Category: "Election 2005"
Kenya - Lessons From Ethiopia's Unresolved Crises
9 January 2008
Business Daily (Nairobi)
By Mammo Muchie
There is a lesson that Kenya should learn from Ethiopian politics at the moment.
Ethiopia's accumulated historical memory-the good, the bad and the tasteless.
Problems unsolved or newly created ones, more often than not, can pile up to a mountain top and become additional burdens on the generations that come after previous generations.
In Ethiopia it seems the country has suffered from a syndrome that has subjected generations into an inter-generational tyranny over the ages. By the latter we mean that throughout history problems have a tendency to pile up rather than being solved.
What a generation inherits is not opportunities but compounded problems that have been left unsolved by successive generations. Unsolved problems naturally remain as problems yet to be solved being always transmitted from generation to generation throughout the ages.
Politicians seem to bring more new problems than solving old and transmitted problems from earlier generations.
For example, had Ethiopia had turned into a republic after World War II as some of the anti-fascist patriotic resistance fighters thought at the time, then the problems to solve today would have been different. Even when in 1974 a transition came from the monarchy to the military, the country moved from one problem to inherit a violent military turn.
And when in 1991 the transition to ethnic based government came, again a problem gave rise to another problem of ethnic division and the split of the country into two hostile states whose long term consequence is very hard to predict to the very existence of the country.
What clearly emerges is that those who leave and those who come- each in its own way leaves behind a hybrid combination of old and new problems for others to come to solve. That has been the pattern. There is not yet a new model of politics where such compounding of new problems on and with old problems is not recurrent.
This inter-generational tyranny is a reality that threatens to stay with us unless society and people learn to build social capital to know how to relate with each other to bring cooperative action in order to solve problems and not transmit them selfishly to the yet unborn generation to try to solve and pay for it in life, limb and resources.
Those who come to power to compound problems for this and next generations must be rejected.
Prof Muchie is Director of Development, Innovation and International Political Economy Research at Aalborg University, Denmark.
Ethiopia - Verdict On Ethiopian Campaigners Fixed For October
Judges trying the case of two anti-poverty campaigners in Ethiopia yesterday
(Thursday 2 August) adjourned the trial until 8 October, when the court will give judgement.
Daniel Bekele, 40, policy manager of ActionAid Ethiopia, and Netsanet Demissie, 29, general manager of the Organisation for Social Justice in Ethiopia, will now spend two more months in prison awaiting the verdict, while the court takes its annual recess.
The two were detained in November 2005 alongside opposition political leaders and charged in January 2006 with the crime of "outrage against the constitution and the constitutional order".
Of 131 originally charged, they are the only two still on trial.
Amnesty International considers them to be prisoners of conscience and human rights defenders.
Yesterday (Thursday 2 August) they concluded their defence, after calling 29 witnesses and presenting 300 pages of documentary evidence. The prosecutors asked for time to consider the verbal and written evidence before presenting their concluding remarks. The judges agreed and said that the prosecutors must present a final written submission by 26 August and the defence should respond in writing by 31 August.
The court will reconvene on 8 October, at the beginning of the new legal year, to give judgement.
Ramesh Singh, chief executive of ActionAid said: "This further delaycomes as a big disappointment when we were so near to the end of the process"
ActionAid works in over 50 countries in Africa, Asia and the
Americas to fight global poverty and injustice.
Note: This news will be updated when more reports become available from the Wire reports.
The following is a news from Ethiopian government run news agency, ENA.
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia August 1, 2007 (ENA) - The Federal High Court has sentenced five CUD leaders convicted of attempting to dismantle the national constitutional system through violence from four to 16-year rigorous jail terms.
In its session held here on Wednesday, the Second Criminal Bench of the Court sentenced Lieutenant Girma Amare to 16 year rigorous prison term and other defendants Kidist Bekele and Mebratu Kebede to 15 year-prison term each.
Editor of Addis Zena, Wosen-seged Gebre-kidan and Editor of another tabloid called Hadar, Dawit Kebede received 4- year behind bar each.
The charges in which Lieutenant Girma Amare, Kidist Bekele and Mebratu Kebede were convicted were heavy and they should have been sentenced either to life in prison or death, the Court said.
According to the decision, the convicts incited violence in Kirkos and Addis Ketema sub-cities here in the capital following the May 2005 national election.
Prosecutor witnesses had testified that Lieutenant Girma in particular to have instigated violence and stoned and set ablaze the office of Kebele 13/15, a city bus, government vehicle and a shop while preventing the movement of people.
The Court said Kidist was convicted of supplying petrol for setting ablaze the stated properties while attacking police members and preventing the movement of people.
However, the Court had sentenced the convicts to the stated jail term taking into consideration these attempts had failed to materialize.
The stated editors were convicted of instigating violence claiming that the national election was fraudulent and the incumbent state could not form a government with rigged vote and the public should not accept the outcome of the elections, among others.
Though the convicts were supposed to get up to 10-years in jail each, they were sentenced only to 4-year imprisonment each.
The Court postponed its verdict on other members of the CUD leaderships for August 6, 2007.
Ethiopia - Elders Play Major Role in Recent Ethiopian Pardons
By Joe De Capua
31 July 2007
Listen to De Capua report on elders mp3 audio clip
On July 20th, the Ethiopian government announced the pardons of 38 opposition leaders and activists, many of whom had been sentenced to life in prison. They had been convicted in connection with political violence that erupted after the 2005 parliamentary elections. The pardons may be an example of African solutions to African problems. Ethiopian elders were at the heart of negotiations.
Dr. Ephraim Isaac – an expert on Ethiopian history, near eastern studies and religion – is the leader of the elders.
“I belong to a coalition of elders, whose roots go back to around 1988, 1989, during the period of the civil war in Ethiopia. A group of elders at that time had been assembled to try to create some kind of forum for the various conflicting parties,” he says.
Open letter to Professor Ephrem Isaac (Abebe Gelaw)
The elders’ coalition eventually became the Peace and Development Committee of which Ephraim is now chairman of the board. He says elders were involved early on in the cases of those arrested.
“We are watching to see if there’s any conflict arising between any groups or government. So, whenever there’s such a problem we approach. We write a letter or we’ll call and say we would like to be helpful. So it was our own initiative,” he says.
He says about five months ago, there was a chance to settle all the cases before anyone went to trial.
“Before the courts were at all involved, the government did come to a position where they would be willing to withdraw the case. There would be no court process. But while we were trying to mediate and facilitate the agreement time passed and then the judge felt they had to keep moving forward. So then the judge got involved in it, and then once the judge got involved in it then the government could no longer do what was originally promised to us, which is to withdraw the case,” says Ephraim.
Once the defendants were sentenced, he says, the elders were free to once again negotiate with the government about releasing the detainees. The detainees eventually signed a document accepting some of the blame for the post-election violence.
During the trials, many of the defendants called the case against them a politically motivated charade. As a result, many refused to present a legal defense despite court orders to do so.
“No document is acceptable to both sides. We had to shuttle back and forth to look at the document and see what words are acceptable to the government and what words are acceptable to the detainees. And that really required a lot of skill and a lot of elders participating" he says.
Dr. Hailesslassie Belay is another of the elders who took part in the negotiations.
“The wording was very, very difficult because what the detainees wanted the government did not want. This was a very big problem,” he says.
The former UN official and first director of the Peace and Development Committee for Ethiopia says outside pressure did not help matters.
“The United States, the Europeans, especially the Europeans, were trying to use pressure and force to press the government to release them altogether. The government did not want to accept this kind of thing. They considered it a sort of colonialism,” says Belay.
Ephraim Isaac says the pardons stem from Ethiopian tradition.
“We were operating, you see, on the basis that in our tradition, we have many, many examples of people in conflict coming to some agreement because they respect the concept of spiritual forgiveness. Ethiopians are a very spiritual people,” he says.
He says that most Ethiopians feel that people who ask for forgiveness are heroes and those who forgive are saints.
The US State Department praised the work of the elders. It also commended the Ethiopian government for its statesmanship and the detainees for their commitment to advancing democracy.
Ethiopians suffer under government corruption
By Dean Jacobs/Letters to America
Our conversation stops as silent eyes glance to the knock that came from the door, a student appears to ask a question and leaves.
Talking about politics is a dangerous undertaking in Ethiopia.
Those who are willing to speak about such things, only do so under the agreement of remaining anonymous. Stories of people being harassed by the federal police are common. It generally starts with a warning phone call about a comment or activity that they call into question.
A newspaper publisher tells me about an opinion column he runs in his business newspaper. He heard once on a BBC TV interview with the current Ethiopia president that he doesn't plan to run again, and he shared that statement in his newspaper. He was called about it, and warned to write only about business, not politics, even though that decision would affect business.
After the student leaves, my office companion, whom I will call David says: “Did you see the marks on his eyebrows, that means he comes from the Tigrai region where the president is from.”
This communicates a potential loyalty to the current government.
Elections in 2005 were marked with irregularities, according to international officials observing the process. The irregularities are thought to be changed ballots or switched ballot boxes.
After the election, the word got out that the sitting government rigged the election.
“It was so obvious that everyone knew,” so students began to demonstrate peacefully, David says.
Another knock on the door, and our conversation once again stops. This time it is a student David wants me to meet.
“She's very clever and understands what is happening,” he says.
This student, whom I will call Tigist, shares some of her thoughts about the current situation.
“The people are frustrated, and because it is not safe to express one's opinion, they continue to swallow those frustrations. But one day, people will not be able to swallow any more, and we will explode like a volcano,” Tigist says.
When asked about the timing of that explosion, she pauses and says, “the economic situation is not good in Ethiopia. The inflation is running high, and if it continues, people will no longer be able to afford basic food. I feel it will happen sooner rather than later.”
Those peaceful demonstrations turned deadly as federal police opened fire on unarmed civilians, killing 22. People do demonstrate now, but only when the international press is around because the demonstrators know the federal police will not take action in front of international media, at gatherings like major football matches or running races where large groups make it hard to single out one person.
The opposition has a symbol, the peace sign that people in the U.S. would recognize from the 1960s.
“Once I was waving down a taxi using the same two fingers to let the taxi know there was two of us,” says David, “a federal policeman saw me, ran over and started beating me. I had a hard time explaining I was just trying to wave down a taxi.”
The people of Ethiopia are frustrated with the U.S. government. Many have family or friends in the United States, so it is hard to be critical of a place they feel connected to.
“But the U.S. government is supporting the corrupt government of Ethiopia, and that is bringing a larger suffering to the majority of the Ethiopian people as a whole,” David says.
People are just surviving, according to Tigist, and waiting for the next elections.
“I don't think there will be an election. Those who want to run are in prison. What ever you call the opposite of Democracy, that is what we currently have in Ethiopia,” David says.
Dean Jacobs is a former Fremont Tribune photographer and a world traveler. Follow his latest journey each Monday in the Tribune.