Jailed Ethiopian Opposition Leader Mideksa on Hunger Strike – By Jason McLure (Bloomberg)

January 8th, 2009 Print Print Email Email

Ethiopia’s leading opposition politician is in her 10th day of a hunger strike after she was jailed for life on Dec. 29 following a dispute with the government, according to her mother.

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Ethiopia’s leading opposition politician is in her 10th day of a hunger strike after she was jailed for life on Dec. 29 following a dispute with the government, according to her mother.

Birtukan Mideksa, 34, has been taking only juice and water and is being held in solitary confinement in a windowless 3-meter by 4-meter (10-foot by 13-foot) cell in Ethiopia’s Kaliti prison, said her mother, Almaz Gebregziabhere, who visited her in prison yesterday.

“I didn’t recognize her because of how she’s changed,” said Gebregziabhere, 72, in an interview today at her home in Addis Ababa. “I begged her for the sake of her daughter to eat, but she didn’t.”

Prison officials have banned all visitors except Gebregziabhere and Mideksa’s 3-year-old daughter, Halle, from visiting her, Gebregziabhere said. Gebregziabhere, speaking in Amharic through a translator, said the family had been unable to hire a lawyer for Mideksa because those contacted on her behalf have turned her down as a client, fearing government reprisals.

Mideksa, a leader of the now-dissolved Coalition for Unity and Democracy party, was first jailed after Ethiopia’s 2005 elections, in which the CUD claimed victory. She and dozens of other opposition leaders were sentenced to life in prison, though they were released in 2007 after a pardon agreement with the government of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.

She was re-arrested Dec. 29 after she rejected government demands that she make a public statement saying she had formally requested the original pardon.

‘Humane Condition’

Bereket Simon, an adviser to Zenawi, said he wasn’t aware of Mideksa’s fast.

“We have a prison system whereby we hold prisoners in a humane condition,” Simon said. “This is a case where she has said that she didn’t ask for pardon and the decision of the judiciary is being applied. At this point, I don’t think it requires
intervention by lawyers.”

Simon also said the government wasn’t interested in potential mediation efforts by the independent group that negotiated Mideksa’s initial release.

Following their release in 2007, some former CUD leaders chose exile in the U.S. or U.K. Mideksa stayed in Ethiopia and formed a new party that planned to contest the 2010 elections.

“Look what has happened to her,” said Berhanu Nega, who along with Mideksa led the CUD movement in 2005, in a phone interview from Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. The government “will never allow any peaceful transition in that country.”

Call to Struggle

Nega, who was elected mayor of Addis Ababa in 2005 before his imprisonment, has called for armed struggle to oust Zenawi. Nega left Ethiopia after his release from prison in 2007 to teach at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania.

His new movement, Ginbot 7, has formed an underground network inside Ethiopia with the goal of overthrowing Zenawi’s Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, Nega said.

The U.S., which views Ethiopia as a key ally in the fight against terrorism, offered a rare rebuke to Zenawi’s government following Mideksa’s arrest, warning Ethiopia to avoid steps that appear to “criminalize dissent.”

Government opponents accused the state of rigging the May 2005 poll, sparking protests in Addis Ababa. A judicial inquiry after the election concluded that government security forces had killed 193 opposition supporters in the unrest.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jason McLure in Addis Ababa via the Johannesburg bureau at abolleurs@bloomberg.net.

  1. gidey
    | #1

    ብርሃኑ – አንተ አጭበርባሪ – በሕቡ ተድራጅቻለሁ መሳርያም አለኝ እያልክ አታጭበርብር:: አንድም ጥይት ሲቾህ አልሰማንም:: ወንድ ልጅ ገብቶ ከህዝብ ጋር ይታገላል -

  2. Free Berutkan Lady Liberty
    | #2

    Almaz Gebregziabhere is Bertukan Medeksa mother?

    Is that W/ro Almaz Gebreziabeher?

    If she is, she is a Tigrayan woman. Her name is typical Tigray woman also.

    I didn’t know Bertukan was half Tigray and half Oromo.

    Interesting to know.

    Maybe this is why she publicly apologized to the Tigray community in the USA about the racist comments made by kinijit.

  3. lnd
    | #3

    Tadia min chigire alew enatua Tigre bihonu? pls think as human being. Look just Birtukan even her family are Tigrians ok bro don’t be fool bro.

  4. Jakob Solomonn
    | #4

    When are you TPLF’ites Start to think and analyze things for what they are ??? Every thing on Earth has to be Analized Ethnically ??? Ethocenteric Mentality is a Social disease which All TPLF members suffering from .Now this 34 yrs old vibrant articulate and leading opposition party is suffering in TPLF’s Dungeons yet they are wondering which Ethnic groups her parents belongs too ? Wjat a sickness -GOD HELP ETHIOPIA TO REPLACE THIS CURRENT ETHNOCRACY BY DEMOCRACY

  5. Jakob Solomonn
    | #5

    When are you TPLF’ites Start to think and analyze things for what they are ??? Every thing on Earth has to be Analized Ethnically ??? Ethocenteric Mentality is a Social disease which All TPLF members suffering from .Now this 34 yrs old vibrant articulate and leading opposition party is suffering in TPLF’s dungeons yet they are wondering which Ethnic groups her parents belongs too ? What a sickness -GOD HELP ETHIOPIA TO REPLACE THIS CURRENT ETHNOCRACY BY DEMOCRACY

  6. Dereb
    | #6

    what about her hair condition.
    While you talk about her meal her her style should also considered.we will send some cosmetics wile we do peacfful protest.
    AYE Birtukia we miss you!

  7. Yaregal
    | #7

    Since when is Lady Liberty an Ethiopian name? Stupids identify some one by name. I would be more than happy if Birtukan was also a Tigrayan. Tigrayan are part and parcel of Ethiopia and UDJ has many members and followers. Shame is to those racists, ethnicists,old communist EPRPs, Woyanes, Shabias, hodams and opportunists.

  8. Melaku
    | #8

    Gidey,
    Just wait! Bastard

    VIVA GINBOT 7

  9. Gidey
    | #9

    መላኩ አንድ እንጀራ ልኩ – አንተ ሆዳም!
    የግንቦት ሰባት ነገር – ላም አለኝ በሰላም ወተቷንማ አላይ ሆኖል::
    አንድም ጥይት ሲጮህ አልሰማንም::
    በሌለ ነገር ዝም ብሎ “VIVA GINBOT 7″ እያሉ መጮህ ሞኝነት ነው::

    እግዚአብሄር ከአንተጋ ይሁን – ሌላ ምንም የምልህ የለም::
    አንተ ሞኝ!

    ያንተው ግደይ

  10. ayu
    | #10

    Hello all Ethiopians please have a kind heart for all don’t write and speak silly things. I know Ethiopians by their good manner and decipline, i have a quation:- Do you think race change our country? Do you think beleaming each other changes our country? Me i said “No” because everything gonna be nice and fruitfull if we stand together as one nation as brather and sister not dividing by nationality or relegion. If we do that we teach and pass our childeren to have strong belive in their country,(One Ethiopia).

  11. tumata
    | #11

    ከላይ ስለቡርቱካን እናት ብሄር በግምት አቡዋራ ለማስነሳት የምትፈልጉ ግብዞች
    በመጀመርያ ትግሬ ቢሆኑ እንኩዋ ጸጋ ነዉ::ገብረስላሴ የትግሬ ስም ነው…ሃይሌ ኢትዮጵያዊ እንጂ ::
    እንደዉ ለነገሩ ግን ወ/ሮ አልማዝ ትግሬ አይደሉም

  12. Jenbere
    | #12

    Please Abugida could you filter comments, we do not have to read such hate filled and harmful comments. You owe it to us to use a filter and allow comments that add value to the discussion. If you can not do that then you should close the comment section. You should respect your readers and not expose them to such hate and insulting page. Thank you, I like your site and I visit every day.

Comments are closed.