Tuesday, December 20

Modus Operandi

Modus Operandi (often used in the abbreviated form MO) is a Latin phrase, approximately translated as "mode of operation." It is used in police work to describe a criminal's characteristic patterns and style of work.

This post is concerned with the M.O. of the Ethiopian regime and is a cautionary tale from the 1990s for observers of despotism and resistance in Ethiopia today

Nothing has changed


Professor Asrat
20 June 1928 - 14 May 1999


The New York Times of May 17, 1999 (sorry no link available) reported this news; Asrat Woldeyes of Ethiopia, Doctor and Dissenter, Dies within months of his arrival for medical care in the US. This was no act of God but it was an act of murder by the current Ethiopian government.

Dr. Asrat was the principal leader of the opposition in Ethiopia and a political prisoner since 1994 (and intermittently before) to whom decent medical care was not allowed until his very last days. Heart failure, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure and other problems were not treated while brutal prison conditions were the rule - so the apparently quite treatable expected course of disease was accelerated and aggravated as a matter of state policy.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science - Human Rights Action Network had this to say about the Professor and the circumstances of his death
Dr. Woldeyes Asrat, a renowned surgeon from Ethiopia and a former professor and dean of the medical faculty at Addis Abada University, was sentenced to a five-and-a-half prison term in July 1994 for allegedly inciting violence for political ends. There is well-documented evidence that demonstrated Dr. Asrat's commitment to non-violent activity.

The charges against him appear to have been politically motivated. Dr. Asrat was released from prison in December 1998. His health significantly worsened during detention. He suffered from a heart condition and diabetes, conditions that were worsened by delays in providing him with adequate medical attention. Dr. Asrat Woldeyes died on 14 May 1999.
Arrested and imprisoned on false charges the Doctor was kept until it was assured that he was no longer a threat to Meles Inc. A new set of charges and a trial was postponed when it was realized that a slow sentence of death had actually already been carried out.

This was painfully obvious to all observers at the time but in a now familiar manner the usual suspects participated in the charade of celebrating Africa's Democratic Rennaissance Man Meles
When Dr. Asrat was released, the British Foreign Minister, Tony Lloyd, said, "I believe this signals a clear commitment by the Ethiopian Government to uphold their human rights obligations."
Fast forward six years to the aftermath of the fake 2005 election and the BBC tells us that Treason charges filed in Ethiopia
Prosecutors in Ethiopia have charged 131 jailed opposition leaders, reporters and aid workers with crimes ranging from treason to "genocide".
Under Ethiopian law, some of the crimes carry the death penalty.

A visiting UK minister had talks with Prime Minister Melez Zenawi who assured him the arrests had been prompted by the threat of violence.

Minister for Africa Lord Triesman told the BBC he had had a "very useful exchange" on both the border situation with Eritrea and the political process in Ethiopia since the election.
There you have it. The entire opposition in an election where no seats were won by the goverment where observers were present has been arrested along with most of the non-government or non-crony media and the representatives of civil society.

They are all being threatened with death and the UK has 'very useful exchanges' on the political process. At least there were no calls on the opposition to know their proper place and respect the constitution laws and rules of a society designed to ensure the eternal rule of the regime forever.

The whole issue of Eritrea and war is a Red Herring anyway.

The West wants to forget about the fake election and move onto business as usual. Ethiopia desperately wants the subject changed from its naked despotism to the interests the West has in regional security that the government itself plays to advantage. Eritrea is totally ignored by the world and just plain wants attention.

Both want plenty of cold hard cash to stay in power astride parallel columns of piled up human misery. Rumours of war serve all three sets of purposes rather neatly don't they?

Apparently, how a corrupt tribal divide and rule despotism generating strife and the perfect conditions of a failed state can ever do anyone any good is a problem for 70 million Ethiopian hostages and the next administrations in Washington and various European capitals to deal with.

Back to the good Doctor. According to the Washington Post of May 17, 1999 (sorry no link), Physician Asrat Woldeyes Dies
His troubles began in 1992 after he met with Rep. Harry A. Johnston II (D-Fla.) and made critical remarks about Ethiopia's left-wing strongman Meles Zenawi, pointing out that the leader had broken promises to bring democracy to Ethiopia.

Three days after the meeting, Dr. Woldeyes was arrested for "inciting rebellion."

His trial was something of a farce. Witnesses against the surgeon recanted their stories, claiming government authorities had pressured them to lie. Despite this, Dr. Woldeyes was sent to jail after refusing to stop speaking out for democracy.

While in jail, he became what one Washington Post op-ed piece called "Ethiopia's most popular public figure and its symbol of democracy." The 1996 piece, by David E. Steinman, went on to say that Dr. Woldeyes would "probably be president of Ethiopia today had not Meles imprisoned him before the election."

Amnesty International championed Dr. Woldeyes's cause, calling him "a prisoner of conscience who should be released immediately."
So then ... Who Was Asrat Woldeyes? The Ethiopian Human Rights Council gives a detailed history of the facts of his life and places them in the setting of Ethiopia's recent history.

Asrat Woldeyes: an extraordary life by Jonathan Steele, an assistant editor of The Guardian, tells of several private encounters with the Doctor that left a very favorable impression on him and this as well
His supporters said Asrat was a victim of serial injustice, aimed at keeping him in prison for ever by adding new charges every time his previous sentence approached its end.

According to Amnesty, his prison conditions were worse than those of any other detainee. His gaolers feared his powers of argument and refused to let him speak to other prisoners.

He was not held in solitary confinement in the physical sense. He slept on a mat on the floor in a barracks-type hall with scores of other detainees. But they were told not to communicate with him, or he with them.
In Prof. Asrat Woldeyes Speaks from Prison Wendy Belcher, a Contributing Editor of Ethiopian Review Magazine tells of a similiar set of encounters with him and had a rare and fascinating interview
Q. Isn't your prison sentence also coming to an end?

A. Well, I have multiple sentences. All those three charges... for which I have been sentenced, those sentences I have finished legally. In actual fact, given the date of parole, I have finished my prison sentence according to the law. I finished it about four months ago, five months ago.

But I now have a fourth case, which is still going on after over two-and-a-half years. I am waiting for that sentence. That is why I am in prison. Because I have got a pending charge and because it is considered serious, I am not allowed to be out. The parole is given by the court and is dependent only on behavior in prison, not obeying rules and regulation, so nobody can deny me.

Simply, politically, I am refused. All of my charges are the same charge, that I have opposed the government.
Q. Tell me about the contempt of court charge.
A. I got the contempt of court charge simply because I said to the court that the court should not waste it's valuable time on having me come every month to the court and make an appearance as though there was a real legal case, when it was very well-known that at the end of all of the proceedings, that I was going to be found guilty and sentenced.

Therefore, I requested of the court to save its valuable time and to sentence me now. This would also allow me to have physical rest in prison. So this was considered contempt of court, so I was sentenced for six months.
Q. There are many questions I could ask you, but I'm not confident that the questions I would ask you are the ones that would elicit what is most on your mind. What are you thinking about here?
A. That's a very broad question. Of course I think. I have nothing else to do here, since it is only the last few weeks that I am able to read. I think the great punishment has been that, because I cannot read, I cannot see anybody, I cannot talk to anybody.

Nevertheless, because mentally and psychologically I understand the situation, I have been able to cope with it. And I am lucky, over the last month now I have improved and I am reading, so, although I don't read as before, as fast, at least I can read now. For this reason, I am improving and I am accepting the situation. Not accepting the situation you are in, you only hurt yourself. Therefore, I accept. Not because they are correct, but I accept because I cannot do anything about it; it is beyond my power.

Time will be the better judge than human beings. Therefore, I am comforted by these things. My only crime is that I have all my life served my people and my country. My crime is simply my dedication to this country. Because of that, I consider any punishment as acceptable. There is nothing that I've done to a single human being, let alone to my people or this country.
Amnesty International - Urgent Action Notes had this to say about the Professor that
He thanked Amnesty International for campaigning on his behalf, and particularly for publicising the seriousness of his health complaints. This had not been fully understood by diplomats and others visiting him and had been under-played by the security officials guarding him in hospital.

The relief of the stress of being in custody immediately improved his condition and bodes well for his recovery. He will now benefit from medical facilities not available in Ethiopia and from medical care without interference. In Ethiopia he had never been allowed confidential access to doctors while in custody.
The current leader of the main opposition group to the Ethiopan government is currently on a hunger strike along with other opposition leaders and human rights leaders. From the BBC Ethiopia prisoners' hunger strike
Three opposition leaders and a human rights activist in Ethiopia say they will go on hunger strike from Monday in protest against their detention.
CUD leader Hailu Shawel and two top party officials say their detention is politically-motivated.

"We have decided to go on hunger strike indefinitely beginning Monday, 28 November 2005 - we will take only liquids," said top CUD (Coalition for Unity and Democracy) official and mayor-elect of Addis Ababa, Berhanu Nega, speaking to journalists at Ethiopia's central investigation centre.

"This is a political case, not a criminal one," said Mr Hailu.
Mr. Hailu, the principal leader of the opposition, is reported to be ill and in the hospital at present. The carefully managed illness and release of Dr. Asrat let the government off the hook in 1998 just as good relations with the West were needed when there was conflict with Eritrea. Is this deja vu all over again?


Character assassination is an essential element of the Ethiopian regime's approach to humanity and reality. All those who submit carry it out and are aware they may be next if they don't behave. All those who resist suffer it as a matter of routine. You see, it is a matter of definition that all well meaning people everywhere on earth support the eternal rule of the Ethiopian politburo and of Meles.

Not to do so and not to believe every utterance, spin and inanity from the halls of power directly or as handed down by assorted cadres is a sign that one or many are quite obviously biased, Eritrean agents, Dergue supporters, agents of Rwandan genocide, kulaks, cheats, terrorists, rent seekers, chauvanists, liars, thieves and anything other label that the talking points out of the halls of Ethiopian power come up with on any given day.

All of a sudden one day one or many sources will state some lie as fact and it will be repeated as such and even become the subject of false debates. The hope is that unquestioning minds will internalize such lies or at least create an internal null zone on the subject of confusion to accompany the general sense of dread all humans are supposed to have on the subject of Ethiopian politics.

The option to support or not to support the government is seen as a mortal threat to its existence because if there is an option people can change their minds. That is why there is a default setting of aggressive intimidation of anyone out there who could be even possibly thinking of questioning the government's version of reality and it various theories of creation and original sin.

Supporters know better than anyone the threats they live under and that they are only as good as the last time they betrayed their souls in submission - willingly in pursuit of place and property or by force out of fear. Either way their beings become someone's property and cling to the government with the slippery, bloody grip of guilty hands.

A heap of lies and loss of historical memory should not be the fate of Ethiopians like Professor Asrat. Only honest memory can preserve Ethiopia's present and her history. Indeed, the whole country has suffered the same process of character assassination that individual opponents go through routinely.

Unless it is inconvenient to do so the core values of the current government hold that all of Ethiopian history before 1975 is a litany of crime and that Tigrayan history in particular is illegitimate, unless re-writing it somehow serves to give the government legitimacy.

Actual assassination is also an even more vital element of the Ethiopian regime's rule. Hundreds if not thousands were killed in 'election' violence this year while tens of thousands are currently in camps. From the Daily Telegraph Protesters killed and 40,000 jailed as Blair's friend quells 'insurrection'
The city's jail overflowed and prisoners were held in its compound. As that became crammed, detainees were held in the National Exhibition Centre. Even that overflowed, so government offices were used as temporary prisons.

Detainees were beaten, stripped of their shoes then driven to an old military camp at Dedesa, 250 miles west of Addis Ababa. There they survive in disused barracks on daily rations of four slices of bread.

Western diplomats have reports of executions at Dedesa and of a body being hung on the camp's gates. The best estimate for the total detained is 40,000.

The European Union Parliament seems to appreciate the government's M.O. and we wait for the same sense of common sense and morality to sweep through the other capitals of Europe and across the Atlantic. MEPs condemn violence in Ethiopia from the EU is simultaneously unimaginable from the perspective of last year and long overdue as well.

(By the way, ethiopundit was all over this issue of targeted sanctions, Cotonou and targeted aid many moons ago.)

The treason charges were filed against the opposition, journalists and civil society leades after the EU resolution so there is a definite spit in the face to Europe going on here and a warning that no silly ideas about democracy and human rights will ever change the course of Ethiopian governance.

One coalition of American Civil Rights Organizations seem to see the regime's M.O. clearly as well. The Coalition for the People's Agenda passed a recent Resolution (beware pdf file) indicating their displeasure at events in Ethiopia.

In the US Senate Senator Patrick Leahy's Violence and repression in Ethiopia reveals further appreciation for the M.O. of the Ethiopian government and the toll it takes on Ethiopians.

HR 4423 is in play in the US House where it was introduced by Congressman Christopher Smith and it's passage is actively encouraged by Ethio-American PACs like the Ethiopian-Americans Council.

Trouble is that even as international common wisdom is coming to terms with the reality of Meles Inc and its M.O. that in the past bills like HR 5321 sponsored by Congresssmen Mike Honda, Donald Payne and Ed Royce to monitor elections in Ethiopia were silently killed in a spectacular misunderstanding of American interest, probably by the State Department so that business as usual could proceed in Ethiopia.

As this very recent EMF interview with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Donald Yamamoto shows, the US is still in a state of putting out really reasonable and nice sounding rhetoric mixed with support of the regime in fact.

While the efforts of Ethio-Americans (government translation = Eritrean agents, no surprise there, at least they weren't called anti-Enver Hoxha elements) can't approach the heroism, courage sacrifices of Ethiopians in the belly of the beast, the diaspora's roll is crucial in pressuring all concerned to do the right thing.

70 million Ethiopians in Africa can be shut up by a bloody despot, even if only temporarily, so others must try to speak for them and put forth tirelessly the enduring message that liberal democracy and the free market are gifts for all of mankind among which Ethiopians are also to be counted.

Once again, Ethiopians don't want a Marine or Airborne division to get rid of their government. They just want foreigners who have set themselves up as the sole constituency of the regime to get out of the way.

Beyond the naturally destabilizing policies of the current government there is no other eventuality in which mutual interest would not find friends of Ethiopia in the West and friends of the West in Ethiopia.

How many Ethiopians will have to die before and how many lives will be ruined and how many years will be lost before this is clear? Isn't the government M.O. glaringly evident? It certainly is to Ethiopians.


Those Who Forget History Are Condemned To Repeat It


For commentary and news (if you are expecting ethiopundit to be timely you are certain to be disappointed) check out these 'Election' & Aftermath links

  • Dagmawi

  • Ethio Media.Com

  • Ethiopian Review Magazine

  • Weichegud! ET Politics

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