Last hope for democracy in lawless Ethiopia By Roble Ababa,
Symbiotic collaboration to revive gravely ill democracy
Democracy in lawless Ethiopia has been seriously ill and bed-ridden for a long time; but now, there is a glimmer of hope to reverse course and revive it. However, the one and only one hope of resurrecting the dying democracy is by forging strong unity through symbiotic collaboration among all forces that have stake in a democratic Ethiopia that would emerge by nationwide consensus. To that end, the following three examples in my opinion would serve as a lesson.
Snapshot of stride to lawlessness
Ethiopia is the first country in the world to develop and implement system of laws by which to administer the affairs of state. It is therefore ironic, brutal and cruel that lawlessness has sunk so low in the 21st century under the misrule of tyrant Zenawi that citizens are: denied freedom of expression; indiscriminately killed in cold blood by special security forces; and brutally beaten, gassed and incarcerated en masse by the Federal Police while holding peaceful public demonstrations exercising their constitutional civil rights to demand the repressive ruling party not to interfere with freedom of religion stipulated in the supreme law. It is argued that the receding regimes were not as harsh as the TPLF regime as argued in the paragraphs below. For more details readers are advised to refer to the book in Amharic entitled “History of Atse Haileselassie” by Beryehun Kebede”
Emperor Haileslassie faced several serious challenges to His authority including political intrigues, insurrection, rebellion, treason, mutiny and coup d’état. To His credit the Monarch skillfully applied persuasion, mediation, the judicial system, His rich diplomatic experience, patience and charismatic personality to overcome all the challenges to His authority but one – His dethronement by the Derg Military junta. For example, from His ascendancy to the throne on 31 October 1931 to His dethronement on 12 September 1974 His Majesty was met with the following formidable challenges aimed at overthrowing Him :-
1. The 1st Woyane uprising was defused with the use of carrot and stick; leaders were captured and faced the law; those convicted were either forgiven or had their sentences reduced considerably. The death sentence of Ras Megesha Seyoum, grandson of Emperor Yohannes IV, was forgiven because of his young age; instead he was sent for schooling in Beirut and later married the granddaughter of the Emperor; I knew him when he was governor of Gibat and Metcha and Regent of Tigray with the royal title of His Highness Ras Mengesha Seyoum. He is now reportedly a staunch supporter of Woyane.
2.Bitweded Negash Bezabeh was sentenced to death by the high court, but the verdict was commuted to life imprisonment.
3.Waqo Gutu reconciled with the Imperial regime through an intermediary – General Jagama Kello; he became Christian and lived peacefully thereafter;
4.Belay Zeleke was sentenced to death by unanimous verdict of special court comprising nobilities and dignitaries because of his stature as a stalwart hero;
5.General Mengistu Neway was fairly tried in the high court; he was given a death sentence. The court was free, fair and independent. The accused was represented by a lawyer from Europe; one of the three judges, a Colonel serving in the army, opposed the verdict on one officer co-accussed with B/General Mengistu and recorded his dissent in the file;
6.Dejazmatch Takele Woldehawariat was a prominent patriotic hero known for organizing guerilla warfare dubbed the first of its kind in Africa against Fascist Italy. He made repeated attempts, including plotting to kill the Emperor to replace the monarchy with a republican system of government. He committed suicide at his residence in Addis Ababa refusing to surrender to security officials. It is said that the Monarch entrusted Takele with sensitive issues remarking that he loved his country although despite disagreement with the Imperial regime.
7.Brigadier General Tadesse Biru received the death sentence by the high court which sentence was not carried out owing to forgiveness by the Emperor. He was allowed to make a living as a free man as a farmer on his land earlier given to him by the Monarch for his loyalty in coming to His support in foiling the coup d’état by B/General Mengistu Neway that resulted in the execution of 15 top key officials loyal to the Imperial regime.
Due processes of law was working in that offenders were receiving fair trial; His Majesty exercised His authority of granting clemency gracefully, save in the case of Dejatch Belay Zeleke. The demise of the Imperial regime is however attributed to: poor response to the 1973/74 famine in the north of Ethiopia; old age of the Monarch; and failure to implementation of private land ownership proclamation issued much earlier by the Monarch Himself. The bureaucracy and sabotage on the part of large chunk of feudal land owners, some in high position in government, were also blamed for the fiasco.
In sharp contrast however:-
1.Coward Mengistu failed to heed the resolution of one of the three arms of the Ethiopian defense forces that the Derg should follow due process of law in handling all political prisoners; he was wrong to execute nobilities and dignitaries that served under the Imperial regime without trial in the special court, which was set up.
2.In the 2005 election TPLF suffered convincing humiliating defeat by a landslide; Zenawi declared state of emergency breach of the constitution in order to cover up daylight robbery of votes; victors were sent to jail and thousands of their supporters were incarcerated; 193 innocent civilians were killed in cold blood in the aftermath of the election; the brutal EPRDF party usurped all pillars of democracy systematically until election 2010 and declared victory by 99.6%. In a nutshell, Zenawi killed democracy in Ethiopia.
3.Zenawi’s flagrant and rampant breach of his own constitution caught up with him at last bringing him and his brutal party to the brink of utter confusion and inevitable vanishing; Ethiopia is a lawless country prone to massive uprising to restore, update and uphold the rule of law that will serve as an indispensable basis to fostering freedom, unity, democracy, dignity, and prosperity for all in a caring society.
4.The ongoing harassment of the Muslim community is the latest callous act standing tall among heinous crimes that have been and continues to be perpetrated by the Zenawi regime – the worst compared to its predecessors in violating human rights in breach of the law.
Future leaders in Ethiopia should always recognize that the masses are the true source of authority and that their participation is imperative in making the laws by which they are governed.
1.The top urgent task is to demand and secure the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners; demand unfettered freedom of expression and provide free political space for debating issues in a civilized way.
2.Zenawi does not have to do more heinous crimes for he has already done dozens that will take him and his cohorts to the gallows. The onus is on the Ethiopian people to bring him and his thugs to justice at the appropriate time.
3.The irony of the immoral flow of funds to the TPLF repressive lawless regime from the leading western democracies must stop. The donors should instead encourage the spirit of national peace and reconciliation to take prominence in the brewing popular unrest everywhere waiting to explode in full view of the international community. In this regard and in all fairness, the recent demand by the US Department of State for the immediate release of political prisoners and allow freedom of expression is most welcome.
4.A full blown civil disobedience is inevitable given the incompetency of the Zenawi regime to govern democratically. Ethiopian civil societies and democratic opposition forces including the National Ethiopian Youth Movement in particular should take cognizance of this shortcoming and act speedily and responsibly by excluding infiltration by extremist elements such as Al Shabab linked to Al Qaeda.
5.I repeat my passionate call to the Armed Forces and security agencies to dump their pro-TPLF support and align on the side of the people in order to save Ethiopia and themselves. Let us all be counted in the annals of history as having collaborated to do away the culture of grabbing political power by the barrel of the gun.
6. Ethiopians should come out in millions to embark on the noble but arduous task of fostering an oasis of peace and tranquility in Ethiopia, the Horn of Africa region and beyond as a strong and trustworthy partner with countries with similar aspirations.
7.In order to defeat all current enemies convincingly, Ethiopians have to reinvigorate their energy to go forward in unison inspired by the worldwide acclaimed victory over imperialism at the famous Battle of Adwa under the brilliant leadership of Immye Menilik II.
The advice in quotation below by Emperor Menilik II puts in a nutshell the import of unity, without divisive jealousy culminating in internecine carnage detrimental to the country:
“«እናንተ አንድ ልብ ከሆናችሁ በምቀኝነት እርስ በርሳችሁ ተዋግታችሁ ካላለቃችሁ በቀር ኢትዮጵያን አገራችንን ለሌላ ለባእድ አትሰጧትም፤ ክፉም ነገር አገራችንን አያገኛትም። ነፋስ እንዳይገባባችሁ አገራችሁን በያላችሁበት በርትታችሁ ጠብቁ፤ ወንድሜ ወንድሜ እየተባባላችሁ ተደጋገፉ፤ የኢትዮጵያን ጠላት ተጋግዛችሁ ተደንበር መልሱ። የኢትዮጵያ ጠላት ባንዱ ወገን ትቶ ባንድ ወገን ቢሄድና ደንበር ቢገፋ፤ በኔ ወገን ታልመጣ ምን ቸገረኝ ብላችሁ ዝም አትበሉ፤ ያ ጠላት በመጣበት በኩል ኁላችሁም ሄዳችሁ አንድነት ተጋግዛችሁ ጠላታችሁን መልሱ እስከ እየቤታችሁ እስኪመጣ ዝም ብላችሁ አትቆዩ»” ዳግማዊ ዓፄ ምኒልክ፤ ግንቦት ፲ ቀን ፲፱፻፩ ዓ.ም. (Emperor Menilik II, 18 May 18, 1908)
This is time to end forever the destructive divisive politics of the last 21 years of the reclusive TPLF minority racist regime characterized as pathological liar and perpetrator of heinous crimes unprecedented in the history of Ethiopia.
The colossal damage done to Ethiopia requires united participation of all stakeholders. If possible, the establishment of a Transitional arrangement should be preceded by nationally held truth and reconciliation, which itself is going to be a Herculean task.
LONG LIVE ETHIOPIA!!!
Release all political prisoners including Andualem Aragie, Iskinder Nega et al