“Dear Friends: In your just struggle for democracy, justice and freedom, it is important that you resist peacefully and legally the violence and the lawlessness of the current rulers. Also you need to avoid ethnic hatred, mistrust and fear amongst you. You know this is exactly what the current rulers will want and will foster among you to divide you, and to weaken your position to their rule.” Ana Gomez, Member of Parliament, European Union, May 15, 2006
“On the occasion of the anniversary of the May 15 election, I want to send you a message of solidarity, sympathy and hope. A message to all those Ethiopian men and women, young and old, prominent leaders and anonymous citizens who have fallen and continued to fall victims to extra-judicial killings, arbitrary arrests, harassment and intimidation in the aftermath of the May elections in the hands of the current Ethiopian government.”
As you all know, I went to your country as chief of the European Union Election Observation Mission. I was fascinated by the law-abiding nature of the people of Ethiopia. And I admire their democratic ferver. Like most Ethiopians in Diaspora, I’m now not allowed to set foot in Ethiopia for saying the truth and fulfilling my duty as Chief Observer.
We’ve recognized and openly declared that the EPRDF government deserved credit for organziing an open national debate during the months leading up to the May elections. Despite some shortcomings, the overall process leading to the election day was commendable. But elections cannot be reduced to the pages and campaigns. They are futile if the people’s votes are not properly counted, verified, and certified, and the will of the people duly determined. This is the essence of democracy.
In the May elections one year ago, the voice of the Ethiopian people was loud and clear: they wanted change. But the current rulers of the country did not care to listen and it is why the democratic will of the people of Ethiopia remains unfulfilled. The Ethiopian people have been, therefore, betrayed by those who continue to govern in their name without their proper mandate. My hope is that it will not be betrayed by Ethiopia’s democratic forces who should live up to the huge challenges of addressing centuries’ of injustice and poor governance.
This can only be achieved by standing together on democratic and pluralistic principles, acting in unison, avoiding divisions and fragmentation, and by focusing on the main pressing task of restoring the chequered hope of the people.
The struggle for the respect of the people’s voice must and will continue, I’m sure. I say this [because] I know I’m addressing myself to a great and courageous people who have gone through so many ups and downs in their long march to freedom. It will be up to you – those in Ethiopia and outside – to see to it that this latest setback will be the last on the path to democracy, and social justice.
In your just struggle for democracy, justice and freedom, it is important that you resist peacefully and legally the violence and the lawlessness of the current rulers. Also you need to avoid ethnic hatred, mistrust and fear amongst you. You know this is exactly what the current rulers will want and will foster among you to divide you, and to weaken your position to their rule.
I know from the history of your country, which I studied, and from what I’ve seen and heard there from every body that Ethiopians are …and morally very strong, and that they will always rise to the occasion to defend what’s their own, even when powers who claim to defend and promote human rights and democracy turn a blind eye and are reluctant to lend a helping hand.
At present, your struggle is gaining international support. We in the European Parliament, for example, have voted a series of resolutions and forwarded recommendations to solve the current political crisis in Ethiopia to European governments and elsewhere. But much more needs to be done to unmask the true face of the current rulers of Ethiopia.
On my part, I promise to do all what I can, together with democrats and peace-loving peoples all over the world to see to it that the Ethiopian people will not be once again let down by the international community. In the coming weeks and months, we in the European Parliament will continue to struggle for the implementation of these resolutions and recommendations.
We believe all political leaders, members of independent press, human rights groups and civic society organizations along with thousands of students and other innoncent citizens of Ethiopia who are arbitrarily held by the government of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi must be released without delay and without pre-conditions.
We believe that the Ethiopian government must be accountable for human rights. To that end, we repeat our Parliament’s call for the setting up of an international indepedent commission of inquiry to investigate the massive human rights violations that occurred during the past year, and to bring to justice all those responsible for those atrocities.
We also believe that the target of sanctions should be imposed against the leaders of the regime who persist in abusing human rights.
Above all, we believe there is an urgent need to find peaceful, legal and negotiated solutions to the current crisis. Allowing the crisis to fester will lead to further turmoil and unrest in the country, with adverse consequences for the entire region in Africa as well.
As I see it, the only visible alternative is to put the derailed democratization process back on track. All stake holders in the country should come forward with concrete proposals to revive the democratization process, and to promote peace and national reconciliation.
South Africa built democracy by opting for reconciliation, and an all-inclusive political solution was found. I believe EPRDF should be part of the solution, and should play a role in building democracy in your country as did the former ruling party in South Africa.
Proposals that focus on peace, democratization and national reconciliation offered by the two major political groups – UEDF and CUD – in this regard should be encouraged. Also the Oromo organizations, including OLF, should be involved in this joint effort.
I hope you stay united and do your share; we will do in my own side in the coming weeks and months I assure you that I will do whatever is possible so that the struggle for justice by the courageous people of Ethiopia will stay on the agenda of the international community.
We in the European Parliament also commit to coordinate our activities with parliamentarians and other democrats throughout Europe, Africa, America and elsewhere.
I must tell of my own experience. I lived for 20 years under dictatorship in my own country: Portugal. At times, everything seemed blocked, depressing, desperate. There seemed to be no way out. There were few voices of support outside the country. But the Portugese people resisted in all manners, and in many imaginative ways.
All democratic forces managed to unite against the oppressors despite our political and ideological disagreements. And suddenly the opportunity to grab freedom was there; and we grabbed it with both hands. And I can assure you that no one can take away the democratic rule, the rule of our people, any more.
This is to tell you that the commitment of the international community to democracy in Ethiopia is important. Yes. But ultimately not decisive. Reaching democratic governance in Ethiopia will primarily be the responsibility of the Ethiopians. If you keep this in mind, if you stick to a strategy of unity in the struggle, I’m sure that we will meet in Addis Ababa to celebrate democracy in Ethiopia in the near future.
Long live Ethiopia.