Open Letter to European Union Envoys in Addis Ababa – Robele Ababya
Subject: Judge Birtukan, Artist Teddy & other political prisoners illegally held in TPLF jails (more…)
Subject: Judge Birtukan, Artist Teddy & other political prisoners illegally held in TPLF jails
The months of May and June will perpetually carry indelible exhibits of fallen martyrs silenced forever by the guns of the infamous security forces under the direct command of Meles Zenawi in the aftermath of the historic election of 15 May 2005. At this election the ruling regime was soundly defeated but held on to power by unconstitutionally declaring a state of emergency and throwing the victors of that election including Judge Birtukan to jail. The regime in power unleashed acts of terror causing the death of hundreds in cold blood and incarcerating thousands of especially young Ethiopian peaceful protesters shaving their heads with unsterilized blades disregarding the spread of aids scourge of the time.
History will record the sacrifice of the martyrs and the next generation will read the wailing of mothers, the deep sorrow of fathers, siblings, friends over the loss of their loved ones; they will read about millions of Ethiopians who had voted and won in that election and cruelly denied victory. The European Observer Mission under the Leadership of Honourable Anna Gomez shall be remembered for ever in the annals of Ethiopian history for declaring the election neither free nor fair; whereas some powerful leaders in the Western democracies will be blamed for not taking firm action against robbery of votes and continuing to give direct budget support to an illegitimate government which is still suppressing freedom of expression.
The charismatic leader of the UDJP, Judge Birtukan Mideksa, has been locked up for the last 164 days, and counting, in a congested dirty prison cell infested with rodents. She has been denied her constitutional right of access to her lawyer or receiving visitors except her septagerian mother and her lovely five-year old daughter, Hale, who is cruelly forced to miss the love of her mother Birtukan for the second time, the first one being in 2005 when Birtukan and other illustrious leaders of Coalition for Unity and Democracy (Kinijit) Party were brutally shoved to the same prison for no other reason than winning a spectacular victory. This second time, Judge Birtukan was whisked without court warrant to the infamous Kaliti prison by ten armed plain-clothed thugs of the notorious security forces under the direct command of Meles Zenawi. That stalwart advocate of human rights and architect of peaceful change, the Legendary Professor Mesfin Woldemariam, was rudely struck with the butt of the gun by one of the thugs for protesting against the inhumane treatment of Birtukan who had not shown any form of resistance. In fact she could have been instructed by telephone to report to prison officials, but the objective of the political authorities was to humiliate her in public, demoralize her and demonstrate to her that there was no one to come to her rescue. All these unprecedented atrocities alien to the ancient Ethiopian culture were committed in broad day light against a lady beloved to Ethiopians; it was singularly designed and ruthlessly carried out by the ruling regime to intimidate the public ahead of the 2010 election rigged a priori.
The indomitable spirit of Birtukan is getting stronger; she knows that she has captured the hearts, soul and minds of millions of Ethiopians and friends of Ethiopia. Come what may, the iron lady will never surrender the precious treasure she has captured – the trust and love of her fellow citizens. It would be morally and politically correct that leaders of the Western democracies side with the masses by giving strong support to this popular leader.
The European civilization gave birth to the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court. These two institutions are powerful weapons to deter the abuses of basic human rights perpetrated among others by despotic rulers like Meles Zenawi in Ethiopia and Al Bashir in the Sudan in the 21st century. Freedom of expression in the EU is guaranteed by law and therefore no individual is kept behind bars for exercising that right. This in my opinion is the most supreme achievement that will surely give hope to build a better future for human beings to live together in harmony – bound by universal values common to every individual on our planet Earth in which we all should have a fair share. It is only if the bulk of humanity sees social justice and respect for the rule of law that multiple burning issues of our time like disarmament, climate change, poverty reduction will make sense to the masses. Good leaders need to take the masses on board to fight extremism born out of frustration due to abject poverty; to deter violation of the rule of law such as the one prevailing in Ethiopia where the constitution is merely a personal note book subject to editing and interpreting by the Prime Minister as he sees fit.
With all due respect, the motivation of some Western leaders to work with the illegitimate regime is mysterious and morally unacceptable in my view. Forgive me for my audacity in saying so overcome by sincere belief in democratic values and freedom of expression. The lukewarm response to the robbery of votes in the election of 2005 disappointed the Ethiopian people; it set a bad precedence to the rest of Africa as subsequently seen in neighbouring Kenya and Zimbabwe which in their turn emulated the robbery of votes and caused significant deaths and destruction in their countries. In the case of these countries, however, the Western leaders acted swiftly probably because the Ethiopian example served them as a lesson. But to this day excessive abuse of power of the Meles regime continues unabated.
Birtukan no doubt enjoys massive popular support as a future and deserves the support of the democratic world. That support will prove good investment. For now she is every minute of her existence subjected to psychological and physical torture on the watch of envoys of democratic donor countries funding the illegitimate brutal regime. Her 5-year daughter, Hale, too is being tortured by being forced to miss her mother for the second time. The grand old lady of 75 is baring the heaving burden of caring for her daughter and granddaughter. It is immoral to send one to jail for telling nothing but the TRUTH! The question is why the taxpayers of the EU countries should support a dying despotic regime of Meles that denies freedom of expression and terrorizes the Ethiopian people in blatant and rampant breach of its own constitution..
The entire Horn of Africa Region is in political turmoil due to brinkmanship of Al Bashir, Meles, Isaias, and War Lords in Somalia. Meles gave a red carpet reception with full honours and threw a lavish State Dinner at the Palace days after Bashir was issued a warrant of arrest from the ICC for his crimes against humanity in Darfur. All Your Excellencies did was boycott the Dinner in the form of protest for public consumption. For in a matter of days thereafter, a total pledge of direct support amounting to 2.5 billion US dollars of aid to the repressive TPLF regime was headline news in several media outlets. People find it strange that a dictator who is so much dependent on donor support for the survival of his regime would hold a State Dinner in honour of one accused of genocide and would dare inviting diplomats of donor nations, on whose support he depends heavily, and gets away with showing innocuous displeasure expressed by boycotting.
The debate at this material time is that donor aids are arguably siphoned to corrupt officials at the source as well as at the receiving end; it has the harmful effect of perpetuating dependency syndrome of the past half century; it is increasing poverty in the African continent rather than reducing it. It is argued that donor nations should consider injecting substantial resources – over a short period in order to break the vicious cycle of ingrained dependency – to large development projects while at the same time holding African dictators accountable for their misrule and corrupt practices and failure to uphold the rule of law. These dictators should be told bluntly to stop their spending spree on military weapons, for it would be immoral to burden taxpayers of donor nations for senseless wars between impoverished African countries.
Some argue that the World Bank won concession, albeit a small one, from the illegitimate government of Meles in forcing his regime to suspend the NGO Law. The question is why Your Excellencies did not go as far as demanding respect for human rights and the immediate release of Judge Birtukan, Teddy Afro and all political prisoners languishing in filthy prisons of the repressive regime. For, boycotting the State dinner did not mean anything to thugs who spent 30 years in the caves of Dedebit plotting the destruction of Ethiopia.
Judge Birtukan is a living idol in the minds and hearts of the Ethiopian people as a symbol of truth, love, charismatic, intelligent and trustworthy young leader.. The democratic world would do better in securing the friendship of the masses by demanding the immediate and unconditional release of this beloved icon, Birtukan. This move would be consistent with the basic values of Western democracies predicated on liberty, justice and pursuit of happiness.
It pains me that Birtukan was born to an environment of political chaos exacerbated by exotic ideologies ushered in by elites of my generation and imposed on the Ethiopian people at the height of the defunct Cold War. To be born to an environment of political repression is not ones choice; to not fight the injustice in situ is dereliction of ones civic duty and an inexcusable cowardice. Birtukan is neither a coward nor derelict in her civic duty. She fought and is fighting the bad governance in which she grew up. She is a true democrat cherished by millions of Ethiopians young and old.
The place of this is precious lady is in Menilik’s Palace – not in filthy prisons!
The democratic Western world should set aside double standards and usher in a new era of relationship with the Ethiopian people underpinned by genuine respect for universal human values. This is the right thing to do in order to obviate the looming prospect for intensified all-embracing struggle including the use of arms. The Ethiopian people can no longer tolerate the hell created in their homeland by the TPLF regime trading in the name of the brave and pious people of Tigrai.
A fierce storm of public protest is gathering holding the prospect of explosion. The Ethiopian people are saying: ENOUGH of brinkmanship of Meles leading their country into the abyss; ENOUGH of his grotesque contempt for their flag, diverse culture and betrayal of national interests; ENOUGH of his gross violation of basic human rights; ENOUGH of his monopoly over all pillars of democracy and habitual lies; ENOUGH of his selling of Ethiopian land to unscrupulous foreign investors; ENOUGH of his regime trading in the name of the brave and pious people of Tigrai; ENOUGH of his monopoly of the security forces and army where 98% of top positions are held by high ranking officers hailing from his tribe.
Surly, Excellencies, it is not a good investment for the taxpayers of EU nations in a country where only 2% of top positions in the army are given to the rest of 94% of the other Ethiopians. This insidious scheme of the ruling regime will fall apart with dire consequences.
The rising public impatience and anger can be reversed if the powers in the Western democracies exert pressure on Meles. That done, all of the following are achievable:
• YES the immediate release of Birtukan Mideksa, Teddy Afro and all political prisoners CAN occur
• YES the gathering storm of public protest CAN change to calls for peace and reconciliation with justice done for fallen martyrs
• YES the 2010 election CAN be peaceful, free and fair
• YES donor aid CAN be used with transparency and gratitude
• YES lasting friendship based on shared values CAN be assured