Home | Press Releases    Sunday 2 October 2005

ETHIOPIA - No Option Left: Civil Disobedience is Right!


Network of Ethiopian Scholars (NES)
Scandinavian Chapter
Press Release No. 16
October 2, 2005

“The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of
government; this shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which
shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote
or by equivalent free voting procedures.” Article 21, Universal
Declaration of Human Rights

“Since September 19, 2005 authorities had arrested 859 opposition members
across the country and security forces had killed one opposition member in
the Amhara region” AP, September 29, 2005

“EPRDF endorses resolution not to negotiate with opposition parties”
October 1, 2005, Walta Information Centre

1. Is the Opposition Right to call for civil disobedience?

Most of the people in Ethiopia who turned out to vote on May 15, 2005 are
saying that the outcome with an EPDRF majority is not what they voted for.
They say they do not see what they voted for even after the investigations
of the complaints. In fact the so-called NEBE led investigation made it
difficult for them to see that their vote and voice have been respected,
not to mention that it has even been taken into account at all. They say
they have nothing to lose by refusing the regime’s insistent demand for
them to give up, to surrender and accept that which they have not voted
for. The people across the breadth and depth of the land voted as
individuals and ended up scoring a sensational outcome by manifesting a
togetherness and oneness that has been inscribed into history as the
collective will to democracy. By their actions they have given birth to a
democratic process that is certain to provide a sure medicine from here on
to the innumerable and intractable afflictions that the nation has
confronted in its long existence.

We in the NES concur with the people and say: No one can force you to
accept theft and intimidation. We say the people have a right to disobey
peacefully an unjust demand from the regime. They are right to emerge as a
community of resistance and make the call: “Do not force us to accept
theft.” The opposition is right to listen to the heart beat and
justifiable anger of the people and guide the struggle for the people to
undertake civil disobedience. We find this strong bond between people and
opposition appropriate, wise and timely. The regime rejected the just
demand to undertake peaceful demonstration. The regime brought up a wholly
unrelated conditionality that the oppositions accept regime demand to enter
parliament. When the people and the opposition said there is no relation
between the right to demonstrate and the regime demand to enter parliament,
the regime chose to flatly refuse to give permission for the people and the
opposition to exercise their legitimate, legal and moral right to peaceful
demonstration, assembly and association.

Now together people and opposition have made a clear and resounding call.
We hear them saying together like this: “Ato Meles & Co. please do not
keep threatening to rule us any more by force and violence. Your deception
will not work anymore on us. Your bullying will backfire. Your numberless
cunning tricks and tactics of intimidation to surrender to the injustice
you happily have imposed on us are intolerable. We the people have endured
enough. We do not wish to be burdened with your morally exhausted,
intellectually twisted and politically hackneyed antics to rule us. We
refuse to be ruled anti-democratically by you. We know at last that we as
the people and citizens are sovereign. We have cast our votes and spoken
together in no uncertain terms since May 15, 2005 that your attempt to rule
us by force will be politely but firmly declined. We will disobey your
orders peacefully and with the spirit of Ethiopian gentleness and kindness.
We will support each other and will continue until we see a true democratic
dispensation in the land.

For the Ethiopian people, democracy is not new. It has been with the people
in their long history and various traditional cultures. Amongst other
things when the people accept self-determination, it means also reviving
and building from that tradition of deliberation and representation by
making it even deeper and more accountable and participatory to adapt it to
the challenges of the time. Self-determination is not as you Meles uses it
an euphemism to make a self-serving and selfish elite relying on donor
money abroad and repression at home to rule the people by perennial threats
of the use of arms, bribes, blackmail and fraud. It means the aspiration to
institutionalise liberty in the veins and arteries of Ethiopian society, a
call for an authentic and rooted social contract that people freely and
voluntarily enter in order to secure freedom and expand its inner riches to
empower and capacitate them all.

The people voted before under the emperor. They have voted before under the
Dergue. They have voted before under Meles’s fourteen years rule. We had
a parliament under the emperor. We had a parliament under the Dergue. We
had a parliament under Meles’s fourteen years rule. Voting is not new for
the people. Parliament is not new for the people. But what we know is that
the people voted before, but there was no democracy. They had parliament
before, but there was no democracy. On May 15, 2005 we believe that the
people voted for the first time ever declaring now is the time to make
their vote count, to make their voice heard, and to create a parliament
that they hope to make and shape as a pillar of a true, enduring and
sustainable democratic expression. Like the previous votes and previous
parliaments, Meles wanted to drag history back by fixing the votes to fix
and rig parliament. Instead of a vibrant parliament where real public
debate takes place, he wanted a parliament where any elected dissenter will
be sent to prison for possible breach of one or another of the inane
procedures Meles’s speaker of parliament may use to trap those whose
views the regime may or do not share. Any one who is not a power mad
fellow will easily grasp why we have to decline to recommend to those whom
the people elected to go to prison. People elected them because they want
them to go to parliament and build a strong institutional pillar for

This is an indication that the people give priority to democracy, respect
of human rights and good government; and they will continue to protest
until Meles opens his ears and eyes to enter into dialogue with their
representatives. The people know that Meles is prone to react most likely
with trading insults. Let us tell that the people and the nation have
enough of that. The people want Meles to enter into dialogue with the
opposition and the people in order to find a rational way out of the
impasse. Regime defiance has brought the nation to the brink because the
rulers refused to talk. The people and the oppositions must not lose face
by accepting theft as normal. The people refuse. The people say no. It
seems to us they will not budge until justice is done.

2. The Price of Ignoring the Pleas of the Opposition

The opposition patiently asked and even begged the regime top brass to have
sense and enter into meaningful talks for a long time. We have observed the
many appeals of the opposition for the regime to enter into dialogue with
them. They were roundly and scornfully ignored. They were only served with
a small courtesy of seeing Meles. But Meles lost the opportunity to engage
in dialogue. He chose to change the occasion to show his dictatorial
muscular verbal skill. He spewed out vicious threats and scolding them with
the following type of ridiculous ultimatum:

Meles demands that the opposition should accept unconditionally his agenda
to enter into parliament without any reservation. He believes that the
international community supports his position too. He commands the
oppositions and the people to stop raising issues of vote theft and voice
tampering; stop asking to rescind his new draconian rules to kill
parliamentary debate. He seems to prefer that the elected representatives
from the opposition just surrender and enter into parliament not to debate,
but to sleep! Why, because they cannot raise issues for debate, they cannot
influence in passing resolutions and decisions and, they will be found
probably in breach of one or the other of his new parliamentary procedures
and a police will come and grab them by the neck and throw them into a

He just hopes that the people and the opposition will leave him alone from
nagging about human rights, democracy and good Government. He truly does
not like the people and the opposition to disappoint the celebrities and
politicians he has shrewdly managed to put wool over their eyes and won
them to believe that he is a ?brilliant’ fellow.

Despite such pleas, the leaders of CUD and UEDF found the whole behaviour
of Meles bizarre and tried to tell him again and again that the people are
upset about the theft of vote and voice. The people are asking that their
voices and votes have to be respected. They will not stop until they have a
response that meets the standard of justice and probity.

Meles then lost patience with them and spouted out red-hot threats:
In that case, he told them that they must enter parliament after total
surrender to his will, because he said that they have no other options but
to face the following: the fate of exile, prison or listless existence at
home awaits them if they do not surrender; and if they have the guts, they
can go and start armed struggle! That is the extent of the ?wisdom’ and
negotiating skill and intellectual calibre of Meles. If they do not choose
to surrender to his whim, they have to go to prison, oblivion or exile. If
they choose to surrender to his whim, then they have the option of going to
sleep in parliament or if they dare to wake up and think or debate, they
must remember the option that they may end up in the police station or
prison is too real to be true.

3. The People Say Enough to Regime Drama!

The opposition and the people have now agreed to put pressure not just by
pleading alone, but through the only peaceful means in their power: action
through civil disobedience. The objective is to put pressure on Meles & co.
to negotiate in good faith, to enter into dialogue, and come to a national
consensus to make paramount the achievement of democracy through the free
votes and free voices of free citizens above all other considerations.

The people say they want to show to the world that enough is enough and it
is not negotiable that they sacrifice respect of their vote and voice for
extending the power tenure of Meles and his inner circle to arrive at their
19 years of misrule! They want to protest and express their anger and
condemnation of the arrogance of power by Meles in ignoring the appeal to
negotiate and dialogue and repeatedly preferring to threaten and
intimidate. The people are saying we defy your threats and we are not
afraid or intimidated. The people declare that we find your threats immoral
and contemptible. The people continue to demand justice be done and that
the regime is finally obliged to investigate the rigging and irregularities
in 290 constituencies.

There has been steadfast demand that the regime enter in good faith to form
a national reconciliation transitional government, an independent election
board, a constellation of independent domestic and external observers to be
deployed in all areas to re-run a national election and implement the
rights of citizens as stipulated in the Universal Human Rights Declarations
and endorsed even with all the inconsistencies and problems in the current

The regime of Meles has to listen. There is no alternative to this demand.
Had Meles listened earlier, a negotiated outcome might have been found by
now. Now it seems it is far too late unless Meles changes from his heart
and soul. Unfortunately our country has not been blessed with morally and
intellectually far sighted public servants that wish to promote the self-
government of people by thinking through their brains, feeling through
their heart and through the wisdom coming from the depths of their soul.
The politics of the belly has overridden to date the heart, the head, the
hand and the soul to the determent of the nation’s future. The public
servants should be those with values who despise money and power but love
to serve their people with humility, public ethics, public service and
public sense and responsibility. The only remedy that makes sense now is to
re-run a national re-election with meticulous care, integrity, freedom,
justice and scruples in order to create a democracy that can install,
entrench and sustain a vibrant parliament and accountable and transparent

4. The International Community and Democracy

It would be good for the international community to understand properly the
popular mood and try to stand on the side of the Ethiopian people. It will
help justice to prevail if the international community were to be stronger
and firmer in pressuring the regime to respect the vote and voice of the
people. While the regime is showing defiance, the people have no other
choice except to continue to press their call for justice in the hope of
knocking sense into the regime. Meles must be brought to accept humbly the
people’s demand for respecting vote and voice through peaceful civil
disobedience. The international community have congratulated repeatedly the
democratic achievement of the people. It is time that they put their
expressions of congratulation into genuine support to the people. We
believe that the fate of the Ethiopian peoples lies principally in the
hands of the Ethiopian people. Let the people have a right to make their
own future. Let them have the right to learn through their demand against
the arrogance of power or through their right to live in what they value,
hold important and dear by selecting to build enduring institutions that
promote democracy, human rights and good government.

Most of those in the international community have recognised that this
election has not met the standard of free and fair election observed in
normal democratic elections. At the same time, the international community
wishes to accommodate those who were responsible for not making this
election free and fair. This has given a highly ambiguous role to the
international community in this election. The only way the international
community can play a constructive role is: a) if they hold to principles of
human rights, democracy and good government consistently, b) if they can
speak in straight language and say directly to the regime that has been
accused of messing up the election counting and the investigation, that
this mishandling is not acceptable to them. It is no good to put undue
pressure only on the victim, viz., the opposition and the people to enter a
rigged parliament without changing the new rules that reduce the parliament
into a one party decision making den and also with a real risk to send
potentially elected legislators to prison. What is really the point of
advising them to enter such a den whilst at the same time condemning human
rights violations and showing election thefts and improper conduct? It is
important that the international community desist from putting pressure on
the opposition whilst molly culling Meles, Bereket and the rest of the
inner circle that have created so many problems to the Ethiopian people in
this election alone to say nothing of other issues. If the international
community respect the Ethiopian people, human rights and democracy, they
must understand that the only language Meles understands is to tell him he
cannot get away with an election reported by EU-OEM and the Carter Centre
and others as flawed. Even in other parts of Africa, Ghana, Zambia, Kenya
and many others are changing their rulers through democratic election;
therefore they should ask why it becomes impossible in Ethiopia which has a
very old tradition of statecraft and the experience of various traditional
self-administrations. The hindrances have been its authoritarian rulers who
wanted to stay in power by disrespecting and violating the fee will of the
The minimums the Ethiopian people expect is that the international
community uphold truth and speak truth to power, not the diplomatic lingo
that obfuscates, but the human language that is clear and to the point.
Power normally does not concede without demand, not least the arrogant type
that is characteristic of the ostrich- mentality of Meles & Co. The
arrogance of Meles and Co. should not be rewarded. Arrogance must not pay.
On the contrary it must be penalised. The people deserve and expect also
that no deals be made behind their back. The international community has
contributed much to make the election free and fair. It has sent observers.
The people in good faith voted. They were then cheated by the regime. The
observers have acknowledged this fact. What is there to fear and not
bluntly say that the people do not deserve to be intimidated, threatened,
arrested and killed for demanding justice, the very public good that they
have been promised when they entered the election. The regime owes to
submit and heed their demand for redress and justice. Why is this difficult
for the international community to say this straight to the face to the
regime and support the people?

The fact that Meles has personal friendship to Mr. Blair and others has
nothing to do from the different fact that there was the election in
Ethiopia and his regime mishandled it. It is morally, intellectually and
politically unacceptable to undermine the peoples’ clear case against the
regime because of some reciprocity that Mr. Blair and others owe perhaps
because Mr. Meles personally (without parliamentary decision) decided
Ethiopia to join as a member of the coalition of the willing during the
Iraq war. That has nothing to do with Meles’s unacceptable role in the
election and his foreign backers should be severe on Meles not to disabuse
democracy and respect the people and the elected opposition members not to
unleash media and threats against them!

On the broader front, it is critical that the international community stand
consistently for human rights, democracy and good government, if they wish
to help in the construction of a truly global order based on the respect of
human rights and democracy that are deeply ingrained in governance.
Otherwise the big powers will continue to confront a troubled and troubling
world. The more they tolerate and appease dictators everywhere, the more
they will not see democracy, good government and respect of human rights
anywhere. Consistency in democracy and human rights from the international
community can only make the world be a better and congenial place.
Tolerating and appeasing dictators have made the world turn out and be a
highly uncongenial place by tearing down a world that should be a better
place by all historical reckoning. The post cold war world should have
ushered in universal values of democracy, human rights and good governance
reaffirmed with consistency.

5. The Media Abuse of Opposition Figures Must Stop!

Media onslaught against the chairman of CUD, Engineer Hailu Shawel and
opposition leaders and members is orchestrated by Bereket Simon who was
rejected in the May 15, 2005 election in the presence of independent
observers, but re-elected unopposed after a NEBE orchestrated election
farce tailored his laughable comeback. The relentless and unmitigated
barrage of media attacks against the leaders and members of the
opposition’s reminds us what Meles often does before he decides to arrest
or kill opponents. We now hear that a bomb has been planted in a CUD
office. Indulgent accusations of CUD officials for holding grenade in its
office with a written statement showing who’s in possession of the
grenades as well as when and for what purpose they were kept hidden is
simply unbelievable. In addition we heard also there has been a film made
associating weapons caches in a CUD rural office, and thus trying to
incriminate officials there. This is a precursor to frame CUD members and
throws them into jail by alleging that they are planning ?armed
struggle.’ Sadly, the heavy- handed measures and crackdown seem to have

As far as we know CUD and UEDF are morally and politically committed to
make democratic changes peacefully. What the regime hates most from CUD is
that it is committed to peaceful change. What is then the point of making
such crude and brutal allegations and frame CUD’s members? The calumny
against Engineer Hailu Shawal is beyond the pale and is a precursor to
arrest him. Engineer Hailu Shawal has been a very effective opposition
leader along with all his team of opposition leaders. It is a shame the
regime targets him and attacks him so viciously instead of opening
respectfully a dialogue with him, as the duly elected chairman of CUD along
with Dr. Merara Gudina for UEDF and their respective executive team
members. The US senate and Congress wrote a letter to them both with full
respect and recognition of their elected roles. Meles and co. keep
undermining them. We know the power holders like Meles can be ruthless in
attacking those whom they find a nightmare in relation to the imagined
threat they think they pause to the retention of their personal power. The
case of Siye Abraha and others spring to mind as examples to illustrate
how they can respond to opponents.

It is hypocritical to accuse opposition members as if they are and will
always be connected to the Derge implying somehow there is life after death
for the Derg regime or even the imperial regime for that matter. This is a
meaningless accusation not least because it is known that the ruling elites
relatives and acolytes who have taken over Derg official’s villas,
vehicles and others luxury comforts (incidentally these luxury items were
also confiscated from the imperial regime) for their own personal use. Some
of our members have told us that they personally know many regime officials
and acolytes living in shockingly luxurious life in Ethiopia by
appropriating public villas, bungalows, and apartments. These premises are
public property. They should have been turned into kindergarten and
boarding schools for street children. The public property under a single
individual’s comfort could be enough to open boarding schools for many
street children in Addis Ababa. Meles Zenawi’s talk to donate the
so-called Yara “award” to educate girls is simply a public relation
gimmick, while his officials, acolytes and kin and kith luxuriate and carry
out living in multi-million dollar worth public properties that could be
turned into boarding schools for poor children.

6. The News That the Opposition Has Called off its Three-day Civil Disobedience Strike

As we were writing this release we heard that the opposition has decided to
call off the civil disobedience action it called earlier to bring the
regime into dialogue. Apparently the American charge de Affaires and the
British Ambassador have opened a window for dialogue between Meles and
opposition members from CUD and EUDF. Whilst the flexibility of the CUD and
UEDF and their concern for public safety is admirable, we would like to
caution the opposition that boosting the democratic process brooks no
retreat. Any retreat from the paramount momentum of the democratic process
will be seen as duplicitous. We also caution that Meles might repeat once
more his earlier threats in the new talks. Remember as the quote at the
outset of this release shows that the EPDRF has endorsed a resolution on
October 1, 2005 “not to negotiate with opposition parties”. In the
event that is what he wishes to use the dialogue for, it was foolhardy for
opposition groups to give up their call easily. We also think that entry
into parliament under the current restrictions would be simply a waste of
time, unless a thorough revision of the draconian procedures is agreed

All acknowledge duly that the Ethiopian people have opened a rare
historical opportunity for democracy; the opposition leaders must
understand the needs of the people that there is a danger that might put
that historical chapter into jeopardy. We caution also that the foreign
ambassadors often seem more to lean on the opposition than the regime.
Unless there is something new on the table from Meles, it will be wholly
unacceptable to put pressure on the opposition once more, like in the
earlier June 10 agreement of the parties that bound them to accept NEBE’s
verdict without knowing how they would play out. If that is the purpose,
then Ethiopia will be facing an uphill struggle to bring back its dramatic
history- making democratic momentum. It has been reported that as if CUD
and UEDF have agreed to say, “We are committing ourselves to press for
our objectives through a democratic and parliamentary process.”(October1,
Press Conference with Ambassadors). Civil disobedience too is part of the
democratic process, and as far as we know the opposition parties have
always been committed to a democratic process. This is not something new.
Acceptance of parliamentary entry is a different issue and requires that
the five conditions in the joint statement of CUD and UEDF are fulfilled
before any decision to enter into a flawed and rigged parliament is
entertained. Having said this, NES sincerely hopes that the talks with
Meles arranged by the US and UK envoys will create conducive environment
where the threats of force will change forever.

7. Calls and Demands

1. The call for civil disobedience was made entirely because the regime
turned a deaf ear to the demands of the people to respect their votes and
2. We call on the international community to support the opposition and the
peoples’ demand to bring the regime into the negotiating table.

3. We call the international community to talk straight to the regime and
demand that the theft be cleared by supporting the people’s and the opposition’s demand.

4. We call on the Diaspora to support the people in every way they can for
as long as the civil disobedience in various peaceful forms it takes.

5. We call on the security forces not to use arrest, violence against the opposition members and the people standing for democracy.

6. We call on the opposition to involve the people in any decision that would affect the democratic aspiration of the people, especially entry into parliament. We ask the opposition not to ignore the people’s recommendations to the parties.

7. We repeat reiterate our demand for a transitional Government of national
concord to prepare genuine democratic elections that is free, fair and just
so that Ethiopia would enter into a new historical era of democratic

- Professor Mammo Muchie, Chair of NES-Scandinavian Chapter
- Berhanu G. Balcha, Vice- Chair of NES-Scandinavian Chapter
- Tekola Worku, Secretary of NES-Scandinavian Chapter

Contact address:
- Fibigerstraede 2
- 9220- Aalborg East Denmark
- Tel. + 45 96 359 813 or +45 96 358 331
- Fax + 45 98 153 298
- Cell: +45 3112 5507
- Email: mammo@ihis.aau.dk or berhanu@ihis.aau.dk or

Comments on the Sudan Tribune website must abide by the following rules. Contravention of these rules will lead to the user losing their Sudan Tribune account with immediate effect.

- No inciting violence
- No inappropriate or offensive language
- No racism, tribalism or sectarianism
- No inappropriate or derogatory remarks
- No deviation from the topic of the article
- No advertising, spamming or links
- No incomprehensible comments

Due to the unprecedented amount of racist and offensive language on the site, Sudan Tribune tries to vet all comments on the site.

There is now also a limit of 400 words per comment. If you want to express yourself in more detail than this allows, please e-mail your comment as an article to comment@sudantribune.com

Kind regards,

The Sudan Tribune editorial team.

Comment on this article

The following ads are provided by Google. SudanTribune has no authority on it.

Sudan Tribune

Promote your Page too

Latest Comments & Analysis

South Sudan’s universities should explore other revenues 2019-03-17 20:33:06 By Ukongo Benson Athia Of recent, it transpired that the five public universities dons have advanced their cause to increase the tuition fees for the students. I have seen such complaints of (...)

Pressure from the people in Sudan 2019-03-17 10:55:35 The longer genuine political and economic reform is delayed in Sudan, the greater the risk of wider instability and deepening economic crisis. By Rosalind Marsden President Omar al-Bashir, who (...)

Sudan’s al-Bashir burnt the boats before crossing 2019-03-11 06:19:03 By Mahmoud a. Suleiman Second Military Coup D’état of Omer Bashir will Not Protect him from his inevitable fate at the hands of the uprising Sudanese people The angry uprising men, women and (...)


Latest Press Releases

Sudan Protests: Investigate the custodial death of three University students 2019-03-13 12:53:14 The African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS) Sudan Protests: Urgent call for investigations into the custodial death of three University students and alleged torture of detainees by (...)

The Alliance for Restoration of Sudanese Workers Trade Unions Joins the Declaration of Freedom and Change 2019-03-10 21:16:50 PRESS RELEASE For immediate release 10 th March 2019 The Alliance for Restoration of Sudanese Workers Trade Unions announced on Sunday 10th March that it was joining the revolutionary forces (...)

Ethnic Murle politicians say enough to cattle raiding 2018-12-28 09:32:00 December 27, 2018 (JUBA) - Murle political leaders in Buma state have vowed to end the practice of cattle raiding and child abduction by individuals in the community. Jodi Jonglei, who is also (...)


Copyright © 2003-2019 SudanTribune - All rights reserved.