Thursday, June 28, 2007

Will Ephrem Isaac please speak up?

(By all EZ Post contributors)

The Ethiopian conception of Shimgelena is very pragmatic. It has less to do with justice and truth than crafting the conditions for coexistence. Thus, we say that Shimagles have a right(and even an obligation) to lie, hide the truth, and sometimes push one or the other party to accept deals which may be objectively unjust(based on a careful analysis of reality and balance of powers), to bring about reconciliation. That was why, all contributors to EZ Post, had no strong words against Professor Ephrem Isaac, the Chief Shimagele, during the process of the negotiation between CUD leaders and Meles, even though we firmly believed the prisoners were at times under intense pressure to accept unjust terms in the deal.

But Shimageles aren't absolute Machiavellian amoralists. Their willingness to be less truthful and unjust has limits. Today was the second time Meles Zenawi backed down from a deal he agreed to in the past three months. He kept on changing his terms whenever he felt like it. He added more onerous conditions for the prisoners to accept after agreements had been made, sometimes embarrassing the Shimageles themselves. We think that even for a staunchly Ethiopian Shimagele like Epherem Isaac, Meles' acts should be beyond the borders of what is acceptable in a Shimgelena process. We believe this is the time for the great Professor to speak up against Meles Zenawi's blatant disregard of our long standing institution of Shimgelena, and his capacity to boundless immorality.

"No negotiation with Kaliti prisoners" - Meles

PM says prisoners will be sentenced

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi says there has been no negotiation with the imprisoned CUD leaders. "Negotiation can only be made between two free persons. There can be no negotiation between an organ which has imprisoned the CUD members because they broke the law, and the prisoners on the respect for the rule of law, " Meles Zenawi said in Parliament today.
The Prime Minister was adamant that the issue of clemency can't be discussed in parliament before the court delivers its sentence on the prisoners as it affects the decision of the court.

EZ's view:
From Meles' statement, there is no possibility that the prisoners will be released before the sentencing which will either be a rigorous imprisonment or death. Last week, I wrote that the prisoners would be released this week unless Meles, the serial liar, backed down. He has done that again.
It is sometimes unfathomable how some people are willing to act as utterly stupid to defend the act of others. Take, for example, Aigaforum's consistent and persistent use of the term "Plea Bargain" to describe the agreement signed by CUD leaders in prison. One doesn't have to be a lawyer to know some of the steps in a criminal trial.
-Plea Bargain is a prosecutorial instrument, and the deal is made between the prosecutor and the defendant.
-In principle, plea bargain must take place before the trial unless there is good cause for delay. Plea bargain, however, doesn't take place after conviction.
-In civil law countries like Ethiopia, plea bargain can only take place in very, very limited circumstances.
The agreement the CUD leaders signed was made after their conviction. It has nothing to do with plea bargain.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Yesterday the EPRDF executive committee approved Meles' deal with CUD leaders. We had known all along that it was a one-man party, and the committee would rubber stamp the deal.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

My earlier unconfirmed reports about the release of the prisoners today wasn't accurate. According to sources, for adminstrative and legal reasons, the prisoners will not be out in the next couple of days, but they are expected to be released before Thursday. I will update this blog everytime new information is in.
This was what, according to sources, what professor Mesfin said during the negotiation. "Sewiyew hulet amet kaseren behula lemefitat yemariyam menged yifelegal. Asiben enistew." This is what thinking ahead for your nation and putting yourself in somebody's shoes classically means.
There are unconfirmed reports that the CUD leaders will be released from prison this afternoon. I will try to get more information about it as the day goes.

Friday, June 22, 2007


CUD leaders in prison have finally agreed to sign the proposal sent by Meles last week. If Meles doesn't, as he usually does, back down from his own proposal, our heroes will be out of prison next week. There are additional lines in the proposal including that the partial acceptance of responsibility and admission of mistake have no legal consequences.
This is a political agreement. Meles has got his face-saving agreement, and the prisoners have in turn got his admission that the court was wrong. And more; their release from the rotten concentration camp called Kaliti. Still we don't know whether Meles who is a serial breaker of agreements will uphold this one.
(fingers crossed...or may be not)
I am hearing that there was some progress in the talks today which were intitiated by Meles Zenawi's proposal. I haven't obtained the details yet.
(watch this space for more information)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

There was no change in the afternoon(regarding the signing or not of the proposal). With additional people coming into the deliberative process, there were too many ideas to chew. It will continue tomorrow.

Not yet...Prisoners haven't signed release papers

Stephanie McCrummen of WaPo wrote today that some of the prisoners have signed Meles' proposal. Read it here. The report isn't very accurate. I think the American officials in Addis whom she quoted and EPRDF are trying to spin this even before an agreement is reached. I hope all will be resolved today. Meles has come some way in this last round. Although the terms are still short of what we expect ideally, and although negotiating under duress is unjust, I think this one can be accepted without compromising basic principles.

It is 4:50 in the afternoon here in Addis Ababa. The mediators are in Kaliti right now talking to the prisoners. Now that it it is broken, this is what has really happened so far.

Friday, 15 June

Meles sent a proposal to the prisoners outlining his intention to use his executive powers to release them. There were two main points in the proposal which differentiates in from his previous terms.
1. The terms "fault" and "guilt" were substituted by "mistake". The proposal states that the CUD leaders admit that they have committed mistakes after the election, and that they take partial responsibility to the consequences of the mistakes including the violence in October.
2. Meles says that he doesn't accept the "guilty" verdict by the court.

Caveat: The proposal is a "take it or leave it."

Monday, 18 June

Representatives of the prisoners debated about the proposal. Hailu Shawel(the chairman of the CUD) and Birtukan Mideksa(Vice chairwoman) rejected it. Dr. Yacob Hailemariam, Birhanu Nega and Muluneh Eyuel, Gizachew Shiferaw and Hailu Araya were just debating the pros and cons of the proposal without making their decision known.

Tuesday, 19 June

Hailu and Birtukan haven't changed their stance. The others said that once the two have decided, civility, solidarity and the idea of practical public reason won't allow them to sign the document unless there is a consensus among the prisoners. The legal and political debates regarding signing the proposal continued.

Wednesday, 20 June

Hailu Shawel and Birtukan haven't changed their mind, and the others weren't willing to sign the paper. Late afternoon, the talks seem faltering. With the mediators except Ephrem Isaac giving up hope.


The mediators are still there. The morning went the same as yesterday. But in the afternoon, all of the prisoners(not only the representatives) have met to debate on the issue.

Again, I believe this is an agreement our heroes can take. Meles' statement that he doesn't accept the guilty verdict of the court creates a false division between the executive and the judiciary. However, it is very valuable politically for the CUD leaders and the pro-democracy movement. This is just my opinion. It has nothing to do with the decicion of the leaders. I know they will decide what is best for the country as they usually do.

I don't like the way it is spinned by the US officials here though.
(more to come...)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Meles ready to sentence CUD leaders

last gasp mediation efforts have failed as the convicted CUD leaders rejected Meles' proposal that they be our before the sentencing by admitting that they have made mistakes. According to sources, Meles had said that his "compromise" proposal was a "take it or leave it."
The prisoners have decided to leave it and face the consequences. The crime they were convicted of carries death penalty or a mandatory rigorous imprisonment.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Yglesias on Ethiopia

Matthew Yglesias is a fiercely independent blogger on The Atlantic Online. Read his comment on the Ethiopia-Somalia situation here.

Conviction gives a sense of triumph for Kinijit leaders

When the high court convicted Kinijit leaders of committing outrage against the constitutional order, it received the most unexpected of responses from the convicted. There was no shock. No anger. No sadness. Birhanu Nega, the elected mayor of Addis Ababa, stood up to thank the court. It wasn't a satirical thank you. He was genuine about it.

Since then the prisoners have been telling the real reasons for their amazing reaction to their families and friends. "Kinijit and its ideals have triumphed three times. The first time was the May 8 march in 2005. Then it was the election day. The guilty verdict was the third one. In the first two Ethiopians in the most civilized way showed that their lives were meaningless without freedom and democracy. The day of the conviction was the day EPRDF finally took out the last cloth it wore to hide its true self." Those were the words of Birhanu.

Now in Kaliti, this sense of triumph is uniting the prisoners even more. There is a feeling in all of them that their resolve has been tested in the toughest way possible; and they have shown what it takes to be a genuine political leader in Ethiopia. It is now for other Ethiopians to show what they are made of. "It was supposed to be our trial. We made it their trial," another prisoner said.

A trial it has become for EPRDF. The outpouring of shock from the international community has caught the government off guard; some accusing each other. EZ Post sources reported that the Prime Minister is now looking a way out of the mess. And as EPRDF usually does, the fire extinguishing act has started. At the office bar in Sheraton, EPRDF apologists like Costentinos Berhe are trying to give the best spin to the guilty verdict to unimpressed diplomats. And in other parts of the town, desperate EPRDF spies who didn't anticipate the reaction are trying to spread rumours that there is a split among the convicted leaders. Arbitrary numbers like 6-4, 7-3 splits are being thrown everywhere.

What EPRDF says or does now seems frivolous in the face of the heroism shown by our great leaders.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Conviction followed by crack down

(by Meqdela)
If anyone thinks the outpouring of anger and shock which followed the Adil Ahamed's blatant injustice would make EPRDF rethink its decision, what has happened after the conviction should be a cause for pause. In most villages in Addis Ababa, there is a massive crack down of former kinijit members and opposition supporters. Even those who are linked remotely with the opposition are facing real threat now. EPRDF's strategy is clear.

-First, convict the prisoners while people aren't giving attention to the trial.
-Arrest and torture opposition supporters as a pre-emptive action so that they wouldn't organize protests before the sentencing.

They know as far as the international community is concerned, they can implement whatever strategy with absolute impunity. During the fake negotiations in April, one of the so-called mediators who lost hope on the American amabassador said:"I can't believe how Meles treats him[Yamamoto] like a child. He doesn't even respect the flag the ambassador represents." Whether the mediator intends it or not, the message of the satement can't be more lucid.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Breaking news:Court finds kinijit leaders guilty

The court in charge of the kinijit trials today decided that all of the kinijit leaders accused of outrage against the constitutional order are guilty as charged. The defendants include the chairperson of the party, Ato Hailu Shawel and the mayor of Addis Ababa, Brehanu Nega. According to Ethiopian law, the crimes the court found them guilty of committing entail death penalty or at least 25 years imprisonment.
The next step, according to the law, is sentencing.
(In depth report soon)

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Crack down in Addis Ababa

At least sixty young supporters of CUD have fallen victims to the latest crackdown in Addis Ababa. According to police sources, most of them were teenagers. Police accused them of accumulating guns to destabilize the millenium celebrations in the country. Twenty of them were caught from the Rufael area of Addis Ababa where Tesfaye Tadesse, 25, and opposition supporter was beaten to death by security forces in January.


I am back. Same vigor and dedication from all EZ post bloggers.