By Zerihun Tesfaye
Mar 2, 2006 — Something frightening happened over the past weekend. Something that should make all of us deeply worried. The security forces of the Meles regime went
out in full force all over Addis Ababa stopping and searching vehicles, including buses, taxis, and their occupants without presenting any court papers in a manner reminiscent of the ?Asessa’ during the Derg era.
At the end of the search the Meles regime declared that it has arrested several ?terrorists’ and has successfully foiled a ?series of terrorist attacks aimed at Government Officials and buildings’. It claimed that all the ?plotters of these reprehensible acts were people associated with the major opposition party, CUDP, and were funded by the Diaspora Ethiopians’.While this development is worrisome in general, the negative reference to
the Diaspora is what concerns us most at this time, since this mention is an indicative of what is being planned for us.
By this dramatic move alone, the regime appears to be setting the stage for a yet to come high drama.
According to the regime: Organized Terrorist Groups operating in Ethiopia have been uncovered; they are funded by Diaspora Ethiopians; those in the Diaspora hence should be responsible for any of the ?criminal’ actions
perpetrated by these ?terrorists’. And in view of the fact that there are laws regarding terrorist organizations and their supporters in places like the US, these Ethiopian ?terrorist’ organizations will have now to be banned and be placed in the blacklist for terrorists.
Ergo: Anyone supporting these parties either financially or politically will also be breaking the law of the United States and should thus be persecuted.
When Meles’ EPRDF regime accused 131 people three and a half months ago, for crimes ranging from attempts to overthrow the government to genocide, it had
raised everybody’s eyebrows including some regime supporters. The all inclusive nature of the list of people indicted, that is...from political
leaders to journalists, from human rights activists to scholars, from artists to broadcasters working for the VOA and from Ethiopian nationals to foreign nationals of Ethiopian origin who have been residing abroad for
decades... is said to be, though seemingly bizarre, a calculated move by the regime.
If the effort to criminalize dissent in the country by accusing the opposition political leadership on trumped-up charges of treason and genocide could be understood in the context of managing the crisis related to the May 15 elections at home, it is said that the indictment against the Diaspora Ethiopians is meant to serve a dual purpose.
The regime knows full well from experience the impact of garnering the financial support of immigrants. The TPLF leadership had in the past used its Diaspora support group it organized in the late 70’s as a cash cow used for fund-raising as well as money laundering schemes to support its political objectives. Thus it has a great fear of Diaspora Ethiopians coalescing into a formidable group that is increasingly supporting its political opponents. In addition to this possibility of being a source of
funding for the opposition, those close to some in the EPRDF leadership mention the great fear that the leadership has of this group’s potential in
having influence among legislators and the political leadership all over the world, particularly here in the U.S. and in Europe.
Having lost whatever political clout it had in the country, and increasingly
being dependent on brute force, the leadership apparently believes it can
not afford to lose its support, both financial and political, from the West
and is willing to do whatever it takes to harass, intimidate, and weaken the
Diaspora Ethiopians so as to minimize their impact both at home and abroad.
Indeed the regime’s all out campaign against Diaspora Ethiopians in the
state media and through its representatives abroad, coupled with editorials
in government sympathetic newspapers like the Reporter mean nothing else. In
a recent interview with Ben of EthiopiaFirst.com, Amare Aregawi, the Chief
Editor, has reiterated his despise for Diaspora involvement in opposition
politics. Note also, that the sometimes manufactured ?news’ about certain
individuals traveling to Asmara to meet Eritrean Officials falls in to this
The recent call by this same editor on the government to organize the
Diaspora Ethiopians under a Ministry of the Diaspora - when indeed there is
a Diaspora section within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs headed by a person
with an Ambassadorial rank - could only be understood if one grasps this
strategic intent of the government.
The TPLF/EPRDF regime, with the help of outlets like the Reporter,
AigaForum.com and the like, seems to have thus, firmly decided to go in the
direction of criminalizing Diaspora activities in the countries Ethiopians
reside. These people in the leadership apparently believe that the
schizophrenic state of mind prevalent among some in the U.S. political
leadership after the traumatic terrorist events of September 11 will help
their cause if only they could attach the label of ?terrorism’ on the
Diaspora Ethiopians and as a consequence make them politically ineffective.
This highly elevated effort to criminalize the Diaspora is also done in
conjunction with the regimes hiring of lobbyists including the former VOA
official, Annette Scheckler, to probably intimidate those indicted in the
Amharic Service of the VOA and to peddle influence within the US
Administration. Judging by recent statements of former US ambassador
Auriella Brazeal who accused the Diaspora of ?urging the people at home to
act (believe it or not) on ?old-think ethnic identification’ and utterances
by the Assistant Secretary of the State for African Affairs, Jendaye Frazier
who has laid blame on the Diaspora for, mind you, ?pressuring in the
opposition to not join the parliament’, it is evident that the highly paid
lobbyists have made some inroad.
While it is true that they will not be successful in criminalizing the
activities of the Diaspora, it is however certain that they will go some
distance, and will be effective in discouraging some people from being
actively involved, unless of course we act.
This being the case it is incumbent upon Diaspora Ethiopians to recognize
what the Meles regime is up to and redouble our efforts to continue exposing
its criminal deeds at home, and also work to abort its intended effort to
criminalize the exercise of our democratic rights. It is abhorrent enough
that this coward regime tramples on our people’s democratic and human rights
at home, and certainly should not be allowed to interfere in the exercise of
our rights outside of Ethiopia.
The right to support whichever political organization we so wish and raise funds to whichever political organization we so desire is enshrined in the supreme laws of the places we reside. The only way to let the Meles regime know that we will not be intimidated is to vigorously continue to show our solidarity with our people and to show our support to the parties that fight for these rights of the people to be respected.
* Zerihun Tesfaye, a retired educator residing in Southern California, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tesfaye welcomes constructive opinions.