Thursday, November 30
The 13 remaining witnesses (2 of the scheduled 15 were deemed 'redundant') produced by prosecutor Shiemels Kemal, were divided into groups and presented as such
The first was an elderly Tigrayan man (originaly from Shire) who claimed he was severly beaten and left for dead by a group of Kinijit members during the Nov. 2005 riots. As a resut, he alegedly spent 4 months in Black Lion Hospital and remains unabe to walk properly, in addition to suffering brain damage which has rendered him unemployable. Through tears, the man explained that he was beaten "for speaking Tigrinian", and confidently accused several defendants of this merciless crime. However, when asked to further identify the defendants present (both by name and sight), the formerly coherent witness suddenly became 'confused'. He repeatedy misidentified 2 of the prisoners, and then upon cross-examination, instead denied that any of the defendants had ever harmed him!
Presiding Judge Adil (in what seemed a late dispay of moral outrage) pressed the witness further--chastising him for accusing the prisoners, only to later confirm that they were not invoved in the violent crime after all. The witness repsonded that he was 'unable to identify his perpetrators because of the severe injuries he had suffered at that time', but then admitted to the court that the prosecutor had actually given him the names of the defendants! Despite protests that such 'discrepencies were the result of brain damage', the judge impatiently silenced the prosecution and demanded that the next group of witnesses be immediately presented.
The three guards from Torhailoch hospita who were next introduced testified that they were guarding the army hospital (on the Muslim hoiday following the November arrests) when they were swarmed by thousands of young rioters coming from Stadium (reportedly shouting, "Thief! Thief!", showing the 'victory sign', throwing stones and attempting to jump over the hospita gates and destroy the facilities). Apparenty not to be outdone by the other 'humorous' testimonies that have so far colored this ongoing trial, the witnesses claimed that the dozens of violent protesters they detained were certainly all Christians, easily verified by their ID cards upon arrest. When it was pointed out by the defence that ID cards do not, in fact, display religion, the witnesses quicky explained that they 'could just tell' by their dress!
The third group of witnesses presented consisted of several former EPPF fighters, who were rumored to have been brought directly from prison to testify. They claimed that they were told by leaders of this Eritrean-trained (and funded) guerilla group that "Kinijit is one with them" because they "share the same purpose, the same enemy" and further claimed that Kinijit leaders Andargachew and Berhane met with EPPF leaders (twice--in Germany and Eritrea) to announce that "Kinijit will join their armed struggle" because 'peaceful means were futile'. (In light of this particularly ridiculous allegation--which could quite easily be defeated by examining the passports of these men, one assumes--the character of the witness begs to be examined. It seems worth noting that the witness who supplied this tale is part of Kinet (a popular national theatre program) and his testimony, interestingly enough, much resembled that of a poorly-rehearsed actor--Though he began his soliloquy with great conviction, upon interruption he faltered... hesitated for a few moments...and then began again at the beginning of his testimony--repeating the entire story again, word for word!)
The court then called a break for lunch, after which the fourth group of witnesses were presented. This group consisted of 2 men and 1 woman (employees of the Bole kebele office) who were 'picked up off the street by police officers to witness the searching of the prisoners' homes', although no search warrants were ever produced. The judge then asked the witnesses to identify their signatures on the pages of a document provided by the prosecution (confirming the search procedures). The witnesses were incredulous, swearing that they signed only the first page of the document and insisting that they had never seen the additional pages in their entire lives! Though Prosecuter Shiemels heatedly argued that the witnesses had, in fact, approved the entire document, Judge Adil finally appeared to lose patience with his endless theatrics, and angrily silenced him, siding with the witnesses.
A local police commander (who identified on a map the areas where disturbances allegedly occured during the November 2005 protests) was the final witness to testify.
Tuesday, November 28
If court proceedings continue in similar fashion, the trial is expected to come to an end very soon.
Sunday, November 26
Shouts of “Kinijit is back!” and “Give power to the educated!” mingled with slogans denouncing the Somalian invasion, and strains of peaceful hymns filled the air. Local police officers looked on in amazement as crowds swarmed the front of the ETV building, peacefully expressing their dissatisfaction and thanking Haile Gebre-Selassie for providing the opportunity to speak out against the mounting political oppression.
It is a wonderful day in Addis!
Witness Inspector Welatew Demissie, 40 (local police), allegedly received hospital treatment following a head injury resulting from a stone thrown by protestors, and five other officers were reportedly wounded; however, evidence of genocide or even life-threatening injury remained conspicuously absent from all accounts.
Though the prosecution again failed to make any connection between rioters and the defendants(other than reports of youngsters who were "making the victory sign” ), the officers nonetheless told woeful tales of violence so extreme that backup forces were required on every occasion. (For instance, in addition to such hostile hand gestures, the students also allegedly called the policemen names.)
Lasting trauma understandably further resulted from encountering roadblocks constructed by students from “dirt and stones”, in addition to the excruciating pain caused by berberi-filled mattresses set ablaze “to burn our eyes and throats” .
Excessive police force was quite obviously required.
Friday, November 17
Early this week, prosecutors Shiemels Kemal, Michael Teklu, and Abreha Tetemke again failed to prove that widespread violence was instigated by the defendants on November 1st, 2005. Seven witnesses were presented as victims of said riots, apparently in relation to the charge of “attempting to incite genocide”.
The majority of the witnesses claimed lasting psychological damage--lamenting the alleged destruction of property and ongoing subjugation to “local stigma”; however, the connection between the complaints and this serious charge remains yet to be seen. (...Understandably, however, the psyche of witness Mebrat Tesfaye, 39 MUST be irrevocably damaged if, in fact, the stones reportedly thrown at his house by “unknown individuals” truly were intended "to disturb me to do not sleep peacefully”! )
Though witness Sergeant Getu Redaye, 34, repeatedly insisted that he observed Professor Mesfin leading the riots on November 2, 2005, by “sending messages on his mobile”, when cross-examined he was unable to even vaguely recall the clothes worn by the professor at the time or identify the type of mobile phone used for such ‘criminal activities’.
In a similar vein, two other witnesses offered their own creative medical diagnosis as further “evidence”; witness Getachew Berahne, 57, determined the “exposure” to high blood pressure and hand paralysis of his father-in-law to be the result of “psychological trauma” suffered on the evening of Nov. 1, 2005, while witness Edelu Mohammed Ade, 36, seemed to suggest that he contracted tuberculosis because his shop was allegedly burnt down by unidentified CUD supporters.
Tuesday, November 14
One year has passed since the mass arrests that announced the boundless vengence of a declining regime:
Ethnic and religious conflicts are on the rise, and both here and abroad the mounting calls for civil violence grow louder still. Free press in this country has been all but slain and official intimidation and harassment have reached unprecedented levels. Though one year has passed, the economy remains lethargic and the social sectors are in lamentable disarray. Preventable humanitarian crises continue to wreak havoc throughout the land, and the international community appears to have abdicated their most worthy responsibilities--successfully duped, distracted and dazzled by the charisma of one of history’s most brutal dictators.
One year has passed, and I awake to find myself living in a society where the words “mass imprisonment”, “torture” and “murder” sprinkle casual conversation, and the sight of camoflauged soldiers--armed with AK-47s and walking four and five abreast--no longer chills the blood.
It is because one year has passed, that I fear the exemplary resilience so often required of people here will slowly allow adaptation, even to such horrors. Are we not all , to varying degress, already learning to gather and refashion our lives from the remmnants of former freedoms—continually surrendering to the endless concessions of our most basic human rights? Are we not all already speaking less…trusting less…hoping less?
I fear, if we have become resigned and disillusioned after only one year, what then should it matter if another passes? And another…?
It is for this reason that now, more than ever, we must each find ways to keep the names and stories of those who have sacrificed so much for Ethiopian life and liberty, alive—on the lips of politicians and members of the international press, in the minds of those in academic circles and lobbyist groups, and in the hearts of concerned citizens all over the globe.
The time for the release of all political prisoners is NOW! View the opposition party as you must, but a single fact remains: This country, in the hands of the EPRDF, is racing towards destruction with a suicidal frenzy. The responsibility, therefore, can no longer be passed back and forth--discussed and debated abroad only to be subsequently returned. Democratic dialogue and leadership must be immediately resumed within this society, if there is to be any hope of survival, development and growth!
Sunday, November 12
It seems that Ethiopia is again the lucky recipient of American aid--this time to the tune of $37 million USD (or 321,900,000 million birr). This donation, coupled with the recent announcement of an additional US donation of $250 million (to fight HIV/AIDS) however, also unfortunately amounts to increased endorsement of one of the world’s most brutal dictatorships.
True to form, US Ambassador Vickie Huddleston was on the scene to represent the generosity of USAID, proudly proclaiming that “the United States Government remains committed to working in collaboration with other donors and the Government of Ethiopia to support programs that address the needs of the Ethiopian people”… Needs, that apparently (despite USAID reports “that improved governance…is essential to enable economic growth and address the challenge of famine vulnerability, hunger, and poverty in Ethiopia”) overlook the most vital neccessity of democratic rule --through free and fair elections and the release of all political prisoners, government transparency, and national policy reform.
Unfortunately the task of addressing the negative government policies and practices largely responsible for this perpetual state of humanitarian crisis, has also proven too much for even the partnering UN World Food Program to attempt. Though the WFP in Ethiopia continues to appeal for increased assistance, the driving forces behind the overwhelming national need remain skillfully and publicly avoided.
Private conversation with an in-country WFP official some months ago, however, has proven far more insightful:
“Off the record”, this worker spoke at great length about the severely detrimental effects of the current land tenure system, and about the incomprehensible absence of the basic agricultural technologies required to achieve both domestic food security and increased export potential (given the international applause received by both the ADLI and SDPRP policies of Meles Zenawi). This person expressed absolute disgust at the widespread federal corruption regularly witnessed within the aid community here--in the form of official embezzlement, deliberately incorrect damage assessment/regional reports (either exaggerated to attract surplus aid or under-reported to feign government competency), inadequate leadership capacity, regional channeling of “aid dollars”, and the abuse of vital argricultural supplies as a means of “vote harvesting” and political manipulation. Then…sadly, this generally-likeable official hesitated, swallowed hard, and apologetically described the ‘delicacies’ faced by such a large, essential humanitarian agency--the pre-requisite of “government cooperation in order to gain permission to provide emergency aid”, and thus the regrettable “impossibility” of denouncing such deeds to the international donor community.
I recently overheard another WFP field worker adamantly ‘officially’ reject the suggestion of economic sanctions in reponse to the mounting political oppression, only later to insist over dinner with friends that economic sanctions would, in fact, be the best way to necessarily oust the repressive EPRDF regime! I additionally witnessed this same person--whom I know to be personally “horrified by the current oppressive political climate and severe escalation of national human rights violations”--professionally offer only a feeble, “No comment” on the subject when approached by a member of the international press.
Of course, we know all too well that a government as deeply entrenched as the EPRDF cannot be overthrown in a day and that the humanitarian concerns in the interim must be addressed, but that does NOT, in my mind, excuse the resounding silence of the international donor community in recent years.
1.If it is common knowledge that the current Ethiopian government consistently ranks among the world’s worst in terms of corruption (placing in the bottom 10th percentile, according to World Bank governance indicators)
2.If the majority of foreign aid dollars do (as generally accepted within the national aid community), amount to little more than direct financial support for a brutal dictator and his henchmen—essentially facilitating the continued harassment, torture, imprisonment and murder of innocent civilians throughout this country
How can such a gap possibly remain between “personal” and “professional”
It remains to be seen how members of the international community can continue to justify the ‘luxury’ of simultaneous opposing stances when millions of lives are literally at stake! For who, if not they, are in the position to accurately relay the information to the donor community that will in turn effect serious intervention, government accountability and reform?
Thursday, November 9
According to sources, Bereket Hadgu,24, was shot through the back while walking with friends, who were talking and laughing loudly. No words were ever exchanged between the policeman and his victim.
The officer, who has reportedly been taken into custody, has claimed that the gun “misfired” while he was hitting another student with the butt of the weapon; however, witnesses confirm that the shot was fired intentionally and without provocation.
The body of the student was returned Monday to his parents in Mekele.
Monday, November 6
Ethiopia, the internationally celebrated “Cradle of Humanity”, has of late become a country more synonymous with death than life— a place where peaceful demonstration results in the murder of hundreds of innocent civilians; a place where old men languish in prison for crimes not committed and the most educated, talented and productive members of society are forced to choose between self-censorship and self-sacrifice.
There simply comes a time when enough is ENOUGH.
There has been much attention given lately to the circulation of a non-violent civil-disobedience calendar, for which many have already been arrested, tortured and even killed. Such severe government retaliation is an unfathomable response to a publication peacefully advocating for the release of political prisoners, and must be exposed as such.
I have not yet come across an English translation of this calendar and would like to provide an unofficial version now:
WITHOUT RISKING GOVERNMENT RETRIBUTION, JOIN ME IN IMPOSING ECONOMIC SANCTIONS TO GET OUR POLITICAL PRISONERS RELEASED
1. Gradually, withdraw your funds from Ethiopian government and EPRDF private banks and deposit in private banks that are not associated with government agencies or agents
2. Break your existing relationship with EPRDF government or EPRDF party insurance agencies and deal with private, not government, agent insurance institutions
3. Use fliers and posters and graffiti to communicate slogans and messages in various parts of Ethiopia without risking your well being
4. Write letters and emails and make phone calls to EPRDF government officials to inform them of the agony they are creating and to plead with them to stop. Share contact information to government officials.
5. Use whatever safe means you find to expose and report government’s abuse of its power and its cruelty to the Ethiopian people including: human rights violation, extortion of country’s resources for personal use, embezzlement, unfair and heavy taxation on private industries, unfair competition with private industries, unfair practices in trade and legal system, heavy intimidation, etc. Please report your findings and facts firstname.lastname@example.org
6. Refrain from attending EPRDF government meetings. If you are forced to do so, do not participate or speak to demonstrate your opposition
7. Refrain from working for the illegal EPRDF government
8. Do not associate socially or professionally with federal or local government agents who are agonizing the Ethiopian people; plead with them to abstain from their cruel and abusive actions. The exclusion shouldn't be based on ethnic, religious and/or gender lines.
9. Do not use products and services made by EPRDF government and its agencies such as: Dashen Beer, Pepsi products, Addis Tea, NOC gas station, Mega book store, etc
10. Do not buy or use print and television media produced by EPRDF government and government related agencies such as: Reporter, Eftein, Fekat, The Reporter, Ethiopian Television and Radio News, various programs by Zemi connection (Mimi Sebhatu), EPRDF government officials question and answer sessions
11. Those who work for EPRDF government factories and industries, cooperate with our peaceful struggle by participating in industrial actions
12. Report on individuals and organizations that are doing business with TPLF trading agencies
13. Report individuals that are making their living through extortion of Ethiopia’s resources and abuse of the Ethiopian people. You can email your findings to email@example.com
14. Plead with foreign embassies, diplomats and governments for the release of political prisoners through letter writing campaigns
PS: The pictures on the Calendar are that of:
a. Engineer Hailu Shaul, Chairman, Kinijit
b. Ato Muluneh Eyauel, Secretary, Kinigit
c. Prof. Mesfin Weldemariam, Kinigit founder and human rights advocate
d. Ms. Birtukan Mideksa, Vice Chairman, Kinigit
e. Dr. Berhanu Nega, Mayor, Addis Ababa
f. Engineer Gizachew Sheferaw, Kinigit high commissioner