Monday, November 28, 2005

Free Berhanu Nega

By Fikru Helebo

It has been reported in the press today that Dr. Berhanu Nega, who has been incarcerated along with thousands of others from the opposition since November 1, 2005 by the dictatorial regime of Ethiopia for advancing his political beliefs by peaceful means, is starting a hunger strike along with three other prominent opposition leaders, to bring the farce treason allegation that was made against them by the government to the attention of the world.

As a token of my support for Berhanu's plight and that of the thousands of political prisoners in Ethiopia today, irrespective of their political party affiliations, I would like to share with you an email I shared with a group of Southern Ethiopians on an email list called Enset on September 6, 2001. I wrote the
email a few days after attending a meeting on September 1, 2001 in Silver Spring, Maryland, that was hosted by the support committee of the Ethiopian Human Rights Council (EHRCO) for the Greater Washington, DC metropolitan area.

Here is the email in full and unedited:

I was also present at the meeting and enjoyed Dr. Berhanu Nega's presentation. Being an economist by profession, Berhanu discussed how his change of view led to his involvement in human rights issues in Ethiopia. When he left the US for Ethiopia in the mid-nineties, Dr. Berhanu said he was of the opinion that Ethiopia, as a poor country with no sizable middle class to speak of, did not have a constituency to make the transition to a democratic form of government viable, and that the country first needed to go thru a development phase similar to that of South Asian countries. But, when he saw first-hand how the Ethiopian government was stifling the emergence of a middle class that he saw as key to development and the hopelessness of his country men and women, he said he gradually realized that the assumption he came with to Ethiopia was wrong and that is when he started to get involved in human rights issues. [To support his conclusion that authoritarian rule impedes development, he mentioned a study by a prominent Harvard professor which showed that democracy and economic development are complementary to each other.]

I was also struck by Dr. Berhanu's description of the dire hopelessness and despair that pervades Ethiopians. The level of hopelessness and despair has gotten so bad that everybody in the country wants to get out, both rich and poor, he said. The damage done by successive regimes to the Ethiopian consciousness is also so deep that the population is terrorized to the point of total submission. This is what surprised him about the struggle for democracy and justice in the South, he said, and to know that there are people in Ethiopia who are standing up for their rights as has happened in the South has given many reason to hope for the future. This comment of Berhanu's was made during his initial remarks. Later on in the Q&A session, he added that the movement in the South should be a lesson to Ethiopians in other parts and that he himself has been energized by witnessing their courageous actions.

Dr. Berhanu also mentioned that the "Oromo Question" is something we can not afford not to address. What surprised him the most about his two months of incarceration in Ethiopia was the sheer number of Oromos in jail. He said, he was once invited to speak to a meeting of University students, and, practically, all the Oromo students said they were not Ethiopians. If we want a country called Ethiopia, he said, we must be able to address the Oromo people's concern in an open and civilized manner.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

"The Truth Will Set You Free"

By Fikru Helebo

I am thankful to God for His Providence on this
Thanksgiving holiday in the US, but I am especially thankful today to read a statement ("The Truth Will Set You Free") on the current crisis in Ethiopia that was made by the Catholic Bishops of Ethiopia a week ago today. Speaking out against the government's cruel suppression of its political opponents the Bishops said: "In situations of such a social distress we cannot remain silent lest we appear to be indifferent in front of the suffering of our people." Thank you, the Catholic Bishops of Ethiopia, for recognizing the gravity of the crisis in Ethiopia for what it is and for breaking the silence that has gripped the religious institutions of the nation in the aftermath of the fraudulent elections of May 15, 2005. Here is the crux of the statement:

It is not unusual that public discontent be peacefully manifested through demonstrations, strikes and other social expressions. It also happens frequently that some individuals take advantage of those situations in order to create disorder and violence. This is one of the reasons why the forces of public order exist in order to control such reactions. What is a source of preoccupation is that while public disorders can be successfully controlled by the police without resorting to violence, this was not the case in the recent events. Human peace has to be restored through the respect of human rights. “The truth will set you free” (John 8:32)
A few weeks ago I wrote a piece titled "Religion and Politics" urging people of faith to step in and provide a much needed leadership in this gloomy atmosphere where the protagonists in the Ethiopian political arena have failed to deliver. The Ethiopian nation desperately needs a sense of common purpose and destiny, and I hope the other religious leaders in the country will follow in the foot steps of the Catholic Bishops of Ethiopia and provide some hope for a nation that badly needs it.

Here is the link for the Bishops statement in Amharic.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Beauty Is in the Eye of the Beholder, Mr. Henze.

By Mogus Degoyae Mochena

For you, Mr. Henze, TPLF is beautiful, but for majority of Ethiopians, who had to endure 14 and half years of TPLF’s repressive rule, it is really ugly. This letter is not addressed just to you, but to all those foreign policy wonks in the West who have turned a deaf ear to the cries of Ethiopians and continue to support a dictatorial government in Ethiopia. A Negro spiritual begins with these inspiring words:
We shall overcome
We shall overcome
We shall overcome someday
Oh, deep in my heart
I do believe
The day of freedom in Ethiopia is just around the corner, and that I do believe.

Dear Mr. Paul Henze:

I have read your piece, "Comments on Comments", on Professor Christopher Clapham’s recent article titled "Comments on the Ethiopian Crisis" with utter incredulity. You started your comments with harsh criticisms referring to Professor Clapham’s judgment of the current post-electoral crisis as "too categorical, too negative a review of EPRDF history, and too charitable in its assessment of opposition motivation and behavior”. I do believe that this characterization of yours and the rest of your article is not based on an objective assessment of the recent political developments in Ethiopia.

You are famously known for being a very close friend of Prime Minister Meles and his coterie of TPLF leaders. To those who are familiar with this bosom relationship of yours to TPLFites, it does not come as surprise that you took your time to respond to Professor Clapham's long and detailed piece on the current political developments in Ethiopia so quickly and so dismissively. If one replaced your name as the writer of the "Comments on Comments" piece with Meles Zenawi, your article could very well pass for an article written by Mr. Meles. You seem to be chanting the same mantra Meles and the TPLF ex-guerrillas have been singing all along for years. Thank God, it is you instead of him, because he seems to use such exhilarating quotes as "What's love got to do with it?", from Tina Turner, the famous pop singer, or vulgar phrases such as "lumps of truth covered with garbage" referring to the report of European Union Observer delegation led by the Honorable Ana Gomes. (You also dismiss her in your article as a partisan, like your friends, Meles & Co).

I am sure Meles & Co. wanted a policy wonk of your caliber to counterbalance the detailed arguments and assessments of a scholar from an internationally respected University of Cambridge. I believe Professor Clapham presented his informed knowledge without prejudice or impartially to maintain his integrity as a scholar and the prestige of his institution. On the other hand, thanks to revolution in communications, it is very apparent that your eyes are shrouded by Meles' friendship for the international community to count on you to give them the objective reality of the developments in Ethiopia. I believe you have discredited yourself to be an impartial judge of the crisis at hand. Since you and other wonks like you have resisted the cries of millions of Ethiopians at home and thousands and thousands of Ethiopians in the Diaspora, I thought I could contribute in a small way for the struggle for Democracy by writing this response to you.

Unfortunately, we have to confront our own homegrown dictators who have lost both the political and moral legitimacy to govern because of their terrorizing of their own citizens in order to instill fear and subdue them, and wonks like you who arrogantly advance the so called geopolitical interest of the US - stability in the region - by colluding with dictators at the expense of the democratic aspiration of the Ethiopian people. As you know very well, there are a number of precedents of such insensitive and antidemocratic US foreign policies. The US foreign policy is largely responsible for creating one of the worst dictators in Africa, Mobutu, and prolonging the suffering of the people of South Africa by its disingenuous policy of “constructive engagement” with the Apartheid regime of South Africa in the name of the fight against communism, just to cite two examples among many. So those of us from Ethiopia now find ourselves between a rock and a hard place. We are forced to challenge arrogant foreign policy wonks like you who think the fight against terrorism is more important than the democratic aspirations of Ethiopian people and continue to believe the West’s fight against terrorism could only be addressed by giving their support carte blanche to a dictator, while it is crystal clear to us that the West’s fight against terrorism will be served better if the West allies itself with the people of Ethiopia who are thirsty for democracy and freedom.

Despite the categorical support of wonks like you, I do not believe the wheels of history can be rolled back for Meles and cabal. In their desperate attempt to cling to power at any cost, they kill innocent lives and then as usual call for an independent commission into the killings afterwards - what a joke! Is an Ethiopian life worth anything for you and your friends, Mr. Henze? Your continued support for Meles despite his killings could only mean that you do not value the lives of those who were gunned down in the streets of Addis Ababa and elsewhere. You are rubbing salt in our wounds by trying to deflect the criticisms leveled against such blatant repression with mini-historical look into TPLF’s accomplishments and the evolution of the opposition. As they say in Ethiopia, you have "washed your eyes with salt", i.e. you have no shame or moral qualm to pen such an utterly biased account of events in Ethiopia in order to defend Meles’s rule.

How could you downplay fourteen long years of rule by Meles in this day and age? Instead you shift the blame to the opposition with the usual TPLF excuse: the opposition’s "attempt to replace it (EPRDF) by resort to extra-legal methods or incitement to violence". Let me remind you, as a resident of the Commonwealth of Virginia, USA, that your governors are only one-term governors. Despite 70% or 80 % approval rating, as you know, Governor Mark Warner could not run for governor again. What is good for the goose is also good for the gander, as they say. If Virginians think term limits are good for Virginians like you, there must be some truth to it. As Professor Clapham correctly pointed out it is now those who were once touted as "the new leaders of Africa" who are desperately trying to cling to power by any means possible despite their long tenure. Meles wants to extend it to twenty years by killing citizens with impunity, throwing opposition leaders into jail and charging them with treason, banning demonstrations and violating human rights. Museveni, after twenty years, tweaks the Ugandan constitution to extend his rule to twenty five years and also charges an opposition leader with treason. And Esayas is a trouble-making dictator living in his own little world, also in power for fourteen years. As a diehard friend of Meles, you are in the company of those rulers who have stayed in power for too long.

You spent the first part of your article praising profusely TPLF’s achievements and wonderful rule. You seem to forget that Ethiopians have seen your TPLF darlings for fourteen years for what they are and voted unequivocally to rid themselves of their rule. For millions of Ethiopians they are power-crazed megalomaniacs who are hunkered in the Menlelik palace and order their security forces to shoot to kill those who exercise their democratic rights: demonstration and civil disobedience. You gloss over the recent repeated killings blithely. Nor do you mention the rounding up of over fifteen thousand people (may be twenty thousand). What is fascinating, in a quirky way, about your piece is nowhere do you point out that Prime Minister Meles banned demonstrations through emergency declarations the day after the elections. I am sure you know or must be reminded that demonstrating peacefully is one of bedrock rights of democracy. The people of Addis Ababa proved to the whole world a week before the elections that they could hold peaceful demonstrations. The rallies were huge and peaceful. Where was the justification for banning demonstrations? And during voting on the day of election, millions stood in long lines for long hours to cast their votes. It was a spectacular scene of unprecedented civility. Once again, the people of third world showed to the world that they are ready for democracy. All Ethiopia-loving citizens were excited, but only for few hours until your friend declared a state of emergency, pouring cold shower over the hopes and excitement of millions of Ethiopians. Mr. Henze, it is those in power, like your friend Meles, who are not ready for democracy because they can't see themselves giving up power after fourteen long years.

I was incredulous to read most of what you wrote. You question the intention of the opposition and their tactics. Democracy is not a courthouse where one has to prove one's intent beforehand. Nor is it an exercise in psychiatry. No individual is entitled to judge what intentions are good or bad. Not you, not Meles! If the balloting process were undertaken transparently and under the watchful eyes of observers and in the presence of the representatives of the competing parties, none of these issues would have risen. It is the lack of transparent process, stupid. The problem, as you clearly know deep in your heart, is in the breakdown of the electoral process. If Meles and cabal wanted a transparent election, all they had to do was let as many observers, international as well as local ones, at many polling stations. If that had been done, you would not be writing about the intentions of the opposition. According to you, it seems the National Election Board must psychoanalyze the minds of politicians before they enter into election campaigns. You seem to look for scapegoats instead of explaining or addressing what happened – a fraudulent election.

You also rehash the same old reasons and doubts about the opposition instead of focusing on the current issues at hand. I do not believe the Ethiopian people are interested in the history of the evolution of the opposition. You seem to indulge in the minutia of TPLF on one hand and the irrelevant past of the opposition instead of dwelling on what has happened recently. What is spectacular and unbelievable about this election was the nobility and grace with which the Ethiopian people conducted themselves. What is absolutely shocking and unexpected was their utter lack of confidence in EPRDF as government and how they decided to vote for the opposition by large numbers. For exercising their democratic rights so beautifully for the first time in their history, they are paying a heavy price right now. You are deliberately setting aside the current burning issues and take us back to minute details of the past to distract our attention.

What is also sorry about your arguments is how you seem to echo the arguments of TPLF. Perhaps your access to the corridors of power has resulted in your service as an oracle of tired reasoning. You seem to underscore your fear of the extremist fringe in societies and do not seem to comprehend the complexities of the current state of Ethiopia since you just hang around the ruling elite. Bellicose statements by some elements of the Ethiopian society must not be misconstrued as the general attitude of the Ethiopian people and serve as an excuse for stability arguments of the kind you made.

In the last part of your piece, you pretended to get into what is to be done. It is, however, amusing how you started your paragraph with “An internationally recognized government which maintains violence has been consciously perpetrated against it…” What international recognition are you trying to flaunt? Have the Ethiopian people recognized this government or does it matter to you what they recognize? What violence? Who provoked and perpetrated the violence? It is very dishonest on your part to claim that EPRDF was putting down violence, when it is the very cause of violence. Instead of preaching to Ethiopians the virtues of EPRDF, I ask you to advise your friend Meles to yield to the demands of the opposition, release all political prisoners, and sit down to form a unity government. You only mentioned once in your piece about unity government in passing. That really shows how serious you are about helping your friends in power at the expense of poking our wounds.

In the words of the great American 16th President, Abraham Lincoln, “A house divided against itself will not stand”. Ethiopia will only stand if her children are united. The current government, for sure, is not a vehicle for unity and therefore Ethiopia’s future as a country is at stake. And your wishful stable Horn of Africa could be up in flames!!!!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Western Policy Towards Ethiopia

By Fikru Helebo

After listening to Herman Cohen interview on VOA last week, I thought that a letter writing campaign to educate Western policy makers on Ethiopia, particularly to those in the US, was in order. So, I was pleased to read an article that addressed this issue on Ethiomedia web site by Solomon Terfa titled "Support to Democracy in Ethiopia has to be Subordinated to U.S. Fight Against Terrorism."

While I do wholeheartedly agree with Dr. Terfa about the urgent need for the US to adjust its policy towards Ethiopia in favor of supporting the aspirations of Ethiopians for freedom and democracy, I do not think that asking the US to give less priority to its national interests in the Horn of Africa region and linking the US policy to partisan rhetoric will serve our common interest of advancing the cause of freedom and democracy in Ethiopia. Therefore, I respectfully diagree with the partisan approach Dr. Terfa took in addressing the issue. Refering to Mr. Cohen's interview, Dr. Terfa said the following:

it [Herman Cohen' view] confirmed my long standing assessment of the policies of the the various Republican administrations. They may give lip service to values like freedom, democracy, justice but rarely are they sincere about them.
I do believe that such a partisan approach (Democrat vs. Republican) is the wrong approach to looking at Western (especially US) policy towards Ethiopia. In point of fact, the above statement of Dr. Solomon could have been just as valid if the word 'Republican' is replaced with 'Democrat'. No one should forget that the biggest American policy mistake ever towards Africa in the last century was commited by a Democratic administration. There is now wide consensus among both Democrats and Republicans alike that the Clinton adminisration did absolutely nothing to stop the horrific genocide in Rwanda in 1994.

When it comes to US policy towards Ethiopia, one can reasonably argue that, historically Republicans policy makers have been more friendly to Ethiopia and Ethiopians. But this is beside the point. I am of the view that United States's policy towards the Horn of Africa in general, and Ethiopia in particular, is better understood if it is seen from United State's geopolitical interest in the region, and this geopolitical interest does not lend itself very well to a Democrat vs. Republican or liberal vs. concervative diachotomy since it is largely made by career diplomats. The political affiliations of these career diplomats, who for the most part determine US policy towards Ethiopia, could be with the party that is not in White House as we have seen many times in the last decade.

So, my suggestion to Dr. Terfa and all the rest of us who do believe it is worth our efforts to reach out to Western policy makers towards Ethiopia, within and outside of governments, is to stay clear of domestic partisan considerations and to concentrate on educating them that the interest of Western countries in the Horn of Africa region, especially that of the US and the UK, is best served if they are seen standing on the side of the Ethiopian people at this critical period in Ethiopian history. When seen from this point of view, Mr. Cohen's interview with VOA is a welcome one, considering the destructive role he played in 1991 when he helped to install a regime that has since proved itself antithetical to the interest of Ethiopia. I do believe that Ethiopia has good friends in the West across the political spectrum, and the best way we can influence the West's foreign policy towards Ethiopia is by taking a non-partisan approach.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005


One thing that has pleasantly surprised me about the current situation in Ethiopia is the level of engagement by what I referred to as the "ordinary Ethiopian" in my posting the other day in the affairs of the nation. I think there is something profound going on here! Here is one example of such an engagement. I was surprised when a long time friend of mine, who displayed very little taste for Ethiopian politics in the years I have known him, sent me an email today inviting me to visit a blog he has just started called EthiopiaOnMyMind. I like what he has to say. Check it out! Here is a quote from his latest post.
Obeying and respecting the constitution requires disobeying the unconstitutional order of the Prime Minister or any government official to shoot, kill and arrest citizens for exercising their rights under the constitution.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Who Provoked the Violence, Why, and What Should be Done?

This is one of the most succinct articles written about the situation in Ethiopia since the protests began last week. Please read the article here. Here is a quote:

Who provoked the violence in Ethiopia? EPRDF accuses CUD leaders for the violence. That should mean that CUD leaders have called for violence. But it is not true. Since EPRDF has all the means to accuse, arrest and kill people it will not be surprising if it accuses CUD leaders for provoking the violence. What surprises me is that western diplomats too are somehow echoing the accusations of EPRDF. I said this because in many of the statements we find phrases that blame the government and the opposition equally for the violence.

CUD had earlier called for a peaceful demonstration that included a call for motorists to honk their horns between 8:00 and 8:30AM in the morning on Oct. 31st to Nov. 2, 2005. The motorists did honk their hirns but the army stopped and arrested most of them. It also took away licenses of 30 taxi drivers. The government announced this in the evening and the next day when the motorists were again demonstrating peacefully the special Agazi army started attacking them by bringing them out of their cars and beating them cruelly. The people who were watching the scene could not stand the way the motorists were treated and started throwing stones at the soldiers. The soldiers responded with live ammunition. The violence started immediately.

We can compare the situation on Monday with that of Tuesday. On Monday there was no violence because the army was not beating the motorists. They were taking away their licenses but the public tolerated that one. However, on Tuesday the government ordered the army to beat the motorists and hence it provoked the violence.

Monday, November 07, 2005

The Sleeping Giant has Awoken!

By Fikru Helebo

The sleeping giant has finally awoken! The tumultuous week that we have all just witnessed has shown us that the ordinary Ethiopian has had enough of those who give her lip service to freedom and democracy. She has realized that freedom and democracy are not given to her by the generosity of those who rule over her, but rather she must demand it by all peaceful means at her disposal.

As I write this, millions of Ethiopians are heeding the opposition's call for a stay-at-home strike to affirmatively express their support for their fellow compatriots who have been gunned down by a savage regime and the thousands who have been thrown in jail for the cause of freedom and democracy in Ethiopia. My heart goes out to those compatriots who have lost their loved ones in this struggle against a tyrannical regime that must be held accountable for the heinous atrocities it has committed. This is a hopeful sign for the future of Ethiopia and her people.

Unfortunately, all is not well as there are some reports of an armed revolt in some areas of the Amhara region. If there is any truth to such reports, I believe this will be a huge setback for the peaceful civil disobedience campaign that was called by the opposition. Any armed insurrection, especially one that is brewed in and served from the Amhara region, will only help to justify the strong-arm tactics of the Meles regime and will unnecessarily divide Ethiopians along ethnic lines and it should be discouraged by any responsible group or individuals that have the interest of all Ethiopians at heart!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Urgent Appeal by the Hon. Ana Gomez to Her Colleagues in the European Parliament

Subject: Ethiopia - Urgent Appeal - Call on EU Governments and the Commission to act

Dear Colleagues

Another bloodbath is taking place in Ethiopia.

As I write to you, EU ambassadors are unable to leave the compound where they are meeting, random shooting is heard in the streets of Addis Ababa. This follows bloody incidents yesterday, where security forces killed people spontaneously protesting against PM Meles government and EPRDF, the ruling party.

The new parliament has been boycotted by the opposition forces, contesting official results and anti-democratic behaviour of the ruling party. EU ambassadors have confirmed to me that the top leaders of the opposition have been arrested, and some of them beaten, including the elected Mayor of Addis Ababa, Mr. Berhanu Nega, who was picked up when leaving the Dutch Embassy.

As you know, there were elections in Ethiopia in 15 May and 21 of August, which the EU Election Observation Mission, which I headed, considered not to have met international standards for genuine democratic elections, despite unprecedented competition and the massive turn out of the people. This evaluation was due to manipulation of overall result in the counting and tabulation of votes, following recognition of a landslide against the ruling party in the capital. And also to undemocratic control of the media, general climate of intimidation and serious human rights violations against opposition supporters committed by the government since election day. I witnessed, and publicly condemned, the peak of such repressive and anti-democratic behaviour on 8 June, when over 40 people were killed in Addis Ababa, elected opposition leaders put under house detention and over 5.000 people subsequently arrested.

Despite those ominous incidents, the conclusions of the EU EOM publicised on August 25, and two critical European Parliament resolutions adopted since then (the last on October 13, denouncing the undemocratic behaviour against opposition inside and outside the new Ethiopian parliament), European governments, although verbally standing by EU EOM conclusions, in practice have been acting as if it was "business as usual" with Mr. Meles. In the last weeks congratulations for PM Meles "re-election" have been pouring in from Europe, including from the British Presidency and the Presidency of the European Commission. Earlier on, just after the Junekillings and arrests, Mr. Meles was invited to rub shoulders with G-8 and "Africa Commission" leaders in Scotland. That amounts to rubbing salt in the wounds of Ethiopians who thought that democracy was at reach when they massively turned out to vote on May 15.

Most ironic is that Europe counts in Ethiopia, a country which depends on European aid, the largest recipient in Africa. Europe could definitely make the difference for democracy in Ethiopia. Instead, current European leaders are choosing to fail it. In doing so, they are not just failing Ethiopians. They are also failing Europe.

Please, urge your government and the Commission to act promptly and consistently for democracy in Ethiopia. Demand the release of arrested elected opposition leaders and supporters. PM Meles should be accountable.

Stop the killing of Ethiopians who dare to believe that democracy is possible in Ethiopia.

Best regards
Ana Gomes, MEP

Listen to VOA's interview with Ms. Ana Gomes

Letter to Send to Your Representatives

Use the links below to find your congressmen and senators:

United States House of Represetatives
United States Senate

Dear x x,

What started out as a wonderful and exciting exercise in democracy on May 15, 2005, when Ethiopia held its first contested multi-party election, has turned into a nightmare. Tension between the ruling party and the main opposition party, the Coalition for Unity and Democracy, has now taken a turn for the worse.

On Tuesday, November 1st, the special security forces surrounded a high school in Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia. A skirmish ensued between the security forces and the high school students, and later between their panicking parents and the security forces. Up to eight people were reported killed in the mayhem that followed.

The trouble spread to other parts of the capital city on Novermber 2nd. Initial reports indicate that over 50 people have been killed through out the country, but mostly in the capital city, and hundreds more have been gravely wounded. Tensions are running very high between residents and the security forces. The situation is very precarious.

Most of the leaders of the main opposition party were rounded up on November 1st and thousands of suspected supporters of the opposition have since been arrested and taken to military camps for detention far way from Addis Ababa. And most of the leaders of the two main civic organizations, the Ethiopian Teachers Association and The Association of Ethiopian Journalists, have also been detained. A number of editors and publishers have been thrown into jails, as a result, most independent dailies of the city have been shut down since the protests began.

The government banned demonstrations on May 16th for a month, right after the election, citing security concerns. Then it extended it for another month as it released election results piecemeal. On June 8th, some frustrated residents of Addis Ababa tried to demonstrate, but were met with lethal force. Thirty-seven people were shot dead by security forces, which were placed under the direct command of the Prime Minister when the ban on demonstrations was declared.

The government kept on dribbling the election results intentionally. A substantial percentage of the results was challenged by the opposition. Three months after the elections were over and after tampering with the vote counts, the ruling party finally declared itself a winner. The opposition balked at the outcome and asked for recounts in many precincts. Under the supervision of the European Union, the Carter Center and the African Union observers, the recounts took place. The European Union and Carter Center observers concluded that the recounts fall short of international standards and expressed their dissatisfaction. The Prime Minister refereed to the European Union report as “some lumps of truth covered with garbage” and the Head of the Delegation as a “colonial viceroy”.

Despite an overwhelming evidence of fraud by the ruling party and its killings of unarmed civilians, the United States government has been very reluctant to pressure the Ethiopian government into negotiations with the opposition. In fact, most Ethiopians now think the US prefers the present ruling party to stay in power because of stability concerns in the region. The policy makers in the State department seem to value empty pledges of stability by an Ethiopian dictator over democratic aspirations of the Ethiopian people.

The double standard towards Ethiopia is very baffling in light of recent US reactions towards other troubled regions with contested election results. The US government was openly supportive of the Orange Revolution in Ukraine and was on the side of Georgian people in Eastern Europe. Ethiopians have been screaming in all major cities, in front of the white house and congress, but to no avail. It is very disheartening to hear very cold diplomatic words of insensitivity from the State Department, if there are any in the first place.

I am pleading to you to voice my concerns to the State Department. As it stands, Ethiopia is on the brink of civil strife. In order to pacify the tension, the ruling party must desist from massacring innocent lives, release leaders of the opposition parties and civic organizations and enter into negotiation for the good of all Ethiopians.


x x