Thursday, August 31, 2006

To Mesfin Woldemariam: the single most important Ethiopian academic and intellectual of our time

Tomoka Coffeehouse, ten minutes walk from Piassa, is no Café Griensteidl. It is hardly well-furnished and spacious. There are no billiard tables or chess sets. Marble-topped tables usually strewn with newspapers plunk inches away from each other barely allowing a space to stand up and sip the small cup of coffee served on a steel tray. Yet Tomoka has an intriguing feel of a 19th century Viennesian coffeehouse. Its tables are as much a platform for ideas as coffee. It is where brilliant youth with precocious talents for analytical thinking and reasoning grapple with philosophy, politics and economics.
Professor Mesfin Woldemariam used to have, like Emmanuel Kant, a routine morning walk to Tomoka where he would be surrounded by the smart and fiercely combative young intellectuals, who weren't even born when his seminal works on famine and food security were published, and argue about everything on earth, from post-modernism and Derrida to Tomism . The spirit of Tomoka is Homo sum: humani nil a me alienum puto ; nothing human is alien to me. No debate, however, is without an Ethiopian reference. Professor Mesfin always raised the possibilities of the construction of a self one can be proud of; and where discussions on personal identity in the Ethiopian context lead is predictable: a heated exchange on ethnic politics. Mesfin was not an "in most things unity" Augustinian. As a universalist with a passion for individual rights, he wasn't an intellectual to make a call to arms in defense of ethnic politics of whatever kind. But in his young companions, he didn't look for conformity to his views. Instead he wanted to see the honesty of their views and the consistency of their logic. He, sometimes, pushed the perverse sides of the argument, brought up ideas totally contrary to his and defended them with the zeal of a devil's advocate. In that professor Mesfin's method appeared like the Socrates method on its head.
Of course, at the end of the debates Mesfin wanted to get as many youth to share his passion for individual rights and non-violence. It is these two positions that make him a gadfly in Ethiopian politics post 1970s which has been dominated by the revolutionary generation which grew up idolizing Che Guevara than Ghandi; Marx than Mill. He was vilified by the violent student protestors of early 1970s who counted their legendary teacher among them but felt betrayed when he rejected their "Fano Tesemara", a violent revolutionary slogan. Mengistu hated his steadfast liberalism, calling him a CIA agent. The TPLF who weren't used to the rigorous academism and intellectualism of the Mesfins demonized him when he dissected their half-baked Marxism and ethnic politics and laid it to its bare bones. Beyond academics, his staunch defense of human rights led him to create the Ethiopian Human Rights Council, procreating and initiating people to rites of the defense of liberty and equality. Where death was culture, he argued for the abolition of death penalty. Where government was supposed to be untouchable, he exposed with rigorous research the government's willful and wanton violations of human rights.
The influence of great dissenters will be felt when their ideas and views sip through the layers of time and reach the subsequent generations. Professor Mesfin has among other things saved the principles of non-violent struggle and the defense of individual rights from extinction in Ethiopia with an exemplary, frank and patient devotion. The youth in Tomoka and elsewhere are making it mainstream. Idea lives beyond the incarceration and death of its holder.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Breaking News: Bereket Simon in critical condition

One of the architects of the November repression and the stolen election prior to that, Bereket Simon, is in critical condition. He was rushed to a hospital in Israel last Wednesday evening accompanied by his wife, W/o Assefu. On the morning of the same day, Bereket's aides were spotted taking hard currency from the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia. Bereket's wife returned to Addis Ababa yesterday to attend her one-year old baby child. Sources said that she would be returning back to Israel soon. Her husband was said to have Hemiplegia (partial paralysis) in his left side.
The Prime Minster's media advisor is one of the most detested EPRDF politicians in the country.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

"Gimigema" in the army

TPLF has started a intesive "gimigema" in the army. Yesterday and today, in the army camps all over the country, officers have been exposed to a thorough investigation of their political positions and their relationship with other officers who defected the army. This is, army sources say, part of the new strategy to deter army officers form taking measures of protest. "The army is in turmoil. It is nearly out of control and there is no way for Meles to get its control back,"one army officer told this blogger.
After General Kemal Gelchi's sudden defection, tens of junior and senor officers followed suit. Although most of the defections are made by army officers of Oromo origin, others from different ethnic groups are joining in. Attempts by TPLF to control that hasn't been successful. Army informants say that a debate about the army's role in the change in the country's political sytem is raging throughout the army. Secrete meeting are being held. The TPLF army security is getting it difficult to identify the leaders of the democracy movement in the army. "If a civilian protest happens this time and there are killings by the army, it will have serious consequences within the force," the officer said.
Read ethio-zagol for more information on the army

Friday, August 25, 2006

Zenawi's cadres fan ethnic clash at Jimma university

TPLF henchmen in the Jimma university today lit an ethnic clash between Tigray and Oromo students. The student cadres who eye witnesses said had been intimidating and harassing other students the whole year today started the clash after they severely beat an Oromo student. Rumors then spread that the student was beaten by students from Tigray. A lot of innocent Tigrain students were caught up in the act of retaliation by some Oromo students. An identical incident happened at the Bahir Dar university a day before.
In Jimma, gun shots had been heard the whole day. The federal police which tried to enter campus late afternoon was pelted with rocks by the students.

Breaking News: Hailu Shawel's health deteriorates
CUDP's charismatic leader, Ato Hailu Shawel's, health was deteriorating, police hospital sources said. The wild fluctuation of his blood sugar level had shocked doctors. In one test the level rose from 135 to 265 in a matter of hours. "This makes his situation very unpredictable. He can't be allowed to return back to prison right now," a medical source stated. The chairman also suffers from walking problems caused while he was in the wet and cold Maekelawi cell in November. His eye problem has also recurred because of lack of medical attention.
(More on this story latter)

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Army security moves to identify dissenters

TPLF is attempting to reverse the growing unrest in the Ethiopian army by identifying and clearing out dissenters. The army security has started distributing questionnaire which asks officers to fill their grievances. The officers are allowed to fill the form anonymously but sources said that their hand-writings and signatures have been already collected by the security to verify the respondents after they fill the forms. This form is being distributed by an army personnel unit which is entrusted with carrying out evaluation appraisal. According to the sources, this is done to dupe army officers to feel free and express their grievances without fear. Massive army defections are expected in the coming months as the spirit of freedom and democracy which has engulfed the nation since last year's election finally moves into the army.
Solitary confinement watch
Muluneh Eyuel, Sisay Agena, Eskinder Nega and Andualem Arage are still in a solitary confinement which has no sun or artificial light and with the worst hygienic conditions. They are able to go to toilet only once a day under armed escort and couldn't meet their families and friends.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Call to action: Muluneh Eyuel brutalized

On August 11, 2006, the Secretary of CUDP, Muluneh Eyuel, who with other leaders of the party is falsely accused of treason and attempted genocide by the Ethiopian government, met the American Charge d'affaires in Addis Ababa, Ambassador Vicki Huddlestone. The ambassador told Ato Muluneh that the way forward for Ethiopia was reconciliation between the government and the jailed leaders of CUDP. When Muluneh reminded the Mrs. Huddlestone that his party had always stretched its hands for talks, the ambassador replied that it is still possible to have talks if he and his colleagues in writing accept the country's constitution. It was reported that Muluneh angrily said to her that she wasn't serious enough to be an honest broker.
A week after the meeting, a prison security personnel came to Muluneh's cell and order him to pack his belongings. He then took the 32 years old prisoner to solitary confinement where there are no lights and the sanitation is extremely poor. Muluneh was in the same jail in April and May and suffered serious eye-sight problems due to the lack of light in the confinement.
Prison sources indicated that Muluneh was put in a solitary confinement as a punishment for strongly disagreeing with Mrs. Huddlestone.
Required actions:
-Call, fax or e-mail the American State Department and inform them that a prisoner of conscience is being seriously brutalized by the Ethiopian government as a direct result of his interaction with the representative of the American government in Ethiopia
-Call, fax or e-mail Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch and inform them about Muluneh's ordeals.

PS: Ambassador Vicki Huddlestone is currently on vacation in the US.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Professor Mesfin suffers from Pneumonia

Doctors who carried out medical tests confirmed that professor Mesfin is suffering from pneumonia. He has loss of appetite, decreased activity and breathing difficulties. When two days ago he was taken to hospital, eye witnesses said that he could barely walk. Pneumonia is a common lung infection at the Kaliti jail where hundreds of people live in one cell. Police hospital sources claimed that the 76 years old academic and human rights activist is now in a better condition
The 32 year old CUDP secretary, Muluneh Eyuel, is put back to the solitary confinement. It was reported that he had strong words for US charge d'affaires Vicki Huddlestone when she asked him to make a written acceptance of the constitution as a precondition for reconciliation negotiation. He was later told by prison security that what he did to the diplomat was unacceptable. The solitary confinement is, according to sources, a punishment for that. Muluneh was in solitary confinement where light was unavailable in April and May.
The number of political prisoners being taken solitary confinement is increasing. Yesterday, Editor of Ethiop newspaper, Sisay Agena., was also taken to kerchelle and put in solitary cell. CUDP council member, Andualem Arage, and journalist Eskinder Nega have been in solitary jail for three weeks now.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Breaking News:Professor Mesfin in hospital

The founding father of the Kinijit movement and its most authoritative moral leader, Professor Mesfin Woldemariam, was raced to hospital by emergency ambulance last night after he collapsed suddenly in his cell. This ardent exponent of the Ghandi style non-violent movement was put in intensive care unit. Sources at the Police Hospital where other jailed Kinijit leaders including Eng. hailu Shawel are undergoing treatment confirmed professor Mesfin's health problems. It was learnt that his condition has shown improvement since he was hopitalized.
(More to come)

Thursday, August 17, 2006

TPLF's knee-jerk reaction for the defection of top officers

The defection of officers and rank and file members is causing a stir in the Army. TPLF cadres called a meeting of officers Yesterday. The meeting was held at "Arategna Kifle Tor Gibe" where two days ago, leaflets were circulating calling Army members to follow General Kemal. The cadres raised four issues which revealed the desperation of TPLF.
1. Blocking Eritrea TV and radio
The cadres told the officers that it is the ER media that is causing dissension within the army and it has to be dealt with. Some army officers opposed the suggestion claiming that the Dergue had tried to do the same and had failed.
2. Those who defected were corrup army officers
The cadres wanted to put a spin to the defections.
3. Being watchful of those who circulate leaflets which call for dissensions and defections within the army.
According to some army officers who attended the meeting the leaflets which were massively distributed at "Arategna Kifle Tor gibe" had shocked the army intelligence.
4. The army should respect the dressing code and discipline.
This was suggested as a way of guarding against those who distributed flyers posing as civilian workers within the army.
The meeting was concluded without concrete decisions.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Kinijit is back!

The American Charge d'affairs is still engaged in reconciliation efforts. According to close sources, she is hoping that the jailed leaders will initiate talks with the government. Prison sources confirmed that she talked with Birtukan Midekisa last Friday and told her in detail about the problems of Somalia and the need to solve internal differences to do away with the threat of "Islamism in the Ethiopia". Birtukan replied that she didn't want to see war with Somalia but Kinijit had no control on the situation. The Charge d'affaires was adamant that there is a way out for Ethiopia and they should think about starting a reconciliation process. Sources said that the Charge d'affairs is thinking in terms of the Mandela line where he initiated talks with the government while he was in prison. It was reported that the government has shown a gesture of will to the talks but doesn't want to initiate them. Mrs. Huddlestone had also talked with Dr. Brehanu's wife, Dr. Nardos Minase, about the possibility of talks, according to Embassy sources. Vicki is back to US today and will start a full-fledged effort for the negotiations when she returns to Addis.
The reconciliation efforts by the American representative show that Kinijit, the spirit of the people, can't be sidelined from the Ethiopian political process as the government thought. The excitement in Addis and elsewhere about freedom has not been this high since the November repression with Birhanu's book acting as a catalyst.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

The power of a single book

Stories on Birhanu Nega's book from prison
Molla Wolde, a charming young man, used to work as a newspaper vendor around the Shola area. The closure of tens of private newspapers after the massive political crackdown in November last year by the Ethiopian government left him without a livelihood. He started to work as a barber in his village earning 8 birr a day. That is significantly less than that the average daily income he used to get when he was a newspaper vendor at the height of the election controversy.
When Molla heard the story of Dr. Birhanu's book changing hands in the city without reaching to book sellers, he thought it would make his day. He tracked a distributor through his former newspaper network and got hold of four hundred books. He sold them in hours at 45 birr though the cover price is 35, making him 4000 birr richer in a single day. "It didn't seem right to profit form this book. But I had played a role in making it reach to people and It wasn't bad either if I got some money out of that venture," claimed the confused vendor. Little did he know that the price of the book had hit triple digits in some areas of the city.
Birhanu Nega's book has already broken all kind of sales records before even reaching the book stores. According to sources, in four days, more than 10,000 copies were sold. The reaction was equally stunning. From people who passionately kissed Birhanu's picture on the back cover to those who stayed all night reading it and failing to appear on work the next day, moving stories abound. "I have never been so engrossed and so impressed with an Ethiopian political literature," a man working in one of domestic NGOs told me. "It is still amazing that Birhanu writes of love and compassion even after what they did to him. He is an incorrigible optimist." Another civil society member had a more egotistical reason to enjoy the book. "I had supported the prisoners. I had felt that they were the one with truth and justice in their side. I had given the prisoners all the benefit of doubt when other opposition members disagreed with and splinted from them. This book vindicated me," he proudly boasted.
Molla recounted the enthusiasm with which people are buying the book. "They thank me. They hail me, for bringing the book to them. They say they love Birhanu. One lady read the dedication when I gave her the book and cascaded into tears," Molla said. Discussion groups are being formed in different government offices. Prayers to the jailed have started in protestant churches. Young people talk about the book's content and its price in villages. Even in the Prime Minister office the book was being sold without the bosses detecting it. It shows the amount of detest the people have to EPRDF.
People sensed the humility of the author and its compelling moral message. Some called the reading process painful. They had a feeling of guilt. "I am not a kind of person who usually questions about the meaning and value of life," a slick and well-clad computer programmer told me. "When I read the book, I really felt ashamed of myself. I questioned whether my life right now was worth living."
A famous footballer was walking in the Legehar area when a vendor approached him with books to be sold. One of those books was Birhanu's. He learnt the price was 100 birr and complained. The vendor showed him a big book written about Emperor Haile Selassie and asked whether which book the player preferred. The player's choice was obvious. "You see I sell the book on Haile Selassie for 100. Should I sell Dr. Birhanu's for less," The vendor stated. It was as if the vendor was saying that he knew the value of the book and he would set up the price despite its cover value. The player bought the book for 100. He didn't want to regret for not having it in case it was unavailable in the market in the coming days.
Such enthusiasm was shared by Addis Admass. Since the November crack down, Addis Admass, the only paper unaffiliated with the government, was just struggling to exist. It stayed clear of political stories. Yesterday, Birhanu's book was given front page coverage. The editorial was also inspired by the book's optimism and argued for people to see light in the darkness like Birhanu.
If Birhanu wrote to share his memoirs and opinions, the book went beyond that. It had put life back to the struggle for freedom and democracy. Wonder what a single book can do.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Blogs unblocked

The weblogs on which were blocked from being accessed are now unblocked. Today is the third day where Ethiopians are accessing the blogs which are very critical of the government without using anonymous proxy servers. Other pro-democracy websites and web magazines still remain blocked.
Ironically this is the time, ETW, one of the most critical and witty bloggers is back from her extended vacation.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Breaking News: Vicky Huddlestone meets prisoners;asks for reconciliation

The American charge d'affaires here in Addis, Vicky Huddlestone met detained Kinijit leaders yesterday and asked for a negotiation for reconciliation which will lead to their release. According to prison sources, Mrs. Huddlestone offer included an agreement by the leaders to abidse by the constitution, start negotiation and be released from jail. The offer was rejected by the prisoners as it wasn't unconditional.
Although the charge d' affairs talked with several leaders separately, the resonse from all of them was the same. The leaders told Mrs. Huddlestone that they had already accepted to work under the constitution on Kinijit's election manifesto and won last year's election which was held in accordance to the constitution and, therefore, the request for them to agree their acceptance of the constitution was irrelevant. They also demanded that the reconciliation had to be national, including several other actors in the country's politics, to bring peace and democracy in Ethiopia.
EPRDF is currently under serious internal and external pressure. Protests are spreading to the army which insiders say is on the brink of a big split. The adventure of TPLF's army into Somalia hasn't been supported by most Ethiopians. Congressman Donald Payne's visit this week epitomized EPRDF's crisis. The ranking democrat in the house foreign relations committee told the prime minister in black and white that he had to release all political prisoners.
Kinijit leaders were adamant that Vicky Huddlestone should see them together if she would make another visit.
After a long absence, Adebabay seems to be woken up by Birhanu Nega's book.

Update on Hailu Shawel's health

The charismatic leaders of Kinijit, Eng. Hailu Shawel, is still in intensive care unit. His blood suger level went very low yesterday again. Medics think external experts should carry a blood test and check ther cause of the fluctuation of his blood suger level. The kaliti security which is in hospital guarding the chairman yesterday denied such test from being carried out.
(more latter)

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Girma Bekele and his cynical lie

A man called Girma Bekele, a Kinijit chapter leader at San Jose california is circulating a letter which casts doubt on the authenticity of Birhanu Nega's great book from prison. This is one of those letters.
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Alike you I have a guarded pesimism about the authenticity of the author. It is not that Dr. Berhanu is incapable of writing the book, however, the condition in the prison is such that every visitor who wants to talk him and others are watched carefully and passing hand written materials are unthinkable. The question that begs an answer, therefore, is how was it possible to sumuggle the manuscript from his prison cell and pass it to others for publishing. A while ago there was a letter allegedly written by Birtukan Demeksa from Kalti prison but later on that story was widely dismissed as false and author of the letter was someone in the outside. In today's political atmosphere there are many actors and make over artists who cash in our desire to know the condition of the prisoners and their thinking. I am afraid this could be the work of such actors. If not, well and good and kudos to Dr. Berhanu, but we can never b e sure of anything.

It is wise to be mindful of Woyane's 51 page directive that aims at dividing the opposition through disinformation and blackmail campaigns. We should be careful not to accept every news being circulated at its face value. If there is one person who can give us a gilmpse of what is like to be in Woyane inhumane prison condition, I expect Prof. Mesfin, a prolofic and resourcesful writer, to have written something like this.


I don't know who Girma Bekele is. From the letter, I can understand that he is a cynical lier and a pathetic person who has no respect for the man who is paying an unbelievable sacrifice to the cause of Kinijit in Ethiopia, his family, his friend and the thousands of Ethiopians who are reading the book and keeping it like a bible. A "woyane" or any person other than Birhanu Nega can't write about his private conversations with the wife of the great man, DR. Nardos, Hailu Shawel, DR. merera, Tim Clark, Aureila Brazil, Chris Smith. The book is full of such private and sometimes intimate converstaions with various people. A woyane can't write what prof. Mesfin and Birhanu talked privately in their cells. A woyane can't write Brihanu's family life. Mr Girma, when Ethiopians in San Jose and NA who looked up to you as a leader get hold of the book and read it, they will know the kind of leader you are. They will know that you are a lier ; they will know you don't belong to a party built by such honest persons as Hailu shawel and Birhanu Nega.
In an attempt to cast doubt to Birhanu's book, you called Birtukan Midekisa's letter fake. That is disrespectful to people who put their life and liberty in jeopardy and try to rekindle the Kinijit cause from prison. They are not a kind of people who sit at a comfortable home in San Jose and peddle false information. Both Birhanu and Birtukan will be out sooner than latter. Then you will tell them right on their face that they didn't write them. In his book, Birhanu called this a "cynical intellectual culture." Kinijit got popularity fighting your kind of people, Ato Girma.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Review of Brehanu's Book: Part one

When Brehanu Nega's family sent him a collection of books in December last year, the prison security personnel went through the contents of the books with a careful eye of a censor. Those books whose content substantially reflected about freedom and democracy were disallowed and returned to the senders. Little did the censors knew that Brehanu himself would write one of the most compelling and uplifting freedom books in the country's history in the jail they put him and his fellow democracy fighters to bend their will.
Brehanu Nega's "Yenetasanet Goh Siked" begins with a passionate defense for liberal democracy in Ethiopia, rejecting benevolent dictatorship advanced in the Lee thesis and the confused revolutionary democracy of Meles Zenawi. "Before EPRDF put it in an intellectual quagmire," he writes, "revolutionary democracy was a concept worth debating at academic circles." Nonetheless, he was without illusions. He acknowledged that there are serious obstacles, governmental and non-governmental, which impede the kind of democracy he zealously espoused and defended. He dealt with our perception of the powers of government, sense of powerlessness, interpretation of history by the country's competing elites as some of the non-governmental obstacles for the building of democracy in Ethiopia. Here he reserved his most lethal armor to Ethiopian academics in Ethiopia. While teaching at AAU, Brehanu had noticed a well-entrenched "fear, cynical academic culture and the lack of critical thinking" which is reflected on the students who then go on to become leaders of the country.
He goes through the latest three governments and their contribution towards the frustration of development of democracy in Ethiopia. The last one, the one who's jailed and abused the writer, is particularly put to sword. Its ideological confusion was ridiculed with the penetrative analysis of an academic. He told us that today's EPRDF is like a "cosmopolitan". It has no identity. It started, Brehanu argued, with confusion by marrying communism with ethnic nationalism. When it got the power of government, it pretended to embrace capitalism to hoodwink the international community. There were no serious debates within the party during these ideological transformations. That put the members in utter confusion and the party with no identity and purpose.
Brehanu recalled EPRDF's first time in government as its honey moon period. The first-generation reforms, the relative peace and stability, the honesty and integrity of rank and file members of the party, he thought, contributed to the a lot of people willing to give it the benefit of time despite the suspicion and criticism of other who though the organization wasn't ready to defend the country's national interest. Some of the critics were vindicated when the government didn't show the slightest inclination to defend the country's interest during and after the cessation of Eritrea. The latter period of EPRDF's power was when it lost support and credibility. The aftermath of the Eritrean war (the Algiers agreement), the split of TPLF, the stalled economic progress, the lack of independent democratic institutions and freedom and others contributed to its massive unpopularity.
Despite being loathed by many Ethiopians, there was no strong opposition party. He offered reasons for that. Some of the opposition, who were organized around ethnicity, didn't provide a different alternative to EPRDF. Their politics had pushed away capable people. And the number of players in the political field was simply too many.
After setting a theoretical framework for the book, he follows it with a blend of captivating and emotive memoir and crisp and sharp analysis of the periods leading up to the election. He recounts how the discussion which started in jail with professor Mesfin broadened to include other academics and led to the formation of kestedemena, the party which took the initiative to form Kinijit. The personal brawls, the ideological struggles and the petty squabbles during the formation of Kinijit were exposed. He accounted for facts which were not in the public arena and are fascinating to read.
Before he tells us about the gradual transformation of Kinijit from a coalition of parties with clashing personalities, egos and cultures to a solid, vibrant organization, he analyzes why EPRDF made election 2005 freer. Its objectives were to hold an election and to win. It was confident that it would win. Brehanu tell us that he used to drink Whiskey with Bereket Simon twice a week before the election. The sheer arrogance and the pampered self-confidence of EPRDFites were revealed in their conversations. EPRDF, according to Brehanu, loved to split society into groups. Its election calculations were made based on such divisions. Its first division was between rural and urban population. It thought it had a major support in rural areas. Party bosses were boasting that their researches had shown that they were supported there. Brehanu scoffs at such researches. He argues that such researches were misleading in a fear society. The peasants would feed EPRDF cadres whatever they wanted. This was their coping mechanism in a dictatorial role. EPRDF had discounted how a farmer who lived in a fear society would act when suddenly he thought he was free.
EPRDF was also confident that its ethnic politics would serve the purpose of winning the election. It had been propagating that there were oppressed and oppressor ethnic groups. The party thought it had a support from the historically oppressed. Marrying class and ethnicity, EPRDF also further divided the oppressor ethnic group into the rulers and the ruled. It had calculated that the ruled would vote for it. Thus, EPRDF would be a party which would be supported by all ethnic groups. The party knew that to win the election it had to win in the Amhara and Oromia regions. It knew winning the Amhara region was difficult. It might have guessed that the oppressor/oppressed classification had serious opposition in the region. Yet it was dead certain that the peasants would support it and the perceived organizational weaknesses of its opponents would make it the winner in the region. Yet the anti-Amhara propaganda the party waged had alienated many. It had also underestimated the Ethiopian nationalism in the region. Due to those reasons, the party had lost any mass support in Amhara region.
In Oromia, the calculation and the failure were different. OPDO had a reasoned out that its incumbency advantage and the division in Oromo parties guaranteed a win. In addition to that OPDO thought since ethnic nationalism had a big place in the region and all of its contenders were ethnic in nature, organizational strength rather than ideology would be the key factor for winning the election. There was no question that OPDO could beat the others hands down in terms of organization. The problem was OPDO wasn't considered as true ethnic nationalist by many in the region. The fact that it collaborated with OLF whose ethnic nationalism was unquestioned had aggravated the suspicion.
In the other big region, SNNPR, EPRDF had discounted the Ethiopian nationalism which had a lot of support and the grievance of some big ethnic groups in the division of power within the region. EPRDF's own southern party, SPDF, had the weakest of all the organizations within EPRDF in terms of organization.
After debunking EPRDF's election analysis and calculation, Brehanu returns to Kinijit.It is here that the book captivates the readers with epic stories of solidarity, love and freedom and bewilders them with the clashes and contradictory party behaviors. Here that man, Lidetu's, intransigence appears. Brehanu tells us about the accusations against Lidetu that he was EPRDF spy right from the formation of Kinijit. He narrated the time when the leadership went to a Debreziet retreat to sort out the issue. It was him and professor Mesfin who rejected the accusation claiming that it wasn't substantiated with enough evidence. He gave an account of the intense rivalry between AEUP and UEDP-Medhin during the submission of election candidates. He related how AEUP representatives were quite innocent and straight-forward while Lidetu was as calculative as a chess player. Those of us who thought Lidetu had a huge role during the election are proved wrong by the book. Brehanu explained that Lidetu hadn't come to office that often and didn't work that hard even though he was the leaders of the Party's PR committee. And when he appeared, he was usually troublesome. Although Brehanu had given Lidetu his appreciation where it was due, one could easily see form going through the book that he didn't think his role after kinijit was established was that significant. In fact he mostly thought that the man was a huge mess. In particular, he gets really angry when he describes Lidetu's role in the last days before the arrest of the leadership. "Whether Lidetu was planted by EPRDF or not, history will solve the debate. But what he did to Kinijit was nothing more that a cheap betrayal," he claims in the last pages of the book.
His portrayal of Professor Mesfin and Hailu Shawel couldn't be more starkly different. Brehanu has nothing but huge owe to professor Mesfin, calling him a moral force behind Kinijit. He was saddened when he resigned form the leadership. The writer also complimented Hailu Shawel's willingness to accept collective leadership.
The most serious criticism is made against Dr. Beyene Petros. Birhanu has a particular disdain for the former Hibret leader. He tells us how in back room negotiations, Beyene stood with Bereket and EPRDF against kinijit. He related stories of Beyene's party telling voters in Hadya and Kembata that it was better to elect EPRDF than Kinijit. Obviously, the relationship between Kinijit and Hibret was strained when DR. Beyene was the union's chairman. Dr. Merera, however, gets the writer's great respect and admiration for willing to work in harmony and honesty with Kinijit. Brehanu seems to have no grudge against Merera joining the parliament. He informs us that Merera told him some days in advance that he had no choice but to join parliament to save his party.
(to be continued)
Tomorrow: Update on Hailu Shawel's health Condition

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Birhanu Nega writes a book; a book that rekindles the kinijit spirit

Publisher: Andargachew Tsgie
Printing house: MM publishing

Kaliti jail is notoriously hot in the summer. With an average of more than 100 people crammed in one room, it is hard to breath. Prisoners spend most of their times outside their cells to avoid the stifling heat inside. For five months since he was taken to one of the worst cells in Kaliti, unlike most of his cell mates Birhanu Nega spent his time inside the cell writing. It wasn't a letter or a diary he was writing. It was a book.
How the book manuscript made it outside the cell and to kampla for publishing is amazing. it shows the nature of the struggle and the number of people involved in it. The story of the process of writing is, however, fascinating. Security guards twice took away some parts of the manuscript. He wrote them again.
The book itself which was titled "Yenetsanet Goh Siked: Likelebes yetemokerew ye'Ethiopia democracy" is 618 pages long and has four parts. Birhanu briefly takes us the formation of his early political life in the first part. He then lays a case for liberal democracy in Ethiopia and the problems of building democracy. The second part tries to answer what makes the election last year so special. He goes through the politics of EPRDF and opposition before the election. In the third part he recounts the events post election, until the November repression and their imprisonment. The last part takes on EPRDF's misguided calculations and the future of Ethiopia.
The book is one of the most fascinating accounts of an Ethiopian politician and a political philosophy he and fellow courageous leaders in prison share. It is emotionally involving with some extraordinary tales. One will come out with enormous moral burden after reading the book. It is a must read.
Tomorrow; detailed review of the book
-Why and How EPRDF lost the election
-Birhanu's great Admiration for Dr. Merera
-Kinijit's collective leadership and the great role of Hailu Shawel
-How the chairman, Hailu Shawel wasn't authoritarian unlike the claims by EPRDF
-His disdain for Dr. Beyene Petros
-How he views Lidetu
-His relatinship with Bereket
-The fascinating tale of Kinijit from Birth to prison
-The moral leadership of professor Mesfin
-Ethiopia's and Kinijit's Future
and other breath-taking accounts

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Injustice on political prisoners

Suffering of the political prisoners is getting worse and worse. Journalist Eskinder Nega and CUD council member Andualem Arage are taken to Kerche where they are confined to a narrow 3x3 cell without light. They are allowed to have 30 minutes a day for sanitation. They aren't allowed to go to the toilet even when they are sick forcing them to use the cell for sanitation as well. Both of them weren't told why they are put in such disgusting cell. The court which heard the complaint of both on the Friday decided to have a two months recess without making a ruling on the complaint.

Required action:
Call or write to shimeles Kemal, the chief prosecutor and tell him to stop the injustice against the political prisoners. Leave a message in case you can't contact him. Be very polite in your communication. The objective is to make him feel what he is doing is inhumane and degrading.
Mobile phone no: 0911238410
Fixed Line: 0115515099/0115514750 / 0115159287

Thursday, August 03, 2006

A psychopath in charge of Ethiopian justice

Alemayehu Zemedkun, the soft spoken ex-ministry of justice official has known Shimeles kemal, the chief prosecutor against the Kinijit leaders, from their university days. "Our friendship runs for more than 22 years," he told this blogger. It was a friendship which lasted differences in temperament, ideology and way of life. Yet the November 1 repression and the subsequent involvement of Shimeles in the prosecution of the leaders of Kinijit, journalists and civil society members led Alemayehu to question whether that friendship should continue. A mutual friend of both men, Action Aid policy campaigner, Daniel Bekele was among the people accused by Shimeles of treason and genocide.
Alemayehu recounted the day he had a seven hours debate with Shimeles about the trials. "First he was adamantly claiming that these people were killers. Then when I made a point to him that as a prosecutor assertions and declarations weren't enough and that he should have adduced evidence to the effect of his claim, he was saying there were things I shouldn't know," Alemayehu said of his conversation with Shimeles.
The story about the chief prosecutor was very surprising. When prosecutors at the Ministry of Justice were praying that they wouldn't be given the responsibility of prosecuting the political prisoners, Shimeles took up the task at his own request. "He always gets exultations from anti-social behavior. This goes even beyond that. It is a survival attempt as well," Alemayehu claimed. His theory is certainly plausible.
As a former judge, Shimeles Kemal made two notorious decisions which put him in the annals of infamy. The first was when he convicted and sentenced Professor Asrat Woldeyes, that great Ethiopian surgeon, who died latter after he acquired a debilitating disease in prison. Shimeles then convicted Muslim leaders who made a show of defiance against EPRDF at the great Anwar mosque. He was also presiding Dr. Taye W. Semaet's trial when his TPLF masters fired him. The reasons for his dismissal are yet unknown. "He ran into trouble with most people who knew the decisions he made. When he became attorney at law, he had virtually no client. His involvement in drafting the notorious Ethiopian press law didn't help either. He knew that despite his dismissal, his survival depended on the survival of EPRDF. He tried to give short term solutions to almost all of the party's problems, "Alemayehu said. Shimeles initiated the formation of surrogate union of journalists, tried to give legal justification to the prime minister's emergency law in the wake of the election, took over the case against the political prisoners, and drafted the draconian press law. According to Alemayehu, he was everywhere where the EPRDF needed him. "Not even senior members worked for the party like this," Alemayehu wondered.
The former justice ministry official also thought that this chief prosecutor was vengeful. "The decision to prosecute Daniel was taken by Shimeles himself. They were very close friends. Yet when Shimeles drafted the press law, Daniel became publicly critical of his friend's draft law. He was very upset with Daniel and was biding his time," Alemayehu told this blogger.
Alemayehu painted a picture of a chief prosecutor who was also quite paranoid. "One day we met after a ministry of justice meeting and he was visibly angry. When I asked him what happened, he told me the employees at the ministry hate him. 'I can see a cold, sene1 hate and revenge on their eyes, ' he said. I thought he was suffering from a serious psychological problem. He thought everybody hated him and he was ready to destroy them," Alemayehu said. Sene 1 was a day when 42 protestors who opposed the stolen elections were killed by TPLF sharp shooters.
So what did Alemayehu think of the charges? "They are so blatantly fabricated that it doesn't need my expert opinion to call them 'political charges'. Yet I believe and have strong evidence that they will be convicted. There will be a group of people who would be sentenced to rigorous imprisonment. There will be two other groups who get medium and light sentences," Almayehu predicted. I asked him the basis of his prediction. "I have talked with people who are taking care of the case. EPRDF recognized that it was on the verge of losing power because of the elections and it wanted to give a punishment for those who threatened its power. The trials are for the sake of the international community, to show them that the decision is made by an independent court. They know the international community needs only cosmetic efforts. I am sure the sentences will be given to the judge by Shimeles," Alemayehu replied.

Alemayehu will be a great asset for democracy activists in Diaspora. Please contact him and use his knowledge and inside information for our cause.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Breaking news:A top Ministry of Justice official defects to the US

Alemayehu Zemedkun who refused Meles Zenawi's order to institute a civil action against the imprisoned Kinijit leaders to ruin them financially left Ethiopia to America yesterday. A former friend and classmate of Shimeles kemal, the chief prosecutor against the kinijit leaders, Alemayehu was the head of the ministry's civil division and one of the best bench prosecutors in the country.
Just after the November 1 massacre and the imprisonment of the CUDP leaders, journalist and social justice advocates, the State Minster of Justice, Dr. Hashim Mohammed, asked Alemayehu to help them bring criminal charges against the jailed men and women. Alemayehu objected to the request claiming that he was a head of civil division and bringing criminal charges wasn't part of his job. Three weeks later, Dr, Hashim told Alemayehu to institute a civil action against the Kinijit leaders for the material damage and the loss of life caused on the November 1 and 2. The state minister of justice confided to Alemayehu that the prime minister had ordered him to obtain an injunction order against the asset of the leaders and prepare a civil case against them. The amount of damage was estimated to be a billion birr.
Alemayehu was adamant that he couldn't do that because the material damage and loss of life was caused after the kinijit leaders were arrested and there was no relationship between cause and effect. Hashim warned him that he better do what he was asked to do. The minister latter served him with a term of reference summarizing what actions the prime minister wanted him to take. Convinced that it was better to join the jailed leaders in prison than collaborate in ruining them financially, Alemayehu and his inspired staff wrote back to the minister a letter explaining the reasons for the impossibility of instituting a civil case. On November 26, Alemayehu presented his resignation request to Dr. Hashim. Three days latter, the minister appointed an acting head for the division Alemayehu was in charge of without accepting the resignation request. The next day he was contacted by Shimeles kemal and was warned by his friend that if he would resign, dire consequences might result. Shimeles also told Alemayehu that they would themselves institute the civil action and, therefore, he shouldn't bother about it. Alemayehu stayed on but he was under constant surveillance by security personnel.
Angry with what Alemayehu did, Meles Zenawi was said to have given a serious dressing down to the minister of justice, Ato Assfa Kesito, during a cabinet meeting. On July 7, the minister appointed Ato markeneh, former prosecutor at the Southern region, to replace Alemayehu and the later was ordered to hand over the materials he had received from the ministry. The talk of the organization had been that Alemayehu would fall pray to the vengeance of the EPRDF machinery. Alemayehu who had a two years American visa decided he had to leave the country, and leave fast. Yesterday was the right time. Keeping his profile low and helped by security personnel at Bole, Alemayehu managed to escape. It was one more brave and competent guy leaving the country. But he had to.
By refusing to accept Meles Zenawi's order, Alemayehu may nott have totally saved the Kinijit leaders from the financial ruin the Prime Minister wanted to bring upon them. Many people in the ministry feel that it was only a matter of time before someone less brave would do what Alemayehu refused to do. Many members of Alemayehu's staff who supported the decision of their boss and stood with him have already been cleared out of the civil division and replaced by others. Yet his decision is an example to civil servants who are being used as a tool of oppression by this government. I salute you, Alemayehu!
...Coming up tomorrow....What does Alemayehu Zemedkun think of the case against CUDP leaders, civil society members and journalists. What he makes of Shimeles Kemal, the chief prosecutor?