Open Letter to Ladies in Power in the Obama Administration

By Robele Ababya / May 4, 2010
To: Ladies with Cabinet-rank in the Obama Administration
Washington DC
C/o US Embassy (
Entoto Street,
P.O. Box 1014
Addis Ababa

Honorable Ladies,

Re: Chris Flaherty is on hunger strike for former Judge Birtukan Mideksa under torture in prison with her constitutional rights denied including referral to a specialist doctor    

I have the audacity to write this letter on this day when Mr. Christopher P. Flaherty is on hunger strike in front of the White House, which is a symbol of the rule of law and universal human rights recognized as such by the global community upholding the fundamental values of Liberty Freedom and pursuit of Happiness.

Mr. Flaherty is on hunger strike because he is fully convinced that Birtukan Mideksa is illegally in jail for the sole reason that she is posing a threat to the ruling regime of Ethiopia. The regime is widely believed to have rigged the election set for 23 May 2010 – a sign of even worse civil strife to come than the one seen in the aftermath of election 2005.

There is no doubt that You Honorable Ladies are part of a team in the Cabinet of the President of the United States committed to provide exemplary moral leadership by enforcing the virtues of liberty, freedom and prosperity envisioned by the Founding Fathers of your Great Country. I take it that it is to protect these fundamental values that your country is engaged in bitter struggle against extremist forces hell-bent on destroying the edifice of democracy built by the consent and effort of good men and women guided by the vision and conviction that the pillars of that edifice are common to all human beings. The struggle against extremism and terrorism is morally justified for the world would be a better place without terrorists, extremists and dictators like Meles in Ethiopia today.

Terrorists, extremists and dictators are better fought and defeated by upholding fundamental values enshrined in what Thomas Jefferson wrote in his immortal words, viz.,   

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” 

Birtukan Mideksa is a shining example for upholding those unalienable Rights of which Mr. Jefferson wrote and therefore a beacon of hope to the present and future generations of Ethiopia.

It is a remarkable tribute to the vision and sense of justice of your Founding Fathers that more than at any time in the history of the USA so many ladies are holding powerful positions in the Obama Administration considering that it was only in 1920 that the right for women to vote was guaranteed by law. And with that right, the meaning of “just powers deriving from the consent of the governed” took hold holistically involving men and women.

Notwithstanding progress made, there is still a very long way to go in the entire world including the United States for women to hold the balance of power in politics so far dominated by their male counterparts. In Africa, even the overwhelming majority of men are victims of dictators of their own gender.

You are in powerful positions in which you are today because there were good people of both genders with vision that discrimination on the basis of sex, creed, color or ethnic origin is unjust and unacceptable. I wish to add that in this age of information in the 21st century the change must occur at a much more accelerated rate by giving precedence to moral values than to political expedience. And Your active and catalyst role is instrumental in this regard.

You Ladies exercising power in the freest world have a duty to help increase the numbers and ratios of able and deserving women in high positions not only in the USA but also throughout the world such as in Ethiopia.

A unique case in point is Ethiopia where a charismatic, intelligent and principled lady at the helm of the Unity, Democracy and Justice Party (UDJP) - the most popular political Party in Ethiopia and Africa - was thrown into jail by a chauvinist despot who holds tight grip on power by applying Stalinist methods of control over pillars of democracy while at the same paying leap service to democratic values to appease Western donors that are giving direct financial support to his government. With all due respect these donors include the USA which is hard to believe that a government in the forefront of the free world would spend its taxpayers’ money to prop up a dictator whose heinous crimes are well-documented by its own Department of State. Meles recently said: “We have been convinced for many years that in many respects, the VOA Amharic Service has copied the worst practices of radio stations such as Radio Mille Collines of Rwanda in its wanton disregard of minimum ethics of journalism and engaging in destabilizing propaganda” - thus biting the hands that has been feeding his regime  generously.

The audacity of tyrant Meles in drawing parallel between VOA and the infamous Radio Mille Collines at this time when it is supported by taxpayers of the people of the United States of America is like biting the hands that feed his army. If he is so thankless now, imagine what he will do as soon as his ties grow stronger with despotic foreign powers with insatiable appetite for the natural resources of the African continent. So it would be best to nip this trend in the bud.

Congressman Donald Paine recently said: “I am deeply concerned and troubled about the deteriorating conditions in Ethiopia. The EPRDF regime is becoming increasingly totalitarian.” The Virginia Declaration on “Ethiopia and Horn of Africa Conference” held between 9 to 11 April 2010 has in its preamble clearly stated that it is  ALARMED by the escalation of ethnic and religious polarization, active and latent conflicts in Ethiopia and Somalia, further endangering the livelihood of millions of people and disturbing international peace, and the total absence of a freely elected and accountable governance system in the region”; and  RECONGNIZING with dismay that Ethiopia will be entering the next election without adequate preparation, and more importantly, under a cloud of impunity, relentless human rights violations, vigilantism, and the incarceration of political leaders like Ms.  Birtukan Mideksa and others, while at the same time the ruling party uses federal and foreign aid funds to recruit youth supporters, all these being done with the intent of building a single-party state.”  Accordingly the Conference has resolved to “Join human rights organizations, parliamentarians, governments and the Ethiopian people in demanding for the immediate and unconditional release of Ms. Birtukan Mideksa and all other political prisoners.”

The concerns of the Honorable Congressman and those of the participants of above named Conference are certainly in tune.  The increasingly totalitarian stance of the Meles regime should be stopped with the help of Ladies in Power in the Obama Administration

Birtukan Mideksa has done nothing wrong to be: subjected to cruel prison conditions being locked up in solitary confinement for the first 170 days since December 2008 in a narrow filthy dark cell infested with rodents; stripped of her constitutional rights of visit by relatives, friends, access to lawyers priest despite court ruling twice. The most disturbing concern now is the deteriorating health of Birtukan and the refusal by her jailors to let her be seen by a specialist doctor and visit by the International Red Cross. Her septuagenarian mother and her five-year old lovely daughter are suffering physical and mental torture for the second time since December 2008 as if the first one of 18 months in the aftermath of election 2005 was not enough.

Birtukan’s imprisonment is clearly a vendetta by Meles on a lame of the lamest excuse! It is clearly a vindication of his rampant and arbitrary breach of his own constitution; and arrogant affront to civilized society to behave as if he is above the law. He said recently that: "There will never be an agreement with anybody to release Birtukan. Ever. Full stop. That’s a dead issue.” This must be an embarrassment to all donors channeling taxpayers’ money to support his corrupt unpopular minority regime dominated by relatives and friends nearly all coming from a small ethnic group constituting less than 8% of the 80 million population of Ethiopia.

In all fairness, international pressure of democratic governments and institutions including the USA was instrumental for the release in 2007 of the victors of the Ethiopian election 2005 stolen by the ruling Party in broad daylight. A repeat of the same stealing is highly suspected by the Ethiopian people and the international community. So the situation of Birtukan Mideksa would remain dire unless similar pressure is brought to bear on Meles who had illegally put her in prison in breach of his own constitution.

I plead with you in earnest, Honorable Ladies, to share the deep concern of Congressman Paine so that your government should not waste its resources on a regime that is increasingly becoming totalitarian. In the same vein, I further plead with you to join the clarion call of Senator Russ Feingold made in these words:

There is no way that elections can be fair, let alone credible, with opposition leaders in jail or unable to campaign freely. At the bare minimum, the international community should push for the release of these political prisoners ahead of the elections. And if nothing changes, we should not be afraid to stand with the Ethiopian people and state clearly that an election in name only is an affront to their country’s democratic aspirations.”

 Indeed, Honorable Ladies, not to stand with the Ethiopian at this critical hour of their dire need would be morally wrong and contrary to your most enviable fundamental values.

I am an independent unflinching supporter of UDJP/MEDREK – a coalition of eight political parties that is gaining trust of the Ethiopian people who want peaceful change. I strongly support Birtukan because she has set me free by her courage to speak Truth to Power. Millions are determined to emulate her example to speak Truth to Power as in the free world.

I am deeply gratitude to film producer Mr. Chris Flaherty who is on hunger strike for the just cause of Birtukan Mideksa and hope that his noble sacrifice shall bear fruit.

So, Honorable Ladies, I have the honor to stress with due respect to your exalted office that standing on the side of the Ethiopian people would start with demanding the immediate and unconditional release of Judge Birtukan and all political prisoners in Ethiopia.

Meles must not be allowed to entrench a one-party state in Ethiopia with the support he has so far garnered from the taxpayers of Western democracies a lion’s  portion of that support coming from the USA..

Most respectfully,

Robele Ababya