Monday, April 30

Trial Update (April 30, 2007)

This morning MP defendant Bedru Adem presented 2 witnesses in his defense.

The defendants have not yet been permitteded to meet and discuss the possibility of presenting a collective defense, and so numerous independent requests were made regarding access to legal counsel, confiscated personal possessions and various documents presented by the prosecution.

Court is scheduled to resume on May 2 in the afternoon session.

Tuesday, April 24

Africa’s New Chain of Command

The purpose of the new US military Africa command is to:
secure access to the continent’s precious natural resources.
b) enhance strategic global counter-terrorism initiatives (and better orchestrate their furthest-flung proxy wars).
c) counter the uncomfortably significant presence of the Chinese.
d) to exploit the lax human rights conditions of African countries in order to achieve all of said goals.

Apparently none of the above, according to US Defense Department deputy undersecretary for policy Ryan Henry.

Following the completion of the recent week-long US delegation to Africa (which included visits by representatives of the Defense and State departments to South Africa, Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya and Ethiopia), the Americans have officially announced their plans to establish a new continental military command. In addition to both the Pacific and Central Command (which currently directs involvement in the Horn of Africa), AFRICOM will officially focus on ‘coordinating the continent’s activities’, and in particular the ‘investment efforts’of the Pentagon, from an undiclosed location.

According to officials, “(AFRICOM) operations are aimed at building partnerships and stengthening the ability of African governments and militaries to do their jobs”.

Um…“their” jobs being their own? Or the bidding of the American Secretary of Defense/State? Pardon the confusion, but the regional geopolitical significance of late lends even a simple statement such as this an unfortunately ironic tone.

Wednesday, April 18

Against Arms

I have been closely following the forums and comments on other sites in addition to those received in my inbox. I hesitate to write this, as I wield no moral authority on the subject whatsoever (and will, no doubt, be criticized because I am ferenj). But I will write anyway, as it is a cause of great concern.

The renewed calls for armed struggle and violent liberation are increasingly alarming. I understand, at least to a small degree, the frustration and helplessness felt in the wake of last week’s ruling but nonetheless I simply cannot embrace violence as an acceptable response.

Not yet. And certainly not now.

It seems to me, that violence in the name of ‘liberating our leaders’ in fact dishonors the immense sacrifices they are making at this very moment. Had they found such means acceptable, they would not be in prison today. Simple. They have left nothing unclear in that respect and have insistesd time and time again on the process of peaceful reconciliation and political transition. How then can we ignore this request and demand or commit ourselves to acts of violence in their names?

(Fight if you must, but call it what it is. Say that you are angry and out of patience, but don’t pretend to do it for their sake. And don’t pretend that it is the only option that remains.)

Secondly, despite all the turmoil and devastating loss of life over the past two years in this county, the truth is that all other means have not yet been exhausted. Leadership, commitment, manpower and funds to the degree necessary have been lacking, and thus on-the-ground organization and results. Too few funds have come in to support too few people here and diaspora bickering has served to cripple even the best intentions of those abroad; as a result, more lives have been lost than necessary and little accomplished.

It is unacceptable to resort to violence simply because we have failed (especially in the name of a party whose core principles deplore such course—if so, how can we condemn the EPRDF for the very same violence so many within our ranks are now actively seeking?

Monday, April 9

Update: Courtroom Chaos Brings Both Triumph and Despair.

(sorry for the delay.)

Following the ruling to release the 25, chaos broke out in the courtroom. As the judges were preparing to leave, Bertukan asked Judge Adil if the remaining defendants would be permitted to meet in order to discuss their defense. At first he said that it was a matter for the Addis Ababa Prison Commission to decide, but then concluded that he couldn’t allow them to gather, as they were facing conspiracy charges. Dr.Berhanu stood up and angrily demanded that if they were to be denied opportunity to discuss their collective defence, sentences should be delivered immediately. The judge shouted back, and others lept to their feet with similar requests. Bertukan repeatedly tried to make herself heard to no avail, and finally got up and walked out of the courtroom, to the stupified confusion of the guards. After failing to restore order, Adil was livid and attempted to walk out, but was prevented by the other two judges

The trial is scheduled to resume on April 30th.

Wednesday, April 4

The Ruling

(And this is only the beginning. These defendants have so far been ordered to defend themselves against the first charge only. There are six remaining. There are also dozens of other defendants who await ruling.)

The defendants were brought in this morning at 10:20am. Considering the delay tactics of the past week, none of us were expecting the judges to get through the witness summary, let alone make a ruling. We were very wrong.

After the summary was read, there was a 10 minute break. Then the ruling was given: 23 defendants were ordered to defend themselves against the charge of treason. With his last word—before it was even clear that he had finished his sentence--Judge Adil turned abruptly and rushed out the back exit, with the other two following closely.

It was obvious that no one, least of all the defendants, expected such an outcome. The family members received the news with a mixture of anger, fatigue and sadness. “Ayzuachehu! Ayzuachehu!” rang out from both sides of the room as the prisoners, with their unwavering courage, tried to reassure their loved ones and encourage them to be strong. Court resumes tommorrow.

What was particularly striking about today’s session was the change in tone. Judge Adil far exceeded expectations with his particularlyly eloquent summary and prosecutor’s demeanor (reminding us all, that the defendants could, in fact, also be charged for conspiracy under Article 257 of the penal code, but would not be). This drastic change in vernacular (that began and ended with the reading of the ruling) seems more than a little odd; and the phrases and wording seemed a little too familiar…Call me crazy, but it actually sounded strikingly similar to Meles himself!

Perhaps it was.

Monday, April 2

Postponed for Another Day

The trial is now postponed until tommorrow, April 3.

I wonder what exactly has got our poor judge feeling so under the weather?
Perhaps an attack of conscience late in the game?
(If only....)