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Plea for Help to Stop Ethnically Motivated Political Imprisonment and Gross Violation of Human Rights in Ethiopia

ASSOCIATION OF TIGREAN COMMUNITIES IN CANADA (ATCC)

 

Return Address: P.O. Box 69009, Skyview RPO Edmonton, AB, Canada, T6V 1G7

EmailAssociation.TigrayCom@gmail.com

 

 Date: July 04, 2020

 

To:      The International Community

 

Subject:          Plea for Help to Stop Ethnically Motivated Political Imprisonment and Gross Violation of Human Rights in Ethiopia

 

Dear Sir/Madam:

 

We are a group representing Canadians of Tigray origin (North Ethiopia) and kindly writing this letter to plead with you to put pressure on Mr. Abiy, the Ethiopian Prime Minister, to stop harassing, selectively imprisoning, and waging Nazi-like propaganda campaign against the Tigray nation of Ethiopia. His bellicose narratives and actions have reached dangerous levels that would inevitably create havoc in the already volatile region of the horn of Africa.  

 

When PM Ahmed came to power following the resignation of Mr. Hailemariam Desalegn as a result of successive waves of protests in the Oromia region (and to some extent in the Amhara region), there was a wide-spread optimism that  he would unify the country and transition it into a functioning democracy. Although Mr. Abiy had held key security/intelligence positions in the previous Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) led government, he was relatively unknown to most Ethiopians until a few months before his ascent to the prime ministerial position. As Ethiopia is historically an ethnicized country where political support primarily stems from ones ethnic identity, public support for PM Abiy, for the most part, was rooted on attributes ascribable to his ethnicity and religion, rather than his qualifications. In his own admission, he was born to the two most populous ethnic groups (Amhara and Oromo).  This being the case,  some section of the population was also initially attracted by his evangelical narrative of  “Medemer”, literally meaning “addition”; a concept described by Getu Teressa as a “hodgepodge of ideas constructed with rhetorical fallacies and delivered with pseudo-intellectual evangelical self-help fervor12.

 

Following his swearing into office in April 2018, PM Abiy held a series of meet-and-greet tours to different regions of the country where he addressed regional parliaments and public gatherings and made several promises. He said that he would open up a new political culture in Ethiopia, namely a culture of reconciliation and forgiveness; upholding the constitution, due process and supremacy of law; respecting freedom of speech and opening up political space; resolving the conflict with Eritrea. Although the decision to release political prisoners and make “peace” with Eritrea was made during the last months of his predecessor’s term in office, PM Abiy unabashedly took the credit and used it in his bid for the Nobel Peace Prize nomination. He was also hailed as ‘reformer and pacifier’ by Western governments and media outlets; an endorsement that helped him receive the prize. Of course, part of the reason for Western support to PM Abiy was the expectation that he would ‘liberalize’ the economy and open the doors for foreign competition. However, other than sophistry, self-aggrandizement, building persona by embellishment through state media, the endless dinner extravaganza and vanity projects, did PM Abiy live up to even the simplest promises and expectations of the Ethiopian people? The answer is a resounding NO! Because Mr. Abiy came riding a wave of populism and on anti-Tigray platform, he did not have any viable roadmap for the country to start with. Hence, he had to create enemies and blame his failings on them. Traditionally, Tigreans have become an easy punching bag for the blame game and propaganda assault Amhara elites have been employing for over a century, and PM Abiy is doing exactly that. By all accounts, PM Abiy is a full-fledged dictator, much less having the caliber to qualify for a Nobel Peace Prize.  Below are highlights of some of his failings.

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  • Peace with Eritrea? Despite the initial fanfare and ‘bromance’ of the two dictators (PM Abiy and President Isayas), the Ethio-Eritrean border remains completely cordoned off and the two armies are still facing each other off. It is now clear to most Ethiopians that the newly found love between the two dictators is nothing more than a ploy to attack Tigray and its governing party the Tigray Liberation Front (TPLF), a party considered by both as a challenge to their dictatorial regimes. The fact that President Isayas of Eritrea and PM Abiy of Ethiopia are openly threatening the people and governing party of Tigray (part of Ethiopia) is a peculiar and puzzling phenomenon in international politics.

 

  • Violation of The Constitution: PM Abiy has unconstitutionally removed elected leaders of 8 regional states (provinces) and replaced them with his puppets. He dissolved the elected governing party EPRDF illegally, formed a new party of his own called Prosperity Party that is not elected by Ethiopian people, and ‘inherited’ the powers (including 94% seats in the parliament!) of EPRDF. Using duress and bribery, he has paralyzed the legislative & judiciary branches, used them to push through whatever legislation he wants passed, and directly commands the courts and electoral bodies.

 

  • Political Imprisonment, Anti-Tigrean Rhetoric, and Abuses: Although thousands of prisoners were released by his predecessor as part of the then ruling party EPRDF’s so-called “reform”, PM Abiy has filled the prisons back with tens of thousands of political prisoners. Mr. Abiy has mass-arrested over 1,800 Tigrean high-ranking servicemen and women just because of who they are. Some of those compatriots were even charged with “spying on the Eritrean regime” during the time both countries were arch-enemies! This is tantamount to the CIA jailing its agents for spying on Russia and shows how far Mr. Abiy has gone to make his mentor, the Eritrean dictator, happy. The list of abuses Tigreans endured under PM Abiy’s regime is endless; just to mention a few, he has (1) helped Amhara officials block all roads to/from Tigray for more than two years to starve the people of Tigray, (2) dehumanized Tigreans with such names as “daylight hyenas” and “unfamiliar others” causing countrywide attacks and deaths, (3) withheld federal subsidy and stopped numerous federal infrastructure projects in Tigray, (4) banned foreign investors from visiting Tigray, (5) dismissed the majority of Tigrean federal workers, (6) caused the displacement of over 100,000 Tigreans from Amhara and Oromia regions, (7) worked with Amhara and Eritrean leaders to strangulate Tigray, (8) worked tirelessly to create and fan havoc, riots and protests in Tigray, and (9) refused to facilitate the return of Tigrean immigrants stranded in the deserts and detention centers of Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Therefore, based on his actions and public statements, it is clear that Mr. Abiy is hell-bent on subduing the people of Tigray because the Tigray region, led by TPLF, is the only peaceful region that so far has the guts to protest his unconstitutional moves and resisted his dictatorial actions. 

 

  • Human Right Violations are orders of magnitude worse under Mr. Abiy's regime than in the preceding EPRDF administrations. Through Abiy’s deliberate instigation of conflicts, over 3 million people have been displaced and many thousands of people killed in the last two years alone. Over 50% of the country is now under military state of emergency, without parliamentary approval. Instances of horrendous extra-judicial killings and arrests, especially in the Oromo region, are too many to list here. A recent scathing report by Amnesty International sheds some light into the magnitude of crimes committed by the Ethiopian government (15), but PM Abiy, in his June 08, 2020 address to the parliament, dismissed the report as “a fiction not worth wasting ones time on”.

 

  • Election? After dragging his feet for a while and making all sorts of hindrances, PM Abiy, through his Election Board allies, first postponed the election date from May to August 2020. Then, as he was desperately looking for excuses, he used COVID-19 pandemic as golden opportunity to postpone the election indefinitely. In contravention to the constitutional powers of the House of Federation (HoF), the PM instructed his rubber-stamp parliament (lower house) to approve a bill to “re-interpret” the constitution in order to prolong his term beyond the constitutionally mandated 5 years. The draft for term-prolongation was prepared by the “Constitutional Inquiry Council”, a group of like-minded, and Abiy-friendly scholars hand-picked by the PM himself and supervised by his other ally, the President of the Supreme Court, Ms. Meaza Ashenafi. This illegal move led to the resignation of the speaker of the HoF Mrs. Keria Ibrahim, who cited intimidation of members of the HoF by the executive and stated: “I can’t be an accomplice when the constitution is being violated and a dictatorial government is being formed…I have resigned not to be collaborator (with) such a historical mistake.”(17). Under pressure from PM Abiy’s junta, the HoF, on its meeting of June 10, 2020 has approved the unconstitutional bill to postpone election till 9-12 months after the COVID-19 pandemic is declared over by the WHO, then by the Ethiopian ministry of health and then by the unelected parliament! Nobody knows when the pandemic would be over, and nobody knows when Ethiopia will ever conduct a free and fair election. This was a sad day for Ethiopia as it officially marked the birth of a dictatorial regime. It is to be recalled that, Mr, Abiy has even threatened to wage war on Tigray Regional State if the latter conducts local elections! (NB: Ethiopia had no reported cases of COVID19 when PM Abiy postponed an election that was 6 months away).

 

  • Due Process and Supremacy of Law: Despite his promise to not arrest citizens before having gathered tangible evidence, PM Abiy has been acting to the contrary. Even after two years in jail, many Tigrean political prisoners do not know the charges brought against them. We have also seen numerous cases of court decisions to release prisoners on bail being overturned by police, with the latter acting upon an order from high up. In addition, as the initial euphoria within his Oromo base evaporated and widespread opposition to his government grew, Mr. Abiy also started to jail tens of thousands of Oromo people and killed hundreds of them (3)

 

  • High Profile Assassinations: There have been numerous assassinations targeting high ranking members of the military who are Tigreans. A case in point is the killing of Chief of Staff Gen. Seare Mekonen and Ret. Maj. Gen. Gezae Abera on 22 June 2019. Mr. Abiy's government has made a mockery of justice by avoiding transparency in the investigation and banning families of the victims and primary witnesses from attending court proceedings. Even worse, his government announced that the suspects of the assassination were released to “broaden the reform process going on in the country”! All indications are that the assassinations were planned and executed by the top leadership including PM Abiy himself. 

 

·       Freedoms of Press and Speech Stifled: Yes, PM Abiy has allowed in previously banned and exiled media outlets but only because they were his allies. As these media outlets are predominantly anti-Tigray and continue to bash anything Tigrean while heaping praise upon him, it might have given the false impression that freedom of the press has improved. In reality, however, media and individuals critical of Abiy are being harassed and jailed quite frequently. He has also added restrictive laws, such as the “Hate Speech and Disinformation Law”, to the repertoire of repressive laws he already has at his disposal. Shutting off the internet at whim for political reasons, hacking citizens’ email and social media accounts, wiretapping, fabricating fake propaganda documentaries, and spreading fake news to saw division within Tigreans has become the norm.

 

Dear Sir or Madam:

 

With the plethora of local, regional, and international actors directly interfering in Ethiopian politics, the situation has become more complicated than ever. In particular, the unholy partnership of PM Abiy with the Eritrean dictator, is taking a dangerous turn. Both leaders have made it clear that elections are not necessary, that the current Ethiopian federal system should be dismantled in favour of a unitary dictatorship, and in order to accomplish this, the defenders of federalism, the Tigrean people must be vanquished. Therefore, we plead with you to employ all diplomatic powers and resources to pressurize PM Abiy to: (1) unconditionally release all Tigrean and other political prisoners, (2) desist from the unconstitutional maneuvering and hold election on time, and support Tigray Region’s decision to hold local elections, (3) refrain from colluding with the Eritrean regime in an effort to hurt Tigray, (4) bring in the tens of thousands Tigrean immigrants languishing under horrifying conditions in various detention centers in Saudi Arabia, (5) stop the Nazi-style propaganda campaign against Tigreans, (6) allow an independent and UN-led investigation in to the high-profile assassinations that took place during PM Abiy’s tenure in Ethiopia,  and (7) stop the blatant abuse of power.

 

 

Sincerely,

 

ASSOCIATION OF TIGREAN COMMUNITIES IN CANADA (ATCC)

 

 

CC: Embassy of Ethiopia, Ottawa, Canada

 

Supporting Documents/Links:

1) ) Mom Told Me I'll be Ethiopia's 7th King: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LhDoLdIYfyg

2) Election not always a necessity, says col. Abiy (1:16:24): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=guyP6JDJSBk

3) Onslaught in Oromia: https://www.economist.com/middle-east-and-africa/2020/03/19/a-hidden-war-threatens-ethiopias-transition-to-democracy

4) Ethiopia postpones August election: https://nationalpost.com/pmn/health-pmn/ethiopia-postpones-august-election-due-to-coronavirus-4

6) Aby’s Threat of force against those who want to hold elections! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cU9jrnmfzyw

7) Eritrean dictator visits Ethiopia in the middle of COVID-19 State of emergency: http://www.waltainfo.com/index.php/news/editors_pick/detail?cid=55769

9) Constitutional “Re-interpretation Bill” to Prolong Abiy’s Term: http://www.waltainfo.com/index.php/news/editors_pick/detail?cid=55795

10) The arrest of Journalists: https://cpj.org/2020/04/ethiopian-journalist-yayesew-shimelis-detained-fol.php 

11) Ethiopia passes controversial law curbing 'hate speech': https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/02/ethiopia-passes-controversial-law-curbing-hate-speech-200213132808083.html 

12) Getu Teressa’s Analysis: https://www.ethiopia-insight.com/2020/04/05/abiy-ahmed-a-philosopher-king-or-a-sophist/

13) Towards Tigray Statehood? http://addisstandard.com/in-depth-analysis-towards-tigray-statehood/

14) Ethiopian police ignore court orders to free journalists: https://cpj.org/2020/05/ethiopian-police-ignore-court-orders-to-free-journ.php

15) Ethiopian security forces committed 39 extrajudicial killings – Amnesty https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-ethiopia-violence-idUKKBN2351BN?fbclid=IwAR09gFP-vC-TvlUJ3slIqAVC7bW3Nr9mdM_ZKFlftet97JF7_dyQrzBZ9jg

16) Rape, extrajudicial executions, homes set alight in security operations in Amhara and Oromia (Ethiopia): https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/05/ethiopia-rape-extrajudicial-executions-homes-set-alight-in-security-operations-in-amhara-and-oromia/

17) Speaker of Ethiopia's upper House resigns after polls postponed: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-ethiopia-politics-idUSKBN23F2IN?fbclid=IwAR138B9u10xHbTq67Pi--TbFHV6NAK419YZOoQcBMBRipV8wK5EUlgii3-8

 

 

 

 

 

Endorsed by representatives of:

 

 

Tigrean Ethiopian Community Association of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC

 

Socioeconomic & Relief Association of Tigraian Ethiopians in Alberta, Edmonton AB

 

Socioeconomic & Relief Association of Tigraian Ethiopians in Alberta, Calgary, AB

 

Tigrean Community in Saskatoon, SK

 

Tigrian Community in Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB

 

Tigray Association of Toronto and Surrounding, Toronto, ON

 

Tigray Community in Ottawa, ON  

 

 


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