January 30th, 2012 Print Print Email Email

“The Only real prison is fear, and the only real freedom is freedom from fear” Aung San Sun Kyi.

“Repression is not the way to virtue. When people restrain themselves

out of fear, their lives are by necessity diminished.” Mihaly Csiszentmihalyi

The brutal Zenawi regime, through the courts it controls, has sentenced Fetehe newspaper columnist Reyot Alemu and reporter Hirut Kifle to 14 years and 19 years of prison time respectively. Wubshet Taye, the deputy editor of the now closed Awramba Times newspaper, received 14 years behind bars. Using their pen to hold political leaders accountable, as is their right under the constitution, is their crime.

Eskinder Nega, the popular reporter, known for his strong advocacy of a peaceful and nonviolent Egypt-like change in Ethiopia, also found himself in Kaliti, accused of inciting violence.

The UDJ’s young, popular, and charismatic vice president, Andwalem Aragie, a UDJ council member and leader Nathnael Mekonnen were also accused of supporting G7, a charge that has been proven baseless even by the very audio evidence presented by the prosecutor.

Bekele Gerba and Olbana Lelissa, leaders of the main alliance of opposition parties, Medrek, were falsely accused of being OLF supporter and for providing Amnesty International with information about the regime’s unconscionable discriminatory distribution of donor-donated food aid and the denial of that aid to opposition supporters.

All in all, no explosive devices, intelligence radio communications, or any equipment that could remotely be used for terrorist acts were found in the home and offices of the jailed reporters and political leaders. However, their pens and speeches have taken them to the notorious, rat infested Kaliti prison. They are journalists, non-violent individuals, and peaceful political opponents; but they have been labeled as “terrorists”.

Why are these reporters and UDJ/MEDREK leaders in Kaliti? Why is the hope of seeing a better Ethiopia getting dimmer and dimmer?

Professor Asrat Woldeyes stood for Ethiopia and its people. He came out of prison in a body bag. What guarantees do we have that Eskinder Nega and others will not be the new Professor Asrats?

Birtukan Mideksa stood for justice, honesty, and the rule of law. The Zenawi regime barbarically placed her in solitary confinement for more than 6 months, something that has not happened even to rapists and serial killers. She was denied visitations by family, lawyers, and spiritual fathers and physically and psychologically tortured. Under duress, she walked out from prison emotionally, spiritually and psychologically damaged. What guarantee do we have that Eskinder Nega and others will not be like Birtukan Mideksa?

Eskinder Nega, Andwalem Aragie, Reyot Alemu and others, because they love their country and are selfless, stood for Democracy and Ethiopiawinet. They stood against dictatorship, ethnic politics, and mock democracy. They did their duty.

Had they decided to be silent, they could have easily spared themselves prison life. They could have even joined Addis Zemen newspaper or the EPRDF by making deals with the government. They could have a choice of ministerial positions. They could have chosen a live in exile and live comfortably in Europe and America. They could have been easily like us. Ethiopia is no more a mother to them than us that they find themselves in where they are now.

However, Eskinder Nega and the others went to prison because they are visionaries and have faith in the people. They believed the people, with the help of the Almighty God, will soon deliver them from Kaliti Prison. Though emotionally and physically painful is their incarceration (to them and their families), they are filled with hope and see a prosperous, unique and democratic Ethiopia beyond the walls of Kaliti prison. The hope of a better Ethiopia has given them the strength to endure their pain.

We may not see them and listen to what they say in person. However, we can hear them in spirit. From Kaliti, they are calling to us to stand up and continue the struggle. They are asking for our help and support. We must not let them down.

It seems the Diaspora is disillusioned, confused, and retracting itself from the struggle because it feels it could not make a difference. Many of us are possessed with the spirit of self-defeatism and despair. We are losing the battle before it starts.

We may not have supported the EPRDF. We may not have directly contributed to the incarceration of our brothers and sisters. However, our silence is the reason UDJ/Medrek leaders and journalists are still in jail. Our silence is providing bullets for the EPRDF forces.

I am afraid Eskinder Nega, Reyot Alemu, Adwalem Aragie, Wubshet Taye, Bekele Gerba, Olbana Lelessa, Nathaniel Mekononen, and Hirut Kifle will be the new Professor Asrats and the new Birtukan Midekssas. For sure, they will not be released unless an earthquake happens in the minds and perspectives of Ethiopians. How could Kaliti prisoners be released by the tyrannical EPRDF government unless Ethiopians make it happen?

At this time, the brave democracy activists are in jail not because the EPRDF is strong. They are in jail because Ethiopians are weak, selfish, and silent.

In struggles, there are ups and downs. Some may say, “It is impossible to force change in the Zenawi administration”. Our efforts may seem meaningless. On the surface, the democratic struggle may seem to have “vanished”. The situation in Ethiopia may be “calm” with Prime Minister Meles Zenawi at the helm of power. HOWEVER, WE SHOULD NEVER GIVE UP. It may take years. We might not see a free Ethiopia in our own time. But our children will one day rejoice in a free, prosperous and democratic Ethiopia.

The Great American President Franklin D. Roosevelt once said “First of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”. The only power the EPRDF forces have is their excellent use of the public media. They are good at dividing the opposition and spreading fear among the general public. They want us to fear them. More than its guns, the EPRDF is using FEAR effectively to crush the will of the people. Fear cripples the energy of the human mind.

A handful of EPRDF rulers are able to control the Tigray region and the rest of Ethiopia with an iron fist and unleash fear and terror. They have built up an image of themselves in the mind of many Ethiopians that they are like “gods”. They have successfully established the idea that they are untouchables and that whoever stands in their way will be crushed.

It is time to think of the EPRDF as what it is, a rotten and dying organization. It has no popular support from any region including Tigray. It does not have military strength as many of us might think. The armed forces are disintegrating. They are losing confidence and getting more and more desperate. Their refusal to sit around the negotiating table and start a dialogue with the oppositions shows by itself their lack of confidence. Since they are filled with insecurity and inferiority, they consider everyone their enemy.

It is in this context that I call for a renewal of vision. Instead of being filled with fear and an image of a big “Meles Zenawi”, we should learn to believe in ourselves. “What is man without freedom” said Judge Birtukan Mideksa. A life lived in fear and despair is no better than death. A life lived without a purpose is a tragedy.

It is time to be free from the bondage of fear and ignorance. Freedom starts from within. A man who only thinks of himself and forgets where he came from, is a man who is spiritually poor and sick.

I have hope. I see the potentials of Ethiopians. Ethiopia has so many talented children and tremendous strategic resources. If we have peace and love, if we believe in ourselves, if we look to our brothers and sisters, if we stop being silent on matters that matter , if we allow our God-given talent and energy to come from within us, we would solve our problems on our own and free our brave democracy fighters from prison.

Eskinder and the others did their duty. Let us do ours. It all starts from each one of us. Ethiopia is equal for all Ethiopians. There is no reason one should pay a bigger sacrifice than another. It is time to speak out and assert our freedom in our country. We are all created in the image and likeness of God. God has given us a country called Ethiopia. He has given us the right to live in peace and dignity in Ethiopia. The EPRDF must not be allowed to continue denying us, our God given rights and our dignity.

Let us say No to brutality and torture! Let us say No to dictatorship and ethnic politics! Let us say No to war and poverty! Let us say No to the status quo!

May Our Lord God stretch out his scepter of Peace towards our country!
May He touch us with his Spirit of Freedom and Courage so that we can be free from fear and reclaim our God given rights to live in a peaceful, democratic and prosperous Ethiopia where the rights of its entire people are respected regardless of age, ethnic affiliation, religion, and gender!

  1. Bekalu
    | #1

    I partially agree in your analysis this time, but I categorically disagree in your categorization of the prisoners. Ethiopia has heroes of every generation. The current prisoners, people like Eskinder, Andualem, and Reeyot are not [I repeat, are not] the new Professor Asrats or Birtukan Midessas. They are heroes by their own right. In fact, to me, Eskinder Nega is the ultimate hero our generation has produced – bar none. Period! Besides, please name our heroes correctly, who is Andwalem ? This is not a Chinese or Russian name, it is our own name. I know you are member of the North American UDJ support group. If you know how to spell the name of those whom you abuse daily, there is no reason to misname the name of those whom you support!

  2. peace
    | #2

    Ato Girma,

    This is my first reading of your article. I have read other peoples’ critics of you so I couldn’t judge until now. According to this article, your message is very clear and loud and we really appreciate you! This is what the selfish Ethiopians within or outside of Ethiopia that need to understand and hear. Many of them don’t act as you mentioned because of fear, because their wealth will be taken etc.. I can understand the Ethiopians within but the diaspora has the ability to act, organize etc.. yet, they choose to be divided or they believe they want to go back to Ethiopia one day soon therefore they don’t want to get involved politically. This is really selfish. When we go back, we may not find Ethiopia existing and no place to go back to. We don’t even parrtricipate in the host nation’s politically in the diaspora.

  3. astra
    | #3

    Bekalu- it is an honor to compare the young heroes with Prof. Asrat. He is a giant who towers over all of them and hopefully they will not deny it.
    However, Girma is dead wrong if he thinks it is a handful of Tigreans who are repressing Ethiopians. TPLF rule would have been no more long time ago if it did not get the support of 99.9% of Tigreans and 100% of its elite. Please wake up and smell the coffee!

  4. Anonymous
    | #4


    I honor your stand, but I respectfully disagree with you. Professor Asrat is not in my higher list if Ethiopian heroes. I have many above him. Esknder is one of them, he gave us his young life taking it away form himslef and his young son

  5. zelalem
    | #5

    Thanks Ato Girma for this wonderful and inspiring article.

  6. Zewdie
    | #6

    Thank you Girma yet again for a thoughtful article. Please please keep up the great work you are doing. Every time I read your article, I remain hopeful foe emama Ethiopia.

  7. ኹማ
    | #7

    If we keep worshiping individuals, will reach nowhere

    I personally have the highest respect for countless men and women who scarified in Prison, Torture even death by the brutal Derg Regime and TPLF tyranny . Here is a few of the people I have the admire: Pro Asrat Woldeyes, , Scientist Kitaw Ejigu & the brave EPRP members who gave their lives during the brutal derge regime (I am not talking about the current moron clowns who call themselves EPRP)& the Ethiopian Diaspora who supported tirelessly from the Kinijit movement until know, though our unity is not as strong as it use to be.

    Just as the writer, I admire Birtukan for her sacrifices however she is no where near on the level or Pro Asrat. Her personal decision to isolate herself from her party and her comrades should be respected but, the freedom train is not waiting for her and the task to liberate our people from TPLF tyranny has continued without her leadership.

    We all should learn a lessen from Hailu Shawel(do i need to say more). If we need to fiend a hero it’s within each of us , lets all do our part no one is single handedly baptized to be a leader.

  8. koster
    | #8

    Girma has the same problem like others to think that it is only his group or party who will free Ethiopia and Ethiopians. If we want to be effective we should stop fighting another opposition and concentrate our effort to fight the looters and killers who are led by “friendly tyrant” Meles Zenawi.

  9. lulu
    | #9

    amataursih analysis.Why don’t keep it your self and leave the writing for other professionalls.This is way below average analysis if you call it one.

  10. Bezza
    | #10


    Girma’s article has always been deep, tought provoking , to the point a, factual and straight forward. I do not read always many of the articles that are posted. Some of them are predictable. Girma has always been writing what he think is right not what it is popular. We need more people like GK who write not what we want to hear but what we have to hear.

  11. ጉረኞች
    | #11

    Birtukan is over rated. It is better not to talk too much about her. Who will forget the humiliation we suffer when she allowed herself to parade in front of woyane media and apologize for every word she uttered aganist woyane? You need to be honest to ourselves and stop to worship individuals who apparently did nothing significant worth of mentioning. I do not even know what her contribution was that makes her stand out than other kinijit leaders. The struggle has gone so far

  12. Anonymous
    | #12

    What is your name? start writing you real name first before you talk about Birtukan.

  13. Anonymous
    | #13

    “At this time, the brave democracy activists are in jail not because the EPRDF is strong. They are in jail because Ethiopians are weak, selfish, and silent. ” however girma you are one of the core problem in Diaspora who is weak and selfish as you spend your time, energy and money to attack other oppositions, instead of writing this long gibberish why dont you go to ethiopia to show us your peaceful struggle motto?

  14. ጉረኞች
    | #14

    Mr Anonymous
    You asked my real name? It is the same name as yours, Anonymous. It shows that you are really confused and started to believe Anonymous is your real name. If that is not the case, you would not have asked ጉረኞች’s real name.

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