Ethiopians: November is to Remember! By ALEMAYEHU G MARIAM
“The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it,” cautioned Albert Einstein. Because Germans who could have done something did not, on 9-10 November 1938, the Nazis killed nearly 100 innocent Jewish people and arrested and deported 30,000 others. They also burned thousands of Jewish synagogues and businesses. That was Krystallnacht (Night of Broken Glass). It was the forerunner to the Jewish Holocaust.
On 6-8 June and 1-4 November 2005, following the Ethiopian elections that year, scores of unarmed men, women and children were killed by security personnel loyal to the ruling regime. An official Inquiry Commission established by dictator Meles Zenawi documented that 193 unarmed Ethiopians demonstrating in the streets and others held in detention were intentionally shot and killed by police and paramilitary forces and 763 wounded. The Commission completely exonerated the victims and pinned the entire blame on the police and paramilitary forces and those who had command and control over them:
There was no property destroyed [by protesters]. There was not a single protester who was armed with a gun or a hand grenade (as reported by the government-controlled media that some of theprotesters were armed with guns and bombs). The Commission members agreed that the shots fired by government forces were not to disperse the crowd of protesters but to kill by targeting the head and chest of the protesters.”
To testify against Evil is the moral and civic duty of the living. Elie Wiesel, the Holocaust survivor and the man the Nobel Committee called the “messenger to mankind”, reminds us all that as the survivors of the victims of Evil we have to make a choice:
For the survivor who chooses to testify, it is clear: his duty is to bear witness for the dead and the living. He has no right to deprive future generations of a past that belongs to our collective memory. To forget would be not only dangerous but offensive; to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time. The witness has forced himself to testify. For the youth of today, for the children who will be born tomorrow. He does not want his past to become their future.”
For the past five years, I have sought to testify against Evil by bearing witness for the victims of June and November 2005, and for Ethiopia’s youth of today and for the children who will be born tomorrow. In 2007, I appeared in the court of world opinion and testified for the first time on behalf of the innocent victims of crimes against humanity. I testified for them in 2008. I testified for them in 2009, and again in 2010. I shall continue to testify because that is my way of making the “world a less dangerous place” for the powerless, the voiceless, the hopeless, the voteless, the defenseless, the nameless, the faceless, the jobless, the foodless, the landless, the leaderless, the homeless and the parentless. It is also my way of making the world a more accountable place for the conscienceless, the ruthless, the merciless, the remorseless, the reckless, the senseless, the shameless, the soulless, the thoughtless and the thankless.
The high and mighty who reigned over the 2005 massacres now sit ensconced in their stately pleasure domes drunk with power, consumed by hate and frolicking in decadence. They look down swaggering with hubris, sneering at justice, scorning truth, and desecrating the memory of the innocent. But recent history teaches a harsh lesson: “Truth and justice will not forever hang on the scaffold nor wrong cling to the throne forever.” Justice shall “roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”
As we remember the martyrs of June and November, let us also remember the debt of gratitude we owe our Ethiopian heroes who stood up for justice and truth in revealing and documenting the horrific stories of the 2005 massacres. These monstrous crimes against humanity would have been swept into the dustbin of oblivion and lost in the mist of time but for the courageous and meticulous investigations carried out by Inquiry Commission chairman and vice chairman and former judges Frehiwot Samuel and Woldemichael Meshesha, lawyer Mitiku Teshome and human rights investigator/defender Yared Hailemariam. These individuals chose to testify and paid a high personal price for telling the gut-wrenching, heartbreaking and mindbending truth about the massacres. They now live in exile facing extreme hardship, separated from their families and unable to pursue the professions they cherished so much.
When the modern history of Ethiopia is written, their names will be listed at the very top for displaying courage under fire, hope in the face of despair, bravery in the face of personal danger, and unflinching fortitude in the face of extreme adversity. I can only offer them my profound thanks and express my deepest appreciation for what they have done. An entire nation, indeed an entire continent, owes them a heavy debt of gratitude: “Never have so many owed so much to so few!”
Remember the Martyrs of June and November 2005
On May 15, 2005, Meles Zenawi declared a State of Emergency in Ethiopia and brought all security and military forces in the country under his personal command and control: “As of tomorrow, for the next one month no demonstrations of any sort will be allowed within the city and its environs. As peace should be respected within the city and its environs, the government has decided to bring all the security forces, the police and the local militias, under one command accountable to the prime minister.”
On June 6-8 and November 1-4, 2005, the following individuals were gunned down by state security forces in street demonstrations or trapped in their cells at Kality Prison just outside the capital Addis Ababa. The victims enumerated below are included in the Testimony of Yared Hailemariam, investigator for the Ethiopian Human Rights Council (EHRCO) and human rights defender in exile (extremely graphic pictures included in report, reader discretion advised), before the Extraordinary Joint Committee Meeting of the European Parliament on Development and Foreign Affairs and Subcommittee on Human Rights, “Crimes Against Humanity in Ethiopia: The Addis Ababa Massacres of June and November, 2005”.
The number of victims reported in the Inquiry Commission report list only those casualties for the particular dates in June and November. There is undisclosed evidence by the Commission which shows a much higher casualty figure than those reported if other dates in 2005 were included. No one has yet to be held accountable for these crimes against humanity. In fact, there is a confirmed list of at least 237 policemen who actually pulled the trigger to cause the carnage, and all of them are still walking the streets free today.
Our heads bowed in honor and respect for these martyrs, our hearts filled with the hope of justice to flow like a mighty stream and our minds resolved in steely determination, let us read out the names of the victims and reflect on their sacrifices for the youth of Ethiopia today and the children who will be born tomorrow:
1. Shibre Delelegn, age 23, female, shot in the neck and killed.
2. Yesuf Abdela, age 23, male, student at Kotebe Teachers’ College, shot in the back with two bullets and killed.
3. Hadra Shikurana, age 20, male, shot in the forehead and killed.
4. Nebiy Alemayehu, age 16, male, 10th grade student, shot in the chest on the way to school and killed.
5. Yonas Asseffa, age 24, male, shot through the right ear and killed.
6. Dawit Fekadu, age 18, male, shot in the chest and killed.
7. Melisachew Demissie, age 16, male, 6th grade student on the way to school to take his examination, shot in the forehead and killed.
8. Wessen Assefa, age 28, male, a trader, shot in the chest and killed.
9. Zulufa Surur, age 50, male, a mother of seven shot in the back while standing in the doorway of her house and killed.
10. Fekadu Negash, age 22, male, shot in the chest and killed as he stood near his residence.
11. Abraham Yilma, age 16, male, brother of Fekadu (victim no. 10), upon hearing that his brother was shot by the police, Abraham ran to aid his brother. As he lifted up his dying brother to help, a policeman shot him. Both brothers died on the scene.
12. Biniyam Dembel, age 19, male, shot and killed.
13. Negussie Wabedo and Mohammed Hassen, ages unknown, male, both individuals were shot in the forehead and killed.
14. Beliyu Dufa, age 20, male, shot in the chest and killed.
15. Redela Kombado, age 26, male, an assistant to a taxi driver, shot in the chest and killed.
16. Milion Kebede, age 30, male, a cashier with Anbessa city bus, shot and killed on the way to work.
17. Getnet Ayalew, age 24, male, first shot and wounded in his right thigh. As a friend was helping him to reach a safe place, the policeman realized that he was still alive and shot him in the abdomen for the second time. The friend ran away terrified. When Getnet’s family members came, the policeman took aim and threatened to shoot them if they tried to help him. He bled for about half an hour and died in the hospital.
18. Wassihun Kebede, age 22, male, shot in the head and killed.
19. Dereje Damena, age 24, male, shot in the forehead and killed.
20. Esubalew Ashenafi, age unknown, male, shot and killed near his home.
21. Addisu Belachew, age 23, male, a businessman and father of 3 children, shot in the eye and killed.