Author’s Note: We are watching another cruel political theater produced and directed by the T-TPLF playing out in Ethiopia.
On October 30, 2017, the T-TPLF’s Federal Supreme Court ordered the release of Professor Bekele Gerba, Deputy Chairman of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) on bail set at 30,000 birr (less than USD$1,000). At the time of his arrest in December 2015, his bail application was denied because of the alleged gravity of the “terrorism” charges levelled against him. The recent order to release him on bail set in motion a controlled make-believe appellate frenzy by T-TPLF prosecutors who sought to overturn the bail order because Bekele could tamper “tamper with evidence or could be a flight risk if released.”
What kind of evidence could Bekele possibly tamper with two years after his arrest?
If anyone is going to tamper with evidence, it would be the T-TPLF with a long record of evidence falsification and subornation of perjury. Is it not true that the only (in)justice system in the world where suspects are arrested of committing crimes after being investigated for years and then the prosecution asks for endless continuances to gather additional evidence?
When Bekele visited the U.S. in the summer of 2015, he met with State Department officials and urged the Obama administration “to pay more attention to the heavy-handed way” the T-TPLF regime treats political opponents. Bekele told American National Public Radio, Obama “shouldn’t have shown any solidarity with that kind of government, which is repressive, very much authoritarian and very much disliked by its own people.” When Bekele was asked what he thought would happen to him when he returned to Ethiopia a week before he returned, he prophesied, “Nobody is actually sure in Ethiopia what will happen to him. Anytime, people can be arrested, harassed or killed or disappeared.”
The man who knew exactly what is likely to happen to him and still returned to his country is now said to be a flight risk by the T-TPLF.
If Bekele wanted to flee his country and seek political asylum in the U.S, he would not have returned in the first place. But he chose to return and face the real risk of arrest, harassment, death and disappearance at the hands of the T-TPLF.
Of course, the T-TPLF pulled the same crap against Bekele in 2011 after he met with Amnesty International researchers and slapped him with the same old tired trumped-up terrorism charges. In 2012, he was sentenced to eight years by a T-TPLF monkey kourt and released a few months before Obama’s arrival in Ethiopia in July 2015.
Over the past two years, Bekele has been subjected to abuse, torture and mistreatment in prison. The T-TPLF bosses are so vindictive and so evil, they would make a public spectacle and humiliate Bekele and other prisoners by marching them to monkey kourt hearings bare feet and wearing shorts and t-shirts. That was intended to send a message to others who dare to challenge the T-TPLF: Walk in Bekele Gerba’s footsteps and you will walk bare feet.
I empathized with Bekele’s daughter Bontu talking to Voice of America- Amharic about her father’s imminent release and answering questions about his attitude towards his on-again, off-again release on bail. The emotional roller coaster the T-TPLF has put Bontu through shows how depraved and truly evil they are.
Why is the T-TPLF putting on the “Bekele Gerba Show” now?
When I heard of Bekele’s release on bail”, my reaction was, “Here we go again! The T-TPLF back at its old con game again.”
I have seen the T-TPLF pull the same bail, pardon and re-arrest crap time and again over the past 12 years. What I find always amazing is the fact that every time the T-TPLF thugs pull these tricks, everyone, almost everyone, falls for it. No wonder they are convinced everybody is a sucker, a doggone fool.
The late thugmaster Meles Zenawi was a master at this game. He did it to Birtukan Midekssa, Reeyot Alemu, the Kinijit leaders and so many others. Meles’ cruel jail-and-release game involved arrest of dissidents and opponents off the street, holding them in prolonged pretrial detention, seeking endless continuances to gather more evidence, using evidence that would be laughed out of court in any other justice system in the world, convicting and sentencing them to long prison terms and then begin “pardon” negotiations. They would tell the political prisoners they can walk out of jail if they 1) gave false testimony against others in court, 2) implicate other dissidents and opponents in crimes they have not committed or 3) make public confession of guilt after conviction and receive a pardon. This is their mode of operation.
In a meeting with high level U.S. officials in advance of the May 2010 election, Meles went apoplectic telling the diplomats that “If opposition groups resort to violence in an attempt to discredit the election, we will crush them with our full force; they will all vegetate like Birtukan (Midekssa) in jail forever.” That’s how the T-TPLF rolls (over its victims).
For the T-TPLF, arbitrary imprisonment of political opponents is just a game of dungeons — a spectator sport, street political theatre — for them to enjoy from their penthouses.
They create drama around high profile political prisoners. They spread rumors and propaganda about “pardoning” prisoners and “negotiations” on terms of pardon. They send out their elders to do the negotiations. All of it is a clever ploy to force innocent prisoners sentenced to long prison terms to buy their freedom by groveling before the T-TPLF thugs, kissing their feet and publicly humiliating themselves by admitting guilt when they are innocent.
Why the Bekele Gerba Prison and Dungeon Game Show now?
Is the T-TPLF putting on the Bekele Gerba Game Show to create a distraction, a diversion from the current situation of popular defiance to T-TPLF rule?
Is the T-TPLF putting on the Bekele Gerba Game Show to show the Oromo people they are still in control and they can jerk around their leader?
Is the T-TPLF putting on the Bekele Gerba Game Show to project an international image that there is a real justice system in Ethiopia?
Is the T-TPLF putting on the Bekele Gerba Game Show because they got a little bit of heat from the U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia which recently openly encouraged the people of Ethiopia to exercise their right to peaceful protest?
Is the T-TPLF putting on the Bekele Gerba Game Show to pander to the Oromo people in anticipation of actually releasing him but they want “to make it look good” and save face?
Could it be all of the above?
I am sick and tired of being sick and tired of T-TPLF’s silly games and watching their stupid political theatre. They think they are so smart they can fool everyone every time. Reading all of the hogwash about the legal battles over bail and how one court overruled another and so on online, I am disgusted. By talking about the whole bail BS game as if it were real, the uncritically minded fall into the trap of becoming players in the T-TPLF propaganda game validating a monkey kourt as a real court.
Justice for the T-TPLF is synonymous with joke, games, amusement and entertainment.
If there is anyone who believes that the “Federal Supreme Court” granted bail to Bekele without the explicit direction of the T-TPLF?
Is there anyone who believes the “Federal Supreme Court” is not the legal lynching machine of the T-TPLF?
If there is anyone who believes the “Federal Supreme Court” is an independent judicial body which makes decisions without political direction and interference by the T-TPLF, they are living on Planet Denial-istan.
The 2016 U.S. State department Human Rights Report on Ethiopia stated, “The law provides for an independent judiciary. Although the civil courts operated with a large degree of independence, criminal courts remained weak, overburdened, and subject to political influence.”
In September 2016, fourteen international human rights organizations including Amnesty International, CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Ethiopian Human Rights Project, Freedom House, Human Rights Watch and Reporters Without Borders sent a joint letter to the Permanent Representatives of Members and Observer States of the UN Human Rights Council complaining, “There are no effective avenues to pursue accountability for abuses given the lack of independence of the judiciary” in Ethiopia.
The only thing that happens in the T-TPLF’s monkey kourt is monkey business.
Bekele Gerba’s Nonviolent Struggle for Justice
In May 2016, I wrote a commentary on “Bekele Gerba’s Trial in T-TPLF Monkey Kourt”.
I am presenting a shortened edited version of that commentary for my readers here for three reasons: 1) to focus on the legal lynching of Bekele Gerba and nearly two dozen other Oromo leaders held as co-defendants with him, 2) to affirm Bekele Gerba’s heroic commitment to a nonviolent struggle for freedom and justice in Ethiopia and 3) to remind my readers that a pig in lipstick at the end of the day is still a pig. In other words, a monkey kourt dressed in golden robes at the end of the day is still a monkey kourt.
As I have previously declared, when the sword of justice is beaten into a sledgehammer of injustice, it is the supreme duty of ordinary citizens, and even more compellingly intellectuals, to expose it!
In April 2016, the Thugtatorship of the Tigrean People’s Liberation Front (T-TPLF) jailed Bekele Gerba and 21 other individuals on trumped up charges of terrorism under its “Anti-terrorism Proclamation 652/2001” .
Bekele Gerba was a professor of foreign languages at Addis Ababa University. But he is not charged with enlightening children benighted by the T-TPLF.
His crimes of “terrorism” include 1) enlightening the people of Ethiopia on the heinous crimes against humanity committed by the T-TPLF, 2) exposing the wanton T-TPLF massacres in Oromia region of Ethiopia, and 3) publicly testifying in the court of world public opinion about the T-TPLF’s bottomless the corruption in land, cold-blooded atrocities and never-ending abuse of power by the T-TPLF.
Bekele’s co-defendants in the fabricated terrorism charges include: Gurmesa Ayano Weyissa, Dejene Tafa Geleta, Adisu Bulala Abawalta, Abdeta Negassa Feye, Gelana Negera Jima, Chimsa Abdisa Jafaro, Getu Girma Tolossa, Fraol Tola Dadi, Getachew Dereje Tujuba,Beyene Ruda Deju, Tesfaye Liben Tolossa, Ashebir Desalegn Beri, Dereje Nerga Debelo, Yusef Alemayheu Herega, Hika Teklu Kutu, Gemechu Shanko Gedi, Megersa Asfaw Feyissa, Lemi Edeto Geremew, Abdi Tamrat Desisa, Abdisa Kumesa Heesa, Halkeno Qonchora Goro.
The T-TPLF’s terrorism charges boil down to the following: Bekele traveled to the U.S. as an executive of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) following his release from T-TPLF prison in July 2015 and met with Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) leaders. He returned to Ethiopia and with his alleged co-conspirators began spreading OLF’s terrorist messages of insurrection and violence. He allegedly traveled to certain cities and towns in Ethiopia with other defendants and gave instructions to carry out terrorist acts. Bekele allegedly organized OFC members to carry out terrorist acts on behalf of the OLF causing destruction of government institutions, closure of roads and damage to security forces. Bekele is further alleged to have visited various universities to incite violence causing loss of life and destruction of property. The cookie-cutter allegations against the other defendants harp on the same message of carrying out “terrorist” activities on behalf of the OLF.
T-TPLF monkey kourts
I coined the phrase “monkey kourt” in contrast to kangaroo court to describe the perversion of established judicial institutions for political purposes in Africa, particularly in Ethiopia. During their years in the bush, T-TPLF leaders administered “bush justice” in their own “bush kourts”.
As I have learned from those with firsthand knowledge, in the bush days key T-TPLF leaders would systematically identify potential opponents, dissidents, challengers, potential adversaries, rivals, those suspected of disloyalty or perceived as enemies and secretly make decisions to liquidate, neutralize or subject them to other sanctions. (See a revealing discussion of T-TPLF bush court proceedings in Aregawi Berhe’s [former founding member of the TPLF), “A Political History of the TPLF”, Tsehai Pubs. (2009), pp. 182-3.)
What the T-TPLF did after it seized power in Ethiopia in 1991 was simply reproduce and expand its bush kourt system on a national scale. The nationalization of T-TPLF’s bush justice is what I now call a monkey kourt system.
A 2012 U.S. State Department Human Rights report on Ethiopia concluded: “The law provides for an independent judiciary. Although the civil courts operated with a large degree of independence, the criminal courts remained weak, overburdened, and subject to political influence.” According to Human Rights Watch, “The judiciary in Ethiopia lacks independence and has in fact been used on numerous recent occasions as a tool with which to implement flawed legislation and to crack down on peaceful dissent. The Ethiopian Federal High Court has passed rulings reinforcing an ad-hoc and arbitrary implementation of the CSO law and the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation.” (Emphasis added.)
The T-TPLF uses its kourt system and judicial process to give the appearance and illusion of due process, fair and just trial, even though the verdict on any T-TPLF adversary in reality is a foregone conclusion. Reeyot Alemu, the heroine of Ethiopian press freedom and a victim of T-TPLF bogus terrorism prosecution reported that T-TPLF bosses Hassan Shiffa and Leiku Gebreegziaber threatened to get her the death penalty, and nothing less than life, if she did not lie and incriminate innocent people.
What passes off as a “justice system” in Ethiopia today is little more than a marketplace where “justice” is bought and sold in a monopoly controlled by T-TPLF leaders and cronies supported by a bureaucracy of nameless, faceless and clueless men who skulk in the shadows of power. In the T-TPLF “justice” system, universal principles of law and due process are disregarded, subverted, perverted and mocked. It is a system where the poor, the marginalized, the audacious journalists, dissidents, opposition and civic society leaders are legally lynched in plain view of the stony silence of the international community. It is a “justice” system in which T-TPLF regime leaders, their families, friends and cronies are all above the law and spell justice “JUST US”.
Who is Bekele Gerba?
Bekele Gerba is a leader of the Oromo Federalist Congress.
Bekele “describes himself as a Christian who believes in nonviolence and says he spent his four years in prison pouring over the sermons and speeches of Martin Luther King and translating them into the Oromo language for a book that he hopes to see published. The title: ‘I Had A Dream.’”
In 2011, the T-TPLF charged Bekele with “terrorism” after meeting with Amnesty International investigators.
During his sentencing in December 2012, Bekele told a T-TPLF monkey kourt,
In my life time, I have opposed injustice, discrimination, ethnic favoritism, and oppression. I am honored to learn that my non-violent struggles and humble sacrifices for the democratic and human rights of the Oromo people, to whom I was born without a wish on my part […], have been considered a crime and to be unjustly convicted. If apology was warranted, I would seek it not from the court that found me guilty of a crime I did not commit but rather from my people […] for failing to fully speak to the depth of their suffering in the interest of the co-existence of peoples…
Bekele is anything but a “radical” or “terrorist” of any sort.
Calling Bekele Gerba a “terrorist” is as true as calling the T-TPLF “democratic”.
If the T-TPLF is democratic, then Bekele is a “terrorist”.
What is extraordinary is the fact that Bekele is not even a harsh critic of the T-TPLF as are many others.
Bekele’s views are expressed in balanced, reasoned, well-considered and factually accurate way. He is not the provocative and relentless pamphleteer who rages against the T-TPLF tyrannical machine.
Bekele does not have an axe to grind. He just tells the truth as it is, unvarnished and raw!
Here is Bekele Gerba in his own words from a speech he made on the land grab in Ethiopia in 2010.
I ask my readers to judge if the man speaking in the video (translation below) is anything other than a thoughtful, deliberate, brilliant, knowledgeable, perceptive, discerning and profoundly compassionate human being. (To view the video, click HERE; translation below.)
In 2010, Bekele showed the T-TPLF and world the kind of man he is:
… We don’t say that the EPRDF [the ‘Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front’ the shell political “corporation” through which the T-TPLF operates to give the illusion of a multi-party alliance] has not done anything. It is our belief that it has; it is because it has done [things] that the country has chosen it. We know it is not easy to lead a country. But from year to year, the EPRDF has not listened to the people’s pleas, [it has not] tried to improve or learn from its experience [and] move the people and country forward as it should. Day to day, [the EPRDF] it is going backwards. It has reached a point [now] where it cannot lead the country. But we have never said the EPRDF has not done or offered anything to the country.
I want to focus [in my presentation] on land ownership, proper use of land and development outcomes.
According to the federal constitution and as the ruling party’s [“EPRDF”] documents reveal, land belongs to the people and government. But really, does land belong to the people? Does it belong to the government? [Does it belong to] both?
In our estimation, land does not belong to anyone. Land is the private property of the ruling authorities. Land is something they sell and exchange. It is a means for them to make friends and something they distribute among relatives; a thing they give to their party members and a[tool] they use to recruit [party members].
Land has become a [tool] to even blind the educated people. Today when we look at the educated people in certain places, they have come to a point where they don’t talk about justice, equality [and] rights. That is because [land] has blinded them.
Today, in the cities and areas surrounding Addis Ababa, they [the educated people] are given land and their mouths have been sealed shut. Thus, land is a tool for sealing mouths. Land has become a magnet for purposes of [attracting] Ethiopians abroad. They call them “Diaspora”. And at one time they swarmed here to get land. They [got the land] sold it and went back [to their homes abroad]. [At the same time] our people were scattered in the streets and they did not have [centimeters] of land.
That is why we call [land] a magnet. Land today for some is a light speed rocket ship to accumulate incredible wealth. If we see some of the wealthy, if we ask them and tell them they are called ‘my short history [in being rich]’ [nouveau riche?] in society, when they are asked “How did you get all this wealth?”, they cannot even explain [by saying] ‘This is how hard we worked to get it.’ They don’t even know how they amassed so much money.
That is how land is used today. This is what we are trying to improve. What we are saying is [land] has to be wealth that can be divided among citizens with equality. We know that land is a critical resource.
I believe we Ethiopians, because our relationship to this wealth [land] have been divided [categorized] into four levels. Our citizenship [status] has four classes. There are the first-class citizens who are in power to give away land. The second-class citizens are those who receive land. It does not mean today everyone gets land. The third-class citizens are those who are spectators watching the theaters of land transactions. People who are watching as others are eating. The fourth-class are those whose land is taken away, the land where they are born and their umbilical cord is buried; those who are dispossessed and expelled and their land given to others and there are those farmers who are victims of such dispossession. That is the reason we are struggling. The national wealth that has been divided up by them [rulers of Ethiopia], the way in which they have determined our nation’s citizenship, our nations peoples, it is our aim to redistribute the wealth [consistent with the principles] of equality. That is why we are struggling. We want to struggle peacefully and change this system and play a leadership role.
Proper use of the land is another appropriate question. We know each piece of land, each meter of land must be put to proper use. But what used to be good harvest land yesterday, what does it look like today? Today some of [that land] it is a pile of rocks, half of it is enclosed by a fence with a guard sitting by looking after it. Perhaps that guard, his relatives or family who have been displaced may have been the owners of the land at some time. That is what we generally understand. Therefore, once land has given the appropriate service, in some areas the land is left [to deteriorate]. For example, where there are mines, after the mining extraction has been done, the land is left [without environmental reclamation or remediation]. As a result, there is a chance that will be turned into unusable [damaged] land. Thus, there has to be a way to properly reclaim [and remediate] the land. We do not know what will happen [at various mining locations] in a few years. But there has to be a way to properly reclaim [remediate] the land.
The other issue is the health of the environment… Flowing rivers, there are many dead rivers [from pollution] in our country. Without going too far, there are [lifeless] dead rivers because of pollution. Then there are people who live a few meters away and drink the [polluted] water. There are animals who are a few meters away and drink the [polluted] water. They are citizens and national resources. We should be concerned about that. Why is it that conditions are not created so that the pollution can be controlled? Those who are profiting from their factories, why are they not concerned about the health of our citizens, our farmers? Why is it that the government is not asking [and requiring] [environmental safety]?
The other question is about fertilizers. The government does not talk about that. We have no idea if the government has plans to start fertilizer production in the country. Why is that? It is not that complicated or require that much money… [comment cut off by moderator due to expiration of allotted time].
To read an extraordinarily revealing and riveting interview of Bekele Gerba (May 2015) on Addis Standard, click HERE.
As I read statements and comments online about Bekele Gerba and the others facing trumped up charges of terrorism, I shake my head. Those who talk about T-TPLF political kourts as courts are legitimizing the very idea that the T-TPLF operates a court system. We should call a spade, a spade. The T-TPLF does not operate a “court” system; it operates a monkey kourt system.
The T-TPLF has long embarked on a mission of legal lynching of its opponents and critics. The T-TPLF pretrial process is perverted. The presumption of innocence (Eth. Const. Art. 20(3)) is openly flouted. The late T-TPLF leader Meles Zenawi in 2011 made a public statement in Norway and proclaimed the guilt of freelance Swedish journalists Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye as they were on trial on charges of “terrorism”. Meles emphatically declared the duo “are, at the very least, messenger boys of a terrorist organization. They are not journalists.” Persson and Schibbye were “convicted” and sentenced to long prison terms.
In August 2005, Congressman Christopher Smith (R-NJ) met with the late Meles Zenawi. On October 22, 2007, Smith (R-NJ) summarized his conversation with Meles Zenawi at that time:
…I also had a lengthy meeting with Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. I urged him to investigate the slaughter of the pro-democracy demonstrators, to punish those responsible, and to release all political prisoners…
Finally, when I asked the Prime Minister to work with the opposition and show respect and tolerance for those with differing views on the challenges facing Ethiopia he said, “I have a file on all of them; they are all guilty of treason.”
I was struck by his all-knowing tone. Guilty! They’re all guilty simply because Meles says so? No trial? Not even a Kangaroo court?…
I urged Prime Minister Meles not to take that route. (Emphasis added.)
Travesty of justice and the injustice of illiterates
In the image above, extracted from the charging document alleging the commission of terrorism by Bekele Gerba and the 21 co-defendants, the assistant T-TPLF federal prosecutor Fekadu Tsega has affixed his thumbprint as his legal signature on the charging document.
In Ethiopia and most of Africa, ONLY persons who can neither read nor write use their thumbprints as their signatures.
Only in T-TPLF’s Ethiopia is an illiterate “federal” prosecutor allowed to charge citizens with crimes against the state.
How can a prosecutor sign charges that he cannot read?
In as much as I despise the criminal military Derg regime, I will give it credit for compulsory literacy program (Meserete Timhirt [basic literacy]) throughout the country guaranteeing at a minimum that every citizen is able to sign his/her name in Amharic script and never use thumbprints for signatures.
Today, illiterate T-TPLF “federal” prosecutors sign the criminal charges they file with thumbprints.
Only in a monkey kourt would criminal charges verified by an illiterate prosecutor be accepted as legitimate.
Only in a monkey kourt would bail be opposed by an illiterate prosecutor.
But there you have it in black and white (I mean in thumbprint).
But we should not be surprised. Many of the functionally illiterate T-TPLF leaders fare no better. There are amply documented cases in which top T-TPLF leaders have purchased fake degrees from online diploma mills to prove they are “educated”.
In May 2015, Bekele Gerba said:
There is a challenge. But I think there is still hope. I always believe that things can change gradually. Because of the culture we were in for hundreds, or may be thousands of years, we used to think changing a government is only possible by violence, or armed struggle. But I think that time has passed now; it is possible to change regimes and to confront governments by peaceful means of struggle. If people are very much committed to peaceful struggle, I think the situation will change and the government must exploit this situation – meaning that, as an opposition, we are very helpful, we can contribute much.
Bekele Gerba is in jail because he advocated peaceful change in Ethiopia!
Bekele Gerba is in jail because he advocated justice, equality and fairness for ALL Ethiopians!
When the sword of justice is beaten into a sledgehammer of injustice, it is the supreme duty of ordinary citizens, and compellingly intellectuals, to expose it!
FREE BEKELE GERBA AND ALL POLITICAL PRISONSERS IN ETHIOPIA!!!
Professor Alemayehu G. Mariam teaches political science at California State University, San Bernardino. His teaching areas include American constitutional law, civil rights law, judicial process, American and California state governments, and African politics. He has published two volumes on American constitutional law, including American Constitutional Law: Structures and Process (1994) and American Constitutional Law: Civil Liberties and Civil Rights (1998). He is the Senior Editor of the International Journal of Ethiopian Studies, a leading scholarly journal on Ethiopia. For the last several years, Prof. Mariam has written weekly web commentaries on Ethiopian human rights and African issues that are widely read online. He blogged on the Huffington post at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alemayehu-g-mariam/ and later on open.salon until that blogsite shut down in March 2015.
Prof. Mariam played a central advocacy role in the passage