Those who make peaceful change impossible, make a violent revolution inevitable.”
The English colonial government made peaceful change impossible in the American colonies leading to the American Revolution in 1776, an event memorialized in the American Declaration of Independence and celebrated annually on July 4.
On July 4th 2007, an informal group of Ethiopian human rights defenders, civic society activists, academics, journalists, concerned individuals and others signed a Declaration pledging to defend freedom, democracy and human rights in Ethiopia, and set up an online petition for all Ethiopians worldwide to join in the pledge. The Declaration was signed by 1,875 individuals in 2007.
At this critical moment in African and Middle Eastern history when decades-old dictatorships are being challenged by the people, it is vitally important for all Ethiopians who believe in freedom, democracy and human rights to stand up and take a stand.
The online petition remains open for signature here.
The Declaration with the list of 74 original signatories as it appeared in 2007 is reproduced at the online petition site and here and various other websites.
DECLARATION TO DEFEND FREEDOM, DEMOCRACY AND HUMAN RIGHTS IN ETHIOPIA IN THE NEW MILLENNIUM July 4, 2007
In the history of all great nations, there comes a moment when the people must make a choice that will define them in their own time, vindicate the enormous sacrifices of their ancestors and enable them to bequeath an enduring legacy for generations yet unborn. They are often forced to make that choice by arrogant tyrants who use brute force to entrench and perpetuate their dictatorial rule, and unabashedly proclaim to the world their contempt for the rule of law, democratic principles and civil liberties.
In the history of oppression, tyrants have spared no effort to erode the natural courage of their people and force upon them a life of cowardice and submission, debilitate their natural instincts for bravery and valor and intimidate them into accepting servility, replace their yearning for liberty with false hopes and pretensions of freedom, trick them into bartering their desire to live in dignity for a life of shame and fear, subvert their natural sense of honor, duty and patriotism for vulgar materialism, and corrupt them into selling their fidelity to truth at the altar of falsehood.
In 1776, the American people had their defining moment when they stood up and defended their liberties against a tyrannical king who taxed them without representation, closed down their legislatures and imposed upon them laws made by representatives for whom they did not grant consent. They declared then, as we do now:
“When a government has ceased to protect the lives, liberty and property of the people, from whom its legitimate powers are derived, and for the advancement of whose happiness it was instituted, and so far from being a guarantee for the enjoyment of those inestimable and inalienable rights, it becomes an instrument in the hands of evil rulers for their oppression.”
Our Moment to Stand Up Against Evil Rulers and For Freedom, Democracy and Human Rights in the New Ethiopian Millennium is Here! We Must Act Now!
Ethiopians the world over must now make a choice, a choice that will define them today, tomorrow and in the next Millennium. We must plant the seeds of liberty today so that future generations may harvest its bounty.
We MUST therefore rise to defend freedom, democracy and human rights in Ethiopia against a tyrant who has:
Connived and made alliances with enemies of the Ethiopian people to break up the country and bargain away its territory.
Subverted the civil and criminal laws of the land and encroached upon the fundamental rights of the people by denying them due process of law.
Forbidden the people from speaking freely, assembling peacefully, petitioning government for grievances, and the press from reporting.
Trampled upon the basic human rights of the people, and flagrantly violated international human rights laws and conventions.
Employed the malicious methods of divide and conquer, and dredged up historical grievances to sow hatred and discord among the people.
Threatened and made good on his threats to visit violence, intimidation, terror, arbitrary arrest and imprisonment and torture and untold privation upon the people.
Dispatched swarms of soldiers throughout the land to harass the people and administer street justice against them.
Refused to step down and leave office after he was overwhelmingly defeated in a democratic election, and rejected by the people.
Unjustly imprisoned the elected representatives of the people and persecuted peaceful political opponents on false and fabricated charges and crimes.
Obstructed the administration of justice by neutralizing and intimidating the judiciary to do his bidding.
Intervened in the internal affairs of neighboring countries and waged war against their people creating lasting and insurmountable enmity.
Refused the aid of Great Nations to build democratic institutions and institutionalize human rights and the rule of law in Ethiopia, and has hired at great expense to the people’s treasury, mercenaries to lobby against such efforts in the Legislatures of such nations, and
Practiced cruelty and crimes against humanity scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages.
In every stage of these oppressions, the people have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms. We have sought the intercession of international human rights organizations, the Legislatures of the Great Nations of the world and appealed to his sense of native justice, magnanimity and patriotism.
He has sneered at the people’s pleas for justice, scoffed at their petitions for redress of grievances and turned a deaf ear to the advice of the international community.
We, the undersigned, therefore, solemnly publish and declare, that the People of Ethiopia have the God-given right to live in freedom, democracy and human rights, to be free and establish a government that is of their own choosing and consent, and that we shall work tirelessly and without reservation or evasion to:
Gain the unconditional release of ALL political prisoners of conscience.
Restore the democratic rights of the people.
Institute democratic reform and accountability.
Enhance the capacity of legislative institutions to enact fair and just laws.
Strengthen civil society groups and organizations and support human rights advocates.
Cause the arrest and prosecution of human rights abusers, and to bring to justice the killers of 193 innocent men, women and children and wounding of 763 others.
Increase the independence of the judiciary.
Establish permanent human rights monitoring and reporting processes.
Secure the rights of women and promote families as a foundation for a stable society.
Encourage and engage youth to become future leaders.
Remove all press censorship, restore full press freedom and strengthen private media.
Improve the electoral process to ensure fraud-free elections, and strengthen competitive party politics.
Limit the use of U.S. security assistance to maintain global peace, and NOT against the civilian population, and
Work tirelessly to bring to justice all persons guilty of crimes against humanity.
In support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other and to the People of Ethiopia that we will defend and promote, without evasion or reservation, the cause of freedom, democracy and human rights in Ethiopia in the New Millennium.
Ethiopian billionaire businessman Ato Al Amoudi has filed a lawsuit against Ethiopian Review in a U.K. high court. The lawsuit claims that the magazine:
…has gravely injured the reputation of the Claimant, has exposed him to public scandal, contempt and odium and has caused him considerable embarrassment and distress.
I am glad that Ethiopian Review has caused this much harm to the scumbag Woyanne blood sucker. More is coming at him once the trial starts in court.
Some of the witnesses mentioned in the lawsuit are Woyanne Ambassador in London and other embassy staff.
I’m not sure why Al Amoudi decided to sue me in a British high court since Ethiopian Review is based in the U.S. Also he might have spent over $10,000 to a private investigation firm to find me and serve me with the lawsuit. I was having lunch at a restaurant today when a 7-foot, 250 lbs man claiming to be a former FBI agent served me with the court papers. Apparently, he and his partners have been tracking me across eastern United States since mid December. They could have just called me and I would have gone to their office to pick up the papers. I myself was eager to face the bozo in court. (Click here to read the charges)
Ethiopian Review Legal Fund has been reactivated to fight back the lawsuit. Click here for more information.
In 2011 Ethiopian Review, the longest running independent Ethiopian journal, celebrates its 20th year in service. It is a milestone period in the journal’s history and a special occasion for those of us who have labored hard to keep it going. As the editor-in-chief, in deciding who to select as Ethiopian Review’s Person of the Year, this time I have decided to look at our own accomplishments and recognize those who have been there through thick and thin over the years. While there are many individuals — too many to list here — who have been providing valuable support to Ethiopian Review, for their enduring contribution special recognition goes to: (In alphabetical order)
Wzr. Meseret Agonafer, who is a fountain of inspiration and moral support, as well an authentic example of a genuine friend.
Ato Elias Wondimu, who once served as the managing editor and after launching his own publishing house, Tsehai Publishers, continued to consult on the editorial direction of the journal.
There is another person who deserves even greater appreciation, for without his consistent moral support and advise there would not have been Ethiopian Review. He is my own father Kifle Seifu.
My father is currently in the US. I, along with my sister and brothers, have brought him and our mother here a few months ago after witnessing Woyanne going after the families of its opponents. He had already survived an attack about 15 years ago by Woyanne gunmen who sprayed his house in Addis Ababa with machine gun bullets. He returned fire taking down (wounding) one of the shooters. It was nothing short of a miracle that he survived the attack. He spent 3 months in jail and was released with the help of the American charge d’affairs in Addis Ababa and Ted Dagne at the U.S Congressional Service.
After he was released, for the past 15 years, Woyanne made sure that my father could not do any business in Ethiopia. Every venture he tried was blocked. After a long legal battle, about 4 years ago, three different courts, including the supreme court of Ethiopia ruled that properties (worth over 63 million birr) that Derg confiscated from my father returned. Woyanne refused to obey the court order and told my father that his properties would be returned under one condition: That he must stop his son from publishing critical opinions and reports about the ruling junta on Ethiopian Review. My father’s answer was unequivocal no. I’m proud of him for that to no end.
I don’t know any one who has worked so hard through out his life as my father did. One time when he was working as a contractor on the Ethiopian Air Force base in Debre Zeit he collapsed due to sleep deprivation. It was normal for him to disappear for several months at a time exploring mines in some of the remotest parts of Ethiopia.
He is now 84 years old and after all the hard work through out his life he doesn’t have a penny in the bank. During the Derg era its prime minister FikreSelassie Wogderes, and security chief Tesfaye WoldeSelassie confiscated (robbed) most of his properties. The Woyanne junta that replaced the Derg refused to return his properties ignoring court orders, and made sure that he doesn’t earn a living in Ethiopia.
There are countless others who have lost much more than properties in the hands of the two barbaric regimes. They have taken away the lives of so many innocent Ethiopians. I am lucky and grateful to have my father still alive.
The two vampire regimes, Derg and Woyanne, have left my father penniless. But he has one thing that is more precious and that no one could take away from him — honor.
With his skills, experience and hard work, my father could have been one of the wealthiest individuals in Ethiopia. Unfortunately, in a country where the president is a pig, the prime minister is a mass murderer and the patriarch is a thief, it is extremely difficult for a person of honor to succeed and thrive.
I’m profoundly blessed to have a father like Kifle Seifu and in this special milestone year for the journal it is my honor to choose him as Ethiopian Review’s 2010 Person of the year.
Some Eritrean friends are asking me why is it necessary for Ethiopian Review to start a public discussion on concerns regarding the disappearance of Ethiopian patriots in Eritrea and problems facing Ethiopian opposition groups. They are urging me to work behind the scene to find solutions. That is also my preference. For over a year, my colleagues and I were engaged in intense behind the scene discussions with Eritrean authorities regarding Ethiopian opposition groups inside Eritrea, and particularly the Ethiopian People’s Patriotic Front (EPPF). As a strong advocate of cooperation between the Eritrean government and Ethiopian opposition groups, I would not want to jeopardize the progress that has been made in the past couple of years despite enormous difficulties. However, a corrupt mid-ranking Eritrean official named Col. Fitsum, who is assigned to advise Ethiopian opposition groups, has ran amok and it seems the Eritrean government is unwilling to control him. The rogue colonel has been trying to block the effort to revamp EPPF — an organization that has not moved an inch in its 10 years existence — and when he noticed that he is losing ground, he has launched a disinformation campaign using the Asmara-based EPPF radio and web site. He has also tightened his grip on EPPF more than ever. A few months ago, I and several others had finally decided that locking horn with a rogue, albeit powerful Eritrean intelligence officer in Eritrean territory is not worth it and decided to take a different route. This move seemed to have threatened the colonel even more and he started to take desperate actions, including the arrest of those who are thought to be involved in the new movement. He has also called an urgent meeting and ordered the dismissal of several EPPF central council members, including those who had already withdrawn themselves.
We will take a more in-depth look at EPPF another time. Here, I will try to illustrate that EPPF is not the only organization that is facing difficulties in Eritrea. In Ginbot 7’s case, for example, Col. Fitsum has dispersed most of the soldiers who had defected from the ANDM wing of Woyanne and arrived in Eritrea in early 2009 to join the new movement by turning them against each other. He forced the few who remained in Eritrea to create a new group named Amhara Democratic Force Movement so that they would not join Ginbot 7. With the exception of the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), all the other Ethiopian groups are in the same boat. The only reason ONLF is facing little or no problem in Eritrea is that Col. Fitsum cannot get involved in their affairs. As a result, ONLF is the only opposition group that has been able to carry out serious military actions against Woyanne.
One of the Ethiopian armed resistance groups that seems to be by far the strongest is the Tigray People’s Democratic Movement (TPDM). I visited one of the TPDM shelters in Oct. 2009, and I was impressed by the sheer number of its troops. The first question that came to my mind while visiting the TPDM army was, why are we not hearing about any major military offensive by the TPDM forces against Woyanne? TPDM could easily make Tigray ungovernable to Woyanne if it is allowed to fight. ONLF doesn’t have 1/10th the number of fighters TPDM has, and yet it is consistently bleeding Woyanne’s nose until every one in the world knows about it.
I asked the TPDM leadership this very question. They were too afraid to give me an answer, but it was not necessary. I could read the frustration in their faces. Instead of fighting Woyanne, TPDM fighters currently spend their days toiling on farms without pay. The fighters want to fight. The leaders want to fight. But fortunately for Woyanne, they are put on a short leash by their Eritrean “adviser.”
The government of Eritrea needs to act promptly to stop its rogue mid-ranking officers who are causing havoc among Ethiopian opposition groups if it is genuine about building a strong relationship with Ethiopians. The following information is intended for such purpose, since private communications have been left unanswered so far.
It was with shock and disbelief that a few days ago we learned about the disappearance of Col. Tadesse Muluneh, one of the founders of Ethiopian People’s Patriotic Front (EPPF). We have requested Eritrean officials for an explanation. It’s now been over 2 weeks and we have not received any official response so far. Ethiopian Review sources in Eritrea, however, have informed us that it is not just Tadesse who is arrested. Several individuals in EPPF’s central committee have been rounded up in the past few months.
The arrests have been orchestrated by Eritrean adviser to Ethiopian opposition groups named Col. Fitsum, according to our sources.
This week we have also learned that current EPPF chairman Meazaw Getu’s movement has been restricted and his vehicle has been taken away by the same colonel.
During the past few months, at least two central committee members have been killed and several have fled. Hundreds of fighters have also left their units.
After rounding up Col. Tadesse and others, last week Col. Fitsum convened an EPPF meeting and forced the leadership to summarily remove several individuals, including six in the Diaspora, from the central committee for opposing his illegal actions. He then appointed a hotel-owner in Philadelphia named Tilahun Gelaw as head of EPPF in the Diaspora over the objection of the chairman, Meazaw Getu, and several central committee members.
EPPF is not the only group that is currently facing problems in Eritrea. We have also learned that hundreds of OLF fighters under Gen. Kemal Gelchu who are stationed in Eritrea have been immobilized. Gen. Kemal is currently placed under a virtual house arrest.
Col. Fitsum has also arranged some individuals to kidnap and beat up Ginbot 7 Secretary General Andargachew Tsige when he visited Eritrea a few months ago. To cover his track, Fitsum sent the attackers to Ethiopia where Woyanne shot them dead as soon as they arrived.
The turn of events in Eritrea regarding Ethiopian opposition groups is deeply worrisome to those of us who have been promoting cooperation with Eritrean government. Strong opposition figures are currently being silenced and in their place those who act and behave like puppets are being hand picked and installed as leaders by Col. Fitsum and other mid-ranking Eritrean military and intelligence officers.
We believe that all this is the work of rogue elements in the Eritrean military who might be secretly working to re-establish relations with the Woyanne regime in Ethiopia without the knowledge of the president. We believe that these Eritrean officers are purposefully undermining Isaias Afwerki’s agenda to build good relationship with Ethiopians based on mutual interest.
One of the tactics Col. Fitsum uses to keep Ethiopian groups weak and their members at each others’ throat is to identify corrupt individuals (some who are suspected of being Woyanne agents) and promote them while undermining and planting disinformation against those who are thought to be strong and free of corruption. That is what he has been doing against Col. Tadesse, who is in good terms with almost every one in EPPF, including the current chairman EPPF, Meazaw Getu. As a matter of fact, Meazaw has repeatedly expressed his wish for Tadesse to return to the EPPF leadership. It was Fitsum who chased away Tadesse from EPPF at the barrel of a gun. Fitsum turns around and informs his superiors that he is keeping Tadesse away from EPPF because the rank-and-file members will mutiny if he comes back.
Some question whether individuals like Col. Fitsum are acting on their own, or their actions are sanctioned by higher-ups. We will find out the truth in due course.
Our suspicion regarding the likes of Col. Fitsum has been strengthen by the recently leaked U.S. diplomatic dispatches from the American embassy in Asmara that has been released by Wikileaks.
In one of the diplomatic cables, the U.S. ambassador indicates that some military officers are working to bring down Isaias Afwerki. Could sabotaging the activities of Ethiopian opposition groups who are friendly with the Eritrean government by the likes of Col. Fitsum be part of a campaign of sabotage to undermine President Isaias? We could be wrong, but for now that is our assumption based on what we know so far.
If we look at EPPF, for example, every movement by EPPF units in the past year has been leaked to Woyanne forces in advance. As soon as the units make a move, Woyanne forces, along with ETV crew, capture them. Despite repeated warnings, the EPPF fighters are given mobile phones, which makes it easy for Woyanne to track them down.
At the Feb. 2010 EPPF general assembly a serious effort was made to revamp its leadership and establish an inquiry committee that would investigate allegations of corruption that has plagued the organization. The plan included bringing strong individuals such as Col. Tadesse to the central committee. All the efforts were blocked by Fitsum.
There were also credible reports that EPPF has been infiltrated by Woyanne with the full knowledge and collaboration of Col. Fitsum.
One of these infiltrators is Tilahun Gelaw who has given tens of thousands of dollars in cash and several mobile phones to Col. Fitsum during the past several months. Col. Fitsum has kept most of the money for himself and distributed the mobile phones to the EPPF fighters.
The above cases are just a few of the acts of sabotage against the EPPF and other Ethiopian opposition groups who are provided shelter in Eritrea.
The arrest of Col. Tadesse and several other Ethiopians is a reckless act as far as the Ethiopia-Eritrea relationship is concerned. Does the Isaias government want a genuine relationship with Ethiopians, or a master-puppet relationship?
If the answer is the former, to mend the situation, President Isaias can do the following promptly:
1. Order the release of Col. Tadesse and all other Ethiopian patriots.
2. Remove Col. Fitsum from his position as an adviser to Ethiopian opposition groups. There are many other Eritreans who can do the job in a constructive way.
3. Appoint an inquiry panel that investigates the alleged sabotages by Col. Fitsum and others against Ethiopian groups.
There is more disturbing news regarding Ethiopian opposition groups who have been given shelter in Eritrea. A few days ago we learned about the disappearance of Col. Tadesse Muluneh, one of the founders of Ethiopian People’s Patriotic Front (EPPF). We have requested Eritrean officials to investigate and let us know what happened to him. It’s now been over 2 weeks and we have not received any official response so far. However, our sources in Eritrea have informed us that his arrest has been orchestrated by Eritrean adviser to Ethiopian opposition groups named Col. Fitsum. Yesterday we also learned that current EPPF chairman Meazaw Getu’s movement has been restricted and his vehicle has been taken away by the same colonel. During the past few months, at least two central committee members have been killed and several have fled. Hundreds of fighters have also left their units… [details later]