The Draconian Anti-Terror Law And The Makings of a Police State
June 15, 2009
Since the ill-fated National election of May 2005, Ethiopia has steadily been sliding from a fledgling democracy to a quasi-fascist ethnic kleptocracy. Indeed, Ethiopia as a nation has gotten perilously close to a lawless state where one man, Meles Zenawi, fully controls the levers of the executive, legislative, and judicial power.
From the manipulation of the judicial system to killing defenseless demonstrators in 2005, and from criminalizing dissent to torturing prisoners; the last several years have brought a parade of dark revelations about Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s administration. Even though the Ethiopian PM already has too much power, he has not been shy of attempting to arrogate even more for himself. In fact, today, there are growing indications that Zenawi’s lust for absolute power and his desire to rule forever may only be the tip of the iceberg. In his most recent bizarre and treacherous move, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has drafted a new draconian “anti-terrorism” law that creates a virtual police state in Ethiopia.
The new draft law which was prepared by the National Intelligence and Security Service, and endorsed by the Council of Ministers, paralyzes the already crippled ‘rule of law’ in Ethiopia and gives the government and its security forces absolute power to arrest and hold any person up to four months without a court warrant and without probable cause. This new draft law is nothing more than a politically motivated law drafted as a preemptive strike against the feeble opposition in preparation to the 2010 “One party” election.
The new draconian draft bill gives the ethnocratic dictatorship the authority to monitor telephone calls, e-mails, fax, radio, all internet activities, text messaging, and all other communication involving any party which the government deems is related to “terrorist” activity. Furthermore, the new draft bill authorizes government officials to randomly inspect citizen’s houses and allows any hearsay evidence in trials of “terrorist” suspects. The most intriguing provision of the draft law is that reading, listening, contemplating, supporting, and sympathizing with anyone that the government accuses as a “terrorist organization” is punishable by death, or 15 years to life in prison.
Prime Minister Meles Zenawi is a dishonest man who has succeeded in deceiving some leaders in the West to look at little chunks of his administration and evade the big picture. He is a man who talks about democracy, justice, and the rule of law, but practices virulent forms of ethnocracy, and throws innocent people in jail without due process of law.
According to the Ethiopian government’s infamous spokesperson [Bereket Simon], the new draft bill is intended “to protect the safety of the Ethiopian people and ensure the rights of citizens to live in peace.” In reality, the sole purpose of the new bill is to completely eliminate any political movement in Ethiopia and give the ruling TPLF party absolute power to rule over Ethiopia indefinitely.
In a little more than a year, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has incredulously drafted and sent three draconian laws to the “parliament”. His rubber stamp “parliament” has already adopted two of the laws, and is “debating” on the third one. The first of the three laws is the new “Media Law” that gives unrestricted power to the police to abuse and persecute the messenger (journalists) when the message disenchants Meles Zenawi. The other draconian law which was adopted on January 6, 2009, is the “Charities and Societies” law that restricts the movement of civil societies and disenfranchises millions from the political process paving the way for the ruling TPLF, as the omnipotent party in Ethiopia.
Surprisingly, but not unexpectedly, Meles Zenawi was not satisfied with these two measures that outlaw civic societies, criminalize dissent and the free expression of ideas. He wanted more; and he drafted the most discordant and autocratic political law that would make even the likes of, Kim Jong-il of North Korea, feel like the author of the declaration of human rights.
Many democratic countries and international human rights organizations are eagerly awaiting the 2010 general election in Ethiopia, while the Ethiopian people who were disenfranchised in the last election, are impatiently looking for the international community to help them defeat dictatorship. Ethiopians have already gone through three rounds of national elections (1995, 2000, 2005). And they are not interested in going through yet another agonizing election, unless the rules of the game are fundamentally overhauled and their vote will be legitimately counted.
From what has been observed so far, there seems to be no chance of a free and fair election ever taking place under the current minority ethnic regime. Its existential prerogative will simply not allow it. For all intents and purposes, Meles Zenawi’s regime is furiously preoccupied with sponsoring a massive campaign of vote-rigging terror mechanisms in an attempt to intimidate any and all credible opposition in the 2010 nominal “election” whose outcome has already been determined.
In the last four years, Zenawi has completely closed the political space and used his executive power to decapitate opposition political parties and persecute their visionary leaders. In the mean time, the patience of the Ethiopian people who have been waiting for the day to elect their leaders and have their voices heard in the local and national decision making process is wearing thin. Eighteen years of political repression under a brutal ethnic dictatorship, gross human rights violation, economic mismanagement and endemic corruption has taken its toll on their psyche.
Ginbot 7 would like to remind the international community that all these factors have brought the political situation in Ethiopia to the tipping point. It is time for the international community, especially, the donor groups to seriously examine their relationship with the regime of Meles Zenawi and actively seek the means of avoiding a crisis that will have catastrophic consequences to the peace, security and interest of Ethiopia, the people of the Horn of Africa and the world community at large.
Ginbot 7 would also like to reiterate, once again, that the notorious regime of Meles Zenawi, which is fast becoming an international pariah, has been able to survive through the massive aid of the United States and other governments in Europe; in effect giving the West tremendous amount of leverage to force political as well as economic changes in Ethiopia. Ginbot 7 also believes the West has the moral imperative to prevent the impending political crisis in Ethiopia in order to protect its vital interests in the Horn of Africa.
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