Thursday, November 30, 2006

Siye's sham trial to end soon

The prosecutor in former defense Minister Siye Abrha's corruption trial presented his closing argument yesterday. Observers say that the trial which is at its fifth year is an absolute sham. The defense will present his closing argument next Wednesday. Meles Zenawi put Siye in prison and charged him with corruption after the latter led an internal protest against the prime minister in March 2001. The protestors accused Meles of being soft on Eritrea.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Meles asks jailed CUD leaders to quit politics

Ethiopia's dictator Meles Zenawi would release CUD leaders who had been held at Kaliti prison for the last thirteen months if they agreed to quit politics. According to prison sources, Meles sent the message to the prisoners through Professor Ephrem Isaac. The prominent linguist and historian met the prisoners at least twice this week and heard a firm rejection from some of the top leaders.
On Monday, the Chief prosecutor in the treason trial, Shimeles Kemal, dropped 289 witnesses whom he previously said would testify against the leaders of Ethiopia's biggest political party and asked the court to let him bring up fifteen new ones. Trial observers said that with the current speed, the prosecutor would wrap up the case in a few weeks.
With an all out war with Somalia looming in the horizon and opposition against his leadership from the inside and outside intensifying, there are speculations that Meles will release the leaders in Kaliti although the conditions he set in his message to Kaliti which he sent through Professor Ephrem Isaac are unacceptable to the prisoners.

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Great Protest

A.k. knows more than most people about the appallingly miserable conditions of the EPRDF prison. He had suffered the macabre conditions of the Ziway concentration camp. His body swarmed by all kind of bedbugs, he endured one-bread a day meals with thousands of terrified and cadaverous inmates. A powerful image still haunts him. "Rats skittered throughout our cell with utmost freedom. It seemed that they knew we were too weak and emaciated to respond to them. It was so deflating and bitter that it left most of us breathless. I feel nervous when I see rats after that."
A.K. was 23 when he was rounded up on June 8, 2005 and incarcerated at Ziway for a month. There, he went through a rapid and remarkable period of maturing. "My life's watershed moment," he called it. Yet his agony at the concentration camp was accompanied by an enduring resentment to the EPRDF. "The resentment is liberating in a way. I couldn't have been tough if I hadn't passed through the horror and scare. A life away from the struggle is now no longer sustainable. I will be fighting to make sure that nothing that ghastly happens to other Ethiopians in the future. That purpose has entered my soul as a permanent resident"
On Sunday, A.K took part in the Great Run, his first in four years. He knew there were spontaneous protests against the government in both Great Runs last year. "There was a heightened, almost erotic, sense of anticipation of opposition among the athletes on Sunday. It was godsend for people like me who are muzzled from speaking out," he recounted. The government had predicted the protests equally. This year the media had kept the event as low profile as they could do. Most of the registration of athletes was made in work places. There were reports that it had planned to cancel the event. Only the popularity of the run among diplomats and expatriates saved it.
The protest started with the outburst of few people but rapidly grew to engulf thousands. Tension gave way to courage. Songs of opposition, some silly, some funny and some dreary, were sung; anti-Meles and anti-war chants made and the release of political leaders demanded. With the security forces, not reacting, the Great Run ended up being the first peaceful and spontaneous public protest since the election. For many it was a lesson to the government that people hadn't forgotten. A. K was philosophical about the protest. In a typical Ethiopian melodramatic flourish he declared: "If those who died in 1970s and 805 for the cause of freedom here rise up from their graveyard and see where Ethiopia is now, they will think their sacrifice wasn't worth it. The fallen heroes of this generation should not feel the same,"

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Protestors condemn the Somali war

The Great Run protestors are condemning Meles's declaration of war on Somalia. The slogan "Whose war is it? It is not Ethiopia's..but Meles's" is being repeatedly chanted now.

PS: All pro-democracy websites are now blocked in Ethiopia. Blogs which were unblocked for the last three months are blocked again including this blog.

Protestors reach the palace

Two groups of protestors are infront of the national place right now. One group is chanting "Meles is a thief," "Meles, release our leaders".. the other group is saying "Don't disturb him..he is chewing Chat"

Breaking News: The Great Ethiopian Run turns into protest march

Thousands of participants in today's Great Run are chanting slogans such as "Release the Prisoners", "Woyane, Dangerous Vagrant", "The repressed Kinijit is back".... Protest songs are also being sung loudly. Some of the protestors are near ETV headquarter now and are condemning the station for being a propoganda machine for the Meles regime.
(More later)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Hailu Shawel; less rhetoric and more truth

Political pragmatism isn't usually inspired by exotic nature. It grows from an attempt to make sense of the quiddities thrown by human existence. Kinijit's charismatic chairman Hailu Shawel though isn't your normal pragmatic politician. He switches from idealism to the most practical aspects of politics as effortlessly as children absorb their native tongue.
The Greek root of the Latin Natura means "to give birth", to be The public life of Hailu Shawel was born of nature's inspiration. In 1958, as an adventurous 22 year old Hailu returned to Ethiopia barely weeks after he graduated from Wayne State in Civil engineering. His destination was the world's most marvelous water -the Blue Nile. There, as a chief Hydrologist in Blue Nile Investigation Project, he reviled the bewildering contrast between Ethiopia's great potential and its failure. Where the beautiful Nile snaked around with arrogance and grace, the soil was lost to erosion and wildlife decimated. Nature vanishes when development surges. But Nile's was different. Forests were turning to barren lands; mountains stripped for the coal beneath. Yet the place had nothing to show for its destruction - no factories, no water dams. It seemed nihilism had infected nature itself.
Believe the TPLF, and a mortal threat faces Ethiopia if Kinijit and Hailu Shawel lead the country. They conjure up the vision of an Amhara-dominated Ethiopia which is chained with forced unitarism. Hailu's journey from a Nile inspired romantic young man to an uncompromising, no-tosh party leader tells a different story. After his Nile adventures, Hailu spent a successful spell in different managerial positions at Shell international. An assignment to London beckoned. A middle aged man's dream job, you would say. Hailu though chose to serve his nation. In 1971, he was made the first Ethiopian General Manager of Ethiopian Roads Authority. He is the proud owner of the authority's medal of highest achievement. Ironically, it was after the EPRDF had seized power that Hailu received the medal.
It is often argued even by supporters that Hailu's political liability is his service during the Dergue. Unfortunately, as a man who isn't adept at silver-tongued art of swaying opinions, Hailu didn't adequately respond to this vexing allegation. During the Dergue, Hailu worked first as General Manager of Ethiopian Sugar Corporation and Managing Director of Wonji Sugar Company and Metehara Sugar Company and then Minister for State Farms Development of Ethiopia. Both were not political positions; and he had spent most of his time squabbling with low life cadres of the military junta. In mid 1978, 24 hours away from being killed for helping an EPRP operative escape, he was saved by a top official. Like Colin Powell, his loyalty for the country is very intense...."a loyal and disinterested counsellor who advised a bad government". That is a civic virtue rather than a folly and he should have defended himself without embarrassment.
In 1983 Hailu finally realized that it was pointless to counsel the Dergue and left to form a successful company, Shawel Consult, which is now run by his son, the affable economist Shawel Hailu.
A surprisingly shy man, with a gruff exterior that concealed his incredible inner kindness, and a detest to the double speak; Hailu isn't a politician who electrifies demonstrations and mass gatherings. He is a man who believes there are things grander than rhetoric and lie in politics. A rare breed?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Breaking news: Meles suspends air force chief

Ethiopia's dictator Meles Zenawi has suspended Major General Almeshet Degfe, the top man in the Ethiopian Air force and two other high-ranking military leaders, Brigadier Generals Kumera Assefa and Asamenew Tsgie. Army sources told this blogger that the protest in the army was intensifying and Meles was taking very desperate measures including detaining military officers.
(More on the army protests soon)

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Does moral injury cause lung problems? Court witness says yes.

In a packed courtroom, a witness swears on oath. He then recounts the gruesome details of his ordeals. He claims that he allegedly received ethnic slur from a mob and was pelted by a rock. With his face full of gloom, he tells and retells the moral damage he suffered from that the mob's act. You suck your lips. This is morbid. No human being should pass through such torment and suffering.
The judge asks the witness to elaborate what it means to suffer a moral injury. The man clears his throat and says..."I had a lung problem"
You will be excused if you think this is a dark comedy straight out of the Athol Fugard. Wrong! Remember the CUD trial. That is a scene from yesterday's proceeding.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Getachew Jigi sheds crocodile's tears

Getachew Jigi, former member of OPDO and an MP who fled to the US, asked for the opposition to Meles's regime to work in unison. It is a bit rich coming from a person who created so much chaos within his party, the OFDM, and chastised Kinijit on November 4 last year; just three days after hundreds were killed and thousands were put in a concentration camps for supporting the party. Sorry Getachew, you don't have the moral authority to make such a call even from America.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Ethio-EC relationship strained despite invitation to Meles....The farcical court....Crack down on former election observers

Ethiopia's dicator, Meles Zenawi, will dicuss the challenges of being a dictator on Friday November 17 - 9.30 to 12.00 in Brussels with the invitation of the European Commission as the relationship between the commission and Ethiopia is supposed to have deteriorated further.
Meles had a serious of phone meetings with José Manuel Barroso, the commission's President. Topics of discussion included Ethiopia's growing repression and the Sebhatu and Brothers espionage scanda. According to diplomatic sources, Meles blamed the head of EC delegation in Addis Ababa, Tim Clark, for the worsening relationship . Ambassador Clark whose job, according to sources, is under threat was in Brussels last week conferring with Commissioner Barrosso. He was assured that he would remain as head of delegation despite Ethiopia's enormous pressure.
The invitation to Meles came up after the discussions between Barosso and the PM.
The farcical court
This blogger has obtained the full transcript of Yesterday's Testimony against Daniel Bekele, the Oxford graduate and social justice advocate who is facing charges of Genocide and Treason. I had stopped reporting on the trial because I thought there was no point in it. Yet because the transcript shows,how comical the court is, I have translated and posted it verbatim. See how ridiculous the testimony is....

Prosecutor presented its witness.....

Examination in chief

Name : Wondwosen Seyoum Dadi, age 29 ,
Occupation: unemployed
Address N/L/S/C: Kebele 08 ( yedirow woreday 20 , kebele 42)
Do you know why you are here today ?
To testify , I will testify on Daniel”
Prosecutor: Do you know Daniel?"
Witness pointed at Daniel and said “That is him"
Prosecutor: When and where did you get to know Daniel?
Witness: I first met Daniel in mid June”
Witness: I had tea in a cafe in front of UEDP/Medihn office with my friend Goshu. While we were leaving the cafe, Daniel came from behind and said 'Boys, what are you doing?' and then encouraged me and promised me to support us. He then gave me his mobile phone number and told me to call him in case I wanted help.
What did you tell him?
I told him that I was a kinijit member and work under the auspices of the Addis Ababa Committee and that I was an organizer.
What was your task within Kinijit?
I was organizing the youth within kinijit regarding the election in Addis Ababa.
When did you meet Daniel again?
I called him on the number he gave me and we talked. Then we met at his office.
Where was the office?
Action aid. We talked about the importance of money to organize the youth and make them protest. And based on our conversation, Daniel gave me 200 birr. I took the money and organized the youth.
What were the details of your discussion?
First, we talked about the need for overthrowing the governing party. But he told me if the government used its guns, we needed to organize people.
Did you meet Daniel afterwards?
I didn't meet Daniel afterwards, After the riots, I went into hiding. But I had seen Daniel having conversation with Tamrat Tarekegn on the street once.
Did you know whether Daniel was the member of CUD?
I did not know that Daniel was a member of the organization. But he told me that to get votes respected we need to rebel against the government. The rebellion continued but it was not fruitful. Therefore, I had to hide.
What did you do after that?
After the hiding, I gave myself up for the government. I did that to Woreda 21 police. Then I was taken to Sositegna police station and then to Maekelawi. Then I gave my testimony to the police and I was told to appear when I would be summoned.

Cross examination

Daniel Q. Where were you organizing people?
I was organizing around Gotera.
Who were the people or youth you were trying to organize ?
I do not remember people whom I was organizing.
You don't even remember a single name?
Yes, I do not know a single person by name.
Because I was organizing people who were passing by. We didn't meet in offices. I didn't have office. I spoke to them on the street.
How do you organize people without knowing them? What if you would meet a policeman?
I organized like I said
Where did you hide?
In a village called Salo
Where is this place ?
Here in Addis
Could you tell me the address of the house you were hiding and the name of the owner of the house?
I didn't know the address and the name of the owner.
So you just went into a house you didn't know and hide there?
After the hiding, you said that you gave yourself up at Woreda 21. Who was the police you gave yourself up,
I do not remember him
So you just went there voluntarily without being summoned and gave yourself up? No when I returned from hiding, I was told that the police were coming at home and looking for me so I gave myself up.
Then what did you do after you went to the police?
I told them about the matter. The policeman heard me but he wasn't recording it and then he took me to Maekelawi.
Here Colonel Mengistu Hailemariam Araya(lawyer for Daniel) interjected. He asked the court to tell the witness to face the judges not the prosecutors who were showing eye signals to the witness.
Shimeles Kemal: I am working for the respect of justice and law more than the defense attorneys are. The defense is defaming the prosecutor. The court should take action on the defense attorney.
Adil(The presiding judge): If there is any eye signal, we will follow it and you should also follow it.

Witness: Then I testified at Maekelawi and was released.
What account did you give first?
The police first considered me as a suspect.
So were you released on bail?
No I was released without bail.
You were released without bail eventhough you were a suspect
When were you called back as a witness?
I went back again
So you went there twice, voluntarily?
Then Daniel asked for the witness to show his kebele Id to the court. The judges saw it. Daniel asked to see it himself. The prosecutor objected. He argued that only the judge could see it. The judge said he could read the details to Daniel and started reading it. The ID says the witness worked at Luigi.
Daniel: Didn't you say that you have no job?
The one in the ID was where I worked
So why didn't you return the ID?
The prosecutor objected for this line of questioning
Judge Leul warned Daniel to concentrate on the basic issues

The court questions the witness:

How many times did you testify before the police ?
How many times have you met Daniel?
Once at the cafe and then when I phoned him.
So when you met Daniel at the cafe, you were with Goshu. Where was Daniel sitting?
He was a little far from us
What were you talking about?
We were talking about how the government rigged the election and the necessity of revolting against the government.
So was daniel hearing this?
You said it was a cafe
Was there a music?
So if there was a music, wouldn't it have prohibited Daniel from listening to what you were talking about?
No, he was not far
So for how long had Daniel conversed with you?
He heard what we were talking about and followed us when we were leaving the Cafe. He conversed with us for two minutes and gave me his phone number.
Crack down on former election observers
EPRDF has started fresh crack down on formed CUD election observers in Addis Ababa. Two observers from woreda Nine and another one from Wordeda Two were dragged out of their homes and arrested on the night of November 7 . They haven't yet appeared in court. Well-placed police sources said that the EPRDF was looking for CUD's "underground group" and the detention of people with CUD connections would continue unabated.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Was Teddy Afro framed?

Inside the New York Cafe, one of the trendiest places in Addis, a tall and lean young man with the tiniest of fingers was sitting sipping orange juice with a straw. A woman in blue jeans and thong sandals was besides him. Minutes later, I watched as a person of the same age, well clad, walked through the cafe as if both of his knees hurt and joined the duo. Their warm exchange of greeting was quickly followed by a chat about Jose Mourinho and Chelsea. They then jumped to the city's hottest topic: Teddy Afro.
"I think he did it. Why should we doubt it? Don't we know his life style?" the orange sipping man said.
The woman had none of that. She interjected angrily. "What I know is what they are up to. He was framed. He denied the accusation in court and there is no way I would believe them than him. These bastards!" The grave expression showed her disgust towards the government.
The conversation heated up. The man who was arguing the story's truth was cornered by his friends and ended up warning against sentimentality. He took a deep breath. "We shouldn't confuse our political convictions with reality," he advised.
Wondering all over the city, this exchange was one I had seen in Taxis, cafes, offices and even sports bars. His love and reconciliation preaching songs had elevated Tewodros Kasahun to the status of a national hero unlike any musician before him. And he is a slick operator; acting and speaking in a way that piles up his good will. The EPRDF with their perchance for hating individuals with man-of-the-people image tried to silence and discredit the singer who is affectionately called "Teddy Afro". They tore his posters in the city. They unleashed a smear campaign on his life style. In what is now dubbed as the Sheraton Scandal, the wife of Ethiopian Ambassador to the US, Samuel Assefa, punched the hotel's ticket seller for refunding money to those who returned their New Year party tickets after Teddy cancelled his show. After the popular singer left to the US for a music tour, some former TPLF fighters accused him of defaming them and police issued an arrest warrant.
This blogger was among the many who thought Teddy made a stupid decision when he returned back home two months ago. It was clear that the EPRDF were just bidding their time to go at him...revenge, for EPRDF, is a dish sweet eaten hot or cold.
The hit-and-run story was as suspicious as it could get. Police report runs like this: Teddy hit an 18-year-old street boy near the Sheraton Addis after mid-night with his 2001 BMW M3 and run away. A taxi, which was working nearby, chased the car, flew past it and when it tried to block the road Teddy crashed it and escaped. Then he drove to the CMC area, hit a pole. He was driving under the influence of alcohol. Police came to his home and arrested him four hours after the incident was alleged to have happened.
For those who know cars and the hilly Addis Ababa, it is a surprise to learn that a Lada taxi can chase and outpace a BMW being driven by a drunk driver. That nothing serious happened to the crashed taxi and its driver is a point worth pondering over. Miracles do happen, huh? Journalists at Fortune and Reporter could not even identify the taxi driver. After three accidents, two of them major, one also wonders how Teddy survived without a scratch. There must be revolutionary ferries shielding him from danger.
Teddy, of course, denied the hit-and-run story to a court although one comical newspaper tried to make us believe otherwise. According to his friends, the singer swore to God that he did not commit the alleged crime.
Whether he was framed or not, the moral of the story is clear. Except people like Louis Michel who think there is a democratic process to support in the country, not even children take the Ethiopian justice system seriously.

-The BBC got Justice Teshale Aberra's story slightly wrong. Justice Teshale was the President of Oromiya Supreme Court.

-There is a new blogger in town - another ferenj adds a voice. See

Monday, November 06, 2006

Talk of the town

Did he? or did he not? Teddy Afro's hit-and-run accusation has turned into a point of controversy in Addis. Ethio-Zagol examines the popular singer's story later.
Also coming up: Fresh crack down on former CUD election observers in Addis Ababa; EC-Ethiopian controversy heating up; Is Teshale Aberra a supreme court president(whatever has happened to Kemal Bedri)?

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Message from Kaliti warns against individual tyranny in Kinijit

Jailed Kinijit leaders in kaliti are the latest in the host of groups and people to attempt to solve the crisis in the diaspora Kinijit. A message from Kaliti obtained by this blogger today warns kinijit leaders in diaspora that they should adhere to the rules of procedure within Kinijit International Leadership. The message was communicated to all KIL members through the appropriate channel, this blogger learnt.
The message is clear that Kinijit International is a committee that answers to the collective leadership of Kinijit in Ethiopia. It states that the democratic rules of procedure of Kinijit Ethiopia which gives no veto power to an individual leader should be applicable to the KIL. "All decisions by the committee must be reached through democratically acceptable procedures," the message says.
The most interesting part of the message is the one which denies the existence of a special letter written to Shaleka Yosef from Kaliti. "There are reports that there was a letter written to Shaeka Yosef by Engineer Hailu Shawel. Neither in content nor format was the letter that of the (chairman's)," it states. The message expresses its grave concern as how such a document that is not approved by Kinijit leadership and is not communicated through the normal channel has ended up in the public realm with all sorts of harmful implication to Kinijit as organization and its collective leadership. It promises to look into the whole matter and will announce its finding soon. "If any message send to and received from Kaliti isn't made through the appropriate channel, it isn't acceptable," the message concludes.
Seminawork doesn't have a partisan interest in the affairs of Kinijit Diaspora. The loyalty of the blog is to the elected leaders of Kinijit who are languishing in jail. Their will is the bond of the blog. This news was written to make the intention of the Kaliti leaders about KIL clear as there are different conflicting rumors and reports about the matter.