By Yilma Bekele
ልክ ነው ብዙ የተጣሱ አሰራሮች አሉ። ለዚህም ነው በመጀመሪያም ይቅርታ ለመጠየቅ የፈለኩት። የሥራ አስኪያጅ ኮሚቴው ሥራውን ብቁ በሆነ መንገድ እንዳልስራ እኔ ማመን ፈልጋለሁ። ለድምፅ እንኳን መቅረብ አልነበረበትም። ይሄን ነገር ድምፁን ግን እንደገና የመነጋገር መብት የቦርዱ አባሎች መብት ነው። በሚቀጥለው ቀን ፔትሽን ተፈርሞ ምናምን የሚል ሕግ የለም። ስሜታዊነት ነበረ ተናግሬዋለሁ። ኃይለ ቃሎች ነበሩ። ተናግሬዋለሁ። ማንም ስው ማንም ላይ ጠመንጃ የያዘ የለም። እንደዚያ አይነት ግኑኝነትም ስብሰባ አይደለም። ስሜታዊ ስብሰባ ነበረ። እርግጥ ድምፅ ከፍ ባለ ሁኔታ ነበር የሚነነጋገረው። ግን ዋናው ስው እንዲገነዘብልኝ እናንተም እንድታውቁት የምፈልገው ያንን መጀመሪያ ድምፅ የስጡት ሰዎች ማንም ያስገደዳቻው የለም። አይሆንም በዚያው በድምፃችን እንቀጥላለን ብለው መቅረት ሲችሉ እራሳቸው አንድ ባንድ ተነስተው ማይክሮፎኑን ይዝው እኔ ድምፄን ያመጣሁትን መልሻለሁ በሚል ነው የወስኑት።
It is true lots of illegal things were done. That is why I apologized ahead. I want to admit that the executive committee did not carry its duties in a proper manner. The issue should not have been brought for voting at all on the other hand it is the board’s prerogative to bring the issue back for further discussion. There is no such thing (in the bylaws) as revising the issue at a later date using petition. It was an emotional meeting as I have indicated. Harsh words were exchanged. On the other hand no one was armed with guns. It is not such type of meeting. I want all to understand and you (VOA) to be aware that those who voted for the motion withdrew their support without coercion and it was their decision.
The above is part of the interview granted by Ato Fasil Abebe, the public relations head of ESFNA, to Ato Adissu Abebe and Ato Alula Kebede of Voice of America (VOA). The VOA reporters were patient with Ato Fasil. They asked him probing questions laced with facts from the organization’s past. I am afraid Ato Fasil was not able to answer their questions to the listeners satisfaction. It was a lesson in good journalism when they allowed their guest to escape bloodied but not down so he can contemplate the gravity of the situation. I presume Ato Addisu and Ato Alula felt further probe will not serve the communities interest.
I found Ato Fasil’s answers to be a reflection of our attitude towards the law, rules and regulations and general civility in our community. At the bat he admitted rules were broken, chaos reigned, and the meeting was reduced to a shouting and insulting match, but at the same time he is willing to argue and defend decisions taken under these circumstances as valid and binding. This situation is familiar to us Ethiopians. Might makes right. Rules are inconveniences that can be ignored or redefined after the event to justify what was done.
I am sure ESFNA folks have figured out ‘these Abeshas will complain, really get exited and move on to the next drama and life will go on as usual.’
I am afraid they might be right. If I have to bet I will go with them. Although our country is known for its marathon runners, we in the Diaspora are sprinters. We accelerate and tire easy. We overheat quickly and cool down fast. It is obvious we have created ESFNA in our own image. It is easy to ignore individual madness but when an an organization goes rogue, it sort of exhibits our collective fault for the world to see. We witness this shameful act of betrayal of trust and general hooliganism and we feign surprise. We know it is wrong but somehow we step back and refuse to correct and remedy the situation.
Why? When did we develop this habit of not standing for what is right? Why do we let the criminal elements amongst us to run amok and make our exile existence miserable? How come we always start with good intentions, lofty principles but end up holding a broken organization with members at each others throat? Of all immigrants we are the ones always congregating together, forming little enclaves, running small businesses, worshiping together and generally hanging out like a family. Why are we unable to build on this tremendous reserve of love for country and culture into a formidable organization that reflects the new us? The ‘us’ that left our home land due to civil war, strife, lack of opportunity and dictatorship and settled in a new land and thrive like no one. We work hard, we are an asset to the organizations we work for, the community we live in, but are totally useless when it comes to associating on a new and higher level as Ethiopians.
ESFNA is our challenge. This should be where we draw the line. It is not about what happened yesterday. It is all about what we can build for tomorrow. This is the best opportunity to create an organization built on solid foundation of transparency, accountability and a promise of serving the community and our country. All the parts are there, it is just a matter of having the will and the stamina to put it together for future generations to enjoy and grow.
We are thankful to those that started the organization. We pay our respects to those that kept it going. Today we are focused on improving on it and making it the power house of good will that it should be. We want it to be an organization that will usher a new model of work based on respect for each other, love for each other and hope for all that look up to us. Obviously we can not do that in Ethiopia. We can start the process here. ESFENA should be our prototype of a superior style of organization building.
The current leadership of the organization should admit that the existing format is not sustainable. It was fine when the outfit was operating in the dark. Well the bright light of public awareness and scrutiny is shining on ESFNA. There are two avenues open to the current leadership. Accept the fact that change is coming and help implement the reforms necessary or continue on the path of denial and see the organization implode from inside. That does not serve anybody’s interest. That only confirms the suspicion some have regarding the lawlessness and bad intentions of the leadership. I don’t want to believe that. I am sure there are plenty that mean well but go along with the culture of thuggery that has been practiced for so long. Let us encourage those that want real change and build on that.
The current crisis is not just about whether Birtukan should be invited or not. That just happened to magnify the ‘bad style’ of work that used to be acceptable. It magnified the festering problem inside the organization. I am sure there are plenty of association that would love to see the Birtukan. No, the issue is how the organization dealt with the question. First of all, this argument of ‘non-profit’ and ‘politics’ has been debunked. Our esteemed lawyers have answered that question. There are no attorneys in the executive body, nor have they brought a written opinion from a law firm to support their mistaken take on the issue. Let us put that view to rest.
Second, ESFNA was unable to show what parliamentary procedure it used to overturn the binding vote taken regarding the invitation. Thus the original decision still stands. As far as we are concerned, the invitation is still on the table and it is up to Birtukan to accept or differ for later time. Our concern is how to reform this organization to serve the interest of the community instead of a few individuals that are focused on running it to line up their pockets and protect outside forces that do not reflect the hopes and aspirations of our people and country.
I believe we should concentrate on two fronts. Number one is the issue of ‘empowering’ the clubs to assume responsibility of representing their supporters in a meaningful manner. The ‘clubs’ are the owners of the organization. The executive body is there to implement the decision made by the clubs. As it stands now, the roles have been reversed. The executive committee is a runaway train with the public and the clubs reduced to shoveling more fuel. This train should be derailed in a controlled fashion. We ask the clubs to take over their rightful place and demand accountability.
The second front is to demand release of all financial statement for the last seven years. Our public accountants should be allowed to comb through the income tax returns and draw up a yearly budget based on past records. This is not a witch hunt, but a sincere attempt to build a successful and proud organization. We hope the current executive body will read the writing on the wall and cooperate in a meaningful manner. The aim should be to build, not destroy; to teach, not punish and forgive but not forget. It is up to the executive body to choose. It is up to the ‘sane and reasonable’ among them to curb the misguided enthusiasm and anger of their comrades.
ESFNA is considered and holds the license to operate as a not-for profit outfit. That designation entitles it to lots of tax benefits so it will fulfill the vision it enumerated in its application. The license demands of it to operate in an open and transparent manner. Holding the not-profit license is a privilege not a right.
Atlanta is going to happen. We should make it clear that we are not going anywhere. Atlanta is where we make our stand. We do not boycott our own wedding. We do not split and form another organization. ‘Teletafi’ is not our cup of tea. We should just insist that democratic, transparent and accountable style of work is the only thing acceptable to the majority. Each and everyone of us should work with the clubs to help them achieve the fruits of their labor. Their success is our success. As you know the vast majority of those that attend the yearly festival are the young ones. We should find a way to involve them in this building process so they will experience the value of a democratic style of association and work habit. It is not going to happen in one session. It is not take roots in one season. Growing a strong organization is hard work. We can vow to start it today.
By Yilma Bekele
“Opposition UDJ party president Birtukan Mideksa, whose pardon was revoked and life sentence reinstated in December 2008, remained in prison throughout the year. She was held in solitary confinement until June, despite a court ruling that indicated it was a violation of her constitutional rights. She was also denied access to visitors except for a few close family members, despite a court order granting visitor access without restrictions. There were credible reports that Birtukan’s mental health deteriorated significantly during the year.”
The above is taken from the US Department of State report on Human Rights in Ethiopia. It is a very depressing document full of verifiable facts with names and places detailing the atrocities committed by the Meles regime against its own people. It is not news to the Ethiopian people. Seeing it in black and white confirms the nightmare is real. I am sure you have all heard of Meakelwi. What do you think they do there? I know I would rather not think about that, but here it is:
Numerous reliable sources confirmed that in Meakelwi, the central police investigation headquarters in Addis Ababa, police investigators often used physical abuse to extract confessions….. Abuses reportedly include being blindfolded and hung by the wrists for several hours, bound by chains and beaten, held in solitary confinement for several days to weeks or months, subjected to mental torture such as harassment and humiliation, forced to stand for more than 16 hours, and having heavy objects hung from the genitalia.
Ato Meles and his militia are nothing but sick gangsters. He has surrounded himself with mentally unstable people that get their fix by inflicting pain on civilians. The Woyane regime has built up an elaborate system to bully the population and have raised the rule by terror into a science. The whole country is one gigantic prison. You don’t think so. Go ahead read what it says in the State Dept. report:
The country has three federal and 117 regional prisons. There are several unofficial detention centers operating throughout the country, including in Dedessa, Bir Sheleko, Tolay, Hormat, Blate, Tatek, Jijiga, Holeta, and Senkele. Most are located at military camps and were allegedly used as overflow detention centers following mass arrests.
Do you notice we have more concentration camps than Universities, factories or research institutions? And the concept of ‘unofficial detention center escapes me. This is Woyane’s Ethiopia. Prison inside a prison.
This past week the Prime Minister gave interviews to both foreign and local reporters. The room is arranged in a horseshoe shape with a little dais for the PM. They always place five or six microphones to give the illusion that there are that many outlets. The fact of the matter is one is enough since there is no independent TV or Radio in the country. I believe one microphone is enough to give one version of the story. Foreign reporters question is handled one at a time. Local press gets no respect. They ask there or four question and our fearless leaders answers the ones he wants. No follow up is allowed.
I am thankful to Jason(?) of Bloomberg news for his question. The sound system is bad but this is what I understood his question to be.
… I just want to ask you about one point from the report because I know you want to give a response to that …Bertukan Mideksa is a political prisoner they mention in that report her mental health have been deteriorating in prison. I want you to respond to that if you have any information about her health status.’
Here is what the Honorable Ato Meles Zenawi, Prime Minster has to say about that:
I am not surprised that they have characterized Bertukan as a political prisoner because I understand they have also characterized the ONLF and OLF terrorists that have been taken to court and sentenced by the court as political prisoners (pause) it may sound strange but terrorists who have been taken to court of law have been characterized as political prisoners by the US which was a country that introduced the world to concept of ‘enemy combatants’ who are expected to live in legal limbo in perpetuity but that is life eh. I think the French say ‘C’est la vie” and that is how we characterize it ..uh.. the health situation of Bertukan the latest I heard she is in perfect health. She may have added some a few kilos but other than that and that may be for lack of exercise other that that I understand she is in perfect health ..’
How callous can one be? How cruel do you have to be to speak of a fellow human being like this? It is a very disturbing way of thinking to dismiss the agony of person with such indifference. Why Ato Meles is a good question? What turned your heart into stone is a valid question. Being entrusted with the welfare of eighty million human beings is a major responsibility. Eighty million starts with one. It is sad to think an elected leader of a party, hope to many mother to one is discussed as an ordinary criminal. Judge Bertukan is no ordinary criminal. She is a highly educated and carrying person with a deep sense of right and wrong.
From his answers it is clear the Prime Minster follows her situation closely. There is no reason to believe that he does not know she is kept in solitary confinement. He also knows despite his own court ordering that she be allowed to have visitors that his prison officials have refused to abide by the ruling. He also knows that she is in bad health and she requires medical attention.
Solitary confinement is torture. It is considered a form of psychological torture. It is illegal and it is a criminal act. It is inhuman. Senator John McCain knows about solitary confinement, here is what he wrote:
“It’s an awful thing, solitary,” John McCain wrote of his five and a half years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam—more than two years of it spent in isolation in a fifteen-by-fifteen-foot cell, unable to communicate with other P.O.W.s except by tap code, secreted notes, or by speaking into an enamel cup pressed against the wall. “It crushes your spirit and weakens your resistance more effectively than any other form of mistreatment.”
Terry Anderson the chief Middle East correspondent for the Associated Press was kidnapped by Hezbollah in Lebanon in 1985. He was released in 1991. In his memoir ‘Den of Lions” he recounts his bitter experience and ‘solitary confinement’ is a bitter chapter he would rather forget. He wrote ‘“The mind is a blank. Jesus, I always thought I was smart. Where are all the things I learned, the books I read, the poems I memorized? There’s nothing there, just a formless, gray-black misery. My mind’s gone dead. God, help me.”
After sharing a cell with other hostages he was thrown into solitary confinement and after a few weeks he recalled in his memoir “I find myself trembling sometimes for no reason,” he wrote. “I’m afraid I’m beginning to lose my mind, to lose control completely.”
Mr. McCain was an enemy prisoner and Mr. Anderson was a kidnapping victim. On the other hand Judge Bertukan is neither an enemy nor hostage. Judge Bertukan is in jail because the Prime Minister is afraid of her. She is one person in Ethiopia that followed the letter of the law when she was a judge. She took her oath of office very seriously. She refused to bend to the wishes of the Prime Minister.
Now we hear that the confinement and the psychological warfare waged against our sister is having its effects. She is only human and can only resist as much and no more. Last Sunday during a the weekly few minutes visit with her mother Judge Bertukan was trying to alert her visitor about her condition when the ever present female guard whisked her away cruelly. We heard Judge Bertukan was seen crying. That must be a very strange display of weakness for a strong lady like Bertukan. We are all sad to hear such a monstrous story.
We demand the Prime Minster release Judge Bertukan now. That is the right thing to do. We know he is not going to do that. We demand his enablers, the British and US government to use their influence on the rogue regime to allow Red Cross and independent doctors to visit and treat Judge Bertukan.
We put the Prime Minster and his underlings on notice that the Ethiopian people are watching their criminal acts. We might not have the power and resource to stop this insane tragedy at this time but we know in the long run good will triumph over evil. Today’s jailers are tomorrow’s prisoners. We have seen that in our country. Right now our concern is our courageous sister and we will do anything to set her free.
We urge women of Ethiopia to rally to save our strong sister. They should be in the forefront of the struggle to bring about the release of a mother, political leader and future prime minister of Ethiopia.
We urge Ethiopians friends of Ethiopia and all peace and justice loving people to contact their Senators and representative and urge them to demand the release of our leader. Use the following web address to locate the number to your elected official:
US Senate: http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm
House of representative: http://www.house.gov/house/MemberWWW_by_State.shtml
By Yilma Bekele
I grew up during the reign of the Emperor. Everybody was afraid of HIM. Then came the Colonel and we had nothing but contempt for him. He was an impostor of no consequence. A rude chapter in our glorious past. Now we are stuck with yet another dictator of questionable deeds. He kills to gain respect. We neither respect him nor are we afraid of him. Our contempt has runnth over.
Chairman Bertukan, you are different. Thinking about you is a very confusing process. Sadness is the first emotion that grips you. The sadness is not for you. The sadness is for all of us. The living dead. The bystanders. The big liars. We pretend to care but we avoid to act. አስመሳዮች፣እግዚኦ ይባል፣
What do you think of us? I know you love us. Isn’t that why they locked you up? That is not such a crazy notion is it? Not really. They jailed you because they are threatened by the love and respect showed to you by the Ethiopian people. You managed to put the cadres in a big quandary. They can’t leave you alone but they can’t lock you up either. That is what you call a problem of Talmudic proportion. Cadre brain is overloaded and shows signs of overheating hence the pungent smoke. That is too much work for collective pea brain. We are talking milliwatts here. It is obvious. The odor of fear has gripped Arat Kilo.
There is a flurry of activity around the world regarding you. You have managed to stay current. You will be surprised by the amount of interest you have raised regarding the lack of freedom in Ethiopia. Your cause has been heard by non other than the US Congress. Your supporters in the US thank Congressman Donald Payne for championing the cause of freedom in the land of his ancestors. Congressman Chris Smith is another friend of Ethiopia. They fought hard for you. I am sure you remember the Hon. Ana Gomez member of the European Parliament. She is still committed to our cause. They have locked you in a dark room but as Abebe said you are a ‘Super Nova”. They say a super nova outshines an entire galaxy. That is what you have done. Amnesty International has declared you to be an important person to fight for. Human Right Watch has issued an alert regarding your condition. You are the Aung San Suu Kyi of Ethiopia.
I saved it for last. The most important people in this equation, your fellow citizens, they are in the fore front of keeping your name, your spirit, and your strong as iron principles in the lime light. There were memorials held in all six continents. Your scattered brethren rejoiced in your memory. It is never a sad event; rather it was a celebration of your leadership. Your resolve in the face of injustice, your cool demeanor under testing circumstances filled all of us with hope.
Your party and old friends informed the city of Addis Ababa their intentions to hold a candle light ceremony to commemorate your illegal incardination. Guess what, the City of Addis Ababa has sold the right to Meskel Square to a different entity. No one knows who the current owner of Meskel square is, thus the memorial was left in limbo. May be EFFORT owns it now. We will know when we see a tool booth to go to Bole. But the memorial was held. It was held in the hearts of Ethiopians all over. No one can stop that can they? The more they try the stronger our resistance.
I read the story on Ethiopia Zare web site (http://www.ethiopiazare.com/the-news/1-latest-news/712-birtukan-mideksa0 it was an insight into the complete brutality of the regime. It confirms the lawless nature of society under TPLF. It is nothing to shrug off. Your family, friends and supporters showed up Saturday morning to see you. They were told by the police/prison guard/ TPLF cadre that your allotted visiting hours was from 6PM to 7PM. When they showed up at 6 they were told you were not allowed visitors. Somehow they were granted a favor by allowing you to see your mother and daughter. Forty minutes was what you were allowed to be with your daughter and mother. Your four years old daughter was allowed 40 minutes to hold, kiss and talk to you. This is the enemy we are dealing with. Irrational, cruel inhuman and very petty.
The report said ሓሌ Hale cried on the way out. Actually she wailed like ‘an adult’ is what it said. She is surounded by loving family and a praying nation. Out of the four years of her life she has only spent one year with you. It must be hard on her. We all feel your family’s pain. Your strength is what keeps us going. I told you we are the weakest link. We feed of your resolve. We hear you are on hunger strike. The guards say you return the food sent to you. We worry but we understand.
This is the second time the dictator has jailed you. It looks like you have threatened him to the core. His emotions betray him when it come to you and Dr. Berhanu. His alpha male status is what he got going for him. You guys seem to ratlle that. His utterings regarding you betrays his deep emotions.There was a time when he refferd to you as ‘gelesbua’ ግለስቫ It was the perioed of denial. Nowdays he calls you by your first name. No Chairman Bertukan, no Judge Bertukan not even Weizero Bertukan. You are just plain Bertukan. Is that good? Does he think of you as a friend? Well I am sure that is not a good thing. He is considered highly toxic when it comes to friendship. The highway is litered with the dead and decapitated remains of his former friends. I have noticed you always refer to him as the PM but he does not seem to recogonize your title. I wonder why? Specially since you earned that title democratically.
Do you guys know each other? The Seye affair was classic Bertukan. Defiant! You forced him to show his dictatorial card. Changing the law to fit the crime is classic. And to do it in one weekend is just an increadable feat. That couldl easly qualify him for the dictators hall of fame.
I know he is familiar with Dr. Berhanu. I am sure he does not like him. He can’t silence him. He can’t even jail him but he wants to excuite him. Who said he lacks a sense of humor.
So you are in jail, Dr. Berhanu is awaiting the firing squad and Hailu Shawel is in Mekele campaigning. I saw Hailu’s video and I just sat there. All I could think is Meles got a new pet to play with. That must be his X-Mas present from Azeb. I guess he got tired of Ledetu. Use and discard, that is the Woyane way. Who needs recycling when you have so many hodams. I also noticed it was an orderly crowed wheras the attempt by your party to hold a meeting in Nazret was nothing but embarrassaing. I guess it is ok to speak Amharic in Mekele but not in Nazret. Poor Hailu was let loose in a sea of cadres. At long last he is with his kind. They must have have been laughing their ass off. The new freak is in town. The show will be screened for the ferenjis you can be sure of that.
The ferenjis are another matter. The US, Britain and Germany are at their old game again. The Chinese and even the Indians are enablers too. It has nothing to do with color, it is all about national interest. The only problem here is who is looking after our interest? I have some bad news for you. A few of our own people are part of the problem. They are anti woyane in public and investors at night. This holiday season while you are in kaliti they are dancing with the Sheik at the Shearton. Feeble minds are dangerous. Hodams are a curse. I am sure they present all sorts of theories and justifications for their betrayal. No matter, it is shameful, disgusting and short lived.
Do you think the regime is threatened a little less because you are in jail? Or do you think you guys are a shot across the bow. It is meant to be a warning. አባይን በጭልፋ( Nile with a spoon) is what comes to mind. It wouldn’t work. The contempt of the Ethiopian people twards TPLF/EPDRF and other garbage is such that nothing will stop the coming tsunami of rage. Since the dawn of time dictators have tried every immaginable method to rule by force. None have worked. That need of the human soul to be free is woven in our DNA. When we are free we thrive. Look at all the Ethiopians building a successful life where ever they have settled. We are no different from our cousins back home. We are just free to soar like an eagle.
We wish you a happy holiday. Your sacrifice is not in vain. Your people are waking up. The woyane game has run its course. There is no turning back. Your courageous stand is not about winning but it is all about doing what is right and moral. Winning will come. There is no question about that. Our wish and our prayer is to give all of us the strength to withstand this time of trial so our people and country will survive woyane madness.
መልካም ገናውድ እህታችን፣መሪአችን፣