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Ethiopia: The guilty verdict and why the TPLF is so predictable

Ethiopian-Americans for Democracy

Can the Leopard Change its Spots or Ethiopia’s Ruling Clique Its Ways ?

The Guilty Verdict and Why The TPLF is So Predictable

After an 18-month charade, a politically compliant Ethiopian court on June 11, 2007 found 38 members of Ethiopia’s main opposition party, CUD-Kinijit, guilty of leading armed rebellion and “outrages against the constitution.”

The fate of Prime Minister Zenawi’s political opponents was sealed on May 15, 2005 when the people of Ethiopia cast a vote of no confidence in the TPLF regime. The guilty verdict therefore came as no surprise to those who have endured fifteen years of indignity and brutality under Zenawi. Even once comrades in arms such as the former Defense Minister Siye Abraha and his brother Assefa Abraha continue to languish in jail on false charges.

Ethiopia under Meles Zenawi is “ a country that is abusing its own people and has no respect for democracy,” according to Representative Donald Payne, chairman of the House subcommittee on Africa.

“What the Ethiopian security forces are doing may amount to crimes against humanity,” Georgette Gagne of Human of Human Rights Watch told the New York Times in a recent interview.

The TPLF came to power using brutal force. It had no qualms about killing those who got in its way, both before and after coming to power. Imprisonments on false charges, torture and murder have been its stock-in-trade.

As a police state, the regime continues to spy not only on its own citizens5 but also on various neighboring nations. It has become a subcontractor for grabbing nationals of other countries and throwing them in secret jails.6 All the while, Ethiopia continues to be a beggar nation, with 4 to 5 million of its people relying on regular foreign food handouts.

In its lust for power, the TPLF leadership has compromised the long-term security of the nation by declaring an unjustified war on the Somali people, and subjecting them to unimaginable suffering, although they did not present any tangible threat to the interests of Ethiopia.

Why did Ethiopia’s Prime Minister persist with patently false charges and finally order his court to find his political opponents guilty?

Only one conclusion can be drawn from this drama: Mr. Zenawi never intended to have a legitimate, viable opposition. Using indeterminate sentences as well as mental and physical abuse, he hopes to kill the prisoners over time through mental and physical torture.

With the verdict, the Prime Minster has single-handedly shut all avenues to peaceful political change. The trial and the guilty verdict show the regime’s commitment to democracy has been a farce all along.

The verdict has to be viewed in the context of the following circumstances:

1. The court decision is an attempt by Zenawi to divert attention from his lack of legitimacy and the ever-rising human rights abuses.

2. There is ample evidence that Prime Minister Zenawi and his Tigrian Liberation Front stole the May 2005 elections.

3. The verdict is also Zenawi’s attempt to shift responsibility for the post-election massacre and human rights abuses to the political opposition.

 Various bodies — including the inquiry commission appointed by Zenawi’s own government — have extensively documented the crimes committed by the Prime Minister and his lieutenants.

 According to the government’s own commission, 193 Ethiopians protesting the stealing of elections were massacred and 763 seriously wounded by Zenawi’s troops.

 Many of these people were shot in the head.

 The same commission also reported the unprecedented arrest of upwards of 30,000 people.

4- Under the cover of fighting terrorism, the Bush administration, and especially the Pentagon, has given license to a group of criminals in Ethiopia. These thugs, under the leadership of Meles Zenawi, have created an elaborate, corrupt and brutal machinery that has manufactured phantom terrorists and bought its way to the corridors of power in Washington using donors’ money to hire expensive lobbyists.

Because it has protection from the Bush administration, the ruling Tigrai Liberation Front slaughters Ethiopians with impunity; it also continues to imprison and sentence political opponents on fabricated charges.

There is speculation that Zenawi may also be playing political games with the lives of the prisoners. According to this line of reasoning, he will order his court to pass death sentences. He will then “magnanimously” commute the sentences to life imprisonment.

5- Zenawi never intended to have democracy, but always sought the foreign money that comes with the talk of democracy.

 The West has generously funded this brutal regime for the last 15 years. In the name of helping Ethiopia’s poor, Western donors have transferred over $25 billion to regime coffers during this period.

 Much of this money goes to keep the ruling minority tribalist group in power. The foreign money is supplemented by a systematic, extensive looting of the nation’s resources. The government, by extension, the ruling party owns all land and major enterprises, creating extreme wealth for a tiny minority while the majority remains deeply impoverished. Life under Zenawi is nastier, brutish and short.

 Zenawi never, ever had legitimacy in the eyes of the people he ruled. But foreign powers were quick to give him the benefit of the doubt, to shower him with money, to flatter him with kind words (remember the “new breed of African leader”?) and to provide legitimacy.

 George Bush and Tony Blair have been among the foremost enablers of a tyrant that has brought untold suffering to a much-abused nation of 80 million people.

What is the way out?

The May 2005 vote should be respected. Ethiopians should be allowed to be ruled by a government of their own choosing, and not by a brutal minority regime imposed by a foreign power.

 We call on the Bush Administration to dissociate itself from a vicious dictatorship and to support the democratic aspirations of the Ethiopian people.

 We call for the immediate release of political prisoners without any preconditions.

 We call for an independent, internationally supervised investigation of post-election violence as well as all the arrests and extra-judicial killings that have taken place under Zenawi’s regime.

 We call on the international community to bring to justice officials of the current regime responsible for human rights abuses and for crimes against humanity.

 We call on all opposition groups in the Diaspora and at home to set aside their differences, to create new alliances, to seek out appropriate methods of struggle and to keep their eyes on the prize: the release of all political prisoners, the liberation of Ethiopia from tyranny and the establishment of a truly democratic order.

June 20, 2007

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