Ethiopians rally in rare protest – BBC

April 16th, 2009 Print Print Email Email

The main opposition parties in Ethiopia have held a march in Addis Ababa to call for the release of their imprisoned leader, Birtukan Medeksa. (more…)

The main opposition parties in Ethiopia have held a march in Addis Ababa to call for the release of their imprisoned leader, Birtukan Medeksa.

The demonstrators handed in a petition to the authorities about Ms Birtukan.

She is serving a life sentence, after officials revoked a pardon which had previously seen her set free.

Ethiopia has very little tradition of public protest, the BBC’s Elizabeth Blunt in Addis Ababa says, and passers-by stopped and stared in amazement.

Almaz GebreEgziabher, Ms Birtukan’s mother, hopes the demonstration may help her daughter be released in time for the Ethiopian Easter this weekend.

“I am happy. I saw her last Saturday, and she is quite well. But I am praying that, with the help of God, she might be released tomorrow or the day after so that she can spend Easter with me and her daughter,” she said.

Ms Birtukan’s five-year-old daughter and mother are the only people who are being allowed to visit her in jail.

She was among more than 100 people jailed for political offences after Ethiopia’s election in 2005, most of whom have since been pardoned.

At the time of her re-arrest her colleague Berhanu Nega, who was also pardoned and now lives in exile, told the BBC it showed the government “was hell-bent on staying in power”.

Ms Birtukan is a former judge and was one of the younger and more charismatic leaders of the coalition which did well against the ruling party in the 2005 elections.

Our correspondent says that while in jail facing charges of treason, she became even more of a heroine, attracting widespread sympathy as a single mother separated from her baby daughter.


After the opposition leaders were pardoned and released last year, she emerged as the leader of a new coalition, the Union for Democracy and Justice (UDJ), painstakingly stitched together from various opposition groupings to contest elections in 2010.

The government news agency, quoting the ministry of justice, said her pardon had been revoked because she had denied requesting her pardon.

Ms Birtukan’s problems started when she spoke to journalists abroad about the way the opposition leaders were released, our correspondent says.

She talked about negotiations which had taken place between the opposition and government, with the help of a panel of elders, before their pardon was granted.

The government prefers to lay emphasis on a document signed by the prisoners, regretting any mistakes they had committed and asking for pardon.

This implies that their release was part of a normal judicial process, rather than in any way part of a negotiated political deal.

  1. wakyo
    | #1


  2. Bubusha
    | #2

    thats true man at least Derg has tought people (meserete timirt) and introduced Ethiopian culture to the world. Also dereg were in war for almost 17 years of its era but it was still building factories and tried to employe every one no matter where we been from as now you do not had to be from tgray.Even if it was depresing it was depressing every one. people were love each other no matter what relegion you have and from which ever tribe you we were.

  3. Asse
    | #3

    Why did people who want to domonstrat was not perimt it is because Meles and Co do Know million will domontrart and that they do not
    want to see

  4. aha!
    | #4

    Since they signed both of the documents, after the legal process was consumated and found guilty, they will be inclined to hold on to the one that stipulates guilt and requests for pardon. Without saying the regime is justified for the arrest or the preparation of two contradictory documents for signature and in what time frame,nor condoning the unlawful arrest, W/t Birtukan, knowing as a lawyer, the intricacy of documants should not have voiced her opinion at this point in time, knowing the absecence of an independent judicial system to contest the revokation of her pardon. She should have deflected the question, much in the same she deflected the question about the 8-point pre-condition that AEUP is engaged in.

  5. yikerbelen
    | #5

    Will the demonstration help for the release of W/T Birtukan and the ethiopia’s people struggle for freedom and democracy? UDJP leaders should protect the so called constitution and should respect the ethiopia’s people right. Only the criminals [ weyanes] will benefit from such a fake demonstration with limited ppl. Weyanes will the world that our democracy is going on as usual, and the opposition parties have un limited right to demonstrate against us and bla bla bla . The same court procedure against the weyane’s criminal qality’s admn staff will help for weyanes and Birtukan willcontinue suffering. THE UDJP’s leaders and all ethiopians know very well there is no free and fair court system in the hand of narrow minded and racist weyanes. Beggars do not like other beggars. God gives strength to Birtukan. She is really very innocent and the victim of criminlas who went to dedebit to fight injustice . what a sham

  6. alem
    | #6

    Woyane is using this demonstration to create havoc among christians and muslims.. read Iga forum( I can assure you that there wasn’t any T-shirt wore by participants saying the alleged slogan)
    blatant lies!!!
    Woyane is scared to death!!
    UDJ held a very successful demonstration

    (Aigaforum 04/17/09):- Leaders, members and supporters of opposition party, Democracy and Justice Party (UDJ) held a successful demonstration on behalf of their convicted leader Birtukan Mideksa.

    According to our reports around 2:50 am (local time) there were between 250 to 280 demonstrators chanting “free our leader, “tagay yemotal enji tegel ayferesm” (an activist will die but the struggle lives on), and free Birtukan and stop gender discrimination!

    Dr Negasso former president of Ethiopia, Bulcha Demkessa and producers of Addis Neger private paper were some of the notables at the demonstration. While Dr Negasso attended the demonstration from beginning to end, Ato Bulcha was there only at the end of the demonstration for some 10-15 minutes.

    The demonstrators were able to march from the president’s office to PM office without any disturbance. Demonstrators were carrying the Ethiopian flag as well as the usual old guard flag which the constitution does not recognize as a legal flag. People were wearing UDJ blue T-shirt chanting Ethiopia is an island of Christians!

    Sources informed us Engineer Gizachew and Dr Hailu as well as Asrat Tase was able to present their complaints to PM Meles office. Dr Yacob was seen leaving half way into the demonstration!

    .Although the family of Birtukan Mideksa is hoping the demonstration will yield some positive result some of the demonstrators were not that hopeful.

    Sources told us many of the participants were happy that the Government allowed them to demonstrate which helped them to highlight their cause to the international audience; they were not that hopeful things will change for Birtukan. They think the demonstration has helped them to relieve the burden off their shoulder.

    | #7

    My comment on the running away of the tyrant from the G20,

    I am happy to share my ideas with my dear fellow Ethiopians:

    Look at what this Shaebia number one foe of Ethiopia Meles doing after Ethiopians around the World have demonstrated and striped him naked to his pants on the G20 recently.He was so scared that he had to pee on his pants and run away, leaving the journalists alone to find the back door. The press people were so amused why a person who said he represents the whole continent of Africa had to escape like a fugitive? Now they are forced to look into his crimes committed they ignored before. When we follow the development in the country after this evil foe of Ethiopia returned back is the revenge he is committing on the country.
    Since he doesn’t have the power to confront the rich countries he is now engaged in flexing his muscles on the helpless and voiceless people. In less than one week of his return he has succeeded in handing out of 5 very expensive Helicopters from a poor country, while the “Rich countries” were hesitating to do so. He has just given away 5 EXPENSIVE Helicopters on a silver plate meant to help the starving people of DARFUR. Yes it is a good gesture to help the people of neighboring country when they are in a desperate need, but wait a minute what about the 14 million starving Ethiopians? Why should the foe Prime minister has to deliver our fertile border line very vast land to SUDAN any way?
    Why should the “Prime Minister of Ethiopia” invite a president of another country who is fugitive of crime against Humanity and on whose head lye arrest warrant given by the internationally respected organization ICC? Do we have a “Prime Minister of Ethiopia”
    or a “Sudanese Prime Minister for Ethiopia”? We know that “our Prime Minister Meles” has always been “Eritrean Prime Minister for Ethiopia”, why has he now chosen to be a “Sudanese Prime Minister for Ethiopia”? This is the Prime Minister who TLF the party begging him to continue to be Prime Minister for another 5 years, of course by using fake democracy and use of force again. This evil man has never been the Prime Minister of Ethiopia but rather we call him as “Prime TERMINATOR of Ethiopia” or “Prime Enemy of Ethiopia” or “Prime Monster of Ethiopia” or “Prime misery for Ethiopia”. The recent other Revenge on Ethiopia is the threat of imprisoning the innocent Ethiopian coffee exporters, there is no problem with that any way 74 million people are in the bigger prison.
    And that puts the monopoly in the ELF pocket; of course that is the reason behind this act.As time goes we are approaching to the next election in Ethiopia, and the tyrannical “government” is trying to show some kind of fake democracy, trying to buy some Ethiopians by the use of some material needs and may be “giving land” to Ethiopians, those within the country and abroad. Remember the tyrant who “Gives” you land also has given away 1600Km.of land in length with some 50-80 Km. of the land in width your ancestors waged their life for. Remember your brave King Johannes has given his head and has been mutilated defending the border that these traitors are giving away with ease. Compare the piece of land you will get with the land unlawfully taken away from your motherland Ethiopia! Taking land at this sad moment of auctioning of Ethiopia by her enemies is considered like collaborating in the selling of once own mother’s body!

    Ethiopians be aware!
    The Monster is preparing to be re elected again!
    We all have to defend our country by using different methods being in the country or abroad!
    This election has to be the end of tyranny!

    Ethiopia should prevail!

  8. Tedla Asfaw
    | #8

    I followed Ato Hailu Araya the spokesman of UDJP on VOA(April 16)on the so called protest rally which got wide coverage from foreign medias like BBC. The first “protest” rally since 2005 according to BBC. The selected 250 called for the release of Judge Birtukan and gave a letter to the prime minister’s office for which according to Ato Hailu Araya got a reply within half hour.

    Is this a well choreographed open circus or protest ? The winner from this free for all circus is TPLF and the drum of everything is possible in TPLF’s Ethiopia including managed protest. The UDJP leadership is serving willingly for propaganda by screening the anti-TPLF members not to participate on such rally. It is a total sell out.

    UDJP leadership is in on Lidetu Ayalew “Third Way” and is collaborating with the human right abuser and anti-democracy force of TPLF which is now accused of genocide to organize a pro-Meles rally on similar fashion.

    This so called protest which I call pro-TPLF open circus is the first step to join the regime in 2010 and the rank and file of UDJP should not be an instrument of those coward leaders who are giving life for the dead TPLF.

    Organizing a fake protest is a betrayal of Judge Birtukan Medeksa and sabotaging the real struggle and shame on those who are on this dirty business.

    Our people know what a protest is and ask Meles Zenawi what a protest is from his recent experience in London and sadly the pro TPLF Aiga in fact tarnished the image of UDJP as also anti-Muslims. What a shame and we are waiting for Lidetu’s protest soon to paint TPLF in new image for its 2010 coronation.

  9. Ayalew
    | #9

    The next thing Woyane aiga is going to say is:

    Mekele: Aiga reporter was arrested for violating the rule, according to our source. Our reporter violated the constitution and deserves the punishment. We at Agia are a law abiding journalist who work to inform Ethiopians to the progress being made in democratic Ethiopia.

    Our independence to get to the truth earned us recognition from high level Ministers, including Berkit Simion information minster and President Girma. Our sources are former fighters and member of the TPLF/EPRDF. They provide us inside information with no fear dinning with the Woyane leaders. We occasionally get finical support from the Woyane coffer, but it would not compromise our reporting because we have integrity.

    The opposition have no inside source as we do, and can not find the truth even if they try. We are exclusive with Woyane because we were and still are Woyane. We urge everybody to be Woyane to get to the truth; otherwise it is all a falsehood and they can violate the rule of law and the constitution.

    Reporting for Aiga from Woyane camp Mathza

    | #10

    The argument that a larger demonstration can go out of control is false. I have personally witnessed kinijit’s “mother of all demonstrations” during the last stolen election where people dispersed in orderly manner with no confrontation whatsoever. Things can go out of control only when peoplr are provoked by woyane thugs. And that’s exactly what we want at this time. An out of control demonstration is beneficial to the opposition and damaging to woyane. Spilling blood will be sucidal to woyane and bolsters genocide watch’s accusation of its crimes. Having a controlled demonstration like today’s is simply counterproductive. It can be used by woyane’s propaganda
    machine who won’t hesitate to glorify the existence of democratic freedoms in Ethiopia.

    Melese’s regime reminds me of a patient hooked-up to a life support machine. Its feeding, breathing, cleaning are all assisted. What we need is a strong opposition to pull the plug. Sadly, one of our visionary leaders who has the guts to do it-is languishing in solitary confinement at kaliti prison. I just hope and pray that we are not having another loyal opposition in the making.


    | #11

    GOD Bless Ethiopia. long live Ethiopia.

  12. Megerssa
    | #12

    I am proud that those Ethiopians who had protested in the release of birtukan midekessa. However, if we deeply see how the demonstration is organized, it is totally designed to give an ultimate legituamcay for the weyane criminal group since weyane deleibratly allowed the organizers of the protest to limit the no. of people and to limit the areas of the protest in which weyane has called out many local and international journalists to cover the news in order to tactically arranging the next fake election for the international community.

    As a result most international community would not know how many people would’ve go out for Birtukan, in which we all know that if weyane didn’t put the restriction millions of people would’ve protest a rally.

    Weyane enforced the UDJ demonstration organized to carefully screened individuals who had participated in the protest. Eventhough the organizers of the demo thought it would help the release of birtukan it is clear and obvious that the demo has given a huge legitimacy to the criminal and corrupted elements of weyane in which they would again get a huge international attention for their next fake election.

    In general, my own assessment is that the UDJ leaders was completely failed to follow the weyane protest procedure, since the entire demo has given much political benefit to weyane regime as a result one can clearly see how much the international medias has coverd the demo, moreover the weyane controlled medias in ethiopia and the weyane mouth piece medias including aiga forum has propagated the news inorder to create a confusion among Ethiopians abroad and the international community.

    Regardless, I strongly suggest the leaders of the UDJ to stick with the 7 essential points that Kinijit demanded as 8 points, including independent media, independent election board, independent justice, independent police and military and others to ensure a fair and transparent election. Otherwise, it is all again another game for weyane criminal elements whom does not want to give up power for ever.

  13. Robele Ababya
    | #13

    The crux of the matter is that the Ethiopian people are entitled to know the truth. Birtukan told the truth and Ato Hailu confirmed that truth at the demonstration. Should Ato Hailu too go to prison?
    No, it is Meles the tyrant who must go to prison. Birtukan must be released.

  14. Tilahun
    | #14


    “Power does not corrupt. Fear
    corrupts, perhaps the fear of loss
    of power.”
    –John Steinbeck

    “power” in the Woyane’s world is really fear. Mele’s fear that seeks to attack first in order to feel secure is really fear. The power that always has to have an answer is really fear. The power that arrogantly refuses to listen is really fear. So much power is “fear” dressed in illusion! Their fear is aggravated by Bertucan’s love for humanity and justice.

    Bertucan have the ability to be vulnerable.She can stand alone. She allows others to walk away to pursue their happiness. She have no fear but the power of love that can exist in suffering and loneliness,
    and she does not expect perfection. Let’s celebrate her life and fight to secure her freedom. Ethiopian Human right declaration guarntees that” Everyone has the right not to be arbitrarily detained or imprisoned”.

  15. goitom
    | #15

    hi diasporaw
    don’t compair derge and woyane,woyane is just like italian fashist
    kill his people and his country.Derge like atleast his country,country first!people go people come.i know derge killed more tigrean b/se they fighting him like now woyane killing more oromo and amhara still oppsite of him. any way woyane is the worst enenmy of east africa!!

  16. yikerbelen
    | #16

    Dear Alem. forget those ayiga’s pitty bulls. They are barking even louder than dogs because they get some thing to saying goes ” wusha bebelabete yichohal”

  17. Nolawi
    | #17

    The UDJ spokesman Hailu Araya also condemned those who are trying to abolish the Woyane regime by armed struggle as chelemtegoch and hopeless groups.Chelemtegnoch is the word of Woyanes.Haw Hailu Araya are using this woyane word and making Ben Ethiopian First man very satisfied ?
    Meskinua Tasazenalech.

  18. Italemahu
    | #18

    It is so incomprehensible that the UDJ would let the regime patronize their own party and their followers by compromising for something lesser than the cause that thousands have sacrificed their lives for i.e the right to demonstrate and freedom of expression. This is a brazen window dressing and political expediency in its entirity, in which the regime in power would only politically cash in, with no political kickback to UDJ. The political gains from such pandering for the UDJ would actually be zero, nothing, zilch. Neither the UDJ nor the downtrodden people of Ethiopia would profit from such shenanigans and horse-tradings. This so called demonstration held with such ignominious concessions on the part of UDJ, on the basic, immutable tenets of freedom of expression, through limiting the number of participants, is so spurious in that it only legitimizes the absolute and undisputed power that the regime has on UDJ and other political parties in the country.

    If there would really be anything that such fawning and tail-wiggling by the UDJ would show, it is that the basic underpinnings of the party are so flimsy, the leaders are diffident and the party is malleable in that the regime could mould it in any shape of its whim.

    It really doesn’t rquire to be an expert in political science to surmise that the regime in power will not be forced to release Birtukan by a two hundred fifty people demonstration. If the regime is going to release Birtukan, it would only be through the persistent arm- twisting by the international community, not by a two hundred fifty selected loyal demonstrators from the UDJ. What the UDJ did is only that it confided and admitted to its own adversary that it is spineless and lacks resolute. If there is also anything that the UDJ have accomplished through such expedient measures, it is that they pretified and cove. UDJ has 30 members led by temesgen Zewde in weyane Parlama only legitimizing the TPLF regime. They must resign first.

  19. Italemahu
    | #19

    AEUP Leader Interview. About Ethiopian Flag. Listen interview.

  20. atuba dolla
    | #20

    Since the tplfwoyane invaders had become the ruling elites from the time they came into Ethiopia via invasion by the help of foreign and historical enemeis of Ethiopia,they held Ethiopians hostages at gun point and looted and murdered the citizens at random and as well as in a tageted shooting killed national heroes;as a result,they had not only become murderers, they became wealthy criminals too.

    When they came into Ethiopia they were broke and barefoot,but had a lot of guns and bullets to kill Ethiopians.Broke and barefoot,they brought nothing into the country but deadly virus,guns and bullets,hate and racism,drugs and narcotics,spies and hitmen.On their arrival,they roamed around the city and shot and killed national heroes,they stole national documents and treasures and kept them away for themselves and for the enemies whom they obayed to and commanded by at will and became loyal since their inception while they were hiding in nakfa cave;they went into neighbourhoods and broke into homes and vandalised the lives of families and forced children to live in the streets.

    The disorder run in the family;they identifed themselves with historically enemies of Ethiopia and still kept the relationship with those enemeis of Ethiopia who mentored and groomed them for years and brought them into Ethiopia.Today,members of the crimefamily rewarded their masters with farmlands and girls.

    The tyrannic, Meles Naziawi went to London to represent the house of crimefamily to which he is crimeboss and has been the spoke-person for the secret society that has been in the making since the invasion.

    In 2005,they were completely disposed because they lost the election to Ethiopians.As soon as they lost the election,they went nut and became angry beasts and went into streets and killed citizens at random.Still today they crave for blood and money.They don’t leave home without guns and bullets,a cellphone, and a hunting knife.

    Eprdf criminal Inc. has been engaged in stealing and accumelating wealth through illegal business practices ranging from small business to international currency trading and bank transaction involving millions of dollars leading to shortage of foreign reserve capital for the rest of the citizens and the country.Profit made from exporting goods and produces left the country and is deposited in foreign banks.

    Ethiopians devoted to expell these invaders from the land the tplfwoyane invaded twenty years ago;as the invaders were defeated in 2005 and lost the election to Ethiopians;they will be defeated in the coming 2010 election.

Comments are closed.