opposition leader, has been released from the notorious Kalit prison (in her words, Horrible Place) after serving almost two years in solitary confinement. (more…)
Millions of Ethiopians at home and abroad are relieved and glad because Birtukan Midaksa, a popular opposition leader, has been released from the notorious Kalit prison (in her words, Horrible Place) after serving almost two years in solitary confinement. This is the second time she has been arbitrarily sent to prison. She has never committed any crime. This time her crime was telling the truth. In anyways, we are glad that she is freed and home with her aging mother and her lovely daughter.
On the other hand, Ethiopians are sad because the fate of 85 million Ethiopians is in the hands of one man. A single evil man has an immense power to decide on the destiny of the entire country and of its people. There are all indications that Meles has gradually transformed himself into an undisputed despot. A despot is a barbaric, cruel and arbitrary ruler who treats his subjects as little more than slaves. A despot retains discretion in his decisions, a resource which he uses to keep his opponents off guard. That is why and how he jailed Birtukan and other tens of thousands of Ethiopians; and he pardoned Birtukan in the way that it satisfies his ego. He had to humiliate her and show to all Ethiopians, his subjects, that he is the boss, and only his words and deeds matter in Ethiopia. He has all power at his disposal to force Birtukan to apologize to him and to Ethiopian people for the sin and crime she has never committed. Under a despot there is no rule of a law. A despot easily manipulates the existing laws and creates new laws to punish his opponents. That is what Ethiopians at home are witnessing under Meles. It is really sad to live under such condition for nearly twenty years, and maybe continue to live for more many years to come.
Now it is clear for most Ethiopians that Meles is a despot, but the fact is that he is not doing this alone. The TPLF/EPRDF is providing the basis for Meles’s authoritarian rule. He has surrounded himself with bogeymen, bodyguards and many yes men. There are also few others who promote and protect his image both at home and abroad. At home the so called elders (Shimageles) are protecting and promoting his image. These same elders didn’t utter a word when Birtukan was jailed for telling the truth that they were aware of. They didn’t have stamina or courage to stand for truth. But when their master needed them to help him save his face, they were there for him working on the conditions of Birtukan’s release. They were go betweens putting pressure on her so that she could sign a humiliating “pardon letter” to satisfy an ego of the despot. And in foreign countries he has hired capable lobbyists like DLA Piper paying hundreds of thousands of dollars. Certainly, the money comes from foreign aid money that is snatched from poor hungry Ethiopian people. For now these lobbying firms are doing good job in promoting his image and when things go wrong controlling damages well. We can also mention his powerful mentors in Western capitals. For now Meles finds himself in a comfort zone.
For how long he remains in comfort zone depends only on Ethiopians. If Ethiopians choose to tolerate him and accept the status-quo, he will continue to dominate Ethiopian politics for many years to come, but if Ethiopians decide that it is time he goes, no foreign friend, lobbyist, or shimagles will save him. Now is the time that the opposition forces at home put aside their petty differences and unite behind Birtukan and challenge the despot seriously. Ethiopians in Diaspora have to coordinate their efforts and support her if she decides to lead the opposition at home. It is a hope of everybody that she won’t be intimidated, scared or demoralized by what has happened to her in last two years, or limited by the terms of conditions of her release.
Ture Hirbe, Ph.D.
The writer of this article can be reached by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.