The Way Forward – 7 Recommendations – By Girma Kassa – Girma Kassa (email@example.com)
Note- The article below is a personal article that may not reflect the views of any organization
Two weeks ago cudp leaders, popular human right activists, and reporters were released from the notorious Kaliti prison. Why did the regime release them? Why now? What were the terms and conditions of their release? What was the role of the elders? Were the elders playing a true mediation role or were they purely emissaries of the regime? What was the role of the US Ambassador in Addis Ababa? What positive role did TPLF rank and file members played internally? Who is to get the credit for this critical but not complete victory? For now, I will prefer to defer these and similar questions to a later time or to other individuals. Instead I will focus mainly on the most important question that many Ethiopians are asking. What next?
The release of some prisoners was a first step in the right direction. However, it is not the end by itself. One must not forget that former prisoners of conscious landed in Kaliti prison, in the first place, for a reason and a noble cause, to build an Ethiopia that is prosperous, democratic and united where its citizens are not living in fear and tyranny anymore. They went to jail so that the blood of Shibere Desalegn and hundreds of innocent civilians was not shed in vain. We consecrate their sacrifices when we do not rest until we make sure good governance is established in Ethiopia, so that never will massacres of innocent civilians be repeated.
It is in this context and hoping that the reconciliation atmosphere that is being built in Ethiopia would not be poisoned that I would like to flash some warning signs and report troubling trends I have observed from Addis Ababa.
There are still thousands of political prisoners (from Kinijit, Oromo National Congress, OLF, ONLF, civic groups …) who are still languishing in prison all over the country. Anti poverty campaign Advocates Daniel Bekele and Netsanet Demissie are still incarcerated for crimes they have not committed.
Contrary to what they agreed, the EPRDF officials are trying to deny the released prisoners the right to continue their political activity under the name “KINIJIT”. They are using the National Election Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) as a tool to systematically stifle CUD leaders their constitutional right of self-association. (The NEBE is an institution that is 100% controlled by the regime).
The government controlled public media (ETV, Radio Fauna …) failed to report to the public the recently released statements of CUD when the VOA, DW and other international media outlets were widely reporting them. Interviews of the Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, Ato Bereket Simeon, Ato Lidetu Ayalew were regularly listened on Ethiopian Television when Eng Hailu Shawel, Judge Birtukan Mideksa, Ato Siye Abraham or any released prisoner were denied the opportunity to make their case heard to the public. This show the determination of the ruling party to directly or indirectly block CUDP leaders and its serious challengers like Ato Siye from having access to the public. (So much for democratic culture)
EPRDF sympathizing websites, surely being directed from and coached by the ministry of Information, have started their campaign of intimidation and deception against CUD leaders. Aiga forum the equivalent of walta information in the Diaspora wrote:
“Not only is this lady (i.e. Judge Birtukan Mideksa) not returning in kind on professor Ephraim good will, she may also be violating her clemency oath not to undermine the constitution again. As a lawyer should know better but I thought I remind her anyways”
To accuse CUD officials for an unfortunate comment given by an anonymous person in forums that are open to the public, is what I call a consorted fault finding fishing expedition, intended to undo the relative political victory Ethiopians have gotten. It shows the hidden intention of the regime not to let CUD leaders exercise their democratic right to freely address Ethiopians.
As many have repeatedly called for ,Prime Minister Meles and his friends must come to terms with the truth and the reality. They need to listen to the advice of their former comrade, Ato Siye Abraham, who emphatically said that there will be no peace where there the law is not ruling. They need to open up their heart and mind for a genuine reconciliation.
The solution for our country is only dialog. As long as there is honesty and understanding from all sides, it is very easy to tackle any problems together. As Dr Yacob Hailemariam, a high ranking CUD official once wrote from Kaliti prison, the difference between EPRDF and CUDP is minor as long as there is a positive attitude (Kenenet) from all sides.
It is therefore with good intention and respect for all parties that I respectfully lay down seven recommendations that could help us move forward.
1. I call for the ruling party to unconditionally release the remaining political prisoners that are still languishing in various jails all over the country. As was the wish of Prof Ephraim Isaac, let the prisons gates be broken down. Let Ethiopia be a country with “zero” political prisoners. Let the hundreds of prison be converted to schools and clinics.
2. I respectfully call for Prime Minister Meles Zenawi to resign. As his friend Tony Blair did, it is time for him to step aside. Maybe a “Frederick De Clerk” may come to the scene replacing “Peter Botta”.
Individuals like the former popular mayor of Addis Ababa, Ato Arkebe Ekoubay or the former military strategist and the then chief of staff, General Tsadkan Gebre Egziabeher may constitutionally replace Ato Meles and take the premiership on a provisional basis, until the next free election. (The free election does not have to wait until 2010. Per the constitution early election may be called at anytime)
3. I call for the CUD leadership to assume the administration of Addis Ababa and join the current Ethiopian parliament.
4. I call for the formation of a truly independent commission that studies and recommends ways to improve and establish democratic institutions within 6 months. Then per the recommendations of the commission, the media, the national board of election, the judiciary, the Police, the armed forces … must all be free from a one party control.
5. I call for the various armed groups (OLF, ONLF …) to renounce violence and join the peaceful political process. Violence and the resort to armed struggle will never bring solution to our country. The culture of solving differences with a barrel of the gun must be put to an end once and for all.
6. I call for the ruling party to allow exiled political parties like the EPRP (Ethiopian People Revolutionary Party, Meison/AESP (All Ethiopian Socialist Party) . legally function within Ethiopia. The exiled parties in return must moderate their views, assign a delegation that immediately start dialog with the EPRDF.
7. I call for a speedy peaceful resolution with Eritrea and the withdrawal of Ethiopian forces from Somalia. Another war with Eritrea must not be repeated.
Let us all use this opportunity, avoid unnecessary rhetoric against one another and work hard to change the miserable destiny of our country once and for all, together. It is time we put an end to our long standing mistrusts and hate to one another and focus our energy to combat our common enemies: poverty, disease and illiteracy. It is time to believe in ourselves and get rid from our within the spirit of despair, pessimism and defeatism.
Dear fellow Ethiopians, we can do it. We have all the natural and human resources we need. We have the Almighty God who is ready to help us should we embrace one another with love and forgiveness. I believe, if we all humble ourselves we can do great miracles !!!!
May the Almighty Lord open our heart for his Love and our mind for his wisdom!
With Prayer and With High Optimism,