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The 2010 Election and Birtukan Mideksa

The 2010 Election and Birtukan Mideksa

Mintesinot Haile

The 2010 Election

Ethiopia's next national election is a year away, but tensions are already increasing as Birtukan Mideksa, one of the key opposition politicians has been jailed, possibly facing life in prison; and security forces have arrested several others, accusing them of plotting against the government on behalf of Geembot-7 conspiring with EPLF from Diaspora. With the recent election episodes taking place in Iran as a reminder, both the TPLF-regime and opposition leaders are seriously expressing their respective concerns about the potential for election-related violence in the 2010 election time within and outside Ethiopia.

PM Meles Zenawi’s Power Play

Anyhow, we know for sure that PM Meles Zenawi and his TPLF-army fought in the northern rugged mountainous terrains of Ethiopia for over 30 years with the main mission of capturing and staying in power for quite a long while (may be 30 more years as is being rumored). What does this mean in the African context? It means it is solidly clear that power concedes nothing without a demand and costs incurred to it. Indeed it becomes a breathtaking exercise to fulfill what conceding power demands. Likewise it is a known fact that as human beings we strive both individually and collectively to be empowered next to assuring our mere survival. That being the case it can be safely argued that it may be wishful thinking or it may be fool’s paradise to expect the power holder in today’s Ethiopia –TPLF - to concede its precious power solely gained through harsh struggle for what pretentiously may be exercised in terms of going for the ballot-box election.

At times even in the western world ballots are rigged-off as it may suit those powerful clubs doing their business as usual in clandestine away from the public eyes. Obviously the TPLF-regime came to power by the barrel of the gun, and remains to cling onto power by the same barrel of the gun under its hybrid mantra or cliché: "No one is above the law". As if this is an excellent lame excuse to play with and consequently throw or confine people seen as potential threats to its existence in jail. Indeed, it boils down to, or it is all about, mastering how to play dirty politics to the best of one’s ability in order to survive on power!

Hence PM Meles attempts always to win and remain smart and that does not do any good for the future of Ethiopia, except for his TPLF-party members and for those people who follow him as his loyal oppositions blindly! We have learned a lot on how the TPLF-regime played its political cards thus far as regards previous elections. For clear discussion sake, suffice to summarize the following five episodes:

  1. The elections for Ethiopia's first popularly-chosen national parliament and regional legislatures as per the outlines devised by TPLF were held in May and June 1995. At that time, most opposition parties chose to boycott these two elections and left the door wide open TPLF to make a landslide victory under its Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) mantra. International and non-governmental observers concluded that opposition parties would have been able to participate had they chosen to do so. EPRDF legitimized and installed itself in August 1995 with its 1st President appointee being Negasso Gidada. This EPRDF-led government of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi immediately promoted a policy of ethnic federalism, devolving significant powers to regional, ethnically-based nine semi-autonomous administrative regions. Nominally the 9-regions are said to have the power to raise and spend their own revenues. Likewise, fundamental freedoms, including freedom of the press, remain circumscribed. Ethiopians at home have little access to media other than the state-owned networks, and most private newspapers struggle to remain open and suffer periodic harassment from the TPLF-Agazi-Junta.
  2. In Year 2000 ERDF repeated its victory as it was fairly boosting of winning the 1998-2000 battle against EPLF with heavy casualties on either sides. Zenawi's government was elected in this Ethiopia's first ever multiparty elections event; however, the results were heavily criticized by international observers and denounced by the opposition as fraudulent.
  3. The EPRDF also won the 2005 election returning Zenawi to power. Although the opposition votes increased in the election, both the opposition and observers from the European Union and elsewhere stated that the vote did not meet international standards for fair and free elections. Ethiopian police are said to have massacred 193 protesters, mostly in the capital, Addis Ababa, in the violence following the May 2005 elections in the Ethiopian police massacre. Few of the opposition leaders and key members had to go to Kaliti Prison on genocide and treason charges. The government used urban unrest and breaking press laws governing libel to intimidate those who were critical of its policies.
  4. The government has been engaged in several petty conflicts with the EPLF-backed ONLF and OLF rebels in the Ogaden and Oromia regions since 2007.
  5. The biggest opposition party in 2005 was the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD). After various internal divisions, most of the CUD party leaders have established the new Unity for Democracy and Justice Party led by Judge Birtukan Mideksa. A member of the country's Oromo ethnic group, Ms. Birtukan Mideksa is the first woman ever to lead a political party in Ethiopia.

The coming of a woman

Incidentally, in her long-standing history, Ethiopia is blessed in having women leaders coming to power from time to time. Since the time of Queen Sheba/Saba of the Old Testament few women of leadership caliber have happen to suddenly appear from no where and held power at times when Ethiopia faces critical danger and grave difficulties. Birtukan is one of those Ethiopian heroines in contemporary history without any parallel to draw in our time. I strongly inclined to have faith in that it is God's wisdom to have brought someone born in 1974 from an Oromo-Ethiopian humble household to lead this war-prickle country of ours to a peaceful transition and stability. That person is no one else but our Lady Liberty Birtukan Mideksa, who is charged not because she has done any criminal wrong but for telling nothing but the absolute truth to the whole world. Rest assured Birtukan is extraordinarily a courageous woman with principled determination who descends the injustice she is facing by each day single handedly. Governed by her professional ethics and good standing, Birtukan is a strong woman who refused to submit into the lies in defense of the rule of law; even at the cost of being labeled as a ‘persona-non-grata’ for her acts, deeds and words towards TPLF. As far as we read her, what Birtukan speaks is visionary and words of wisdom. What she does is righteous and correct; no matter if it costs one’s liberty or freedom. To this very day Birtukan wants to set the record right for as long as the law and the national constitution are tramped upon by their own maker – the TPLF. She is a true symbol of Ethiopians of excellence and a symbol of Mother Ethiopia who vigorously fought to separate the army and the TPLF as two distinct entities governed by constitutional law and not by the Prime Minister single-handedly.

May be every negative incidence has its own good outcomes. God has brought Birtukan Mideksa at this time of contemporary Ethiopia and to this particular situation where she finds herself for good reasons: (1) I’m inclined to believe that the God-of-us-all is teaching us a solid lesson on righteousness; and how dearly we are to pay to achieve it; and thus through Birtukan we are all paying dearly; she is physically in jail; while we are mentally in jail with her and arguing with TPLF-regime for righteousness throughout Ethiopia. (2) Birtukan stood firmly for justice in judging the Sige Abrha case in the face of TPLF. I’m inclined to believe that God is teaching us through Birtukan the validity of standing firm for the absolute truth selflessly defending justice for humanity. (3) Birtukan Mideksa is a prisoner of conscience who remains imprisoned solely for the expression of her fundamental rights. She repeated her academic excellence in school by her practice and daily duties and professionalism to the extent of facing imprisonment. That is why she gives us the semblance for endurance and continuous fight for ultimate success.

As a person Birtukan is of great dignity and personal grace, a down-to-earth individual who shows respect to all people.

In public she usually maintains respectable personality with her calm, observant, humility, and expression of astounding attention to details. She has proved time and again to her onlookers that Birtukan is a person of firm commitment to democracy and human rights issues pertaining to Ethiopia. Without much ado Birtukan is a self-sacrificing, enduring and selectively commenting person who goes out in public with authority, frankness, honesty, fairness, determination and constant focus on the central issues in her struggle for justice and human rights. Indeed, Birtukan’s conscience is the strongest element of her personality. As far as we know, to this very day, Birtukan is meticulous, factual in her comments and judgment. She performs duties without any showy acts and with a high level of professionalism and skill. Birtukan serves as role model for those who make every effort to make our small contributions to bring justice and human rights in Ethiopia. When everything is said and done, Birtukan has exceptional qualities of a learned mind and a brilliant lawyer who has the charismas to ultimately lead her people to peace, transparency, democracy, stability, and prosperity.

Why is Birtukan Mideksa Jailed?

Much has been written on the controversy between the TPLF regime and Birtukan Mideksa and the reasons that took her to jail. As far as I’m concerned, the reason why Birtukan is kept in jail has nothing to do with what the TPLF-regime claims as Birtukan having refuted her wrongdoings during the 2005 miss-carried election. It is absolutely the TPLF-regime’s fear for Birtukan’s supporters and what she happens to represent; that of her sole power and capacity to lead Ethiopia into a stable and a united Ethiopia under God and under the national constitutional law. Like wise TPLF is aware of what is happening in Iran’s controversial election of last week and its aftermath.

As far as we deem it our heroin Birtukan Mideksa has done what is right, fair and beneficial for all Ethiopians. That means it is time for Ethiopians of all walks of life to stand up with her for justice and fair democracy. The political cards and games PM Meles has played thus far have left Ethiopian unity and stable peace in limbo.

Conclusive Remarks:

We should take this moment and learn from the recent election crisis in Iran as its outcome will help us get ready to defend our rights in Ethiopia during the forthcoming 2010 election. Indeed we should not let the TPLF regime take over power as business as usual. Rather we should voice and say to TPLF and its thugs that enough is enough! We should line-behind those struggling to get their voice heard to the world through peaceful means and ensure that change is possible through the ballot box. Now is the time for Ethiopian people to warm up and fight back the hitherto existing unfair domination by TPLF and its thugs. All TPLF is looking for is staying in power and continue to exploit everything for itself with out even sharing it properly with its own population in Tigray. We should not give free-path to Meles Zenawi to arrest anyone at will or as he wishes and stop genuine Ethiopians like Birtukan Mideksa from working for the people; for justice; for fairness, for fraternity and real democracy!

Divided we are doomed to fail. United we shall win! Let the 2010 election in Ethiopia be the moment to bring change! Through our zealous struggle we shall get Birtukan Mideksa out of jail and put her on the driver’s chair where she can lead our country to peace, prosperity and progress and ascertain a deep-seated longing among Ethiopians for freedom of political expression.

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