A Call for the Release of Birtukan Mediksa


I am outraged that the Ethiopian government, while currently confronted with many important national issues Ė ranging from regional security to fighting poverty Ė would go after Birtukan Mediksa, because of what she said about a pardon or pardoning process, an issue to which Ethiopians donít give a damn about anymore. We may question Birtukanís political and organizational leadership competence, but she is a lovable person with her youthful and good looks. At times she has tried to be open and frank.At times she has stumbled on public stages, more so when she was in the Diaspora where, overwhelmed by a cheering crowd, gets easily carried away to be off line. And such are the realities faced by every inexperienced politician. In fact, my own assessment is that the whole incident that led to revoking Birtukanís pardon has to do with her bragging (big-mouthing), just as sometime ago she irritated people in opposition camp by saying that the CUD leadership had been a total failure or that there were anti-Tigrean elements within the CUD camp.


The story about Birtukan and other opposition leadersí pardon by the government has two parts. One part is that a committee of elders had intervened to mediate between imprisoned opposition leaders and the government. Birtukan got this story right. The other part is that opposition leaders had to apologized for any wrongdoing. Her public statement in Europe suggested that she denied making any such apology.Either way, it would have been up to the Ethiopian public to question her integrity, not the government. Besides, nobody cares about where or how Birtukan goes around to talk about the negotiation of her release from prison. Ethiopians have remained interested in learning about her policy outlook and she has none.Let us be quite clear here. We stand with EPRDF together on many national issues, but we remain seriously concerned with its adversarial approach to managing its relationships with opposition political parties.


Ethiopians advocated the release of leaders of what was then CUD party hoping that these leaders would revive the opposition movement and contributed to peaceful development. This hope was shattered when, shortly after their release, the leaders began fighting among themselves. This failed opposition leadership has remained an issue for many Ethiopians, not the pardon document or how the pardon was arranged. Then, in the eyes of Ethiopians and the international community, the arrest of Birtukan is politically self-serving. I always say that EPRDF is an example of a government that creates its own political problems. At a time when Birtukanís party is experiencing internal problems, by arresting her, EPRDF gets blamed for any possible mishaps in this party.I wish I know what those EPRDF advisors do to get paid salaries. They should have anticipated the implications for Ethiopian society and politics. Why donít those aging revolutionary democrats forget about this whole bloody business of pardon or pardoning and instead focus on more important national issues. Birtukan should be released immediately



Getachew Mequanent

Ottawa, Canada

December 30, 2008