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Zigzag activism from Ethiopian activists need to be combated

borkena, Editorial
February 6,2017

Journalists Anania Sorri and Elias Gebru , also known for their social media activism, were arrested on November 18,2016 as prime minister Hailemariam Desalegne hinted about end of state of emergency, which never happened.

They are accused of “attempting to undermine the constitution and corresponding with Patriotic G7 and the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF)…” ,as recently reported by Addis Standard. These two opposition parties are outlawed and they don’t operate in Ethiopia.

To date, the journalists are not formally charged in a court. They were detained when,according to figures from opposition parties based in Ethiopia, over fifty thousand Ethiopians were led to military barracks for detention – government calls it “training.” Exception to the journalists is that they are not detained in military camps,as was the case for one zone-9 blogger -Befekadu Hailu. They are held in a prison in the capital, Addis Ababa,for more than three months now.

Imposed deprivation of the love of one’s own child certainly constitute,so to speak, mental torture both to the father and to the child as well. In that sense, it is not just the father that is arrested but the child as well. Unfortunately, it is customary for the regime in Ethiopia. Andualem Arage,prominent opposition leader who is thrown to jail on tramped up charges of “terrorism”, lived it and is living it. Eskinder Nega lived it and is living it. Anania Sorri, young father, is the latest case. Given secretive and totally repressive nature of the minority regime, it is imaginable that probably thousands who didn’t have a chance to be in the limelight of activism lived it,too.

That is not it all. Solitude,sleep deprivation and humiliating inhuman treatments are also customary treatments in TPLF prisons. A letter written by Anania sorri and Elias Gebru to the United Nations secretary general indicates that they were subjected to one or more of the above inhuman treatments. In fact, one clear indication about the incommunicado is that the letter is addressed to Ban Ki Moon, in stead of António Guterres, according to Addis Standard.

The purpose of solitude and other forms of torture is clear,too. Apart from vengeance, regime wants young assertive voices be crushed to the point of political dormancy and fragility, beyond recognition, so that other Ethiopians will be intimidated to speak out against injustice by the regime. This has happened for more than two decades but it did not work. What more can prove that than the recent popular protest all over the country and more importantly the prevalent desire to resort to armed struggle, not to mention the already active scattered armed struggles specially in the northwest parts of Ethiopia. There are even unconfirmed reports of sporadic armed movements based on surprise attack tactics within a radius of less than 200 kilometers from the capital.

But that does not mean that activists in prison do not hurt. And it is imaginable that they could hurt more from neglect from fellow activists than from torture from the regime. True some activists could have the mental capacity,clarity and consciousness to understand what it takes to stand for a cause as noble as Ethiopia and freedom and that their determination might not be affected by the action or inaction of other activists. That is an essential quality of freedom fighter.

However, activists who campaign for the release of detained activists need to remind themselves that they do have a moral duty to adhere to principled activism and cast aside unprincipled and zigzag activism. On what basis is it that some get more campaign attention than others? What are the things that activists consider to advocate for the release activists? Ideology and similar political conviction,cronyism,connection or what? Or perhaps it is a situation that arise out of the state of emergency legislation?

Speaking of impact, it does not mean that a brutal and ethno-supermacist regime like TPLF will be influenced by campaigns of Ethiopian activists and release prisoners. There is no precedent to think that way, at least. But activists need to have principles that they can adhere to. With all honesty, very few activists spoke the truth like it is. Andualem Aragie was one of the few activists in that regard. And the recent example is Anania Sorri.

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