Rescuing Ethiopia From The Devil Within – The Vanguard
ECHOES of tyranny and its attendant discord in Ethiopia have been sources of major concern to democrats from other parts of Africa.
Attempts at gagging the opposition have resulted in stiff sentences and convictions of human rights activists and journalists. As is often the case in many parts of the continent, the contentious issue is the result of last May’s elections, which was in favor of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. There have been mass protests. The opposition challenged the results on the streets.
The government was miffed. It ordered police to disperse the unarmed demonstrators with maximum force.
Official figures put the dead at 193, 99 of who were women and children while six police officers were said to have died. In addition, 1,000 demonstrators were wounded. In annoyance, the Zenawi government arrested and arraigned 100 people opposed, to it, for “plotting against the constitution”.
Among the persecuted were members of the Coalition of Unity and Democracy, an opposition party, Professor Mesfin Wolde Mariam, founder, Ethiopian Human Rights Council and many others, including some journalists. Last July, 30 accused were sentenced to life imprisonment, five others were sentenced in absentia — two journalists and others were sentenced to various jail terms.
From the manner the trial was conducted, it is doubtful if the accused persons were given fair hearing. Zenawi did everything to hang those who dissented with him. Abraham Tetmke, state prosecutor, asked the court to impose death penalty on some of the accused just for standing up against official trampling on their political rights.
Zenawi is holding to the power he got 16 years ago, when the military chased Haile Mengistu out of office. Mengistu had been in power for 16 years, following his coup that ended the reign of Haile Selassie, Africa’s longest ruling despot, who ascended the throne at 38 and was killed in the 1975 coup, 45 years on. Zenawi has learnt well. In the past 77 years, he is Ethiopia’s third ruler.
Its development is also indexed on the fact that each of these three rulers spent his time battling for their long stay in power.
National and international umbrage does not seem to matter when the conviction of his perceived political foes is his focus. For Zenawi, the throne is his and no rivals are permitted in what is deemed a democracy. The world must stand up against Zenawi’s conduct. The world is now a global village where every country should abide by civilized conduct. Belated responses to the situations in Iraq, Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone, Sudan and Liberia allowed them to degenerate to colossal loss of lives and pure agony for those who survived.
International pressure is required to make Ethiopia, where the African Union, with its Human Rights Commission, is ironically still headquartered, to comply with the ideals of the founding fathers of that organization, ideals rooted in protecting the rights and dignity of our peoples.
Ethiopia needs to be saved from Zenawi, now.