Urgent Call for Action: Stop the Intimidation-by-Imprisonment of Opposition Leaders in Ethiopia – Foreign Relation Committee of Andinet Support Group in North America

December 26th, 2008 Print Print Email Email

Mrs. Birtukan Medeksa, Chairwoman of the main Ethiopian opposition party:

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Mrs. Birtukan Medeksa, Chairwoman of the main Ethiopian opposition party:

Unity for Democracy and Justice Party (UDJP) has been interrogated twice personally by the Ethiopian Police Commissioner and is being threatened with a life time imprisonment for exercising her constitutional right of conducting an open and free exchange of ideas with her supporters abroad and at home.

Mrs. Birtukan has been made to appear for interrogation to the office of the high commissioner in December 10, 2008 and has been asked to respond to the statement she made in Sweden to the supporters of her party about the terms of release of the former CUDP leaders from prison. Following the interrogation, the government print and electronic media has opened a propaganda and intimidation campaign against the chairwoman. Again in December 23, 2008, the office of the police commissioner took the chairwoman to its office without due process and gave her ultimatum to officially renounce her own statement about the release of CUDP leaders. She was told by the commissioner that a process would be started that would lead to life in prison if she does not denounce her own statement in three days. This ominous threat is repeated in the government controlled TV and print media once again.

This is a clearly a calculated tactic by the Ethiopian regime to kill the legal and peaceful politics of the opposition either through the humiliation of its leaders and/or personal and physical incarceration of its rising and popular female leader.

We call upon international human rights advocates, democratic governments and particularly the diplomatic community in Ethiopia and the US government to use all the influences they have on the government of Meles to stop his intimidation of the chairwoman of UDJP and also stop interfering in the legal and peaceful activities of UDJP and all opposition parties.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Mrs. Birtukan Medeksa is chairwoman of the UDJP which was re-constituted by most former leaders of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy Party (CUDP). It is to be remembered that CUDP was the main opposition party which according to most independent observers won the election of 2005. The government of Meles declared a state of emergency even before the counting of votes is closed and threw the leaders of CUDP to prison for more than a year and half. Government security officers also gunned down over 193 unarmed civilians in the streets of Addis Abeba and threw to prison thousands of CUDP supporters, Human Rights activities and free press members. These atrocities of the government are well-documented by independent human rights activities who reported it to international organizations like the EU parliament’s human rights committee with pictorial proofs. This is also confirmed by the findings of the commission that was formed by the Ethiopian government parliament itself. The members of this commission now live in exile fearing persecution by the government of Meles.

After more than a year and half of incarceration of the leaders of CUDP, the intervention of national elders encouraged and supported by the international community succeeded in securing an agreement between the government and the opposition leaders for terms of release of the leaders and the continuation of their political activity. Since their release, the leaders and their supporters have been working hard to reconstitute the party from scratch. Unable to use their former name of CUDP because of an arbitrary ruling to give their name to an individual, the leaders were forced to rename their party as UDJP. The reconstituted party has started to be active again in organizing and reaching the people. The party has been able to re-open 35 of its offices in the several parts of the country and is in schedule to open 90 plus more offices before the 2010 election. The party has started organizing public meetings both abroad and at home. The recent tours to Europe by the chairwoman and the large public meeting in Addis and the positive responses by the people in these meetings are examples of such activities. The party has openly announced its plans to continue holding similar meetings with the public through out the country. These initial contacts with the people were done despite repeated interventions and obstructions by local government agencies at several levels. The government shamefully intervenes in the activities of CUDP even at the highest level. Pro-Government News papers routinely report on the minutes of highest level meetings by UDJP. These papers can do such things only through the help of government security forces whom we suspect are planting listening devices in rooms and halls of the party’s meetings.

The action of the government against the chairwoman of UDJP can be explained only as an attempt to obstruct the on-going political activities of UDJP. It is clear now that government agencies like its election board certifies legal parties for appeasing donor governments while its other agencies like local officials, the police and the pro-government press engages in subverting the legal and peaceful activity of parties like UDJP.

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