Washington Update

February 23rd, 2007 Print Print Email Email

Feb. 22, 2007|By Mesfin Mekonen

According to reports from Ethiopian news media, the trial of opposition politicians who were jailed in fall of 2005 has been delayed, ostensibly so that translations of statements made by Hailu Shawel, the chairman of the CUD (Coalition for Unity and Democracy) can be presented to the court. The statements were made at a National Press Club press conference in September 2005. Hailu Shawel and the other prisoners have been accused of committing treason and other crimes, when in fact all they simply advocated non-violent political change.

The National Press Club printed a brief report about Hailu Shawel’s press conference in its publication, The NPC Record, on September 29, 2005. This article makes it completely clear that Hailu Shawel’s National Press Club statements did not constitute treason. The complete text of the article follows:

Ethiopian Politician Calls For President’s Removal
Opposition political leader Hailu Shawel of Ethiopia at a Sept. 20 Newsmaker called for the removal of President Meles Zenawe, whose dictatorship is causing poverty and human rights violations, he said. A member of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy/United Ethiopian Democratic Forces, Shawel said these combined political parties “have resolved to bring good government to Ethiopia.” Decrying the lack of U.S. support, he added, “Don’t come after we die to cry for us.” Shawel also criticized the U.S. for working with Zenawe: “to deal with a dictator is to encourage a dictator,” he said. He insisted that “no guns will be used in bringing down the dictator, not a single bullet will be fired.” But, he conceded, “it will take several years to straighten out the mess our country has become.”

In addition to the comments noted in the NPC Record, Hailu Shawel denounced the Meles regime, described the gross election irregularities, intimidation and cheating, and called on the international community to press the regime to support the opposition’s demands for the formation of an interim government. He noted that the Meles regime was abusing human rights and the rule of law. The regime’s subsequent actions, especially its jailing of Hailu Shawel and other opposition politicians, Journalists and civic group, demonstrated the accuracy of his statements.

The only way to put Ethiopia on a toward democracy and economic prosperity is for the government to meet with the entire range of political and civic groups to discuss and plan the creation of an interim government that will oversee new elections. The only alternative to holding new elections is a continuing descent into totalitarian dictatorship, further destruction of the economy, and even greater suffering by the Ethiopian people. The regime’s policies have already created massive suffering: outbreaks of preventable diseases such as malaria and cholera are killing large numbers of people; government cronyism is allowing a tiny elite to prosper while most of the country slips further into despair; and the destruction of democratic institutions is creating a breeding ground for violence because the people are losing faith in the possibility of improving their lives and their country through peaceful means.

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