Legitimacy before pardon of Derg & TPLF officials

By Robele Ababya / January 20, 2010

The ongoing debate whether pardon should be granted to the Derg officials is very interesting; and if so whether the illegitimate Zenawi regime has the moral authority to manage the process of granting the pardon holistically on behalf of the Ethiopian people is mind boggling given the shameful records of the regime in terms of betrayal of vital national interests and gross violations of human rights, including genocide, on a scale unprecedented in the history of Ethiopia. Its grizzly record of torturing political prisoners recently revealed secretly by patriotic prison officials is a matter of gross human rights violation which must be brought to the attention of Ethiopians everywhere and the international community at large. Vide the press release entitled “Global Alliance Against Torture in Ethiopia” posted on Abbay Media website on 05 January 2011.

A regime which the Ethiopian people regard as an invader because of the gruesome atrocities that it had perpetrated from day one of grabbing power by the barrel of the gun cannot be trusted to conduct truth, peace and reconciliation - much less at this time when the political turmoil in Tunisia has reverberated across the Arab world, raising concerns about stability in other countries including Ethiopia where the specter of bad omens are haunting Meles Zenawi.

President Obama’s statement on Tunisia uprising versus his silence on similar situation in Ethiopia

He said: "I condemn and deplore the use of violence against citizens peacefully voicing their opinion in Tunisia, and I applaud the courage and dignity of the Tunisian people. I urge all parties to maintain calm and avoid violence, and call on the Tunisian government to respect human rights, and to hold free and fair elections in the near future that reflect the true will and aspirations of the Tunisian people."

On the other hand, the President did not say a word in public regarding the highly rigged election of 2010 in Ethiopia in which the incumbent party won 99.6% of the parliamentary seats. Far worse is his predecessor G.W. Bush kept silent about the stolen election 2005 in Ethiopia and gross violation of human rights in its aftermath. His Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with Meles in Menilik Palace in Addis Ababa and posed for a photograph with tyrant Zenawi and told the world that the Bush Administration did not support the Human Rights Bill on Ethiopia passed unanimously by the US House of Representatives. His Administration colluded with the illegitimate Zenawi regime and instigated invasion of Somalia. The envisaged truth, peace and reconciliation commission should be required to examine the colossal human and material cost of the invasion for compensation by the USA.

Snapshot of grave abuses of human rights

The Derg and TPLF professed Marxism-Leninism as their guiding ideology pitted the children of peasants against each other and wrought havoc of epic proportion in terms of hundreds of thousands of lives lost, not to mention gruesome bodily injuries, colossal damage to property, dislocation of citizens, and mistrust rooted in the ethnic-based political dispensation intentionally designed for the unholy purpose of divide and rule. Both regimes proved ruthlessly intolerant to political ideas different from theirs. They denied the tenet principle of freedom of choice that is the cornerstone for democracy. They can therefore be accused for destroying groups which opposed them in pursuit of freedom of choice.

Zenawi stole election twice. In the first instance in 2005 security forces under his direct command killed hundreds of peaceful demonstrators and brutally incarcerated tens of thousands in filthy prisons throughout the country. In the second instance in 2010 he rigged the election and declared his party a winner by 99.6% despite pronouncement by independent observers that the election did not meet international standards. On both counts he stands accused for killing freedom of choice by force using the resources of the country taking advantage of a leader of the ruling party and the power of his totalitarian regime under his tight grip. Therefore in accordance with the International Convention on Genocide he is liable for eliminating a group that spontaneously rose up unarmed to defend their victory in the aftermath of election 2005. Add to this the acts of genocide perpetrated by his TPLF regime la against the Anuak in Gambella and the Amharas in Arbagugu, Arsi.

The bad example set by Zenawi in 2005 and 2010 should not have been allowed to spread across Africa.

EPRP and Liberation Fronts

The EPRP stands to answer for being the first to unleash White Terror giving excuse to the Derg regime to react with Red Terror. Many of us have lost our loved ones to the terrorists. The EPRP seems to deny its stand of treating the Eritrea affairs as a colonial question; it is denying that it did not support the invading forces of Siade Bare of Somalia. There are irrefutable evidences to adduce at the appropriate grand forum for peace and reconciliation to be formed by the Ethiopian people. So the EPRP should do away with its hypocrisy and come clean of its mistakes of the past for the sake of unity.

Separatist liberation movements (OLF, ONLF et al) should also account distorting history and embark on armed struggle for secession and for crimes committed by their members in case they volunteer to participate in national peace and reconciliation.

Religious Leaders

There was and is now widespread finger pointing at religious leaders of the Orthodox Christian, Islamic and other recognized faiths in Ethiopia for their failure to condemn openly the grave violation of human rights throughout the oppressive reign of the Derg and the TPLF regimes. They have to account for their alleged failures and are therefore morally inadequate to implement the process of truth, peace and reconciliation.

The successor to the Aklilu Cabinet, nobilities and aristocrats

The barons and aristocrats had their roles to play to retake power after the resignation of the Aklilu Cabinet. Just how Lidj Mekonnen Inadlachew came to power as Prime Minister is an open question. The allegation that he colluded with the Derg in the imprisonment of high ranking officials of the Imperial regime who were slaughtered by the latter is a cardinal question begging for an answer. There are witnesses to testify. The young Inalkachew may have been a child to know about the atrocities replete in his father’s government.

Thus the question of pardon has to be taken holistically inclusive of all the culprits involved in gross violation of human rights including genocide. The Mengistu regime killed a generation; the Zenawi regime did worse by killing a nation. The fate of culprits must be examined and recommended by a grand commission for peace and reconciliation constituted by a legitimate arrangement.

Seizing the moment to rebuff the illegitimate TPLF regime

Professor Seid Hassan has in his brilliant and enlightening recent article (entitled “The futility and damaging effects of Ethiopia price caps” dated 09 January 2011) reiterated the result of his analysis in his earlier write-up of three years ago that there is a systemic defect in the economic policy of the TPLF government. Economists agree that such defects cannot be rectified through price controls decreed by governments in the face of shortage of commodities inherent in the system. The  price capping and the ensuing crackdown on the business community signals the bankruptcy of the TPLF regime leading to its inevitable collapse, for no country confidently boasting a free market policy and a continuous  double-digit economic growth in the past five years would suddenly take such an unpopular drastic measure and contradict itself.

In 2008/2009 I wrote a couple of articles about the Doha debates in Qatar sponsored by the BBC. The President of Israel, Shimon Peres, was one of the distinguished debaters. Good governance and democracy were the overwhelming major demands of the mostly young Arabs audience, but leaders would not give in to their demands. The uprising in Tunisia is no surprise and pundits expect it will spread like bush fire in the Middle East and Africa where greedy and corrupt dictators are at the helm of power and their family members and close accomplices are controlling the resources of their respective countries. In the Arab world: Egypt, Yemen, Syria, Jordan et al were countries among culprits mentioned during the debates. The question is which one of these is the next target for popular uprising. All of them meet the criteria of ingredients for popular uprising: massive unemployment, poverty of the masses, rampant corruption, gagging of the media and denial of freedom of association among others.

In black Africa, it is common knowledge that the Zenawi regime is guilty of atrocious crimes and sellout of vital national interests. It is a totalitarian regime determined to control all aspects of the life of citizens in the material, judicial, political, economical, social and spiritual spheres.

Now is the moment to seize, especially for the young generation, to confront the arrogant Zenawi; to send a strong message to all middle, low ranking and ordinary supporters in his regime to abandon him without delay; to unite in good faith and usher in a legitimate transitional arrangement as a matter of top priority to kick start the formal process for peace and reconciliation.

The next priority is to establish a grand independent commission for truth, peace and reconciliation emulating the example set by Nelson Mandela for the Republic of South Africa. Nothing should be done to gloss over this quintessential exercise to cleanse our murky politics of the past four decades that had left deep and wide wound that is neither easy to cure nor forgive unless all stakeholders  seek the truth in good faith; to ensure that culprits are punished and living victims and families of martyrs are compensated.

 Birtukan Mideksa has shown us the courage in speaking truth to power for which she had paid immeasurable sacrifice for doing so. Let us emulate her noble example and pray that her Guardian Angel will always be at her side to protect her as she contemplates how best to serve her beloved country while at the same time ensuring  primarily the safety of her family. I would be quick to add that her judicial and spiritual assets combined with her priceless sacrifice, intelligence, integrity and charisma would be indispensable inputs to the process of truth, peace and reconciliation.

Lastly, fellow Ethiopians, we are on our own to free ourselves from tyrannical rule with the help of the Almighty God. We should avoid being too much of a  copycat; we must unite and use our creative power to bring the reprehensible TPLF party to the negotiating table demanding the resignation of Zenawi and members of his Executive Committee (Politbureau) as a minimum precondition.

Release all political prisoners in Ethiopia!