Ethiopian Prime Minister Dr Abiy Ahmed is making history. His magnanimity is unprecedented in recent history. Not only did he set most political prisoners free, he has even shown the courage to host some of them in his office. What happened this week is even more startling. The PM was confident enough to release Andargachew Tsige, the second in command of the outlawed opposition party Ginbot-7, who vowed to dislodge the TPLF/EPRDF government by all means possible.
And to make it clear that the release was whole hearted, the two discussed and got time to pose for a camera which actually made the rounds across the social media. Asked about the subject of the conversation by VOA Amharic, Andargachew declined to go into details but said it was extremely “positive.”
Andy, as supporters affectionately call him, was kidnapped from Yemeni capital on June 24, 2014 en route to Asmara. Whether it was a well organized operation by the security in Addis or a case of somebody selling him for 30 pieces of silver was largely a mystery. But he told VOA that his focus on the cheapest flight through Sana’a might have compromised his security. He thinks people might have easily recognized him and tipped the authorities in Addis. Other than that he doubts any conspiracy against him.
While the government spokesperson at the time, the infamous Getachew Reda, promised Andargachew will have his day in court, that didn’t materialize. He was in a state of solitary confinement for the better part of his incarceration. He told VOA he spent one year in an unknown villa and the rest in Kaliti prison with two murder convicts who made his life unbearable. It is only with the change at the helm of the government that he was finally able to have access to television.
A Brit without a visa
His release understandably made TPLF fanatics mad. They couldn’t see any point why he was kidnapped in the first place. They can not help but admit Andargachew has become a role model for young activists who camped outside of his father’s house waiting for his release. The international media coverage, the pressure of the British government and his family’s appeal for his release created a completely different Andargachew than the terrorist persona the government wanted to paint.
When the wind of change is sweeping the nation, and the case for dialogue is taking center stage, the old order is trying to hold on to the myth it created, though time is running out. And the arguments they present are absurd if not outrageous. TPLF media is decrying breaking of the country’s immigration law, where by a British citizen is in the country without a visa. They suggest he was supposed to be deported within 24 hours let alone having the PM’s ear. What they don’t mention is how did he enter the country in the first place. Was a visa issued during his entry?
Those criticisms echo the sinister undertakings the security hacks are known for. Confiscating passports and citing technicalities on travel documents are a well-traveled path of sabotaging dissidents. Eskinder Nega’s passport has been seized at the airport just a couple of weeks ago.The bottom line is they just want Andargachew to get the heck out of the country and vanish. He may leave the country for thousands of reasons but disappearing doesn’t seem to exist in his vocabulary, at least for now.
በቅርቡ የአሜሪካ ኮንግሬስ ኤችአር 128 የተባለ በኢትዮጵያ የሰብዓዊ መብት ጥሰትን አስመልክቶ ውሳኔ አስተላልፏል። በዚህ ጉዳይ ላይ በመንግሥትና ውሳኔው እንዲተላለፍ ይጎተጉቱ በነበሩ የሰብዓዊ መብት አራማጆች እንዲሁም በመገናኛ ብዙሃን የተለያዩ አስተያየቶች እየተሰነዘሩ ነው። ውሳኔውን የመብት ተሟጋቾችና የተቃዋሚ ፓርቲ አባላት እንደ ድል ሲቆጥሩት ከገዢው ፓርቲ ጎን የተሰለፉት ሲያጣጥሉት ተስተውለዋል።
የውሳኔው ወረቀት በነጋሪት ጋዜጣ ቅኝት የተፃፈ ሲሆን የሕግ አንቀፆችን መረዳት ጋራ ለሚሆንብን የተለየ ነገር ማውጣት ቀላል አይደለም። የሕግ ባለሙያዎች ማብራሪያ ጉዳዩን ይበልጥ ለመረዳት እጅጉን አስፈላጊ ነው። ይሁንና በግልፅ ከሚታዩት ጥቂት አንቀፆች መካከል፥መንግስት የአስቸኳይ ጊዜ አዋጁን እንዲያነሳ፥ በ2001 ዓም የወጡት የበጎ አድራጎት ድርጅቶችና የፀረ ሽብርተኝነት አዋጆች እንዲሻሻሉ ወይም እንዲሰረዙ፥ ተቃዋሚዎች የሰብዓዊ መብት አራማጆችና ጋዜጠኞች እንዲፈቱ፥ የፀጥታ ሃይሎች ያልተመጣጠነ እርምጃ እንዲቆም ግድያና ድብደባ የፈፀሙ ለፍርድ እንዲቀርቡ እንዲሁም የሀገሪቱን የሰብዓዊ መብት አጠባበቅ ሁኔታ አስመልክቶ በተባበሩት መንግሥታት በሚሰየም ገለልተኛ አካል ምርመራ እንዲደረግ ጥሪ ያቀርባል።
ረጅም ብትር ባይመቱበት ያስፈራሩበት
የውሳኔ ሃሳቡን የሚደግፉ ወገኖች አሜሪካ በሰብዓዊ መብት ጥሰቶች ላይ ያላትን ተቆርቋሪነት በግልፅ ያሳየ ነው ይላሉ። እስከዛሬ አሜሪካንን ስንጎተጉት ሰሚ አግኝተን አናውቅም ነበር። በመጨረሻ ሮሮእችንን አዳመጡን ያሉም አሉ። በተጨማሪም መንግስት የመብት ጥሰት ፈፃሚ ስለመሆኑ እውቅና የተሰጠበት ሰነድ አድርገውም ያዩታል። አንድ አስተያየት ሰጪ “ረጅም ብትር ባይመቱበት ያስፈራሩበት” ሲሉ የውሳኔውን አጠቃላይ እንድምታ አስቀምጠውታል። ውሳኔው ሲፀድቅ ለመስማትም የአሜሪካ ምክር ቤት ድረስ ሄደው ደስታቸውን የገለፁ ዜጎችም ነበሩ።
“ይሄ ሃሳብ ብቻ ነው ሕግ ሆኖ ለመውጣት ገና ይቀረዋል። ስለዚህ አስገዳጅነትም የለውም” እያሉ ከማጣጣል አንስቶ “በፀረ ሽብር ዘመቻ ላይ ከአሜሪካ ጋር ያለኝን ትብብር አቋርጣለሁ” የሚል ዛቻ እስከመሰንዘር በተለያዩ ቀላጤዎች እየተነገረ ነው። በይፋ የመንግሥት አፍ በመሆን እያገለገሉ ያሉት የኮሙኒኬሽን ጉዳዮች ሚኒስትር ዶ/ር ነገሪ ሌንጮ “ወቅታዊ ያልሆነና ያልተገባ” ብለው “ይሄኛው ውሳኔ የአሜሪካ መንግሥት አቋም ነው ብለን መደምደም አንችልም” ሲሉ አክለዋል። ከ200 አመት በላይ የመምረጥና የመመረጥ ባህል በዳበረበት ሀገር ውስጥ ያሉ የሕዝብ ተወካዮች ያሳለፉት ውሳኔ እንዴት የመንግሥት አቋም እንደማይሆን ግራ የሚያጋባ ነው። ሚኒስትሩ ሲቀጥሉ “የፖለቲካ ትርፍ ለማግኘት የሚወተውቷቸው ተቃዋሚ የዳያስፖራ አባላትም ስላሉ እነሱን ለማስደሰት የተወሰደ ነው” ይላሉ። ከ325 ሚሊየን ሕዝብ በላይ በሚኖርባት አሜሪካ የኢትዮጵያ “ተቃዋሚ የዳያስፖራ አባላት” ምን ያህል ቁጥርና ተፅዕኖ ቢኖራቸው እንደሆነና እነሱንም ለማስደሰት የኮንግሬስ አባላት የሚሰበሰቡበትን ሁኔታ የሚያውቁት ዶክተሩ ብቻ ናቸው።
የውጭ ጉዳይ ሚ/ር ቃል አቀባይ የሆኑት አቶ መለስ አለም “የኮንግሬሱ ውሳኔ የስቴት ዲፓርትመንት ውሳኔ አይደለም፥ የሴኔት አይደለም፥ የፔንታጎን አይደለም። የኮንግሬስ አባላቱ ውሳኔ ነው።” ሲያጠቃልሉት ደግሞ ውሳኔው “የሚያመጣው ምንም ተፅዕኖ የለም” ብለዋል። ባወጡት መግለጫ ግን ውሳኔውን በፅኑ ተቃውመው “ሉዓላዊነታችንን ይዳፈራል” ብለው ደምድመዋል። ምንም ተፅዕኖ የሌለው ውሳኔ እንዴት ሉዓላዊነትን እንደሚዳፈር ግልፅ አይደለም። በነገራችን ላይ ሰብዓዊ መብትን አስመልክቶ አቶ መለስ አለም ከቢሯቸው 12ሺህ ኪሎሜትር ርቀት ላይ ስላለ ጉዳይ አስተያየት ከመስጠታችው በፊት በግል በግርፊያ ተግባር ላይ ተሰማርተው እንደነበር ሰሞኑን በፍርድ ቤት የተገለፀውን ጉዳይ መስመር ቢያስይዙት ለመስሪያ ቤታቸውም ገፅታ በጠቀመ ነበር።
በአሜሪካ የኢትዮጵያ አምባሳደር አቶ ካሳ ተክለብርሃን ሥራቸውን ያሟሹት ኮንግሬሱ ውሳኔውን እንዳያሳልፍ አጥብቀው በመማጠን ነበር። አሁን በሀገሪቱ በመካሄድ ላይ ያለውን የለውጥ ጅምር ያደናቅፋል ሲሉ ውሳኔው ውድቅ ኢንዲሆን የላኩት ደብደቤ ሰሚ አላገኘም።
በሕወሓት ድረገፅ የቀረበ ሃተታ ደግሞ አሜሪካ በኢትዮጵያ ላይ የምትከተለውን ፖሊሲ አምርሮ በመቃወም በልማቱ ዘርፍ ምንም ድርሻ እንዳልነበራት በመግለፅ በዚህ ረገድ ቻይናን ያወድሳል። አምነስቲ ኢንተርናሽናል፥ህዩመን ራይትስ ወች፥ፍሪደም ሃውስ፥ቢቢሲ፥የአሜሪካ ድምፅ አማርኛ አገልግሎት፥ሲኤንኤን፥ኢሳትና ኦሮሞ ሚዲያ ኔትወርክን በኢትዮጵያ ላይ ዘመቻ የከፈቱ ብሎ ያወግዛቸዋል። ውሳኔውም የተላለፈው በሀገሪቱ ጉዳይ ፈፅሞ የማያገባቸው ዜግነታቸውን ለጥቅም ብለው በቀየሩ ሀገሪቱንም ለተሻለ ተጫራች ለመሸጥ የቋመጡ ዳያስፖራ ኢትዮጵያውያን ገለመሌ እያለ ይቀጥልና ለውሳኔው መፅደቅ የኔዎ ሊበራል አስተሳሰብ የተጠናወታቸውን ግለሰቦችና ተቋማትን ተጠያቂ ያደርጋል።
አሁን ጥያቄው ኤችአር 128 ምንም ተፅእኖ የማያመጣ ከሆነ ይህ ሁሉ የመግለጫ ጋጋታ ለምን ያስፈልጋል ነው።
ወትዋቾቹ የት ጠፉ?
መቀመጫው ዋሺንግተን ዲሲ የሆነው ዲኤልኤ ፓይፐር በወር 50ሺ ዶላር እየተከፈለው ለኢትዮጵያ መንግሥት ሲሰራ እንደነበር ይታወቃል። ድርጅቱ ምርጫ 97ን ተከትሎ በአሜሪካ ኮንግሬስ ተረቅቆ የነበረውን ኤችአር 2003 የተባለ ተመሳሳይ የውሳኔ ሃሳብ እንዲወድቅ በማድረጉ ረገድ ጉልህ ድርሻ ነበረው። ይሁንና ድርጅቱን የቀጠሩት በወቅቱ በአሜሪካ የኢትዮጵያ አምባሳደር ብርሃነ ገብረክርስቶስ ሲዛወሩ በነበረው ግምገማ አግባቢው ያስገኘው ውጤት አጥጋቢ አይደለም በሚል ሌላ ድርጅት እንዲፈለግ መወሰኑ ለመንግስት ቅርበት ያለው ጋዜጣ በአንድ ወቅት የዘገበው ጉዳይ ነው።
ከዛ ወዲህ ለሰባት አመታት ያህል በአሜሪካ የኢትዮጵያ አምባሳደር የነበሩት አቶ ግርማ ብሩ እዛው ዋሺንግተን ዲሲ ከሚገኝ ኤስጂአር ኤልኤልሲ ከተሰኘ ኩባንያ ጋር በወር 150ሺ ዶላር ክፍያ የውትወታ ሥራው እንዲቀጥል ተፈራርመው ነበር። ድርጅቱ ምጥ ይግባ ስምጥ የሚታወቅ ነገር የለም። ሰሞኑንም ድምፁን አልሰማንም። ወይ ከዚህ የተለየ ተልዕኮ ተሰጥቶት እንደሆነም አይታወቅም።
አዲሱ ጠ/ሚ/ር እስካሁን በጉዳዩ ላይ አስተያየት ሲሰጡ አልተደመጠም። በውሳኔ ሃሳቡ ላይ የተነሱትን የሰብዓዊ መብት አጠባበቅ ችግሮችን ባገኙት አጋጣሚ በቀጥታም በተዘዋዋሪም አንስተዋል። ከዛም ባለፈ ከጥቂት ወራት በፊት በአሸባሪነት ተወንጅለው እስር ቤት ተወርውረው ከነበሩ የተቃዋሚ ፓርቲ አባላት ጋር ራት ታድመዋል። የኮንግሬስ አባላቱም እርምጃዎቻቸውን በአዎንታ እያዩ እንደሆነ አመልክተዋል። ኤችአር 128 የውሳኔ ሀሳብ የሰብዓዊ መብት ይዞታን ይበልጥ እንዲያሻሽሉ በማሳሰቢያነት ይዩት ወይም እንደቀድሞዎቹ ማንም አያገባውም ብለው ይቀጥሉ የሚታይ ጉዳይ ይሆናል።
ህወሓት/ኢህአዲግ ሥልጣን ከያዘ አራተኛውን ጠ/ሚ/ር በትናንትናው ዕለት እንደመረጠ የኢትዮጵያ ቴሌቪዥን ሰበር ዜና ብሎ በጥንቃቄ የተዘጋጀውን መልዕክት ባልተለመደ ሁኔታ ሶስት ጊዜ ደጋግሞ አንብቦልናል። በደንብ እንዲገባን ታስቦ ሳይሆን አይቀርም። እርግጥ ፓርቲው ሊቀ መንበሩን ቢሆንም የመረጠው የፓርላማ ሥርዓትን በሚከተሉ ሀገሮች እንደሚደረገው የገዢው ፓርቲ ሊቀ መንበር የሀገሪቱ መሪ ይሆናል። ሥርዓቱ የተሟላ እንዲሆን በቅርቡ የሕዝብ ተወካዮች ምክር ቤት ተሰብስቦ ይሁንታውን ይሰጣል ብለን እንጠብቃለን።
በከፍተኛ ምስጢር ሲካሄድ የከረመው ስብስባ ስላለቀ ሰሞኑን አንዳንድ ነገር መስማታችን አይቀርም። መቼም መቶ ምናምን ሰው የተሳተፈበት ስብሰባ ምስጢር ሊሆን አይችልም።
“የአክሱም ታሪክ ለወላይታ ምኑ ነው”
በጠ/ሚ/ር መመራት የጀመርንበት ሁኔታ የራሱ የሆነ ታሪክ አለው። ህወሓት/ኢህአዲግ ወደ ሥልጣን ሲመጣ ጠ/ሚ/ር የነበረው አቶ ታምራት ላይኔ ሲሆን ራሱን የፕሬዚዳንትነት ካባ ያጎናፀፈው ደግሞ መለስ ዜናዊ ነበር። “የአክሱም ታሪክ ለወላይታ ምኑ ነው” እያለ ሲፎልል የነበረው ህወሓት ራሱ ለሀገሪቱ ባስተዋወቀው የዘር ፖለቲካ ምክንያት በምዕተ ዓመትም ቢሆን የማሸነፍ እድሉ ዜሮ ከመቶ እንደሆነ ወዲያው ተረድቶታል።
ስለዚህ በመላ ሀገሪቱ እየዞሩ የማያውቁትን ሕዝብ ምረጡኝ ከማለት የፓርላማ ሥርዓት የሚባል ጂኒ ቁልቋል አስተዋውቆ “እኖርበት ነበር” ባለው መንደር ራሱን ያለተቀናቀኝ አስመርጦ ራሱ ባቋቋመው ፓርላማ አባል መሆን ብቻ በቂው ነበር። ስለዚህ ሕገ መንግሥቱ ፀደቀ ከተባለበት ከ1987 ጀምሮ ፕሬዚዳንቱ ራሱን ወደ ጠ/ሚ/ርነት ቀይሮ ሀገሪቱንም የይስሙላ ፓርላማ ሥርዓት ተከታይ አደረጋት።
ብልሃቱ ለመለስ ሰርቷል። ያለምንም ተቀናቃኝ ከሃያ አመት በላይ በሃገሪቱ ነግሷል። ሲያልፍም ራዕይ የሌለው የሱን “ሌጋሲ” የሚያስቀጥል መሪ ትቶልን ሄዷል።
አሁን ግን ጊዜው የተቀየረ ይመስላል። ኦነግን የመሳሰሉ የኦሮሞ ድርጅቶችን ለመምታትና በክልሉ የህወሓት አፍ እንዲሆን የተፈጠረው ኦህዲድ ከማንም “ጠንካራ ተቃዋሚ” ገዝፎ ይባስ ብሎ ደግሞ አጀንዳውን አስፍቶ ከች ብሏል። ኢትዮጵያውያን ለምርጫ ባይታደሉም ምናልባት በታሪክ ለመጀመሪያ ጊዜ ሕዝብ በአርምሞ የተስማማበት መሪ ብቅ ያለ ይመስላል። በአንፃሩም ህወሓት ያልተስማማውን ለመንቀፍ የሚሄድበትን ርቀት በዶ/ር አብይ ላይ በከፈተው የማጥላላት ዘመቻ ኣሳይቷል ። የሀገሪቱ መረጃና ደህንነት ክፍል ዕውነተኛ ሥራ ምን እንደነበር በግልፅ የታየበት ጊዜ ነበር።ዶ/ር አብይ ቂም መያዝ አይችልም። ይህንን ማስተካከል ግን ይጠበቅበታል። ከእንግዲህ መሪነቱ ለኦህዲድ ብቻ አይደለም። መሪነቱ ለሚቃወሙትም እንዲሁም ጧት ማታ ሰብዕናውን ሲገድሉ ለነበሩትም ነው።ለውጥ ፈላጊ መቶ ሚሊዮን ሕዝብ ተዓምር እንዲሰራ ይጠብቀዋል። እንደውም “ምነው በቀረብኝ” የሚልበት ጊዜ ሩቅ ሁሉ ላይሆን ይችላል።
የዘር ፖለቲካ ትሩፋት
• አዲሱ ጠ/ሚ/ር ካቢኔውን ሲያዋቅር በርካታ ጊዜ የሚያጠፋው የብሄሮችን ስብጥር ሲያመጣጥን ይሆናል።
• በዚህ ሁሉ ዓመፅና የፖለቲካ ሽኩቻ እስከመኖራቸውም የረሳናቸው ፕሬዚደንት ዶ/ር ሙላቱ ተሾመ የብሔር ተዋፅኦ ሰለባ ይሆናሉ። በድጋሚ አይመረጡም።
ሰዎች ባለ ሥልጣን ሲሆኑ ወይም ከፍተኛ ሃላፊነት ሲሰጣቸው “ሹመት ያዳብር” ይባል ነበር። የሚዳብረው ለጊዜው ይቆየንና የሀገሪቱ አዲስ ፊት የሆነውን ዶ/ር አብይ አሕመድ መልካም ዕድል እንመኝለት።
በቀናት ውስጥ የቀድሞው የሚል ቅጥያ የሚጨመርላቸው ጠ/ሚ/ር ሃይለማርያም ደሳለኝ ከዜና መክፈቻነት እየራቁ ተተኪያቸውን ለመምረጥ የሚደረገው ፍትጊያ ዋነኛ የመነጋገሪያ ርዕስ ከሆነ ሰነባብቷል።
ፓርቲአቸው ባ’ፈቀላጤው አቶ ሽፈራው ሽጉጤ አማካይነት “የግንባሩን አንድነት ያጠናከረ]” ያለው ነገር ግን ሙሉ ለሙሉ በምስጢራዊነት የታጀለ ስብሰባ እነበረከት ስምዖንን፥ሥዩም መሥፍንን፥አዲሱ ለገሰን፥እንዲሁም ወትሮ የማይታዩት የክፉ ቀን ደራሽ ዶ/ር ካሡ ኢላላንና የመሣሠሉትን ከፊት አሰልፎ ስብሰባውን አጠናቋ’ል።
አዲሱ ሰው ከመሰየማቸው በፊት ግን የሕወሓት ልሳኖች የሃይለማርያም ደሳለኝን ሃጢያቶች በመዘርዘር ላይ ተጠምደዋል። “ደካማ”፥“ልፍስፍስ” ከሚሉ ቅጥያዎች በወንጀል መጠየቅ እንደሚገባቸው እስከመጠቆም የሚደርስ ዘመቻ ከፍተውባቸዋል። አንቺው ታመጪው አንቺው ታሮጪው።
የጠ/ሚ/ሩን “ሌጋሲ” እንደሚፈትሽ የሚያትተው በሕወሓቶች የተለቀቀ አንድ ፅሁፍ “ፈተና ሲያጋጥማቸው መወሰን የማይችሉ ብቻ ሳይሆን ፈጥነው ውሳኔ መስጠት የማይችሉ ደካማና ልፍስፍስ መሪ የነበሩ መሆናቸው”ን ያትታል። ጠ/ሚ/ሩ በአስቸጋሪ ሁኔታ ሥልጣን የያዙበት ሁኔታና ቀጥሎ የነበሩት አንዳንድ ቴአትሮች ለምሳሌ የወ/ሮ አዜብ መሥፍን ከቤተ መንግሥት አልወጣም ማለትን ያስታወሰ የሚገነዘበው ሙሉ ሥልጣን እንዳልነበራቸው ነው። ለዚህም ይሆናል በራሳቸው ጥረት ከገጠራማው የአገሪቱ ክፍል ተነስተው የዩኒቨርሲቲ መምህርነት ብሎም ዲንነት ደረጃ የደረሱት ምሁር በሕወሓቶች ዘንድ ተቀባይነት ለማግኘት ዕቅዴ የመለስን ራዕይ ማሳካት ነው ብለው ሲገዘቱ የነበረው።
ጠ/ሚ/ሩ በመጨረሻ ያጡት ሥልጣናቸውን ብቻ ሳይሆን ከአንጋሾቻቸውም ከህዝቡም ሳይሆኑ ገና አራት ኪሎን ሳይለቁ ከፍና ዝቅ መደረጋቸውን ነው። አስተዳደራቸውን “መንግሥት መንግሥት እንዳይሸት ከማድረጋቸውም ባለፈ ህግንና ሥርዓትን ማስከበር የማይችል በራሱ ዜጎች የማይከበር በጠላትም የማይፈራ ልፍስፍስ መንግሥት ሆኖ እንዲታይ አድርገውታል።” ተብሏል በዚሁ መጣጥፍ።
በቅርቡ የተለቀቁትን የተቃዋሚ ፓርቲ አመራር አባላት፥ የመብት አራማጆች እንዲሁም ጋዜጠኞችን በሙሉ ሰብስቦ እንደገና ወደ እስር ቤት እንዲወረወሩ ሰሞኑን በተለያዩ የሕወሓት ልሳኖች የሚለፈፈውን በሚያጠናክር መልኩ “የፖለቲካ እስረኞችን እንፈታለን በማለት የወሰዱት እርምጃ የሚመሩት(ን) መንግሥት ክብር ዝቅ ያደረገ ታሪካዊ ስህተት ነበር።” ሲል ጠ/ሚ/ሩን ይተቻል። ከዚህ በግልፅ የምንረዳው እስረኞቹን ለመፍታት በሕወሓት በኩል ፈፅሞ ፍላጎት እንዳልነበረ ነው። እንደውም የእስረኞቹ መፈታት ጠ/ሚ/ሩን “በዚህ ደካማ የአመራር ብቃታቸው ምክንያት ስርዓታቸውን ለማፍረስ ሌት ተቀን ሲረባረቡ የነበሩ የሰብዓዊ መብት ተሟጋች ነን ለሚሉ የውጪ ሀይሎች እጃቸውን” መስጠት እንደሆነ በሕወሓት በኩል ያለውን አመለካከት ያሳያል።
ስለአስቸኳይ ጊዜም ሆነ ስለገዢዎቻችን ስብሰባ አቶ ሲራጅም ሆኑ አቶ ሽጉጤ መግለጫ ሲሰጡን ጉዳዩን አውቀውት ሳይሆን ኢህአዲግ ማለት ሕወሓት ብቻ አለመሆኑን ለማስረዳት ጌቶቻቸው የሚጠቀሙበት ሥልት እንደሆነ ግልፅ ነው። ዕውነቱን ለመናገር ግን በመካከለኛ ደረጃ ያለ አንድ የሕወሓት ካድሬ ደአህዲግ ከሚባለው ስብስብ ባጠቃላይ የተሻለ መረጃ አለው። ለዚህም ነው የመከላከያ ሚኒስትርና የኮማንድ ፖስት ሃላፊ የሚባል ኮልኮሌ ከተደረተላቸው ግለሰብ የሁለት ሰዓት ዝባዝንኬ የአንድ ሕወሓት ካድሬ ጥቂት አንቀፆች የሃገሪቱን አካሄድ የተሻለ የሚያሳዩት።
It is safe to say that April 2, 2018 will go down in the history of Ethiopia as a day when for the first time executive power transferred peacefully from one hand to another. Never mind that it was within the ruling party but many take the new sheriff in town as a product of popular uprising. In the current state of affairs where TPLF/EPRDF successfully managed to incapacitate the opposition, Dr Abiy is the best that the country can hope for. It was that rare occasion in decades a nation seemed to be united, at least for a day.
The newly elected Ethiopian Prime Minister Dr Abiy Ahmed didn’t disappoint either. He made such a remarkable speech that it was one of the most conciliatory speeches ever heard from that podium, a place where victors have been overplaying their bragging rights to the extent of invincibility. The new PM was unequivocal in mentioning the country by name, as opposed to his predecessors who preferred “people of our country.” The apology for the loss of life of young activists and protesters his party used to dub “criminal thugs” and “terrorists” is timely and attests to his magnanimity.
Not only was there a call for opposition parties but the PM made clear his intentions to make amends with Eritrea. The tribute to his late mother and the new first lady, Zenash Tayachew, was so personal that it reminds all politics, at the end of the day, is about the dreams and aspirations of individuals. He rightfully called it “unprecedented” for that chamber.
While the outgoing PM Hailemariam Desalegn cannot shake off his image as the most inconsequential, if not the weakest, leader ever, he can be remembered for presiding over a well orchestrated transition. Hailemariam along with former first lady Roman Tesfaye, showed around the PM office in what seems to be straight out of the White House playbook minus the planes to whisk away the execs.
Two awkward moments in that otherwise well-orchestrated procession were: the life size picture of the embodiment of authoritarianism lurking from the background; and the judge who presided over the swearing in is infamous for his politically charged rulings.
While the close-ups were not as generous to show us who was in attendance, apart from the obvious members of parliament, religious leaders and members of the diplomatic community, Abinet Gebremeskel and former minister Haile Asegde probably were sitting for the ghosts of Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Al Amoudi somewhere from Saudi prisons.
Finally, after different kind of narrations on the biography of the Prime Minister now there seems to be a consensus and the party’s spokesperson Shiferaw Shigute has read all the details. While they tried their best to get all the pieces together and construct a bio, still somewhere something doesn’t seem to add up. It is highly unlikely a boy from Jimma would join TPLF/EPRDF when he is barely 15. However, the 42-year-old will not be judged by those minor details. While anticipations are building up, he shouldn’t be expected to perform miracles. Leaving aside the fairy tales of “double digit” economic growth or making the country a middle income one in the next couple years, protecting the lives of civilians should be the first step in the arduous task looming ahead.
On the way out
Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn is soon to add the ex to his title. Days away from his final departure at the helm of the government, he is quiet and others are taking turns showing up on TV addressing the public on issues ranging from the State of Emergency decree to the secretive meetings of the party’s executive committee, whatever the official reason for conveying it everybody knows it is all about agreeing up on the replacement of the outgoing figure.
But in the meantime Tigray People’s Liberation Front seems to be outraged by Hailemariam for his soft handedness on the protests that have engulfed the country for the last three years. And the fact that he took the measure to tacitly admitting the existence of political prisoners that his predecessor and the party top echelon has been denying for so long is another source of discontent.
Falling in love with legacy
An article released by TPLF media outlets titled “Assessing the legacy of PM Hailemariam Desalegn’’ shows how the current popular protests and some positives measures like releasing political prisoners have been viewed by the hard core party operatives.
The article depicts the PM as “a man who can not rise up to challenges: indecisive, weak and faint leader”. It is important to note that Hailemariam is not totally out of the picture yet. The fact that he is indecisive and weak is deliberate, he doesn’t know any other way. Six years ago when he took power he had repeatedly said that his only vision was to continue the legacy of his predecessor Meles Zenawi whose death had been hidden from his subjects until August 2012. He was probably appeasing the king makers by reaffirming his commitment to the vision of Meles, though most of us don’t even have a clue what the vision was. The academics turned politician was so powerless he had to share the Palace with the widow of his predecessor for some time as she refused to relocate.
While he is a well educated technocrat and a minister and a deputy PM, he never expected the post of PM to one day befall up on him. He was not ready and the TPLF bigwigs were not prepared either to award that post outside of their tight knitted circle. But they had to give way to pressures from the Americans, their major financial backers and the rules written by them also worked against them. So one bright morning Hailemariam finds himself at the helm of a country with over 100 million people.
Now it seems that TPLF is under enormous pressures. For 27 years the country has been ruled by a minority group whose only legitimacy is the toppling of the previous regime. The PM who wished to serve as a face of that administration is commander in chief of the army, and as such he takes responsibility for the atrocities committed by his army in various parts of the Oromia, Amhara and Somali regions.
Still the forces that put him in that situation have a regret, and moreover a thing or two to say about him. “The decision to release prisoners is a historical mistake that compromised his government’s pride.” The condemnation continues: “His weak leadership surrendered to the powers disguised as human rights activists that toiled day and night to bring his government down.”
“Not only did he manage to have his administration lack the look of a government,” the article goes on to say, “but also was seen by many as a faint hearted; incapable of bringing law and order, as a result not respected by the citizens and not feared by his enemies.”
15 minutes of fame
Well, we are not sure if that is the case. But the marathon press conferences by Siraj Fegessa, Minister of Defense and head of the so called Command Post, in charge of implementing the State of Emergency decrees is not what the public actually pays attention to. Shiferaw Shigute who is serving as spokesperson of the ruling party even less so. Everybody knows they are brought forward to address image problems. But the truth is a brief memo by a TPLF operative has tons of information than hours of rants by the southern officials who are enjoying their 15 minutes of fame.
The nation seems to have held its breath in anticipation of the next Prime Minister. The choice, as it stands now, doesn’t seem to be a mere replacement of the outgoing Hailemariam Desalegn. As the unprecedented struggle within Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front in its third week, the change of guard is a vote for semblance of change or maintaining the dying status quo.
A change within – if at all – is inevitable then Dr Abiy Ahmed seems to be the embodiment. The take over by the rest of the uninspiring pack might spell the continuation of the current crisis.
Simply by following the barrage of character assassinations and smear campaigns from the ordinary party operatives and paid trolls all the way to the top dogs like Bereket Simon, the chairman of Oromo Peoples’ Democratic Organization Dr Abiy and head of the Oromia region Lemma Megersa are bearing the brunt of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front’s blasphemy.
Whether Dr Abiy is going to be the next Ethiopian PM or not there are groups that have a vested interest in thwarting his ascension to the post. TPLF owned media outlets are busy churning out materials bashing the two OPDO leaders who the public in general is considering change agents. For the record let’s have a feel of these mean, audacious and vulgar posts spearheaded by Aigaforum and their cohorts.
One recent article entitled “Taking over through violence” dubs Dr Abiy “engineer of destruction.” One has to understand that Abiy didn’t just turn up out of the blue, he is a creation of TPLF. It’s anybody’s guess why he suddenly became the monster he’s depicted to be.
Another article which has an air of former spin doctors of Government Communication Affairs Office is titled “Who should replace PM Hailemariam?” Expecting the good old political analysis? Not a chance. Instead it begins by belittling Lemma Megersa on academic grounds and how he was helped to complete his studies at the Civil Service College. But what they forgot was the public has long been calling that college “brick factory.” The vast majority of regional and federal government officials and particularly the judiciary is a product of this college now christened university. As long as the people are in tune with the TPLF, graduating from there is not a problem. But dissenting, that’s almost a capital offense. Even then they don’t seem to get the complete picture of Lemma’s academic credentials. The article further accuses Lemma of not publicly condemning ethnically motivated attacks that allegedly took place in Oromia. It also insinuates Lemma being an agent of Oromo Liberation Front, which is outlawed by the parliament. But that card has already been played along with chauvinist, narrow minded, rentseeker, neo-liberal and several other epithets party operatives hurl at citizens who humbly beg to differ with the government’s way of running the affairs of the country.
“A country can not be governed by lies and deceits” is a four page post that goes too low accusing Abiy of his long standing “hate of Tigreans.” How can one work for decades with such attitude in organizations like Information Network Security Agency and the defense forces whose core leadership is a well known secret. It is just baffling. Even his rank in the military is used as part of the campaign. That is an echo of the politics of the country ever since TPLF took power. Whoever opposes the government is almost entirely projected in ethnophobic terms. While the public doesn’t even care a hoot whether he served in the army, everything that can discredit him is a fair game by the disinformation army.
In light of last week’s parliament session where the state of emergency was approved in a controversial count, the absence of Dr Abiy created an opportunity to turn up the heat one more time. Any passive look at the TV during the parliament session shows a line of empty seats and a bunch of tired, sleepy and yawning MPs whose attendance has never been an issue in a 100% EPRDF turf. Why is Abiy’s absence triggering consternation? As a chairman of a party of the most populous region of the country, it is his attendance that should have raised eyebrows not his absence.
The coming weeks will eventually give the answer to as who would move to the palace at Arat Kilo. But the crisis has shown the true color of TPLF even for those who were blinded by the benefits that came in exchange for loyalty. The duo should take partial responsibility for such state of affairs as they were part of the system. But they have a promising media outlet that they can shape to serve the people far from the confines of Oromia. And if any lesson is drawn from the ongoing smear, it is how not to run the media in such a way even in rough days.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn has submitted his resignation a day after releasing scores of activists, opposition party leaders, religious rights advocates and journalists that for the most part were charged with terrorism.
Dr Merera Gudina, Bekele Gerba, Andualem Aragae, Ahmed Mustafa, Ahmedin Jebel, Mamushet Amare, Olbana Lelisa, Natnael Mekonnen are among some of the dissidents released in the past couple of weeks. Some are leaders of officially registered political parties, others mere activists and some religious leaders opposing government interference in the way they practice their faith.
Then last but not least were journalists serving prison terms some up to 18 years. Prominent among them were Eskinder Nega and Woubshet Taye. And charges on three of the Zone Nine bloggers (winners of CPJ International Press Freedom awards for 2015) were discontinued. Another well regarded journalist Temesgen Desalegn was released last October after fully serving a three year sentence for articles he wrote as far back as 2011 on the now defunct Amharic weekly Fiteh, where he was a publisher. Still there are a number of others whose status at the moment is not known, among them Yonatan Tesfaye imprisoned for his Facebook posts.
Under pressure from the on-again, off-again protests in various parts of the country for the third year running, the Prime Minister promised to release all political prisoners at the beginning of the year amid a tacit admission of their existence. His office’s Facebook post had to be rewritten half a dozen times to correct the slip of the tongue. But the attempt to get the prisoners to sign confession of guilt and ask for forgiveness was botched. Some were even heard saying it is the government that should do so instead. In any event, they were released abruptly to tame another protest that was adding fuel to the already precarious situation.
Coming back swinging
Eskinder was happy to be released after spending six and half years in prison. He was joyous and hopeful. He called for unity, a halt to destruction of property and ethnically motivated attacks. The prison didn’t seem to break his spirit. He looked more invigorated and energetic. The winner of scores of international awards told the Amharic service of Deutsche Welle about his intention to continue writing and peaceful activism.
Before the government crackdown on journalists in the aftermath of the May 2005 controversial elections, Eskinder and his indefatigable wife Serkalem Fasil were publishing three Amharic weekly papers. When he was released the government denied him a license to operate. Then his well-articulated weekly articles written in impeccable English and Amharic begun to appear on Ethiomedia Online and they were an instant hit.
In one of his most memorable articles entitled Open letter to PM Meles Zenawi he says: “Ato Meles Zenawi: the people want — no, need — you to leave office… The people are closely watching events in North Africa. Listen to them before it’s too late.” (Never mind Meles passed away in August 2012). In Mubarak in court: Is Meles next? Eskinder warns: “An African Spring, with Ethiopia, Africa’s largest dictatorship, as its epicenter, is unavoidable.” Writing about his former prison mate of 17 months, the legendary actor Debebe Eshetu (Shaft in Africa along with Richard Roundtree) which incidentally was his last article before joining him again in the notorious Maekelawi prison, Eskinder wrote: “How in the world could such a person be involved in terrorism? It simply defies logic.” Eskinder was unabashedly right. Debebe was released couple days later. Maekelawi, the infamous torture center almost at the center of Addis Ababa is going to be closed and will be turned to a museum, according to the PM.
For Woubshet things are a little different. Though as a father and a husband, anytime he is released is a joy to his family, the government can hardly take credit for magnanimity. The “pardon” didn’t do much in the way of reducing his sentences as he probably served most of the time. The paper where he was a deputy editor is out of publication and was through a lot of history. It is also important to remember he was charged along with Reeyot Alemu, a fearless voice who spent four years in Kaliti prison before moving to Washington D.C. where she works with Ethiopian Satellite Television.
Temesgen Desalegn who finished his terms months before the latest events, is still reeling from health issues suffered while in prison. In an interview with the Amharic Weekly Addis Admas he talked about the treatment he was receiving for ear and back pain. He has been invited to a number of speaking engagements in Europe and North America. For the moment he seems to be quietly pondering his next moves.
While scores of promising young bloggers have emerged in the past couple of years thanks to the increasing repression, ironically; and the development of social media, Eskinder and Temesgen by far are the most revered journalists writing out of the country.
How these developments will shape the country’s media environment is yet to be ascertained. However the mere release of the latest batch of activists and journalists should be welcomed as a move in the right direction.
The long time professor of Ethiopian and African politics at the Addis Ababa University and leader of the Oromo Federalist Congress was picked up by security forces upon his arrival from a speaking engagement in Brussels at the beginning of December 2016. According to the state run Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation, Dr Merera Gudina was arrested “for breaching article two of the first directive (of the state of emergency) that prohibits any contact and communication with outlawed terrorist organization.” In a classic case of Ethiopian law enforcement—arrest then investigate—he had to remain behind bars for three months before charges were finally brought. As if to give credence to the case, Dr Berhanu Nega, Jawar Mohammed and the foreign based media companies of Ethiopian Satellite Television and Oromia Media Network have been added to the accused list.
Though this one came at a later stage in his political life, Merera is not new to life in prison. He spent seven years of his youth in jail for his role as a MEISON (All Ethiopian Socialist Movement) organizer when that party fell out with the military dictatorship.
For the last two decades Merera has been treading a fine line to avoid prison, a universal destiny of the country’s political opponents worthy of the name. His fate, however, was sealed with a photo shot seems to have purposefully been posted on the social media. It shows the veteran academic sitting in between leader of the outlawed opposition Ginbot 7, Dr Berhanu Nega and the Rio Olympic marathon silver medallist-turned activist, Feyisa Lilesa. Truth be told, the OFC leader looks tense in that picture, hardly an indicator of cordiality, much less a coconspirator. May be looks are not deceiving after all!
The naked truth is: the three were speakers at the hearings; equally important Berhanu and Merera were activists since their student days in the mid seventies; should we mention both were professors of their respective trades at AAU?
The born again
Merera tiptoed into the nation’s politics in the mid 1990s. He likes to say dragged into it. He may be referring to a series of articles and the ensuing back and forth with the leaders and supporters of the Oromo Liberation Front in the now defunct Amharic monthly Tobia magazine. That debate appears to have been one of the reasons for him to come up with a newly minted outfit, the Oromo National Congress.The party was formed with a craft of an astute politician that was giving the identity driven ruling pack a run for the money. Not only did ONC borrow part of their name from the legendary African National Congress but also espoused the idea of ‘one man one vote’ that served a rallying cry for the struggle in the apartheid South Africa.
When ONC made strides in the 2005 general elections, it provoked the ire of the incumbent whose long hands triggered infighting among the party ranks.Then the Electoral Board interfered and awarded the name to a splintered group. Merera had to steer the ship with a different name. Fortunately, his personality outweighed the wrangling to draw even more support. While his contribution in the Parliament is up for debate, the one-term member was famous for his sarcasm and humour that kept the sleepy House lively when he was in attendance.
Say what you will but the 61 year old is among a handful of public intellectuals whose ideas have transcended the bounds of lecture halls. His PHD thesis ‘Ethiopia: Competing Ethnic Nationalism and the Quest for Democracy,1960 – 2000’ was published to the wider readership. The highly acclaimed 2013 semi-memoir ‘The complexity of Ethiopian politics and looking back through the years’(in Amharic) was reprinted multiple times. Scores of reviews and counter claims by people who got mention in the publication added to the controversy. His active political engagement, the writings, the interviews he gives, and his close to thirty years teaching experience at his alma mater—which ended after months of public acrimony over contract and credential issues— makes him an illustrious campaigner.
A day in court
The statements of the charge is a lesson in sloppiness at the prosecutor’s office. A sentence can go for a full two pages without a stop, making it difficult to comprehend the specific offenses committed. The stereotypical: incitement, overthrowing constitutional system, outrage against constitution didn’t disappoint either, all on board.
The first charge simply makes Dr Merera the mastermind of all the protests that took place since November 2015. What is baffling is why the government had to wait for over a year to bring him to book? Why was he never charged while in the country? This is where the overseas travel comes in handy with a picture to prove the otherwise lame case. So it was not the alleged communication with ‘terrorists’ per se that was important but the opportunity it provided to justify the arrest.
The immediate cause for the government move “contact and communication with outlawed terrorist organization” got a faint mention in the charge stating in one line “he met with the second suspect Professor Berhanu on November 11, 2016, in Belgium” and that was exactly the day when the three addressed the European Parliament on the situation in Ethiopia. In other words, Merera was charged for a sitting arrangement that probably is not his own making. And from the list of 28 evidences none is about the contact between him and Ginbot 7.
Some of the charges are ludicrous, to say the least.Even doubting the security forces assertions comes with consequences.The fact that the academician didn’t buy claims of bravado in an interview with the Voice of America some three years ago turned out to be a criminal offense.
From the outset it seems the case is going to keep dragging for a while. Merera has been denied bail, though still fighting that one in the supreme court. In a country where all institutions are the extension of the executive, it is inconceivable to think the judiciary will be any different. While giving the courts the benefit of the doubt is apparently what the defense is set out to do, this is hardly a criminal matter that can be solved on the benches of the High Court.
These days Dr Negeri Lencho, Minister of the Government Communication Affairs Office is making the rounds at various media houses: BBC, Deutsche Welle, VOA, foreign based ruling party friendly media, EBC are just to mention but a few.
As the new kid on the block in the cabinet of PM Hailemariam Desalegn, Dr Negeri is creating an impression that he is open to all who seek his attention. In comparison to his combatant predecessor, Negeri is plain and soft spoken, devoid of party lingo, and above all professor of journalism at Addis Ababa University. What better preparation for the post!
However the one thing he lacks most is the information itself. He could barely come up with conclusive answer about his former colleague at the AAU when he was arrested shortly after a trip to Brussels. Lawyers and activists fared far better, concerning Dr Merera Gudina’s arrest, than the central figure entrusted with communicating state information. At the VOA interview he even dared to say the “government was protecting Dr Merera.” It’s anybody’s knowledge who sought protection from whom.
After hours of interviews given to the aforementioned media, there is hardly a revelation or some kind of breakthrough that is worth mentioning. Instead his understanding of the incarceration of journalists is clearly a cause for concern, if not outrage.
Take no prisoners
It is obvious that Dr Negeri is departing from the tried and tested responses about imprisonment of journalists. Negeri either doesn’t care or know about the narratives.While his predecessors never denied the imprisonment of journalists, their scripted response was no journalist is jailed for their reporting or writings. But the other day in his Meet EBC interview Dr Negeri broke with tradition by making a sweeping statement: “Ethiopia doesn’t detain journalists.”
Unless journalists are of a different stock to the academician, at any given time Ethiopian prisons host journalists as their favorite patrons. Eskinder Nega, Woubshet Taye and Temesgen Desalegn are not off-the-cuff bloggers but seasoned journalists and publishers who are serving anywhere between 18 to three years sentences, on charges stemming from the clichéd terrorism to the more outlandish attempt “to change the mindset of the youth.” Yonatan Tesfaye, Ananya Sori and Befekadu Hailu are another young batch of journalists and bloggers who are detained; matter of fact some have been arrested shortly after Dr Negeri took office. Their charges is probably in the making, needless to say terrorism is the favorite card to be picked any time.
Sources, sources, sources…
Much to the chagrin of the spokesperson, the Committee to Protect Journalists came up this week with a report accusing the government of putting 16 journalists behind bars, that made the country the third worst jailer of journalists in Africa, just after Egypt and Eritrea.
Dr Negeri’s issues with rights campaigners is that they don’t disclose sources of information when they gather the data. He insisted on Meet EBC that the sources should be disclosed. Well, everybody wishes that would be the case ideally. But we don’t need to dig deep to understand the consequences of contacting rights groups or media houses.
• Bekele Gerba of the Oromo Federalist Congress was slapped with four-year prison term days after he met representatives of Amnesty International. Now he is in another round of terrorism charade.
• Last year a woman, in the drought stricken corner of northern Ethiopia, gave interview to a BBC TV journalist Clive Myrie saying people were dying of hunger.Then hell broke loose!Ethiopian Ambassador to UK, the government spokesman Getachew Reda, the Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Teodros Adhanom took turns lashing out at the British journalist for his intention to “tarnish the image of the country.” And district party operatives tracked down the poor peasant to force her recant the testament on Amhara TV.
• Days after the declaration of state of emergency words were that Zone 9 blogger Befekadu Hailu was arrested allegedly for talking to VOA, the same broadcaster Dr Negeri had a marathon interview with just the other week; add to that the voices of many individuals on VOA Amharic and Afaan Oromo are changed to conceal their identity.
Then, why should it be difficult to understand the concerns of citizens who want to remain anonymous when tipping off rights violations. If Dr Negeri wants to get to the bottom of the issue, he should look at the allegations not the sources; analyze court records about the charges; can even go bolder by taking steps talking to jailed journalists and bloggers. That will make him a genuine change agent!
As things stand now the one thing Dr Negeri may have an impact is in the chairmanship of the board of Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation, which by default comes with the new post. There is no more opportune moment than this for him to put his mark on the national broadcaster by giving it a semblance of a news media rather than condemning it to a mere ruling party propaganda outfit.
May theory and practice come in close harmony. Amen!