'Mesfin Abebe, 15, an orphan who begs on the streets, was arrested, beaten and held at Dedesa for 15 days. "They did not choose whom they were arresting," he said. "They just grabbed boys from the street." (D. Blair, The UK Telegraph, December 16, 2005)
"The man who killed Mrs Etenesh received a shouted order from another officer: "Just do it." At that moment, he fired again, apparently aiming at the woman's son, bent over her body. He missed and wounded one of the family's neighbours. Then two officers fired in the air, dispersing the crowd, and the police left in a pick-up, taking the dead woman's husband." (Ibid. killing a mother for the crime of crying to protest the unjust arrest of her husband)
"A crackdown on this scale has not been seen in Africa for 20 years … Apartheid-era South Africa's onslaught against the black townships in the 1980s provides the only recent comparison."(Ibid)
1. Repression cannot kill the Ethiopian spirit
The news black out makes it hard to know the true scale of the repression against the Ethiopian people unleashed so cruelly by the Meles regime. The people stood up and voted for justice and democracy. The fear of loss of the election turned Meles into a mad dog preying on innocent, unarmed and civilian victims with criminal abandon. After the regime shamelessly reported some 3,000 people have been arrested, by the same breath it also reported a few days later the release of over 8,000 prisoners! This is indeed a regime suffering both with an inflated arrogance and inflated lie at the same time. Nothing else self-exposes this regime as a cruel dictatorship better than this self-inflicted discrepancy of reporting diminished numbers of arrests whilst also inflating the large number of releases. In both counts, Meles tries to put wool over the eyes of the world by casting the impression security forces were 'restrained in arresting and magnanimous in releasing.' Such number tricks of 'more release, less arrest' is a public relations stunt that will not exonerate the regime from remaining as the chief culprit responsible for the blood and numberless crimes that Meles's post-election policy precipitated on the people, nation and country.
(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
How can the regime explain away the cold-blooded murder of a mother whose only crime is her protest through her tears? This is a regime that shoots at her son, when he happened to bend over his mother's body, as the boy saw the gruesome and ghastly sight of her sudden and unexpected killing. This is a regime that has criminalised not only the opposition but also the people and specially Ethiopia's current young generation. History is repeating itself. We have the making of a re-run of the lost generation once again! It does not matter whether the young are students, unemployed or beggars, for this regime they are all 'criminals.' According to the regime they do not have to prove their innocence, they have been pre-judged as all' guilty'. Their fate is for thousands and thousands of them to be carted away to malaria-infested concentration camps.
In all these, no one knows the true numbers that are arrested. Western reporters say over 40,000 youth have been taken to Dedessa. Still more we still do not know the number of people the regime killed. Reporters that have asked to go to Dedessa have been denied permission to go to the camps. The forced removal of the youth and exposing them to malaria gives comfort to the panicky and prickly Meles and his inner circle. What is clear is that by anticipating a scenario of 'insurrection', the regime framed the youth in order to blame the opposition to prepare the absurd charge of 'treason.' against them to lock them up without habeas corpus or bail.
The world is being hoodwinked by the regime not to form a true measure of both the present scale and cruelty of the repression against the Ethiopian people. How can any one come to know the true scale of the repression when the regime is claiming to arrest only 3000 and release 8000? Where were the unreported 5000 people unless they too were in jail? How can anyone trust the word of a regime that has elevated deliberately lying and hate as a means of statecraft?
The regime is not only using repression but also disinformation and misinformation to break the spirit of resistance against the injustice of election fraud it imposed over the first ever attempt by the Ethiopian people to manifest their will to self-govern by choosing their own elected representatives. In the end, we have faith: Good will triumph over evil, democracy over dictatorship, and justice over injustice. For good, justice and democracy to prevail, the people cannot tire to struggle. They must continue the pressures on the regime and use a variety of innovative and creative forms of peaceful struggle to fend off regime repressive capability and build the capability of the people to continue struggling no matter what obstacles are put in front of them. The Ethiopian people and their true friends must stand up and be counted now. We must be resourceful and creatively combine symbolic and all other forms of peaceful struggle to remain true to the fact that our people with their inestimable majesty have scored a victory that no one can take away from them. The fact that 90 % turned out for hope and democracy in the May 2005 is a non-reversible achievement. It will remain a monumental victory no matter what scale of repression the regime has been able to impose and may continue to do so in the future.
2. Regime repression will not stop the democratic transition
The Ethiopian people have not yet reached the final destination to democracy; but they have certainly embarked upon a process, despite twists and turns, reverses and breaks, they are bound in the final analysis to succeed. The attempt to reverse the democratic transition and impose dictatorship by the regime by killing and terrorising the Ethiopian people and imprisoning leaders and suspected members of the democratic opposition, civic society, and journalists will not stop the struggle for justice and democracy.
Meles's resort to large-scale repression shows a fatal weakness of the regime that is bound to deepen even more, ever since it made a policy to refuse dialogue and solve the electoral crises it created through a negotiated settlement through the sheer fear of possible loss of its power. Meles always chooses a crooked and divisive strategy. Instead of talking to the opposition leaders, he rudely and crudely throws them in jail. He then works by using all sorts of unsavoury tactics to break up the opposition parties trying to split them from their leaders. At the moment the Meles regime is desperate to woo the opposition MPs to join his rubber-stamp parliament. It is unbelievable how Meles has been trying to isolate and break CUD's elected legislative members that have boycotted parliament. It will not work. Meles tried this splitting tactic after the May election on the Oromo Congress Party. The regime tried to poach the MPs of that party and expel its chairman. Now nearly all the MPs have returned to their party. They are now working with the chairman, Dr. Merara that Meles tried so much to discredit. Meles is now using similar short-term tactics trying to split CUD between 'moderates' and 'hardliners.' The regime is thus involved in large-scale intimidation by pressuring elected members of CUD through various criminal means to join the rubber stamp parliament.
Equally disturbing is the fact that Meles' cadres are instigating religious and ethnic violence in Arsi and elsewhere, revealing their intention to replay the Rwandan scenario if their power is threatened and by fanning contradiction to sow and spread mistrust between the people in the predominantly Oromo inhabited lands and the Amara and other communities.
Meles's most recent ploy is to divert the international community's attention from the repression and massive human rights violations in Ethiopia by playing the pulling in and pulling out game of the army in the area in relation with the border conflict with Eritrea.
NES and the Task Force jointly call the people inside and outside Ethiopia to promote the country's democratic transition. Democratic transition would come entirely when people are determined to bring it about and pursue goals of justice and democracy without any compromise. NES and the Task Force believe that Meles will not abide by the rule of law and permit a democratic transition without unrelenting and massive pressure from the Ethiopian people both from inside and outside Ethiopia.
3. Calls for a hunger strike
We request Ethiopians and friends of Ethiopia to demonstrate their solidarity with the imprisoned CUD leadership and the thousands of other prisoners of conscience, and commemorate the hundreds of Ethiopian sons, daughters, mothers and fathers who were recently murdered and maimed by Meles Zenawi's brutal regime.
There is no better way to do that than going on a hunger strike on Christmas day, a day that the prisoners and victims should have celebrated with their families and loved ones. It is not too much for us to voluntarily give up the pleasure of a one day on December 24/25,2005, and another day on January 6, 2006, which is only a small proportion of all that they have been denied, some of them sadly forever.
In additions to a general hunger strike both within and without Ethiopia, we suggest that the next holiday celebrations be spent on supporting the families who lost their sons, daughters, and fathers and loved ones on prayers and reflections. Let the gifts that people normally exchange be collected and used to help those who paid the ultimate price for justice and democracy for Ethiopia.
This is not the time for over-spending and boogie, but for saving and supporting the struggle and the people who lost their loved ones, making a determination and decision to mobilise our resources to help our country's democratic transition.
This is also a time when we have to try to abort Meles's devilish tactic of divide and rule that could ignite ethnic or religious hostilities. We have to work together in a cooperative and communicative spirit with all groups that are working to weaken Meles's increasingly totalitarian rule and strive for a democratic Ethiopia. Democratic Ethiopia can solve most of our problems.
We should also reflect on how best we can build on the most recent affirmation by the EU Parliament of the need for the establishment of the truth about the June and November, 2005 massacres and for justice by setting up an international inquiry commission.
Strategically speaking, the Meles regime appears to have fundamentally lost its way. Its scale of repression shows that it will lose the international credibility that it has been seeking so hard and desperately wished to cultivate. If we continue our struggle with unrelenting determination and focus, our aspirations for a democratic transition, respect for human rights, the rule of law and democratic governance will become reality.
4. A New Year Resolution for continuing the democratic struggle
The continuation of the democratic struggle requires novel forms of re-mobilisation, networked organisation, united front building and new and creative combinations between the pan-Ethiopian thinking political forces and the self-determination based political movements. This is one key dimension to deepen the struggle for democracy and justice.
The second and equally important project is to raise resources for the struggle by committing to do it on mainly self-reliant principles by rejecting in principle the bad habit of having to rely on outside sources.
a) Call on united front against dictatorship and for justice and democracy
We also call on the major oppositions inside and outside to create a formidable and strong anti-Meles dictatorship united front for justice and democracy, human rights, the rule of law and good Government. The unity of all opposition parties, communities, and civil society organisations on the broadest possible united front against the Meles dictatorship is the critical call of the time.
The call includes movements such as the Oromo Liberation Front to work with parties such as the CUD struggling for justice and democracy to form a broad anti-dictatorship front. Just as the May 15,2005 election is the peoples' historic victory, the second most important historic victory will come when there is the birth of an anti-dictatorship and a pro- justice and democracy united front by forming a leadership council that can speak for the Ethiopian peoples plight for justice and democracy with authoritative voice and power. We mean authoritative to suggest that the power is based on the legitimacy of being rooted in the people and not being top down and authoritarian.
The Meles dictatorship wishes to preside over a country that remains permanently weak, out sourcing its budget to donors, creating permanent difference amongst the people and a nation whose idea of itself is daily battered by the hate politics of ethnicism that is fanned by the self-serving Meles group. There is a need to build a strong and broad movement to create an Ethiopia that unites, frees and develops its society, people and economy on the foundation of strong national confidence to undertake principally a self-reliant development trajectory.
The most critical victory of the Ethiopian people would come when the leadership's of various parties and fronts, civic groups and social movements show great foresight to rapidly forge the most impregnable united front against the Meles dictatorship. Right now, the Meles dictatorship is under the most intense pressure from those struggling for justice and democracy inside and outside Ethiopia. It is high time that all think, and make a strong alternative political force to bring about the most rapid democratic transition in the country to make the peoples voice matter and count.
b) Building the resource base of the Democratic struggle
An important new year resolution for all those outside Ethiopia is to commit themselves to contribute at least a minimum of 10 dollars and plus, each month to build on a self- reliant foundation the material architecture of the democratic struggle. If there are a million Ethiopians abroad and they each contribute 10 dollars, imagine how easily we can build the financial muscle of the democratic renaissance of the Ethiopian nation. It is our New Year resolution that starting from ourselves we will put aside a minimum of 10 dollars every month to promote comprehensively the democratic struggle of the Ethiopian people for justice, human rights, rule of law, and building enduring democratic institutions as bearers of good governance. We call on the Diaspora to start this global fund-raising and continue it until we put dictatorship in the museum, make hunger and poverty history. There is huge value in Ethiopians taking the lead to solve their own problems, and ask only when they really and truly need it for assistance. The kind of regime we have in Ethiopia is a highly donor drug addicted one that has outsourced its budget to others and is hopelessly compromised and dependent. This situation has to be challenged and the democratic struggle-the fact 90 % of our people came out-means that there is an excellent basis for a self-reliant mobilisation of the nation. May the global movement for respect of vote and voice take up the New Year Resolution that we propose? Let us not only try to imagine a democratic Ethiopia but also a self-reliant one where the people take primary responsibility to solve their primary problems.
Let us imagine a democratic Ethiopia and make it. Nothing more empowers as self-empowerment. Ethiopians must take their destiny and their future in their own hands for the sake of themselves, Africa and the world.
5. Concluding Remark
There must be an uninterrupted call that the prisoners of conscience must be released. Prof. Mesfin, Dr. Berhanu, Enginner Hailu, Judge Birtukan, Dr. Yakob. , Dr. Araya, Dr. Befekadu, Enginner Gizatchew and all the others have to be released immediately and unconditionally.
All attempts to create negotiations between the regime and the prisoners violates the cardinal rule as former South African president Mandela put it so wisely: prisoners cannot enter into contracts. They must be free to negotiate. They must not be made to negotiate when they have not been given the courtesy of bail. NES and the Task Force together condemn any attempt to force prisoners to negotiate as prisoners. Free them first before inviting them to negotiate. We say no negotiation with the regime without the release of all the prisoners of conscience: We say justice and reparation for the victims and for the Ethiopian people now!!
We would like all Ethiopians during this time of the birth of Christ to remember those who died at the hands of the brutal regime. Remember those in jail. Remember the leaders of the opposition, the journalists and civic movements.
Demand the right of the people to exercise their democratic rights to assembly, demonstration and peaceful protest.
Demand the un-banning of the free press, the de-monopolisation of the mass media, and condemn the spreading of deliberately false and harmful information by state controlled media. Stop harassing external media that try to inform as accurately as possible the people of Ethiopia. Without true information, how can the people make informed choices?
Demand that the regime stop continuing rounding up and imprisoning indiscriminately young people. It does not matter for Meles when he criminalises the nation's youth and keeps targeting them for repression for fear that they are sensitive to the gross injustice of his rule. Can the nation afford in the space of less than twenty years to lose another vibrant generation? What kind of thick regime is this that targets the gem of any nation? Its youth?
Finally we Ethiopians especially for those of us living abroad and even in the major cities of Ethiopia, Christmas will come twice. We call on all that the hunger strike includes both December 24-25, 2005 and January 7-8,2006 or Tahasas 28, 1997(Eth. Cal). We call you to use the occasion to educate the communities wherever you live by showing a montage of the wounded, the hurt, and the killed, by creating events and by using any imaginative and creative methods to transmit the plight of the opposition leaders, the youth and those who needlessly and shamelessly lost loved ones. We would like to be disabused, but the way the Meles regime has been behaving shows that it is probable that the opposition leadership may not be released by the time of the Ethiopian Christmas. So we would like to call on all Ethiopians to repeat the hunger strike and the teach-ins and fund-raising events on the Ethiopian Christmas as well. Let all send the message of happy Christmas through the hunger strike to communicate with those who should not have been in jail in the first place, and for all those who should not have been killed so untimely as well.
HUNGER STRIKE DATES ARE:
December 24 or 25, 2005 and January 6, 2006!!