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Ethiopien - Politik & Civil Ulydighed

No Option Left: Civil Disobedience is Right!

Network of Ethiopian Scholars (NES) - Scandinavian Chapter
Press Release No. 16,
2. oktober 2005

De politiske problemer i Ethiopien efter valget i maj forværres i stadig voksende omfang. Oppositionen lægger pres på premierminister Meles Zenawi og regeringskoalitionen EPRDF. Utilfredsheden gærer under overfladen mange steder, og civile ulydighedskampagner er under udvikling i stigende omfang. Demokratier er i krise og frygten for voldelige konfrontationer og reel borgerkrig lurer. Presset fra eksempelvis Tony Blair (som premierminister Meles har tætte politiske forbindelser til) om humanitære og mennesteretslige spørgsmål er helt utilstrækkelige, og derfor anbefaler NES (Network of Ethiopian Scholars), at der sammensættes en national samlingsregering, der kan forberede nye demokratiske valg, der kan skabe fundament for en politisk løsning af den fastlåste situation.

1. Is the Opposition Right to call for civil disobedience?

(Left): A huge opposition rally (1.2 million people) last May 08, 2005 in Addis Ababa in Support of the Opposition, CUD. (Right): Troops ordered by the prime minister to intimidate, arrest, and kill people in June 8, 2005 popular protest. - Caption and photo montage: Ethiomedia, Photo: Courtesy of Andrew Heavens
Most of the people in Ethiopia who turned out to vote on May 15, 2005 are saying that the outcome with an EPDRF majority is not what they voted for. They say they do not see what they voted for even after the investigations of the complaints. In fact the so-called NEBE led investigation made it difficult for them to see that their vote and voice have been respected, not to mention that it has even been taken into account at all. They say they have nothing to lose by refusing the regime's insistent demand for them to give up, to surrender and accept that which they have not voted for. The people across the breadth and depth of the land voted as individuals and ended up scoring a sensational outcome by manifesting a togetherness and oneness that has been inscribed into history as the collective will to democracy. By their actions they have given birth to a democratic process that is certain to provide a sure medicine from here on to the innumerable and intractable afflictions that the nation has confronted in its long existence.

We in the NES concur with the people and say: No one can force you to accept theft and intimidation. We say the people have a right to disobey peacefully an unjust demand from the regime. They are right to emerge as a community of resistance and make the call: "Do not force us to accept theft." The opposition is right to listen to the heart beat and justifiable anger of the people and guide the struggle for the people to undertake civil disobedience. We find this strong bond between people and opposition appropriate, wise and timely. The regime rejected the just demand to undertake peaceful demonstration. The regime brought up a wholly unrelated conditionality that the oppositions accept regime demand to enter parliament. When the people and the opposition said there is no relation between the right to demonstrate and the regime demand to enter parliament, the regime chose to flatly refuse to give permission for the people and the opposition to exercise their legitimate, legal and moral right to peaceful demonstration, assembly and association.

Now together people and opposition have made a clear and resounding call. We hear them saying together like this: "Ato Meles & Co. please do not keep threatening to rule us any more by force and violence. Your deception will not work anymore on us. Your bullying will backfire. Your numberless cunning tricks and tactics of intimidation to surrender to the injustice you happily have imposed on us are intolerable. We the people have endured enough. We do not wish to be burdened with your morally exhausted, intellectually twisted and politically hackneyed antics to rule us. We refuse to be ruled anti-democratically by you. We know at last that we as the people and citizens are sovereign. We have cast our votes and spoken together in no uncertain terms since May 15, 2005 that your attempt to rule us by force will be politely but firmly declined. We will disobey your orders peacefully and with the spirit of Ethiopian gentleness and kindness. We will support each other and will continue until we see a true democratic dispensation in the land.

For the Ethiopian people, democracy is not new. It has been with the people in their long history and various traditional cultures. Amongst other things when the people accept self-determination, it means also reviving and building from that tradition of deliberation and representation by making it even deeper and more accountable and participatory to adapt it to the challenges of the time. Self-determination is not as you Meles uses it an euphemism to make a self-serving and selfish elite relying on donor money abroad and repression at home to rule the people by perennial threats of the use of arms, bribes, blackmail and fraud. It means the aspiration to institutionalise liberty in the veins and arteries of Ethiopian society, a call for an authentic and rooted social contract that people freely and voluntarily enter in order to secure freedom and expand its inner riches to empower and capacitate them all.

The people voted before under the emperor. They have voted before under the Dergue. They have voted before under Meles's fourteen years rule. We had a parliament under the emperor. We had a parliament under the Dergue. We had a parliament under Meles's fourteen years rule. Voting is not new for the people. Parliament is not new for the people. But what we know is that the people voted before, but there was no democracy. They had parliament before, but there was no democracy. On May 15, 2005 we believe that the people voted for the first time ever declaring now is the time to make their vote count, to make their voice heard, and to create a parliament that they hope to make and shape as a pillar of a true, enduring and sustainable democratic expression. Like the previous votes and previous parliaments, Meles wanted to drag history back by fixing the votes to fix and rig parliament. Instead of a vibrant parliament where real public debate takes place, he wanted a parliament where any elected dissenter will be sent to prison for possible breach of one or another of the inane procedures Meles's speaker of parliament may use to trap those whose views the regime may or do not share. Any one who is not a power mad fellow will easily grasp why we have to decline to recommend to those whom the people elected to go to prison. People elected them because they want them to go to parliament and build a strong institutional pillar for democracy.

This is an indication that the people give priority to democracy, respect of human rights and good government; and they will continue to protest until Meles opens his ears and eyes to enter into dialogue with their representatives. The people know that Meles is prone to react most likely with trading insults. Let us tell that the people and the nation have enough of that. The people want Meles to enter into dialogue with the opposition and the people in order to find a rational way out of the impasse. Regime defiance has brought the nation to the brink because the rulers refused to talk. The people and the oppositions must not lose face by accepting theft as normal. The people refuse. The people say no. It seems to us they will not budge until justice is done.

2. The Price of Ignoring the Pleas of the Opposition

The opposition patiently asked and even begged the regime top brass to have sense and enter into meaningful talks for a long time. We have observed the many appeals of the opposition for the regime to enter into dialogue with them. They were roundly and scornfully ignored. They were only served with a small courtesy of seeing Meles. But Meles lost the opportunity to engage in dialogue. He chose to change the occasion to show his dictatorial muscular verbal skill. He spewed out vicious threats and scolding them with the following type of ridiculous ultimatum:

Meles demands that the opposition should accept unconditionally his agenda to enter into parliament without any reservation. He believes that the international community supports his position too. He commands the oppositions and the people to stop raising issues of vote theft and voice tampering; stop asking to rescind his new draconian rules to kill parliamentary debate. He seems to prefer that the elected representatives from the opposition just surrender and enter into parliament not to debate, but to sleep! Why, because they cannot raise issues for debate, they cannot influence in passing resolutions and decisions and, they will be found probably in breach of one or the other of his new parliamentary procedures and a police will come and grab them by the neck and throw them into a prison.

He just hopes that the people and the opposition will leave him alone from nagging about human rights, democracy and good Government. He truly does not like the people and the opposition to disappoint the celebrities and politicians he has shrewdly managed to put wool over their eyes and won them to believe that he is a 'brilliant' fellow.

Despite such pleas, the leaders of CUD and UEDF found the whole behaviour of Meles bizarre and tried to tell him again and again that the people are upset about the theft of vote and voice. The people are asking that their voices and votes have to be respected. They will not stop until they have a response that meets the standard of justice and probity.

Meles then lost patience with them and spouted out red-hot threats: In that case, he told them that they must enter parliament after total surrender to his will, because he said that they have no other options but to face the following: the fate of exile, prison or listless existence at home awaits them if they do not surrender; and if they have the guts, they can go and start armed struggle! That is the extent of the 'wisdom' and negotiating skill and intellectual calibre of Meles. If they do not choose to surrender to his whim, they have to go to prison, oblivion or exile. If they choose to surrender to his whim, then they have the option of going to sleep in parliament or if they dare to wake up and think or debate, they must remember the option that they may end up in the police station or prison is too real to be true.

3. The People Say Enough to Regime Drama!

The opposition and the people have now agreed to put pressure not just by pleading alone, but through the only peaceful means in their power: action through civil disobedience. The objective is to put pressure on Meles & co. to negotiate in good faith, to enter into dialogue, and come to a national consensus to make paramount the achievement of democracy through the free votes and free voices of free citizens above all other considerations.

The people say they want to show to the world that enough is enough and it is not negotiable that they sacrifice respect of their vote and voice for extending the power tenure of Meles and his inner circle to arrive at their 19 years of misrule! They want to protest and express their anger and condemnation of the arrogance of power by Meles in ignoring the appeal to negotiate and dialogue and repeatedly preferring to threaten and intimidate. The people are saying we defy your threats and we are not afraid or intimidated. The people declare that we find your threats immoral and contemptible. The people continue to demand justice be done and that the regime is finally obliged to investigate the rigging and irregularities in 290 constituencies.

There has been steadfast demand that the regime enter in good faith to form a national reconciliation transitional government, an independent election board, a constellation of independent domestic and external observers to be deployed in all areas to re-run a national election and implement the rights of citizens as stipulated in the Universal Human Rights Declarations and endorsed even with all the inconsistencies and problems in the current constitution.

The regime of Meles has to listen. There is no alternative to this demand. Had Meles listened earlier, a negotiated outcome might have been found by now. Now it seems it is far too late unless Meles changes from his heart and soul. Unfortunately our country has not been blessed with morally and intellectually far sighted public servants that wish to promote the self- government of people by thinking through their brains, feeling through their heart and through the wisdom coming from the depths of their soul. The politics of the belly has overridden to date the heart, the head, the hand and the soul to the determent of the nation's future. The public servants should be those with values who despise money and power but love to serve their people with humility, public ethics, public service and public sense and responsibility. The only remedy that makes sense now is to re-run a national re-election with meticulous care, integrity, freedom, justice and scruples in order to create a democracy that can install, entrench and sustain a vibrant parliament and accountable and transparent government.

4. The International Community and Democracy

It would be good for the international community to understand properly the popular mood and try to stand on the side of the Ethiopian people. It will help justice to prevail if the international community were to be stronger and firmer in pressuring the regime to respect the vote and voice of the people. While the regime is showing defiance, the people have no other choice except to continue to press their call for justice in the hope of knocking sense into the regime. Meles must be brought to accept humbly the people's demand for respecting vote and voice through peaceful civil disobedience. The international community have congratulated repeatedly the democratic achievement of the people. It is time that they put their expressions of congratulation into genuine support to the people. We believe that the fate of the Ethiopian peoples lies principally in the hands of the Ethiopian people. Let the people have a right to make their own future. Let them have the right to learn through their demand against the arrogance of power or through their right to live in what they value, hold important and dear by selecting to build enduring institutions that promote democracy, human rights and good government.

Most of those in the international community have recognised that this election has not met the standard of free and fair election observed in normal democratic elections. At the same time, the international community wishes to accommodate those who were responsible for not making this election free and fair. This has given a highly ambiguous role to the international community in this election. The only way the international community can play a constructive role is: a) if they hold to principles of human rights, democracy and good government consistently, b) if they can speak in straight language and say directly to the regime that has been accused of messing up the election counting and the investigation, that this mishandling is not acceptable to them. It is no good to put undue pressure only on the victim, viz., the opposition and the people to enter a rigged parliament without changing the new rules that reduce the parliament into a one party decision making den and also with a real risk to send potentially elected legislators to prison. What is really the point of advising them to enter such a den whilst at the same time condemning human rights violations and showing election thefts and improper conduct? It is important that the international community desist from putting pressure on the opposition whilst molly culling Meles, Bereket and the rest of the inner circle that have created so many problems to the Ethiopian people in this election alone to say nothing of other issues. If the international community respect the Ethiopian people, human rights and democracy, they must understand that the only language Meles understands is to tell him he cannot get away with an election reported by EU-OEM and the Carter Centre and others as flawed. Even in other parts of Africa, Ghana, Zambia, Kenya and many others are changing their rulers through democratic election; therefore they should ask why it becomes impossible in Ethiopia which has a very old tradition of statecraft and the experience of various traditional self-administrations. The hindrances have been its authoritarian rulers who wanted to stay in power by disrespecting and violating the fee will of the people.

The minimums the Ethiopian people expect is that the international community uphold truth and speak truth to power, not the diplomatic lingo that obfuscates, but the human language that is clear and to the point. Power normally does not concede without demand, not least the arrogant type that is characteristic of the ostrich- mentality of Meles & Co. The arrogance of Meles and Co. should not be rewarded. Arrogance must not pay. On the contrary it must be penalised. The people deserve and expect also that no deals be made behind their back. The international community has contributed much to make the election free and fair. It has sent observers. The people in good faith voted. They were then cheated by the regime. The observers have acknowledged this fact. What is there to fear and not bluntly say that the people do not deserve to be intimidated, threatened, arrested and killed for demanding justice, the very public good that they have been promised when they entered the election. The regime owes to submit and heed their demand for redress and justice. Why is this difficult for the international community to say this straight to the face to the regime and support the people?

The fact that Meles has personal friendship to Mr. Blair and others has nothing to do from the different fact that there was the election in Ethiopia and his regime mishandled it. It is morally, intellectually and politically unacceptable to undermine the peoples' clear case against the regime because of some reciprocity that Mr. Blair and others owe perhaps because Mr. Meles personally (without parliamentary decision) decided Ethiopia to join as a member of the coalition of the willing during the Iraq war. That has nothing to do with Meles's unacceptable role in the election and his foreign backers should be severe on Meles not to disabuse democracy and respect the people and the elected opposition members not to unleash media and threats against them!

On the broader front, it is critical that the international community stand consistently for human rights, democracy and good government, if they wish to help in the construction of a truly global order based on the respect of human rights and democracy that are deeply ingrained in governance. Otherwise the big powers will continue to confront a troubled and troubling world. The more they tolerate and appease dictators everywhere, the more they will not see democracy, good government and respect of human rights anywhere. Consistency in democracy and human rights from the international community can only make the world be a better and congenial place. Tolerating and appeasing dictators have made the world turn out and be a highly uncongenial place by tearing down a world that should be a better place by all historical reckoning. The post cold war world should have ushered in universal values of democracy, human rights and good governance reaffirmed with consistency.

5. The Media Abuse of Opposition Figures Must Stop!

Media onslaught against the chairman of CUD, Engineer Hailu Shawel and opposition leaders and members is orchestrated by Bereket Simon who was rejected in the May 15, 2005 election in the presence of independent observers, but re-elected unopposed after a NEBE orchestrated election farce tailored his laughable comeback. The relentless and unmitigated barrage of media attacks against the leaders and members of the opposition's reminds us what Meles often does before he decides to arrest or kill opponents. We now hear that a bomb has been planted in a CUD office. Indulgent accusations of CUD officials for holding grenade in its office with a written statement showing who's in possession of the grenades as well as when and for what purpose they were kept hidden is simply unbelievable. In addition we heard also there has been a film made associating weapons caches in a CUD rural office, and thus trying to incriminate officials there. This is a precursor to frame CUD members and throws them into jail by alleging that they are planning 'armed struggle.' Sadly, the heavy- handed measures and crackdown seem to have begun.

As far as we know CUD and UEDF are morally and politically committed to make democratic changes peacefully. What the regime hates most from CUD is that it is committed to peaceful change. What is then the point of making such crude and brutal allegations and frame CUD's members? The calumny against Engineer Hailu Shawal is beyond the pale and is a precursor to arrest him. Engineer Hailu Shawal has been a very effective opposition leader along with all his team of opposition leaders. It is a shame the regime targets him and attacks him so viciously instead of opening respectfully a dialogue with him, as the duly elected chairman of CUD along with Dr. Merara Gudina for UEDF and their respective executive team members. The US senate and Congress wrote a letter to them both with full respect and recognition of their elected roles. Meles and co. keep undermining them. We know the power holders like Meles can be ruthless in attacking those whom they find a nightmare in relation to the imagined threat they think they pause to the retention of their personal power. The case of Siye Abraha and others spring to mind as examples to illustrate how they can respond to opponents.

It is hypocritical to accuse opposition members as if they are and will always be connected to the Derge implying somehow there is life after death for the Derg regime or even the imperial regime for that matter. This is a meaningless accusation not least because it is known that the ruling elites relatives and acolytes who have taken over Derg official's villas, vehicles and others luxury comforts (incidentally these luxury items were also confiscated from the imperial regime) for their own personal use. Some of our members have told us that they personally know many regime officials and acolytes living in shockingly luxurious life in Ethiopia by appropriating public villas, bungalows, and apartments. These premises are public property. They should have been turned into kindergarten and boarding schools for street children. The public property under a single individual's comfort could be enough to open boarding schools for many street children in Addis Ababa. Meles Zenawi's talk to donate the so-called Yara "award" to educate girls is simply a public relation gimmick, while his officials, acolytes and kin and kith luxuriate and carry out living in multi-million dollar worth public properties that could be turned into boarding schools for poor children.

6. The News That the Opposition Has Called off its Three-day Civil Disobedience Strike

As we were writing this release we heard that the opposition has decided to call off the civil disobedience action it called earlier to bring the regime into dialogue. Apparently the American charge de Affaires and the British Ambassador have opened a window for dialogue between Meles and opposition members from CUD and EUDF. Whilst the flexibility of the CUD and UEDF and their concern for public safety is admirable, we would like to caution the opposition that boosting the democratic process brooks no retreat. Any retreat from the paramount momentum of the democratic process will be seen as duplicitous. We also caution that Meles might repeat once more his earlier threats in the new talks. Remember as the quote at the outset of this release shows that the EPDRF has endorsed a resolution on October 1, 2005 "not to negotiate with opposition parties". In the event that is what he wishes to use the dialogue for, it was foolhardy for opposition groups to give up their call easily. We also think that entry into parliament under the current restrictions would be simply a waste of time, unless a thorough revision of the draconian procedures is agreed beforehand.

All acknowledge duly that the Ethiopian people have opened a rare historical opportunity for democracy; the opposition leaders must understand the needs of the people that there is a danger that might put that historical chapter into jeopardy. We caution also that the foreign ambassadors often seem more to lean on the opposition than the regime. Unless there is something new on the table from Meles, it will be wholly unacceptable to put pressure on the opposition once more, like in the earlier June 10 agreement of the parties that bound them to accept NEBE's verdict without knowing how they would play out. If that is the purpose, then Ethiopia will be facing an uphill struggle to bring back its dramatic history- making democratic momentum. It has been reported that as if CUD and UEDF have agreed to say, "We are committing ourselves to press for our objectives through a democratic and parliamentary process."(October1, Press Conference with Ambassadors). Civil disobedience too is part of the democratic process, and as far as we know the opposition parties have always been committed to a democratic process. This is not something new. Acceptance of parliamentary entry is a different issue and requires that the five conditions in the joint statement of CUD and UEDF are fulfilled before any decision to enter into a flawed and rigged parliament is entertained. Having said this, NES sincerely hopes that the talks with Meles arranged by the US and UK envoys will create conducive environment where the threats of force will change forever.

7. Calls and Demands

  1. The call for civil disobedience was made entirely because the regime turned a deaf ear to the demands of the people to respect their votes and voices.
  2. We call on the international community to support the opposition and the peoples' demand to bring the regime into the negotiating table.
  3. We call the international community to talk straight to the regime and demand that the theft be cleared by supporting the people's and the opposition's demand.
  4. We call on the Diaspora to support the people in every way they can for as long as the civil disobedience in various peaceful forms it takes.
  5. We call on the security forces not to use arrest, violence against the opposition members and the people standing for democracy.
  6. We call on the opposition to involve the people in any decision that would affect the democratic aspiration of the people, especially entry into parliament. We ask the opposition not to ignore the people's recommendations to the parties.
  7. We repeat reiterate our demand for a transitional Government of national concord to prepare genuine democratic elections that is free, fair and just so that Ethiopia would enter into a new historical era of democratic governance.

© Press Release No. 16 by the Network of Ethiopian Scholars (NES) - Scandinavian Chapter 2. oktober 2005.
Professor Mammo Muchie, Chair of NES-Scandinavian Chapter
Berhanu G. Balcha, Vice- Chair of NES-Scandinavian Chapter
Tekola Worku, Secretary of NES-Scandinavian Chapter
Contact address:
Fibigerstraede 2, 9220 Aalborg East, Denmark
Tel. +45 96 359 813 or +45 96 358 331, Fax + 45 98 153 298, mobil: +45 3112 5507
mammo@ihis.aau.dk or berhanu@ihis.aau.dk or tekola.worku@bromma.stockholm.se




Ethiopean style !

"The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures."

Article 21, Universal Declaration of Human Rights

"Since September 19, 2005 authorities had arrested 859 opposition members across the country and security forces had killed one opposition member in the Amhara region"

AP, September 29, 2005

"EPRDF endorses resolution not to negotiate with opposition parties"

October 1, 2005, Walta Information Centre


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Opdateret d. 26.12.2005