August 29, 2012

Athiest Meles funeral to Be Held At Holly Trinity Cathedral

Filed under: Ethiopia,Meles Zenawi — ethiopiantimes @ 2:34 pm
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Addis Ababa — The funeral of the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi will be held next Sunday at the Holly Trinity Cathedral, the National Funeral Service Organizing Committee announced.

Committee Chairperson House of the Federation Speaker Kassa Tekle-Birhan said that though many people are interested to attend the funeral, it is impossible to accommodate all, and only some would take part on the final day of the ceremony which will be held at the Maskal Square.

According to Kassa, only families, leaders and diplomats of different countries, sinior government officials, state representatives and groups who are considered to represent the community such as representatives of the private sector, students, universities, different organizations will only attend the funeral. Identification cards would be prepared to identify groups who would be attending the funeral which would be transmitted live, he added.

Kassa said: “Since the arrival of the Ambassador Mull Katende body, residents of Addis and those from the states are expressing their deepest sorrow at the Grand Palace and at state towns. We have given long time in order to let the people express their sorrow.”

Kassa added that, the Committee has organized a programme throughout the country to enable citizens pay their tribute to Meles. On Thursday and Friday from 5:00 -1:00 p.m. a programme has been organized in which residents of Addis would gather at Maskal Square to say their final good bye to Meles. Residents of state towns would also do likewise. On these occasions, it is expected the people will reaffirm their commitment to realize what Meles aspired.

And on Saturday based on the request of different religious fathers, a prayer service will be held according to their respective religious doctrine.

Kassa further indicated that over twenty leaders have already confirmed their presence at the funeral and this number is expected to rise.

He also called upon every citizen to take head of the Committee’s programme.


August 28, 2012

Feteh’s editor, Temesgen Desalegn released from the prison,charges dropped

Filed under: Uncategorized — ethiopiantimes @ 3:44 pm
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Source; Bloomberg

Ethiopia’s Justice Ministry said it won’t prosecute the editor of the weekly newspaper Feteh, whose distribution was blocked after it reported on the illness of late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi before his death this month.

“After further investigation the prosecutors have decided to drop the charges,” Desalegn Teressa, a ministry spokesman, said in a phone interview today from the capital, Addis Ababa.

Ethiopia has been criticized by the United Nations and advocacy groups including the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists over legislation that restricts freedom of expression.

Feteh’s editor, Temesgen Desalegn, had been facing four charges including attacking the state by defamation and inciting young people to overthrow the government, based on articles published between July 2011 and March, Amnesty International said on August 24. He has been released from the prison where he was held after his first appearance at court last week, said Hailemeskel Beshewamyelhu, an editor at the newspaper.

Feteh, which distributed around 30,000 copies in Amharic and was frequently critical of the government, has not been printed by the state-owned Berhanena Selam Printing Enterprise since the ministry ordered the impoundment of its July 20 edition. Last week the management said it is still not prepared to publish the newspaper, Hailemeskel said.

A 2008 media law allows distribution of a newspaper to be blocked if it presents “a clear and present grave danger to the national security.”

To contact the reporter on this story: William Davison in Addis Ababa at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at

Dutch white Tarzan wants to Make Haile Gebreselassie president of Ethiopia

Jos Hermens the manager of Haile Gebreselassie disclosed his whishes on 10 August in the well respected opinion making Dutch news paper NRC Handelsblad.

Jos Hermens has been managing Ethiopian Athletes for more than twenty years. He earns up to 15% of the price money Ethiopian athletes win. Hail has broken world records and cashed more than a million Dollars at a time.

Through all these years there have been accusations of ignoring dutch althletes by going for the easy money earned by Ethiopian athletes. Ethiopian Athletes have accused him of ignoring their whish not to pay them out through corrupted Ethiopian federation officials but to give the money direct to them. Those chosen to run by the federation are forced to share price money with high rancking officials of the Ethiopian Athletic federation.

In 1990 we have witnessed as Hermens refused to help Ethiopian Athlete who was forced to share the price with corrupted Officails.

Hermens is loaded with all kind of presents from the federation officials. He gets diplomat level treatment at the airport. Ethiopians are forbidden to wait for the arrival of their family in the airport hall. all have to wait far outside in the burning sun. Hermens can drive through with out questions in high secured area.

Recently The NY Times have published a story saying Jos Hermens and Haile are picking only the easy games to run. The ethnic dictatorial regime of  Ethiopia forced them to appear on Ethiopian TV and deny all what NY Times had published. Kenenisa Bekele, also managed by Hermens,  was thrown out of the Olympic selection till just days before the games started because he only wanted to be trained by Hermens not by the federation.This had a big impact
on Kenenisa’s achievement. The world champion won no medals, looked very depressed.

Jos Hermens, the white Dutch Tarzan, who thinks he knows who the black Ethiopians want as president is putting him self in one of the most dangerous political Den of Africa.
He has created a gap between Ethiopians and their hero Haile. Since Ethiopians saw Haile crying for the dead Ethiopian Dictator, the gap has widened.
Since the days Hermens put foot, there is oppression in Ethiopia. Killings of students in 1990 when Meles the dictator took  power, massacre of more than 200 Ethiopian children in the streets of addis in 2001, massacre of demonstrators against the rigged ellection in 2005. The eviction of Ethiopians from their ansestor land for the benefit of Chinese, Arab and Indian companies,to grow food and export, while Ethiopian children servive by food aid. The genocide of the anuak tribe of ethiopia.
The white Tarzan who want to make Haile president of Ethiopia kissed the ethnical dictator Meles Zenwi’s feet to earn money in Ethiopia.

He never mentioned human right abuses in Ethiopia.

Ethiopia: Woyane Army Commits Torture, Rape

Filed under: Ethiopia,Gambela,Ivory Coast — ethiopiantimes @ 9:47 am
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(Nairobi) – The Ethiopian military responded to an April 2012 attack on a large commercial farm in Gambella region with arbitrary arrests, rape, and other abuses against scores of local villagers. Forced displacement, inadequate resources, and other abuses against Gambella’s population persist in the second year of the government’s “villagization” program.

On April 28, 2012, unidentified armed men attacked the compound of Saudi Star Agricultural Development Plc., a company that has leased thousands of hectares of land for rice farming in Gambella region. The gunmen killed at least one Pakistani and four Ethiopian employees. Gambella residents interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that in the following days and weeks, Ethiopian soldiers went house to house looking for the gunmen in villages near the Saudi Star camp, arbitrarily arresting and beating young men and raping female relatives of suspects.

“The attack on Saudi Star was a criminal act but it does not justify reprisals against Gambella’s population,” said Leslie Lefkow, deputy Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The Ethiopian government should put an immediate end to abuses by the military in the region and investigate and prosecute soldiers found responsible for these heinous acts, regardless of rank.”

Human Rights Watch has previously reported on the Ethiopian government’s policy of “villagization” or resettlement of Gambella residents from their traditional lands to clear the way for the commercial farms. The government has used threats, intimidation, and violence against those who resist moving.

Hundreds of villagers from Abobo woreda (district) fled the military operation and crossed into neighboring South Sudan in the months since the attack on Saudi Star. In June Human Rights Watch interviewed more than 80 recent arrivals from Gambella in South Sudan.

Witnesses described to Human Rights Watch the military’s human rights abuses against people in the vicinity of Saudi Star. The day after the Saudi Star attack, Ethiopian soldiers shot and killed four of the company’s Anuak guards, accusing them of complicity in the attack. In April and May Ethiopian security forces entered the five villages closest to the Saudi Star compound in Abobo woreda, rounded up scores of young men and detained them in military barracks in Gambella. Many alleged that they were tortured.

One former detainee told Human Rights Watch: “They said we were to go into the bush and show them where the rebels are – with whom they claimed we had a relationship. They beat me after I said I didn’t know where the rebels are. After they beat me they took me to the barracks. I was in custody for three days. At night they took me out and asked me to show them where the rebels are. I said I don’t know. So they beat me and took off their sock and put it in my mouth to stop the screams.”

Human Rights Watch heard six accounts from women and girls of rape by soldiers either in their homes or in detention, when the soldiers could not find the male relatives they were seeking.

Numerous credible sources in Gambella believe the April attack is linked to the government’s villagization program and the leases of land. The attack followed a March 12 attack by armed men on a bus in Gambella in which 19 people were killed. It is not clear whether the two incidents are linked.

The gunmen who carried out the attacks have not publicly identified themselves or their motives, but one man interviewed by Human Rights Watch claimed to have been among the group who attacked the Saudi Star compound. He said that the April attack was in retaliation for the land leasing by Saudi Star and other foreign investors in Gambella region.

Most of the attackers were reportedly captured in May by the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) in Pochalla, South Sudan following a gun battle that left four of the attackers and two SPLA soldiers dead. Tensions have remained high in Gambella since.

“The military’s abusive response to the Saudi Star attack is only making an already turbulent situation in Gambella worse,” Lefkow said. “After what the people in the region have suffered at the government’s hands, the only thing that will begin to clear the air is a comprehensive and independent inquiry into the situation.”

Villagers who recently fled Gambella to South Sudan reported new abuses by the security forces under the villagization program. They reported a persistent lack of services in the sites to which they had been moved, despite government pledges to provide them. And existing villages from where people were moved are being destroyed to prevent people from returning to their original homes.

Human Rights Watch urged the Ethiopian government to stop the arbitrary arrests, beatings, and intimidation of Gambella residents and to release those who have been arbitrarily detained. The government should investigate and prosecute military personnel and officials implicated in human rights violations associated with the villagization process.

Many of those forcibly displaced by the villagization program are indigenous people. Under Ethiopian and international law the Ethiopian government needs to obtain the free, informed, and prior consent of indigenous people it wishes to move and compensate them for their loss of assets and land.

“The abuses we found in the government’s relocation program in Gambella a year ago are still happening today,” Lefkow said. “Whatever the government’s rationale for ‘villagization,’ it doesn’t justify beatings and torture.”

Details about arbitrary arrests, beatings, and torture; rape and sexual violence; and attacks and “villagization” in Gambella follow.

Arbitrary Arrests, Beatings, and Torture
Between June 23 and June 29, Human Rights Watch conducted a research mission to Gorom refugee settlement, South Sudan, and interviewed 80 people who had fled the crackdown and villagization in Gambella.

Several dozen Gambella residents described to Human Rights Watch the Ethiopian military’s mass detention of scores of villagers, primarily young men, in Abobo woreda in late April and May, accusing the villagers of supporting what the soldiers referred to as “the rebels.”They said that men, women, and children were forced to march through the bush looking for so-called rebels and were beaten if they did not find any, or if they did not provide any names of suspects to the soldiers.

One man described being stopped by soldiers while carrying food, and then being forced to help them search for firearms in Perbong village near the Saudi Star farm. “The [soldiers] asked me ‘Where are you taking this food? To the rebels?’” he told Human Rights Watch. “They checked the food, told me to lie down, and beat me all over my back. [They said]: ‘We will take you to Perbong to check houses one by one. If we find a gun, we will kill you.’ So we went to the community leader’s house, my house, and others’ houses and they found nothing, so they released me.”

A dozen villagers said they were detained, then beaten and tortured in military barracks by soldiers until they revealed a name of an alleged rebel. Most victims described frequent beatings with sticks and rifle butts. Some also saw or experienced other forms of torture.

An 18-year-old named Omot told Human Rights Watch that in April he was arrested by soldiers in his home village and accused of being a rebel. He was taken with his arms tied behind his back to the military barracks in Pugnido where he was detained for two months. He said he was beaten daily on his back and legs with truncheons. After his release soldiers came to his home and threatened him again, causing him to flee to South Sudan.

A local police officer described being arrested by soldiers and accused of supporting the rebels. Soldiers detained him in Gambella’s military barracks where they tied him up and beat him repeatedly, often at the urging of a federal government security official who told them, “Beat him, he has something to say.” After his release the soldiers came to his home and beat him unconscious in front of his wife. His wife said the soldiers beat their four year old son in front of them. The family fled to South Sudan.

Ethiopian soldiers detained and tortured people in locations in addition to the military barracks. One witness said he was detained in a makeshift prison within a school in Chobo-Mender and witnessed soldiers torturing a young man by making him walk on hot coals. He told Human Rights Watch:“I saw a young guy who was forced to stand barefoot on fire coals for 15 minutes. Soldiers would push him back on whenever he would try to get off. He was blistered half way up his calves. ‘I am going to die,’ he would say. ‘Then show us where the rebels are,’ said the soldiers.”

Another local police officer described being beaten and tortured inside Saudi Star’s compound by Ethiopian soldiers shortly after the attack: “They said to us, ‘As people are being killed, yet you have not died, you must know who was behind this.’ So they took me to the Saudi Star farm and beat me there, inside the compound. There were many of us there: two police and others who had been picked up in the sweep. When they saw that I was not ready to talk, to say what they wanted me to say, they started removing my toenails. They were asking a lot of questions about the others who died: ‘Don’t you know who did the killing?’”

All youth appear to be at risk from the soldiers. An 18-year-old student at Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia’s capital said that soldiers beat him and his friends when he returned to Gambella for a vacation shortly after the Saudi Star attacks. After showing his student ID card he was told by soldiers: “You are educated, you know all the political issues and things about governments so you are the ones encouraging the rebels.” They beat him unconscious.

Rape and Sexual Violence
Ethiopian soldiers frequently arrested and abused the female family members of young men they were seeking. Three women and a girl told Human Rights Watch that soldiers arrested, detained, beat, and then raped them to pressure them to disclose their male relatives’ whereabouts. Two additional women said that they witnessed other women being raped in detention.

One woman said her husband had been arrested after the attacks because “the soldiers said he knew where the rebels were.” When she went to the prisons to try and find him, soldiers followed her back to her home and raped her, she said. Her husband’s whereabouts remain unknown.

Another woman described what happened after soldiers arrested her in Wancarmie and took her to the military barracks in Gambella: “One night they took me out of the cell and said, ‘Show us where your husband is or else we will rape you.’ I persisted saying that I didn’t know where he was. Then finally they raped me. After that they released me and I decided to leave the country.”

Attacks and “Villagization” in Gambella
After the attack on the Saudi Star compound the Ethiopian military targeted five villages, all within a 16-kilometer radius of the area leased by the company. These villages had been affected by Ethiopia’s controversial “villagization” program, a three-year plan to relocate 225,000 people in Gambella – and over 1.5 million people across four states nationally – from their existing villages into new settlements purportedly to better provide them with basic services.

Human Rights Watch documented serious human rights violations associated with the first year of the villagization program in Gambella in 2011. The January 2012 report Waiting Here for Death”: Displacement and “Villagization” in Ethiopia’s Gambella Regiondescribed how the Ethiopian government and military forced reluctant villagers to leave their homes and build new villages in arid, infertile areas, often intimidating, arresting, and beating people who refused to move. The most abuses were recorded in Abobo woreda, the location of the Saudi Star concession.

Many of the recently arrived villagers in South Sudan interviewed by Human Rights Watch in June said they had fled Gambella because of abuses experienced in connection with the villagization program, as well as the recent military operations following the Saudi Star attack.

They described new abuses in the second year of the government’s villagization program, including forced displacement, arbitrary arrests, and torture in detention. The new settlements are located far from water sources and the land is typically dry and arid. More than a year after people were forced to move to these villages virtually none of the promised basic services such as schools and clinics have been provided. To prevent resettled villagers from returning to their original homes soldiers have allegedly been destroying infrastructure in the old locations.

All of the Gambella residents interviewed by Human Rights Watch and who fled to South Sudan told Human Rights Watch that their resettlement was involuntary.

A 17-year-old girl from Abobo woreda who had recently arrived in South Sudan said that soldiers killed her father when he refused to move from their farm near Tegne to the new village: “We were sitting at our farm and soldiers came up to us: ‘Do you accept to be relocated or not?’ ‘No.’ So they grabbed some of us. ‘Do you want to go now?’ ‘No.’ Then they shot my father and killed him. We all fled into the bush. I still do not know where my sister or husband is.”

Human Rights Watch found that regional and state government officials appear to have a role in the forcible relocation of villagers. The former committee head responsible for villagization in Gog woreda told Human Rights Watch: “I was told [by regional officials] to make the community aware of the need to move. All the responses from the people were rejections, they did not like it. We went back and did our report [to the regional parliament] that they did not want to go. Parliament blamed me and said, ‘Why do you tell us this? Go do it by force.’ [A senior state official] said this to me directly. We then went with the military and did it by force.”

Villagers who have been unwilling to move or refuse to mobilize others to do so have been arrested and mistreated by the soldiers. An elder from Batpul village said he was ordered by woreda officials to organize the villagers and persuade them to relocate. “There were many trees and food in the old place and nothing in the new place so I refused to get them to agree,” he said. “Government officials told me, ‘Since you do not accept what government says, we jail you.’” The elder was jailed in Abobo for 17 days. “They turned me upside down, tied my legs to a pole, and beat me every day for 17 days until I was released.”

Soldiers burned down tukuls (huts) and broke water pumps in the original villages as soon as villagers were moved to their new locations, the displaced villagers told Human Rights Watch.

One man from the Majangere ethnic group, who lived in Gooshini village in Godere woreda, described the forced relocation in his village: “Those that resisted the second time were forced by soldiers to roll around in the mud in a stagnant water pool then beaten.” He said he returned to his old village after dark for seven nights before deciding to flee to South Sudan. Each night he saw that more and more of his village’s farmland had been cleared by the bulldozers of an Ethiopian investor who had been awarded the land by the government.

August 27, 2012

Ethiopia: After security concerns Meles body to move to Meskel square

Filed under: Meles Zenawi — ethiopiantimes @ 8:55 pm
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Source Africa Report
The late PM's body will lie at Meskel Square for three daysThe body will lie at Meskel Square for three days

Meles Zenawi’s body will be moved to the open air – Meskel Square, to allow Ethiopians to view the body and to express their grief and condolences, as record crowds thronged the presidential palace.

Meles’ body has been lying in state at the presidential palace but security concerns at the huge crowds thronging there prompted authorities to move the body to an open square.

The body will lie at Meskel Square for three days from, Thursday.

August 26, 2012

Meles, dictator of Ethiopia vs. Kim il Sung, dictator of North Korea – Cry or Die

Filed under: Meles Zenawi — ethiopiantimes @ 7:44 pm
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August 25, 2012

Ethiopia: Detention of editor signals continuation of Meles-era crackdown

Filed under: Amnesty — ethiopiantimes @ 9:44 am
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The detention yesterday of the editor of one of Ethiopia’s last independent publications is a worrying signal that the government intends to carry on targeting dissent, Amnesty International said today.

Temesgen Desalegn, editor of Feteh newspaper, faces a number of criminal charges based on articles he has written or published criticizing the government and calling on Ethiopia’s youth to peacefully protest against government repression.

He is the first journalist to be detained since the announcement on Monday of the death of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, under whose leadership the government regularly targeted critical journalists.

“It’s business as usual in Ethiopia. Temesgen Desalegn has been charged for exercising his right to freedom of expression in advocating for peaceful protests to take place, among other criticisms of the government,” said Claire Beston, Amnesty International’s Ethiopia researcher.

“Meles’ leadership was characterized by cracking down heavily on any dissent and dismantling the independent media, and yesterday’s events show that nothing has changed.”

Four charges were filed against Temesgen and his publishing house, Mastewal Printing and Advertising, including ‘Provocation and Preparation’ to incite the youth to overthrow the constitutional order, ‘Inciting the public through false rumours’ and ‘Attacks against the state’ through defaming the government.

The charges relate to various articles published in Feteh between July 2011 and March 2012.

Articles cited in the charge sheet as evidence discuss subjects including how Ethiopians should be angry about the repressive practices of the government, the role of the youth as agents of change and their role in popular uprisings in Ethiopia and abroad and that lessons should be learnt from the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt.

Temesgen first learnt that there were charges against him on state radio Fana FM.

He was later summoned by federal police in early August, who informed him of the charges. At a court appearance on 23 August, the judge denied bail and Temesgen was sent to Kaliti prison on the outskirts of the capital Addis Ababa.

Feteh and Temesgen have fallen foul of the authorities on multiple occasions, and the editor has had numerous complaints and some criminal charges filed against him in the past. These have resulted in several incidents of temporary detention, police questioning, bail costs, fines or the dropping of charges.

In June 2011 Feteh columnist Reyot Alemu was arrested after writing articles critical of the government and reporting on calls for peaceful protests to take place. She was subsequently charged with terrorism offences and, in January 2012, was sentenced to 14 years’ imprisonment. Her sentence was reduced to five years on appeal.

In late April 2012 Temesgen was fined 2,000 Ethiopian Birr (about US$115) after the Addis Ababa High Court ruled that he was guilty of contempt of court for “biased coverage” of the trial of journalist Eskinder Nega, opposition members and other government critics. The finding of “biased coverage” was based on Feteh’s publication of statements from some of the defendants in the trial.
On 20 July, Ethiopian authorities blocked Feteh’s distribution and impounded 30,000 copies of the paper stating that its front cover – featuring stories about Muslim protests and the Prime Minister’s health – posed a threat to national security.
“The nature of the latest charges against Temesgen Desalegn, and the content of the articles cited as evidence, exposes not only the continuing intolerance of dissent but also the government’s fear of peaceful protests,” said Beston.

“It is clear that the authorities are very concerned about the possibility of popular uprisings in the wake of last year’s events in the Middle East and North Africa.”
The Ethiopian authorities have repeatedly taken measures to silence any suggestion that protests should or could take place. Concern about popular uprising has been behind the recent arrests and prosecutions of journalists, opposition members and protestors including those from the Muslim community recently arrested.
“The government of Ethiopia should see the succession of Meles as an opportunity to break with the past and end the practice of arresting anyone and everyone who criticizes the government,” said Beston.

“Temesgen Desalegn should be released immediately and charges against him should be dropped. The post-Meles government must begin a new era of respect for freedom of expression.”

August 24, 2012

Meles funeral set on 2 September, new PM to be sworn in later

Filed under: Meles Zenawi — ethiopiantimes @ 10:55 am
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 Meles Zenawi who died on Monday will be buried on September 2, the government announced on Thursday.

Bereket Simone, a government spokesperson told journalists Meles will be buried in the capital Addis Ababa.

The announcement came as government delayed the swearing in of new leader Desalegne Hailemariam to give Ethiopians “time to mourn” the 57 year old leader.

Bereke dismissed reports that there were disputes surrounding Meles’ succession.

“There is no illusion for the succession process. Succession issue has been settled a year ago,” he said.

He said the decision to delay the swearing in was taken by parliament.

August 23, 2012

CNN : US Gives $.1 Billion to Ethiopian dictator and looks the other way on human rights

Filed under: CNN,US — ethiopiantimes @ 10:43 pm
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August 22, 2012

Requiem for a Reprobate: Ethiopian Tyrant Should Not Be Lionized

Filed under: EPRDF,Ethiopia,Meles Zenawi — ethiopiantimes @ 10:49 pm
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Source: Forbes

By Thor Halvorssen and Alex Gladstein

With the dust beginning to settle on yesterday’s death of Meles Zenawi—ruler of Ethiopia since 1991—Western leaders have been quick to lavish praise on his legacy. A darling of the national security and international development industries, Zenawi was applauded for cooperating with the U.S. government on counter-terrorism and for spurring economic growth in Ethiopia—an impoverished, land-locked African nation of 85 million people. In truth, democratic leaders who praise Zenawi do a huge injustice to the struggle for human rights and individual dignity in Ethiopia.

Meles Zenawi

Meles Zenawi at the World Economic Forum summit in Addis Ababa in May 2012 (Photo: WEF)

U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said Zenawi “leaves behind an indelible legacy of major contributions to Ethiopia, Africa, and the world.” Gordon Brown called Zenawi’s demise “a tragedy for the Ethiopian people,” while David Cameron remembered him as an “inspirational spokesman for Africa.” Bill Gates tweeted that he “was a visionary leader who brought real benefits to Ethiopia’s poor.” Abdul Mohammed and Alex de Waal took to the New York Times op-ed pages today in perhaps the most unspeakably sycophantic eulogy of Zenawi, declaring that the dictator’s death “deprives Ethiopia — and Africa as a whole — of an exceptional leader.”

For years, the diminutive Zenawi had been a fixture on the Davos circuit, charming Western leaders with statistics of human development and business expansion. Under his control, Ethiopia’s average annual GDP growth rate more than doubled to a gaudy 8.8 percent over the past decade, and trade and investment with the West boomed. He worked with the U.S. to capture terrorists—even invading Somalia to help oust an Islamist government—in return netting roughly a billion dollars a year in American aid. Ethiopia had been to hell and back in the 1970s and 1980s with famine, war, and genocide. For someone who came to power as a freedom fighter and liberator, who gave one of the poorest countries on earth China-esque economic growth, and who became a key ally of the U.S., what was not to like?

First off, many of the rosy development statistics given out by the Ethiopian government are simply fraudulent; independent sources still rank Ethiopia at the very bottom of poverty indexes. Second, what genuine economic and public health transformations Zenawi did bring to Ethiopia were achieved with a top-down model that mirrored the statist command he implemented over all other aspects of Ethiopian life.

Zenawi built a totalitarian state, guided by Marxist-Leninism, complete with a cult of personality and zero tolerance for dissent. Like Saddam Hussein or Bashar al-Assad, he filled the country’s top political and economic positions with men from his own Tigaray ethnicity. When elections did occur, he won them with Saddam-like numbers, most recently, 99 percent of the vote. Civil society organizations were harassed into submission or banned. His government only allowed one television station, one radio station, one internet-service provider, one telecom, one national daily, and one English daily—all churning out government propaganda. Zenawi used this information hegemony to heavily censor news available to Ethiopians, taking special delight in preventing them from hearing news from exile groups outside the country.

Zenawi’s critics were jailed, killed or chased out of the country: in fact, more journalists were exiled from Ethiopia in the last decade than any other country on earth. Let’s restate that: Zenawi kicked out more journalists than any other tyrant on the planet, thereby monopolizing control over information. His favorite tactic was labeling dissidents as terrorists. Journalists risked up to 20 years in prison if they even reported about opposition groups classified by the government as terrorists. The most emblematic case is that of Eskinder Nega, a PEN-award-winning author sentenced to 18 years in prison this July for questioning the government’s new anti-terrorism laws.

Many in the West like to credit Zenawi with “keeping Ethiopia together” despite ethnic differences, war, famine and regional instability. Dissidents, however, maintain that Zenawi was always at war with his own people. When towns and villages rose up against Zenawi’s military regime, they were put down brutally. There was, and still is, a climate of fear. With 85 million Ethiopians suffering under his thrall, Meles Zenawi constructed one of history’s most depraved states in terms of numerical human suffering.

So why is this monster being celebrated? Some, like Bill Gates and Ambassador Rice, choose to remain blind to Zenawi’s systemic human rights abuses. He was, undoubtedly, charming. Others, perhaps more worryingly, excuse his tyranny for his development and economic acumen. Foreign Policy’s managing editor illustrated this point of view while tweeting that “Meles Zenawi was a dictator but was better for his country than many democratically elected leaders.”

This kind of mentality is a dangerous one. There is no such thing as a benign dictator. Only those with a fascist mindset—who want to cut corners, who complain how messy and inefficient democracy can be, and who overlook two thousand years of political history—can believe in this chimera. From Cuba to Kazakhstan, the story is the same.

For instance, Pinochet took Chile from being a run-of-the-mill right-wing statist dictatorship to an economic success story with the same liberalization principles that the Chinese tyranny has employed to transform itself into a world power. Is the Pinochet-Beijing model of a police state with economic freedom, attempted by Zenawi for Ethiopia, an acceptable one in this day and age? The New York Review of Books reminds us that this sort of ideology brought Ethiopia “appalling cruelty in the name of social progress.” Anyone stating that they “like” the economic results from the Pinochet-Beijing model must accept thousands of tortured and disappeared in Chile and tens of millions dead in China (and 8 million political prisoners languishing in the Laogai as of today). Perhaps those admiring a strongman can accept such a condition with a John Rawls-type veil of ignorance without knowing what it is like to live under a dictatorship. It is easy to tolerate torture and disappearances if it isn’t happening to your daughter, your brother, your mother, or you.

Those in the West heaping praise on Zenawi—all living in societies that suffered so much to achieve individual liberty—are engaging in dramatic hypocrisy by praising this thug. Would Bill Gates live in a country that denies people basic political freedoms? Whose government arrests and kills its critics en masse? Would he trade places with an Ethiopian university student who believes in free expression and whose stance will lead to certain prison and possible execution?

Any arguments that Zenawi was mellowing (after 21 years in power!) are false. The past few years saw new sweeping “anti-terrorism” laws and stronger Internet censorship. In 2005, Ethiopia even saw its own Tiananmen Square. That year, Zenawi decided to hold freer elections, but the opposition won a record number of parliamentary seats, including all those in the capital, Addis Ababa. Throngs took to the streets to celebrate. In response, Zenawi lashed out brutally, arresting the opposition’s entire leadership and sentencing them to life in prison for treason; shuttering five newspapers and imprisoning their editors; murdering 193 protestors, injuring 800, and arbitrarily jailing 40,000 other men, women, and teenagers in a show of raw tyranny. According to The Telegraph’s David Blair, who was reporting from the scene, “a crackdown on this scale has not been seen in Africa for 20 years and the repression exceeds anything by President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe for the past decade at least. Apartheid-era South Africa’s onslaught against the black townships in the 1980s provides the only recent comparison.”

It is startling that so many consider Zenawi an “intellectual” leader, when he needed such bloody policy to enforce his rule. When Western leaders consider this dictator—who rapaciously treated Africa’s second-largest nation as his personal property—worthy of not just condolences, but pure adulation, something is very wrong with their value systems.

One politician, the Norwegian foreign minister, made a slight nod toward individual rights in his obligatory comments about Zenawi’s passing: “Norway and Ethiopia have an open and frank dialogue on political and social issues, including areas, such as human rights, where we have diverging views.”


@ThorHalvorssen is the founder and president of the New York–based Human Rights Foundation. Alex Gladstein is HRF’s Director of Institutional Affairs

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