The Artist as Hero: The Ballad of Teddy Afro

By Prof Alemayehu G. Mariam / September 2, 2008

Teddy Afro in Zenawi’s Kangaroo Court

'Teddy Afro'


The great Tewodros Kassahun (Teddy Afro) is Zenawi’s most famous political prisoner in Ethiopia today. Zenawi jacked Teddy on bogus charges of vehicular manslaughter,   failure to assist the injured and driving without a license. Teddy was out on “bail” until April 2008, when his bail was revoked for no good cause and taken to the lice-infested Kality prison. He was later caged in solitary confinement (administrative segregation), a severe disciplinary punishment reserved only for the most violent, incorrigible and destructive criminals in any correctional institution in the world.  As Teddy left his last kangaroo court hearing in July, he proclaimed his innocence to the world: “I did not kill anyone! God is my witness. I did not kill anyone! God’s powers are above all powers. I appeal to the sense of justice of all those who are sworn to serve this country. Without just cause, I have been caged in a lice-infested jail.” There was not a dry eye in kangaroo court.

Teddy is Innocent!

The allegation in kangaroo court is that Teddy in the evening hours of November 2, 2006, driving his vehicle at a high rate of speed and without an operator’s license, struck and killed a pedestrian. Teddy allegedly fled the scene of the accident without rendering assistance to the injured victim. Teddy denies the allegation. He told the kangaroo court: “I did not kill anyone!” Teddy is telling the truth. He is innocent!

How can we be so sure? We are so sure because Article 22 (3) of  Zenawi’s “constitution” says Teddy is innocent: “Everyone charged with an offense shall be presumed innocent until proved guilty by a court of law and not to be compelled to testify against himself.” That is also the universal rule under Article 11 (1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (incorporated by express reference in Art. 13 of the “constitution” ), the Rome Statute of the International Court (Art. 66, presumption of innocence and a reasonable doubt) and under the laws and constitutions of all civilized nations. For Teddy to be convicted of the alleged offenses, the prosecution must prove the elements of the alleged crimes beyond a reasonable doubt. The burden of proving Teddy’s guilt is ENTIRELY on the prosecution. That burden of proof never shifts to the accused. Teddy does not have to do jack to prove his innocence. He does not have to call witnesses or produce any evidence in his defense. He has the absolute right not to testify in order to prove his innocence.  (Art. 22 (3).)

Proof of guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt” is the highest standard of evidence known in the law of civilized societies; and ostensibly, Zenawi’s kangaroo court subscribes to that  standard as well. Proof of strong suspicion that the accused has done the alleged crime does not amount to “proof beyond a reasonable doubt”. Evidence that Teddy possibly, probably, plausibly, and presumably did it, just does not cut it under the reasonable doubt standard. Proof that Teddy very, very likely did it, does not meet the standard of reasonable doubt. Proof that there is overwhelming evidence Teddy did it, but there is  reasonable doubt (that is, a single doubt based upon reason and common sense, the kind of doubt that would make a reasonable person hesitate to act) about the pre-dated autopsy report or the contradictory testimony of the police officers does not meet the standard of  proof beyond a reasonable doubt. A directive from Zenawi’s office that Teddy be convicted because he wrote unflattering lyrics about him, refused to sing at his millennium party and sang songs that told the truth about his dictatorship is definitely not proof beyond reasonable doubt.

The evidence that transforms the “presumption of innocence” to a factual finding of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt is evidence “which, after the entire comparison and consideration of all the evidence, leaves the minds of the fact finder (judge or jury) in that condition that they feel an abiding conviction of the truth of the charge.” Simply stated, the fact finder must have “moral certainty about the evidence presented against the accused to a point where s/he would act in reliance upon its truth in matters of the greatest importance to himself or herself.” Ultimately, the universal rule is that if the fact finder views the evidence in a criminal case reasonably permitting either of two conclusions -- one of innocence, the other of guilt -- the fact finder is required to adopt the conclusion of innocence. Such is the foundation of the criminal law in all civilized societies. Even the kangaroo court in Teddy’s case is supposed to follow these rules as manifested in Article 13 of the “constitution”, and Article 141 of the rules of criminal procedure.

The Evidence Against Teddy

After a police investigation that has been going on since November 2, 2006, and with all of the massive investigative resources at the disposal of the regime, the scanty evidence assembled against Teddy shows the following: 1) A man claiming to be a cab driver called police and gave the license plate number of a vehicle registered to Teddy. 2) Police officers came upon the scene of the accident and found a man who appeared to have sustained injuries lying on the ground. They saw no vehicle strike the man. 3) The vehicle allegedly belonging to Teddy had sustained damages. 4) The cab driver who allegedly reported the incident to the police could not be located. 5) A death certificate produced in court showed the victim had died a day earlier before he was allegedly struck by the vehicle registered to Teddy and killed.

The prosecution’s case has more holes in it than a worn out fishing net. Here is a short list of the most glaring evidentiary deficiencies:  

1) The autopsy report does not show the victim died specifically from trauma resulting from a vehicle collision. All it shows is that the victim died from blunt force trauma.

2) The autopsy report showed that the alleged victim had died one day earlier than the date of the hit and run that allegedly killed him. The prosecution claimed the date registered on the death certificate was a “clerical error”.  (By the same token, could it be that the license plate number reported to the police by the alleged cab driver at night implicating Teddy is an “observational error”? What is good for the goose must be good for the gander!)                                    

3)  The prosecution has not produced any forensic evidence connecting Teddy’s vehicle to the deceased’s injuries or death. No blood, hair, fiber or any other physical evidence belonging to the victim was found on Teddy’s vehicle.

4) The prosecution has produced no evidence on the mechanical condition of the vehicle. There is also no accident investigation/reconstruction evidence.

5) There is no expert testimony showing the deceased’s injuries are consistent with vehicular collisions in general, or with the vehicle damage observed on Teddy’s vehicle. There is no expert testimony in the form of traffic accident reconstruction findings to connect the cause of death of the alleged accident victim to the vehicle in question; and no data were extracted from the onboard “black box” of the BMW which retains critical parametric performance data in the seconds preceding impacts of the nature alleged in this incident, and often critical in vehicular manslaughter cases., e.g. engine rpm, brake status, throttle position, position of air bag sensors and restraint systems (which would be deployed in the event of high speed impact with an external object at factory preset specifications), time from maximum velocity to impact, etc. In high impact vehicle collisions, it could be reasonably expected that the driver and/or passenger could sustain minimally some soft tissue injury from secondary collision effects (e.g. sudden tensioning of the inertial belt retractor from high velocity impact, injury from debris, etc.). In any case, if Teddy’s BMW had been involved in any kind of collision serious enough to cause the death of a pedestrian, one could reasonably expect evidence of some physical injury on him. But there is no evidence Teddy had sustained any physical injuries consistent with collision impact.

6) There is no evidence that at the time of the alleged incident Teddy was actually driving the vehicle. No witness has been able to positively identify Teddy as the driver of the vehicle that allegedly struck the decedent.

7)  There is no evidence that the driver of the vehicle in question was “speeding” or driving at a high rate of speed, e.g. no evidence of fixed maximum speed limits for the accident location, no “black box” data or other expert or eyewitness testimony on traffic, road, weather conditions and visibility at the time of the alleged collision with the deceased.

8) The police officers testified that when they came upon the scene, they found an apparent victim of a hit and run accident. Supposedly, the victim had been drunk. They did not see Teddy hit and run from the scene. It was further reported that the police officers had difficulty expressing themselves in the official language, and without translation assistance, it was difficult to follow their testimony. Further, their testimony was conflicting.  

9) Teddy was denied fundamental due process by the admission of hearsay evidence (an out of court statement given by a witness to the police) without cross-examination of that witness. When Teddy’s lawyer objected to the evidence and complained that he can not defend his client in a manifestly arbitrary proceeding, he was ordered to serve 20 days in jail for contempt of (kangaroo) court.

10) There is no evidence that Teddy made any admission of culpability, and he has always maintained his innocence against the charges.

Enough of the theory and practice of reasonable doubt in Zenawi’s kangaroo court! It would be a waste of paper and time to comment further on the kangaroo court proceedings. Suffice it to say that one finds more integrity, better prosecutorial trial advocacy, a more coherent judicial process and display of legal savvy in a mock trial courtroom in an American high school than in Zenawi’s kangaroo court.  

The Real “Crimes” of Teddy Afro in Federal First Kangaroo Court

Teddy Afro is in Zenawi’s jail not because of any traffic or other criminal offense. Teddy is in jail because he pissed off Zenawi and his henchmen by getting in their faces and telling them like it is!  Zenawi feels “dissed” by Teddy. He feels insulted. He wants to punish Teddy by showing him who is really “wearing those shorts (qumta) darned with 17 needles.”  That’s why Teddy is in jail! That is why he will remain in jail. Zenawi knows it. So does everybody else. If Teddy would ask for a “pardon” tomorrow (“Lord! I have sinned against you!”), he would be out of jail before you could say jack. 


Now, if you really want to know the “crimes” for which Teddy is rotting in a lice-infested jail, check out the following list of charges:


Charge 1: Crime of Love of Country.

For his entire artistic career Tewodros Kassahun, a/k/a Teddy Afro, has shown undying love for Ethiopia. In all of his songs and lyrics, said Teddy Afro has glorified Ethiopia, condemned mercenaries and thugs and paid homage to African fathers who have toiled to bring about African unity and promote pan-Africanism.

Charge 2: Crime of Speaking Truth to Power.                                                                                     For his entire artistic career Tewodros Kassahun, a/k/a Teddy Afro, has refused to lie, and bow before thugs and thieves. In his album, Yasteseryal, said Teddy exposed the truth about the seizure of the throne by a criminal band of thugs.

Charge 3: Crime of Refusing to Bow Down Before King Kong

For his entire artistic career Tewodros Kassahun, a/k/a Teddy Afro, has refused to bow down and worship King Kong.     


Charge 4: Crime of Refusing to Sell Out or Be Corrupted  

For his entire artistic career Tewodros Kassahun, a/k/a Teddy Afro, has been offered riches and rewards beyond measure to sell out his integrity and honor. But on all occasions, he has adamantly refused to sell out. He was offered millions to sing at the Millennium Mambo but he refused; instead he sang for free to the public at the stadium.


Charge 5: Crime of Courage and Refusing to Be Silent in the Face of Inhuman Acts

For his entire artistic career, Tewodros Kassahun, a/k/a/ Teddy Afro, has steadfastly refused to remain silent in the face of crimes against humanity, war crimes and human rights violations.


Charge 6: Crime of Advocating Reconciliation and Unity

For his entire artistic career, Tewodros Kassahun, a/k/a/ Teddy Afro, has called upon all Ethiopians to unite. He has called upon Christians and Muslims to join hands and people of all ethnic backgrounds to live in harmony, peace and love in a single Ethiopian nation.


Charge 7:  Crime of Singing Uplifting Songs

For his entire artistic career, Tewodros Kassahun, a/k/a/ Teddy Afro, has sung songs that are, without exception, inspiring and uplifting. His music, songs and lyrics have been effective antidotes to diabolical efforts to undermine the spirit of the Ethiopian people. Teddy wrote and sang the subversive lyric, “Hold on, hold tight! Ethiopia’s resurrection (Ye Itopia tinsae) is near, if only we forgive each other in love."


Charge 9: Crime of Captivating the Hearts of All Ethiopians

For his entire artistic career, Tewodros Kassahun, a/k/a/ Teddy Afro, has sung songs that have captivated all Ethiopians, young and old.


Charge 10: Crime of Being the Most Inspiring Young Artist of His Generation Tewodros Kassahun, a/k/a/ Teddy Afro, is without doubt, the most inspiring musical artist of his generation. Beyond his peerless artistic talents, said Teddy has inspired millions of people to yearn for democracy, freedom and human rights in a single Ethiopian nation.  


Aggravating Circumstances in the Commission of the Foregoing Crimes

In the commission of all of the foregoing crimes, Tewodros Kassahun, a/k/a/ Teddy Afro, has acted with the intent to promote love and understanding among the people of Ethiopia, and in the furtherance of social harmony and national unity.


There is a mountain of evidence larger than Ras Dashen that Teddy is GUILTY of all 10 charges beyond a shadow of doubt.

The Ballad of Teddy Afro  

 “Teddy Afro! I charge you with a crime!!!”

Thundered His Honor, the First Instance Kangaroo Judge.

“What is my crime?” asked Teddy with his usual sunny smile,

“Crime?” snorted His marsupial Honor.

“Don’t gotta do no crime!

We’ll just make you do the time.

Make YOU, do the time! The time!! THE TIME!!!”


Teddy returned once more to plead his case,

Said he to His Kangarooship:  

“Please hear me out, Your Honor, sir

“You must do me justice! Must do me right!”

“Young man! I’d love to do you justice and right,

But you can see, I am just a kangaroo judge and not very bright,

I do as I am told, be it wrong or right.”


Jah people stood in kangaroo court,

Shouting, “Teddy is innocent, him no do no crime.

“God him witness, Jah is Supreme Power.

“Rulers of Babylon, free Teddy!

“Unchain Teddy today!

“Set Teddy free,

“Let him be.”


But them took Teddy back to the dungeon,

A lice-infested hellhole they call Kality prison.

Them vowed to break Teddy’s spirit and pride,

Them vowed him solitary keep, make him weep, deny him sleep!

But Teddy, him put his faith in Jah.

Him say, “Break my bones, bruise my flesh,

Jah Man’s spirit, Jah Man’s pride will never diminish.”


Teddy, him sat solitary in jail (no bail),

Him sang Bob Marley (Ye Ityopia Anbessa) songs:

“Africans Unite!” “Ethiopians Unite!”

“Them belly full, but we hungry.”

“We gonna chase those crazy,
Chase those crazy bunkheads,
Chase those crazy baldheads out of our town.”


The people cried, “It’s a shame, an outrage!”

Them ask, “Isn’t it odd, isn’t it strange,

“To put a lion in a cage?

“Isn’t it odd, isn’t it strange,

“To see hyenas on the stage?

“Hyenas chain a lion in a cage?”

Them say, “It’s a doggone outrage!”


Teddy Afro! You are our Hero!

My HERO, Teddy Afro!

“You rock so, you rock so, like you never did before.”

Bob Marley, him say:

“Get up, stand up: stand up for your right!”

“Get up, stand up: don’t give up the fight!”

Teddy: Don’t give up the fight! Don’t give up the fight… Don’t…!


Jah, Yasteseryal!              


Free Teddy Afro, our HERO!!!!     


Please sign the “Free Teddy Afro” online petition at:


One Ethiopia today. One Ethiopia tomorrow. One Ethiopia forever.

The writer, Alemayehu G. Mariam, is a professor of political science at California State University, San Bernardino, and an attorney based in Los Angeles. For comments, he can be reached at