Sending Boys to do a Woman’s Job
Birtukan Mideksa , Vice Chair- CUD, Ethiopia
Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, President, Liberia
January 11, 2oo6
Secretary Condoleezza Rice
When he asked you to become Secretary of State, President Bush said you accepted on the condition that he include
In your bold speech at the Leon H. Sullivan Summit dinner last June you stressed how much peace and security means to
The first time I was eligible to vote in the
Whatever the circumstances that brought about the 2005 Ethiopian elections, whatever one might think of the ruling party of Ethiopia, it was hard to stay unsentimental when seeing pictures of lines snaking through the hills and valleys of Ethiopia, lines of patient people holding on to their voting cards with hope and determination.
So here we are eight months later. Who knows how many have died because they stood up to a government that just does not have the acumen to respect the very basic tenets of democracy, civility and honor. Thousands have been rounded up and beaten savagely. Thousands more wait to exhale. I am left asking, are there certain thresholds we as humans have in tolerating tyranny?
Prime Minister Meles’ army shot a mother at point black range in front of her children. His government told the children they would not receive custody of their mother’s body unless they signed an affidavit stating that it was the opposition who killed her. The children refused.
That was my threshold.
There is something obviously visceral in the EPRDF that makes it unable to treat Ethiopians with even the slightest modicum of decency. It is avaricious and divisive, incompetent and cruel beyond imagination.
But you know all that. The question is, what can you do about it?
I realize there are diplomatic loose ends the State Department needs to tie, and therefore it might be necessary to continue to pretend that Ato Meles’ government is interested in democracy. I get it. But the time has come to send people who know you are a fundamentally decent person a sign that you are disturbed by what’s going on. When we see US Humvees roaming the Addis Abeba, and the same red-beret army trained by the
Above politics, there is morality in question here. When
There was something breathtakingly brave about Ana Gomes when she wrote to the EU Parliament urging them to “stop the killing of Ethiopians who dared to believe that democracy is possible in
Something happened to us women of color when we saw you being sworn in as Secretary of State. No matter where we stood on the political spectrum, it was an inarguably powerful image. I can only imagine the kinds of pressure placed on you from all sides. Being “the first” anything is hard, but though to a very, very minor degree, I can attest to the landmines awaiting “the first black woman” to do anything. Madeleine Albright tells a charming story about her days as US Ambassador to the UN. The only other woman ambassador at that time was from
I read a news report of an Ethiopian woman who lost a child in the November massacres. She said, “We don’t want bread. We don’t want money. All we want is for the government to not take away our hope.”
To me, that statement was single handedly the most powerful sentiment which justified the irrational hope I harbor that
I was a little girl during the Red Terror in
My grandmother was taking care of my sisters and I when soldiers burst through her compound, her front door and started searching her house. My grandmother’s stoic stare strangely comforted us. She continued eating dinner and we followed suit, albeit shakily. Occasionally she would glance up at the barely adolescent soldiers who were turning her quaint house upside down. If the soldiers were not disarmed by her serenity they were definitely stunned when she sent her cook to ask them if they wanted to have something to eat. The soldiers declined; my grandmother continued eating.
At some point, perhaps annoyed by her insouciance, the soldiers started getting increasingly bold. One of them closely scrutinized the framed pictures on my grandmother’s mantelpiece. He looked back deliberately at her and rifle-butted the large picture of my dead grandfather’s picture. The glass frame smashed into a million pieces when it crashed on the floor. My older sister began to cry. My grandmother stood up and walked to the soldier. She went right up to him and staring directly in his eyes told him to pick up the frame.
It was the first time I felt absolute terror rushing through all the tiny fibers of my body. The other soldiers stopped rummaging. “Shoot her,” one of the soldiers said. “Shoot her and let’s go.” My grandmother didn’t flinch. She again told the soldier to pick up the frame. The longest few minutes of my life followed. Eventually the soldier picked up the frame and threw it on the sofa. My grandmother walked back to us and we hung on to her for dear life.
I’ve been able to look people in the eye because my grandfather’s picture was my grandmother’s threshold.
Condi, what’s yours?
Pictures of and stories from the camps in Dedessa and all the other concentration camps will eventually come to light. The EPRDF is, for all intents and purposes, finished. Your legacy and the
According to a BBC report, Ms. Birtukan Mideksa, the Vice Chairman of the CUD who also happens to be a judge, has a nine-month-old baby girl at home. Birtukan is one of the 131 people facing the death penalty on trumped up charges of conspiracy to commit genocide. Birtukan’s mother is taking care of the baby, who has oval eyes not yet aware of the calamity around her. How can we let another generation of Ethiopians go through terror when we have the ways and means of finally breaking the vicious circle of poverty, terror and hopelessness?
When discussing democracy and AGOA with five African leaders at the White House last June, President Bush said, “We believe
What powerful words.
You can change history, Condi. You could and should be the one to say “enough.” Whoever takes over leadership in
Some of us who thought 1991 was the dawn of a new era for
I wish you knew the potential
Prime Minister Meles never had trouble seeing the looming humanitarian crisis. He just prefers other people feed Ethiopians.
My hope is that
Of HIV/AIDS ravishing
With much admiration.