By Yilma Bekele –Chairman Birtukan is out of jail. Without exception (not including Woyane thugs) all Ethiopians are pleased. After all we are the reason why she went to jail isn’t it?
I heard about Weizero Birtukan five years ago. She was one of Kinijit’s leaders and associates that were hauled to Kaliti after the 2005 elections. She symbolized Kinijit from jail. Birtukan’s letter from jail was very powerful. Here in Oakland we made a poster quoting a line from her letter “Kinijit is spirit. It is a spirit of freedom – a spirit of love and unity.” It is very uplifting. Dr. Berhanu thru his intellect and Weyzero Birtukan thru her magnetic personality and charisma emerged as the two leaders that took Ethiopia by storm.
Upon their triumphant release the two leaders choose different means to achieve their goal. Although they are taking different routes the destination remains the same, a free and democratic Ethiopia. Judge Birtukan’s determination and tenacity paid off with her successful launch of Andenet Party. Weizero Bertukan is no weakling. It took all of her strength to reconstruct Kinijit. She was harassed, detained, her supporters beaten sometimes hounded out of towns but she stayed the course. There was not any stone they left unturned to frustrate and force her to give up and ‘go home’. She has demonstrated her free spirit when she defied Ato Meles and set his friend Seye Abreha free on bail. They call it judicial independence.
Andenet was her answer to Woyane leaders. She was going to beat them working within their restrictive laws. Bertukan became the talk of the country. Again Ato Meles used illegal means to arrest her. He is above the law of Ethiopia. The law of the land and the Constitution do not apply to the ‘leader’.
Chairman Bertukan was not just thrown in jail. For six months that we know of she was kept in solitary confinement. She was not allowed visitors, the Red Cross, outside medical help or any contact except her guards.
Solitary confinement is torture. It is considered a form of psychological torture. It is illegal and it is a criminal act. It is inhuman. Senator John McCain knows about solitary confinement, here is what he wrote:
“It’s an awful thing, solitary,” John McCain wrote of his five and a half years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam—more than two years of it spent in isolation in a fifteen-by-fifteen-foot cell, unable to communicate with other P.O.W.s except by tap code, secreted notes, or by speaking into an enamel cup pressed against the wall. “It crushes your spirit and weakens your resistance more effectively than any other form of mistreatment.”[i]
Terry Anderson the chief Middle East correspondent for the Associated Press was kidnapped by Hezbollah in Lebanon in 1985. He was released in 1991. In his memoir ‘Den of Lions” he recounts his bitter experience and ‘solitary confinement’ is a bitter chapter he would rather forget. He wrote ‘“The mind is a blank. Jesus, I always thought I was smart. Where are all the things I learned, the books I read, the poems I memorized? There’s nothing there, just a formless, gray-black misery. My mind’s gone dead. God, help me.”
After sharing a cell with other hostages he was thrown into solitary confinement and after a few weeks he recalled in his memoir “I find myself trembling sometimes for no reason,” he wrote. “I’m afraid I’m beginning to lose my mind, to lose control completely.”
Under the guidance and leadership of Ato Meles and his associates Ethiopia has become one of the few places in the world where government sanctioned torture and inhuman punishment is the norm. This is not news to all the western enablers of Ato Meles including the United States, Great Britain, Germany and France. After all the US is training his army and Special Forces while the British trained the police. I don’t mean to leave the Chinese out but you really don’t expect the People’s Republic to be bothered with such trivia as Human Rights. We Ethiopians are perfectly aware of what goes on in ‘Meakelawi’ and in all the Kilil Bantustans but we choose to look the other way. We seem to be willing to substitute the building of a few condominiums and phantom economic growth to loss of liberty and decent to one-man rule.
Guess what the more you tolerate the bully the bolder he gets. Bully’s feed off other peoples discomfort and misery. Our TPLF bosses use bullying to ‘conceal shame or anxiety to boost their self-esteem: by demeaning others, they feel empowered’. What is being played this past week in our country is both sad and shameful. This indecent and inhuman show of power by a government against a solitary human being soiled our nation.
The injustice done against Chairman Birtukan demeaned all of us Ethiopians. It showed how mean and callous we have become. This kind cruelty against a citizen by the state is considered obscene. It is very difficult to understand how a ‘leader’ of eighty million people take personal revenge against an opponent and use state machinery like the courts and public security to break the will of the individual? I felt emptiness in my stomach when I saw our sisters/mother/party leader’s interview prominently displayed at their foreign web sites and broadcasted to the Ethiopian people. It was a slap in the face. All I could do was marvel at the capacity of those producing this unfolding event. .
One is forced to ask why all this display of their ugly side for the whole world to witness?
Is the reward worth the deed? What was the message and was it effective? Did Ato Meles and company gain from the current tragic event they have unveiled? How is it different from the other methods they have used to destroy the lives of past leaders? In today’s Ethiopia TPLF atrocity against citizens has become something of a spectator sport.
Assefa Maru of Ethiopian Teachers Association was gunned down by ‘state security’ while on his way to his office. They did not try to hide it. Dr. Taye Woldesemayat was kept in solitary confinement while being chained like a wild animal and was exiled upon release. Dr Asrat Weldeyes died due to abuse and denial of medical treatment. Dr. Berhanu would have met the same fate if he had set foot back home. Ato Bekele Jarso of Oromo Federalist Party was kept at Kaliti to show him of things to come and quietly chased out of his country. As we witness the release of Bertukan, General Asmenew Tsige is being slowly made to die by his captors. The extent of Woyane terror will be told and humanity will cringe. We Ethiopians will shrug it off. We have become immune to acts of cruelty against each other.
Why do you think Ato Meles and company feel safe and comfortable doing all this atrocity? Do you think we have something to do with it? Did you see Ato Meles and associates celebrating their cherished accomplishment last week? They were happy they got the apology they demanded. They were acting like little kids in a candy store. Look you worthless Ethiopians, we can jail your leader, torture her and make her apologize to the mighty Meles for daring to question his superior mind and intellect! And there is nothing you can do about it. That is what they said. Their actions spoke loud.
Our response was predictable. ‘I told you he will destroy her’, ‘she should have known better’, ‘it is too bad she suffered’, ‘it is nice she is back with her family’ etc. etc. Where is the rage? Where is the response to do something about it so it does not happen again? The fact of the matter is Chairman Bertukan does not want our sympathy. Did it occur to you may be the Chairman was perfectly aware of the danger she was in by challenging the dictator? May be that is what dedication to a cause is all about. The possibility of being hurt or killed is part of the package of challenging a totalitarian state. Leaders like Chairman Bertukan do it not for personal gain or fame but out of a sense of doing the right thing. It is people like the TPLF folks who claim to have fought Derg injustice but turn around and demand payment for their service. Mercenaries, if you ask me. People like Chairman Bertukan require no payment or sympathy from us. They just want us to wake up from our slumber and do the right thing.
We are proud of our sister. The fact that she was able to walk out of Kaliti hellhole intact is a testimony to her strength. The prince of darkness and his associates used the two years to break her will and damage her humanity. They used sleep deprivation, isolation, starvation, physical violence and selective admittance of current bandas like the so-called elders including Ephraim Isaac, Pastor Daniel and other trash to infect her brain with demoralizing stories. It was an all out war orchestrated by the Prime Minister and his associates. Ato Meles was on top things with his periodic report to the rest of us regarding her weight gain and her being ready to sign his confession.
After everything is said and done the only thing left is sadness at the situation our country finds itself. We are being shepherded by shameless characters that have no sense of human decency. The fact they engage in such criminal act for the world to witness and congratulate each other for a job well done is testimonial to their madness. They display the typical characteristics of intolerance, indifference and grandiosity seen in dangerous leaders like Hitler, Saddam or Kim Jung Il.
Chairman Bertukan needs rest. We urge her supporters to give her time to decompress and unwind. She is in a fragile state of mind. She has gone thru a lot of ordeal. We urge her family and supporters to be aware of the people around her. It is our responsibility to shield her from further pain as she slowly recovers. Mental and physical abuse is not a simple matter to be shrugged off. What was done to her by Ato Meles and his security personnel will haunt her for a long time to come. We should avoid demanding from her but rather give her the time to work things out her own way and her own pace.
The best medicine for Chairman Bertukan is to go out of Ethiopia and get peace of mind and professional help. The problem is if she does that Woyane thugs will start the rumors that she abandoned the cause. That is their way of keeping her close to her abusers so they can prolong her agony. And some of us like a wound up doll will repeat Woyane logic and hurl insults at her. It is not farfetched. We saw it happen to Dr. Berhanu. There were plenty that were ‘disappointed’ he did not go back. They are the same folks who praised Bertukan for retuning but went into their hiding place once she was jailed. Do you think Woyane skirt is big enough to hide all these hodam enablers?