Ethiopia has long known for its mystery. Most of the mysteries that had happened prior to the late 20th century were mysteries of beacon such as the rock-hewn churches of Labella in Wello, Amhara region, the extraordinary obelisks of Axum in Tigray, Ethiopia’s resistance to colonialism, and its stand for international justice and human equality. However, since the late 20th century, Ethiopia’s venue for mystery had been largely being overshadowed by a multifaceted misery. In the past few decades, particularly since the ousting of Emperor Haile Selassie and the advent of the militaristic junta ‘Derg’ (a word from Ge’ez equivalent to committee or council), ‘helly’ portents had been suppressing virtuous and ‘holy’ emblems; turning the country from a justice-advocating great power of the Red Sea and Horn of Africa to a country known for famine and human right abuse, from a country of sanctuary for many including the ‘sahabah’ – the early followers of Prophet Mohammed who fled persecution in Mecca and sought refuge of the Abyssinian King, in the era when the country was entirely a Christian state, to a country whose citizens flee their homeland in search of freedom and better life to become victims of injustice and abuse such as in the neighboring Arab nations.
The featuring of ‘Entoto’ and ‘Qilinto’ in my today’s opinion posts title is triggered by the current situation in Ethiopia particularly vis-à-vis the TPLF-led incumbent’s unspeakable brutal crackdown on its own citizens – protesters from the Amhara, Oromia, Konso, Benshangul, Gambela, etc., and the recent barbaric act in ‘Qilinto’ prison.
Places like ‘Entoto’, in one hand, and notorious prisons such as ‘Qilinto’ (aka ‘kilinto’), ‘Maekelawi’, ‘Qaliti’, on the other hand, arguably represent the two ‘holy’ and ‘helly’ extremes of today’s Ethiopia. In holy sites such as ‘Entoto’ many astonishing holy miracles happen day to day including, how unfounded it might seem for those who did not witness, patients cure from incurable disease such HIV AIDS, cancer; the paralysed stand and walk; the deaf hear; the blind see, devil spirits and beasts are expelled out of human, etc. On the contrary, ‘Qilinto’ and dozen others became home and torture hub for dissents, journalists and activists.
When the TPLF, EPLF and other ethnic-based parties undergo nearly a two-decades-long warfare with the barbaric ‘Derg’, which claimed tens of thousands of lives and exhibited a horrific experience for Ethiopia, the promise was that the ‘EPRDF coalition’ to bring about a relief to the people by offering a platform for establishing and developing a democratic Ethiopia. As there was nothing wrong with it, the promise bought legitimacy and support both from inside and outside – particularly from the West. Even after fourteen years since the TPLF-led EPRDF coalition came to power ousting the ‘Derg’ in 1991, it was not until the 2005 general election – when vote results were rigged, hundreds shot dead on streets, and tens of thousands were arrested – that the promise and the claimed ‘revolutionary democracy’ were bogus. Although the regime’s determination to ‘rule for further 50 years’ was almost explicit, many believed it to open at least some political space in few years. However, in the consecutive general elections of 2010 and 2015, there was nothing stopping the incumbent from claiming ‘99.6%’ and ‘100%’ parliament seats, respectively, following a widespread harassment, torture and abuse of the opposition and the media. Unsurprisingly, for the obvious reason – Ethiopia’s strategic importance to the security and war on terror in the volatile East Africa – despite all the facts on the ground, still the regime managed to be hailed as ‘democratically elected’ by figures such as President Obama which Ethiopians and many pro-democracy groups considered it as a slap in the face to the Ethiopian people and human rights.
It might not be refutable that growth in GDP (far from development) has been witnessed in the country; which the regime often portrays it as an excuse to quash democracy and human rights. However, the economic gain is not distributed; and largely accumulated by the regime’s own mega corporates, and loyal affiliates. Apparently, not only the change in growth did not add a value to the 80 million ordinary poor, but also put them at a dreadful risk primarily due to land grab and inflation.
Witnessing the promise broken and noticing no intention of positive reformation other than bare propaganda by the regime for the formidable 26 years, nothing has left for the violence-unfriendly and God-fearing Ethiopian people other than protesting peacefully. None of the masks, be it the economic growth or pseudo democracy propaganda or the threatening that ‘Derg will be back if TPLF/EPRDF did not sustain in power’ was elastic enough to withhold the eruption. How the regime is responding to the protest and what is happening in prisons such as ‘Qilinto’ is even more appalling.
It has been almost apparent that the protest against the expansion of the Addis Ababa master plan to the neighboring Oromia region, or the identity questions raised by the ‘Welqayt Tegede’ people in Amhara region or other related issues such as in Gambela and Konso were nothing short of excuses to trigger a protest to seek a regime change in the county after every hope has been drained. The argument is evident from the fact that, for example, protests have been persisted and even further intensified in Oromoia region even after the government scrapped the master plan.
Despite the crackdown on the Internet and Telecommunication using the control platform offered by the state monopoly policy and Chinese technology, stories leaking from the ground are agonizing. Footages taken with mobile phones revealed that unspeakable brutality by the regime’s security forces including live shooting with high tech machine guns directly to the peaceful protesters (see footage 1 below) gunning down of youth, children and women; human bodies torn apart by ammunition; farmers and women laying down and their blood spilling over the ground, mass execution and mass grave, mass arrest and disappearance, brutal and inhuman beating of peaceful protesters including students, etc.
In many cases, the sniper shootings aimed to ‘shoot to kill’ at the head, neck and chest and involved several women and children as young as 3 years old. International human right groups, HRW and AI, reported that nearly 100 killed in a single weekend of August 6 and 7; and over 500 unlawfully killed since November 2015 in Oromia and Amhara regions. However, the actual death toll in all regions is highly likely in few thousands end. The number of arbitrary arrest has been estimated in tens of thousands. The story of the 16 years old Hailu Efrem from Dembi Dolo, Welega, Oromia, portrays the inhuman deeds of the regime’s security forces. Voice of America Radio interviewed a witness, the child’s mother. In a broken spirit and full of tears, the mother witnessed that her son left home to play. As security forces opened fire in the town center, Hailu was gunned down by a member of the security force while he was running for his life along with his friends as the gun fire opens in the city. As she approached the body of her son after she was told by his friends that her son was shot dead, the security personnel forced her to sit on her son’s corpse and threatened to shoot the little sister of Hailu who followed her mother unless she complied. When he threatened to shoot the little girl, she accepted siting on her son’s corpse as he hits her to the side with the butt of a gun.
Local sources suggested that the death toll of political prisoners killed in seemingly “systematic prison burning and killing” technique believed to exceed few hundreds including in Oromia and Gondar. For example, the burning alive and shooting tragedy at the notorious “Qulinto” prison, where at least 2000 political prisoners mainly from Oromia region are reported to be incarcerated in, was shocking. Eye witnesses confirmed that on the morning of September 3rd, there was unusual and heavy security presence and search, followed by heavy gun fire followed by ablaze of the premises. While the regime admitted only less than 30 deaths due to “burning”, local sources reported that it exceeds 60; and most of the deaths are due to gun shot while they were trying to save their lives. One resident of Addis Ababa, for example, reported to the diaspora based Ethiopian Satellite Television (ETHSAT) that a neighboring woman was one of many victims who were appealing to get the bodies of their loved ones after the tragedy. After a daunting plea, she was offered her son’s body but repeatedly warned, forced to consent and escorted by security officials not to open and check the body by any means. Observing the poor woman’s frustration, when a group of neighbors dig out the body clandestinely in the night and check, they found out that the man was shot dead with several bullets and his face was painted with smear.
This is today’s Ethiopia. Knowingly or unknowingly, the regime appears to be determined to continue to mess up and destroy the country even further for the coming several decades. Ethiopia does not deserve this. There is every opportunity to the International community to save this great nation. The Ethiopian people feel powerless, billions of pounds donated by the Western taxpayers to aid the poor is arming the dictator to wage a war on its own citizens who protest bare-handed; and the world is still silent even after it has been screamed in all possible means including the thunder call of Ethiopian athletes in their finish line in Rio Olympic.
O Lord, show Ethiopia your mercy .
Posted by Yidnek Haile