Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Oops I did it again and again and again: TPLF

Ethiopia “pardoned” the two Swedish journalists yesterday, after jailing them for more than a year in the Kality – one of its many notorious prisons. As an Ethiopian, such cliché-ridden action reminds me of a famous song by the American singer Britney Spears. You know, in Ethiopia, you'll be arrested for no crime, then charged with fabricated crime or a catch-term called “terrorism”, sentenced to long term jail sentence and then they put you on
the national television begging for pardon (knowing that you are innocent) and then you're “free” – voilà:  that's TPLF (Tigray People's Liberation Front) style. While watching the news together on the internet, one of two women among us wondered why the two Swedish journalists admitted that they had made a mistake. If she knew how it feels to live in the Kality prison, where over 250 inmates share a barrack, a few showers/toilets and sleep on a hard bed infested with blood-sucking insects. I was neither surprised by the release of Martin and Johan, nor by their coerced/choreographed testimony on the National TV. I've never been to Kality, but I met some people who said that anybody would be ready to do anything at any cost after being through the nightmare ordeals in that prison.When TPLF came to power in early 90s, it was applying its jungle law to “ stabilize” the country; you know, they first shoot you and then tell you not to move. I remember the newly, from the bushes, arrived fighters of TPLF were shooting pick-pockets/burglars at point-blank on a broad daylight or parade them with whatever exhibits they caught them with on the streets of Addis and many towns across the country.
They killed at least six innocent Addis Ababa University (AAU) students who opposed the secession of Eritrea from Ethiopia with illegitimate referendum endorsed and sponsored by the TPLF government which was supposed to safeguard the interests of its country. We (Ethiopian TV crew) were chased out from the scene by angry AAU students when we went to do a report about their 2001 protest, which did cost the lives of at least 41 of their classmates. But then the regime realised that that was not the way to do business with civilised people, so it evolved and became smart in using/abusing the 'law' to legitimise their actions against real and imagined enemies; one of their earliest victims were the Amhara ethnic group that they demonised/dehumanised and antagonised together with other ethnic groups, especially the Oromos, during those days in order to tighten their grip on power.

Disarm and let them die

In spite of the chaos and the looming instability after the downfall of the Marxist-Leninist military junta in 1991, the Ethiopian people were managing the new development at ease. However, the rebel group that won the battle after 17 years of bloody war used this opportunity to disarm/attack one particular ethnic group, Amhara, in order to divide and rule the country. Under the guise of securing stability and peace across the country, the ruling party mainly ordered ethnic Amhara groups who were living all over the country for generations to surrender their arms, which they eventually did, not knowing the death traps they were running into. Thousands of innocent, defenceless children, pregnant women, men and elderly from this ethnic group were massacred, butchered, burned alive or thrown into deep ditches and dismantled from the place where they lived for generations by local freedom fighters/vigilantes from other ethnic groups, who were fuelled by constant media smear campaign by TPLF, which portrayed the former group as oppressors of other ethnic groups in Ethiopia.
The late professor, veteran surgeon and former dean of Addis Ababa University Asrat Woldeyes set up the All Amhara People's Organization (AAPO) to stop this madness and defend his helpless ethnic group, after witnessing the high level of apathy and/or involvement of the ruling party in the crimes against Amhara ethnic group. It didn't take so much time for TPLF to show their true color: Woldeyes was imprisoned with cooked up charges/evidences and then released but died owing to lack of treatment while in custody for more than two years. Almost every problem under the sun was blamed on the AAPO at that time, including the lack of rain.

Kill and blame it on you

Ever since they founded their liberation front three decades ago, The late Meles Zenawi and his cliques have always been on the killing spree as a mean of survival or/and to stop dissenting views. They perfected their crimes by being the law, the police and the judge. The most recent and high-profile killing spree was undertaken by TPLF after the 2005 rigged election, whereby the opposition parties that won the hearts and minds of the electorate, leaders of the civil society and the private press were blamed and then jailed for such atrocious crimes by the regime. The later groups were coerced to make a confession and were then “pardoned” after being in custody for over two years for crimes they didn't commit.
To this date, none of those criminals who killed over 200 innocent kids, the elderly, women and men who exercised their rights “enshrined” in the constitution, had been convicted. Birtukan Midekssa, a high level opposition figure, was convicted and then pardoned twice in less than five years for being vocal and standing up against the widespread injustice in the country. The dissident blogger Eskinder Nega, who had been convicted following the 2005 elections and then “pardoned”, was again sentenced to 18-years imprisonment last July for criticising the government. The list can go on and on for millions of faceless, nameless Ethiopians who are/were being incarcerated for years and years in hundreds of jails all over the country for having different political views/opinions than those that TPLF had authorised. Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye were the latest victims of this impunity, who were sentenced to eleven years prison last year and released on the eve of the Ethiopian New Year to 'honour' the country's long tradition of “pardon” of “convicted criminals”. They were clean-shaven, looked healthy and fine on camera and told us that they found that Kality is a much better than the prisons in Asia; well, haven't we heard similar testimonies by Ethiopians who had been humiliated/degraded/cowed beyond recognition in the past? Zenawi is gone, but his ghost is still rife and striving, and the whole staged drama we saw on the eve of the Ethiopian New Year depicts this reality. I just can't wait for Johan and Martin to tell the whole scenario from Kality when they come back home in a couple of days time. Happy Ethiopian New Year and I wish the duo Swedes all the best in the years to come. I'm sure their hard time in my home country will embolden their conviction to find the truth regardless of wherever they go on planet earth including Ethiopia.

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