Rehtorical Good Governance to Mask Rights Violations & Abuse Of Power in Ethiopia – By Genet Mersha

September 12th, 2008 Print Print Email Email

The snatching of journalist Amare Aregawi from his office in Addis Ababa on 22 August and the bizarre mistreatment he was subjected to is yet another sorry state of affairs in Ethiopia. It is a further acerbic evidence of the prevalent practice of gross violations of fundamental human rights and the abuse of power by the TPLF/EPRDF regime. (more…)

The snatching of journalist Amare Aregawi from his office in Addis Ababa on 22 August and the bizarre mistreatment he was subjected to is yet another sorry state of affairs in Ethiopia. It is a further acerbic evidence of the prevalent practice of gross violations of fundamental human rights and the abuse of power by the TPLF/EPRDF regime. Luckily, Mr. Aregawi’s many friends turned to their influential contacts to get him out of prison in a matter of days. While his release is welcome, for many voiceless Ethiopians this incident comes as testimony to the bleak prospects of democracy in Ethiopia.

The valid concern at this stage is that the regime may have orchestrated Mr. Aregawi’s humiliating treatment in a difficult time as its signal of determination to go to any extent to stifle opposition or dissent of any form, including by sacrificing one of its own. Surely, for the intolerant TPLF/EPRDF Mr. Aregawi’s occasional needling has of late become a source of heartburn.

Therefore, in a manner befitting the actions of a mafia group, Mr. Amare was put on a brewery truck with the full knowledge of the capital police and was taken to Gondar for imprisonment, 700 km north of Addis Ababa. One officer from the Gondar police escorted him along with an employee driver of the truck under the direction of the brewery management. Dashen Brewery is owned by EFFORT, the business empire of the ruling party. The board of the brewery is studded with senior officials of the ruling party, including Mr. Bereket Simon, once minister of information and currently the Prime Minister’s public relations assistant with the rank of minister in the prime minister’s office.

While Mr. Amare stayed in prison for one week along with another journalist, whose predicament did not seem to capture much attention, the experience of the two individuals unmistakably reveals the prevalence of lawlessness in Ethiopia and the continued worsening of the human rights situation. What is worrisome is how powerful individuals, members of the ruling party’s executive committee, seem to be free to misuse power with no fear of consequences or conscience as in the manner of warlords with guns and militias. In the name of the state, they proved that they were determined to get their way, perhaps exact revenge because of differences of opinion.

As a former TPLF fighter, there should be no mistaking that Mr. Aregawi has been in the good books of the ruling party. For a time, this has been reinforced by his unreserved campaigns and much-loathed editorials since 2005 against opposition parties, especially his support of the incarceration of the former CUD the members. Ethiopia being a deeply polarized society and at the same time cowered into submission by the sword of the ruling party, his actions have also bought him hatred among considerable members of the Ethiopian society, both at home and abroad.

However, if his actions especially of the last few years are any guide, Mr. Amare, like most of us, has matured outside of the confines of the restrictive and parochial TPLF ideology. He has shown capacity to learn from experience by debating and observing the Ethiopian reality as a journalist. He has come to understand that the much-vaunted economic growth has not only proved unsustainable to all intents and purposes, but has also fizzled out because of politics that is more focussed on security than the regime’s oft-reiterated but least realized promises of alleviation of poverty.

Hence, it is evident that Amare Aregawi has seen the split of Ethiopian society with a handful of party cadres and their associates prospering. The result is that the majority of the people are wallowing in further deepening poverty that is further exacerbated by inadequate tools to control the factors behind Ethiopian inflation. Rising food prices and life threatening drought and floods in some areas have exacerbated the sense of helplessness. On occasions, this has challenged Mr. Aregawi to take shots at the excesses of the ruling party, especially regarding official corruption and malfeasance, mistreatment of journalists and civic organizations, suppression of freedom of the press and government inefficiency and squandering of national resources.

Ethiopians are fair-minded people; they took mental note of his efforts and gave him credit for his good deeds. As a result, The Reporter has won wider readership merely for its daring to speak truth to power. Certainly, Mr. Aregawi’s connection with TPLF senior members has helped him a great deal in being more courageous than other ordinary mortals are. However, the lesson is that good deed in today’s Ethiopia is no sufficient insurance on its own, as the yardstick of who goes up or down is usually defined by caprice and the tremors inside the party and the fears of leadership. Especially this has to be taken into account when one deals with those that scarcely differentiate helpful criticisms from outright enmity. In that category is Mr. Bereket Simon, whose years of abrasiveness have stifled mutual tolerance within the larger society and the prospects of democracy in Ethiopia. Added to this, according to some sources, is Mr. Simon’s recent public bickering with Mr. Aregawi during the consultations on the latest press law. That is one reason why many suspect that Bereket Simon is the author of Amare Aregawi’s straightening through humiliation in total violation of the victim’s civil rights as citizen.

Without missing the bigger picture, Mr. Aregawi demonstrated strong emotions and anger during an interview after his release, which is understandable. He told The Reporter on 30 August that he considered his unfortunate experience “an eye-opener.” To that end, he observed, “we as media people have limited ourselves to Addis Ababa that we are blind to the suffering and injustice meted out to thousands outside the capital. So many people around the country continue to be subjected to the whims of officials” [30 August].

Surely, it is not lost on Amare Aregawi that even in Addis Ababa many citizens, journalists included, continue to languish in prison with no evidence of criminality brought against them, even years after they were thrown in jail. The question here is why Mr. Aregawi’s situation captured immediate attention, thereby leading to his release. Some attribute that to his prominence as editor-in-chief of The Reporter. Others attribute it to his connections to the ruling party and his role as a former fighter in the Tigrai liberation front. Hopefully, the truth of this matter which has embarrassed even the very support base of the regime will come out someday.

Even the warlike Aigaforum took greater interest in exposing Mr. Amare Aregawi’s mistreatment. It seems Aigaforum has recognized that it would be in no position in future to defend the claim of empty good governance, when even a journalist connected to the TPLF is thrown to prison without due process. On 27 August, Aigaforum tried to explain cautiously its worthy action by stating, “The Reporter may be guilty of such deeds [sensationalism] but we think the Reporter by and large is a responsible newspaper worth defending, if not for anything else to promote the democratic process an inch forward.” It is my sincere hope that Aigaforum will apply the same standard of advocacy for other Ethiopians as well, irrespective of the opinions they hold or natural identifier. Democracy by definition and in practice is not protection and defence of the rights of those tied to the ruling party alone.

So far, I have not read anywhere the response of Mr. Bereket Simon to the many insinuations by a number of papers [The Reporter included 7 September excellently written opinion] on the role played by him in the mistreatment of Mr. Amare Aregawi. Moreover, no other senior government official has reacted either to this mafia type behaviour by Dashen Beer, which it would not have done were it not for the dual role of EFFORT business enterprises as businesses and politico security entities. Based on responses to Aigaforum’s solicitation of comments on the matter, the incident has even incensed many in the pro-government camp.

Clearly, more than others, the incident reflects negatively on Mr. Bereket Simon for his failure to rise to the occasion as a senior executive committee member of the ruling party and defend the democratic and constitutional rights of the journalist. For two important reasons Mr. Bereket is linked to this lawless action by Dashen Brewery and the Gondar police. The first reason is that Mr. Bereket Simon is a board member (chairman?) of the Dashen Brewery. Secondly, he is one of the most powerful persons not only in the ruling party and the federal government, but also in the ANDM, the regional party, which is a founding constituent member of the EPRDF. Surprisingly, the three-member court in Gondar held three different views, perhaps a reflection of institutional unpreparedness. When a request came to close the case, the response was confusion as to how a case that in the first place was never opened could be closed.

Given this anomalous situation, where ordinary Ethiopians have lacked the means to correct, how could it really make any sense for any Ethiopian to oppose outside support aimed at steering Ethiopia on a democratic path? One such latest effort is that of Senators Russ Feingold and Patrick Leahy who a few days ago introduced a bill in a Committee of the US Senate with a view to building US friendship with Ethiopia on a solid and democratic basis. That surely would help ensure the objectives of the friendship between the United States and Ethiopia, while in no less degree helping to foster democratic and humanitarian principles and practices in government and within the broader society.

Unfortunately, even this present initiative by the US senate members is misconstrued as effort by democrats to outsmart republicans at the expense of Ethiopia. To that end, Aigaforum, the regime’s mouthpiece wrote, “It is common knowledge during the presidential election period both parties in the US will do anything to undermine each other. The Democrats have been complaining about US policy in Iraq with the hope it will gain them some votes in the coming election. However with the recent success in Iraq in part due to the military surge the democrats may be trying to find new ways to attack the Republicans.”

Is that really the motive of the two senators, or staving off Ethiopia’s slippage into lawlessness where the human rights situation could worsen further? Democrat or republican, it does not matter who is elected as president, the key to success in Ethiopia is through better governance. Already Mr. Obama has declared on CBS with David Letterman that if he is elected president, get ready that his litmus test for African governments is BETTER GOVERNANCE.

  1. BIRI
    | #1

    Let’s not assume that Amare Aregawi/the ‘Reporter’ is a free press that opposes the tyrannical racist ruling clique of Meles Zenawi. The truth has been documented by those who know Amare Aregawi and the so called the ‘Reporter’:-


    Where is the Reporter headed?
    By Zerihun Tesfaye
    December 18, 2005
    When the Ethiopian Reporter first started publishing, the reading public was skeptical about its claim of being a part of the independent and free press.
    The main reason and source for such skepticism was, of course, Amare Aregawi himself – the editor and owner of the newspaper. Amare Aregawi, in addition to once being the head of Ethiopian television (ETV) of the Ministry of Information, is also an ex-official of the TPLF. This fact coupled with his then very close personal relationship with Meles Zenawi made him vulnerable to suspicion by the public. Moreover, editorials, feature articles, and other reportage in the various outlets of his Media Communications Company (MCC), lacking objectivity and balanced reporting, did not distinguish themselves as belonging to the free press.

    Furthermore, for the purposes of defamation of certain opponents of the TPLF, compromising pictures and unsavory information of a personal nature, that can only be available to the government, were selectively being leaked by the security services via the Reporter.

    In the course of time, and more precisely, during and after the time of split within the TPLF, the Reporter started to be more engaged in in-depth reporting with regards to national issues, widened its scope of investigative reporting, and added in its features timely interviews with diverse representatives of society.

    This new approach was gradually but duly recognized by the public and the standing and respectability of the paper as a member of the then growing independent press started to establish itself.

    But, sadly of late, the Reporter seems to have gone back to its shady beginning. The line between its duty of informing the public as an independent press and the apparent role it plays as the mouthpiece of the governing party seems to be deliberately blurred. This gradual transformation of the Reporter has recently taken a quantum leap purposefully (it seems) coinciding with the Electoral crisis in Ethiopia, EPRDF’s effort at manipulating the results, and the opposition’s struggle to fend off this attempt. To any reasonable person, these days, the contents on the pages of the Reporter, especially the editorial pages are becoming more and more indistinguishable from the propaganda eschewed by the government in tenor, as well as content. This has indeed become very worrisome to many.

    To illustrate this point, let us look at two recent editorials of the newspaper, one about the Diaspora in general, and another on recent demonstrations by Ethiopians that took place around the world. When the Reporter talks about the Diaspora as one indistinguishable and monolithic group one sees no distinction between what the Meles government and hired guns like the old CIA hand Paul Henze claim to be the Diaspora, and Reporter’s version of the same category of people. The absurdity of this claim can be easily demonstrated by looking at Ethiopians of Tigrean origin in America. Just like in any other ethnic group in Ethiopia, one finds many who belong to and support political groups ranging from UEDF, CUD/Kinjit, EPRDF, Seye Abraha’s support group (Hizbawi). Along with them, one also comes across many who are not engaged politically at all. It is also evident that a greater number, for reasons that are obvious and not so obvious, are supporters of EPRDF in general and TPLF in particular.

    But if one follows the logic of the Reporter, and bases oneself solely on the shrill and sometimes racist voices coming out the likes of Aigaforum, Hambasha and their Xerox copy web sites, one can claim that all Tigreans in America are in the mold of these fringe groupings. Such assertion, in addition to being absurd, would be downright dangerous and unbecoming of any newspaper worthy of its name.

    Mammoth demonstrations by Ethiopians taking place all over the world protesting the election fraud and wanton killings of innocent civilians by the EPRDF and its special forces is the other instance where the Reporter’s editorial appear to shamelessly mimic government propaganda outlets.

    One would have hoped the focus of the demonstration stories in the Reporter r would have been this new trend – Ethiopians living in the Diaspora, in huge numbers, – showing solidarity with their indiscriminately killed brethren, their grieving families and indeed their grieving nation.

    Unfortunately, instead of underlining the significance of and presenting the above historic development, the Reporter seems to have been caught by something that is inconsequential, something they call “a few Eritreans participating in these (Ethiopian) demonstrations”. What is even worse is its attempt to use the presence of these ‘Eritreans” in the rallies and accuse the demonstrators as being traitors. Nowadays, to Meles and Co., anybody who doesn’t agree with them is considered a traitor who should be charged with treason and genocide! What a mockery!

    If there were some Ethiopians of Eritrean origin in these demonstrations, it would not be an extraordinary find, as one surely would expect them to be there. In light of this, one certainly fails to comprehend the Reporter’s outrage in this regard. It is evident that the dastardly crimes committed by EPRDF were so gross that it has mobilized not only Ethiopian nationals but also citizens in all the countries where demonstrations took place.

    To this, one can add the series of articles, editorials and commentaries written by non-Ethiopians and highly respected newspapers like the New York Times, the Economist and others exposing the hypocrisy of Meles and his EPRDF and condemning the killings and mass arrest of citizens. This is as it should be, for the surprise would have been if they kept quiet or focused on non-issues as the Reporter seems to be engaged in lately.

    The TPLF, the organization that callously sacrificed the lives of tens of thousands of Tigrean youth in support of Issayas Afeworki’s ambition has no shame now to want to turn around and accuse others of allying with Issayas to the detriment of the national interest. That, Meles and Co., finding themselves in their death bed, make such crude allegation might be explainable. However, it is absolutely inexcusable for a newspaper to be echoing this rubbish; particularly when it comes from a newspaper which has placed, “Free Press, Free Speech, Free Spirit” motto on its mast, and claims to be a member of the free press.

    If the Reporter wants to get back to the time when it as a member of the free press had gained a modicum of respectability, it is incumbent upon the Chief Editor and all the staff to adhere to the basic tenets of journalism, i.e. objectivity and fairness. Otherwise the path the editorials paved, and now seem to be followed by some of the other sections, would only lead it to be one of the government tabloids in a very short time; and I realize it is a choice the MCC and the editors can make, a choice between respectability and ignominy.

    The writer may be reached for comments via



  2. wendataw
    | #2

    He is one of them and i am not innterested of wasting my time commenting about the most hated ethnocentric apparthaeid tigrian invaiders.They will all go to hell and they cannot hold the power for ever the peopel of ethiopia is fade up of ZERENOCH.death to tplf and there sympetaither.Victory for The peopel of Ethiopia.

  3. blata hadgu
    | #3

    wendataw you are one of yederg buchula bukatam
    and poor in your sick minde. by the way why dont you go back and fight the ppl you hate the great tigraians?? you called your slfe wondata so let me see you get back to ethiopia to fight mr wondata_KKKKKKKKKKKKK what a weak are you poor pls go your slfe to hell looser.

  4. Hagos
    | #4

    I don’t care about Ato Amare he is Weyane

    I remember 2005 he was agnist free press, CUDP leaders and jornalistes.

  5. Wodagu
    | #5

    I have no fate in Woyane drama, if they stage this to get what ever is frightening them, it seems it worked. I feel we should not take our eyes off the ball. What ever way one look at it Woyane is not worth rehabilitating. It has to submit or continue its occupation until it is forced to surrender.

    Those who prolong its life are as guilty as itself.

  6. woyanay
    | #6

    talkative ppl if you hate woyane pls come to dedebit or any place you like if you realy have the gut. do not talk toooooo much come and
    fight we will eat you alive bad boys kkkkkkkkkk
    no more joke with the golden lion AGAZI any more. SEE YOU IN HELL BAD BOYS. KKKKKKKKKKKKKKK

  7. Hasabi Genene
    | #7

    I did not se any advantage of writing about this guy. The ethiopian people know who this guy is.” YE AZO ENBA” crying need of crying now. He is loyal woyanee….his problem with one of the gangsters” BEREKET” is his own problem which is is nothing to do with poletics. Please next time raise other important ISSUES WHICH IS IMPORTANT TO YOUR READER..don’t waste our time and ofcaurse YOURS TOO……..

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