Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Kality Prison: Somebody's Hell is another's Heaven

Ethiopia, Modernday Orwellian Animal-Farm
You may disagree with me but I believe that if there are such things called heaven and/or hell, it is only here on planet earth. Let's keep this rhetoric aside for a while and discuss about the main issue which came across to me last Saturday while I was attending the book-release event held by the duo Swedish journalists who were "pardoned" last year after being jailed for 438 days in Ethiopia, to remember thousands of Ethiopian prisoners of conscience and the crackdown on dissent in Ethiopia. TPLF's (Tigray People's Liberation Front) late strongman bragged " Swedish and Ethiopians are before our justice system; we bleed the same blood", when asked if he was

being forced by his benefactors' pressure to release Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson. Really? Isn't it an open secret that Ethiopia has become an Orwellian Animal-Farm where some are more equal than the others over the last two decades. I've ample evidences not only white people's blood is treated differently than Ethiopians but also EPRDF (Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front) values some white people's blood more than the others. How come American journalists have never spent more than five days in Ethiopian prisons while the two Swedes had been incarcerated for 438 days given both of them were whites? Fast forward, how come Woubshet Taye's clemency letter was rejected recently by the ruling EPRDF party while the two Swedes were "pardoned" last year provided both the former and latter ones were sentenced with the same "terrorism charges"? Anyway, Schibbye and Persson should be commended for their last Saturday's humble gesture where they renewed
the promise they had given to their fellow inmates when they were released on the eve of Ethiopian New Year - telling the world about the situation of Ethiopian prisoners of conscience in Kality and more than a dozen prison elsewhere in the country. They could have chosen another venue to release their book with lavish party and a huge limelight from local and international media but they opted for last Saturday's event to wage a war against EPRDF's regime by putting a spotlight on its brutal and ongoing crackdown against the Ethiopian press. The two former fugitives described 438 days of their lives in Ethiopia in their book and Kality prison in particular where they were detained with prominent journalists like Eskinder Nega, Reeyot Alemu and thousands of others, is a hell on earth on many levels. According to them calling Kality a prison is giving bad name to a prison; a corrugated iron barrack infested with contagious diseases, biting insects and non-stop loud noise 24/7/365. 

Ziway vs Kality prison, lesser of two evils
Against this horrific backgrounds of Kality's prison, journalist Woubshet Taye who was sentenced to 14 years jail term last year and transferred 135Kms  from Ethiopian capital Addis Abeba to Ziway prison, is right now longing to return back to the gulag which Schibbye and Persson depicted it as hell on earth. Mesfin Negash, another Ethiopian exiled journalist who lives in Sweden and was sentenced in absentia last year to 8 years with terrorism charges, told the public at the book-fair this news he heard from Taye's friend ( please watch the clip down below). Nobody chooses to live in hell, unless she/he is in desperate situation and Taye's decision is no different. Spend 5 minutes with hundreds of inmates in a corrugated iron barrack built in malaria prone area where most of the time its temperature is above 30 degree Celsius and then you know what it means to be in Taye's shoes. TPLF/EPRDF is best known for its vicious revenge against perceived and real enemies. It does it meticulously using the "law" only for such purposes to legitimize its practices. TPLF intentionally thrown away Taye to Ziway, hundreds of kilometers away from his family and loved ones, knowing that Taye's small kid and his frail and aging (80+  years olds) parents can hardly able to visit him commuting 135Kms trek every week using a public transport. Last year, our "new" premier in an interview with an online magazine said that one of the reasons why he went back in 1991 (a very chaotic and unstable moment in the country's history) to Ethiopia from Finland after finishing his studies, was his first daughter who was 2 years old at the time. So, when a decision was made to transfer Taye to Ziway, Dessalegn knows firsthand what it means to be separated from your small kid. Don't tell them leave but make them to leave, is how EPRDF and its loyalists work to crush the spirits of their victims to submit to their
cruel and sadistic demands. Reeyot Alemu, award winning columnist of the now defunct Feteh weekly, went on hunger-strike for four days last week to protest against restrictions imposed on her visitors by authorities of Kality prison and abuses she was forced to receive threats and insults from a senior TPLF army officer who recently accused of mega corruption crimes and moved into Alemu's cell. Let's conclude by looking at what Ethiopia's constitution is saying about detainees and what our rulers are doing otherwise to infringe the very constitution they ratified: 

(1) All persons held in custody and persons imprisoned upon conviction and sentencing have the
right to treatments respecting their human dignity.
(2) All persons shall have the opportunity to communicate with, and to be visited by, their
spouses or partners, close relatives, friends, religious councilors, medical doctors and their legal

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