From the desk of HG

Reflection on the release of CUDP leaders and other prisoners of conscience:

As we rejoice the release of the Kinijit leadership we ought not to lose sight of the circumstances that led to their incarceration, and we need to comprehend the environment in which they are going to operate.

In June and Novemeber, 2005, over 30,000 Ethiopians including CUDP leaders were imprisoned, over 800 were wounded and over 193 unarmed and innocent Ethiopians were shot dead, some in the head, execution style. Who will ever forget the cry of wzr Alemzuria Teshome, whose mother, wzr Etenesh Yimem, was shot dead by security forces in her yard as she pleaded for a better treatment of her husband, a CUDP and elected Addis Ababa City Council member, when the security forces dragged him out of his house. In November 2005, as she recounted her grief on VOA, wzr Alemzuria sobbed and cried, "ye Ityopia hezib yefredegn, - Let Ethiopians judge me."

After months of delays, and because he was pressured from all corners, Zenawi hand picked the members of an Inquiry Committee, and his rubber-stump parliament gave its approval to investigate the atrocities committed against Ethiopians after the May 15, 2005 election. The committee found that the security forces had used excessive force, as recounted by  the chairman of the Inquiry Committee who fled the country for fear of retribution from Zenawi, because  he would not alter the determination of the committee to suit Zenawi' stories.

By Novemeber, 2005, Zenawi had began his trumped-up and shifting accusations against CUDP leaders and other prisoners of conscience which he held in captivity for about a year and half. He charged them of treason and genocide of the people of Tigrey.   It was changed to a charge of inciting genocide. Then, it was changed to "outrage against the constitution" and aggravated high treason.

All through the accusations and the strange court appearances that the CUDP leaders underwent, they stressed that their case ought to find a political resolution, and they brought no defense in the court of Zenawi's man, Judge Adil Ahmed, who on June 11, 2007 found the CUDP Leaders and other prisoners of conscience guilty and deserving of imprisonment of 25 years or death.

That same day, June 11, 2007 [4/10/99 Ethiopian calendar] Professor Mesfin Wolde Mariam, founding member of  Human Rights Council of Ethiopia and prisoner of Zenawi, wrote a historic letter.  In a six page pdf file, Professor Mesfin documented the essence of how the court presided by Adil Ahmed denied the accused from presenting any evidence to counter the false accusations levied by the prosecutor, and how the court refused to hear the plea of the accused against brutality by prison guards, in particular against Mulneh Andualem.  Remarkably, on June 11, after the accused stood and demanded that they be heard, the court indicated that it would take a 10 minute recess, but returned after two and half hours to pass its unjust verdict against the accused. I provide a translation of the last paragraph, beginning with the last sentence of the second to the last paragraph.

"Denied of the right to present evidence in defense against false accusations, and based only on false accusations, the accused is found guilty for the first time in the history of Ethiopian formal court proceedings.

The state of the justice process and whom it serves is now proved.  A strong and independent judiciary is the foundation for developing a credible democratic process.  It was because we believed in the protection of our people from such shameful [court] determinations that we incorporated [a demand to have an independent judiciary] in our October, 9, 2005 [Meskerem, 29, 1998 Ethiopian calendar] conditions for entering parliament.  Today's [court] decision, beyond the injustice levied against us, places Ethiopia in a shameful position among the international community of nations." Mesfin Wolde Mariam.

The saga continued. "The prosecution recommended the death penalty. On Monday [July 16], a judge instead sentenced 30 of the defendants to life in prison and gave eight other prisoners terms of one to 18 years. The defendants were also stripped of their right to vote and to run for office (Stephanie McCrummen, July 20th, 2007, Washington Post Foreign Service.)

Meanwhile, mediators were used to transfer communications between Zenawi and his prisoners. Reliable sources had indicated that Ato Hailu Shawel affixed his signature on Friday, June 22 [Sene 15] in Kaliti in agreement to condition for release set by Zeanwi.  It was hoped that they were to be released the next day. However, that did not pan out as Zenawi elected to cause his boys, prosecutor Tetemke Abreha and Judge Adil Ahamed, to go through court proceedings, before he would provide what he called clemency.

The bizarre and shifting accusations of the prisoners of conscience, the lack of  respect for due process of law by Zenawi, and the absence of an independent judiciary and fair minded judges was demonstrated by the incarceration and release of CUDP leaders. The nonviolent movement led by the gallant CUDP leaders has clearly exposed the tyrannical rule of Zenawi, for there is no democracy in a country that does not have an independent judiciary with fair minded judges, and where the ruler does not respect due process of law.

In reviewing the philosophical construction of Zenawi's form of clemency to his prisoners, Dr. Messay Kebede, Professor of Philosophy, diagnosed it as an act designed to humiliate the released prisoners and one that does not lay the ground work for reconciliation (  In his note of July 20, he indicated that the conciliators that produced the one-sided document, which purportedly secured the release of the prisoners, were fellow travelers with Zenawi, as no moral or legal purpose is gained by signature obtained from the jailed by their jailor.

After their release, the chairman of CUDP, Ato Hailu Shawel, stressed that he had no apology to make for protesting 2005 election results because, "for us it is a normal political protest."  Moreover, he stated that his agreements were signed under duress, and that he saw the case as a way forward of promoting his movement. 

Concluding reflections.

PM Zenawi must have released his prisoners because he was pressured from all sides.  A brief set of questions expose the potential forces that might have been arrayed to cause the release of the Kinijit Leadership. They are presented in the form of questions for we do not yet know the veracity and the strength of each force mentioned below.   No doubt others will raise more questions and solutions {"besotachewin lemigeltsu gellesebotch") surrounding the release and whether or not the Kinijit Leadership should have accepted any conditions for their release.

1.      Was Zenawi made to comprehend that unless his party releases his prisoners the assets of the TPLF officialdom in western countries might be frozen and travel restrictions might be imposed on some of the officials?
[The stick of the benefactor.]

2.      Did the TPLF receive a reliable promise from benefactor organizations that they will continue to provide military, monetary and diplomatic support as in the past and even perhaps with more vigor?  [The carrot of the benefactor]

3.      Did the TPLF receive an agreement that it's illegal and unjust murders, imprisonment, etc., of June and November, 2005, have no "legal consequences?

4.      Are there plans to make the released Kinijit Leadership ineffective by surrounding each of them with innumerable agents of TPLF so that they would be disabled from functioning as an effective party?

5.   Is the release implemented because the TPLF wished to imprison and murder even more Ethiopians?
6.      Are there plans to accuse some of the released Kinijit Leadership on concocted petty crimes of non-political nature and incarcerate them that way?

7.   Does the rumor that Zenawi is mentally unstable have any bearing on the negotiations?

8.      Does this act hasten TPLF's effort at replacing Afeworki with another and friendly Tigreyan, who some Eritrawi Ethiopians feared was the thrust of recent utterances by Sebhat Nega regarding the treasonous achievements of the TPLF in giving coastal and maritime territories of Ethiopia as the domain of the EPLF?

All of the above considerations underscore that power is deeply rooted in the people, which a nonviolent movement can bring to the fore as a tool for them to discharge at their choosing. The people can use this power to establish a wholesome society that shuns violence and enshrines peace and justice for all   Hizbawi Imibita is a form of people power that may be used to resist tyranny without undermining the human nature of the tyrant, but disabling tyranny as a form of governance.  Hizbawi Imbita weakens the fibers of tyranny and disables it while it empowers the people to exercise their rights for self governance. The nonviolent movement of Kinijit is a powerful movement.

HG; 7/21/2007