Thursday, May 11, 2006

Gimme a 'G'! Genocide for Dummies- EPRDF Style

A sadist is a masochist with mommy issues. (I kindly ask you not ask me how I know that.)

There are definite streaks of sadism in the EPRDF, but I am beginning to think that someone didn’t get the exact cuddling to “ante denbarra!” ratio when that certain someone was a toddler.

The trial of the opposition leadership, journalists and civic organization employees is the kind of humiliation that only a masochist can revel in. Seriously, EPRDFffers, can’t any one of you stand up to this monumental psychosis?

The Sub Saharan Informer and Sem-Inna-Werq provide us with vivid details of the tragicomedy, and if you haven’t read the accounts, do. It is almost surreal in its intellectual delinquency.

The prisoners have been incarcerated since November, mind you. The charges against them… ohhhh, genocide. And a soupcon of treason to spice things up. The Ethiopian government apparently needs a crash course on the definition of genocide. (I had feebly suggested we all pitch in to buy Prime Minister Meles a copy of Hotel Rwanda, but no one listens to me.) That task went to Representative Chris Smith and the members of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations who gave effortlessly absurd Ethiopian Chargé Ato Fesseha Ashgedhom Tessema a withering lecture (start at 2: 23: 30) on the A-B-C’s of genocide.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s deliberative cornering of the Ambassador is not to be missed. She starts out gingerly.

But genocide is a very strong term. We are talking about genocide, and we know the history of genocide in terms of killing an entire group of people- systematic killings. You think that is what is taking place now in Ethiopia as it relates to those people charged?

Ambassador Fesseha, who must be awarded the ‘Person who most compromised himself in service to the EPRDF’ was bewilderingly nonplussed.

No there was no systematic, organized killing that is called genocide. We have charged the previous government of genocide…

Congresswoman Lee gets a wee bit exasperated.

Then why are you calling it genocide?

And then Ambassador Fesseha becomes oddly animated. (Missskin!)

I am saying some of the charges I have read saying ‘attempted genocide.’ What it entails, how it is interpreted, as I said I am not a lawyer.

You need to be a lawyer to understand the definition of genocide and what it entails? Good Lord, someone pin a Congressional Medal of Honor on his person.

Congresswoman Lee? A nail to the coffin, if you please.

Mr. Ambassador, with all due respect, genocide requires international attention immediately. And I believe that from what I know, from what we are hearing that these human rights violations we are witnessing taking place in Ethiopia and the demonstrators and the people who have been charged with treason and genocide for the most part, really give me reason to pause, Mr. Chairman, say ‘We need to get this bill fixed very quickly and move it forward because the world has to begin to know, and our country has to be on the right side of history on this.’

Egads.

The Ethiopian government’s initial charge against some of the journalists, the opposition and civic movement leaders was not attempted genocide. It WAS genocide. Yep, the big G.

Okay, we need to get this straight, and forgive me if I am unsubtle about this. The Ethiopian government initially charged, for example, American citizens, journalists who work for the Voice of America… in Washington DC with… genocide. Has the magnitude of ridiculousness started to sink in yet, Mr. and Mrs. Reader?

Are your still hedging? Okay, check it:

Biniam Tadesse, a 14-year-old boy, was charged with treason and committing acts of genocide. Kids. They grow up so fast these days. I remember when all that preoccupied 14-years-old boys was peeking under girls’ skirts. It must be the water at My Space.com, because these days they are committing genocide, at least according to the Ethiopian government's definition of genocide. Biniam's story is fascinating and a must-read.

SSI: When were the charges against you changed from participating in violence to treason and committing genocide?
Biniam: When I first appeared in the court, they accused me of burning the house of a lady and joining violence actions. Then the judge appointed 14 days time for investigation. Then again, added another 7 days. Finally they closed the file and transferred it to the federal high court, where jailed CUD (Coalition for Unity and Democracy) leaders were [facing trial]. It was then that the charge was changed. One charge grew into seven. It is still not that clear to me.

SSI: Did they tell you why they were changing the charge?
Biniam: No, they never asked me any questions, and there was no crosscheck investigation. They simply kept me in the prison and would take me to the court on the scheduled day. I didn’t know what to ask.

Okay? Are we on the same page now about the judiciary in Ethiopia? Hush. Time to laugh later.

The EPRDF, like Stephen Colbert, is not a big fan of facts. Facts confuse the EPRDF. Pursuit of facts annoys the EPRDF. That’s why the EPRDF, the great “upholder of rule of law” in Ethiopian society, was able to charge people with genocide.

Then people started to talk. The Economist- Injustice will be done:

However, the trial is a reminder—if one were needed—of the true nature of the regime and of its authoritarian roots. Human-rights groups estimate that tens of thousands of political prisoners, mostly young, are being held in camps around the country.

Awwwwwkward.

BBC woke up and yawned. 'Absurd' Ethiopia charges slammed

Amnesty described them as "prisoners of conscience who have not used or advocated violence".

"This very worrying trial has major implications for human rights, media freedom and democratisation in Ethiopia," said Director of Amnesty International's Africa Programme, Kolawole Olaniyan.

So what to do?

The prosecutor walked into the courtroom last week and coughed- Woody Allen style and…

Eh, your honor… may I call you that? I don’t know what to call you. Bali-Ali-Wally? Mo-Mo? Heh.. heh.. It’s misshugass. Oh, my sciatica is acting up. Oy. Don’t get me started. Eh, Hizzonor, the prosecution (that’s me, hello, nice to see you) at this time would like to… um… we’ve talked it over and (cough!) we realized this genocide charge was, uhhh, a bit… of an overstatement, shall we say. We’ve reduced the charges to… let’s say “attempted genocide”. No, please, no need to get up from your seat, your Holy judgeness. You might get (cough!) tangled in your robe… heh… that’d make for a... twisted verdict, if you know what I am saying. Boy, it’s a tough room.

Okay, okay. Here’s what really happened. From SSI:

Judge Adil Mohammed allowed the prosecution to charge defendants with ‘attempting acts of genocide,’ altering the charge from the previous ‘committing genocide.’


“We have found the improved version will cause no harm to the defendants, in fact could benefit them. So we have accepted the new charge,” Judge Adil said.


The court had previously denied the change, saying that ‘attempted genocide’ did not fit with the established details of the case and would mislead defendants.

You think?

Here’s the funny part. The prosecution spent six months gathering “tons of evidence” (as Prime Minister Meles put it) to prove genocide. In fact, there was so much evidence that the defendants were denied bail. That’s how much evidence there was, thank you very much.

Alas.


But, on a brighter note, charges good enough for “genocide” are good enough for “attempting acts of genocide.”

Again, from SSI:

Chief prosecutor Shimeles Kemal said that the details of the evidence will be presented one piece at a time.


“We have collected audio and visual evidence, written documents and personal testimonies,” Shimeles said.


The evidence was collected through searches of the residence and offices of the defendants, and from press briefings they gave to journalists, as warranted by the court.

Press briefings?? As in the CUD leaders told the press “We think ethnic group X should be targeted for elimination, can you please print that in time for the morning papers?”

It’s never a purdy sight when warlords play democrats. Something always gets lost in translation.

Prime Minister Meles gave an interview to The Washington Times in February, defending his highhandedness:

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi bluntly defended his government's crackdown on dissenters, saying the trial of 131 opponents beginning today would vindicate his administration's tough actions.

Human rights groups, Western governments and Ethiopians abroad have been harshly critical of Mr. Meles, accusing him of jailing thousands and killing many more since protests erupted over elections last year.

In the interview on Tuesday, Mr. Meles rejected those complaints with a common barnyard expletive and accused the West of having a "double standard" on human rights. He also denounced a "campaign of vilification" by vocal groups of Ethiopians living abroad.

[Emphasis mine]

You can take the boy out of the jungle, but you can’t cover up the stench of the jungle from the boy. Easy, Mr. Prime Minister. People like their bullshit with a dollop of honey.

The EPRDF has cemented its legacy. It is a shame that so far no EPRDF official has come out to denounce this appalling judicial dramady, and it is a bigger shame that otherwise decent people within the EPRDF have neither the will nor the ability to say, ‘enough!’

I was going on and on in apoplectic seizures about the quality of leadership in Ethiopia when someone brighter than me pointed out it is also the responsibility of the citizenry to demand better leaders. Ethiopians back home have a gun trained on their heads, but what excuse do those of us abroad have?

It’s up to us to define what our part is. For some it is raising money; for others it is raising awareness. Our legacy, however, cannot be silence. Like Congresswoman Lee said, the world has to know. But the world will only know if we tell the story.

In his testimony to the subcommittee, Ambassador Fesseha said this about the charges brought against the defendants:

[They had the] intent of committing a genocide, trying to ferment ethnic hatred among Ethiopians, one group against the other. These are serious, serious crimes. If they stick or not, it is not up to me to say. As far as the crimes are concerned, we cannot continue to democratize Ethiopia while we are going to allow what happened in Rwanda.

[Emphasis mine]

The government of Ethiopia has been comparing the opposition, led by technocrats, academics and human rights activists, to the Interwhame since before the elections. The world said nothing then. Now it has charged the opposition with attempts to commit genocide. This time, we said nothing.

All except three of the defendants are putting up a defense so the probability they will be convicted is high. When that happens, the world will remain silent because we did not tell the story.

The most powerful weapon we in the Diaspora have is making sure the story is told, and committing to a firm, “Not on my watch.” We have to be serious about no American taxpayer money going directly to aid governments who are this nonchalant about justice. Ambassador Fesseha, again in the hallowed halls of the Congress of these United States, perked up his head and tightened his fist to tell us and the world,

We will see what happens in the court system. The court system, the judicial system [of Ethiopia], has proven its independence time and time again for the last ten years.

If we let that statement stand, then we deserve the EPRDF. The American people, generous to a fault, need to know where their money is going.

It will be interesting to see how this will play out. I doubt the EPRDF will take advice from a chauvinist, Imperial Revanchist (© Jeffrey Sachs), Diaspora rejectionst like me, but… the best outcome is for the EPRDF to um, ‘advise’ its ‘totally independent judiciary’ to drop the charges. That way, it can save face and people will rah-rah-siss-boom-ba about the independence of the courts. If this farce goes to verdict, guilty or not guilty, the opposition, especially the CUD, gets the kind of legitimacy and moral high ground it could not have paid to get.

A government that uses genocide with frightening ease is a government that is unfit to lead.

Call your local newspaper. Write your representative. Tell the story.

Here is an interesting flyer.

A very spectacular article from Ethiomedia: Zenawi’s Court: Judiciary Without Justice.

Carpe Diem Ethiopia’s The Consent of the Governed is brilliant.

· Mesfin Wolde Mariam

Tell the story before it is told for you.

p.s. I have been doing research on how to help the family of Judge Birtukan (she has a 2-year-old child and an aging mother). Not Anonymous in the last comment section hit the nail on the head: the best way is to contact family members in Ethiopia and send money and letters of support through them. If anyone else has a better idea, please let us know.

Next week will be my last week blogging for a month or so. Gooch, may we count on you to drop a few of your manna?

16 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

wonq,

how can you be contacted to give you info about Judge Bertukan's
contact?

12:05 PM, May 11, 2006  
Anonymous dube said...

besmeab, emebete wonqitu, you are very long winded. witty. but long winded.

They are charged with inciting genocide. That is not a ridiculous charge.
One doesn't need to wait for genocide to happen to charge individuals
in a pre-emptive manner.

The point here is that; did kinijit or the charged parties in any way
encourage the systematic killing of, let's call a spade a spade here, Tigreans?

yihew, firTriT.

The answer, which I am sure that all, ok maybe not all, but most non-kinjit supporters, most Tigreans, even most of the EPRDF will agree with, is that it did not.

And there is no video, paper, rag, letter, mp3 or podcast that has any of those charged saying; yea, go and kill anybody.

beQa. Simple.

neger inde derg jeep gilTlT sil new effective yemihonew.

12:37 PM, May 11, 2006  
Anonymous ye mankusaw welafen said...

EPRDF is not a fan of facts, eko bilalech. wugat wugat aleNissa semonun, lij not anonymous.

the charge of "conspiracy to incite genocide" is not a ridiculous charge... for someone who WAS conspiring to incite genocide. mn nekan? but charging these defendants with it is beTamun, asqeyami ridiculousness.

but since the EU and the US are waiting for a "speedy and fair" trial to unfurl with a vengence, laying it out quote by quote is the godly, wonqetian way.

1:30 PM, May 11, 2006  
Anonymous kezira said...

hm. dagmawi is back.

didn't know which one was funnier: the woody allen reference or ambassador fish testifying to the independence of the courts.

1:44 PM, May 11, 2006  
Blogger Tedla Hailu said...

Dear blogger,

You said
"I had feebly suggested we all pitch in to buy Prime Minister Meles a copy of Hotel Rwanda, but no one listens to me."

They already have. For your information Woane cadres were showing Hotel Rwanda in the rural areas of Amhara and Oromiya regions prior to the election in March and April last year. They were trying to brain wash rural people that Kinijit and Hibret are going to do the same in Ethiopia. Since electicity is scarce in rural Ethiopia Woyane cadres used disel generators. This is a fact.

Regards

Tedla

1:58 PM, May 11, 2006  
Anonymous birra-biro said...

kezira,

meles using a 'common barnyard expletive' was the funniest of all. can't you just imagine his beady eyes squinting. and in rapid succession: "gaddaymn bullsheet! zat is bullsheet. all of zem diasporawiyan: bullsheet. write it down, missy. eett izzzz boool sheeeeeet. tsafshiew?"

2:03 PM, May 11, 2006  
Anonymous toothpick said...

i have zis nagging feeling (pronounced as "fling" if you're a dc abesha) zat i know you.

hm.

*squints eyes*

2:45 PM, May 11, 2006  
Anonymous ccd & co. said...

A group of us have been contacting newspapers and civil rights organizations. As college students we are working through black student organizations as well.

Silence is not an option. Neezer is bullsheeet.

2:54 PM, May 11, 2006  
Anonymous Aba Doyo said...

"..It’s never a purdy sight when warlords play democrats. Something always gets lost in translation..."
Wonqitu!
How true!
U rock!

7:50 PM, May 11, 2006  
Anonymous Inde Hewan said...

This is me again, in my usual *Action Alert* mode. Lady E (as in ETW): Why, thanks tonnes for publicising our World Bank flyer! Mattera fact, I was anyway about to ask you, but obviously didn't have to. Y'all, please also note the longer version I wrote, which is currently posted on the main page of ethiomedia. My fellow activists are currently very busy distributing the long and the short version in DC, especially in front of World Bank quarters. Passersby and Bank staff chat with them, some express their disgust with donor duplicity, others give further great ideas for donor-watch activism.

Wonkvillians: Please read the long and the short versions and then pick up that phone / hit the keyboards to let the Bank know that we Ethiopians are not asleep behind the wheels, we see what they are doing (lipservicing the discontinuation of budget support in January only to try to sneak it back in through the back door in March when all gazes are on HR4423, intradiaspora strife, and other matters).

The currently planned Bank project detailed in the flyers is but another manifestation of how donors in Ethiopia have lately been using pretty tortuous and tortured language to describe their aid-giving intentions. For an earlier version of such language, where an aid cut is really not an aid cut, see http://www.meskelsquare.com/archives/2006/01/when_is_an_aid.html from the days when Heavens was still relevant.

Since assorted euro-donors also plan to line up their $ducks$ behind the Bank's PBS budget support project, those of you in Euroland and Canada, call your country's donor agency and ask them whether they are continuing to aid and abet the crisis-stricken Ethiopian government or whether they are channelling their money through nongovernment ways. If the former, or if they fail to deliver evidence of the latter, campaign them as well! Donors are highly sensitive to bad publicity, especially rallies and publicity of the sort that exposes that they are more interested in pushing money to bad buddy governments than really helping poor people.

Last but not least, Lady E, thanks again so much for your Darfur posting, I have the feeling that your post was responsible for lots of abeshoch (including your truly) showing up who otherwise may not have for lack of info about the Darfur rally!

8:15 PM, May 11, 2006  
Anonymous etw said...

anonymous,

contact info must have gotten lost during redesign. etwonkette AT yahoo.com.

Inde Hewan, that was you who wrote that yummy, scrunchy article? May I say, YOU rock! No, I must insist. Will call World Bank. You see how the grass roots works? It takes just the few, the dedicated, ... the well coiffed.

Dube, long time. "Long winded"? ay-hey. I've out-gusted Katrina.
Mighty props for the 'derg jeep' and gl'iTlT metaphor. Beseme Ab your way, too.

etw

8:36 AM, May 12, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's not forget the other CUD MPs who are also in prison with similar charges but often not mentioned among the 131 (now 75?)

visit: www.freekifle.org

11:02 AM, May 12, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lets not forget the other 80-90 % of our country men who are truly deprived of everything, maybe they are the ones who need the gesture from our wallet most. Those who languish in the dungeons designed by Meles and co need another kind of support, the perpetuation of the struggle against tyranny. I am not sure if the person who posted about the despair of Birtukan's family referred to their livelihood. I presume that he meant their emotional state.

6:16 PM, May 13, 2006  
Blogger enaseb said...

bogged down in life again. nice to have this flyer. will work on distribution in the greater yay areaaaaaaaaaaaa hey we claim barbara lee too. wonKeye....happy mother's day eshi?

5:30 AM, May 14, 2006  
Anonymous Gooch said...

Sure, ETW, no problem. Hopefully I can get something in before the World Cup begins.

9:50 PM, May 14, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you seen what the Eth gov said about the EU invitation for the May 15?. I would like to hear what you have to say. Please!!!!

9:42 AM, May 16, 2006  

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