San José, Calif., Feb. 17, 2018 – The ineffectual head of the present Ethiopian government, Prime Minster Hailemariam Desalegn, has resigned. Due to his absence and ongoing unrest, the regime has invoked martial law. The Ethiopian parliament will probably choose his successor in the near future.
The ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) is dominated by ethnic Tigrayans. They make up only seven per cent of the population yet they control the economy, the military, and other security entities. According to a New York Times report, over one million people were displaced during 2017; widespread unrest exists and the economy is in free-fall.
Protests became serious in 2014 in the Oromo regions. Regime security forces responded with excessive force on the protests. The Amharas joined the resistance. Martial law ensued in 2016 and thousands were arrested in the crackdown.
Determined for Change After 27 years of turmoil, the Ethiopian people are ready for change. All ethnic groups are protesting land grabs, stolen elections, the rising cost of living, unemployment amongst young people, and the list goes on. To help determine that change, more prisoners of conscience must be released from the regime's jails. People still being held are grass-roots people – those the regime fears most. Those who truly understand the needs and desires of everyday Ethiopians.
The people of Ethiopia and members of the international community have finally succeeded in freeing from the current regime's imprisonment, Eskinder Nega and Woubshet Taye, two prominent journalists who have spent seven years in prison. Bekele Gerba, one of the country’s most important opposition figures, who was jailed in 2015, has also been released.
Where Are They? The Ethiopian people were delighted when Eskinder, Woubshet, and Bekele were released from the jails of the EPRDF, as was the international humanitarian community. But there are more prisoners who need to be released.
Back in August of 1949, Ethiopia, as a nation, was one of the 60 original signatory states to sign the Final Act of the Diplomatic Conference of Geneva, which prohibits, among other bans, the torture of political prisoners. Unfortunately, the present regime has not respected the conventions set forth in that act.
Missing The regime has not revealed where these people are, or if they are even alive. Gebeyaw Desse: From North Gondar, Armacheho District, picked up by security, 2015 Yeyazezew Alemu: From North Gondar, Armacheho District, picked up by security, 2013 Berhane Gebere-Selassas: From North Gondar, Armacheho District, picked up by security, 2016 Zereay Azemeraw Golentaw: From North Gondar, Ajere Janora District, Kilinto Zone 2 Prison Agebaw Setegn: From North Gondar, Gendeweha District, Kilinto Zone 2 Prison
Tortured EPRDF ignores the Geneva Conventions against torture of political prisoners. Debebe Moges: From North Gondar, Ajere Janora District, Kilinto Zone 2 Prison. (He is almost paralyzed in both legs due to torture.) Yonas Gashaw: From Bahirdar, Kilinto Zone 3 Prison. (His right leg is paralyzed due to torture and he is now in a wheel chair.) Asechalew Desse: From South Gondar, Ebinat District, Kilinto Zone 4 Prison. (He has been locked up in a dark room by himself, restricted from daylight, and he has endured genital torture.) Fasil Abate: From Bahirdar, Maekelawi Prison. (He is paralyzed due to torture and cannot walk or move freely. He is in need of a spinal operation.)
Brave Women No word on whether these missing women have endured torture. Nigist Yerga: From North Gondar Nebebu Desalgn: From North Gondar Other Important Jailed Countrymen The EPRDF imprisons community leaders and military members. Meberatu Getahun: From North Gondar, Wolkeit District, Kilinto Zone 4 Prison. (He has been locked up, restricted from daylight.) Atalay Zafe: From North Gondar, Wolkeit District, Kilinto Zone 2 Prison Getachew Ademe: Chairperson of Wolkiet Committee, Kilinto Zone 2 Prison Colonel Demeke Zewudu: From North Gondar, Wolkeite District, Angerabe Gondar Prison Airforce Member Masresha Sete Bire: From Meto Aleqa
Waldeba Monastery Monks Even the church is not safe. Aba Aba G/Eyesus Kidanemariyam Kasse: From North Gondar, Waldeba Monastery, Kilinto Zone 5 Prison Aba Gebere-Silassie Woldehaimant Gebere-Medhin: From North Gondar, Waldeba Monastery, Kilinto Zone 5 Prison
In One Door, Out the Other After martial law was lifted in August, 2017, protests resumed. Mostly young people were demanding regime change, release of all political prisoners, and economic equity. More than 6,000 prisoners, including prominent opposition leaders, and journalists, including those mentioned above, were released following the protests.
While there was euphoria over the release of these opposition members, the regime was picking up more political prisoners, mostly young people from the Amhara regions. Slayings of some Amhara protestors have been reported. While the EPRDF releases prisoners with one hand and jails and kills more with the other, it only increases its vulnerability to a very unhappy Ethiopian population.
U.S. House Considers Resolution
The U.S. House of Representatives is contemplating House Resolution 128. The resolution calls on the government of Ethiopia to take clear and decisive steps toward becoming a more inclusive, more democratic government— one that respects the human rights of all their citizens.
It demands that the Ethiopian government prove it is serious about respecting the human rights of citizens by giving full access to prisons and other facilities to observers from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, no later than February 28, 2018.
The embarrassed EPRDF regime has threatened to cut off regional security operations with the U.S. and has hired a lobbying firm – at $150,000 a month -- to prevent the passage of H.R. 168.
The People Are Determined The time has come for the EPRDF to realize that it must share power or become a non-entity. The regime must release all political prisoners. So much is hopeful about Ethiopia's economic and social future – a corrupt regime cannot stand in the way of a powerful people's movement that seeks freedom from authoritarionism and that deserves economic equity.