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Candlelight Vigil Held for Jailed Ethiopia Opposition Leader

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12/29/09

  11:33:06 pm, by admin, 659 words  
Categories: Ethiopia, Politics

Candlelight Vigil Held for Jailed Ethiopia Opposition Leader

Candlelight Vigil Held for Jailed Ethiopia Opposition Leader

VOA News

Peter Heinlein | Addis Ababa

Hundreds of Birtukan Mideksa's supporters jam her Unity for Democracy and Justice Party headquarters, wearing yellow T-shirts bearing her image, holding candles, demanding her freedom

One of Ethiopia's main opposition parties has held a candlelight vigil to mark the first anniversary of the day their leader was imprisoned for life. But the observance was marred by a split that has broken the party in two, in the year since its leader was jailed.

Hundreds of opposition leader Birtukan Mideksa's supporters jammed her Unity for Democracy and Justice Party headquarters Tuesday, wearing yellow T-shirts bearing her image, holding candles and demanding her freedom. Senior UDJ officials wore black gags to symbolize the silencing of one of Ethiopia's most powerful opposition voices.

Party spokesman Siye Abraha called on Prime Minister Meles Zenawi to show mercy toward the charismatic 35-year-old single mother and former judge.

"Let them give her a chance to hug her daughter, to bring up her daughter. Let them give her a chance to support her old mother," said Siye. "She's a young lady... She is much younger than any of us... We have lived our lives. It is the turn of the generation of Birtukan to make their wishes happen. So Meles, had a chance to make his wishes happen. Be it good or bad, when he was her age. Let him not deny her that chance."

In the narrow lane outside UDJ headquarters, a few dozen members of a rump faction held their own candlelight ceremony. The faction leader, 79-year-old chain-smoking professor Mesfin Woldemariam was with Birtukan when she was taken into custody last December, and was injured trying to prevent her from being taken away.

Mesfin and his followers were later expelled in an intra-party squabble. He called Birtukan's imprisonment "heartless."

"I never believed Birtukan would stay in prison for a year. I didn't think they would have the heart to do that for a whole year, but... we should keep on praying to God the almighty so he would open up the hearts of those in power," he said.

Birtukan was among more than 100 opposition politicians arrested in connection with the demonstrations that followed the disputed 2005 elections. Nearly 200 people were killed when police shot at the demonstrators. Most of those arrested were sentenced to life in prison, but later pardoned.

Birtukan was re-arrested and ordered to complete her life term after refusing to retract a statement that she had not asked for the pardon.

At a news conference this month, Prime Minister Meles categorically ruled out Birtukan's release.

"There will never be an agreement with anybody to release Birtukan. Ever. Full stop. That's a dead issue," he said.

Mr. Meles said the opposition leader had been warned if she did not take back her words, her pardon would be revoked.

"We tried to indicate to her that this is a very dangerous miscalculation, because we indicated to her if she went into prison now, she was not going out of it. She was left under no illusion that if she went in, she would be in for the long haul. We assured her of this fact many times before she was thrown back in jail. She refused, So this has everything to do with elementary notions of rule of law," he said.

Birtukan's supporters Tuesday lamented the split within the UDJ, which they say is damaging the party's image ahead of next May' national elections.

Leaders say the dispute is over whether the multi-ethnic UDJ should have joined forces with ethnicity-based parties in an opposition coalition known as the Forum.

Both UDJ factions, as well as the Forum, say freedom for Birtukan and other political prisoners will be a key campaign issue.

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43 comments

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Comment from: antonio [Visitor]
antonio

as a human being i feel sorry for her and her family,she should have been wise…she may be good in the field of law but its a different story when it comes to politics….politics is ‘if you cant stand the heat ,get out of the kitchen’,,,,,if she doesnt know it she shouldnt be in it anyways….all the diaspora who think you can change ethiopian politics from the far..lets see you makin it happen its time for action not sitting in dc and gossip…or stop igniting the loser politicians back home and get them killed….

12/30/09 @ 02:29
Comment from: hailu [Visitor]
hailu

sirafetoch sitastelu hulgize shama kkkkkkkkkkkkkk

12/30/09 @ 02:33
Comment from: Enderta [Visitor]
Enderta

There is no law or justice in the country but the words of the PM.

No “wond” (macho-man) judge can go against the words of the PM and release the lady.

There is no human heart in the PM to feel the pain and suffering of Birtukan, her mother and child.

The only way Birtukan can be released is if her party wins.

Her party will not win because it is divided and the PM will not all that to happen.

Prof. Mesfin is adding to her suffering by defying the party he helped organize.

The only way the party can maintain its unity is if it reconciles wirh the professor and group.

The professor must play a fatherly role and come home to his party.

The party should open its door wide for the professor and his group.

Ato Siye must drop his ethnic-based politics if he wants to remain in the party. No Arena Tigray but Ethiopia!

All opposision parties must be on one side of the equation, under the sole motto of “FREE BIRTUKAN, FREE ETHIOPIA", and the ruling party on another. THAT LEAVES THE CHOICE BETWEEN BERTUKAN (FREEDOM) OR MELES (Suicide OR IMPISONMMENT LIKE BIRTUKAN).

That is the only way for the opposition to win this election.

12/30/09 @ 03:02
Comment from: Nahom D. [Visitor]
Nahom D.

A dispute over the terms of the pardon that was granted by the government caused the re-arrest of Birtukan after the pardon was revoked over reports that she had publicly denied having “apologized for her actions” or “regretting” any “mistakes” asking for a pardon. According to the government the pardon granted was conditional on an apology and submission to mistakes committed. The Government claims that the release was part of a normal judicial process, rather than part of a negotiated political deal.

However, Birtukan’s re-imprisonment has become a unifying factor and a rallying point for the opposition.

Has the Ethiopian Government miscalculated its action?

Looking back to the state of affairs in Birtukan’s camp days before she was imprisoned reveals that she had totally lost control of her party and the support she had from most of the Diaspora opposition members. I included the articles below for reference.

Nov 18, 2008

Birtukan’s choice: serve Woyanne or stand with the people?
Sources close to Birtukan Mideksa’s new party, Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ), have informed Ethiopian Review that some of the top leaders of the party are considering resignation. The most prominent among them are Ato Temesgen Zewdie and Dr Yacob HaileMariam. According to the sources, Birtukan herself may not return to Ethiopia after concluding her European tour, which has been a dismal failure so far. What lends further credence to such talk is that her right hand man in the UDJ, Ato Melaku Fantaye, who played a key role in convening UDJ’s founding conference and worked hard to get her elected as chairperson, has fled to Kenya and is now seeking asylum. He has also joined Ginbot 7.
The reason these UDJ officials are leaving the party is said to be the worsening political repression in the Ethiopia. There are also some serious internal disagreements that are not needed to be mentioned here for now.
In regards to Wzt. Birtukan, Ethiopian Review doubts that she will come to such a decision. First of all, it seems that she is enjoying the role of ‘loyal opposition’ — crisscrossing European capitals and attending cocktail parties in the Addis Ababa diplomatic circles. Secondly, she doesn’t think that it is possible to defeat Woyanne either through election or any other means any time soon. She has recently revealed to her closest associates that her eyes are set on elections to be held 10 to 15 years from now, and that she doesn’t care about the 2010 elections. Hence her unwillingness to speak out against the ongoing political repression in Ethiopia by the Woyanne regime.
Nevertheless, let’s assume that Birtukan has the vision and courage that are required to make such a decision — a decision that her own close confidant has just made. Imagine how the Woyanne cannibalistic regime in Ethiopia would react to such a news. It would have been another major blow to Meles & Co., and a joy to the people of Ethiopia.
Woyanne has been tormenting 70 million Ethiopians for the past 18 years because many of the opposition leaders such as Birtukan do not understand or have closed their eyes to its pure evil nature. They have failed to organize the people to fight against the Woyanne fascism politically, diplomatically, ideologically, and militarily. Even as outsiders such as European Member of Parliament Ana Gomes says there cannot be free and fair election in Ethiopia under the Meles regime, Birtukan and others talk about participating in the 2010 election.
The people are showing their disappointment with Birtukan and her surenderist group by not showing up at her recent public meetings in Europe. In some countries such as The Netherlands, once a stronghold for Kinijit in Europe, she could not find any one to invite her. Her European tour has been a dismal failure. She is losing credibility and respect as a political leader who is out of touch with the needs of the people she claims to represent.
As Woyanne’s cannibalism gets worse, however, it seems that finally genuine, promising leaders are emerging to provide strong leadership. Some who held the so-called “peaceful” struggle as a religious belief while their followers were being slaughtered right in front of their eyes have now come to the realization that the people of Ethiopia have the right to use any means available to defend themselves. Such leaders include those who have formed the Ginbot 7 Movement.
Others such as Birtukan Mideksa continue to shamelessly preach ‘peaceful’ struggle, which even her mentor, Prof. Mesfin Woldemariam recently said doesn’t exist in Ethiopia. He told a Washington DC audience that the peaceful struggle hasn’t started yet! Wzt. Birtukan, Prof. Mesfin and their surrenderist group refer to those who are forced to raise arms as “backwards.” Ironically, Prof. Mesfin calls those Ethiopians who try to defend their freedom with guns as ‘backwards’ while standing in the middle of Washington DC, the capital city of the United States, a country that protects the freedom of its citizens with thousands of nuclear arsenals.
It would have been a death nail to Woyanne if all the “loyal” opposition in Ethiopia announce that they are no longer able to operate inside the country and cease their political activities at once. It would devastate Woyanne if, for instance, Birtukan, Bulcha, Merera and others leave the country and lead their organizations from outside, as the leaders of South Africa’s African National Congress did during the struggle against the apartheid regime, or as Prof. Mesfin’s hero, the Dalai Lama, who is fighting for the freedom of Tibetans while living in exile. Such a decisive action by these leaders would completely change the course of Ethiopia’s current politics in favor of the opposition camp.
The real resistance
In the past few months, it seems a new chapter has been opened in the struggle against the Woyanne tyranny. Leaders who once stood with Birtukan, including those who were elected to parliament, have taken a different path. They have joined the real resistance. Their primary objective is to remove Woyanne before the year 2010 — not to prepare for another fake election. It is encouraging to hear that the Ginbot 7 leaders are setting that as a goal. G7’s Ato Andargachew Tsege has said in a recent interview with Ethiopian Review that Ethiopia cannot afford to remain under the destructive grip of the Woyanne junta and go through another sham election where the winner is predetermined.
People are starting to pay attention to the messages of EPPF, OLF, ONLF, TPDM, Ginbot 7 and others who have recognized the right of people to defend themselves and fight for their freedom. When these groups come together and form a transitional government in exile, put their fighters under a unified command, and make a call to the people of Ethiopia to rise up, Woyanne will crumble the same way its puppet regime in Somalia is falling apart.
Meles, Sebhat & Company are working day and night to prevent such an outcome through an aggressive multi-pronged campaign. Unfortunately, the ‘loyal opposition’ such as Birtukan and her few blind supporters are part and parcel of Woyanne’s countermeasure.
Birtukan is currently in Europe. If she is genuinely standing for the interest of the people of Ethiopia, she would not return to Addis Ababa. Instead, she would lead her followers inside Ethiopia and around the world from abroad — from such places as Asmara where she would have access to radio, tv, and other means of mass communication that she cannot access in Addis Ababa. If she goes back to Ethiopia, she would be returning into Woyanne’s jaws where she is of no use to any one other than Woyanne.
The real opposition groups need to take Ana Gomes’ advise to heart: A fair and free election in Ethiopia is possible only under a transitional government. EPPF, Ginbot 7, ONLF, OLF, TPDM and possibly other groups have the power and the means to establish such a transitional government in exile. It only requires political will and imagination on their part to achieve that. If Barack Obama, a person whom nobody knew just two years ago, can rise up to be leader of the most powerful nation in the world with his message of change, hope and ‘yes we can’ slogan, why not the leaders of OLF, G7, EPPF, ONLF and other Ethiopian opposition groups come together and liberate Ethiopia? The task for them is much easier than what Obama has been able to achieve, since their enemy, Woyanne, is the most hated regime that has ever come to power in the history of Ethiopia.
In the mean time, Birtukan and the surrenderist groups have a choice to make: continue to provide political cover for Woyanne, or stand with the people? Be in the service of fascism, or serve the cause of freedom?
December 22nd, 2008
IMPEACH BIRTUKAN!
The Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ) that is led by Birtukan Mideksa is falling apart as founding members stated to leave the party. Some of the senior UDJ leaders are on the verge of resigning. Dr Yacob HaileMariam has already submitted his resignation letter to the executive committee. Prof. Mesfin WoldeMariam has been inactive for a while. Ato Temesgen Zewdie and Birtukan are at each others’ throats. Ato Gizachew Shiferraw wants a way out. The executive committee is in turmoil.
The once popular and respected Birtukan has lost control of the party by failing to lead. She has also become too emotional, vindictive, and self-defensive. In one recent meeting, she stormed out after a heated debate. She later apologized.
The main cause of the crisis facing UDJ is Birtukan’s inability to provide strong leadership, along with her submissiveness toward the ruling Tigrean People Liberation Front (Woyanne). Another cause is her unscrupulous political machination. Instead of trying to persuade members of the executive committee, she engages in backroom dealings with less known officials of the party and turn them against the older, prominent leaders. The only senior leader of the party she listens to is Prof. Mesfin, who is at adds with almost every one.
Birtukan seems to want the crisis to continue until all her perceived “opponents” quit one by one in frustration so that she can bring her own loyalists and be in firm control. In the process, she has turned UDJ into a circus and a tool for other forces.
Her dealing with the likes of Siye Abraha, an unrepentant Woyanne, and Beyene Petros, a traitor, is disconcerting to the rank-and-file members of the party. In the Dec. 6 public meeting that UDJ held in Addis Ababa, the hall was packed by Siye supporters who gave the unapologetic mass murderer a rousing reception. It was sickening to see the UDJ leadership stand on their feet and clap for this Woyanne who is responsible for much of the Woyanne crimes against the people of Ethiopia and thinks that he has nothing to apologize for. For this reason alone, UDJ should be considered a sellout.
UDJ is already being ignored by most Ethiopians. In a city of 4 million, only 3,000 people showed up at its Dec 6 public meeting in Addis Ababa. According to ER sources, many of those who showed up were Siye Abraha supporters.
Siye used the Dec. 6 public meeting to build his own political platform. Indeed, he seemed to be a person of mission, looked confident, and showed passion for his cause much more than Birtukan and the other UDJ leaders. He had completely upstaged them in their own meeting.
It is for this reason that UDJ should not be just ignored as a useless group. It is being used by not only Woyanne, but other tribal forces such as Siye Abraha who are working to build the 3rd Woyanne right under our nose.
To save UDJ from being used by such forces, its supporters inside the country and around the world must hold an emergency meeting and demand the impeachment and removal of Birtukan. The only way UDJ can be saved is if it elects new leaders who are true to Kinijit’s principles. Kinijit’s spirit has left Birtukan at the Dulles International Airport in October 2007. She is now a tool for Meles and Siye.
End of article.

Birtukan’s re-imprisonment has brought her more compassion and support; most importantly, however, could it serve as a unifying factor for the fragmented opposition?

12/30/09 @ 03:13
Comment from: Jelati [Visitor]
Jelati

MECHACHAL ALEBNE WEGONOCHI
Let her free too.

12/30/09 @ 03:18
Comment from: Yitayal [Visitor]
Yitayal

To me Meles made a hell of a mistake when he publicly declared that he wouldn’t release Birtukan, the mother of a 4 year old little girl, and a lady that needs to take care of her old mother. This his arrogance is a good opportunity for the release of Birtukan, I believe. The reason is simple: Ethiopians do not have as cruel heart as that of Meles, a heart that takes a mother away from her 4 year old daughter. The party Andnet (Medrek) should take this as an opportunity and use it for its best slogan in the coming election. “Birtukan be Meles atfetam, Birtukan’n lemasfetat Andnetn MreTu” or something similar must be one of the party’s best slogan. The very first time Zenawi learns about this I am sure it will make him pee in his pants and will either release her or loose the game he has been playing for the last two decades. Andnet (Medrek) must work hard around this slogan and then it is my believe that Meles would immediately call Prof Yishaq for beginning the negotiation for a face cover and in the end it will result in the release of Birtukan before the Election Day.
Hope it will work!
Birtukan tfetalech!

12/30/09 @ 03:24
Comment from: hulu [Visitor]
hulu

bertuyee is a free person the one who is not free is melese zenawi , he is the one sitting in a dark with fear!!. it’s ok melese soon we will talk to u with the language u chose! i don’t think u even get chance to escape like ur brother mengistu. we will destroy u!!

12/30/09 @ 03:53
Comment from: Zeab [Visitor]
Zeab

Siye Abreha, discarded long time ago, now, he is trying to become a good politician just by being an enemy of Melles. That does not work; when the opposition groups like Unity for democracy have within them individuals like Siye Abreha, it is clear that they are good for nothing. I do not think the people of Tigray will be attracted to join the party, Unity for democracy, because there are people like Siye Abreha. People like him failed long time ago, and do not have the consciousness to bring peace and stability to Ethiopia. Opposition parties should not work primarily to bring down the ruling government and seize power; we expect them to be a good alternative for the people of Ethiopia. But when we see bad people among the leaders, we know that they are not for us. We learn from history and bad history should not be repeated. I am sure the people of Ethiopia will not allow the power hungry parties like Medrek to come to power. Burtukan Medekssa is only and instrument of the bad people; they are hiding behind her. They want her to be a center of attraction, but we are aware that the hyenas are there; just behind her.

12/30/09 @ 04:23
Comment from: Ye Diasora Geta [Visitor]
Ye Diasora Geta

Who ever went there, I will give a dollar can you burn yourself please? That will show how you diasporas are ready to sacrifice your life for your principle. You are not only a paper tiger stupido you are a principled and commited people.

12/30/09 @ 04:54
Comment from: eyoha [Visitor]
eyoha

Meles Yanten Mecheresha Bicha Yasayegn.

12/30/09 @ 05:24
Comment from: Seleme [Visitor]
Seleme

Release Birtukan NOW!!!
Release Birtukan NOW!!!
Release Birtukan NOW!!!

12/30/09 @ 05:34
Comment from: De La Manchu [Visitor]
De La Manchu

NO body put her in jail, except that she lost her virtues of politeness and started to act arrogantly. She miscalculated what her actions may entail in her effort to get political mileage by seducing the ethnic chauvinists and riff ruffs of the Diaspora by her indulgence in belittling and discrediting the government and of the Constitution of Ethiopia. She knew that she was not hot in their eyes after the split with engineer. Hailu Shawal,and the demise of CUD their Idol. She was discredited and slandered.
Probably She was mislead in to thinking that she is above the law, when she was received in America {after her stay at the three star Kaliti Hotel} as if she were Nelson Mandela. Then she was welcome with a copy-cat statuette of her picture on T-Shirts in the image of the iconic Statue of Liberty or lady liberty of New York.
Every chauvinistic tertiary level Ethiopian professor in America, [thanks, to affirmative action for minorities] thinks himself of one day being Prime Minister of Ethiopia replacing MELES and the indigenous politician is only an instrument or a means to an end.
Now she is back in Kaliti they started to give her due, the accolade that she hungers most. As a single mother she did not only forgo her freedom but, also is selfish enough to not consider the interest of her only child and the damage it will have on her young life.
There is time for every thing a time to be young and a time to wise up, a time to motherhood and a time for politics, a time to cry and a time to laugh a time to be born and a time to die.
It is not difficult to speculate that she may not have a close family or friend who could give the right advise or to forbid her to be misused by political sharks.
Even today it may not be too late to humble herself and accept the supremacy and the rule of law in a toddler democracy, and ask a pardon once more with real penitence.
If she is destiny’s child to lead Ethiopia in due time she can go for it, age makes her wiser and her star power and charisma will take her a long way. However it will not be easy to break the sealing of ethnic, racial, religion and gender chauvinistic barriers as Meles or Obama did.
The male ethnic chauvinists club who only want to use her to promote their agenda, never arranged such a media attention when she was arrested. Even during her short time as the leader of the party one of them said he is not willing to be second to a women as a Jihadist might. The UDJ leadership, I don’t think asked her consent when they kicked out her so called guru who was along with here the day she was arrested {PMW}{BMW} I think B is for balambaras. If they were her comrades they should have given her or hired an expert in the Ethiopian Constitution Law and warned against her simpleton decision, they may be blind but are not totally dumb. Now they came with a clever stunt and wore a black gag on their mouth to get a few pity votes as they show their crocodile tears. If she were their leader and thought highly of her judgement and are honorable and trustworthy men don’t you think they would have done the same and suffer the consequence. These boring senior citizen politicians used her charisma, her youth and lack of sophistication when she was free and now when she is incarcerated, they are again trying to exploit her situation to their advantage. These desperate old politicians know that they are out of ideas and out of time. They know they are bit by Meless and his party and will try any thing, will walk over any one to reach up to the top of the pedestal, before there time is up. They would not refrain from jeopardizing the peace, unity, prosperity and democracy of the New Ethiopia; if they think they have a remote chance of self grandiose.
SELF CENTERED AND ETHNOCENTRIC CONFUSED CONFUSERS

12/30/09 @ 06:00
Comment from: Tafesse [Visitor]
Tafesse

Charisma can be religious or grace and beauty as related to the GRACES of the three beauties of Greek mythology, which we might call SEX APEAL today. This has no place in the real world of today. A leader can be charismatic like John F. Kennedy, or a preacher or Greta Garbo or even a TV anchor with the proper hairdo. Kaliti seems to have endowed Birtukan, the serious judge, with charisma by the day.

12/30/09 @ 06:47
Comment from: Sami1 [Visitor]
Sami1

Birtukan you are a candle in a dark and one day many of us will have gut like yours and will stand for you as you did to many poor and voiceless.
I hope that day is soon, neverthless you are hero where you doaughter will feel your strength from out there! Yes, Birtukan, Many may have run away to defend what they were claiming they will defend and some even join the once who arrested you, but that is alway been the fact of life. Every day in prison is one day towards fairness strugle to all.

I feel bad that you alone have to bare the burden of many. Ethiopian students in university , high school and teachers who stragled for freedom in the past are hiding for feer but one day they will know it is there kids and thier futured is being mared and basterdased. There land is sold there freedome is taken and then they may ask what happen. I hope it is soon b4 the land is sold for nothing other than in exchange change money to few.

You are my HERO and I pray everyday that many will stand with you!

Gos bless!

12/30/09 @ 08:38
Comment from: Sami1 [Visitor]
Sami1

Siye,
I am not sure if you are asking Prime Minister for mercy just so that Birtukan will get out and just be a mom nothing else.

She is the one who stood up for you even thouhg death could be the consiquence when Meles want to get you in jail because he is threatened that you will take his sit.

I would have respected your request if it was mentioning that she stood up for fair justice and she is honest politician who want to bring transparent system in Ethiopia!
Never mind about her daughter or her mothers issue. If you care help them financialy if they needed it visit them. Do not take away her sacrifice litely!
She is a hero she stood up for justice!

She is educated and have balanced head. It is us who should be ashemed who neglected her cause!
She to all who do not stand by here including me!

12/30/09 @ 09:04

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