Oslo hosts Ethiopia conference on democracy

Oslo Ethiopian meeting 30 March 2010 [Also: Amharic Report] – The Norwegian capital Oslo is among the places in the western world where active and engaged support groups are playing useful roles in aiding the struggle for democracy, freedom, justice and defending national sovereignty in Ethiopia. Similar meetings dealing with a variety of issues concerning the political crisis and situation in Ethiopia were organized and conducted successfully in Oslo in the preceding years. This meeting was called and organized by the Support Group For Democratic Change in Ethiopia (formerly Kinijit Support and Development Organization in Norway).

The intention of the meeting was to re-examine, evaluate and review the past and present status of the struggle and chart the way ahead. The support group has decided to conduct a periodic evaluation and review of the struggle and the genuine opposition forces involved in it. The issues to be dealt with in the public meeting were framed withing the theme of `Things we need to do to advance the struggle, and achieve our set goals of creating a democratic system in Ethiopia`.

This topic was chosen because it is considered relevant and timely. The support group identified the appropriate guest speakers and invited them to provide their viewpoints and suggestions concerning a range of topics within the framed theme of discussion and exchange of opinion. Chairman of the organizing committee, Ato Demissew Tesema welcomed and thanked the guests, and public for accepting the invitation and coming to the meeting. He opened the meeting by introducing the invited guests and making some remarks about the meeting and its objectives. Then a minute of silence was observed for the leader of the Unity For Democracy and Justice Party, Woizerit Birtukan and all others killed and imprisoned by the brutal regime of Meles Zenawi. The invited guest speakers were: 1. Dr. Wondimu Mekonen, a renowned human rights activist based in London, Britain 2. Dr. Tadesse Biru, official of the Ginbot7 movement based in London, Britain 3. W/T Habtam Mezmur, journalist living in Norway 4. W/T Nebiyat Gebissa, journalist living in Norway.

The first guest speaker was Dr. Wondimu Mekonen, who began by thanking the organizers and expressing his appreciation to Ethiopians living in Norway. He also extended the message of greeting from Ethiopians in London to their fellow Ethiopians in Norway and received applauds from the public. Dr. Wondimu Mekonen read out his amusing and educational poem before proceeding with his main topic. His speech focused on the necessity and indispensability of unity among Ethiopians in the struggle to get rid of the repressive regime of Meles Zenawi.

Oslo public metingIn his arousing and gripping speech Dr. Wondimu Mekonen elaborated on the true and vicious nature of the TPLF, the methods it employs to divide and weaken Ethiopians and emphasized that struggling in unity is the only effective and fruitful option Ethiopians have to move ahead and attain their goals. He indicated the long standing tactics of the TPLF such as its promises to offer plots of land to build houses and promote free investment and business in Ethiopia. Some weak individuals have fallen into these traps of the TPLF and abandoned the struggle, their country and people. He recalled his publication some years ago of the TPLF`s 52 page secret document in which it outlines its methods to divide, weaken and control Ethiopians living in the west. His reasons for making this document known to the Ethiopian public was to expose the machinations and plots of the TPLF to sow its seeds of discords among Ethiopians and weaken our struggle.

The next speakers were Journalists Habtam Mezmur and Nebiat Gebissa who began by thanking the organizers of the meeting and spoke about the range of difficulties and obstacles government employed journalists and others in the profession are facing in Ethiopia. They stated that the repressive TPLF regime does all it can to prevent balanced, fair and objective reporting or coverage of news in the country. The regime uses punitive measures like deducting salaries and dismissals to prevent government employed journalists from fulfilling and exercising their professional duties and rights.

The control and repressive arrangements and mechanisms the regime has put in place to guide the functioning of government media outlets are denying are forcing journalists to do self censorship and denying citizens rights to accurate and free information. Despite increases in the number of journalists in the country, the media are effectively under the tight control of the regime and journalists are work and live under constant government surveillance. Journalist Nebiyat Gebissa suggested the establishment of a strong media in the Diaspora to serve the people of Ethiopia. The last guest speaker was Dr. Tadesse Birru who is the official of the Ginbot7 movement for freedom and justice. Dr. Tadesse began his speech by posing a pressing and relevant question which is in the minds of Ethiopians.

Why is our struggle not moving ahead and succeeding?. He read out a short relevant story in which one can find the answer(s) to the above question. The story teaches the usefulness and values of hard work and persistent efforts in achieving set goals. He reviewed the systems in the past 50 years spanning from the period of the emperor to the present regime and described their similarities in terms of the gaps between what they say officially and the reality in the country. All the past governments used to tell the public about their achievements and successes in the economic as well as political areas.

The present TPLF regime has just refined and renewed the tactics and doing the same thing and committing the same mistakes. The TPLF regime is making false claims of transforming and modernizing agriculture and the emergence of farmers who are millionaires as a result of its favorable policies in the sector. But the reality on the ground shows that famine and poverty are on the increase and millions of peasants are dependent on foreign food aid. He stated that we have not gone further or stagnated in the past 50 years.

Oslo public meetingAccording to Dr Tadesse’s own investigations and observations, the main impediments to the progress or causes for lack of progress are summarized as follows:

  1. Lack of permanent institutions.
  2. Fear. This factor is prevailing in the country and arresting the forces of change and progress in the country. If Ethiopians do not overcome fear, they will not be able to mobilize and bring about the desired changes for progress. Avoiding fear makes one happy. It is necessary to get rid of the fear gripping us.
  3. Lack of vision. Leaders with good vision are needed because those who know their destination will reach it. What we witness in Ethiopia is making the same mistakes and expecting better or different outcomes.
  4. The inability to notice small changes which are the signs of bigger changes to come. Coping with the changing conditions is of vital importance to move ahead. But we do not have many people who sense changes, trends and developments.
  5. Lack of critical observation of events and taking swift measures or decisions as necessary. The few who observe and sense dangers are not heeded to or are overlooked. We need to develop a habit of listening to good observers.
  6. Bickering and wasting time on trivial matters.
  7. Lack of receptiveness to new ideas and innovations and the desire to change oneself.

Dr. Mulualem Adam and Ato Demissew Tesema, chairman and head for diplomatic activities of Democratic Change in Ethiopia Support Organisation in Norway (DCESON), respectively, briefed the a about the past and current state of the support chapter and the different activities it carried out and has planned to accomplish in the future. He stated that despite splits within the former Kinijit, the members of the support chapter have been able to maintain their harmony, unity and resolve to support the legitimate and just struggle of Ethiopians back home. Ato Adane Asres read a moving poem and the floor was opened for discussions, opinions and questions. The opinions forwarded mainly focused on the importance of getting actively involved in organizations and having our own strong media in Norway as part of the free press. The following relevant questions were raised and the guests responded to them accordingly.

The reasons for our inability to unite and move ahead, working with the TPLF and divisions along ethnic lines were inquired and discussed. Besides, the question of taking part in and using the coming elections as a means to advance the struggle was raised. Dr. Wondimu Mekonen responded by clearly indicating that the TPLF is not a constructive force and the only option Ethiopians are left with is to act together and get rid of it. He also stated that the TPLF is now like a home on fire and advised its members to vacate it on time. He went on and added that we Ethiopians make ourselves the suitable subjects for conflict and division or are prone to division since there is a tendency towards aggregation or grouping among us. As all of us are humans and Ethiopians, we should go out of the confines of ethnicity and unite for the common causes.

Responding to the question of taking part in the coming woyanne elections and using them as as a means to further the struggle, Dr. Wondimu Mekonen pointed out the foregone conclusion that woyanne has already won it. He wished the opposition could stay out of the farce and refuse to play company to Meles Zenawi. He mentioned the importance of informing the western public and winning friends and supporters among them. We can dry up TPLF`s sources of money through bringing the crimes and violations of Meles Zenawi to the attention of the western public. Regarding the question of being a member of political parties, his response was that one does not need to be a member of a political party or organization to make contributions to the struggle. Civic organizations play significant roles also. However he stated that those involved can strengthen their organizations and continue the struggle.

Dr. Tadesse on his part mentioned that organizing is not a new idea and has existed in the country for the past 50 years and what we lack is building permanent institutions. He stressed the importance of institutions and the roles they play in creating, developing and maintaining a democratic system. We should not be disappointed over the political parties and organizations but explore and find new ways of organizing. Ginbot7 has followed and is applying this approach and is struggling with the aim of creating a free and competitive political environment in the country. Building permanent institutions is one of the aims of Ginbot7 and the movement stands for the democratic way of holding and transferring power.

Journalist Nebiyat Gebissa addressed the question of whether journalists should be neutral and expressed her view that journalists have a critical role in the struggle and should not be neutral. They can take active part in organizations and make contributions to the struggle.

Dr. Mulualem Adam responded to the question concerning the name and activities of the `Support Group For Democratic Change in Ethiopia` and said that the group is free, independent and supports the genuine Ethiopian opposition political forces constantly working to advance the struggle and interests of the country. He added that the decision as to which party (ies) to support is based on the thorough and periodic evaluations and reviews the group makes. The yardstick for supporting is waging a genuine struggle against the TPLF and mobilizing Ethiopians to unite and struggle for their rights.

At last, the chairman thanked all presenters, audience and coordinators of the meeting, Ato Demissew Tesema, Dr. Derje Hilemariam and W/t Addisie Tesfu for their excellent job.

Overall, the meeting was conducted in an atmosphere of cooperation and understanding and was a success in terms of both attendance and issues dealt with.

Support Group For Democratic Change in Ethiopia, Oslo Norway (DCESON)

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