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Ethiopian opposition Semayawi Party under attack; its headquarters ransacked – Abebe Gellaw

By Abebe Gellaw

In the evening of Saturday August 31, Semayawi Party headquarters around Ginfle, Addis Ababa, was buzzing like a bee hive as nearly one hundred party activists and organizers were busy making posters, writing slogans, stacking flags and other paraphernalia needed for a colorful rally. They were making the final push for a peaceful demonstration they had planned to hold the next morning with their supporters.

Semayawi party members attacked by Ethiopian security forcesThese peaceful and law-abiding citizens were doing what true political activists were supposed to do. They wanted to demand justice and freedom. They wanted to petition their rulers to respects the rights of citizens who are being routinely abused, tortured and killed in broad daylight. They only wanted to ask the thuggish TPLF regime to free all prisoners of conscience jailed on trumped-up terrorism and treason charges. They wanted to demand the TPLF to respect its own constitution. They were not preparing to commit acts of terrorism or bank robbery.

Suddenly there was a blackout. Electricity to Semayawi’s headquarters was cut off. Apparently hundreds of heavily armed ‘federal police’ troopers had already besieged the office like terrorists.

Yidenekachew Kebede, the party’s legal affairs head and coordinator of the rally was heading to his office. ESAT reached him in good time on his cell phone. He was describing the situation in detail. He was very upset that such a criminality happens with impunity. He was outraged that the TPLF is treating Ethiopians worse than prisoners of war in their own country.

The young lawyer was outraged that the constitution, which the TPLF never respected, was being violated by armed thugs and criminals again. It was another evidence of lawlessness and tyranny that the TPLF has imposed on the people of Ethiopia. Those who were eager to demand freedom and justice for their people became victims of criminality. While he was telling ESAT that his colleagues and friends were under siege, a federal police officer snatched his phone and the line was cut off. Apparently he was detained.

TPLF federal squad broke into the office and ransacked and beat Semayawi’s leaders and members. The party’s chairman Eng. Yilkal Getnet was also arrested and taken to a police station around Gedam Sefer. The thugs reportedly targeted everyone and even savagely attacked and kicked women. They detained all of Semayawi’s operatives found on the party’s premises for hours, kicked and tortured them. Scores of people were even made to roll over mud and dung in a bid to humiliate and degrade them. They were stat at and insulted by TPLF’s thugs.

According to Yilkal, he was released after a few hours. Other members who were also said to have been roughed up, beaten up and tortured were also freed. But the headquarters has reportedly been trashed. Documents, equipment, and all the materials prepared for the rally were taken away by the federal squad.

Ethiopians in the Diaspora has been expressing outrage on Facebook and Paltalk rooms. What has been the focus of angry discussion is how long the state-sponsored terrorism can go on. The decision to launch an illegal attack against a political party operating legally is another affront to law and order. TPLF’s thuggery and lawlessness has posed serious challenges to every law-abiding citizen. People are abused and tortured without any ground.

Semayawi is a relatively budding political party that should have been accorded protection. But TPLF’s paranoid has reached a critical and dangerous point. The more cornered it is, the more dangerous it is becoming. The attack against Semawi only reveals the level of fear gripping the TPLF and its cronies.

In a press release it issued, Semayawi has vowed to press for justice and rule of law. It emphasized that nothing will distract it from making demands and voicing the concerns of the people of Ethiopia.

In the meantime, Muslim Ethiopians are also being hunted down across the country. TPLF organized a rally in the metropolis on the day and at the venue where Semayawi had planned to stage a protest demonstration. The worst part is that TPLF is trying to create religious conflict among Christians and Muslims. The two religions have co-existed harmoniously for over a millennium. The futile efforts only reveal the fact that TPLF is desperate to survive.

No matter what the TPLF does, the struggle for equality, dignity, justice and freedom continues….

Abune Teklehaimanot remembered

Abune Teklehaimanot became the Patriarch of Ethiopia on this date, August 31, 1976. Ethiopian Review posts this article in remembrance of this great Ethiopian religious father.

By Dershaye Menberu

Abune Teklehaimanot’s name until he became patriarch was Mekuria WoldeMichael. He was born on September 18, 1917, in a small village called Wotebet located in Amanuel District of Debre Markos Town in Gojam Province. His father’s name was WoldeMichael Wondimu and his mother’s Zewditu Kassa.

When Mekuria came of age, he joined the Orthodox Church school in the area run by Merigeta (which means “mentor”) Begenaw Wassie. There he learned the Amharic alphabets, to read the Psalms, and to write. He also studied the church music called Wazema. When he had finished studying under this mentor, he went to Gojam’s Bichena District to a church village called Yerez Saint Michael and joined the school led by Memhir (“teacher”) LisaneWork and studied Qine.

When he was sixteen years old he left for Sidamo Province and settled in Wolayta District at Sodo (Southern Ethiopia). There he met a virtuous hermit monk called Desta at the Wolayta Sodo Debre Menkirat TekleHaimanot monastery. Before Mekuria’s arrival, this monk had prophesied to the monks that a great hermit would soon come to the monastery.

At this time Mekuria changed his name to Melaku because he did not want to be discovered by his relatives, who might try to bring him back to his village. At the monastery, he started to help Hermit Desta by bringing him water and dry food to keep him alive.

When his mentor died he replaced him in the monastery and continued his mentor’s work. He was responsible for teaching the people and building schools in the area. The Wolayta people loved and respected him as a father and they obeyed him. He led a life of purity and never begged for a living. He raised money to build many churches and schools in the area. The people’s contributions were the main source of income for these churches and schools.

When the Derg regime took over the government of Ethiopia, Aba Melaku was denied the necessary income to run the institutions because the laws had changed. So he went to Addis Ababa to get money and tabots (duplicates of the Ark of the Covenant) from Patriarch Tewoflos at the Ethiopian Orthodox Church headquarters to supply the most recent churches he had built. He was given two out of five tabots he requested and was told to return later for the other three.

Aba Melaku arrived in Addis Ababa on the day of his appointment to see Patriarch Tewoflos but, little did he know, the patriarch had been forced to leave his position and was under arrest. The main office had established a committee to find a replacement. Aba Melaku went into the office of the president of this nomination committee and gave him the traditional greeting of respect. As director and chairman of the board of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church office, Dr. Kinfe Regib, who was earnestly seeking a hermit monk as a nominee for the election of the next patriarch, was very happy to see Aba Melaku walk into his office as if driven by God. Dr. Kinfe Regib asked him the cause of his visit. When Aba Melaku told him that he had an appointment with Aba Tewoflos, he was told that Aba Tewoflos was away for a while and would meet with him at a later date. In the meantime, Dr. Kinfe Regib asked if he was willing to answer a few questions about himself, his job, and his responsibilities. Aba Melaku agreed and gave him the details he wanted.

Aba Melaku told the chairman that he had built sixty-four churches and twenty-four schools–all this without any salary from the Ethiopian Orthodox Church central administration office. When asked where he was born, he answered: “For a monk, is there any particular place? Any spot of Ethiopia where I live is my country.” He refused to identify his birthplace out of principle. Dr. Kinfe Regib, amazed by the divine providence that had brought him there, took notes on him and put them in an envelope. He then asked Aba Melaku to take the envelope to the main nomination committee secretariat office outside the office where they were meeting. So Aba Melaku obediently took the envelope and delivered it to the secretariat office but he had no clue what was going on at the time. The person in charge took the letter and opened it. Seeing the contents of the mysterious letter, he looked the monk over very carefully and then allowed him to leave.

The next morning Aba Melaku returned to the main office hoping to meet with the patriarch only to discover that he was no longer in charge and had been detained by the government. Shocked, he immediately returned to Wolayta. Soon after that, short profiles of two bishops and three monks, Aba Melaku included, were published and distributed in Addis Ababa. Everybody who read the short biography of Abba Melaku was touched by his personality. Soon everyone knew his name and was talking about him.

On the day of the election, Aba Melaku was elected patriarch by a very high number of voters. Up until that day, he had followed his routine lifestyle of praying, fasting, serving the church, and teaching his followers. Suddenly, he was ordered by the governor of Wolayta to go to Addis Ababa and report to the main church headquarters. He left immediately not knowing what the rush was about.

Upon his arrival, without even having a change of clothes and or any shoes on his feet, he was taken to the Menbere Tsebaot Kidist Selassie Cathedral, where all the bishops and thousands of Ethiopians were waiting for him. He wore a brown hand-sewn khaki robe over a wide pair of trousers and over that he had a folded bed-sheet as a shemma (shawl) and on top he had a hand-treated goat skin. This was his habit since he had become a hermit. When he arrived, everyone honored him with respectful applause and great shouts of joy known as elelta (“elelelelelel” is a shout of joy that Ethiopian women make when they are overjoyed), and Hotta (“hohohohohohoho” is a shout of joy for Ethiopian men). After a short introductory speech by Dr. Kinfe Regib, it was announced that Aba Melaku WoldeMichael had been elected patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church. Shocked, Aba Melaku’s eyes filled with tears and he cried. He made a short speech on the election and said: “How can this be? What strength do I have to fulfill the responsibility? However, if it is the will of the God of Daniel, who took him out of the pit of lions, what else can I do?”

This took place in July and August of 1976, and until the final day of celebration, Aba Melaku spent his time in prayer with others praying for him as well in St. Mary Church. They tried to persuade him to change his clothes and wear shoes but he refused.

On August 31, 1976, Abba Melaku was inaugurated as the third Ethiopian Partiarch of the Ethiopian Tewahdo Orthodox Church, taking the name TekleHaimanot.

The occasion was celebrated with prayer and special sermons at the Chair of the Almighty Holy Trinity Church in Addis Ababa.

Aba Melaku took his place of authority, and for some time continued to receive guests sitting on the Patriarch’s Chair in his common clothes. Later on, his hermit monk friends persuaded him to change his habit out of respect for the Orthodox Church. He finally agreed to wear a cotton cloth dyed yellow with a proper shemma over it and a pair of sandals.

Patriarch TekleHaimanot was very well accepted by the Derg regime and was allowed to visit Europe in sandals. He visited Greece, Poland, Austria, Germany, Rome, and Jerusalem. He ate only bread and drank only tea the whole time of his visit. The church people of Europe were amazed at his personality and considered his piety unique. As a result, it is said that the archbishop of Poland, out of respect for Patriarch TekleHaimanot, personally drove him around in a car during his visit to that country, instead of using a driver, in order to witness his piety and partake in his blessings.

The Ethiopian head of state, Mengistu HaileMariam, used these visits by the Patriarch as a political strategy to show the West that he was not against religion and had appointed to this important position a person who represented the workers. He also wanted to change international opinion who viewed him as a ruthless tyrant for removing and killing Patriarch Tewoflos when he came to power.

As Patriarch Tekle Haimanot was assumed to be have little administrative skills, one of his assistant officers tried to misappropriate church money that was supposed to go to the government. When the Patriarch opposed him, he began to defame him by saying that he was too old, did not know anything about administration, and should be replaced. The Patriarch informed Mengistu HaileMariam of this individual’s unscrupulous behavior and gave him an ultimatum, saying that if this man was not removed from office in three days, no one would prevent him from returning to his monastery. Mengistu immediately removed the officer.

The Derg regime’s high government officials, being anti-church communists, asked the Patriarch’s permission to convert several old churches located around the government offices in Addis Ababa into museums. He answered, “these churches are not my personal property for me to give permission, that they belong to all Ethiopian Christians. I will have to discuss the matter with church members and let you know.” This was a smart answer that the officials did not expect from him. Mengistu was aware that this monk is not an easy person to deal with and at the same time knew that if he pushed him harder, he would initiate a clash between the Derg regime and the Christian nation, so he dropped the idea. Thus, as it turned out, the Patriarch was not a person to be pushed bossed around like a puppet. Rather, he proved an able leader of the church for twelve years before he died in 1988.

Shortly before he died, the Patriarch went back to Wolayta to start construction on a church building that an outside donor agency wanted to erect. When he arrived, he gave his blessing and set a foundation stone in place. After the ceremony was over, he was ushered to a nice, comfortable residence that had been prepared where he could rest, but he refused to go in. Instead, he wanted to go back to his old hut. He went into the hut and rested. A short while later, he felt a sharp pain and collapsed into unconsciousness. He was brought back to Addis Ababa by helicopter and hospitalized. Shortly thereafter he died at the age of 71. He was buried at the Holy Trinity Church in Addis Ababa.

A polio outbreak spreads to Ethiopia

By Steve Baragona | VOA

A polio outbreak on the Horn of Africa has spread to Ethiopia.

An 18-month-old child in the Warder district of Ethiopia is the country’s first polio case since 2008.
polio outbreak in Ethiopia
Warder district is just across the border from Somalia, where 108 polio cases have been reported this year.

Carol Pandak heads Rotary International’s polio eradication program.

“It’s not surprising that the virus is spreading. This area has been considered high risk because of its proximity to Somalia,” said Pandak.

A Somali refugee camp in Kenya has also seen 12 cases of the paralyzing disease this year.

The outbreak began in Somalia in May, when a two-year-old girl came down with the disease, the country’s first since 2007.

But this strain of the virus did not originate there, Pandak says.

“That virus comes from West Africa. And so, we need to deal with the remaining endemic countries because that’s where the virus originates. And so, you have to deal with both at the same time,” she said.

Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan are the last three countries where the polio virus is still endemic.

Ethiopian Muslims to hold a worldwide protest rally on Friday, July 26

(PRESS RELEASE) — The Ethiopian government is treading in narrow and treacherous waters replete with religious identities. It is breaching international covenants with regard to freedom of religion by engaging in the religious persecution of the Muslims who are half of its citizens.  Its egregious acts are: 1) importing from Lebanon an alien ideology (Al-Ahbash) that is cloaked in faith but is incompatible with the prevailing peaceful Muslim belief system; 2) imposing forcibly this sect’s ideology on Ethiopian Muslims; 3) instituting an illegal indoctrination policy across the landscape using the Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council (EIASC) as its instrument and; 4) implementing extra-judicial rulings on those resisting the application of these draconian rules. These unprecedented actions are in violation of its contract with the UN and the Ethiopian constitution. Although the Ahbash followers have the right to co-exist with other believers in Ethiopia, the government with financing from Lebanon should not impose their belief system on others. This is an anathema to religious freedom. Therefore, the government’s unparalleled grand design to replace and perhaps eradicate the Ethiopian Muslims’ millennium-old faith will not be tolerated.

Freedom of religion is a God-given right and a fundamental pillar of human liberty. This truth was also enshrined in the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights to which Ethiopia is signatory. Part of the UN’s preamble states:

“……freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people.”

The Ethiopian constitution also states in:

Articles 11, 13 and 27 respectively,

“….. the State shall not interfere in religious affairs;

“…..The fundamental rights and freedoms enumerated in this Chapter shall be interpreted in a manner consistent with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, international human rights covenants and conventions ratified by Ethiopia.

“….No one shall be subject to coercion by force or any other means, …to adopt a religion or belief of his choice.

Unfortunately, in contravention of the UN’s Human Rights declaration that it signed and the Ethiopian constitution that it ratified, the Ethiopian government has violated the rights of the Muslims in a barefaced manner.

Today’s world-wide rally lends credence and support to the peaceful protest that commenced in Ethiopia over a year ago. The non-political and purely religious grievances of the Ethiopian Muslims as reiterated by the 17 elected members of the Arbitration Committee (AC) and supported by over 80,000 signatures represent the objections to the government’s coercive imposition, indoctrination, and interference policy. These are laid out in these simple words:  1) Stop meddling in the religious affairs of the Muslims; 2) Stop imposing the alien ideology of the Ahbash on the Muslims; and 3) Stop hand-picking un-elected administrators and placing them in EIASC, which is controlled by covert government cadres.  Echoing these simple demands should not have resulted in the incarceration of the AC members in maximum detention facility. We believe they are prisoners of conscience and should therefore be immediately released and returned to their families. We also demand the government to cease and desist its attempt to create schism between the Muslims and Christians who have lived side by side peacefully for centuries.

Also, the universal calls from expatriate nationals, the US Commission for International Religious Freedom, the European Commission, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, etc., have not budged the Ethiopian government from its contumacious position. The massive world-wide rally on July 26, 2013 is intended to keep these unfulfilled constitutional rights alive and garner support by appealing to public officials and inviting ordinary peace-loving citizens to join us for this historical rally.

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