Patriotic Ginbot 7 Movement for Unity and Democracy is deeply saddened by the completely reckless remarks made by Wendy Sherman, US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs. The recent remark made by Wendy Sherman in Addis Ababa is uncharacteristic of the US State Department, and it totally contradicts the Department’s annual human rights report on Ethiopia. The remark was thoughtless, misguided and as the statement issued by Freedom House aptly put it, it is woefully ignorant and counter-productive.
The most recent US Department of State Human Rights Report on Ethiopia describes the state of human right in Ethiopia in the following two unambiguous statements:
- The most significant human rights problems included: restrictions on freedom of expression and association, including through arrests; detention; politically motivated trials; harassment; and intimidation of opposition members and journalists, as well as continued restrictions on print media;
- Other human rights problems included arbitrary killings; allegations of torture, beating, abuse, and mistreatment of detainees by security forces; reports of harsh and, at times, life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; detention without charge and lengthy pretrial detention; a weak, overburdened judiciary subject to political influence
Moreover, during the 2000 election, in the Hadia zone of South Ethiopia; heavily armed government commando forces massacred innocent people who peacefully chanted – “No ballot box stealing”. In the aftermath of the 2005 election, the TPLF regime’s Special Forces killed more than 200 innocent people and threw to jail leaders of a party that won the election. Between 2005 and 2010, the Ethiopian parliament passed three bills (Media, NGO and Anti-Terrorism bills) that criminalize dissent and the free expression of ideas, and in the meantime, the regime made it sure that no viable opposition party exists in Ethiopia. As a result, the incumbent EPRDF party won 99.6% of the seats in a 547 seat parliament in an election that reminded us a typical Soviet era socialist election.
At the beginning of 2015, the Ethiopian Election Board banned two prominent opposition political parties, and it also barred some party leaders from participating in the 2015 parliamentary election.
The State Department Annual reports, the experience of the 2000, 2005 and 2010 elections and what the TPLF regime has been doing in the run up for the 2015 election point to one vivid truth- there is no democracy in Ethiopia and the regime in Ethiopia is an out and out neo – totalitarian regime. It’s sad and it is also a clear gesture of irresponsibly when a high ranking US government official makes a public statement stating that Ethiopia is a democracy, utterly ignoring US Department’s own annual human reports and in total disregard to all these evidences of gross human rights violations and lack of political space for a meaningful and genuinely competitive, free and fair elections in Ethiopia.
Patriotic Ginbot 7 is a political movement that came into being as a direct result of injustice, gross abuse of human rights, and corruption in the present day Ethiopia under the chokes hold of a minority dictatorial regime. Patriotic Ginbot 7 leaders, members and supporters are true soldiers of justice, freedom, and democracy, and firm believers in inclusive economic development. All leaders and members of the Patriotic Ginbot 7 movement are model citizens in the community they live here in the US, Canada, Europe and Australia who not just vehemently denounce terrorism, but also willing and eager to fight all forms of terrorism alongside their respective governments. We oppose and fight terrorism because terrorists are against our core values of justice, freedom, human dignity, and democracy.
Patriotic Ginbot 7 strongly believes that democratic elections are the only sources of political power, but it also believes that all elections are not democratic. Democratic elections are participatory, fair, free, and contested where the outcomes of the election are decided by the free will of the electorate. Ethiopia under the TPLF/EPRDF regime has never had a fair and free election, and all election results were decided before a single vote is casted.
The electoral process, elections and the regime that controls elections through an election board, which is not free from the political control of the regime, have proved time and again not to be free and utterly undemocratic. It is after acknowledging this undemocratic nature and the abysmal track record of the TPLF regime during past elections that the Carter Center and the EU decided to not send election monitors to Ethiopia. In addition, many governments and credible international organizations such as Human Rights Watch (HRW), Freedom House, Amnesty International and Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) have concluded that the preconditions for a fair and free election are nonexistent in Ethiopia.
If Ethiopia was a democracy as stated by Madam Wendy Sherman, the entire Ethiopian opposition and Patriotic Ginbot 7 in particular would have participated in the election and happily accept the verdict of the people. In fact, we are primarily in the struggle to make sure that the Ethiopian people are the only sources of political power at all levels of government, and they exercise this power through no other way but through fair and free electoral process.
Patriotic Ginbot 7 would like to point out that all third party elements including the United States government that have the leverage and influence on the TPLF/EPRDF regime need to use their power and energy to push the TPLF regime to accept a meaningful and genuinely free, fair and an all-inclusive election than warning an already embattled opposition and, in the process, emboldening a neo-totalitarian minority regime in Ethiopia.
As clearly reported by the US Department of State Annual Human Right Reports and many other organizations; the economic and political disenfranchisement of the majority of the people, the mass detentions in many parts of the country, the gross violations of human rights, the torture and the arbitrary killings of citizens, the blatant domination of political power and economic resources by a minority group at the expense of the majority have pushed the Ethiopian people over the limit. Patriotic Ginbot 7 strongly believes these are acute problems that need immediate solution. History has repeatedly showed us that trading justice, freedom and democracy for growth and stability leads to popular resistance and which may lead to insecurity and instability.
Ethiopia’s geopolitical location, large population size, and both its ethnic and religious diversity makes it a strategically placed country in the Horn of Africa. A democratic Ethiopia that ensures justice, equality and freedom to all of its diverse ethnic groups and all citizens can be a critical force for the greater good in the Horn of Africa and in the African continent at large. Unfortunately, a minority dictatorship that enjoys the blessing of the great democracies of the world has robed Ethiopia of its potential.
Durable peace, stability, and prosperity could only come only by democratizing Ethiopia, where a genuinely pluralist democratic order is established, the basic human rights, political liberties of all citizens are respected, and the equality and freedom of all ethnic and religious groups are guaranteed and protected. It is high time that the US and other democracies that have been supporting the minority regime recognize the grim socio economic realities, deep rooted fault lines along political, religious and ethnic divides that have been created by the current minority dictatorial regime in Ethiopia. Unless these conditions are addressed in an all-inclusive political process by all stakeholders, peace, stability and prosperity in the Horn of Africa will remain unattainable.
We believe the relationship between Ethiopia and western democracies has to be reconstituted on the basis of shared values of democracy, justice, and promotion of mutual interests. The Horn of Africa is a volatile region characterized by political instability, and it is no secret that the TPLF regime is the major source of instability in the region. To secure peace and stability and deny terrorism safe haven in the Horn of Africa; Europe, the United, and other democratic countries need a strong democratic partner in the Horn of Africa.
The struggle for justice, liberty and democracy in Ethiopia shall prevail!!