KNOW YOUR NATIONAL PRIORITIES: ABDUCTING ANDARGACHEW TSIGE IS NOT ONE OF THEM – By Tecola W Hagos
It is reported by several media outlets and international human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International, that on 8 July 2014, the Ethiopian Television (ETV) had announced and presented a video of Andargachew Tsige, Secretary General of the outlawed Ginbot 7 movement, under custody. It is also reported that Andargachew Tsige, who was in transit to Asmara, Eritrea, had disappeared on 23/24 June 2014 in Yemen after his plane had landed at Sana’a Airport, and that he was handed over to Ethiopian security authorities the same day and flown out to Addis Ababa where he is now in detention in undisclosed location.
It is not a print/clerical error that I wrote “abducting” in reference to the tragic event that took place on June 23/24 in Sana’a, the forceful arrest and delivery of a legitimate international traveler in transit at the Sana’a Airport in Yemen to Ethiopian authorities. I read in reports of journalists and official press statements of governments using the term “extradition” in referring to the arrest and later transfer of the opposition leader Andargachew Tsige to Ethiopia.
The legal term “extradition” is being used loosely by some parties to the conflict. Extradition is carried out in a formal process either pursuant to a treaty or in international comity in the absence of an extradition treaty. Neither process was undertaken in this particular case. There is no extradition treaty between Ethiopia and Yemen, and the international comity process would require either judicial or administrative formal hearing, but neither form of legal process was carried out. Thus the use of the term “extradition” is improper and does gloss over the illegality of the actions of the two governments against the individual rights of Andargachew Tsige.
Ethiopian Government Priority Number One: Arrest Mengistu Hailemariam
Starting with Meles Zenawi, the most controversial Ethiopian leader ever in the history of Ethiopia, Ethiopian leaders after the Second World War had shown very little regard to the well-being of individual Ethiopians. Despite the fact that Ethiopian past and present leaders claim how intensely committed they are/were to the development of Ethiopia, they hardly ever translate their claims to reality on the ground by dedicating themselves to helping individual Ethiopians. The Ethiopian Government leaders and their officials in key governmental authority seem to have no sense of what is in the best interest of the State of Ethiopia and/or its citizens.
It is absolutely Kafkaian what the Ethiopian Government is doing in abducting Andargachew Tsige while the internationally condemned criminals Mengistu Hailemariam and his close associates who are/were the Red Terror perpetrators, the murderers and torturers of thousands of innocent Ethiopians, young and old, men and women and children, are freely living [for Mengistu in luxury] in Zimbabwe and elsewhere in the Western World, and yet an individual who has not murdered, or tortured, or detained a single Ethiopian is hunted down and illegally abducted while in transit on an international flight stop-over. How could any rational person explain or justify such ridicules activities of the current Ethiopian Leaders and their Government?
It is simple common sense not to draw attention to ones flawed system of government by getting involved in horrendous public criminal activities such as abductions, arresting opposition leaders, arresting journalists and bloggers et cetera. But that is precisely what the Ethiopian Government leadership is doing. Such bad governance and abuse of individual human and democratic rights of Ethiopians erodes the image of the current Ethiopian Government. At a time like this where there is the looming controversy with Egypt over the GERD, and no less devastating controversy with many of the Arab countries including Saudi Arabia on the flow of Ethiopian migrant workers et cetera, Ethiopia does not need to draw attention to itself due to the violent activities of its leaders.
Ethiopia’s current leaders, no matter how their backward and antiquated political behavior was shaped by their primitive upbringing in rustic environment of deprivation and brutality, they have had some twenty years of power, wealth and luxurious life, and full exposure to the outside world. There are no excuses to behaving like street gangs and thugs terrorizing and brutalizing citizens. I have heard some street talks that Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn did not know of the government‘s action to arrest Andargachew Tsige. If the abduction of Andargachew was done without the knowledge and order or consent of Hilemariam, the country is in real controversy, indeed. I have written at my own risk advocating that we Diaspora politicians give time for Hailemariam Desalegn, that change cannot be achieved overnight et cetera. I still believe in evolutionary change, but I am not as optimistic as I was early on whether Hailemariam Desalegn is the right person to bring about genuine and transformative change in Ethiopia.
The politics of Ginbot-7
Lawlessness by anybody in any form is unacceptable. Personally, I do not like the political stand of Andargachew Tsige, and even more so that of his political Organization, Ginbot-7. In fact, I have absolute contempt for their vainglorious willingness to submit themselves to the dictates of a determined anti-Ethiopia dictator Issayas Afeworki who had taken steps against Ethiopia’s national security and economic interest both openly and covertly for several decades. I cannot accept any excuse by anybody to side with any enemy of Ethiopia. I have even condemned Meles Zenawi and his members of the leadership of the TPLF for receiving aid from the Sudan, Somalia, and Egypt in fighting against the brutal Mengistu Hailemariam and his soldiers, and to this day I still consider that as a betrayal of Ethiopia because those countries were not friends of Ethiopia. However, help from any other country such as the United States, Britain, France et cetera would not have been as offensive to me as help from Governments that are enemies of Ethiopia.
The issue of the abduction of a person who is in a legitimate aviation transit violates all kinds of international law including international aviation conventions and practices. Whether I support the political program of Ginbot-7 and/or its leadership is immaterial. The issue now is much deeper and of much intense magnitude than mere support or opposition of a political organization or its leadership. It now involves the fundamental rights of an individual subject of international law and norms that is so foundational that the principle of Jus Cogens is applicable as well. [Jus cogens (from Latin: compelling law; English: peremptory norm) refers to certain fundamental, overriding principles of international law, from which no derogation is ever permitted. See Ian Brownlie, Principles of Public International Law (5th ed., Oxford, 1998).]
I happen to be a believer that the means used to achieve a noble goal need be noble itself. I do not accept the cynical idea that that the end would justify the means. Here is where most of our political perceptions falter. There are very many compelling reasons given by knowledgeable individuals that sometime using certain illegal or immoral means is justified if the result is beneficial to society. I do not support such outright opportunistic method that might even be illegal and hurtful to some. I did advocate in few of my past articles for compromise and accommodation of weaknesses in some members of society in order to create an overall harmony within communities.
Addressing Endargchew Tsige, Have Courage
I have watched with dismay the disheveled image of Andargachew Tsige on a video presented by the Ethiopian Government Television program. I heard him making statements that are incomprehensible and utter nonsense about him being desirous of rest that he does not harbor any grudges or ill-will toward anybody. Now I am addressing you Andargachew directly: No matter what you do to placate those in power who abducted you, it will not work. You might as well show courage and public defiance in dealing with your captors. Do not make pathetic remarks how you are tired and want some peaceful rest, or that you do not harbor any resentment to anyone. I was reminded by that statement how Birtukan Midekisa was reduced to a pathetic figure by the statement she signed in order to secure here release from prison, a statement that was drafted by Meles Zenawi. You seem to be reading from scripts provided you by Amnesty International. Whatever your fate maybe at this late stage, accept it and leave your Family members and political followers something to be proud of.
The authorities that are detaining you are not monolithic and some have no honor or compassion. Some of those same leaders have displayed time after time their brutality and violent nature. I am sorry that you were caught off guard, for I assume that you might have taken some precaution to ensure that you will not be victimized this easily. Now, we are talking about the morning-after: to what extent the outside world and your followers would help you attain your freedom is very tenuous, but if pursued with vigor and in large numbers, it might succeed.
The native people of this country used an aphorism by stating that walking in someone else’s moccasins is the best way to understand that such individual. I understand Andargachew Tsige, for his motivation though extreme and not politically wise or savvy, has elements of a school-boy’s idealism. Though I have never personally met him, I have heard him presenting ideas when he was a member I believe of the EPRDF through his political organization the EPDM, at a crucial and tasking time for EPDM and EPRDF in general, and later in the Washington area in one of those endless presentations at hotel auditoriums.
I have read the official statements made by the Ethiopian Government officials on pronouncing the death sentences on individuals tried in absentia for plotting the murder of some Ethiopian Government officials. It is absolutely a flawed judicial process that provides for the condemnation of anyone to death based on the hearsay (not properly cross-examined by defense counsel) testimony of codefendants. Even if we admit that hearsay as the exception to the rules on hearsay evidence/testimony, there is an insurmountable test of criminality of realistic evaluation whether what was conspired for was within possibilities, for individuals can fantasize on any number of things but that does not translate into a criminal activity automatically—some showing is necessary.
One might also consider the problem why we Ethiopians failed repeatedly to produce good leaders as a consequence of a social and a cultural system that systematically eliminated the Alpha-male from the community through brutal leveling discipline right from childhood throughout one’s life. And those that survive that form of abuse from family members, teachers et cetera finally would meet their demise in the hands of dictatorial regimes. What might be left behind, after all the negative pruning is a population that suffers from deep seated psychological destructive energy unable to channel properly such energy into constructive social responses. What we have become in general is narcissistic—shallow, uncooperative, and megalomaniac individuals suffering from a Napoleonic syndrome of grandeur on one hand, and a devastating feeling of insecurity on the other hand.
My last words are meant to the ears of the Ethiopian Government Leaders: By violating international law and norms, you are not helping the causes of Ethiopia. There is no need to arrest, detain, torture, kill et cetera anyone for political reasons or otherwise. There is a bright future for Ethiopia if only you become transparent and approachable to all Ethiopians. There is much to be done and there is no need for adding controversy after controversy to an already fragile Ethiopia. What do you gain for Ethiopia by imprisoning individuals like Eskinder Nega, Reeyot Alemu, Andualem Arage, the young bloggers, and countless others, or now abducting Andargachew Tsige? As political leaders you must not act because of bruised ego, selfish motives, ethnic biases, religious intolerance et cetera. Above all do not be afraid of your fellow Ethiopians, for the public has a fifth sense, and can sense insecurity in its leaders even from a distance. There is nothing worse than losing the trust of your fellow Ethiopians. The use of force cannot solve everything especially political controversy. Now, I urge you to release all political detainees and prisoners including Andargachew Tsige.
Thank you All.
Tecola W. Hagos
July 12, 2014