Open Letter to Secretary Clinton – by Robele Ababya

February 19th, 2009 Print Print Email Email

The Honorable Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton

U.S. Department of State

2201C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520 (more…)

The Honorable Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton

U.S. Department of State

2201C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520

Honorable Secretary,

Re: Chairwoman Birtukan of UDJP illegally in jail

Honorable Secretary,

The audacity for my writing this letter is inspired by your enviable noble qualities as a forgiving wife, loving mother, distinguished lawyer, and renowned champion of the human rights of women. You have earned the accolade of a champion of human rights, democracy and civil society as a result of your extensive travels to various parts of our globe. As representative of the USA at the Women’s Conference in Beijing in 1995 you delivered a famous speech. In that famous speech you are quoted as saying: “Human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights”. These immortal words will be indelibly etched in the minds of young men and women of the present and future generations. Your famous speech unleashed a global movement for the right of women.

It is also the case, Honorable Secretary, that you were instrumental in launching the Vital Voices Democracy Initiative (VVDI) of the US government in collaboration with the former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright. I find it appropriate to recall that the present government of Ethiopia expelled the VVDI just before the historic election of 15 May 2005 and showed its true color of a non-democratic regime in sheep’s clothing. It was obvious by that expulsion that the regime was not prepared to accept defeat in that election.

Honorable Secretary,

Birtukan Midekssa was born at the time of raging political flame, fuelled by competing ideologies at the height of the Cold War. The flame was consuming young Ethiopians of my generation. Birtukan inherited the political mess engendered by my generation and I feel guilty and owe a sincere apology to the present young generation. She grew up through the lingering political upheaval exacerbated by the TPLF regime since 1991. She decided to struggle for freedom and democracy and paid as she is also now paying the heavy price of serving in jail. She wrote “What is man without his freedom” in her famous letter from her prison cell at the infamous Kaliti dungeon.

So, Birtukan is a fighter for human rights and you are, Madam Secretary, the right person with great distinction to assist in the advancement of her cause.

Honorable Secretary,

I have constantly watched presidential elections in the USA for several years. I remain positively impressed to this day by the civilized manner in which transfers of power materialize peacefully.

In the recent campaign unprecedented for the long time it took and the money spent, I was torn between the wish to see the first woman or the first African American in the White House. It is now history that Barack Obama won and other contenders bowed out gracefully setting a spectacular example to the international community which I believe hold you with high esteem for your spirited campaign for Candidate Obama to win the Presidency.

Unfortunately peaceful transfer of power such as in the USA remains illusive to us Ethiopians. As you will note in the following paragraph, it is not because the Ethiopian people are not ready for democracy and peaceful transfer of power; it is because political leaders have failed them. I am also to blame although I am not a politician.

On the historic election day of 15 May 2005 Ethiopians took a glimpse of the prospect of peaceful transfer of power for the first time in their ancient history. One week before the election more than 2.5 million citizens of Addis Ababa and its environ inundated the streets and squares of the capital city in support of the opposition. On the Election Day, over 90% of 26 million registered voters went to the polls in a magnificent display of decorum, discipline and patience and cast their votes and dealt a heavy defeat to the ruling party. Unfortunately victory was denied to the victors because the ruling party declared itself the winner and sent the victors to jail – including Judge Birtukan Midekssa who is now back again in jail. She did nothing wrong other than exercising her freedom of speech in truthfully clarifying the process of protracted negotiations that led to the eventual ‘pardon’ of her group. Birtukan had every right to make the said clarification, more so in her capacity as Chairwoman of the most popular home-based “Unity for Democracy and Justice Party (UDJP)” committed to peaceful struggle for change.

Honorable Secretary,

Judge Birtukan is a woman “prisoner of conscience” whose right has been twice grossly violated by the ruling regime. Her only ‘crime’ was winning an election in the first instance (2005) and telling the truth in the second instance for which she is now serving a life sentence.

The distinguished Member of the European Parliament, Honorable Ana Gomes asked the Speaker of the Ethiopian Parliament “not to leave a stone unturned until Birtukan Midekssa is released” – adding in the course of discussion “In which civilised country is someone sentenced to life imprisonment only for speaking publicly about the negotiations preceding her release from prison?!”

The European Parliament passed last January a Resolution on the Horn of Africa, which asks for the immediate and unconditional release of Birtukan Midekssa, leader of the opposition party Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ).
Honorable Secretary,

Judge Birtukan was bombarded by the government media for days vilifying her for telling the truth in Europe about the so-called ‘pardon’ granted to her and other illustrious colleagues who won in the historic election of 2005 and were thrown to jail for lawfully defending their convincing victory in that election.

The Commissioner of Police repeatedly summoned her to his office with the aim to coercing her to recant her statement. The icon Judge refused to lie. Eventually, a contingent of security people in plain clothes manhandled and shoved her into a waiting vehicle and whisked her to prison without court warrant of arrest. Professor Mesfin Woldemarriam, the 78-year old venerated founder and relentless champion of human rights was beaten with the but of the gun for protesting that there was no need to manhandle Birtukan in the way those security people did. I would add that it would have been sufficient to call Judge Birtukan on the telephone and ask her to report to prison. In a cultured ancient country the rude behavior of the security people is unprecedented. All in all, if what Birtukan was subjected to is not both a physical and psychological torture, one would ask what is.

Ethiopian Women Human Rights Alliance (EWHRA) is enraged at the thuggish abuse meted out to their innocent sister, Birtukan. They are furious at the stance of the ruling regime to curb civil liberties in Ethiopia as in the enacting of the infamous NGO Law. The Law is to eventually decimate such liberties and kill burgeoning political parties such as UDJP thus paving the way to a totalitarian state. EWHRA in their recent Press Release emphatically said “Enough” to the abuses of the regime. A lady by the name Kebebush Ayenatchew so far wrote three poems that I read on the website with tears teeming in my eyes; Kebebush vividly expressed the depth of anguish she feels for her compatriot Birtukan in jail. I am sure all others of her gender and all men of good will fee the same. The spirit of unity against injustice is spreading throughout Ethiopia.

Honorable Secretary,

Judge Birtukan, a charismatic and intelligent leader with impeccable integrity, has been in jail without trial for the last 51 days at the time of this writing. Her admirable qualities and her legal profession are locked up with her in her tiny cell at the infamous Kaliti prison where hundreds of political dissidents are held under inhuman conditions. You have a beautiful daughter, Chelsea Clinton, about her age and I am sure you will understand the agonizing experience of Birtukan’s mother of over seventy in the care of the 3-year old granddaughter cruelly missing her illegally imprisoned mother.

The USA is home of the brave and bastion of liberty, thanks to your founding fathers for their vision in crafting the Constitution coveted by the free world. You are a champion of human rights in your own right. To this I would add the undertaking of President Obama that the USA is in the saddle to provide moral leadership in the world once again.

It is my fervent prayer and ardent hope that the past practice of recording atrocious violations of human rights in Ethiopia on the one hand and including the ruling regime as an ally on the war on terrorism on the other would stop under the new Obama Administration. As Congressman Chris Smith said in the aftermath of the Ethiopian election of 2005, “No regime that terrorizes its own citizens can be a reliable ally in the war on terror”.

I submit that Birtukan is a prisoner of conscience. I am confident this time that double standards rampant during the Bush Administration would not stand on her way for immediate and unconditional release.

I most humbly urge you to invest in the friendship of the majority of Ethiopian people. That will start with demanding the immediate and unconditional release of Judge Birtukan Midekssa and all other political prisoners from prison.

It is my wish that a democratic Ethiopia will emerge and prove a lasting friend of the USA in terms of fundamental values of liberty, freedom common to all humanity.

Most respectfully,

Robele Ababya

  1. Anonymous
    | #1

    Birtukan is great leader in ethiopia history. She and shes party fight infront of Weyene. We must understand one think. Ours struggle is ours white people not easy take hand yours letter. For ex what happen 2 weeks ago European union support weyane and give 350 miljared , What going now back of ours struggle.

    You write clearly letter. Usa and Eu make can not ours solve. We must fight and we must be union for struggle. When we weak upp ? and understand ? White people is serve like” Snack “.

    we owenr ours country ; we must defened and continous both peacefuulyy and weapon struggle. Weyane went not leave power or share for other.


  2. Robele Ababya
    | #2

    Thank you anonymous. The pressure from the US administration under Obama is important

  3. Omedela
    | #3

    Dear Robele Ababya,

    Thank you so much for your effort. Your letter is great and based on facts. God bless you and your family. May the Almighty God bless & give more courage and endurance for our star woizerit Birtukan Medikssa!!!


  4. juma
    | #4

    Visit to read about Birtukan and to leave your messages to her. There are no advertisments on the site.

  5. Samson
    | #5

    Birtukan is the undisputed leader of those Ethiopians who stand for freedom, justice and democracy. Whether USA & the EU support and finance the Woyanes repressive criminal regime or not, I have no doubt in my mind that Birtukan will be the Head of State of Ethiopia when the right time comes while Melesse Zenawi and his criminal thugs will face The Hague. Until then …

    God Bless You Birtukan!

  6. Girum
    | #6

    The open letter is on the money over all, but I personally want to thank you for admitting the failure of your generation. I wish our so called politicians would admit their wrong doings. It may seem simple but admission of failure is the first step to correcting the mistakes of the past and great eye opener to the future.

  7. Gasha
    | #7

    Our gratitude goes out to the author who has accurately the state of Ethiopia’s Mandela .

    On January 27, 2009 Mrs. Birtukan’s political party, UDJ held a candle vigil inside its headquarter symbolizing the history of heinous crimes against Ethiopians and mankind at large . It parallels the genocide of Catacomb against the early Christians, where open mourning was punishable by death. And the Holocoust against Jews where mourning was used to identify other Jews only to send them to the gas chambers. How about the barbaric Mussolini, the inhuman Khmer Rouge, the irreprehensible Interahamwe of Rwanda or today’s Darfur, just to list a few. Even closer to home was the savage massacre of students by the dreadful Derg, followed by its decree in disallowing official mourning by the victims parents.
    No matter when or where they happened, all these crimes committed against fellow human beings have one thing in common, savagery beyond human comprehension. But one undying truth is all these despotic criminals have ultimately perished by the will of God and the people.
    To me this gathering illustrated more to the world the plight of the people of Ethiopia than all protest in Diaspora put together. It affirms once more the absolute cruelty of Woyane that it cannot even allow a peaceful candle light vigil to protest the illegal incarceration of the only female political leader in all of Africa.
    Amidst this epic struggle there are those who attack the very victim of apartheid system in Ethiopia. I am not a politician but I cannot find the words to describe those who cast the stone against the very victim of Woyane no matter how repugnant their ideological bend may seem to them. Please remember we are all passengers of a sinking ship which the culprit of our demise is the evil monster known as MELES ZENAWI. Let us save our zeal, and fight the fight with ‘that one’ the sworn enemy of the vessel we all are on.
    The rest, time will hold its place in history.
    God Bless Birtukan, Ethiopia will never forget you!


  8. Jungle Boy
    | #8

    Birtukan stood up for us. We will stand up for her. I think this is a very effective letter. Western politicians care about issues that are important to their voters. Mrs Clinton will listen to our concerns. Keep on applying the pressure. It is not easy to dismantle a dictatorship, especially the ones supported by westerners. The western govs sometimes look for anyone to absorb the aid budget they have in their budgets. So, they throw it at anyone. As long as they balance their books, they don’t care the money they give out is used to kill babies and imprison opposition leaders. They just don’t care. It is up to us to make them care enough to stop funding murderers in Africa.

  9. freedom
    | #9

    I dont have a word to express my appreciation to the writer of the letter.Birtukan is in jail not for herself rather for all ethiopionas who are under the great oppression of the current regime. Pease let us be together and find a way to free not only Birtukan but the whole mother land Ethiopia.

    | #10

    Ethiopian People are ready and willing to pay the price of freedom including by their life as we Witnessed after the 2005 TPLF’s Sham Election.but Unfortunately We’re not lucky of SELFLESS LEADERS WITH VISION .

  11. Ototo Gormolo
    | #11

    Apropos Robele. It is a plausible master piece that got the supressed Ethiopian people’s message accross not only to Secretary Clinton but also to all Western leaders that are pouring their countries’ tax payers money to the fascist kleptomaniac Meles Zenawi’s illegitimate regime. As you have rightly said it, Birtukan’s crime is but to peacefully and democratically compete in the May, 2005 election and triumphantly win. The reward she got is to be thrown to the infamous Kaliti jail along with her fellow party members who also won the election from their respective constituencies.

    The resistance shown by the valiant Ethiopian people against the stolen election was shuttered by the forceful bullets of Meles’s brute security forces who spilt the innocent blood of hundreds of our people. Let truth be told that no Ethiopian alive will forget the callous and pernicious act of Meles in the killing fields of Addis Ababa in the aftermath of the May, 2005 election. His days are numbered. He will certainly be brought to justice to the rejoice of our people.

    God bless Ethiopia and damn Woyane.


  12. jegnawe
    | #12


  13. Gamoraw
    | #13

    God Job Robele. God bless you even if Hilery is not our friend from the beginning. She was strong supporter of Meles (Woyene) And Essyas (shsbia) to separate Eritirea from Ethiopia.

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