Putting Ethiopia and Her People First

By Melaku Yismaw 

It has often been said that a good cause is ruined many times by good intentions.  I recently cam across a paper written by intellectuals which argues to “put the prisoners of conscience first” and counsels the World Bank to give no budgetary aid before they are released.  Bad slogans confuse the whole campaign; commanders who give confused orders lead their army to disastrous defeat. 

The correct stand of Ethiopians should be PUT ETHIOPIA AND HER PEOPLE FIRST.  The primary issue is NOT the release of the arrested leaders of the CUDP.  Even then how come those calling for their release forget that close to 50,000 people are incarcerated in Dedesa, Zwai and Bir Sheleko, NOT to mention hundreds and thousands of others jailed and disappeared since 1991?  The regime of Meles Zenawi should be denied any aid and assistance UNTIL IT RESPECTS THE VOTE OF THE ETHIOPIAN PEOPLE and resigns without much ado.  We cannot sanely argue that it will have democratic credentials or will be kosher and halal enough to receive help if only it releases the lastly jailed prisoners in Kaliti.  To argue as the intellectuals did is to miss the whole point notwithstanding the desire to have the jailed leaders released – a sentiment that no Ethiopian other than the Woyane can contradict. 

It is imperative that the democratic forces get their vision right.  It is not important that they write long and scholarly pieces if their premise is confused and their message totally wrong.  PUT
ETHIOPIA AND HER PEOPLE FIRST.  Get rid of the Woyane and all political prisoners will be released.  The main and sad event of post May 2005 Election is not that people got arrested or jailed but that the VOICE and CHOICE of the people was denied by the Meles regime.  This is the primary ill to be addressed as it is the one that led to the subsequent crimes on the part of the Woyane thugs.    

Published in: on August 8, 2006 at 5:55 pm  Comments (2)  

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  1. I agree with the writer. We also see a similar trend of sidelining the main issue- ie., stealing of the votes of the Ethiopian people by the regime- in the Kinijit circle abroad, even though the other main political party, the UEDF, maintains it. Since the May, 2005 election is the issue of the Ethiopian people, all of us should continue demanding that the will of the people needs to be respected. As the regime is illigitmate, we should ask the resignation of the government and transfer of power to the elected leaders. These are demands for democracy to be instilled in Ethiopia, as expressed by the voters. These demands do not exclude the release of political prisoners (they are embedded in the demand for democracy). If we do not push on the main issue, in my view, we are abandoning the Ethiopian people. This can possibly have a long-lasting negative effect- loss of confidence. We should not let this happen. The key for sucess in all of this is the unity of the people, which the opposition parties and enlighted intellectuals have the responsibility to bring about.

  2. I am writing to express a friendly clarification. Ato Melaku Yismaw thinks our struggle to oppose the BBC report that appears to open to debate regarding the possible breaking up of the budget support sanction by using the World Bank’s criteria of ‘good governance’-the latter is ostensibly being practised by the regime makes us ‘pro- woyanne.’ or ‘commanders’ waiting for’disasterous defeat.’ It is strange, the Woyanne acolytes like aiga forum used the Ethiopian people first posturing, due to our advocacy of no budgetary support to the treasury to attack us too.Ato Melaku here also said that we put the interests of the prisoners before the people. In actual fact getting the immediate release of the prisoners is in the interest of the people, democracy, the opposition and the nation. The main point of our article was to denounce the attempt to break the budget support sanction by using the BBC to soften public opinion. The demand for voice and choice respect is not touched by what we wrote, as we have now written over 30 articles arguing for a non-deceptive politics to take root as culture, knowledge and practice in our country. I ask Ato Melaku to put all his fire at Aiga Forum and the regime in Ethiopia and call with us for the unconditional and immediate release of the prisoners of concience not only because it is right but also as a sure way of stimulating the Ethiopian peoples democratic struggles at many levels.

    Attached Please find a conference statement adopted by the scholars who participated in the Horn of Africa meeting organised by the SIRC, Lund University, Sweden with modest support by DIR, Aalborg University on Prof. Mesfin Wolde Mariam and other democratic scholar-activists.

    August 20,2006

    Conference statement and urgent appeal to the Government of Ethiopia

    The 5th Horn of Africa Conference meeting of scholars in Lund, Sweden from 19-20 August 2006 on the theme of “The Role of Diasporas in Peace, Democracy and Development” has heard with deep concern of the critical ill-health of our academic colleague Professor Mesfin Woldemariam, who has been detained since November 2005 and is facing capital charges of instigating violence and other offences arising out of post-election demonstrations.

    Professor Mesfin Woldemariam, aged 76, is a distinguished academic and also a prominent human rights defender as founder and former chair of the Ethiopian Human Rights Council.

    Although he is reportedly now admitted to intensive care in hospital, fears have been expressed for his health on account of his advanced age, harsh and unhygienic conditions in Kaliti prison and reportedly inadequate provision of medical treatment after his hunger strikes and at the time of his arrest.

    We are also anxious about whether he will receive a fair trial according to international and regional standards. He is refusing to defend himself against charges which he rejects as being politically motivated. He is widely held to be a prisoner of conscience on account of his peaceful political opinions and his record as Ethiopia’s best-known human rights activist.

    The conference respectfully wishes to bring these grave concerns about Professor Mesfin Woldemariam to His Exellency Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. We urge that Professor Mesfin Woldemariam be given all necessary medical treatment. He should not be returned to prison until he is restored to good health on the advice of his doctors and only if his prison conditions are considerably improved.

    We urge the Ethiopian authorities to respect the basic human rights of other academics facing similar charges and prison conditions, including Dr Berhanu Negga, Dr Yakob Hailemariam and Dr Hailu Araya.

    We request this appeal to be brought to the urgent attention of His Exellency the Prime Minister. We look forward to receiving a positive response as soon as possible.


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