The End of 40 Days of Hunger Strike
I am so relieved to hear that Jawar, Bekele, and Hamza have agreed to stand down from their hunger striker after 40 long days. They endured 40 days of hunger to demand (1) an end to their unjust and politically driven detention; (2) an end to the systematic disenfranchisement of the Oromo people, the single largest in the country and endured historic humiliation and disrespect in the hands of subsequent Ethiopian governments, and (3) to demand an end to the harassment and abuse of members and supporters of the Oromo political opposition – the OLF and the OFC.
The hunger strike did not achieve its goals. Their demands were not addressed. But they have made their points and re-activated Oromo opposition politics, particularly in the West. Most importantly, they have forced key regional actors and the international community to take note and to recognize that this government offers no coherent and workable vision of the future and that the forthcoming election is yet again another ritual exercise the outcome of which is already predetermined. Coupled with the crisis in the North and West of the country, and complete lack of consensus on the future direction of the country, many now see the elections scheduled for June are the wrong priorities for the country and going ahead with them would further exacerbate the already deep and ever-sharpening tension in the country. There is more and I might write more at a later point.
As for the ruling elite and the prosperity party, I think they inadvertently revealed their true colors. I have argued on several occasions that the arrest, detention, and trial of Jawar, Bekele, and others following Haacaaluu’s assassination were purely political. That political decision can only be made by the PM. In other words, Abiy made the decision to remove these individuals from the political space, and the Attorney General was tasked with the responsibility to come up with a legal framework within which their arrest, detention, and trial could be rationalized, legitimized, and justified. And when the AG does that, he has to construct a politically expedient charge that is appealing to the target audience: the West and certain segments of the Ethiopian society. As William Kunstler once said, all authoritarian and totalitarian regimes know that it is better to do these things through some pretense of law and legality than otherwise (William Kunstler once said this).
The behavior of the Attorney General and his Office during these 40 days is worth noting. The AG appealed a decision by the lower court allowing prisoners to receive critical life-saving medical care at least on three occasions. Among the reasons the AG used to challenge the rulings of the lower court is that allowing the prisoners (high-profile members of the political opposition) to receive medical care at an institution in which they feel safe and secure is a violation of the constitutional right to equality. In other words, the ruling by the courts to allow medical treatment of Jawar, Bekele, and Hamza in a safe and secure medical establishment would be contrary to the government’s constitutional obligations to ensure equality of treatment (mainly referring here to other prisoners).
This is the dumbest legal argument I have ever heard, and it was very sad to see Gedion, someone I have known for nearly two decades and always considered a decent human being, would stoop this low, and put his credibility on the line, to defend the indefensible. It became quite clear that Gedion is now, unfortunately, just another cog in PP’s political machine, acting merely as a government lawyer, putting loyalty to the party before loyalty to the law, and with no regard to his duty to ensure respect for the law.
The other justification was security and public safety – that most resilient discursive instrument that can be invoked by authorities without the need to back it up with a shred of tangible evidence. That was the basis on which the Supreme Court granted the AG’s wishes. The cassation bench reversed that decision and as we have seen over the last few days, the security concern they conjured out of thin air did not materialize. It was a lie, from the beginning.
In treating these political prisoners with utmost callousness, and indifference to public opinion, the authorities revealed the moral failings of key actors, and public authority as a whole has lost its conscience and ability to exercise a sober and reasoned judgement. In mistreating their adversaries using the power of law, they exposed themselves to the judgement of the very public in whose name they claim the authority to prosecute and condemn.
I am delighted that they agreed to stand down. Continuing with the hunger strike beyond this point would have been disproportionately harmful to them. I am grateful for everyone who worked so hard, both from the front and from behind the scenes, in securing their agreement. I know several people who have been working very hard over the last two weeks to avert an imminent calamity and they all deserve our thanks. I hear that Derartu’s final intervention made the ultimate difference – How can one say no to the Queen making justified and reasonable demands?!
But what next?
OMN: Dr Awol Allo – Lagannaa Nyaataa Addaan Kutuu Hidhamtootaa Irratti
Xilaahun Yaamii Bitootessa 29ALA (20ALI)tti ragaa ittisaa akka dhiyeeffatuuf gaafatame.
Namoota ajjeechaa Artisti Haacaaluu Hundeessaatiin shakkamanii baatilee 5 oliif qoratamaa fi mana murtiitti dhiyaachaa turan afur keessaa Lasmiroot Kamaal kaan yommuu Haacaaluun ajjeefame bira turte dabalatee namoonni 3 akka bahaniif manni murteesseera jedha The Africa Report.
Guutuu isaa dubbisaa.
Ethiopia: Three suspects cleared of Hundessa murder charge
By Ethiopia Insight
Posted on Wednesday, 3 March 2021 18:54, updated on Friday, 5 March 2021 11:40
Members of the Oromo community in the United States march in protest after the killing of musician and revolutionary Hachalu Hundessa in June 2020. (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)
Nearly five months into the trial, on 25 February the Federal High Court acquitted three of the four defendants of charges of murdering singer Hachalu Hundessa.
Published in partnership with Ethiopia Insight.
Lamrot Kemal, who was with the musician on the night of his killing, was cleared of all charges. The 29 June assassination of prominent musician Hachalu led to chaos in Addis Ababa and several Oromia cities, as violent protests and clashes broke out in the days which followed. The assassination was quickly followed by the arrest of opposition party leaders Jawar Mohammed and Bekele Gerba, which escalated tensions further.
On 2 October federal prosecutors charged four suspects for the murder. The charges were based on the 2020 Prevention and Suppression of Terrorism Crimes Proclamation. They alleged that the defendants conspired with the Oromo Liberation Front “Shane”, and committed the crime with the aim to terrorize the population and coerce the government.
Although the court did not find sufficient evidence to link the second and third defendants, Kebede Gemechu and Abdi Alemayehu, to Hachalu’s killing, it found sufficient evidence to suspect that the defendants were present at the crime scene when the murder took place.
Accordingly, the court ordered a new set of charges to be instituted against the two defendants for their failure to report the murder and attempted robbery.
Meanwhile Tilahun Yami, the first defendant – who allegedly fatally shot Hachalu – remains on trial for the murder and has been ordered to submit his defence on 29 March.
Only the fourth defendant, Lamrot, was cleared of all charges, with judges citing insufficient evidence. She had been charged for taking orders from an unknown member of “Shane” to assist in facilitating the murder by luring Hachalu to a designated location.
However, a federal prosecutor told Ethiopia Insight that the prosecution plans to appeal to the Supreme Court against Lamrot’s acquittal. Witness statements and documentary evidence were presented over the course of the trial. On 2 and 3 December, the prosecution presented ten witnesses to the court. According to the prosecution, more witnesses were willing to testify but they were not presented because the facts had been sufficiently uncovered by the testimonies of others.
Documentary evidence presented against the defendants included: forensic test results from the murder weapon and the corpse, transcriptions and video recordings of the defendants’ statements to the police in which they admitted to committing the crime, and photographs taken from the crime scene by investigators. The next hearing is set for 29 March.