Candlelight vigil at Andinet Headquarters
On February 11, 2012 a candlelight vigil – perhaps the first ever – at Andinet headquarters to remember the six-month incaceration of Andualem et al and the ordeals of other prisoners of conscience. Chair Negasso was heard to have remarked on the vigil that “there are roughly 130 PoCs in custody, including Andualem… and until they are released, our candlelight vigils will continue”. But little did party officials knew that their first vigil night was an omen to what’s to befall Andualem few days later.
Sources close to the party revealed that on the evening of Feb 15, 2012, Andualem Aragie was severely beaten by an inmate called Ibbas Asfaw, a convicted felon who is serving life in prison. It was later on reported that this felon attacked Andualem while he was in his cell doing his personal works, and that the two never had any dispute from before since the felon was transferred to Andualem’s unit recently.
The party issued a press release on Feb 21, 2012 citing serious concerns and violations by the government with regards to the treatment of a defendant in custody under the Constitution and Criminal Law of the nation. The party also wrote a letter a the seeking clarification on the assualt and for the prison administration press release on Andualem’s Aragie saftey
An urgent Council meeting was called on February 26, 2012 concerning the safety of its leaders and members and prison. Negasso (Dr.) made known that activities are being undertaken to bring limelight on the recent mistreatment against Andualem. He said the party had also contacted the commissioner of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission and that their response is much awaited. The meeting concluded with the formation of a five-member task-force that would henceforth be following up matters related with imprisoned members.
MORE COMMITTEES, MORE MEETINGS
In February 2012, two committee were formed under the supervision of the Organizational Affairs Permanent Committee: these were the Youth Affairs Subcommittee and the National Women Affairs Committee.
Ms. Tadelech Abera
The Women Affairs Committee was structured with six-member executive members: Ms. Tadelech Abera as the chairwoman, Ms. Zewditu Asferaw as deputy chairwoman, Ms. Melat Wale as secretary and Mrs. Etefwork Bilesti, Ms. Sinknesh Bekele and Mrs. Etagegn Tedenek as executive members.The Youth Affairs Subcommittee got seven youth executives: Mr. Amanuel Yosef as chairman, Mr. Ephrem Solomon as deputy chairman, Mr. Sintayehu Chekol as secretary and Mr. Million Kasa, Mr. Kidus Berhanu, Mr. Yemaneh Assefa and Mr. Zelalem Solomon as executive members.
In a concerted effort with the Public Relations Committee, the Youth Subcommittee managed to hold no less than three public dialogs in the subsequent three months; the Women Affairs Committee also observed Women’s Day celebration at Hotel D’Afrique on March 10, 2012; and the North America Support Organizations held a fund raising event in Atlanta on March 18, 2012, in which it bid Andualem’s letter from Kaliti and sold it for an “awesum” US 1,000.00.
Several other public dialog events continued to be held both abroad and at home in the premises of Andinet’s headquarters, and the candlelight vigils had by this time became habitual to be held on the third day of every month. The candlelight vigil held on June 10, 2012 also remembered the June 8 Martyrs, the over 200 people massacred in the aftermath of the 2005 elections for protesting the rigged elections.
Candlelight vigil in remembrance of June 8 Martyrs & current PoCs
ANDUALEM ET AL “CONVICTED”
On June 27 2012, twenty-four Ethiopians including Andualem, other UDJ leaders and Eskinder, were convicted of terrorism. Amnesty International (AI) reports that evidence brought against Eskinder and Andualem included public speeches they had made advocating peaceful protest against the government, and is of the opinion that Eskinder and Andualem are “prisoners of conscience [who were] convicted because of their legitimate and peaceful activities”. Similarly, Country Reports 2011 states that “observers found the evidence presented at trials to be either open to interpretation or indicative of acts of a political nature rather than linked to terrorism”. By August 12, 2012, they were sentenced to a minimum of 13 years imprisonment and more.
The party strongly deplored both the verdict and the sentencing on the press release it held on August 14, 2012. Officials described the court’s conviction as one more testament of the regime’s totalitarianism, and that the evidence brought against the defendants would not even warrant an advice, let alone such a verdict and punishment.
It’s the party’s conviction that the government has really started to be threatened by the peaceful struggle and that of the ways it want to clamp down this development, one is through incarcerating and terrorizing politicians and activists based on false accusations. Indeed, the party wasn’t reserved to stress the fact that the sacrifice currently being made by Andualem et al is in return exposing the regime’s totalitarianism, and that this has resulted for more and more young people to join the party than ever before. They party reaffirmed the struggle and sacrifice for freedom will not be deterred by government crackdown but instead, it will intensify.
MELES DIED, FINOTE NETSANET GOT DENIED
Special Issue published
on late PM Meles Zenawi
Following the death of the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, the party forwarded a formal condolence on August 22, 2012. Days later, on August 25, 2012, the party called an emergency national council meeting on current national state of affairs. It adopted the following four-point resolution: that there should be a power transfer based on Constitutional order; that its Executive Council has to work jointly with MEDREK in initiating a National Dialogue on current political situations; that members of the National Council are urged to take the lead in organizing members at the grassroots level; and for all POCs and journalist be released effective immediately.
Sadly, the media was further oppressed by the government after its leader’s death. On August 31, 2012 Finote Netsanet newspaper’s publisher refused to print the paper’s 57th issue of the year. The publisher, Brehanena Selam, told the newspaper editorial board that the printing press met a great deal of condemnations for publishing the special edition newspaper (of August 24th) that did a coverage on the late prime minister, and therefore the management has decided to discontinue its service to the newspaper. The party consequently looked for remedy from pertinent government bodies but to no avail. On October 2, 2013, the Editorial Board issued a press release indicating it would take legal measures against Berhanena Selam.
Mrs. Laketch Degefu
The next month saw a high level of activity with supporters’ organizations in North America arranging public dialogs on the nation’s current affairs. Especially officials of MEDREK, Mr. Seyee Abraha, Mr. Gebru Asrat, Mr. Merara Gudina (Dr.) and Mr. Temesgen Zewdie appeared in different meetings in Washington, Colorado, Georgia, Texas and DC.
Back at home in October, the party suffer the loss of one of its most dedicated leaders, Mrs. Laketch Degefu, who had been serving in the party’s Finance & Human Rights Committees, and a member of MEDREK’s Audit and Inspection Committee. Mrs. Laketch was a founding member of EDP-Medhin and member of CUD’s Central Committee. She later helped found Andinet, served both in the Executive Council and the National Council and had steered the Women Affairs. Right before her death, she had been instrumental in the monthly candlelight vigils, engaged in the Fundraising Taskforce and also took interest in helping citizens who were being displaced in different parts of the country.
Moving on, the party carried out internal evaluation on its past 8-month performance. It had also brought in nine leaders to fill up the posts at the Nat’l Council that were left vacant due to death, promotion and other reasons. On the same event, Mr. Gizachew Shiferaw (Eng.) had returned to the party’s leadership and was among the newly added council members.
2012 LOCAL ELECTIONS
On October 25, 2012 the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia convened political parties at Adama Ethiopia to discuss on the schedule of the upcoming Local Elections. Of the 66 participant parties, 33 of them – which Andinet & MEDREK is a member – petitioned for the election playing field to improve before they decide to contest.
On November 8, 2012 the signatories sent to the Electoral Board 18 issues they believe it can address to ensure a better process; and a month later, they also sent letter containing 13 questions to the Office of the Prime Minister and the House Speaker. Among other things, these letters pretty much stress the parties’ desire to be involved in the election administration, and their request for equal access to government media. However, by December 19th the Electoral Board expressed to the parties that their questions doesn’t hold water and so it has dismissed it altogether.
With their other questions to the Office of the Prime Minister and House Speaker left unanswered, the 33 parties declared, on early February this year, that they have decided to boycott the elections. They had also planned to hold a public meeting on February 3 but, finding a venue proved to be difficult due to a systematic pressure from the government on lessors. Moreover, 28 of the signatories have signed a Memorandum of Understanding by February 26 to form a union that could henceforth challenge the ruling party in a cohesive stratagem.
Habtamu Ayalew, currently deputy at Public Relations
In February of this year, it was disclosed that Mr. Habtamu Ayalew, chairman of the Balera’ey Wetatoch (Visionary Youths) civic group, has joined Andinet. From the interview he gave to the Finote Netsanet team, it was learnt that he joined politics because the repressive regime couldn’t let him bring the change he desires through the activities of his civic group, and that this has prompted him to join the
concerted peaceful struggle for democracy and justice, currently being pursued by Andinet.
Certainly, Habtamu’s arrival could only be taken as a stroke of luck, because just a month later the party had relegated one of its top leaders – the Head of the Organizational Affairs Committee, Mr. Zeleki Redi (Eng.). It was reported that as of March 6 Mr. Zeleke had been demoted from his post due to lack of competence and discipline. We are yet to learn about the person who has replaced him and now heading the Organizational Committee.
At the Front, officials successfully attended the 7th Regular Meeting a month ago, and held a press release on March 26 to publicize their latest progresses. They officially introduced the Front’s Manifesto, which in its analysis believe the country to be at crossroads. The Front thus forwarded a 6-point resolution, of which one is the call for establishing a coalition government.
Following this, the National Council of Andinet issued its standpoint on April 27 in a document titled ‘General Evaluation of Andinet/MEDREK Relationship & Cooperation from Coalition to Front’. In this document, Andinet tried to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the Front and laid out short-and-long term solutions. The party advises that without considering its findings, it would be difficult to see the Front’s growth for possible merger.
MILLIONS OF VOICES FOR FREEDOM
Launched on June 20th, the “Millions of Voices for Freedom” was the first ever well-organized nonviolent struggle in the country, along with the ongoing Muslim Ethiopians demands. The three-month campaign called for the regime to end its ever-repressive governance.
Campaign launch press conference
The first peaceful demonstration of the campaign took place on July 14th in Gonder and Dessie. Over 20,000 participants took part in what’s considered to be one of the largest rallies ever since the 2005 elections.
Mr. Girma Woldesenbet
However the party shortly got into depression with the loss of its senior Council member, Mr. Girma Senbet. Mr. Girma was a founding member of All Amhara People Organization back in 1992 and later joined Andinet, and has been serving the National Council diligently Until his death on July 29th.
The “Millions of Voice for Freedom” campaign has continued and the team at Finote Netsanet was able to hold its very first Roundtable Discussion on the Anti-terrorism law. The discussion tried to look this new law and its effect on free speech and the political activism. It was chaired by Dawit Solomon with guests, lawyer Mr. Temam Ababulgu and journalist Sileshi Hagos (a friend of the renowned journalist Ms. Reeyot Alemu, who is currently in custody charged of “terrorism acts”.) Perhaps this online discussion was the precursor for the rather contentious televised debate in August on the same topic between five political parties: EDP, EPRDF, MEDREK, Semeyawi and Andinet.
The following month saw a series of peaceful demonstrations at Bahir Dar, Jinka, Arba Minch, Fiche, and Adama. The demonstrations saw The North America support organizations have also showed solidarity by holding their own demonstrations and public meetings in different states.
Although the last demonstration of the campaign was planned to be staged on September 5 in Addis Ababa, it was postponed at the request of the government and was held on September 19; yet again, demonstrators were blocked from congregating at Meskel Square. As in the regime’s tradition, government forces harassed, and at times detained, party members and supporters during pre-demonstration campaigns, and had been blocking roads on demonstration days. For the same reason, the scheduled demonstrations at Bale, Mekelle and others were either barred or postponed indefinitely.
Still, the demonstrations clearly showed the growing grievances among citizens in the regime’s failure to properly govern the country. Demonstrators from the young to the old were seen passionately venting their frustrations in the government. The intimidation of party members and supporters, however, has continued unabated to this day. Which is why party leaders, at the conclusion of this campaign, promised that similar operations will be staged very soon, and that the party will continue to earnestly pressure the government in all form of peaceful struggles until citizens’ rights get respected.
Demonstrators at Kebena, Addis Abeba on September 19
ONE OF THEM WILL TAKE THE CHAIR
Perhaps out of strictly respecting the party’s three-year chairmanship term – since he’s actual tenure began in early 2011 – or simply out of tiredness and wanting to take a well-deserved rest, Chair Negasso has decided to step down from the chair by October.
Gizachew Shiferaw (Eng) Left, Tekle Bekele Center, Girma Seifu (MP) Right
The five leaders who contested in the primary chairmanship election were Mr. Tigestu Awelu, Mr. Gizatchew Shiferaw (Eng.), Hon. Mr. Girma Seifu (MP), Mr. Shimeles Habte and Mr. Tekle Bekele. In the election that was held on September 21, members of the Council casted their vote and three candidates – Mr. Gizatchew, Hon Mr. Girma and Mr. Shimeles – had won the primaries and are expected to contest for the final elections quite soon.
With its broad official presence both nationally and abroad, Andinet is arguably considered to be the strongest political opposition party in Ethiopia. With 58 offices and support chapters in all continents, and with its over 40,000 members and huge supporters, Andinet is poised to be Ethiopia’s lone hope in the peaceful struggle for unity, democracy and justice.