Meles intends to rub Sweden’s nose in the mud Charging its two citizens with terrorism By G. Samson

October 19th, 2011 Print Print Email Email

The Meles Zenawi dictatorial regime is aiming at retaliating against Sweden for its longstanding criticisms of its human rights records. For a long time, Meles has also been angered by the pressure brought to bear on his regime by the previous Swedish government in being persistent about the release of Judge Britukan Mideksa, whom the dictator sent twice to prison under life sentences for her advocacy of respect for human rights and the democratic rights of the Ethiopian people.

As a sign of his anger against the Swedish government, he reduced the Ethiopia’s diplomatic presence in the Nordic countries to none. Today, therefore, there is only a consulate in Stockholm to provide services to Ethiopians residing in these countries. First Meles did not realize that he was downgrading diplomatic relations with all Nordic countries to single consulate, in terms of Ethiopia’s presence.

The Meles resorted to complaining to ambassadors of Nordic countries to inform their governments to silence Sweden. There is no reason why Sweden should be hostile to his regime, if it were not for the human rights situation that is so horrendous it could not tolerate it. There is a lot of gratitude for Sweden’s principled position, including by this writer.

Briefly put, their capture with ONLF members of Schibbye and Johan Persson is a godsend for Ethiopia’s venom oozing and sinister-minded dictator, to the satisfaction of whose narcissistic personality Sweden must be prepared to pay the price, if it does not calculate the position it takes carefully and with firmness.

Meles was swift in tying these two guys to terrorism, for accompanying ONLF fighters in the Ogaden, despite them being journalists. In the process, he has downplayed their main guilt——their illegal entry into the country. In his interview from Oslo on 10 October he told the Norwegian Aftenposten, the two Swedish journalists were “at the very least, messenger boys of a terrorist organization. They are not journalists.”

What is striking is that Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson are not the only journalists to be caught in similar situation in the Ogaden, violating Ethiopian laws. This happens in conflict zones by journalists driven by idealism, cause and testosterone. Not long ago, Jeffery Gentleman of the New York Times crossed from stateless Somalia into Ethiopia through the Ogaden. Meles wanted to play game with the Americans. The US ordered his release without delay and Meles complies, although the journalist was with the ONLF. Terrorism ——the word Meles so much loves was not uttered against him or the others before him! Does this not say something in the case against Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson?

The two journalists that since 1 July 2011 have the misfortune of landing in dictator Meles Zenawi’s dungeons. Surely, they would not be tortured, as happens to Ethiopians; but they have already been judged terrorists before world public. Fortunately, it comes from a person who is either ignorant or indifferent to the time honored judicial principle of “innocent until proven guilty.” He accused them already even before his court has heard their case, a situation to which many Ethiopians he has targeted have to put up with. This indeed has always been the case in a country where judicial independence has been a joke, even by Sub-Saharan Africa standard.

Therefore, from the legal point of view their appearance in court today is a matter of formality. Since it is he that would have their cases twisted around to get out of it some political mileage for his much-hated regime. The dictator has made it clear that the anti-terrorism law that has been designed to curb internal dissent is applicable to these two journalists.

The case against them, however, should not be seen as invalidating their status as journalists with conscience. They entered the country because they needed to verify as journalists the longstanding charges of genocide by TPLF forces in the Ogaden, the telltale signs UN investigators already a few years got hold of. Therefore, although costly to them personally what they have done indeed is worthy efforts in the interest of justice and human security that has been lacking in Ethiopia for a long, long time. After all, under ideal situations journalists must be free to report on all angles of a story.

Unfortunately, this is anathema to Meles Zenawi for whom there is only on side — his side. He did exactly that when he was a guerrilla fighter when he was committing acts of terrorism against Ethiopia, according to the US database on terrorism. Now power has dulled his conscience even to remember his own experience.

If in Sweden this situation leads to acrimony and dissension within the government especially more criticisms against Foreign Minister Carl Bildt that would be another godsend to the dictator. If not anything, it would give him the satisfaction of messing the Swedish government. The key here is firmness.

If this situation were handled firmness, Meles would see futility of to go on rubbing Sweden’s nose in the mud. Coordination with other countries is vital. In that case, he would see early enough the need to settling to extorting some mileage in political terms to bolster his standing at home in this critical time that everyone wishes him gone.

All said and done, this does not mean these two guys are innocent. They have violated the laws of Ethiopia by entering the country without authorization. They have to be held accountable for that. However, the charges of terrorism that Meles these days has been applying to Ethiopians for every little infraction has been extreme and excessive.

Scandinavia, the rest of Europe and the world must see through this what the proud Ethiopian people are putting up in their life on a daily basis!

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