By Fekadu A. Shibeshi
University of Washington
At the verge of the Second World War the then US president, President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed the 77th Congress with the historical presidential speech referred as the “four freedom speech.” The aim of the speech was to get the support of the Congress in aiding the western block in the war. This speech latter contributed for the emergence of fundamental principles of human rights. The president had mentioned four basic freedoms which I believe are worth discussing in the current Ethiopian context.
Roosevelt stated “In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms, these are;
The first is freedom of speech and expression
The second is freedom of every person to worship his own way
The third is freedom from want, and
The fourth is freedom from fear”
I believe these basic freedoms are what we Ethiopians are denied by the TPLF led government. This 72 years old speech is still alive for many who are thrown behind bars for what they wrote, or worship throughout Africa and especially in Ethiopia.
1. Freedom of speech and expression:
Ethiopia, as many modern dictatorial democracies do, has recognized the freedom of speech and expression in its constitution as well as ratified regional and international conventions recognizing these basic rights. Art 29 of the constitution guarantees the right to freedom of expression for everyone without any interference. This right includes” freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any media of one’s choice.” Freedom of expression cannot be limited on the account of the content or effect of the point of view expressed; the only legitimate limitations are; expressions which may defeat “the well-being of the youth, and the honor and reputation of individuals, propaganda for war and for protection of human dignity.”
Despite the paper recognition of the freedom, Tigrean People Liberation Front (TPLF) and its enslaved allies are massively violating this right over and again. Currently, Ethiopia has become the second worst journalist jailor. Anyone who opposes tyranny is tagged as terrorist and end up behind prison bars. From the time TPLF has come to power many civilians, opposition leaders, students, members and leaders of civic organizations are jailed, tortured, forced to leave their land, and even killed, for sole reason of exercise of their freedom of expression. TPLF (Woyane) not only violated the freedom of expression of individuals but also violated the right of the public to access information. The right of access to information includes a right whereby the media has access to information on public affairs and the right of the general public to receive media output. Ethiopians, however, are denied our freedom to hear and see information of our choice. TPLF has already closed the door for alternative media and freedom of information.
This is the right time to say no for tyranny, in one voice, TPLF’s blind ban on our right to express ourselves should stop at a certain time and that time is now. What the young generation should learn to get rid of Woyane is unity. We all know freedom cannot be obtained for granted; the “cheetah generation” should be ready to pay what it takes. We should stand together till the twinkle of freedom glimmers. Our slogan should be “no one is free until we all are free.” We know the more Woyane is frustrated the more our freedom of expression is violated, that is why they ban every local newspaper, including Fitis, and Finote Netsanet. They even bloc individual Facebook pages and blogs. Woyane is on the edge of a cliff, and we should get our power and energy together to push it down the cliff once and for all.
2. Freedom of worship
President Roosevelt’s expressed freedom of religion as “freedom of every person to worship God in his own way—everywhere in the world.” Freedom of religion means the right to live according to one’s own faith, that is, to “manifest” our religion or belief in practice, both “in public or private,” without interference from the state. Article 11 of the Ethiopian constitution provides for the two pillar principles of this right. The first principle is “State and religion are separate and there shall be no state religion.” And the second is “the state shall not interfere in religious matters and religion shall not interfere in state affairs.” Article 27 (3) also provides “no one shall be subject to coercion or other means which would restrict or prevent his freedom to hold a belief of his choice.”
Non-interference in the internal matters of religious affairs requires absolute independence of the religious institutions. Whereas, what’s currently happening in Ethiopia is the opposite, TPLF actively interferes in the internal religious matters of both the Muslim and Orthodox Christian religions. Religious leaders should be independently elected according to the norms of the respective religion. However, Woyane, always try to position its political cadres as the religious leaders. The Orthodox Christian religion followers have experienced the feeling & hurt of having government elected Patriarch for the last 21 years, and they should say “never- ever- again,” when the government currently restlessly work to elect a new political affiliated religious leader, in TPLF’s language “Limatawi Patriarch.”
TPLF’s interference in the internal affair of the Ethiopian Muslim is receiving the appropriate response; the young and fearless Muslim brothers and sisters are showing their strength towards their freedom of religion. Despite the arrest and killing by the government forces they are persistently opposing any governmental interference in their internal religious matters. I believe the Ethiopian Orthodox Christian followers should also be loud and clear as their Muslim brothers and sisters. They should stand together to pull the hands of Woyane from their religious affairs. The rubbish TPLF’s watchdog Sibhat Nega clearly showed their stand towards Orthodox Christianity, he publicly said “they have broken the back bone Ethiopian Orthodox Church.” I would say, for Ethiopia, The day of freedom of religion is now, and the Ethiopian youth’s commitment and fraternity to defend their freedom to worship should be backed by every single Ethiopian, because, “no one is free until we all are free.”
3. Freedom from want
The economic inequality, the favoritism in offering jobs, and the unfair wealth distribution in Ethiopia is creating few economic giants on the grave of the poor. Currently at least 4.5 million people needs emergency food supply, while the few cadres can built sky scrapers, and drive luxury cars. Millions of Ethiopians need pure water to drink, and basic food to eat, every single minute.
South Korea, India and many other countries have been in the same economic status as Ethiopia, some decades before, but their political commitment led them out of poverty zone. We have seen Woyane for the last 21 years, the lives of the people are getting worse, and poverty is doubling itself, while the few controlled every economical activities of the country. As we have heard from the ex- first lady Azeb Mesfin, the late PM was busy designing to industrialize Tigray. What a shameful regime? I hope the current PM is not doing the same.
Roosevelt in his four freedom speech asserted, “We must beware of that small group of selfish men who would clip the wings of the American eagle in order to feather their own nests.” This is exactly what’s happening now in Ethiopia, the TPLF cadres are slaughtering Ethiopia for their greedy needs. They are building their own villas on the grave of the poor. They are selling the fertile land for foreign neo-colonizers against the interest of the poor and the powerless farmers.
The young generation should re-think and organize itself to overthrow the Woyane regime; we should fight the economic tyrant, and discriminatory small group of selfish men, for the benefit of the greater mass. This year, 2013, (2005 E.C) is for the Ethiopian “cheetah generation” to cut the throat of the Woyane bourgeoisie.
4. Freedom from fear
I would say freedom from fear is the basic and the priority for the Ethiopian young. We are in a full scale physiological war. Woyane spreads fear every single minute using its sycophant Medias. We all have right to involve in the social, economic and political affairs of our country, without fear, we all have a right to discuss, and oppose tyranny without fear of any power under the sun.
Fear is one of the sophisticated weapons frequently used by dictators. The human right activist, the 1991 winner of Nobel Prize for Peace, and the current President of Myanmar Aung San Suu Kyi wrote the following about freedom from fear, “Within a system which denies the existence of basic human rights, fear tends to be the order of the day. Fear of imprisonment, fear of torture, fear of death, fear of losing friends, family, property or means of livelihood, fear of poverty, fear of isolation, fear of failure. A most insidious form of fear is that which masquerades as common sense or even wisdom, condemning as foolish, reckless, insignificant or futile the small, daily acts of courage which help to preserve man’s self-respect and inherent human dignity. It is not easy for a people conditioned by fear under the iron rule of the principle that might is right to free themselves from the enervating miasma of fear. Yet even under the most crushing state machinery courage rises up again and again, for fear is not the natural state of civilized man.”
TPLF is consistently spreading fear and showing its ruthlessness, the Gambella Genocide in in 2003, the 2005 killing of peaceful demonstrators, the frequent killings and arrest of university students are yet to be repeated until we all defeat our fear and stand together for our common good.
Finally, as the words of Roosevelt, “for there is nothing mysterious about the foundations of a healthy and strong democracy. The basic things expected by our people of their political and economic systems are simple. They are:
Equality of opportunity for youth and for others.
Jobs for those who can work.
Security for those who need it.
The ending of special privilege for the few.
The preservation of civil liberties for all.”
God Bless Ethiopia and its People!
The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org