Open Letter to EU Ambassadors in Ethiopia
By Frehiwot Ghion*
May 5, 2006 — I am forced to write this letter by a recent news article regarding the planned reception at the national palace for European ambassadors; on the occasion of Europe Day celebrations in Ethiopia. The host of the reception, Meles Zenawi is also interested to debate with the ambassadors regarding democracy and good governance issues in Ethiopia. It is to be recalled that Europe Day, in the past few years has been celebrated without much ado. The day is marked by screening of European films and cultural shows. In the past, Meles Zenawi has not shown any interest whatsoever.
But this year, Meles seems to be more than interested, he is excited. That is were my concern begins. It is obvious he wanted to use the occasion to perform some public relations exercise; to mend his badly damaged political image. The sudden change of heart comes in the midst of allegations of widespread human rights abuses by more and more European countries. Meles hopes to convince the ambassadors by debating his way out.
I believe the European ambassadors are much more sophisticated than that and will not to be deceived by the PM’s choreographed speeches and debates. The truth is tens of thousands of Ethiopians are still languishing in EPDRF’s prisons. Gross human right violations, especially in rural areas, is a fact of daily life in Mr. Zenawi’s Ethiopia. The government of Ethiopia doesn’t even play a balancing act anymore; it simply violates every known right in the books. Due process is non-existent. These and Zenawi’s continued refusal to amend the laws governing the private media as well as his relentless pursuit of members of the private press and charging them with outrageous crimes are clear indications of his intention to rule the country with an iron fist. There is a saying in Ethiopia which can be best translated some what as: the most outrageous robber is one who not only steals what is rightfully yours, but who also tries to convince you (by way of debating) that nothing belonged to you in the first place. (Ye leba iyne dereq melso lib yaderq). The PM’s invitation to debate his record is tantamount to the above saying.
The dinner gala also comes at a time when millions of Ethiopians are on the verge of starvation and disease. We are bombarded daily by the international media that Ethiopia is again going to face another famine. We also hear of rumors of government troops poised to attack Anuak refugee camps in neighbouring countries. It is to be remembered that Mr. Zenawi’s troops committed an act of genocide against the Anuak people of Ethiopia in the past. Ironically, our previous rulers, on the eve of their doom, enjoyed themselves with lavish receptions while millions of their subjects were dying of hunger. The Emperor was more interested in the burial ceremony of his beloved dog than to hear about the famine. The leaders who replaced the emperor were no better and, were more concerned about celebrating Marxism-Leninism. Meles is making the same mistake that his predecessors made. His end might be just as ugly.
Therefore I urge the ambassadors to decline the invitation. That will send a clear message to the prime minister that human rights violations and injustice cannot be tolerated in this day and age.
* Frehiwot Ghion is based in Canada, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org