Published: June 9, 2005
The brutal killing of 22 young men and women by the government’s special units on June 8, 2005 was a very sad and shocking turn of events following the elections. While tension has been building in the country due to the alleged vote rigging and intimidation by the ruling party, the specter of spontaneous protests by young people only to be confronted by armed government troops from the so-called Agazzie Unit was something no Ethiopian was prepared to face. A loss of one innocent life is too much; a loss of 22 young men and women’s lives in one day in this city of ours is not only tragically shocking but utterly unacceptable. If there was any lesson from Colonel Mengistu’s brutal regime, it must be that no Ethiopian life – specially young life – should ever be cut short by a gunshot for standing for one’s rights. That lesson died along with these 22 people on this bloody Tuesday of the Kremt of 2005.
The victims in this brutal and almost barbaric act of the government are not only these young men and women who lost their short-lived lives and their relatives and friends but also the whole country that has now been forced to relive days of government sponsored terror. Mr. Meles who continues to live in a perpetual denial state regarding the scale of his unpopularity is the ultimate person who is to be blamed for this loss of lives. By his own orders, he now directs the day to day security activities of the country. No bullet will be fired in this country by the soldiers unless the Prime Minister himself orders it. A man who had spent a better part of 14 years trying to cultivate an image (a false image, many may argue) to the outside world as a progressive and visionary African leader has now officially joined the ranks of brutal dictators who kill sixteen and seventeen year old high-school students. For this man, who only a few weeks ago was talking about the dawn of a new era in Africa – the Renaissance of Africa, these personal orders to kill sixteen year old kids is a spectacular failure. For Ethiopians, of course, these brutal acts are not a surprise. For 14 years, they had suspected that the TPLF under Prime Minister Meles was not out there to protect their interests and the lives and welfare of their children and themselves but for its own self-centered narrow tribal interests. The action of June 8, 2005 and the other tragic day in Addis Ababa under EPRDF rule, April 7, 2001, have proved to all beyond any shades of doubt that PM Meles and his party are as brutal and backward as Colonel Mengistu.
Again at this juncture of our history as a country and a people, the question of where we go from here remains the million dollar question. We strongly feel these are times that call for cool heads and determined leaders. We now have – despite the alleged vote rigging and contested election in as many as 200 precincts – a new generation of opposition leaders who have swept all the seats in the capital city and all major urban areas in the country. It is time that they step forward and exercise this newly won responsibilities. The first item of their agenda should be protecting the safety of our people – tasks and responsibilities that the government not only has failed to perform but violates as the transgressor. Given the extraordinary atmosphere of fear, tension and lack of trust in the government seen in the city, the opposition parties should immediately ask for the modalities of transfer of power of city administration to them without waiting for September – the official opening of the next parliament. As the winners of the city’s seats and the group the people of Addis Ababa have trusted overwhelmingly, we think this is a legitimate demand. Immediate to this, the security of Addis Ababa should entrusted to the new incoming leadership. The federal government should remove its soldiers from our city and let the new winners take over. We think it is only when the real security guarantor is the trusted party that has won the hearts of minds of the city that we will see a return to normalcy. This first transfer of power to the winners is the only way that our people will feel assured that the democratic process that they have invested so much in campaigning and voting and now with the lives of 22 of their children has borne fruit.
As part of this empowerment process, the rectification of vote rigging and demands for re-voting in the contested constituencies should continue in earnest. An opposition party that has won public support and one that immediately assumes leadership is what we feel is the strongest guarantee for peace and normalcy. We do not expect the Prime Minister to easily accommodate these demands as History has shown that dictators remain divorced from reality whether in office or years after being kicked from office. Despite house arrests and continued harassment, the officials and members of these opposition parties inside and outside Ethiopia should be firm and committed to this peaceful but rightful struggle for dignity and better life – aspirations that 22 young people died for on this Tuesday of Kremt of 2005.