ይድረስ ለታጋይ/ተመራጭ/ እከሌ

ጀግና ማነው?

ሰው ጀግና ሊባል የሚገባው ለህልውናው አደገኛ እና አስጊ የሆነው አውሬ ሲያስወግድ፣ በብዙ ሰዎች ከባድ ተብሎ የተተወዉን ችግር ሲፈታ ወይም ለሰው ልጅ ጠቃሚ የሚሆን ቁምነገር ሲሰራ ነው። ጀግና የሚለውን ስያሜ የምንጠቀመው በተወሰነ ቦታ እና ጊዜ ውስጥ በማህበረሰብ ውስጥ የተለየ ወይም ማንም ሊያደርገው ያልቻለውን ከባድ ድርጊት እና ማንም ለወጣው ያልተቻለውን ፈተና በብቃት ሲወጣው ነው። ይህ ስያሜ በብዙ ማሀበረሰቦች (ሀገራት) እንደ ሽልማት የሚያገለግልና ለድል አድራጊዎች ብቻ የሚሰጥ ነው።

በድሮ ጊዜ በአንድ ህብረተሰብ ላይ ከሚከሰቱና ፈተና ከሚሆኑ ጉዳዮች ውስጥ ሰውን ለማጥቃት ከዱር ወደ መንደሮች የሚገቡት አውሬዎች ከፍተኛ አደጋ ይፈጥራሉ። ከዚህም የተነሳ አውሬውን ገድሎ ሰዎቹን ከጭንቀት የሚገላግል ማንኛውም ሰው እንደ ማህበረሰቡ ጀግና ይቆጠራል፤ የአውሬውንም ቆዳ በመግፈፍ ይለብሰዋል። ሰዎች ከአውሬው ተገፈፈውን ቆዳ ሲመለከቱ የአውሬውን አደገኛነት ሲያስታውሳቸው ቆዳውን ገፍፎ የለበሰውን ሲያዩ ደግሞ ምንያህል ጠንካራ እና ጀግና እንደሆነ ያስተውላሉ። በዚህም ምክንያት በማህበረሰቡ ውስጥ ምርጥ የሆኑ ሽልማቶች ይበረከቱለታል፤ እንደ አስፈላጊነቱም ቆንጆ ኮረዳ ይታጭለታል።

ሰው ክቡር የሆነ ፍጡር መሆኑን እንደ ኢትዮጵያ ባሉ ማለትም የሰውን “አምላካዊ አሻራነት” በሚያምኑ ሀገራት በሰፊው የሚታመን ሃቅ ነው። ነገር ግን አለም ከተፈጠረች ጀምሮ በተለያዩ ጊዜያት በተቃራኒው የሰውን ክቡርነት ጥያቄ ውስጥ የሚከትቱ አሰቃቂ የሆኑ ግድያዎች ተከናውነዋል፤ በዚህ አይነት የታሪክ አጋጣሚ ጀግና ተብለው የተጠሩ ሰዎች ብዙዎች ናቸው። በእርግጥ የተገደለው ሰው ከአውሬ አልፎ ‘ጭራቅ’ የሚል ምናባዊ ስም የወጣለት ጨካኝ ወይም ጨቋኝ ሊሆን ይችል ይሆናል፤ ነገር ግን ምንም እንኳን ይህ ተገዳይ ከፍተኛ ጥፋት በማህበረሰብ፣ በሀገር ላይ ቢያስከትልም ቅሉ፥ ቅን ፍርድ ግን ይገባዋል።

ኧረ ወራጅ አለ! ምንድን ነው የምትለው? ኢትዮጵያ እኮ የጀግኖች ሀገር ናት፤ የጀግኖች ሀገር የተባለችውም ለህልውናዋ፣ ዳር ድንበሯን ለማስከበር፣ ከወራሪ ሀይሎች በጠበቋት ልጆችዋ ነው። ታዲያ ምንድነው የምትለው?

ቅን ፍርድ ምን ማለት ነው?

ቅን ፍርድ ማለት አንድ ሰው ወይም ማህበር (ለክፋት በህቡዕ የተደራጀ) ላደረጋቸው ነገሮች፣ ለተናገራቸውና ላቀዳቸው ሀሳቦች ተመጣጣኝ የሆነ፤ ከማንኛውም ግለሰባዊ ወይም ቡድናዊ መሻት እና ተጽዕኖ ነጻ የሆነ ብይን የሚሰጥበት ትክክለኛው (ideal) የፍርድ አይነት ነው።

ሰው በተፈጥሮው ያለ ስርዓት መኖር የማይችል፥ ኑሮው ሙሉ በሙሉ በስረዓት የተሞላ ፍጥረት ነው። በአንድ ቤት ውስጥ ስርዓት የሚያስከብር አባወራ (እማወራ) እንደሚያስፈልግ ሁሉ በአንድ ሀገር ደግሞ በመሪነት የተሾመ መሪ ያስፈልጋል። በአለማችን ብዙ ነገስታት እና ሀያላን አልፈዋል፤ አሁንም አለምን የሚያስተዳድሩ መልካም እና ክፉ ነገስታት ይገኛሉ። ዋናው ጥያቄ ግን እነዚህን መሪዎች ማን ሾማቸው? እንዴት ስልጣን ያዙ? የሚለው ይሆናል።

አምባገነናዊ ስርዓቶች በኢትዮጵያ

በሀገራችን ላለፉት መቶ አመታት አምስት ያህል መንግስታት/ነገስታት/፥ አፄ ምኒሊክ ፪ኛ፣ ልጅ ኢያሱ፣ ንግስት ዘውዲቱ፣ አፄ ኅይለሥላሴ፣ ሻለቃ መንግስቱ እና መለስ ዜናዊ፥ ብቻ ያለፉ ሲሆን ይህ ቁጥር ከሌሎች ማለትም ከሰለጠኑት የምዕራባውያን ሀገራት አንፃር ሲታይ እጅጉን የተለየ ቁጥር እናያለን። ያለፉት መንግስታት ቁጥር ብቻ ሳይሆን ስልጣን የተሸጋገረበትን መንገድ ስናይ ብዙዎቹ የስልጣን ሽግግሮች በደም የተጨማለቁ እና የብዙዎችን ህይወት በቀጠፉ ረብሻዎች እና ግርግሮች የተሞሉ ነበሩ።

ከአጼ ኀይለ ሥላሴ ከንግስና መሻር አንስቶ ያለውን የስልጣን ሽግግር እንኳን ብንመለከት በብዙዎች ደም መፍሰስ የተመሰረተ ነው። ደርግ በተማሬዎች የተጀመረውን አብዮት ከዴሞክራሲያዊ ጥያቄ ወደ ፖለቲካዊ ፍልስፍና ምርጫ በማላተም የዘመኑን ጥያቄ በጠመንጃ ሲመልስ እና ሀገሪቱን በዘመን የማትረሳውን አስከፊ ታሪክ ጽፎ አልፏል። በተጨማሪም የብዙ ሰዎችን እልቂት ያስከተለውን የረሀብ፣ የእርስ በርስ ጦርነቶችን እና ከፍተኛ የሆነ የማህበራዊ እና ኢኮኖሚያዊ ዝቅጠት ውስጥ አስገብቷታል።

የደርግ አዛዝ ያለተመቻቸው የትግራይ እና የኤርትራ ወጣት ታጋዮች ወደ ትጥቅ ትግል ወስጥ በመግባት በታላቅ መሰረት ላይ ተጥሎ የነበረውን የደርግን ወታደራዊ መንግስት ለመደምሰ እና የኤርትራን መገንጠል ብሎም የአገዛዝ ስርኣት ቅያሬን አስከትሏል። በኤርትራ መገንጠል የተደሰተው የትግራይ ነጻ አውጭ (ወያኔ) ወዲያው ወደ ሀገራዊ ነጻ አውጪነት የፖለቲካ ጨዋታ ጀመረ።

ማንም ነጻ ያውጣ ማንም፡ በጦር አድማ የሚፈሰው ውኃ ሳይሆን የሰው ልጅ ክቡር ደም ነው፤ ለዚያዉም የወንድሞቻችን ደም። የሚያሳዝነው ግን፡ ነጻ አውጭነት ከሚሰጠው ክብር፣ ከጀግንነት ማዕረግ ወይም ሌላ ከህዝብ እውቅና ባለፈ ሌላ ቦታ በመፈለግ ያለፈውን እና የተገረሰሰውን ስርኣት በሚመልስ መልኩ ከህዝቦች እኩልነት ጥያቄ ወደ ክፍፍል አገዛዝ፣ ከፍርድ ጥያቄ ወደ ፍትህ ጉድለት፣ ከሰላም ጥያቄ ወደ እርስ በርስ የማናቆር ቅኝ አገዛዛዊ ሰርዓት በመመለስ ህዝብ በፍርሀት እና ጭንቀት እንዲሞላ እያደረገ ይገኛል።

ይድረስ ለታጋይ እከሌ፡-

ይህችን ፅሁፍ ታነባታለህ ለማለት ይከብደኛል ያው ቢያንስ ከልማታዊ ስራዎችህ የተረፈ ጊዜ ካገኘህ ብዬ በማሰብ ነው የፃፍኳት። እውነቴን ነው ምልህ ደርግን ለመደምሰስ ያደረከውን ትግል አደንቃለሁ፤ ያውም በወታደራዊ አቅም ጠንካራ የነበረውን አስፈሪውን ጦር። እኔ ግን የሚያሳዝነኝ፥ የነፃ አውጪው ወታደር ከህዝብ የወጣ የሀገር ልጅ እደሆነ ስትነግረኝ በጣም አዘንኩኝ እጅጉንም መሪር ሃዘን ውስጥ ገባሁ። አንዴ ብቻ ስማኝ!ለ23 ዓመታት የደሰኮርከው ጀግንነት የገዛ ወንድምህን እና ወገንህን ደም በማፍሰስ እንደሆነ ባለማገናዘብህ ብታፍር ደስታዬ ነው።

ምን??? በለኛ!
እሺ! ለምን መሰለህ፥ ደርግ ዜጎችን በውትድርና አሰልጥኖ ወደ ሀገር መከላከያ ሰራዊትነት ሲያበቃቸው ኢትዮጵያዊነታቸውን አልተነጠቁም፤ ማንም አልካዳቸውምም። እነሱ በደርግ ስርአት ውስጥ የሰለጠኑ የሀገር፣ የህዝብ ልጆች ነበሩ፡ እንጂ የደርግ ውትድርናቸው ማንነታቸውን አልፋቀውም፣ ዜግነታቸውንም አልቀየረውም። ችግሩ ባንተ የነፃ አውጪነት ዲስኩር ህዝቡን ስታደነቁር እና ስትሸነግል ያን ጊዜ ወታደር ልጇ የሞተባት፣ የጥይት የተገደለባት እናት አሁን በፍርሀት እና በጭንቀት ልጆቿን ደብቃ ስታሳድግ፣ ሳትወድ በግድ የፓርቲው አባል እንድትሆን ጓዶችሀ ሲያስገድዷት ሰምቼ፡ ኧረ ግፍ እየተሰራ ነው ብዬ ለማን ልንገር?

እስቲ ሰው የሚልህን ስማ ያንተ ነፃ አውጪነት እንደቄጤማ የብዙ ኢትዮጵያውያን ወጣቶችን ህይወት የቀጠፈ እና አካል ያጎደ ሲሆን  በየአመቱ የምታከብረው የደርግን ከሀይል መወረድ ብቻ ሳይሆን ያለቀባሪ በየሜዳው የአውሬ መጫወቻ የሆኑትን ሀገር ወዳድ ወንድሞችህን ሙት-አመት እንደሆነ ላፍታ እንኳን ብታስብ፥ የወደፊቱን የወታደር ህይወት ትታደጋለህ።
ምክንያቱም አንተም ፡ ዘላለማዊ መሆን አትችልም፥ በምድር ከተወሰነ ጊዜ በላይ መኖር አትችልም – ሟች ነህ ፣ በብርታትህ ዘመን ብዙ ጀግንነት ይሰማሃል ቆይቶ ግን ኋይል ይከዳሃል፥ ጉልበትህ ይደክማል፥ ደጋፊ ታጣለህ፥ ትወድቃለህ ፥ አትነሳም፤ ወይ በሰው ወይ አምላክ እጅ ትሞታለህ።

Photography & Art Contest: Call for Entries

Washington

2015 Images of Repression & Freedom

Today, Freedom House will begin accepting submissions for its fourth annual photo and art contest, Images of Repression and Freedom. We invite professional and amateur photographers and artists to submit photos and other forms of art (i.e. cartoons, prints, paintings, graphic art) that reflect the themes of freedom, political participation, democracy, human rights, and repression around the world.

Semifinalists chosen by Freedom House will be displayed and auctioned as a fundraiser on May 14, 2015 in Washington, DC. The winner will be featured on the Freedom House website, Facebook and Twitter, in our newsletter, and will receive a cash prize of $300.


   VIEW THE WINNING PHOTOS FROM 2014, 2013 AND 2012:

First Place, 2012. “Central Black,” Bahrain, by Gigi Ibrahim.
 Second Place, 2013. “The Ashes of South Sudan Rise from the Mud,” South Sudan, by Giovanni Turco
The decision to feature submitted photos is the sole discretion of Freedom House. Chosen artists will be notified through email. Photos must be the sole property of the submitter. All submitters agree that any image they submit to Freedom House may be used by Freedom House for marketing and promotional purposes, including for publication in Freedom House printed materials, advertisements, electronic media, Internet, and on freedomhouse.org. Any image used by Freedom House shall carry a credit line of the artist. Copyright and all other rights remain that of the artist. Submitters acknowledge that any money raised by the auction of their work will be a donation to Freedom House, which is tax deductible for U.S. citizens.

Photo Contest Rules

  • Photos must be submitted in JPG or JPEG. No other formats will be accepted.
  • Other forms of art (i.e. cartoons, prints, graphic art) may be considered on a case-by-case basis, and must be submitted in JPG or JPEG format.
  • Photos must be high resolution but no more than 10 MB in size. Photos must be at least 600 by 800 pixels and 75 dots per inch (dpi).
  • Chosen works may be displayed/featured anonymously at the artist’s request.
  • Participants can submit multiple entries, but no more than five per participant.
  • The decision to feature submitted photos is the sole discretion of Freedom House. Chosen artists will be notified through email. Photos must be the sole property of the submitter. All submitters agree that any image they submit to Freedom House may be used by Freedom House for marketing and promotional purposes, including for publication in Freedom House printed materials, advertisements, electronic media, Internet, and on freedomhouse.org.
  • When participants enter the contest, they must sign a personal release:

With respect to the photograph submitted for the 3rd Annual Freedom House Photography and Art Contest  (the “Photograph”), I hereby grant to Freedom House, its affiliates and licensees, the following irrevocable, perpetual, transferable, non-exclusive, fully paid, worldwide, license to:

(1) use, copy, transmit, distribute, reproduce, modify, create derivative works, adapt, combine with other ideas or works, publish, translate, publically perform, and publicly display your Photograph in any manner and for any purpose (or any modification thereto), in whole or in part, in any format or medium now known or later developed and (2) use (and permit others to use) your Photograph in any manner and for any purpose (including, without limitation, commercial or charitable purposes) that Freedom House, in its sole discretion, deems appropriate.

By submitting your Photograph you represent and warrant that you have the right to grant Freedom House all the rights granted herein and that the Photograph is your original work and is not owned by any other person or entity. You represent and warrant that the Photograph, the creation of the Photograph and the use of the Photograph do not violate any law or regulation and do not infringe the rights of any person or entity, including copyright or trademark rights or rights of privacy or publicity. You agree to indemnify and hold harmless Freedom House from any loss, claim, damage or expense arising from the use of the Photograph or your breach of this agreement, including the above representations.


Full Text

Sissi Warns Ethiopia to Maintain Consensus on Nile Dam

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, middle, on the far left table seated, addresses the Ethiopian parliament Wednesday, March 25, 2015, in Addis Ababa Ethiopia.

Marthe van der Wolf, March 25, 2015

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi addressed his hopes and concerns about sharing waters of the Nile River while addressing the Ethiopian parliament Wednesday, during his first official state visit to Ethiopia.

Ethiopia is building Africa’s largest hydropower dam, using waters of the Nile.

Sissi said he understands the need for Ethiopia to develop, but warned that conflict should be avoided when utilizing resources and seeking progress.

He says your Egyptian brothers also have the right, not only to development, but also the right to life itself. And to live in safe haven on the banks of the River Nile.

Ethiopia says that the $4 billion dam will not affect Egypt’s access to Nile water. The energy produced from the dam is to be used for Ethiopia’s domestic market and for export to countries in the region.

Sissi’s speech comes two days after he signed an agreement on the Nile with Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.

No details were released but the agreement is believed to focus on resolving misunderstandings between Nile countries, causing no harm to one another and promising to work out detailed procedures in the near future.

Sissi called on leaders of all Nile countries to work together on reaching a consensus about the waters.

He says, “one that allows us to overcome the differences and outstanding points in the Nile Basin Initiative Framework Agreement, for it to include all the basin countries and to address all their needs.”

Tensions between Ethiopia and Egypt rose after Ethiopia started dam construction in 2012. Although most of the Nile’s water originates in Ethiopia, an old colonial-era agreement gives Egypt the right to over 80 percent of Nile water.

Ethiopia’s dam, named the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, is now about 40 percent completed.


http://www.voanews.com/content/sissi-warns-ethiopia-to-maintain-consensus-on-nile-dam/2694081.html

Global flavors: Spice from Ethiopia

The dining scene in Vermont, like the state itself, grows more and more diverse. There are still some tastes, though, that can be hard to find in the state. I recently embarked on a “four meals, four continents” journey to sample food that’s made in Vermont but inspired by cuisine from around the world. Rather than hit ubiquitous Italian or Chinese eateries, I sought harder-to-find nationalities. If you’d like to travel to the Caribbean, Switzerland, Nepal or Ethiopia but just don’t have the time or money, this quartet of possibilities gives your taste buds a chance to do some flavorful globe-trotting. Here’s a taste of Africa:

Alganesh Michael ate an egg sandwich and sipped a latte as we chatted over breakfast last week at South End Kitchen in Burlington. That’s more than she would have typically eaten for the first meal of the day in her native Eritrea, where coffee or tea with a slice of bread would be the norm.

The cuisine of Ethiopia, the East African nation that included Eritrea before the latter became a separate country in the 1990s, isn’t growing in popularity because of breakfast. The flavorful main courses served at dinnertime have made Ethiopian cuisine among the most-sought African flavors for American palates.

“We use a lot of spice; it tends to be hot and spicy,” according to Michael. She said the signature meal of the region is doro wot, a traditional chicken dish smothered in sauce and spice and served with boiled egg on a spongy flatbread known as injera. Diners eat with their hands from a shared platter, a communal tendency that tells Americans something about how people live their daily lives in Eritrea and Ethiopia.

“What we are trying to do is let Vermonters know not just the food,” Michael said, “but the culture.”

A year ago she began preparing once-a-month Ethiopian meals at ArtsRiot, the arts, culture and food venue a little farther north from South End Kitchen on Pine Street. She approached South End Kitchen about teaching a monthly Ethiopian-dinner class, and has been doing so since January. Her next class is April 4 and will focus on beef and lamb dishes; her next ArtsRiot dinner happens April 12.

“It’s my passion. I do it for the love of food and cooking,” said Michael, a former nurse who’s the stay-at-home mom of two daughters, ages 14 and 12. “I am not a chef by trade, but I love to cook.”

She also loves to meet and teach people, and said the dinners at ArtsRiot and classes at South End Kitchen give her the chance to do that. She and Mulu Tewelde, a friend and fellow Eritrean in Vermont who helps her, served nearly 200 diners at this month’s ArtsRiot event. “The interest has been so high we had to turn people away,” Michael said. She met 25 students at her more-intimate March 6 class at South End Kitchen.

Michael has found the Vermonters she meets eager and curious about her background and the country she comes from; they ask her numerous questions. “At the same time,” she said, “you’re traveling with them to where the food came from.”

Michael and the food hail from a region along the Red Sea where she grew up as one of nine children. Her father worked at a U.S. Army base in Eritrea, and his boss was from Minnesota. That connection led her older brother, and eventually the rest of her family, to relocate to Minnesota between the mid-1970s and mid-1990s. Michael came in the 1980s, and while in Minnesota met her husband-to-be, a doctor who moved with their family to Vermont after taking a job in Burlington.

When she first came to the U.S., Michael struggled to adjust to the culture, the language, the climate and the food. Now, she said, her connection to the food and culture she grew up with is helping her grow in her adopted home.

“What it has given me is confidence,” she said of her sessions at ArtsRiot and South End Kitchen. She’s considering long-range plans to open an Ethiopian/Eritrean restaurant.

“I don’t know where this will take me,” she said, “but I will give it a shot.”

Contact Brent Hallenbeck at 660-1844 or bhallenbeck@freepressmedia.com. Follow Brent on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/BrentHallenbeck.

If you go:

ArtsRiot, 400 Pine St., Burlington; 540-0406, www.artsriot.com; South End Kitchen, 716 Pine St., Burlington; 864-0505, www.southendkitchenvt.com; Alganesh Michael’s Ethiopian-dinner sessions, www.facebook.com/BTVethiopian.

With Big Projects, Ethiopia Shedding Famine Stereotype

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — Mar 27, 2015

የዞን9 ማስታወሻ – ዞን9

ከዚህ በፌት በተደጋጋሚ አንዳልነው የዞን9 ጦማርያን ፍርድ ቤት የሚሄዱት የፍትህ ስርአቱን ህጋዊ እውቅና እና ቅቡልነት ለማሰጠት ሳይሆን በቃል ስንለው የከረምነውን የፍትህ ስርአቱን ውድቀት በተግባር ለማረጋገጥ ነው፡፡ ሁሉንም የህግ አማራጮች በመጠቀም ፍርድ ቤቱን በማጋለጣችን በእስርም ሆነ በስደት የምንገኘው የዞን9 አባላት በኩራት አንገታችንን ቀና በማድረግ የምንናገረው ጉዳይ ነው፡፡ በየቀኑ የራሱን መሰረታዊ መስፈርት እና ጥቃቅን የወንጀል ስነስርአት ህግ አንኳን መከተል ያቃተውን ፍርድ ቤት የሚመሩት ዳኞች ከችሎቱ ሲወጡ እና ከህሊናቸው ጋር በግልጽ ሲነጋገሩ የስራ አስፈጻሚው መሳሪያነታቸውን ቀን ከቀን በአሳፋሪ ሁኔታ እያጠናከሩ መሆኑን እነደሚያውቁት እርግጠኞች ነን፡፡ ራሳቸውን ከችሎቱ አግልያለው ብለው አስካሁንም ችሎቱን እየሰበሰቡ ባሉት አቶ ሸለመ በቀለ ለሚመራው ችሎት በተደጋጋሚ ጥሪ ስናደርግ እነደነበረው የፍትህ ስርአቱን ስም የማደስ እድላቸውን እየተጠቀሙበት ካለመሆኑም በተጨማሪ የነርሱ ከፍትህ እና ከታሪክ በግራ በኩል መቆም ከማሳየቱም በላይ የወጣት አስረኞቹን ልእልና ቀን ከቀን ከፍ ብሎ እነዲታይ እያስቻሉ ነው፡፡
አገራቸውን በጨዋነት የሚያገለግሉ ምሁራን የዞን9 ጦማርያን እና ወዳጅ ጋዜጠኞች አምባገነንነት እና የተቃውሞ ድምጽ ማፈኛ መሳሪያ የሆነው የፍትህ ስርአት ያልፈታቸው ጨዋዎች መሆናቸውን በማስመስከራቸው እንኮራለን፡፡ የህሊና እስረኞቹ በማንኛውም መስፈርት ቢለኩ ከደረጃቸው በታች በሆኑ ዳኞች ፌት መቆም ያልነበረባቸው የቤተሰብና የአገር ኩራቶች ናቸው ፡፡

የፍትህ ስርአቱን ውድቀት ማጋለጡ ይቀጥላል፡፡


“ፍርድ ቤት” የመብት ጥሰትንም ሆነ የሲዲ ማስረጃዎች ጥያቄን አልቀበልም አለ – ዞን9

Ethiopia 2015 elections: An opportunity to change course and increase freedom of expression

ARTICLE 19, 02 Dec 2014

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According to a schedule released by the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia, the country will go to the polls to elect a new government on 24 May 2015. This will be Ethiopia’s fifth national election.

Campaigning is expected to begin officially on 14 February 2015, ending on 21 May 2015. The final result will be announced on 22 June 2015.

PREVIOUS ELECTIONS

The Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) has claimed victory in every election since the fall of the Derg regime and the adoption of a new constitution in August 1995. The EPRDF, led by the late Meles Zenawi, claimed victory in the elections of 1995, 2000, 2005 and 2010.

The 2005 elections were marked by violence and became a turning point for the country. As the results came in, it became clear that the opposition parties had won an unprecedented number of seats. When the announcement of the results was delayed, students in Addis Ababa began holding protests that turned violent. After the results were finally declared (372 seats for the EPRDF, 172 for the opposition) some members of the opposition claimed that the elections had been “stolen”. This led to more demonstrations, during which the police fired on the crowd using live ammunition and killed scores of protesters.

Some 131 political detainees — among them 21 journalists — were later formally charged with attempting to overthrow the government. The contestation and near loss of power by the EPRDF marked the end of the power consolidation by late Prime Minister Zenawi. It is no wonder that the EPRDF faced almost no opposition in the 2010 elections, securing a 99.6 per cent majority. It lost only two seats, one to the opposition and the other to an independent candidate.

THE MAY 2015 ELECTIONS

The next elections will be the first held under the current Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn. Desalegn took office in September 2012 after the demise of the late long-serving Meles Zenawi, who had ruled for 21 years.

Desalegn had been a Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs for less than two years before coming to power. He is the first Ethiopian head of government in 200 years to have come from non-Tigray and non-Amhara ethnic groups.

The National Electoral Board has registered 75 political parties; 23 of them are national parties while the rest are regional. 12 of the regional parties are official affiliates of the EPRDF and support implementation of the EPRDF’s programme in the various regions. There are four dominant opposition political parties, namely Unity for Democracy and Justice Party (UDJ), Blue Party (Semayawi), All Ethiopian Unity Party and All Ethiopian Democratic Party.

BACKGROUND TO THE ELECTIONS

The 2015 elections come at a time when the Ethiopian economy has made great strides. It has achieved an estimated 10 per cent growth, one of the highest in Africa.

However, Ethiopia’s human rights record is appalling. Particularly poor is its lack of media freedom: Ethiopia is the second biggest jailer of journalists after its neighbour, Eritrea. Its broadcasting and telecommunications sectors are dominated by the state, and the minimal private media sector is heavily regulated and frequently censored.

The dire situation concerning media freedom is compounded by a number of other factors:

  • The economic constraints placed on the media and civil society
  • Low newspaper circulation figures
  • A failure to properly invest in the communications infrastructure.

In its submission to the 2014 Universal Periodic Review for Ethiopia, ARTICLE 19 noted that the country had failed to comply with most of the recommendations that they accepted during the 2009 review. We also noted that freedom of expression and freedom of information had deteriorated rather than improved.

The Ethiopian government accepted recommendations to implement in full its constitutional protections for freedom of expression, assembly and association, and to encourage political debate ahead of the 2015 elections. However, this outward openness to cooperate is in stark contrast to the reality on the ground.

THE ANTI-TERRORISM PROCLAMATION

On 25 and 26 April 2014, six Zone 9 bloggers and three freelance journalists were arrested and later charged under the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation (652/2009). ARTICLE 19 has expressed concern that the proclamation, which has so far been used to charge 22 journalists, violates international standards on freedom of expression and information which protect journalists.

The proclamation has also been criticised by:

  • The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
  • The African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights
  • The Human Rights Committee
  • The UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression.

The Ethiopian government has committed in principle to ensuring that its efforts to counter terrorism are carried out in full compliance with its human rights obligations. Although these include respect for due process and freedom of expression and assembly, this commitment has not been matched in reality.

USING THE CRIMINAL CODE TO PROSECUTE JOURNALISTS

The death of Prime Minister Zenawi in August 2012 followed a two-month information blackout across Ethiopia about his health and whereabouts. Against this backdrop of silence, Temesgen Desalegn (Feteh magazine) and his publisher, Mastewal Birhanu Mamo, ran stories about the Prime Minister’s ill health.

They were subsequently charged under Article 257 of the 2004 Criminal Code: this relates to the “provocation and preparation” of a range of crimes against the state. After a case that lasted two years, Temesgen was sentenced to three years in jail by the Federal High Court on 14 October 2014 on charges of defaming the government and distorting public opinion. Mastewal was fined 10,000 Birr ($500) after being charged with printing Feteh.

Many other journalists have been charged under the criminal code and forced to endure many years in jail or to flee the country. The state is clearly using the law to silence those who hold divergent views.

On 7 October 2014, Endalkachew Tesfaye (Addis Guday magazine), Gizaw Taye (Lomi publisher) and Fatuma Nuriya (Fact magazine) were sentenced in absentia to more than three years in prison on charges of “inciting violent revolts, printing and distributing unfounded rumours and conspiring to unlawfully abolish the constitutional system of the country.” The three journalists are in exile and the magazines are no longer published.

THE IMPORTANCE OF FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION FOR THE 2015 ELECTIONS

Full respect for freedom of expression will be a critical factor in the upcoming 2015 elections. In a democracy, citizens appoint the government of their choice by voting for their preferred candidates at periodically-held elections. To be able to do this, they must be fully informed about who is contesting for elected positions, about their backgrounds and their proposed policies.

For this to be possible, a democracy needs a free and pluralistic media. It also needs equal access to the media for all candidates and a regulatory framework that enables freedom of expression.

Free access to information, including that held by the government, is crucial. Proper scrutiny of the incumbent government’s policies is impossible if a climate of secrecy prevails. A functioning access to information law therefore needs to be in place, and any state secrets laws and other criminal restrictions should not unjustifiably counteract the free circulation of information.

THE NEED FOR LEGAL REFORM

Ethiopia’s apparatus of censorship is vast and freedom of expression cannot be guaranteed until substantial legal reforms are carried out. These include:

  • Reforming the Anti-terrorism Proclamation
  • Reforming the Criminal Code
  • Reforming the Freedom of the Mass Media and Access to Information Proclamation of 2009
  • Decriminalising defamation
  • Repealing the provisions shielding public officials from criticism
  • Bringing the restrictions which supposedly protect national security into line with international standards on the freedom of expression.

AN OPPORTUNITY FOR ETHIOPIA TO CHANGE COURSE

The electorate should use the upcoming elections to mark a change in course for the Ethiopian government. The country’s position regarding freedom of expression and freedom of information must be evaluated.

Whoever forms the next government must have a programme for comprehensive institutional and legal reform. This must be supported by a significant cultural shift in governance, moving away from secrecy and impunity towards full transparency and accountability.