SOS: dissent and terrorism in Ethiopia By Eskinder Nega

July 1st, 2011 Print Print Email Email

Entrapment is often a controversial but yet an established component of law enforcement even in democracies. But true to form the controversy is wholly absent in authoritarian countries. Entrapment is embraced with spiteful fervor. It is an elemental attribute of tyranny. But more often than not it is the gullibly innocent rather than the unwary criminally predisposed that end up being ensnared. And no better examples are there than in the ranks of Ethiopia’s enduring political prisoners. From this hapless assemblage have come public “confessions” about alleged terrorist conspiracies.

As goes an excited announcement on public media on Thursday, an exposé about a new round of conspiracy, perhaps with a “confession” which links it to Eritrea, will soon be aired to the nation. No specific date has been set.

And four of nine alleged culprits have already been named by the police. Addressing journalists on Wednesday, Demmelash Gebre-Michael, spokesperson of the Federal Police, confirmed that Zerihun Gebre-Egzabher, chairman of the Ethiopian National Democratic Party (ENDP); Dejene Tefera, member of ENDP ; Woubshet Taye, deputy editor of Awramba ; and Reyot Alemu, columnist of Fethe, were amongst those arrested.

The charge: terrorism.

ENDP is one of Ethiopia’s multitudes of tiny political parties. It has legal standing, and has vied to win seats in local and national elections. But its diminished name recognition has meant that its relevance has been more on the fringes than in the mainstream. This is its first brush with fame. And in the event of Zerihun’s eventual conviction, it could very well secure a place in history as the first political party to be banned by the judiciary.

Unlike the 2005 treason trials, however, when newspapers were notoriously charged, convicted and proscribed as distinct legal entities, the government’s wrath is more circumspect this time, entangling only journalists, Webeshet and Reyot, rather than the entire newspapers they work for.

But be not deluded into thinking that this is an improvement in any sense of the word. The grand design has not been altered. The commitment to a one party state is as unyielding as ever. Only the threat has changed. While it was on the verge of overwhelming the EPRDF in 2005 it is only latent in 2011. There is no need for widespread clampdown yet; simply cultivating a climate of fear may suffice to deter it from growing in to an existential threat.

And in well-publicized applications of the dreaded anti-terrorism law lies the perfect means to stretch fear to its furthest limit. Already, rumors of pending arrests of journalists and members of the opposition are rife on the grapevine. The danger seems so obvious that some are being counseled by family and friends to leave the country. Many more live with the anxiety of an uncertain future. Raw fear is in the air. And journalists have been affected the most.

The popular understanding of terrorism in much of the world is that of any act which deliberately victimizes members of the public. But most legal definitions also incorporate politically motivated damages to private and public properties within the same realm. The UN defines it informally as, “(all) criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public.” American law identifies it as, “(any) premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets.”

But in a somewhat fanciful, but plainly futile, attempt to blackmail and stigmatize its opponents, the EPRDF has failed to acknowledge the crucial distinction between violence against civilians and armed insurrection. This calculated shortcoming has unavoidably politicized the issue of terrorism both in the eyes of the public and the regime’s stalwart international partners. And thus the refusal of the Americans, despite strong protestations by the EPRDF, to classify armed Ethiopian groups as terrorists. Virtually no one believes that the EPRDF’s armed opponents pose a terrorist challenge to the nation. The sooner the EPRDF recognizes this, the better for the nation.

As to our colleagues in prison, Webeshet and Reyot, we testify to their commitment to non-violence. No independent journalist has given the charges the benefit of the doubt. And we reaffirm our commitment to peacefully serve the causes of truth, justice and democracy with our writings. We will not be intimidated.

Democracy is humanity’s common destiny. There is no avoiding it whether you are an Eskimo or a Zulu; a Christian or a Muslim; white or black; developed or developing. It is truly universal. And after a long journey, Ethiopia’s encounter with destiny is right around the corner. We are almost there.

We shall be free!


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  1. Meles
    | #1

    The evidence of the anti-development, anti-peace journalists can be found here

    After their arrest the terrorism stooped, so please let justice take its course as the evidence will come out soon with photos, videos, audio and written documents.

    If you are living in the comfort of Europe and America, try destroying public infrastructure and see what will happen to you.

  2. alem
    | #2

    You have eloquently described it, and may god bless you and your family as I have the greatest respect and admiration for your extraordinary duty and ultimate sacrifice which is giving me a great hope as Ethiopia has many more heroes and it won’t be long that we will be removing the current tplf regime with the help of brave and hero people like you as well as with the efforts & contributions of every one of us for the struggle as well as the almighty god. And yet it’s only a matter of time as we will be getting rid of tplf irrespective of the crimes that they are committing against humanity to silence as, yes the more crimes that they committed to silence Ethiopians, the stronger Ethiopians will be which they will see it very very soon.

    Once again, may god bless you and keep up the great job!

  3. Tigraway
    | #3

    Meles, you are Banda like your boss. Evidence is fabricated day and night. You are trying to convince some, but this government is naked for over 10 years. When TPLF got its foot to Arat kilo people gave benefit of a doubt, but this organization (especially its leadership) is anti-Ethiopia in general and anti-Tigray in particular. What our fore-fathers build the bondage of our people is destroyed by this mafia group. Bravo Eskinder and others who are at the forefront and who conquered fear.
    Soon or later EPRDF/TPLF will go. Stand by your people, not with a mafia group.

  4. lilizuma
    | #4

    The monster is sluggishly crawling to get mixed in with a solid waste it left when snack into Ethiopia.It did, in fact, swallow our children alive and caused distruction;on its course to its death,EPRDF has been inflicted with wounds it was not aware of for the last twenty years.

    Currently,the terrorist boss,Zinawi is bussy in jailing journalists and politicians on false charge of terrorism when the fact is quite egulfed in ongoing fear that sooner or later he will be captured and face the fate that has been awaied him for too long.However,the reality is that Ethiopians are sick at heart and tired of the crime boss wasting the resources of the country and the lives of Ehtiopians.

    Zinawi has been playing dirty games;dirty and cheap ones;nevertheless,this one,accusing of Ethiopians as terrorists will cost him dearly because it is too expensive.The crime boss is playing with fire.

    If there is one lesson this monster must understand is that impulsive action has geat consequences and the result will be harsh punishment tantamount to the crimes Zinawi committed on Ethiopians.I think Zinawi and Sadam Husen will be good friends in hell.

    For now,Zinawi has fixed his gaze on jailing Ethiopians,but he will be pulled down to his inevitable fate.All sources indicate that Zinawi is on the brink of breakdown slely because he sensed that Ethiiopians are ready to act on him.

    Ethiopians,redouble your effort to end the era of terror that Zinawi launched on Ethiopians since he entered Ethiopia.

  5. Mo’a Anbesa
    | #5

    Tinsae my ass. Destroying whatever little infrastructure we have and you call yourselves friends of the people. And you again complain nothing is being done to better the country. Man I’m really tired of your idiotic propaganda. Why can’t you do something constructive for a change. Use that manpower you wasted on destroying public property to do something beneficial to all. You’re so obsessed of opposition, you can’t see beyond the tiny confinements of your narrow thinking brain.

  6. Kiflu Hussain
    | #6


  7. Meles
    | #7

    As usual the EPRDF will leave no stone unturned in order to protect the people from the alleged saboteurs and terrorists. And it doesn’t matter in what kind of disguise they do it, journalism and political party in this matter.

    When the evidence comes out soon, all this outcry by the so called protectors of the right of our people will find out that they might have been supporting criminals. But I am not hopeful that they will learn from their mistake as their aim is different to protecting rights. If it were they will not stand next to alleged saboteurs and terrorists, until proven otherwise.

    will be turned into a foolish

  8. Samuel
    | #8

    To the editors,

    I see very often that posted messages are screened to disable Shabia and Woyane agents from ineterfering in the informative discussion among Ethiopians. I see these days that Woyane agents have invaded media outlets and we cannot hold substantive discussion. Their mission is clear.

    They present lies after lies about the economic devlopment, respect for human rights, respect for ethnic diversity in the federal structure, respect for justice, respect for equitable resource acqusition…etc. We all know that these are government propagandas. We also know that they are false.

    What then is the purpose of screening if we are subjected to the same lies as on Walta, Aigaforum, Ethiopia First, Tigrai Online—etc?

  9. Hailemicheal
    | #9

    Let’s focus on action.discuss& think how we can dismantel these gamblers.if we mean what we say we have no choice but to confront them by any means possible,including force.the question is TO BE OR NOT TO BE.let’s support &join the UDJ.Ther is no daubt we never,ever see a regime worst like this .so stop going arround the bush & not complicate matters.let’s not try to create new ideas in economics or politics&west our time.we have so many study papers&books written by local&international scholars for a number of’s only ACTION&ACTION&ACTION.

  10. aba yirga
    | #10

    when all is over..when thedust settled…when effort is audited,,when mr and mrs and their croonies arejailed in themakelawitor robit….then plz don’t bringthe shimageles to negotiate…trust me it will be soon…

  11. aha!
    | #11

    It should be clear in the minds of the teletafi parties and loyalist opposition parties members and supporters that Ethiopia and the silent majority are in a dichotomy, especially in the last six years between the negative forces of disintegration, that of TPLF/eprdf regime and its mirror images and positive forces of integration for unity territorial integrity, sovereignity of Ethiopia and Ethiopians. These are diametrically opposed factions, where the latter tries to restore Ethiopian Nationalism, Ethiopian National Interests and place individual freedom ahead of ethnic rights to create a democratic government to be ruled by the consent of the governed free of ethnic and secessionist politics and or policies.

    Since the TPLF/eprdf regime with direct support from the teletafi parties and implicit support from the the loyalist opposition parties for its constituional frame work on wchich the the regime operates with its utilities and tools, any dissent acceptable in a western democracies is cosidered as a treason in the past and now terrorism with legally functioning party members, expressing their views on public media.

    This calls first and formost for the positive forces to cordinate their non-violent struggle with adpted strategies, through one of the strongest faction and calls for the merging not alliance of those factions with ethnic agenda/plarform with those with national agenda for unity, territorial integrity, soveregnity of Ethiopia and ethiopians under liberal democracy as antidote to TPLF/eprdf regime to restore Ethiopian Nationalism, Ethiopian National Intersts and freedom and liberty of the individuals from autocratic, ethnocratic/ethnic dictatorship, and totalitarianism to create free enterprise/capitalism and liberal and/or social democracy; which otherwise do not take a foot hold upon the current frame of the constitution.

    | #12

    አንተም ብሎ Mo’a Anbesa….rather you are Mo’a the Abesa (ሞአ ዘ አበሳ);; In order to gain there should be pain. You stupid hodam we hope you will perish but not ETHIOPIA and ETHIOPIANS.

  13. Assrade
    | #13

    If Abugida, nazret and the so called the diaspora opposition etc. Were truly Democratic they should have been entertaining all sort of comments, views, ideas and so forth but however and instead they delete and chastise Ethiopians under the ascertain of being Shabya or Woyane, I call them the sorriest people in this 21st century wrapped up under the Democratic banner and blanket, by definition they are ANARCHIST, NOTHING MORE. OR LESS.

  14. ዳዊት
    | #14

    ይገርማል እኮ

  15. Oda Tulu
    | #15

    @Assrade: You must and ass to diveert attention from the evil deeds of tyrant Meles who has committed heinous crimes including genocide, dismemberment of Ethiopia and selling all vital national interests. You and your likes have lost all moral and legal authority to speak for Ethiopa.

  16. Oda Tulu
    | #16

    CORRECTION:@Assrade: You must be an ass to divert attention from the evil deeds of tyrant Meles who has committed heinous crimes including genocide, dismemberment of Ethiopia and selling all vital national interests. You and your likes have lost all moral and legal authority to speak for Ethiopa.

  17. qualebicha
    | #17

    The enemy,it is what it is.It is also composed of elements who have become minority rulers.Over the last two decades,the enemy wasted resources of the country worth in billions of dollars,murdered too many citizens,and stole billions of dollars.Rose to international criminals from local bandits lumped together with that large homogenious group defined by what they did and do as robbers,today,these robbers owned,controlled,and run everything and anything that is available above and below the lands,in Ethiopia.

    Zinawi is a fugitive.As chief-in-crimes, has committed a lot of weird and wicked crimes on a large scale and at all levels.Some day Ethiopians will nail down Zinawi so hard his heart will jump out of his mouth.

  18. haile
    | #18

    lemma must be writing from the federal police….ha ha ha ha ha ha

  19. Selamu
    | #19

    Lemma, Defar Weyane, When did you buy your degree? Another brilliant product of Civil Service College. Well, you questioned Naga’s “engish” command. You have not shown the “essense” of your ‘engish’ ‘abelity”.

  20. Selamu
    | #20

    Hey, Leme. Slow down. You just throw all the words you have ever known. This time with good spelling but no substance. Learn more before “you ever met such English”. What in the hell did you say? Admit it , you have found Nega’s writng hard to understand. Buddy, pratice reading Ethipian Herald.

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