Friday, June 10, 2016

Ethiopia Stifles Dissent, While Giving Impression Of Tolerance, Critics Say

June 8, 20164:06 PM ET

Gregory Warner (NPR)

Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn (left), walks alongside President Obama during the U.S. president's visit to the African nation last July. Critics say Ethiopia has cracked down hard on the opposition, but makes modest gestures to give the impression it tolerates some dissent.

The Oromo Federalist Congress, an opposition party in Ethiopia, represents the largest ethnic group in the country, the Oromo.
Yet its office in the capital Addis Ababa is virtually deserted, with chairs stacked up on tables. A chessboard with bottle caps as pieces is one of the few signs of human habitation. In a side office, the party's chairman, Merera Gudina, explains why the place is so empty: Almost everyone has gone to prison.
The deputy chairman? Prison. The party secretary general? House arrest. The assistant secretary general? In prison. Six members of the party's youth league? All in prison.
Critics of the Ethiopian government regularly land in prison. So why isn't Merera Gudina, the chairman of the party and an outspoken critic of the regime, also behind bars?
The reason, he says, is what he calls "the game of the 21st century." Less-than-democratic regimes are getting more sophisticated, and instead of completely crushing dissent, they seek to create the appearance of tolerance or even a multiparty democracy, explains Merera. (Ethiopians go by their first names).
In the case of Ethiopia, a strategy was laid out by the late former prime minister, Meles Zenawi, after the 2005 election, in which opposition parties won 32 percent of parliament and appeared poised to challenge the government.
"Wait for the opposition to grow legs," Meles said in a meeting with top party officials. "And then cut them off."
Merera says he is the current example of that strategy. He describes himself as a "floating head," while the legs of his party — all his deputies, his candidates, his organizers — are either imprisoned or threatened.
Criticism On Human Rights

Human rights groups are extremely critical of Ethiopia, but it is a member of the international community in good standing.
President Obama paid a visit in July of last year, the first ever by a sitting U.S. president, and held a press conference with Ethiopia's Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn.

"We are very mindful of Ethiopia's history, the hardships that this country has gone through," Obama said. "It has been relatively recently in which the Constitution that was formed, and elections put forward a democratically elected government."
A number of human rights groups criticized Obama, saying he should have pressed much harder.
Shortly before Obama's visit, Ethiopia released several noted opposition journalists and politicians. The deputy chairman of the Oromo Federalist Congress, Bekele Gerba, was among those freed, and he promptly flew to Washington to sound an alarm bell.
"Every one of us is in a very high risk," he told NPR's Michele Kelemen. "Because anybody who criticizes the government is always a suspect."
Bekele said his wife, a high school teacher, was also forced out of her job because of his politics. Bekele declined to use this trip to the U.S. to stay and apply for asylum. Instead, he said, he was determined to go back to Ethiopia, no matter what would happen.
Opposition Figure Re-Arrested

Soon after his return, Bekele was arrested again, and remains in prison today. Bekele is considered a moderate and he counsels nonviolence. He used his free time in prison to translate the writings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Merera, the party leader, says that targeting Bekele has a boomerang effect.
"When you are suppressing the moderate voice, then what you get is the radical voice," he warns.
The arrest of moderates inside the country may be amplifying more radical rhetoric in the diaspora, such as rhetoric about "government overthrow" that Ethiopian officials are quick to highlight.
Genenew Assefa, a government spokesman, points out that Ethiopian opposition "tends to be extremist," but also takes his own Justice Ministry to task for arresting so many opposition members.
"And then we put them in jail, and then it's a vicious circle," he says with a sigh. "And this is how it works. I personally, you know, would like to deal with this differently."
He says that he would like Ethiopia to counter criticism with politics, not with police.
But Ethiopian politics appears to be moving away from democratic freedoms, not toward them. In last year's election, the ruling party won 100 percent of the seats in parliament. Even the "floating heads" no longer have a token parliamentary seat.
Merera says that the Ethiopian strategy isn't working.
"You can't arrest everybody," he says. He says that what is brewing is "an intifada (uprising), an Ethiopian intifada — even now, they don't need leadership."
Last November, ethnically Oromo regions of the country erupted in popular protests. Activists say 350 people have been killed, and thousands more arrested. There's a growing fear that Ethiopia's "cut off the legs" strategy is splitting the country.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Freed From Prison, Ethiopian Bloggers Still Can't Leave The Country

By National Public Radio (NPR)

Zelalem Kibret remembers the day: July 8, 2015. He was in a prison library reading a biography of Malcolm X, his own copy, when some guards called his name and handed him a piece of paper. The message: All charges against him were withdrawn. He was being released.

"I was asking why," says Zelalem, a 29-year-old lawyer and blogger. "And nobody was giving us a reason."

Zelalem, who'd been in jail for more than a year on terrorism charges related to his blog posts, suspected the reason. His release, he believes, was a "personal gift" to President Obama, then three weeks away from an official visit to Ethiopia, the first ever by a U.S. president.

The U.S. had been pushing quietly the release of Zelalem and five other members of Zone 9, his blogging crew. Zone 9 takes its name from the eight zones of the infamous Kality Prison outside Addis Ababa, where political prisoners and journalists are held. Activists joke that the 9th Zone is everything outside the prison walls — the rest of Ethiopia.

"Zone 9 is Ethiopia with relative freedom, but still you felt that you are in detention," Zelalem explains.

Zelalem and the other Zone 9 bloggers had been critical of corruption and repression by the Ethiopian government, but their blogs and Facebook posts were seen as a relatively safe space for criticism in a country with about 3 percent Internet penetration.

But the arrest of six bloggers, including Zelalem, and three other journalists in 2014 sent a signal that as Facebook was becoming more popular in Ethiopia, digital reportage might now become just as censored as print journalism. Journalists are regularly imprisoned under Ethiopia's wide-ranging anti-terrorism law, which makes it a crime to have contact with any group that the Ethiopian government deems is trying to overthrow it.

At a press conference during Obama's visit, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn conceded, "We need many young journalists to come up." But, he said, "We need ethical journalism. There is also capacity limitations in journalism."

The phrase "capacity limitations" — and its cousin, "capacity building" — came out of development lingo of the 1990s. Ethiopian officials often use "capacity" explanations to assert that journalists are jailed not because they are critical of the government — but because they are less professional, more unethical and more incendiary than Ethiopia's fledgling democracy can tolerate.

In keeping with this theme, Hailemariam nodded to Obama's traveling press corps and asked them to "help our journalists to increase their capacity."

Obama had offered an opportunity for just that, promoting his Young African Leaders Initiative, which gives scholarships for 1,000 African leaders to study in the U.S. each summer.

Zelalem, out of prison but unable to get back his university teaching job, followed Obama's advice. He applied and was accepted to the Young African Leaders Initiative. This summer, he was supposed to study civic leadership at the University of Virginia.

He won't be going. Ethiopian immigration officials confiscated his passport at Bole International Airport in November. They also took away the passports of four of his five colleagues who were released in advance of Obama's visit.

That's when Zone 9 became more than a metaphor. They were literally imprisoned in their own country.

Zelalem sees this as evidence of a new strategy. In past years, Ethiopia has been willing to let its critical citizens flee the country. (For several years, Ethiopia has ranked on or near the top of the list of countries with the most exiled journalists, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.) Now, Zelalem says, the government may be deciding that it's better to keep critics close by.

"Especially for people like us working on social media," Zelalem says. "Whether we are here or in America or somewhere else, we may write and we can reach our audiences. Therefore, it's better to keep [us] here and silence [us]."

When I brought up Zelalem's case with Ethiopia's Minister of Communication, Getachew Redda, he said he wasn't familiar with it. But he offered a different explanation for the blogger's rough treatment at the hands of Ethiopian Immigration: Ethiopia's young institutions, he said — including its judges and immigration officials — could zealously overstep their bounds. They could even make mistakes that would take months or years to correct.

The minister's solution? "More capacity building."

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Heading the Wrong Way: The Ever Closing Political Space in Ethiopia

May 22, 2016 at 11:22 AM

By Adotei Akwei,Managing Director for Government Relations and Kayla Chen, Government Relations and Individuals at Risk Intern at Amnesty International USA
Sub-Saharan Africa is facing a growing trend of evaporating political space. Non-governmental organizations are being heavily and often violently restricted, and newspapers, bloggers and other voices of dissent or criticism are being silenced or intimidated into exile.

In some countries such as Uganda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, heads of state are rewriting their constitutions to eliminate term limits, in the process using security forces to squash protests from both political opposition and civil society. In other countries such as in Angola, the governments make use of their control over their judiciaries to intimidate or bury critics and youth activists in legal processes that cripple them financially or trap in never ending trials. Elsewhere, governments invoke the specter of terrorism and threats to national security as justification for passing sweeping laws whose interpretation empowers them to impose draconian penalties on oppositional parties and civil society, with little regard for international standards of due process or international and regional rights standards on freedom of expression, association and assembly.
In several countries government authorities have cracked down on nonviolent protests with violence. On Monday May 17, the Kenyan security forces brutally beat nonviolent demonstrations organized by the opposition Coalition for Reform and Democracy (CORD), led by former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, to demand the dismissal of the members of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission.

Protestors run from water canons after Kenya’s opposition supporters demonstrated in Nairobi, on May 16, 2016. (CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images)

On the 6th of May the Ugandan police beat demonstrators who had gathered after it was announced that opposition presidential candidate Kizza Besigye would face the death penalty for charges of treason.
Ethiopia has been at the forefront of this wave of violent intolerance. Members of the Oromo ethnic group are facing a brutal crackdown following initially peaceful protests that started in the fall of 2015. Some estimates place the number of persons killed at the beginning of 2016 at over 400. Thousands have been detained and hundreds of homes and businesses have been destroyed. The violent crackdown is consistent with the violent security force crackdowns in Oromia in 2014 and in Konso in March 2016 as well as against other protests.
Closing of Political Space in Ethiopia
This is the reality facing Ethiopians whom the  government  designates opponents of the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). The government heavily restricts freedom of expression and association, and severely constrains political space, especially for civil society organizations.
In the 2015 elections, the EPRDF and its allies claimed all of 547 seats in Parliament amid concern over the lack of conditions for free and fair elections. It has become virtually impossible to question, challenge or protest against any action of the government.  According to the World Justice Project Rule of Law Index,  Ethiopia ranks 91 out of 102 countries with severe constraints on government powers and fundamental rights.  Freedom House also rated the country “not free”. Ethiopia scores 6 out of 7, on a scale of 1-7 from free to not free, on both civil liberties and political rights. Civil society organizations have been forced to close, thousands of political prisoners are languishing in prisons, and human rights defenders who dare to speak out are forcibly imprisoned and beaten.
The use of the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation Act continues to be used to silence journalists and other critics who dare to speak out. People like noted journalist Eskinder Nega, Oromo leader Bekele Gerba, and Anuak Land rights activist Okello Akway Ochalla are all behind bars and charged with terrorism for opposing the government policies. They are just three individual stories of many who are suffering under the Ethiopian government’s crackdown on human rights.
Eskinder Nega was sentenced to 18 years in jail in 2012 for fulfilling his role as a journalist and questioning the use of the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation to arrest those that criticized the government.  This was not the first time Eskinder had faced unjust retaliation due to his refusal to be silenced.  Eskinder’s son Nafkot was born in prison in 2005 when both Eskinder and hjs wife Serkalem were imprisoned for criticizing the government’s killing of nearly 200 people in post-election protests in 2005. Four years later after he was unjustly convicted and imprisoned once again, Eskinder Nega still languishes behind bars and more convictions have been handed down using the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation.
Bekele Gerba, a prominent leader of the Oromo Federalist Party, visited the United States last August after his release prior to President Obama’s visit to Ethiopia. He told NPR that Obama’s visit to Ethiopia last summer was a trip that sent the wrong message of solidarity to a repressive government with very little support from its own people. He also expressed uncertainty in regards to his freedom when he returned back to Ethiopia. A few months after his return Bekele was arrested on December 23, 2015 and held in a 4m X 5m cell with 21 others.  Bekele and his counterparts were charged on April 22, 2016 with various provisions  set forth in the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation.  This charge is clearly meant to silence him and others who dare to criticize and oppose the current regime.
Okello Akway Ochalla, a Norwegian citizen, was abducted from Juba, South Sudan, two years ago and ended up in an Addis Ababa court where he was sentenced to nine years in prison on April 27, 2016. Okello was the governor of the Gambella region, a key location of land grabbing and forced relocation by the Ethiopian Government, before escaping the country following a massacre of his people, the Anuaks, in 2003.  Abducted from South Sudan in 2014 and brought back to Ethiopia, Okello was charged under the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation for speaking to the international media about the massacre of his people and the ongoing struggle of the people of Gambella. Rights groups are alarmed that the primary evidence used to convict Okello was a confession obtained while Okello was in solitary confinement. There have been reports that Okello was beaten and tortured. His trial highlights serious failures of due process and the rule of law in the Ethiopian courts.
More laws are being drafted by the Ethiopian government that confirm it will continue to suppress opposition and dissent. Current government policies of making access to education, government jobs and services contingent on party membership, forcing citizens to undergo “policy trainings” of indoctrination, and widespread monitoring of all public spaces has created an environment of fear with no room for public debate.
Despite all this, the ruling ERPD still enjoys support from the international community.  The United States recently renewed a new defense and security cooperation agreement with Ethiopia, which is being trumpeted as U.S. support of the Ethiopian government’s policies, including the military’s excessive use of force. Ethiopia also continues to receive hundreds of millions of dollars from the United States, the European Union and other countries in development and humanitarian aid.
It is crucial that governments that commit human rights violations be held to the spotlight and pressed to be accountable. Countries that provide assistance to those governments need to prioritize respect for, and protection of human rights for several reasons.
First, grave human rights violations can further stymy development and it potentially drives voices of dissent to abandon non-violence.
Second, supporting an oppressive regime for the sake of regional security will only further destabilize a region already ravaged by conflict, unclear borders, poverty and lack of respect for the rule of law, all in the pursuit of short term stability.
The Ethiopian people deserve better than that.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Using Courts to Crush Dissent in Ethiopia

By Felix Horne, HRW
May 10, 2016

For the past six months, thousands of people have taken to the streets in Ethiopia’s largest region, Oromia, to protest alleged abuses by their government. The protests, unprecedented in recent years, have seen Ethiopia’s security forces use lethal force against largely peaceful protesters, killing hundreds and arresting tens of thousands more.

The government is inexorably closing off ways for Ethiopians to peacefully express their grievances, not just with bullets but also through the courts. In recent weeks, the Ethiopian authorities have lodged new, politically motivated charges against prominent opposition politicians and others, accusing them of crimes under Ethiopia’s draconian counterterrorism law.

Just last week, Yonatan Tesfaye Regassa, the head of public relations for the opposition Semayawi Party (the Blue Party), was charged with “planning, preparation, conspiracy, incitement and attempt” of a terrorist act. The authorities citied Yonatan’s Facebook posts about the protests as evidence; he faces 15 years to life in prison, if convicted.

In April, Bekele Gerba, deputy chairman of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), Oromia’s largest registered political party, and 21 others, including many senior OFC members, were charged under the counterterrorism law, four months after their arrest on December 23, 2015. Bekele is accused of having links with the banned Oromo Liberation Front, a charge frequently used by the government to target ethnic Oromo dissidents and others. Deeply committed to nonviolence, Bekele has consistently urged the OFC to participate in elections despite the ruling party’s iron grip on the polls. Bekele and the others have described horrible conditions during their detention, including at the notorious Maekalawi prison, where torture and other ill-treatment are routine.

The authorities also charged 20 university students under the criminal code for protesting in front of the United States Embassy in Addis Ababa in March, 2016. The “evidence” against them included a video of their protest and a list of demands, which included the immediate release of opposition leaders and others arrested for peaceful protests, and the establishment of an independent body to investigate and prosecute those who killed and injured peaceful protesters. They face three years in prison if convicted.

The Ethiopian government is sending a clear message when it charges peaceful protesters and opposition politicians like Bekele Gerba with terrorism. The message is that no dissent is tolerated, whether through social media, the electoral system, or peaceful assembly.

Monday, May 9, 2016

The “Law” as State Terrorism in Apartheid Ethiopia

Posted in Al Mariam's Commentaries By almariam On May 8, 2016

ttplf terror4

Author’s Note: This is the third installment [1] in a series of ongoing commentaries that I expect to post regularly under the rubric, “Apartheid in Ethiopia”.

The twin aims of the series “Apartheid in Ethiopia” are:

1) to demonstrate beyond a shadow of doubt that the political system created and maintained by the Thugtatorship of the Tigrean People’s Liberation Front (T-TPLF)  is a slightly kinder and gentler ethnic form  of the racial apartheid system practiced by the white minority regime in South Africa before the establishment of black majority rule, and

2) to engage Ethiopia’s Cheetah (younger) Generation in broad and wide ranging conversation, debate and discussion necessary for the creation of the New Ethiopia cleansed of ethnic apartheid.

In the series, I aim to go beyond mere critical political and legal analysis and intellectual and academic examination of the objective political, social and economic conditions in Ethiopia under T-TPLF rule. Indeed, I aim to make a clarion call to Ethiopia’s Cheetah (young) Generation work hard and usher the New Ethiopia where the rule of law is supreme and the rule of tyrants ancient history. I call on all Ethiopian Cheetahs to put their shoulders to the wheel and build a city upon a hill in the Land of 13-Months of Sunshine for the entire world to see.

Apartheid white minority use of “anti-terrorism law” to terrorize black South Africans

John Dugard in his book “Human Rights and the South African Legal Order” (1978, p. 136), perfectly summarized the repressive use of the “law” to maintain a vast system of repression: “Although designed to combat terrorism, the Terrorism Act [of 1967] has itself become an instrument of terror and a symbol of repression.

The 1948 white minority parliamentary election in South Africa was transformational. Whites were offered two choices. The United Party offered a political pathway which accepted the inevitability of racial integration (if not black majority rule) and urged relaxation of the most repressive laws which limited black African freedom of movement. The National Party favored strict racial segregation and complete disenfranchisement of black South Africans. The National Party won and legislated its system of racial segregation in a series of “apartheid” (apart-hood; being apart) laws which aimed to entrench absolute white rule in South Africa.

In 1950, the apartheid white minority government passed the “Suppression of Communism Act, No 44 of 1950 (three decades later renamed “Internal Security Act, 1982” expanding the scope of application to anyone “endangering the security of the State or the maintenance of public order”). The  Communist Party of South Africa composed of the African National Congress, the Congress of South African Trade Unions and others were established in 1921 and opposed racial segregation and apartheid. The Suppression of Communism Act criminalized the advocacy of “any political, industrial, social or economic change in the Union by the promotion of disturbances or disorder.” In practice, anyone who dared to criticize or challenge white minority rule was classified as a “communist” and jailed. The Rivonia Trial of 1963-4 and conviction of African National Congress leaders Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu and Govan Mbeki was accomplished principally through this Act. Thousands of other ordinary black South Africans were also prosecuted and banned (subject to extreme restrictions on their movement, political activities, and associations) under this law.

The apartheid regime passed other laws to clampdown on dissent and protest. The Criminal Law Amendment Act, No. 8 of 1953 sought to suppress public protests against repressive laws and policies. The  General Law Amendment Act, No. 39 of 1961 suspended habeas corpus (a legal process to challenge illegal government detention) and bail and authorized a 12-day arbitrary detention. The General Law Amendment Act, No. 37 of 1963 allowed the warrantless arrest and detention of  anyone suspected of violating the Suppression of Communism Act. Warrantless detention of 180 days was authorized by the Criminal Procedure Amendment Act, No. 96 of 1965.

In the lead up to passage of the Act in 1967, the apartheid South African government made repeated claims regarding “terrorist attacks on South Africa’s borders”. The 1967 Terrorism Act (Act No. 83 of 1967) was enacted to control and suppress terrorism from within and outside of South Africa. The Act became singularly the most repressive law enacted by the apartheid regime to terrorize black South Africans.

Under the Terrorism Act, a “terrorist” is “(a) any person [who] with intent to endanger the maintenance of law and order in the Republic…  [engages in any act which] incites, instigates, commands, aids, advises, encourages or procures any other person to commit, any act; or (b) [engages in any training which]   endangers the maintenance of law and order… or (c) possesses any explosives, ammunition, fire-arm or weapon and fails to prove beyond a reasonable doubt [that he has possessed such things for a lawful purpose].

The Terrorism Act lists a dozen specific terrorist offenses including:
(a)   hampering  or deterring  any person from assisting in the maintenance of law and order;
(b)   promoting by intimidation the achievement of any object;
(c)   causing or promoting general dislocation, disturbance or disorder;
(d)  crippling any industry or the production or distribution of commodities or foodstuffs at any place;
(e)  causing or encouraging an insurrection or forcible resistance to the Government or the Administration of the territory;
(f)   encouraging the achievement of any political aim, including the bringing about of any social or economic change, by violence or forcible means;
(g)  causing serious bodily injury or endangering the safety of any person;
(h) causing substantial financial loss to any person or the State;
(i)  causing or encouraging feelings of hostility between the White and other inhabitants of the Republic;
(j)  damaging, destroying, etc., the supply or distribution at any place of light, power, fuel, foodstuffs, water, etc.;
(k) obstructing or endangering the free movement of any traffic on land, at sea or in the air;
(l)  embarrassing the administration of the affairs of the State.
Section 6 of the Act gave police complete and unquestioned power over “terrorist” suspects who could be arrested without a warrant and held for 60 days (which could be renewed) “until the Commissioner orders his release when satisfied that he has satisfactorily replied to all questions at the said interrogation or that no useful purpose will be served by his further detention, or until his release is ordered in terms of subsection .”  A police officer at the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel or above who believes a person to be a “terrorist” could order the arrest and detention of that person. No court on its own could order the release of detainees; only the Minister of Justice had final authority.

The Act excluded any habeas review or pretrial judicial intervention even to adjudicate detainee allegations of abuse and torture. Information blackout on detained “terrorism” suspects was imposed and the identities and number of detainees could not be publicly revealed. Many detainees, in the absence of public accountability, simply disappeared without a trace (and their whereabouts unknown until the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was able to track down the fate of some of the disappeared victims).

The Terrorism Act made admissible in court “any document” as evidence if such document is acquired from any person or organization suspected of terrorism. Any person alleged to have directly or indirectly assisted in any way a person suspected of terrorism receives same punishment as the accused. Regardless of the location of the occurrence of the alleged terrorist act, a South African court or attorney general could prosecute the case.

The Terrorism Act placed the burden of proof not on the prosecution or the police but on the defendant. The Act presumed the terrorism guilty until the suspect can prove himself innocent of the charges.

For decades, the Terrorism Act was used by apartheid police and security forces to detain, harass, intimidate, persecute and prosecute black South African opposition leaders and organizations and facilitate sweep up ordinary protesters and citizens, labor leaders, clergymen. Winnie Mandela, Steve Biko and Cyril Ramaphosa, among many others, were arrested under Section of the Act  Section 6 of the Act.

The horrendous crimes against humanity committed by the white minority apartheid regime in South Africa are documented in three massive volumes of the Truth and Reconciliation commission. [2]

T-TPLF use of “anti-terrorism law” to terrorize Ethiopians 

FIRST INDISPUTABLE FACT:  The T-TPLF is itself a certified terrorist organization listed in the Global Terrorism Database.

So there is no question whatsoever that the T-TPLF is a terrorist organization clinging to power in Ethiopia!

How can a certified terrorist organization use “anti-terrorism law” to go after others it calls “terrorists”? (That is the million dollar question!)

The whole “terrorism” thing was a god-send for TPLF thugmaster Meles Zenawi in the mid-2000s.  “Terrorism” in the Horn of Africa was both Meles’ get-out-of-jail-card for his crimes against humanity and a welfare card to get maximum handouts from the United States.

Like the apartheid regime which  raised the specter of terrorism crossing into South Africa from neighboring countries before enacting the Terrorism Act in 1967, Meles also invoked jihadists terrorism in Somalia as a pretext for his anti-terrorism measures.

In a November 2006 in commentary  entitled “The Jihadists are Coming”, I argued Meles was using the Somali “terrorism” thing to divert attention from his own crimes against humanity, particularly the massacres he personally authorized in the post-2005 election period in Ethiopia. I opposed Meles’ War in Somalia in the name of fighting terrorism while he is conducting terrorism of his own in Ethiopia: “The problem is the Ethiopian people cannot fight two wars at once: defend themselves in a political war declared on them by Zenawi and his regime, and mount an attack on a distant and invisible enemy rattling sabers somewhere in the “failed state” of Somalia.”

In December 2006, Meles invaded Somalia to prop up the so-called transitional government in Baidoa.  Meles justified his invasion of Somalia as an act of pre-emptive self-defense: “Ethiopian defense forces were forced to enter into war to protect the sovereignty of the nation. We are not trying to set up a government for Somalia, nor do we have an intention to meddle in Somalia’s internal affairs.”

In 2008, I debunked Meles’ justifications for prosecuting a proxy war for the U.S. in Somalia.  But Meles continued his slick public relations offensive that without him the plague of global terrorism, Islamic fundamentalism will consume the Horn of Africa. Meles and his T-TPLF terrorized the Somali people and committed  against them unspeakable crimes against humanity as documented in the Human Rights Watch  report, “So Much to Fear’: War Crimes and the Devastation of Somalia”. Meles’ proxy war in Somalia failed in its objective of crushing terrorism and by 2009 T-TPLF troops were withdrawn.

By 2009, Meles and T-TPLF had invented a terrorist threat in Ethiopia. Anyone who criticized, opposed, openly disagreed or dissented with Meles and the T-TPLF was branded “TERRORIST”!
The T-TPLF has used a diktat (a personal order of the late TPLF thugmaster Meles Zenawi) known as “Anti-Terrorism Proclamation No. 652/2009”  to invent terrorists and fabricate terrorism.  That  diktat was approved on a 286-91 vote in the T-TPLF rubber stamp parliament. The diktat was so repressive on its face that Human Rights Watch in 2009 criticized the draft as a “new and potent tool for suppressing political opposition and independent criticism of government policy.”
The T-TPLF has used its “Proclamation” to muzzle the press, shutter independent newspapers, suppress dissent and neutralize opposition leaders and parties over the past seven years. Hundreds of T-TPLF opponents have been openly charged and convicted while tens of thousands have been secretly arrested and left to rot in T-TPLF jails.

Yonatan Tesfaye 5 Pix

Terrorism by Facebook!

Yonatan Tesfaye is a spokesperson for Blue Party in Ethiopia. The 29-year old is the latest victim of T-TPLF’s  “anti-terrorism” Proclamation.

Last week the T-TPLF charged Yonatan with multiple counts of terrorism. His alleged crime is he used Facebook to incite violence, disrupt the social, economic and political stability of the country, criticized the EPRDF (the shell front organization of the T-TPLF).

Among the specific terrorist allegations against Yonatan include the following statements he  posted on his Facebook page:
 Our Muslim citizens are complaining that they have been deprived of their houses of worship. They are crying out, “Let our voices be heard.”

Our Oromo citizens are complaining about land grabs in their areas. They are saying “We do not want the [Addis Ababa] Master Plan.”

Amhara people are saying ‘Because of those practicing ethnic division, they are being displaced. Where can they go if they can’t live in their own country?’

The people of Gambella are being uprooted from their land. They are saying, “We do not want to be villagized.

[Ethiopian] in Tigray, Afar, Wello, Harargie and Somali regions are dying from famine. They are saying “Give us bread (injera).”

Young [Ethiopians] are perishing in the deserts and seas. Terrorists are beheading them. They are saying “Don’t kill me. Let me live for my poor mother country.”

Ethiopians have their rights trampled, humiliated, disappeared and exiled. They are suffering oppression. They are saying “We have had enough”.

Two weeks ago, the T-TPLF filed bogus terrorism charges  against Bekele Gerba and 21 others.

T-TPLF monkey see, monkey do “anti-terrorism” law

Meles  claimed his anti-terrorism diktat was not only the best in the world but also “flawless”.  Yes, he used the word “flawless” to describe his diktat!

Meles was the consummate charlatan and a phrase-monger. He was shockingly clueless about the law.

Meles believed by wholesale plagiarism, cherry picking words, phrases, sentences and clauses from the “anti-terrorism” laws of different countries, he could craft a “flawless” one for himself.

In January 2012, Meles offered the following  description  (video of Meles’ statement to “parliament in Amharic, translation below) of his “flawless” anti-terrorism law:
In drafting our anti-terrorism law, we copied word-for-word the very best anti-terrorism laws in the world. We took from America, England and the European model anti-terrorism laws. It is from these three sources that we have drafted our anti-terrorism law. From these, we have chooses the better ones.  For instance, in all of these laws, an organization is deemed to be terrorist by the executive branch. We improved it by saying it is not good for the executive to make that determination. We took the definition of terrorism word-by-word. Not one word was changed. Not even a comma. It is taken word-by-word. There is a reason why we took it word-by-word. First, these people have experience in democratic governance. Because they have experience, there is no shame  if we learn or take from them. Learning from a good teacher is useful not harmful.  Nothing embarrassing about it. The [anti-terrorism] proclamation in every respect is flawless. It is better than the best anti-terrorism laws [in the world] but not less than any one of them in any way… 
When I heard Meles saying these words on video, I was not sure if I should laugh or cry.

I knew Meles’ “tongue outvenoms all  the worms of Nile”, to borrow from Shakespeare, but I was not prepared to see him give a video testament of his total and abysmal ignorance of the law.
Then I thought of Goethe’s maxim: “There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action.” Meles and T-TPLF are the apotheosis of ignorance in action.

At the time, I tried to tutor  Meles that though imitation may best the highest form of flattery, to boldly claim that a mindlessly patched diktat as “flawless” is just mindless. I tried to explain to him on his level that his cut-and-paste anti-terrorism law could be likened to an imaginary biological creature:
One cannot create a lion by piecing together the sturdy long neck of the giraffe with the strong  jaws of a hyena, the fast limbs of the cheetah and the massive trunk of the elephant. The king of the jungle is an altogether different beast. In the same vein, one cannot clone pieces of anti-terrorism laws from everywhere onto a diktat and sanctify it as “flawless in every respect”.
The fact of the matter is that the laws Meles scarfed his “flawless” anti-terrorism law are as flawless as piece of industrial diamond.

I gave copy cat Meles and his T-TPLF minions a lecture on the subject, but I doubt they understood a word I wrote!

Where in America, the U.K. or Europe has anyone ever been arrested and prosecuted for posting words on Facebook? Where?!

“Flawless” anti-terrorism law, my foot!

Of course, Meles did not “copy word-for-word the very best anti-terrorism laws in the world”.  Meles did not take the “very best” from America, England and Europe.

Meles took the absolute worst from apartheid South Africa’s 1967 Terrorism Law.

T-TPLF terrorism by “anti-terrorism law”

Like the apartheid 1967 Terrorism Act, the T-TPLF anti-terrorism Proclamation under section (3)  classifies as “terrorist”  anyone or “group intending to advance a political, religious or ideological cause [seeks] to destabilize  or destroy the fundamental political, constitutional or, economic or social institutions of the country” and “causes damage to public property, natural resource, environment… [or] disrupts public service.”

In section (5), the T-TPLF law condemns as “terrorist” anyone who “provides a skill, expertise or moral support or gives advice… makes available any property in any manner… monetary, financial or other related services … provides any training or instruction or directive”.  Section (6) criminalizes as a terrorist act publication of “a statement that is likely to be understood by some or all of the members of the public as a direct or indirect encouragement… of an act of terrorism…” Section (7) criminalizes the “recruitment” of any person “for the purpose of a terrorist organization or committing a terrorist act.”

Like the apartheid 1967 Terrorism Act, the T-TPLF anti-terrorism Proclamation  authorizes warrantless searches and seizure. Section (14)  allows warrantless “interception and surveillance on the telephone, fax, radio, internet, electronic, postal and similar communications of a person suspected of terrorism”, “enter into any premise in secret to enforce the interception” or “install or remove instruments enabling the interception.”  (I am not sure about this one. It seems Meles scarfed the digital surveillance thing from the 1988 Chinese law on the Protection of State Secrets. It further allows any “police officer who has reasonable suspicion that a terrorist act may be committed and deems it necessary to make a sudden search…,  stop vehicle and pedestrian in an area and conduct sudden search at any time, and seize relevant evidences.”

Section (19)  of the T-TPLF Proclamation authorizes any police officer to “arrest without court warrant any person whom he reasonably suspects of terrorism.” Section (20)   allows the court to grant endless continuances and postponements so that the police/prosecutor  “for sufficient period to complete the investigation.” Section (23) allows the admission of  unverified  intelligence reports, hearsay or indirect surveillance evidence including those gathered by  “foreign law enforcement bodies” and “confessions of suspects, including coerced confessions. Section (25)  authorizes the “House of Peoples’ Representatives” the power to list and de-list an organization as terrorist organization. Section (37)  allows the “Council of Ministers” to issue “regulations necessary for the implementation of this Proclamation.” (In other words, Tweedle Dee makes regulation for Tweedle Dum.)

Application of the T-TPLF “anti-terrorism law”

Proclamation No. 652/2009 in nearly identical ways to the apartheid Terrorism Act is replete with  ambiguous, vague and overbroad language. Under the sweeping provisions of the Proclamation,  any act, speech, statement, and even thought, could be punished. Anyone the T-TPLF prosecutor/police believe or make-believe is engaged in “advancing a political, religious or ideological cause” and intending to “influence the government”, “intimidate the public”, “destabilize or destroy the fundamental political, constitutional, economic or social institutions of the country” could be condemned to long imprisonment or suffer the death penalty. That was precisely what the apartheid Terrorism act did. The apartheid police and prosecutors could charge anyone they wanted without so much as a scintilla of evidence of wrongdoing.

Making or publishing statements “likely to be understood as encouraging terrorist acts” is a punishable offense. Anyone alleged to have provided “moral support or advice” or has had any contact with an individual accused of a terrorist act is presumed to be a terrorist supporter. That was exactly how the apartheid regime used the Terrorism Act to sweep up suspected anti-apartheid activists in the urban areas.

Under the T-TPLF Proclamation, anyone who “writes, edits, prints, publishes, publicizes, disseminates, shows, makes to be heard any promotional statements encouraging, supporting or advancing terrorist acts” is deemed a “terrorist”. Peaceful protesters who carry banners critical of the regime could be charged for “promotional statements encouraging” terrorist acts. Anyone who “disrupts any public service” is considered a “terrorist” (Section 3); and workers who may legitimately grieve working conditions by work stoppages could be charged with “terrorism” for disruption.  That was exactly what the apartheid regime did with its Terrorism Act to arrest peaceful protesters, students, labor union activists, journalists and other dissidents.

Under the T-TPLF Proclamation, a  person who “fails to immediately inform or give information or evidence to the police” on a neighbor, co-worker or others s/he may suspect of “terrorism” could face up to 10 years for failure to report.  Two or more persons who have contact with a “terror” suspect could be charged with conspiracy to commit “terrorism”. That was exactly what the apartheid regime did with its Terrorism Act charging family members, neighbors, friends and acquaintances of suspected terrorists.

The procedural due process rights (fair trial) of suspects and the accused guaranteed under the T-TPLF constitution and  international human rights conventions are ignored, evaded, overlooked and disregarded by the “law”.  “The police may arrest without court warrant any person whom he reasonably suspects to have committed or is committing a terrorism” and hold that person in incommunicado detention. The police can engage in random and “sudden search and seizure” of the person, place or personal effects of anyone suspected of  “terrorism”.  The police can “intercept, install or conduct surveillance on the telephone, fax, radio, internet, electronic, postal, and similar communications” of a person suspected of terrorism.   The police can order “any government institution, official, bank, or a private organization or an individual” to turn over documents, evidence and information on a “terror” suspect.  Section 6 of the apartheid terrorism Act gave complete power to the police to search and seize persons and evidence at any time and in any place from anyone suspected of terrorism.

A “terror” suspect can be held in custody without charge for up to “28 days” with unlimited renewals. Any “evidence” presented by the regime’s prosecutor against a “terror” suspect in “court”  is admissible, including “confessions” (extracted by torture), “hearsay”, “indirect, digital and electronic evidences” and “intelligence reports even if the report does not disclose the source or the method it was gathered (including evidence obtained by torture). The “law” presumes the “terror” suspect to be guilty and puts the burden of proof on the suspect/defendant in violation of the universal principle that the accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Under the apartheid Terrorism Act, a terrorism suspect could be held on a warrantless detention for 180 days (renewable by order of police and prosecutorial authorities). Any evidence including involuntary confessions and hearsay could be used in court as evidence.  Like the apartheid Terrorism Act, the T-TPLF Proclamation bars habeas review or pretrial judicial intervention even to adjudicate detainee allegations of abuse and torture.

In apartheid South Africa and apartheid Ethiopia, terrorism suspects got kangaroo (monkey) court trials.

Today, T-TPLF prisons are full of opposition leaders, journalists, activists and dissidents falsely charged and/or convicted as “terrorists.” Among the thousands of people falsely accused of terrorism include Eskinder Nega, Bekele Gerba,  Ahmedin Jebel, Woubshet Taye, Temesgen Desalegn, Andualem Aragie, Andargachew Tsgie, Emawayish Alemu, Deldessa Waqo Jarso,  Akello Akoy Uchula, Zone 9 bloggers,  Swedish journalists Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye.

For a partial list of hundreds of T-TPLF political prisoners held under the Proclamation, click HERE

For an additional list, click HERE.

Victims of T-TPLF  “anti-terrorism law” 

The T-TPLF “anti-terrorism” diktat form its inception was intended to muzzle journalists from criticizing, youths from peaceably demonstrating, opposition parties from political organizing, ordinary citizens from speaking, civic leaders from mobilizing, teachers from imparting knowledge, lawyers from advocating scholars from analyzing and the entire nation from questioning his dictatorial rule. It is a “law” singularly intended to criminalize speech, police thought, outlaw critical publications, intimidate hearts, crush spirits, terrorize minds and shred constitutional and internationally-guaranteed human rights.

In the police state Ethiopia has become, opposition political and civic leaders and dissidents are kept under 24/7  surveillance, and the ordinary people they meet in the street are intimidated, harassed and persecuted. The climate of fear that permeates every aspect of urban and rural society is reinforced and maintained by a structure of repression that is vertically integrated from the very top to the local (kebele) level making impossible dissent or peaceful opposition political activity. As former president under the T-TPLF and currently an opposition leader Dr. Negasso Gidada has documented, the structure of state terrorism in Ethiopia is so horrific one can only find parallels for it in Stalin-era Soviet Union:
The police and security offices and personnel collect information on each household through other means. One of these methods involves the use of organizations or structures called “shane”, which in Oromo means “the five”. Five households are grouped together under a leader who has the job of collecting information on the five households… The security chief passes the information he collected to his chief in the higher administrative organs in the Qabale, who in turn informs the Woreda police and security office. Each household is required to report on guests and visitors, the reasons for their visits, their length of stay, what they said and did and activities they engaged in. … The OPDO/EPRDF runs mass associations (women, youth and micro-credit groups) and party cells (“fathers”, “mothers” and “youth”). The party cells in the schools, health institutions and religious institutions also serve the same purpose….
Apartheid South Africa and T-TPLF state terrorism

In any country where the rule of law prevails and an independent judiciary thrives, such a diktat  would not pass the smell test let alone a constitutional one. But in a world of kangaroo courts, rubberstamp parliaments and halls of vengeance and injustice, the diktat of one man, one party  is the law of the land. So, in 2016 Ethiopia has become George Orwell’s 1984: Thinking is terrorism. Dissent is terrorism. Speaking truth to power is terrorism. Having a conscience is terrorism. Peaceful protest is terrorism. Refusing to sell out one’s soul is terrorism. Standing up for democracy and human rights is terrorism. Defending the rule of law is terrorism. Peaceful resistance of state terrorism is terrorism.

State terrorism is the systematic use and threat of use of violence and coercion, intimidation, imprisonment and persecution  to create a prevailing climate of fear in a population with a specific political message and outcome: “Resistance is futile! Resistance will be crushed! There will be no resistance! ”

State terrorism paralyzes the whole society and incapacitates individuals by entrenching fear as a paramount feature of social inaction and immobilization through the exercise of  arbitrary power and extreme brutality.

In Ethiopia today, it is not just that the climate of fear and loathing permeates every aspect of social and economic life, indeed the climate of fear has transformed the “Land of Thirteen Months of Sunshine” in to the “Land of Thirteen Months of Fear, Loathing, Despair and Darkness”.

When the State uses the “law” to silence and violently stamp out dissent, jail and keep in solitary confinement dissenters, opposition leaders and members, suppress the press and arbitrarily arrest journalists, trash human rights with impunity, trample upon the rule of law and scoff at constitutional accountability, does it not become a terrorist state?

Welcome to Apartheid Ethiopia!

 (To be continued…)

[1] Parts I and 2 available at the following links:


[2] Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa Reports:

Volume I:  http://www.justice.gov.za/trc/report/finalreport/Volume%201.pdf

Volume II:  http://www.justice.gov.za/trc/report/finalreport/Volume%202.pdf

Volume III:  http://www.justice.gov.za/trc/report/finalreport/Volume%203.pdf