Honoring Ms. Ana Gomes! By Geletaw Zeleke
Today I take up my pen to write and honor one world leader whom I am convinced must be a representative of God for her sheer determination and commitment to justice and democracy for oppressed people on this planet. I first came to hear of Honorable Ana Gomes during the 5th month of 2005 in Addis Ababa City where I was living at the time. During that time the general atmosphere in Addis Ababa had totally changed before the days leading up to the May 15th National Election. I don’t know who promised them that the election would be free and fair but spirits were very high. People around the University, at the office, outside on the street and in the coffee shops were all talking about the impending national election. All seemed very hopeful that for the first time in their history they were going to be able to choose their own leaders. People everywhere I met talked about the election and held up two fingers to show support for CUD the opposition party. It was around that time that we learned the EU parliament had sent an election observation commission led by Ana Gomes and also we heard that Jimmy Carter Center’s election observation team came to Ethiopia. Ana’s face appeared for the first time in Medias where she was encouraging free and fair elections on the eve of the 2005 Election. It was great having Ana Gomes with us during this historic time.
Election Day finally came and people headed out to election centers early in the morning. Little kids were buzzing around election centers and surrounded bulletin boards where results were posted trying to be the first to relay the good news. What did their instincts tell them? I wonder. The whole day people cast their votes and throughout the country a Very peaceful election took place. It was perhaps the largest turnout in our history. Finally, Addis Ababa City and Ethiopia itself was calm and people everywhere were excited to hear what they assumed would be positive results. People were so happy when they first heard that the CUD had won 100 per cent of the seats in Addis Ababa capital City. Such a result, however, was more than a little unusual. How on earth could all 23 seats be taken by the opposition party leaving zero to the ruling party in a capital city of one country? Such a result had never before occurred in a democratic election history. Not only that, the disparity of votes was incomparable across election centers in Addis Ababa. The CUD had won by a landslide. These results show many realities but we’re not going to talk about what the staggering number of pro-opposition votes does or does not prove today.
Prompted by what I see as frustration over pending results from the corners of Ethiopia, the government called an emergency meeting of top officials. After the meeting the late Prime Minster Meles Zenawi appeared on television where he declared an overwhelming victory for his party. This announcement came before the National Election Board had formally announced the final result and even, some people feared, before all votes had been fairly counted across the country. He also mistakenly declared a state of emergency and banned public gatherings and assemblies within the country.
People were highly suspicious after the untimely and seemingly retaliatory announcement made by Meles Zenawi the day following the May 15th election. Even though there is still no evidence to prove that election results were manufactured, people rightfully believed that their voices had been muffled by the tactics of the EPRDF. They generally felt hopeless and were angry because of it. What is worse from Addis Ababa family members feared the government had misrepresented the votes of farmers because it was difficult for international observers to reach remote areas. Moreover people feared rural dwellers had been overlooked or disregarded and even manipulated, being that they are not typically well provided for.
Addis Ababa University students cried out in concern for their family members. Students started chanting that the voices of their mothers and fathers had been stolen. It was impossible for most people to believe that a party who lost 100 per cent of Parliamentary seats in a capital city Addis Ababa could have won by a margin in the same elections at the national level. Farmers and city goers are not strangers in Ethiopia. They are usually fathers and sons, mothers and daughters or, brothers and sisters so; they typically will be in contact with one another. These close knit community members will share their feelings, their happiness’ and troubles. The students and other demonstrators at Addis Ababa University were provoked to challenge the government’s proclaimed sweeping victory.
The first reactions of Ana Gomez were similar to those of most Ethiopians. With an open ear they listened to the observations of leadership and other election groups while mass gatherings began in public places. Later when reports released by her team stated that the election failed to meet the international standard. Prime Minister Zenawi became angry and proceeded to denounce her report. Ana was unbending. Her persistence impressed most people. This is how she began to attract the attention of the Ethiopian people. At this time Ana showed herself to be a woman committed to truly serving justice by fairly reporting the national election process.
Some human right activists seem to shrink when devious leaders beseech or confound them but Ana was brave. She smelled a rat and she was able to estimably evaluate the spirit of both the people and the government. Later she said this about the election. “In 2005 there was a massive turn-out to vote, and people believed that the election would be genuine. The problem was with the counting, which people felt, and I felt, had been manipulated.” This statement reiterates how she shared the belief of a fundamental wrongdoing with the majority of the people.
She later accurately characterized the EPRDF as “deviously smart.” The more she understood of the nature of the government, the more people claimed, she understood. She’s got it! They would shout. I think this camaraderie is one of the main elements which make Ethiopians go crazy for Ana Gomes. Many people believe that foreign people cannot easily understand the devious nature of Meles Zenawi and his colleagues. But for Ana Gomez it didn’t take long at all. She was able to quickly identify and communicate the Ethiopian government’s strategy of defeat through misinformation, distraction and confusion.
Ana Gomes once said after the death of Meles Zenawi that, “Meles was an expert in using jargon such as ‘good governance, the rule of law, democracy, sustainable development’ but in practice doing just the opposite. It was a smart leadership which uses politically correct language for European and American consumption, but the practice was really oppressive.” She also once recounts of the late Prime Minster Meles Zenawi that, “Until June 8, the day of the massacre, I had actually developed a very good relationship with him. I had frank exchanges with him and could see he was shrewd, very smart, and at the beginning I believed him. But little by little I came to see he was trying to fool me; he was very perverse, he had a very perverse mind, very smart but very perverse.” These feelings conveyed so forcefully by Ana Gomes were shared by the majority of Ethiopians. Her incisive comments made the people appreciate her and it put her in a higher place in their minds. And as usual they said, “she’s gotten it.”
Ana was deeply angered by the massacre of demonstrators which took place on June 8th 2005 one month after the botched National Election. She raised her voice again this time to condemn the acts of the Ethiopian government and she called upon the international community to do the same. As her fervor grew so did her support. Her stance for justice seemed to dazzle otherwise disaffected Ethiopians from the four corners of the country and the Diaspora as well. Her understanding and her brave stance saw the people come to call her their hero.
People believe that breaking the lobby and personal pressures of the late prime minster meles and his party TPLF must have been so difficult for her, but they appreciated her unmovable stance. Mr. Meles tried to fool her but when he understood it was impossible to convert her he wrote a nasty article in the Ethiopian Herald to stop her from exposing his terrible works. However, the more the Ethiopian government tried to stop her the more she would expose them on the world stage. This condemning bravery saw her take a place in the hearts of the suffering Ethiopian people forever. The more truths she was able to reveal the more her name spread across Ethiopia. Even farmers living in remote areas had heard about her. I imagine they told the story of the one woman “fighting for our voice” who came from Europe. When people asked her name they began to call her “Hana Gobeze” which can be translated to Ana my Hero or Brave Ana as is tradition in Amharic. In fact, she’s my hero too.
Personally, as a world citizen and an Ethiopian I am proud of her. We need more people like Ana Gomes on the earth. Her passion for international justice and protecting human rights has deeply moved me. When she spoke on the international stage about Ethiopia she accurately showed the depth of our persecution. Together with her title, Ana Gomez has recently been able to do more in the diplomatic fight against injustice In Ethiopia than any other Ethiopian activist themselves is even able to say that they have accomplished. She continues to speak for Ethiopians now and we Ethiopians want to recognize her outstanding work and dedication to go above and beyond for what it takes to help Ethiopia today. When journalists are arrested or political activists are thrown in jail she acts as what we Ethiopians would “our mother”. She goes above and beyond to expose the deficiencies of the Ethiopian government on the world stage and to protect our lives and help grow our freedoms.
Ana Gomes has stepped up her efforts to spur fundamental change in Ethiopia since the death of Meles Zenawi. In September 2012, she blasted the EU Parliament expressing the needs of the oppressed in Ethiopia and demanding action to relieve the desperate situation of Ethiopians. When Mr. Andargachew Tsige was kidnapped she set to action immediately writing letters here and there. In recent days, she has expressed that his life has been saved because there was a reaction from the international community. She is so right to do and say these things of vital importance to us all and Ethiopians will forever be indebted to her. I cannot qualify all of her good works now by pen alone but let me say that we Ethiopians recognize and greatly value the work she is doing to see justice and democracy return to Ethiopia. Her extraordinary contributions to justice and democracy in Ethiopia make her one of the unforgettable in our hearts.
I am sure one day, some day, when democracy has won in our country the Ethiopian people will honor and remember her forever along with so many others who have merited recognition by us today. We will prize her for her outstanding contribution. She will be a symbol for free and fair elections in Ethiopian history. We can hope to build a monument to her to represent our passions for free and fair election.
I feel along with so many of my friends and brothers that we Ethiopians are lucky to have so many people around the world who are fighting for our freedom especially those in international organization. We want to recognize them as we know God does. We want to honor and exalt them as we know he does. That is all that we or anyone else can say about such remarkable individuals.
God Bless Ethiopia!