by: Alemayehu G. Mariam
“No Political Prisoners in Ethiopia” and “Negotiating With the Opposition”
The Voice of America (Amharic) last week reported “16 Ethiopian opposition political parties agreed to discuss the anti-terrorism and other proclamations and 13 other agenda points including communications, press and charities and civic organizations” with the ruling regime in Ethiopia. However, the Thugtatorship of the Tigrean People’s Liberation Front (T-TPLF) “made it clear” the issue of political prisoners is off the table because there “there are no political prisoners in Ethiopia”.
Shiferaw Shigute, T-TPLF apparatchik and negotiator with “opposition parties” (the infamous ethnic cleanser of tens of thousands of “ethnic Amharas” from the Guraferda district of the Bench Maji Zone in Southern Ethiopia (see my April 2012 commentary “Green Justice or Ethnic Injustice?”) declared:
Regarding political prisoners, the big pillar of democracy is the supremacy of the rule of law. If there are political leaders who have been jailed on an individual basis, it is because they have violated the law. For instance, participating in a terrorist activity, encouraging terrorism, aiding and abetting in terrorism, is a mistake, prohibited and subject to penalty. A political leader must first respect the law, and if the law needs to be changed, then work to change the law but not act in disregard of the law and claim to be a political prisoner. The person is then a prisoner of the law and not a political prisoner. Just because the person is a political leader, a journalist or something else, no one is above the law, all of us are under the law. That’s is why we have no political prisoners in Ethiopia.
The mantra of “no political prisoners in Ethiopia” has been chanted by T-TPLF leaders since at least 2007. In February of that year, the late thugmaster Meles Zenawi declared in a Financial Times interview, “Nobody has been imprisoned in Ethiopia for criticising the government. No one.”
In 2007, in a memo sent to members of Congress, T-TPLF lobbyist DLA Piper “argued the terms ‘political prisoners’ and ‘prisoners of conscience’ are undefined and mischaracterize the situation in Ethiopia’ and should be removed from a bill that condemned the Ethiopian regime for detaining opposition activists.” I had an opportunity to engage DLA Piper in a lengthy letter challenging the public relations narrative and lobbying advocacy on the non-existence of political prisoners in Ethiopia and other issues.In December 2006, Zenawi explained that the opposition leaders he jailed were engaged in “overthrowing the duly constituted government by unconstitutional means” and “pushing the country towards chaos”. By jailing them, Zenawi said he was upholding the “rule of law [which] is the basis for any democracy. And without the rule of law in democracy, you have chaos. And we had to enforce the rule of law. And they have had their day in court. That is as it should be. There are no regrets here.”
In 2012, T-TPLF Puppet Prime Minster (PPM) Hailemariam Desalegn in an Al Jazeera interview said (forward clip to 7:53):
There are no political opposition that are languishing in prison, number one. And there are no other, you know, political activists that are languishing in place. We are very clear in our mind and in our policy that anyone who trespasses the law of the land, whether he is a politician or is in government is under the law, below the rule of law. So the rule of law has to work in the country…
In July 2013, Getachew Reda, T-TPLF mouthpiece, similarly declared:
We don’t have any single political prisoner in the country.We do have, like any other country, people who were convicted of crimes including terrorism who are currently serving their sentence. They would only be freed when either they complete their sentence or probation on good behavior. We are not going to do release anyone just because some European Union members said so.
The T-TPLF party line is simply all prisoners in Ethiopia are street criminals or terrorists.
The T-TPLF disinformation campaign on the non-existence of political prisoners is not only a brazen denial of the plain truth, but also idiotic and ludicrous. It is a witless campaign based on the Gobbelian propaganda precept that if you repeat a big lie often enough to the public, it will eventually become a public truth.
What is fascinating to me is the T-TPLF leaders’ Orwellian newspeak and doublespeak about the rule of law and political prisoners.
Orwell wrote in “1984”, “The key-word here is blackwhite. Applied to an opponent, it means the habit of impudently claiming that black is white, in contradiction of the plain facts.” It also means “telling deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed….”
The key-word with the T-TPLF is liestruth. Applied to T-TPLF’s opponents in “1984 Ethiopia”, it means the habit of impudently claiming lies are truth, political prisoners are ordinary street criminals in contradiction of the plain facts. It is about ignoring an inconvenient truth. Thus, dictatorship is democracy. War is peace. Corruption is integrity. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength. State terrorism is rule of law. State of emergency is state of peace.
What a cruel joke!
T-TPLF leaders speak reverentially about the rule of law and how their laws are exemplars of the ultimate expression of that principle.
As I discussed this issue in my April 2012 commentary, “The Rule of Law in Ethiopia’s Democratic Transition”, the T-TPLF leaders claim rule by diktat is rule of law. They scribble down their diktats (arbitrary decrees issued by command of the dictator), ram them through their rubber stamp parliament and try to palm them off as “laws” (legislation enacted by a legitimately elected body engaged in deliberative process). They use their diktats to play policeman, prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner.
Under rule by diktat, the T-TPLF uses the “law” as a bludgeon — a sledgehammer — to vanquish their opposition.
There is no better example of this distorted and warped notion of the “rule of law” than the so-called anti-terrorism proclamation of the T-TPLF. In February 2012, Zenawi offered the following mind-boggling and mindless explanation to his rubber stamp parliament to give moral legitimacy and legal respectability to his anti-terrorism law :
In drafting our anti-terrorism law, we copied word-for-word the very best anti-terrorism laws in the world. We took from America, England and the European model anti-terrorism laws. It is from these three sources that we have drafted our anti-terrorism law. From these, we have chosen the better ones. For instance, in all of these laws, an organization is deemed to be terrorist by the executive branch. We improved it by saying it is not good for the executive to make that determination. We took the definition of terrorism word-by-word. Not one word was changed. Not even a comma. It is taken word-by-word. There is a reason why we took it word-by-word. First, these people have experience in democratic governance. Because they have experience, there is no shame if we learn or take from them. Learning from a good teacher is useful not harmful. Nothing embarrassing about it. The [anti-terrorism] proclamation in every respect is flawless. It is better than the best anti-terrorism laws [in the world] but not less than any one of them in any way…
For the T-TPLF, cutting and pasting words and phrases from the laws of other countries is what makes the rule of law.
I cringed in total embarrassment when I heard Zenawi proclaiming with pride his shameless plagiarism of American and British anti-terrorism laws “word-by-word” without changing “not even a comma”.
Such stunningly abysmal ignorance and shallow understanding of jurisprudence (and economics and politics and culture…) and glib talk about the rule of law is the hallmark of the T-TPLF. But that is how the T-TPLF rolls, copy and paste, imitate and impersonate, duplicate and replicate and plain old monkey see, monkey do.
The logic of Zenawi’s argument is that America and Britain are democratic countries with a high degree of adherence to the rule of law principle; and they have anti-terrorism laws that are the “best” in the world. Since the T-TPLF has “copied word for word” their laws, it must necessarily mean they have the ultimate rule of law.
At the time, I tried to educate Zenawi with a metaphor of sorts. One cannot create a lion by piecing together the sturdy long neck of the giraffe with the strong jaws of a hyena, the fast limbs of the cheetah and the massive trunk of the elephant. The king of the jungle is an altogether different beast. In the same vein, one cannot clone pieces of anti-terrorism laws from everywhere onto a diktat and sanctify it as “the rule of law”. For years, I have been saying that preaching the rule of law to the T-TPLF is like preaching Scripture to a gathering of Heathen or pouring water over a slab of granite.
The fact of the matter is that the T-TPLF is inherently incapable of functioning under the rule of law because they understand and practice only the rule of the bush/jungle. In Kipling’s verse: “NOW this is the law of the jungle–,/ as old and as true as the sky;/ And the wolf that shall keep it may prosper, / but the wolf that shall break it must die./As the creeper that girdles the tree trunk,/ the law runneth forward and back;/ For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack…
Such are the ways of the T-TPLF wolf pack !
John Dugard in his book “Human Rights and the South African Legal Order” (1978, p. 136), perfectly summarized the use of the “law” to maintain a vast system of repression: “Although designed to combat terrorism, the Terrorism Act [of 1967] has itself become an instrument of terror and a symbol of repression.” Such indeed is the T-TPLF’s Proclamation No. 652/2009 of 2009 (Anti-Terrorism Proclamation). (See my May 2016 commentary, The “Law” as State Terrorism in Apartheid Ethiopia.)
As for the existence of political prisoners, there are hundreds of thousands of them in Ethiopia today; and the T-TPLF has filled the prisons since the day they swarmed the capital in May 1991.
In November 2016, the T-TPLF itself announced the “arrest of 11,607 people, including 347 women.” Zadig Abraha, T-TPLF spokesman, said,“[The detainees] have been given lots of trainings that were meant to give them lessons so that they won’t be part of the destructive trend that we have seen in the past.” The 11,607 people, including 347 women are simpley street criminals according to the T-TPLF.
A partial list of T-TPLF political prisoners and torture victims serving long prison sentences handed down by T-TPLF kangaroo (monkey) courts is available HERE.
In May 2017, the European Parliament issued a resolution demanding release of political prisoners in Ethiopia.
“Afterthought”: While we are on the subject of the rule of law, why is it that the T-TPLF leaders have failed to investigate and prosecute the “security officers” and all of the leaders who authorized the massacre of nearly 800 innocent protesters following the 2005 election?
Why has the T-TPLF failed to investigate and prosecute “security officers” and all of the leaders who authorized the Irrecha massacre which resulted in the massacre of over 500 peaceful religious celebrants in October 2016?
Why has the T-TPLF refused ALL requests for investigations of human rights violations by the U.N. Human Rights Council?
Discussions (negotiation) with 16 opposition parties
The VOA (Amharic) reported “16 Ethiopian opposition political parties agreed to discuss the anti-terrorism and other proclamations and 13 other agenda points including communications, press and charities and civic organizations”.
Another T-TPLF newspeak and doublethink? A cruel joke indeed.
According to the “National Electoral Board of Ethiopia”, there are 79 political parties in the country, including the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Party (EPRDF), the front organization, for the T-TPLF.
Seventy-eight of the seventy-nine are ghost make-believe political parties. They exist in name only. They are licensed and regulated by the T-TPLF. The T-TPLF maintains agent provocateurs to spy, divide and disrupt opposition parties. The T-TPLF funds and even distributes U.S. and other aid money to “opposition parties” that support it. T-TPLF poaches members from opposition parties by giving out fertilizer and other agricultural services, food relief, jobs, university admissions and other benefits.
The real opposition leaders are arrested on trumped up terrorism charges and languish in official and secret T-TPLF prisons without due process of law for years. All of them are prosecuted and handed long sentences in T-TPLF kangaroo (monkey) courts.
Ethiopia is a one-party dictatorship controlled by a secretive cabal of ruthless thugs.
In May 2010, the T-TPLF “won” only 99.6 percent of the seats in “parliament”.
In May 2015, the T-TPLF bested its 2010 record by “winning” 100% of the seats in “parliament”.
In 2008, according to the U.S. Human Rights Report, “In simultaneous elections for regional parliaments, the EPRDF and its affiliates won 1,903 of 1,904 seats. In local and by-elections held in 2008, the EPRDF and its affiliates won all but four of 3.4 million contested seats.
For the last nine years, the T-TPLF has been “winning” elections by virtually 100 percent, and in 2017 shamelessly claims to be negotiating with “opposition parties”.
What a cruel joke!
What “opposition parties” are in discussions with the T-TPLF? Opposition parties and leaders the T-TPLF has created in its own image? Opposition leaders the T-TPLF bought and sold ten times over? Opposition leaders who do not oppose the T-TPLF? Self-appointed opposition leaders who want to get along with the T-TPLF and line their pockets with thirty pieces of silver?
The T-TPLF has its opposition stooges babbling, “We believe that disagreements could easily be resolved through discussion and negotiation.”
The T-TPLF wants to “discuss/negotiate” issues with “opposition parties” after ramming through their so-called state of emergency decree and holding tens of thousands of innocent citizens in their jails.
Are the “opposition parties” the T-TPLF speaks of part of the T-TPLF newspeak/doublethink?
The T-TPLF has decimated all genuine opposition political parties, jailed their leaders and members and put the rest out into exile. Now it is in negotiations with make-believe” opposition parties”?
What a cruel joke!
The European Parliament in its May 2017 resolution noted, “the negotiation between the government and the opposition lacks credibility since opposition groups have been systematically decimated since 2010, leaving few truly independent voices left to negotiate with; whereas most political parties who are genuinely representative of broad communities have their senior members in prison on politically motivated charges.”
Mandela said, “Only free men can negotiate. Prisoners cannot enter into contracts.” Only on Planet T-TPLF can prisoners negotiate and enter into contracts with their captors.
In a democracy the people make jokes on their politicians. In a dictatorship, thugtators play cruel jokes on the people.
A cruel joke is an inside joke a group of people play on a person they hate for their own amusement.
The Thugtatorship of the Tigrean People’s Liberation Front (T-TPLF) has been playing a cruel joke on the Ethiopian people since 1991.