Political Mugging and Justice in Ethiopia – By Fekade Shewakena

July 24th, 2007 Print Print Email Email

Ethiopia has become a country of perplexing paradox and Meles Zenawi is exasperating it. (more…)

Ethiopia has become a country of perplexing paradox and Meles Zenawi is exasperating it. We are poor in the middle of plenty, full of rain and rivers but desert dry, the growth statistics and the number of the unemployed and hungry shooting up concurrently, blessed with the beauty of ethnic and cultural diversity but sick of people who try to make it ugly and now, a land where criminals sit as judges and killers pardon the innocent. It is breathtaking.

Living the so called pardon shenanigans aside, the release of the CUD leaders is huge relief for all who love democracy and justice and particularly for all Ethiopians who have been watching their country go completely off track and into the abyss. We know there are many people whose pictures we have not seen and names we don’t know, that are still suffering in prisons in many parts of the country for the only crime of supporting the CUD. According to reports we hear they are in the thousands. Whether Mr. Meles Zenawi acts to expeditiously release them would show that he is convinced that the current track he is on is not sustainable. His actions and the way he tries to spin everything in his favor trying to look like good, including the so called pardon request by the prisoners, do not point to neither his sincerity nor his grasp of reality. Meles seems to be living in a bubble created by his delusions. What he tries to do now to the leaders of CUD is what my American friends call mugging – an aggravated assault employed by dark alley robbers. His attempt to parade the so called pardon letter to the public as a way to cover his crimes is totally counter productive and will only add to his long lost credibility. Meles now has another good opportunity that a rarely generous history keeps providing him from time to time. Whether we are embarking on a hopeful future depends to a large extent on his decisions. Except people with delusions, all of us, including the Kolo vendor kids on the streets of Addis Ababa know who shade the blood of hundreds and hundreds of innocent people.

As the Washington Post editorial of last Saturday put it, the release of the prisoners “is good news but they never should have been there in the first place”. They have done nothing other than using their rights within the constitution to protest an election widely reported by observers as fraudulent and day light robbery. We have seen the charges crumble in court even without the defense of the accused. The open truth that everybody saw is that Meles has committed massacre as testified by the Investigative Commission that he himself, not the CUD, has set up. Mr. Prime Minister has blood on his hands and to point his blood stained finger to others with the intent that it can cover his crimes is sheer foolish, unproductive and does not help move the country forward. Admitting his mistakes and trying to redress the suffering of people who lost loved ones when he ordered the killing of protesters and raid the homes of innocent people would go a long way to saw the seeds of sanity and conflict resolution in Ethiopia. If Meles works towards redressing these crimes against our people he will have the support of all of us. If he keeps trying to tell us to blame the CUD for his own crimes, he is simply spitting on our faces. No self respecting people would accept this level of dehumanization for long. Meles and his supporters should be bothered by this insane direction and should understand their blind support cannot help anybody’s cause, including theirs.

The fact of the matter is that there is no rule of law in Ethiopia. There is virtually no sensible Ethiopian that sincerely believes that the death penalty and the life imprisonment decisions of the dolls sitting in that court were made by judges. Many, in fact, see it as Meles’s Freudian slip. Deep in what psychologists call the super-ego, where the subconscious part of our thinking resides, he wants to kill them. But then again he also thought of even more sadistic way of killing them and changed the sentence to life in prison so that they will die a long tortuous death. This should have been laughable if we were not talking about human lives. Meles my have found some self gratification by entertaining these sadisms and attempting to humiliate the prisoners in much the same way like street-side bullies do. If he thinks this decreases an iota from the respect we have for the leaders of CUD, he is totally mistaken. On the contrary this is a clear exhibition of the smallness syndrome that Ato Meles Zenawi cannot get rid of for many years now. It is something that made him unable to transform himself from a gorilla leader to a statesman. Psychologists tell us that such individuals who try to humiliate and attack their captives are those who are not sure of themselves and think of their relative size (not necessarily physical) against their adversaries as very small. It is the characteristics of individuals who live in constant fear of others and a chewing inferiority complex. No normal human being tries to bully people under their captivity. If a mugger asks you to choose between your wallet and your life after having trained his knife on your neck, the choice to make is clear and natural. For the opposition it is clear. Meles can take the wallet. But like all muggers he should at least stop to sell his exploits in an open market as he is trying to do now. It is cowardly and will not take anything from the dignity of the CUD leaders. A few Ethiopians that I was able to talk to back home unanimously told me the same thing over and over about the so called pardon letter the prisoners are alleged to have signed. They all said, for all they care Meles can make them sign statements declaring that they were throwing bombs and were driving tanks and shooting mortars on the palace. The problem he doesn’t seem to understand is finding a single human being who would believe him.

Neither are Mr. Meles Zenawi’s temper tantrums and calling the representatives of donor counties “shameful” any helpful. The donors have been between a rock and hard place on the prisoner issue. The Ethiopian people do not believe they have done enough to bring sanity and in fact stood accomplices to Meles for a long time now. I don’t think their small attempts to bring sanity should elicit such a harsh label from Meles. This is having the meaning of shamefulness upside down. Accusing US congressmen of trying to run his government like a banana republic from Capitol Hill is also rude and crude polemics as well as embarrassing and pretentious. This is not what the good congressmen were trying to do. Many of them want to help Ethiopia and many among them like Congressman Donald Payne were for some time eluded into thinking that the Prime Minister was one best hope for Africa. They discovered how wrong they were after many years. But this should even be more shameful and embarrassing for Meles himself who has hired lobbyists that roam the halls of congress soliciting congressional support for him against his political adversaries. Many of us here in the US have witnessed last month where discussion on an Ethiopian human rights bill was delayed because the lobbyists were hard at work and threatened that the Prime Minister would take the prisoners hostage if the bill showed up for mark-up. These are the kind of things where the word “shameful” should appropriately be used.

Many of us, Ethiopians both in Diaspora and in Ethiopia want to help build a better country. We understand we cannot make it a paradise overnight. But we want to make sure we are on the right track. Our country is in deep and growing trouble. Our problems cannot be solved by doing drips and drabs here and there. Ato Meles Zenawi has created a system that is rotting to the core. He wants us to focus on the transient glitters of aid induced infrastructural development and economic performance ignoring the problems of governance, and the rule of law. There is a proliferation of ethnic and political conflicts growing in our midst. Some of these problems can threaten our survival as a unified nation. Ignoring to work on solving these problems now is simply waiting for the bubble to explode on our faces. What is being reported in the Ogaden, starving a whole population and rampaging through their villages in a collective punishment is not the kind of country we should be. The ONLF are where the TPLF has once been. It is a twist of irony that Mr. Meles Zenawi accuses them of what the dergue was accusing him of. They should be presented with a political resolution of the grievances they have. The Oromos who suffer because of their association with the OLF is disquieting to say the least. The OLF can play a very critical centralizing role in both Ethiopia and the region if we find a negotiated resolution of the problem. There is no sustainable peace in Ethiopia if we keep marginalizing these dissident organizations and by labeling them terrorists.

The involvement in Somalia is insanity. We now have a Baghdad on our hands. It is obvious Meles went into this mess to tap into the anti-terrorism industry and milk the West for political and military and other aid. Meles is trying to do this by artificially manufacturing terrorists. The poorest country on the planet cannot afford to do that which is difficult for the richest. Every one of the Ethiopian soldiers has to get out of Somalia tonight. It is sad that this is being done in Ethiopia’s name. Ethiopia has no business in propping up ethnic warlords whose people despise like the trash.

The leaders of Kinijit have once more demonstrated that they are far sighted and stood to their promises. Peaceful citizens who want to struggle peacefully to change the country for the better. Whatever suffering and humiliation they received, we believe they received on behalf of millions of their supporters. They should be proud of that. Meles should start match them, beginning by stopping being a street side bully. No one will take away their heroic resistance to make sense in a country swarmed by senseless brutality and cruelty.

The only way forward is to come up with a plan where everybody wins


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