Ethiopia’s Top Opposition Politician Ends Prison Hunger Strike – By Peter Heinlein ( VOA Addis Ababa )

January 11th, 2009 Print Print Email Email

A leading Ethiopian opposition politician, who was imprisoned for life last month after a dispute with the government, has ended a hunger strike and told relatives she wants to begin legal proceedings to win her freedom.


A leading Ethiopian opposition politician, who was imprisoned for life last month after a dispute with the government, has ended a hunger strike and told relatives she wants to begin legal proceedings to win her freedom.

The leader of Ethiopia’s Unity for Democracy and Justice Party, Birtukan Mideksa, has called off the fast she began December 29, when she was arrested and placed in solitary confinement in Addis Ababa’s Kaliti prison.

Birtukan’s mother Almaz Gebregziabher told VOA her daughter had eaten the soup and Ethiopian bread (injera) she had brought to the prison Saturday and Sunday.

In an interview at her home, Almaz said Birtukan told her she had decided to fight the court ‘s move to revoke the pardon she received in 2007 – nearly two years after she and dozens of other opposition politicians were arrested in the wake of Ethiopia’s disputed 2005 election, and convicted of treason. They had been given life terms, then pardoned after signing a document effectively admitting their guilt and apologizing.

But during a visit to Sweden late last year, Birtukan denied having asked for a pardon, then refused a demand by the government to retract her statement.

Speaking in Amharic, Almaz expressed tearful frustration at her daughter’s action, which leaves her to care for Birtukan’s three-year old daughter.

Almaz also had strong words for government officials, whom she said had violated her daughter’s constitutional rights.

She said the government promised freedom of speech, democracy – she talked and ended up in jail.

Birtukan, a lawyer and former judge, is the first woman to head a major Ethiopian political party.

Her imprisonment changes Ethiopia’s political landscape a year and a half before the next scheduled parliamentary elections. Her Unity for Democracy and Justice is an outgrowth of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy, which was a major force in the disputed 2005 elections.

She was widely seen as the party’s most charismatic figure and a prime minister hopeful, with potential for wide support among members of Ethiopia’s two largest ethnic groups, Oromos and Amharas.

Government spokesman Bereket Simon earlier told VOA politics had nothing to do with the court order sending Birtukan back to prison. He said it was a simple matter of the judge in the case enforcing the law, and suggested the government has no interest in any further legal proceedings on the issue.

  1. nunu
    | #1




    | #2

    i think it is good decision to give up the hunger strike, weel as we know there is no justice from the regime, even if she follow the legal proceedings,because if the agazi regim know justice bertukan never be in that position, so we should all agree to fight woyane with full determination by any means..and also tplf is in the last critical condition to collapse, so they are working hard to create ethinic clashes between ethiopians, so by taking of this matter seriously we should all are working unitedly with all freedom seekers ethiopians to abort this matter, otherwise will be in bad position to stop all the mess

  3. JY
    | #3

    Birtukan, You are a true patroit and we will stand with you. May God give you a peace and endurance.
    May God bless you

  4. addis tiwlid
    | #4

    Hunger strike is for those who understands it. So I am happy that Birtukan make this decision. We need her. So it is a very wise and bold decision.

  5. kassu
    | #5

    Thank u Birtukan that u decided to stop ur Hunger strike…it is realy great that u started to show how peacful o strong is but the weyane government is so not human being to take that in concideration…ur freedom is not only because of ur alone strugle but the ppl for whom u fight should be in the first line before u as well as the UDJ party and the strugle of worldwide spreaded ppl of ethiopians… strong healthy… ihope u will be free if we come up once …if we woke up from our sleep ..u woke up earlier while the other we r still sleeping .

  6. yeah
    | #6

    i will accept you as my leader this is the kind of person we need for our country. ETHIOPIA.

  7. beti
    | #7

    support an armed struggle! Period

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