Ordeal of men and women of valor under arrest in Ethiopia

By Robele Ababya / October 25, 2011
Let the new march start afresh "Let the incoherent activities end. Let the petty bickering stop. And let Ethiopians unite against poverty, hunger, corruption, injustice, discrimination, humiliation…in their own country. Let the new march start afresh"Abebe Gellaw

"We cannot achieve democracy and lasting peace in the world unless women obtain the same opportunities as men to influence developments at all levels of society" - Nobel Peace Prize Committee 2011.

Tribute to priceless sacrifice

I salute with all humility and candor all suffering ladies – among them Serkalem Fasil and Dr. Selam Aschalew who are dearly missing their spouses languishing in prison and Reeyot Alemu – the trio and other illustrious heroines are making heavy sacrifices on behalf of all their fellow citizens; they and other ladies in similar hardship are bearers of our hope for dignity, liberty, freedom, prosperity, democracy and justice in our Motherland, Ethiopia.  

It is to be recalled that Icon Judge Birtukan  Mideksa was imprisoned at Qaliti twice – the second time for 21 months 170 days of which was under the most inhuman condition in solitary confinement suffering physical and psychological torture; Serkalem gave birth while she and her husband Eskinder were political prisoners at the infamous Qaliti dungeon; their smart child ex-prisoner in his own right misses no doubt misses his father; Andualem Andargie has been imprisoned for the second time; his two sons will miss him dearly.

History shall record Birtukan, Serkalem, Reeyot Alemu et al as heroines cruelly held in Zenawi’s jails. Zenawi will be remembered as a tyrant who did his utmost in exacerbating the heart wrenching ordeal of women and nipping their democratic rights in the bud.

I see the strength, pain and suffering of these mothers through the prism of my own experience of the influence of three wonderful ladies in my life: a loving mother who brought up her children as single parent, an adoring disciplinary paternal grandmother and a devoted affectionate wife of decades  who had to bear the heavy burden of travelling a long distance to provide food and essential articles for me and taking care of our four children during my life in high security prison, which information I am publicly divulging for the first time in order to underline the rationale for my consistently vehement objection to any denial of freedom of expression by powers in being in crude violation of their imposed constitution.  

The outpouring practical support of people and the generosity received via invisible hands gave moral strength to my wife; such kind of massive practical support, materially, and spiritually in prayer, and politically, is exactly what is needed to do by those of us in the larger prison in order to enliven and strengthen the families of the recent victims of brutal arrest and in fact all prisoners of conscience in Ethiopia.

Your predicament, dear mothers, has given impetus to the slow wheel of justice to gather momentum. Ultimately your children and all of us who have shared your shall enjoy the fruits of living in dignity, liberty, freedom and justice; but the children of tyrant and his cruel wife Azeb shall live with guilty conscience because of the evil deeds of their parents.

International conference on democracy & human rights

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, at an international conference on the promotion of democracy and human rights held at Krakow, Poland (July 2-4, 2010) said that: “Intolerant governments across the globe are “slowly crushing” activist and advocacy groups that play an essential role in the development of democracy. She cited a broad range of countries where “the walls are closing in” on civic organizations such as unions, religious groups, rights advocates and other nongovernmental organizations that press for social change and shine a light on governments’ shortcomings. “Among those she named were Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, Venezuela, China and Russia. “Some of the countries engaging in these behaviors still claim to be democracies.”  

Call for action

Fellow citizens, there is tendency to shy away from glorifying our martyrs, victims of arbitrary arrest and torture,  and even outstanding leaders such as Menelik II – the victor of the Battle of Adwa which victory became the shinning beacon of hope for freedom and independence for all black people in our globe.   Andualem Aragie, Asamnew Birhanu, Bekele Gerba, Debebe Eshetu, Eskinder Nega, Nathnael Mekonnen, Olbana Lelisa, Reeyot Alemu, Woubshet Taye, Zemenu Molla and many other political prisoners in Ethiopia have torn the curtain of fear wider by speaking Truth to Power. Families of these outstanding political prisoners are bearing the painful agony of missing their loved ones and caring for their children and helpless old dependents that cannot provide for themselves. Those of us in the larger prison at home and Ethiopians in the Diaspora should leave no stone unturned in our moral and patriotic duty to secure the immediate release of these precious political prisoners.

Phenomenal advances in science and technology have been the French Revolution in 1787. It is sad however that the intended goal of achieving social justice lags so far behind especially in several developing countries such as Ethiopia where tyrant Zenawi and his thugs are running a totalitarian government with no respect whatsoever for civilized dissent- for that matter in the 21st century. Our heroes and heroines who are victims of the wave of arrests and their loved ones expect that their fellow citizens in the larger prison to redouble their efforts to reverse the present rampant abuse of human rights; they also expect donors to stop immoral flow of funds directly to the coffers of the Zenawi regime until they are immediately and unconditionally released from prison.

Inevitable popular uprising

Precocious prisoners in Zenawi’s filthy jails should take comfort that at this time in history humankind is on the threshold of unstoppable change; no military might under the control of dictators, electric fences at their places of work and residences, sophisticated electronic security systems in their homes, ferocious dogs watching their premises, security guards at their disposal and empty promises of better days to come avert the wrath of the masses of the kind emerging in our globe. Social justice shall prevail! We might struggle until Ethiopia shall be home of zero tolerance to holding prisoners of conscience.

Appeal to the USA

Secretary Clinton in my sincere opinion has emerged as the foremost Spokesperson for women’s, fundamental human rights and a towering charismatic leader on our globe. She is standing on a high moral ground; she is for that reason trustworthy to rally to our cause to redress the political blunder done in the aftermath of Ethiopian Election 2005 by her predecessor Condoleezza Rice, Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, Jundiai Fraser, and the then US Embassy Staff in Addis Ababa including: Ambassador Aurelia Brazil, Charge d’affaire Vicki Huddleston; history shall record all the aforementioned ladies starting from Secretary Rice and the other officials mentioned for siding with Zenawi in spite of his known heinous crimes including genocide. 

There are encouraging signs that President Obama is determined to end the sad saga of US relationships with dictators for the last 30 years, to wit: his decision to send 100 US troops to Uganda with orders to assist in killing or capturing Joseph Kony of the Lord Resistance Army is a good omen for democrats and a nightmare to tyrants like Zenawi. Ex- President George W. Bush reneged on his pledge to part with tyrants and in the case of Ethiopia turned a blind to grave violation of abuse of basic human rights by security forces under the direct command of Zenawi. I reiterate my previous pleas that it is in the best interest of the USA to choose the long-term friendship with the Ethiopian people instead of short-time gains of siding with the brutal minority regime.  

I would like to close this piece with this quotation attributed to Secretary Clinton: “Democracies don’t fear their own people. They recognize that citizens must be free to come together, to advocate and agitate.” I plead with President Obama to listen to the voice of Ethiopians holding candle light vigil in front of the White House and Madame Clinton to condemn violation of human rights in Ethiopia; to demand the immediate release of all political prisoners in Ethiopia – including the victims of the recent arrests: Andualem Aragie, Asamnew Birhanu, Bekele Gerba, Debebe Eshetu, Eskinder Nega, Nathnael Mekonnen, Olbana Lelisa, Reeyot Alemu, Woubshet Taye, Zemenu Molla.

Secretary Clinton is so right. The question is why the recent wave of arrest is taking place given the TPLF claim of victory with 99.6% of the votes in the last election. The answer is that the brutal ruling regime fears the people it has been misruling for the last 20 years stealing elections all the time, committing heinous crimes including genocide, sellout of vital national interests and usurping all pillars of democracy.

Those of us in larger prison owe a debt of deep gratitude to the martyrs and victims of arrest. Ethiopia shall be home of zero tolerance to holding prisoners of conscience as a result of their priceless sacrifices.