October 31, 2006

Oromo: Ethiopian Repression of Opposition Supporters

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi threatened for an increased campaign in Oromia State to imprison and severely deal with opposition supporters and members.

October 30, 2006 — In his recent speech in parliament, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi threatened for an increased campaign in Oromia State to imprison and severely deal with opposition supporters and members. He said, “The number of people imprisoned in Oromia is increasing because they are the supporters and members of Oromo Liberation Front. To be a member of Oromo Liberation Front is strictly forbidden and it is a punishable criminal act”.

Because of growing protest in the country, in May 2005 he went on the BBC and the Ethiopian Television promising the same people he is incriminating today that his government is ready for a dialogue with the Oromo Liberation Front. That was a piece of rhetoric to disorient and freeze public detest for his fascist system. Some also say that his interest to isolate and talk with OLF, then, was intended to pity OLF and CUD supporters against each other to buy himself more time in power.

The implications of the speech

There is nothing inherently new about this speech by Zenawi. Since 1991 people are used to his threatening and intimidating speeches whenever he faces strong popular uprising. After and in the run up to elections in 2005, for instance, he used some strong words and phrases intending to govern by fear. You may look at such words in the following sentences: “anyone trying to subvert the constitutional order, will be crashed in the buds. Once the red line is crossed, the only option we have is to fight and all that happens in such circumstances will happen”. By ‘red line’ he meant intense protest and demand for freedom. The laws of war, and not civil laws, he asserted, would judge protests crossing his imaginary red line. Amazingly, Meles threatens the people he leads more than Eritrea with which he went to war, and now on cold war.

Meles did not just stop at his words. He did kill in hundreds according to the current inquiry into the excessive use of power by government to squash opposition. Thousands are behind the bar because of opposition membership and support as you read. In essence, the pattern in Meles speech suggests some ensuing enhanced persecutions of the Oromo people.

Secondly, deconstructing Meles speeches just reveals his true fascist or nazi nature. When compared to the 1995 constitution that his government drafted, his speeches show how he and his ruling minority elites are above the constitution itself. This is not new too. He has always been above the law. Coming to the point of his threatening the Oromo population with more killings and imprisonings, we see that chapter 4 and 5 of the 1995 Ethiopian constitution provides for the protection of basic human rights and democratic rights. In these rights are included the right to life, movement, association and assembly, inter alia. Whatever good provisions there are in that constitution, none is guaranteed or implemented as the constituion is in reality the personal document for the prime minister and other ruling elites to quote from only to justify that the violations they are carrying out are in line with what they themselves call “the constitutional order”.

Always before the Meles security forces crackdown on the Oromo, and for that matter anyone else, his elites will go into schools and homes and place some hand grenades, false documents plotting to overthrow the government. Later, one of his commanders or himself appear on TV and say that we have searched the houses of this and that group and found weapons and documents that are to be used to subvert ‘the constitutional order’. But when the government subverts ‘the constitutional order’ this is protecting the ‘constitutional order’, not violating it, which it actually is. The regime suffers from cycles of such blatant lies in justifying its own versions of fascism and nazism.

Sometimes the tricks in implementing Meles speeches and plans are so bloody and gruesome that the regime itself explodes bombs on private hotels and blames it on oppositions such as Oromo Liberation Front. Or even it bombs city buses and taxies on highways to terrorise the public at the end of which no perpetrator is traced. Lives of people are dashed for no reason. For people in Oromia sate or in Ethiopia in general these tricks are commonplace discussed amongst us around coffee tables. But my intention in deconstructing Meles Zenawi’s speeches and his actions is to share this grassroots discussions and experiences with readers in writing.

Reactions from the West

a) The European Union Europe

Through its European Union Election observers like Anna Gomes, it has already discovered the destructive behaviours of Meles Zenawi’s regime to initiating a peaceful democratic transition involving all oppositions. Of course, Gomes and her team deserve applauses for that. They have seen opposition leaders and supporters being jailed and they reacted rightly by having EU to deny monetary aid to the regime that is only a killing machine. Some EU diplomats in Ethiopia have also witnessed these harsh realities happen to themselves. Recently alone two EU diplomats were chased away. About the EU observers report, Meles himself has written 3 letters to a government newspaper in 2005 insulting and critising individuals and EU press releases on Election fraud. These encouraging efforts must continue on the EU side for helping resolve the political standoff in Ethiopia. 

b) The United States of America

The U.S.A like Europe understands the despotic nature of the Ethiopian government. Nevertheless, U.S.A has never substantially reacted in support of the interest of the Ethiopian peoples for freedom and democracy. It has recently pumped into the regime a little more than $ 600 million in aid. The U.S.A has given this huge amount of fund to the Ethiopian government with no considerations of directly taking the funds to people who need it desperately. It goes through the government as usual if at all it goes. And when it goes, it goes selectively to EPRDF supporters only. And local cadres will scoff at opposition supporters as, ‘let OLF or CUD… give you bread’. The U.S.A has not also set criteria whereby the regime will be committed to democratic as well as human rights.

Both in the diaspora and at home the Ethiopian people have held a series of rallies protesting continued US support for Meles regime. The rallies have taken place in the cities of the United States of America and in front of the Capitol. So, U.S.A can’t pretend not to have seen or heard it. All who follow political development in Ethiopia know this. So, what the U.S.A is actually doing is blindly follow its own interests in the Horn of Africa in coalition with the unpopular regime in Addis Ababa/Finfinnee. In doing that, USA will not only encourage undemocratic minority rule in Ethiopia and more arrogant speeches and ensuing persecutions from Meles, but also it will continue to see the majority of the Ethiopian public die, go to jail, and starve in the hands of the regime. It will also stand in the way of the Alliance for Freedom and Democracy (AFD) to initiate a national comprehensive dialogue to solve longstanding Ethiopia’s political problems. U.S.A’s continued silence might also gradually make US unpopular to the majority of Ethiopians who used to love it, at least the love showing in people’s filling of diversity visa lottery (DV) every year.