A press statement issued by Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ)
What we know from common sense and what we learn from school is that people learn from their mistakes and that, as a result, past mistakes would not be repeated. However, what we see in practice and what is enigmatic is the fact that people do not learn from history. What is even more intriguing is that, let alone from past history, people do not seem to learn from the reality that is taking place in front of their eyes. Just to cite a few recent examples, Egypt’s Mubarak did not learn from what happened to Tunisia’s Ben Ali. Libya’s Gaddafi did not learn from what happened to Mubarak. Yemen’s Ali Abdulla Saleh and Syria’s Bashar Al Assad do not seem to have learned from what happened to Gaddafi. What has become amply clear these days is that not learning from what is taking place in front of the whole world is a typical characteristic of dictators.
It is not without reason that we had to go to the extent of pointing out the views expressed above. We had hoped that the ruling party would correct its mistakes, learn from experience, acquire wisdom and provide this country with mature leadership. To this end, we have repeatedly urged the regime to respect the rule of law not only for the sake of the country and of the people but also for its own sake. Unfortunately, our calls have fallen on deaf ears. The dictatorial government is violating the Constitution at will and in broad daylight using frightening and debilitating laws.
Respecting the people and being respected by the people is becoming something foreign to the government. It has no accountability for the harm that the people have to suffer. Article 24 (1) of the Constitution has remained just a decoration on paper. Hence, starting on September 9, 2011, without any care and sense of responsibility, the government has embarked on rounding up persons engaged in legal and peaceful politics and free journalists, accusing them of terrorism and sending them to prison. Furthermore, it has irresponsibly used the radio, television and other media operated with the taxpayer’s money to wage a propaganda campaign against these people by labeling them in public as confirmed terrorists, thus violating their constitutional right of being considered innocent until they are proven guilty.
What is saddening above all is that Prime Minister Meles Zenawi who, under oath, has taken the responsibility of protecting and respecting the Constitution, said in a speech in Parliament on October 20, 2011, that there was no one among the accused against whom hard evidence had not been obtained. He went further to emphasize, with his usual arrogance and disdain and in a manner that could make him criminally liable, that it was because all of the accused were found to be criminals according to adequate and guaranteed evidence that they were arrested.
Of the people who were accused of supposedly ascertained criminality in the manner described above and who had to go through painful hardship, four were recently released. It is obvious that there is a vast difference between what has been said and what the reality is. We are convinced that this is also the case with the rest of the accused. We know the accused and we testify for them as being exemplaries of peaceful struggle. Hence, we raise our voices high and call for their release.
What happened at the Kality Federal Correction Center on November 19, 2011 is a further example of the wanton violation of the Constitution by the dictatorial regime. On that day, at mid-day, the Chairman of UDJ, two deputy chairmen and members of the National Council and Executive Committee of the party were at the Kality Correction Center to visit members of UDJ and of other member parties of MEDREK, as well as journalists, who were accused of terrorism. They queued up with the rest of the visitors and entered the compound of the Correction Center. However, the party leaders were picked out by the prison officials, who with their usually arrogant and brazen manner, prevented them from visiting the prisoners. This was in blatant violation of the prisoners’ constitutional right of being visited by their families, friends, legal and religious councilors… Efforts made to convince the prison officials
that this was in violation of the Constitution were in vain. Such violations of the Constitution are not new. Even worse and more harmful violations of the Constitution are being perpetrated and with impunity. The government is using the public power entrusted to it to intimidate the people. It is using the law as a cover to wage a campaign of terror against the people.
The purpose of this press statement is to remind the ruling party that it is not too late to stop for a moment, calm down and think seriously on whether there is going to be rule of law in this country. We Ethiopians, just like any other people, bitterly hate being bullied and intimidated and we are determined to oppose it with all our energy until it is eliminated from our county once and for all.
When EPRDF took power twenty years ago, it had described itself as the product of a long period of oppression and victimization. Once it was in power, however, it has turned out to be a new oppressor and victimizer itself and is producing oppressed and intimidated people. EPRDF may not be ready to learn from history but we know that oppressed and victimized people would one day do away with dictators.
Our struggle is for equality, freedom, growth and prosperity. And above all, it is for constitutionality and for the rule of law. Freedom and the respect for human and democratic rights are key to growth and development. It is meaningless to preach about development when in reality, the doors of freedom are firmly closed and the Constitution is blatantly trampled upon.
According to Human Development Index of 2011, Ethiopia stands 174th from 185 countries. In terms of the Poverty Index, from among the 110 countries assessed, Ethiopia stands 104th. Only 6 countries are poorer than it. The study further indicates that the country is typically under a rule of dictatorship. This is the truth, whether we like it or not. We must mend our ways. Unless we are careful, this journey on the wrong track of history may cause the country, the people and EPRDF itself to pay a heavy price.
Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ)
November 24, 2011