Ban Ki-moon’s radar has become blind & mute to forcibly silenced & unlawfully detained Zone 9 bloggers & journalists & many others in Ethiopia

6 Feb

Posted by The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)

This past Tuesday afternoon, February 4, 2015, a friend of this blog sent the link to an article by Mathew Russell Lee, titled As Ban Ki-moon Speaks on Greste’s release, Silence on Zone 9 Bloggers. The story appeared on the Inner City Press and Google News. This article is thus partly a product of the prodding by that piece.

As media with investigative journalists, the Inner City Press opened its lead paragraph with our longstanding concerns on one hand about consequences of the impunity with which dictators undermine human freedoms and human dignity. On the other standing out naked is the shocking indifference of the United Nations, especially when the target developing country is pro-Western.

An instance of the Organization’s silence in the face of impunity, some of whose proportion has been aping even Hitlerite cruelties, and the UN’s selectivity in this situation were captured in a timely fashion by the Inner City Press article, which has made it a key part of its story, as follows:

“Amid news that Egypt has released journalist Peter Greste, statements are churning out from all corners. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has churned one out, here. Now Ban should explain his silence this week while in Ethiopia about the terrorism trial of that country’s Zone 9 Bloggers.”

Whereas the secretary-general has been lost for a long time on human rights issues in general, we are happy that he could emerge from his hideout last weekend to share the joys of a smiling world on the release of the Australian journalist Peter Greste of Al-Jazeera, whose reportages we have often appreciated.

At TEO, we too seize this opportunity to wish Peter Greste well and congratulate his energetic parents, even as we remain with our pains because of our country’s particular situation.

We also understand why the selectivity issue has incensed some journalists, especially Matthew Russell Lee. They have issues of their own with UN officials on such matters as openness, transparency and the increasing insistence of United Nations officials in receiving advance questions from journalists. Nonetheless, we have appreciated, agasinst the backdrop of the Free United Nations Coalition for Access (FUNCA) issue, the Inner City Press taking to task the Secretary-General’s spokesman Stephane Dujarric (unfortunate for him) about his bosse’s indifference to the plight of Zone 9 bloggers and the three journalists in Ethiopian prison.


As could be seen from the video, the journalist asked the legitimate question of why the secretary-general failed to raise the outrageous terrorism charges brought against the Zone 9 Bloggers and journalists while present in Addis Abeba. It goes without saying that Mr. Ban must have been aware of the TPLF leadership ‘ignoramously’ entrapping itself since May/June 2014 in a cause célèbre through its violations of the rights of these bright and curious youth, while unmistakably reconfirming the regime’s notoriety and its heavy handedness.

Recall that SG Ban Ki-moon was in Ethiopia, where he addressed the 24th African Union Summit on January 30, 2015 in Addis Abeba. Unfortunately, despite the clear question the journalist addressed to the secretary-general’s spokesperson pertaining to the unlawful imprisonment of these bloggers and journalists, he could do no better than hiding behind generalities of advocacy for free press without touching on the imprisoned youngsters’ case.

Most importantly, however, at the heart of the article is the implicit concern that United Nations leadership under Ban Ki-Moon appears to have increasingly taken softer approach to its Charter responsibilities, especially regarding human rights and civil liberties issues. Because of that, selective silence has become its preferred mode of operation, in particular regarding violations by dictators of human rights in Western-allied developing countries.
Zone 9
Zone 9 bloggers and journalists

There is claim that the Zone 9 blog had reported that the members had been inactive the seven months prior to their imprisonment. Also Al Jazeera is quoted reporting that the bloggers wanted to return to their usual activism and blogging on 23 April 2014. Two days later, the TPLF security hit for unknown reasons and Befeqadu Hailu, Atnaf Berahane, Mahlet Fantahun, Zelalem Kiberet, Natnael Feleke and Abel Wabela were arrested. A seventh member Soliana Taffesse, a lawyer and activist, has been charged in absentia, while she is in the United States.

Shortly after, the community of six bloggers in prison was enlarged with the addition to their rank of three other journalists, now the collective famously known as Zone 9 bloggers plus 3 journalists. The regime has charged them with the fabricated crime of terrorism. Before they were completely shut out, it has been a good fortune of the international community that Article 19 managed in January 2014 to video-record the views and comments of some of them, their family members, friends, colleagues, etc.

It is equally gratifying to learn that the UN staff from different duty stations should express solidarity with the prisoners, demanding justice and their release. Some composed songs, others joined choirs and sang; they expressed their solidarity with the prisoners in whatever forum and media they could access. This has made #FreeZone9bloggers a popular twitter address.

Good as that may be, nevertheless, we have not seen and heard this far Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon adding the weight of his office to the worldwide campaigns disapproving of the violation of the human and civil rights of Zone 9 bloggers and the three journalists. Thus, those bloggers and journalists continue to languish in the harshest of prisons anywhere in the world, often subjected to mistreatment, physical abuses and mental torture.

As a matter of fact, Abel Wabela, one of the blogger prisoners, was subjected to additional physical mistreatments and mental tortures already this week. His crime was the fact that one of the escort guards forgot to chain him inside the bus during their return trip from their day at court hearing on February 3, 2015. He was punished for that, among others, with denial of the use of his hearing aid as.

The worst part of this is the fact that Abel contracted his loss of hearing during the interrogations and beatings in prison. Torture is routinely practiced in Ethiopia, although the TPLF regime continues to be in denial. Suffice to remind readers that Foreign Ministry State Minister Berhane Gebre-Christos and leader of the TPLF delegation to UPR 19th session in Geneva at the Human Rights Commission in May 2014 falsely claimed before Commission members that Ethiopia has never practiced torture.

Such is the cover-up; and yet, as many others have done it before in 2014, once again a victim of torture by the TPLF Abel Wabela – the one who acquired in prison hearing problems – complained to the TPLF court on February 4 he was beaten and mistreated and spent the night chained like a dog!

Shockingly, notwithstanding the torrent of mistreatments and physical tortures these youngsters have endured during these past 10 months, the TPLF regime has hardly managed to break them and and build any credible case(s) in all these – backed by facts and evidences. This is simply because the arrogance of power has no case(s) in the first place on which it could base its unfounded charges.

And yet, to prolong the sufferings of these six bloggers and three journalists, the motley of political cadres on TPLF’s political court once again gave them another hearing day for February 18 – the 20th in a series! What were they – words did the 17th century religious lyrics used to express human agonies caused by and, we presume, because of the hypocrisy of politics? – ‘vanitas vanitatum! (Vanity of the vanities!)’!

In all their ordeals these youngsters have gone through, Mr. Ban has not been anywhere to show moral courage and speak on their behalf and in defense of the United Nations Charter. The Secretary-General of the United Nations could not defend the rights of these soldiers of the truth and testimonies they bore to Ethiopia’s unfortunate realities as defenders of human rights, human dignity, while they stood in faith, among others, in the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Ban Ki-moonThis puts Mr. Ban, the Organization’s eighth secretary-general on a different plain. There is void, the more one thinks of his record and style and conviction, compared especially with UN’s second Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold. Hammarskjold has been immortally credited with shaping the United Nations and ensuring its independence. It would be recalled that he steered the Organization at its most difficult times, when expanses of the Cold War had not assumed knowledge of their limits, and under trying circumstances.

An echo from a different era

It is unfortunate, however, that Mr. Ban Ki-moon should affect many as secretary-general with the impression that he has shut his eyes and ears to human rights atrocities in the southern hemisphere, especially in states in the good books of Western leaders.

The numbing part of his ways with human rights is the interpretation that human rights has become for his office a bureaucratic exercise and an annual ritual. One only need to go through his brief public statement of December 10, 2014 on the occasion of Human Rights Day 2014. We regret to state it was empty, dry and soulless, as can be quoted hereunder:

“On Human Rights Day we speak out. We denounce authorities who deny the rights of any person or group. We declare that human rights are for all of us, all the time: whoever we are and wherever we are from; no matter our class, our opinions, our sexual orientation. This is a matter of individual justice, social stability and global progress.”

Here either Mr. Ban is being cryptic in his use of those words. He certainly knows condemnatory words, without engagement with the abusers are no better than shadow boxing; they come easy only to be blown away by light wind, characteristic of half-heartedness and absence of persistence. Or, if he were serious, it is not clear why he has failed to speak out against human rights violations of the most extreme forms already discussed in this piece, especially in states allied to the West, such as Ethiopia.

Of course, Mr. Ban Ki-moon is not an exception in experiencing lapses of this nature in the history of the Organization. His kind of approaches have been employed in the past; they have come and gone every now and then.

Most importantly, nonetheless, there were also those secretaries-general that had stronger views and positions, who, when possible in public if not in private, did their job and prevailed over the lust and arrogance of powerful nations.

The bottomline is that we are not being oblivious here how difficult it is for the UN leadership, when the position of a superpower or big powers is far apart from the Charter principles. Still the secretary-general is in far stronger position in defending the Charter. This is simply because there is the undying echo of:

“We the peoples of the United Nations determined … to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small…”

We submit to reason, if the TPLF in Ethiopia were not serving Western interests, by now with all these monstrous human rights violations to which our people have been subjected, the country could have long been accused of human rights violations and other forms of crimes at the United Nations. At one point or at another, a statement by the SG or one of his reports would have made it a subject of human rights discourse.

That not being the case, however, today we see that these charges are mainly reserved to Venezuela, Vietnam, North Korea, Cuba, Iran, China, etc., including non-state actors such as ISIL, Al-Shabab, Boko Haram, etc. We strongly feel that this does not mean that the countries mentioned here in some instances – save North Korea – are worse than the TPLF in Ethiopia.

Yet under the elderly Ban, the United Nations oversight of the human rights issues has become difficult undertaking for the Organization, merely on account of the lack of its independence. While age and health of the secretary-general is important, we do not base our criticism of Mr. Ban’s retreat from human rights to that.

Incidentally, on matters of age°, we are reminded that in the early days, i.e, after the collapse of the League of Nations, the end of the Second World War and as the United Nations was being established, a group of eminent former League officials submitted a recommendations on the essential qualities of Secretary-General of the United Nations. For a good reason, one recommendation was for the candidate to “be young…”, while they rejected the so-called advantages of “great fame” and “eminence.”

For us, most insightful was the amplification they provided, which presumably was intended to serve as an overall guide to the whole process of the search for the man, and reads:

“Above all, ability for administration in the broadest sense is important, implying knowledge of when to be dynamic, to take the initiative and to force an issue…”

In the end, the group of those bright minds, tempered by experiences with the League recommended: “[I]n a new organization, it may well be that the only qualities which must under all conditions be demanded of the director [Sec-Gen] are those of common sense, courage, integrity and tact.” (From Brian Urhquhart’s Hammarskjold (1972).

These, in our opinion too, are commodities in short supply today.

During his Oxford Lecture on May 30, 1961 under the title The International Civil Servant in Law and in Fact, Secretary-General Hammarskjold replied to a question about neutrality:

“[T]here is no neutral man, but there is, if you have integrity, neutral action by the right kind of man… I am not neutral as the regards the Charter; I am not neutral as regards facts.”

We move in different direction in building our argument, simply because we believe our concern is serious about the retreat of the United Nations under Ban’s leadership from the promises of the Charter and other international human rights instruments.

State violence in Ethiopia

State violence is the norm in Ethiopia. Therefore, we begin with the regime’s latest series of crimes against unarmed citizens only from the last month to show the level and nature of its Hitlerite cruelty.

It is rumored that the police commandos and plainclothes security force had worrisome instructions last month. They were dispatched to control the protest rally organized by the legal opposition party Andinet, its members and supporters. Even under the most threatening and choking of circumstances, with strong threats from the TPLF media and political cadres, masses of people were out to express their being tired of election stealing.

The security forces were instructed to beat the women – young and old, sick or pregnant – on their stomach and backs. They were also to seek out Tigrean activists and members. For the TPLF, they are considered allies of the enemy. The implication here is terrible, given that Ethiopia is a multi-ethnic state and that by definition everyone, except TPLF Tigreans are declared enemy of the regime – until proven otherwise.

The regime’s harshness against women was intended to serve as deterrence for future through its power of intimidation the cruelty of its cruelty it expects to elicit in Ethiopians opposed to the regime – that is the predominant majority of the population.

Therefore, at the rally in/about mid-January, seven-month pregnant woman was beaten like a snake and lost her baby. She told her party colleagues and diaspora media with tears flowing her cheeks how much she pleaded with her assailants to spare her as a would be mother.

Their response was to intensify the beatings and kicking her with their boots. Inhuman as the cruelty of the TPLF has always been, the woman lost the child she was carrying. That day, most women – young and old – were all beaten and hurt, as could be established from hospital lists and pictures thereon.

We hear that since the number of women protesters has significantly increased in recent times in Ethiopia – thanks to Semayawi Party – the regime chose to target women. In the case of Tigreans siding the opposition, their crime was – as stated above – allying with the enemy, i.e., non-Tigrean Ethiopians! This does not mean that the rest of the marchers were let go unscathed.

This is only the tip of the horrendous crimes iceberg in Ethiopia, which the arrogance of power has given rise to. Its symbolic message is: not only the lands and other wealths that the TPLF would appropriate. But also it means that all those that do not cooperate with it would have the fruits of their wombs destroyed! It is quite chilling, perhaps no less than some of the cruelties of the Nazi regime during World II!

So far Ethiopian experiences under the TPLF have been ethnic discrimination, seizure of prime urban lands and rural lands, good villas and houses through deceptive means or threats. People were fired from their jobs, because they refuse to support the regime, students denied enrolment at schools and universities, if they are not members of TPLF planted political parties.

For a while now it has been clear to all those who believe in their Ethiopianness that today Ethiopia has become a country which is being pushed to the brink. The former guerrilla fighters now turned statesmen are working to perpetuate ethnic superiority and resource thievery across the country. For that, they have continued their trampling underfoot of human dignity, irrespective of what the laws of the land prescribe, while benefitting from political, diplomatic and economic support from abroad.

To most Ethiopians, as citizens, and to many people around the world, most troubling is the fact that this is allowed to head to breaking point, which neither politicians and historians could repair anytime nor reclaim for the nation the opportunities it has been losing.

Sadly, forcedly have all Ethiopians have become witnesses in seeing their country frontally now heading to the edge and the precipice, as the video hereunder corroborates.


Governance by violence and deception

The fifth round election in sight, scheduled for mid-May 2015, it has become one fundamental determinant of how the regime in Ethiopia thinks and behaves at present. The TPLF has vowed to rule Ethiopia for fifty years (Meles Zenawi’s claim), which without a doubt would remain for the TPLF a moving target – not that Ethiopians trust it.

In the circumstances, given the level of preparations these people are by sending abroad their children for education, mainly in China, it would be easier to assume that they are getting their successors ready. They have made this very clear time and again, the last time in Dedebit last month, when the who is who of the TPLF were flown there to celebrate the 40th anniversary of their ‘liberation front’!

We cannot sufficiently emphasize that the goal of the election in May is not to bring about better governance and improved future in Ethiopia.

It is rather an attempt to realize age-old desire of the TPLF people to ensure ethnic overlordship of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) over the rest of Ethiopians, to whom Ethiopia is only a stepmother. In other words, the TPLF’s primary goal is to subjugate and control other Ethiopians, not because it is a country they consider their own; but they simply like to behave as Boers from the 17th century in South Africa.

If the TPLF people believed in their Ethiopianness, they would not have gone around in the first place destroying and discrediting its history. Nor would they enter into peace and amity treaty with the Sudan, bribing it with Ethiopia’s most fertile agricultural lands in its western frontiers. This perhaps is a replay from history of their own parents’ individual histories, who have known to be traitors in alliance with Italy’s colonialist occupationist force that was beaten at the Battle of Adow in 1896 and during subsequent attempts by Mussolini in 1835 to 1941!

In short, Ethiopia’s situation is very likely to push and prepare citizens for a dangerous future. One should only look already into the TPLF’s ongoing strategy of aggrandizement to Tigrai of fertile agricultural areas from the surrounding Amhara and Afar states. Specially targeted are parts of Gondar and Wollo regions.

Recently there was bloodshed between self-armed citizens from Gondar and those sent by the TPLF leadership. The TPLF secretly sent insurrection forces to seize lands, after its earlier attempt for takeover was rebuffed through language and settlement districts, they overpopulated since 1991.

Talks this week with civilian and military officials of the regions have collapsed, with the TPLF reiterating in such talks its territorial demands and the non-Tigrean population resisting. People related to the resistance are being detained under various pretexts.

It is the same story in Afar, where TPLF has for a while has settled Tigringa speakers. In breach of its 1989 pledge (David Shinn) to the Afar people: not to claim their lands, the TPLF is now itching to annex some districts to Tigrai.

The Oromos and Ogadenies, the Sidamas have their issues. In the different regions of the country, disappointed by the false federal arrangement and ethnocratic rule, masses of people have begun preparing for armed struggle, some already working with existing resistance groups. At a time when the youth is mostly frustrated, the option of fighting the regime seems to acquire increasing appeal, irrespective of the might of the TPLF regime.

In every nation, people hate anyone trying to dupe them or outsmart others by deceitful means. Even thieves are said to have code of honor among themselves. In Ethiopia, there is one reality: TPLF butchery that knows not any ethics, accommodation or restraints of conscience.

However, history has shown that such circumstances invite people to action in every way possible, no matter how much the enemy is armed. For now, owing to that Ethiopia’s heating and badly; its political situation is fermenting with possible showdown that may have severe consequences for the country and the sub-region.

The tragedy is that this has eluded the United Nations!

Annoyingly, all this has been happening despite United Nations’ realization that Ethiopia is godsend to its neighbors when it is at peace within itself; similarly, Ethiopia is also known to be source of turmoils to others, when it is under unfortunate circumstances.

That said, the question that requires serious answer now is why the United Nations could not pick up the signals in good time, especially when one is aware that since the days of SG Perez De Cuellar (1982-1991) it has been armed with moderate capacity for an early warning.

TPLF mucking up Ethiopia and the subregion

There are many critics of the Ethiopian regime. Many cite as an example the anti-terrorism and anti-civil society laws, about which the UN Human Rights Council during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR, 2009 and 2014) have examined and made its concerns known, all of which is to be found in UPR document of May 6, 2014. There is also the addendum to that document (press E for English).

The United States and the United Kingdom in particular are the two that bankroll and protect the regime. They too, however, accused the regime of using the anti-terrorism law to stifle dissent in the country. They called for either its improvement or dismantling.

In para 158.53, for instance, the United States requested Ethiopia:

“Conduct a full review of the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation, amending the law as necessary to ensure that it strengthens the rule of law and is applied apolitically and in full compliance with Ethiopia’s international human rights obligations.”

On its part, the United Kingdom underlined its concern, interestingly in a twitter message by Baroness Joyce Anelay, UK’s Minister for Human rights, as follows:

“We remain concerned that the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation and Charities Societies Proclamation are restricting freedom of expression and political space in Ethiopia. The recent arrests of bloggers, journalists, media proprietors and members of the opposition parties highlight how legislation such as the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation can be misused. We urge the Government of Ethiopia to take concrete steps to ensure all of its citizens can participate full in the democratic process in advance of the 2015 elections. We call on Ethiopia to allow greater freedom of assembly and encourage an environment in which Ethiopians can engage in healthy and vibrant political debate.”

Unfortunately, their public posture and their private dealings being entirely different, there could not been any progress on that front.

The trouble now is not only the lack of genuine political reforms in Ethiopia. But TPLF’s attraction to authoritarian regimes and dictators in the region, especially the potency of its repressive methods and its success in subjugating thus far the Ethiopian people.

The TPLF laws and practices of total and permanent control over the nation has attracted the leaders, for example, in Kenya, South Sudan, Djibouti, Uganda, Tanzania, etc.

President Uhuru Kenyatta, a suspect in ICC eyes and Kenyan victims of crimes against humanity, has recently imposed TPLF-esque repressive laws and measures under the guise of fighting terrorism. This was something we noticed and have been expecting from the moment the president walked into the presidency.

All along, as a person who has passed through the 2007/2008 election and with lots of work requreid on his part to eliminate traces of the role he has been suspected of, he has closely looked and admired Meles Zenawi, whom he has been trying to ape since he took power.

Clearly, his goal has been to curtail freedom of the press in Kenya. In addition, his eyes are also on the next electoral period. To help him in that respect, he is engaged in undermining potential threats. Since the first day, his basic instinct has been to diminish societal and individual freedoms in Kenya.

On several occasions, this blog has expressed its worries about what is hanging on the head of Kenya’s vibrant free press, as have the media, growing democracy and its civil service system. We have no illusion about the sources of influence: the TPLF.

Surprise! Surprise! While even the US has come out to express its concerns about the direction Uhuru Kenyatta is taking Kenya especially after the adoption of the anti-terrorism law in late 2014.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has little to say on this. It annoys us that he did not seem to see even the need for an internal ad hoc body to see, among others, what the TPLF is upto in Ethiopia and indeed in Africa, beyond gullibility of the fight against Al-Shabab terrorists, which is only a means to an end and TPLF’s participation in peacekeeping operations under the UN only business, as source of foreign exchange.

The more the people of Ethiopia and neighboring countries fall under the grips of repressive regimes, this would give rise to popular anger and instability. This development would only create fertile ground for new and different kinds of extremists, including the known terrorists.

Where has Ban Ki-moon taken the United Nations?

The Inner City Press piece has served in awakening our memory to the series of the elderly Ban Ki-moon’s unresponsiveness to challenges to the Charter principles on human rights issues during his tenure running this unique global Organization.

If our focus remains on Ethiopia, citizens in that country have experienced numerous cruelties and state violence. We dare say, TPLF’s cruelty is not so much different from the apartheid regime in texture and objectives. That is why Ethiopians are displeased with Ban Ki-moon’s ‘reign at the United Nations.

He has proved incapable of using the powers of his office to take necessary actions to relieve suffering peoples from the type of tyranny the TPLF has imposed on them.

Therefore, he has missed many opportunities to speak out against sufferings Ethiopians and other people in developing countries and allied to Western nations, especially the United States. Let us provide some specific examples, about which he had kept mum, while he would not – sorry it has to come to this – if the victim were European, American, or Israeli!

Example I

The first time we noticed Mr. Ban’s indifference was in March 2012. Two men with BMW beat, mistreat and drag a woman in the streets of Beirut (Lebanon). Her name was Alem Dechasa, an Ethiopian maid. Her two assailants finally hauled her into the car and drove away, as can be seen in the video hereunder.


This video, released by Lebanese Broadcasting International (LBCI), went viral on YouTube. It depicted a painful picture of the cruelty her abductors subjected to physical abuses, her hair cruelly pulled in different directions.

The mistreatment, brutalities and indignities she endured were enormous for anyone that watched the video. Yet, medieval as everything is in that part of the world, where men respect their goats than their women – about which both popular novels based on facts and fiction have so much to say for decades – Alem Dechasa was described as mad and admitted to hospital. Two days later, it was learnt she hanged herself with the hospital’s bedsheets.

For weeks and next few months, the story was covered, among others, chiefly by Western and Middle Eastern newspapers (see The New York Times; The Guardian), human rights organizations, bloggs and every openminded press The Struggle to End Domestic Slavery in Lebanon, commentators shockingly writing even about the terrible silence and indifference of passersby watching ‘the show.’

The Lebanese government outright started its investigations. There was no Ban Ki-moon to be heard, or any other body to put pressure on Lebanon to pursue through this shameful crime. It quietly died down, like many things in the Middle East.

For a secretary-general, who has always proved to be on gear whenever disturbing and tragic incidents happen to any citizen of the northern rich world, such brutal and inhuman attack on that Ethiopian housemaid went unnoticed. The United Nations under his leadership missed an opportunity to signal that this was unacceptable anywhere in the world.

It would have been very important to engage in public and in private Lebanese officials as a member state that has acceded to the principles of the Charter.

After all, the secretary-general ought to give to this issue the prominence it deserves – most of all in a region known to respect its goats and camels more than its female citizens – about which both popular novels based on fact and fiction had so much written for decades.

Ethiopians and non-Ethiopians wondered and wrote the secretary-general their displeasure in his silence and their concern about the incident in memos and appeals. They asked him to raise his voice against such an inhuman action and the perpetrators of such cruelty. They wanted him to engage Lebanese officials to take swift action to ensure justice.

Just to show magnitude of the problem, in Saudi Arabia alone, annually, according to Saudi Gazette, 20,000 domestic helpers flee from their employers because of abuses.

Sadly, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was nowhere to attach his name and the voice of his office with the sad case of Alem Dechasa, a mother, a wife, a domestic worker who has suffered the most serious injustice.

We asked ourselves whether the secretary-general of the United Nations would have kept mum the world speaking about it, especially if the victim were American or European, or Israeli?

Worse is our fear that in whatever we see and read ever since, it has become clear to us that this has characterized his leadership of the United Nations, the most irreplaceable global organization.

Example II

When Saudi Arabia unleashed its huge arsenal of state and vigilante violence against immigrants in its country in October/November 2013, again the secretary-general was no where to exercise the moral and political authority of his office. While Saudi Arabia was within its rights to decide who stays in its country or should be expelled (without the violation of the immigrants’ human rights), the violence, deaths, rapes, and seizure of assets those individuals made in that country, were beyond the pale.

Again, Ethiopians, among others, contacted the secretary-general with letters and appeals for the help of his office, including by the Editor of this blog post. As usual, all those efforts seemed like trying to wake up a man pretending to be asleep.

For a poor country like Ethiopia, over 163 thousand Ethiopians were suddenly expelled, which under incapable and less carrying state capacities, i.e., institutions and infrastructures, many to this day have been left to destitution in different parts of the country. Some have even been caught at border posts, trying to escape out of the country, rather staying in a homeland that profits on their destitution.

Not surprisingly, in Wolo region last Monday, February 2, 2015, Ethiopians returning from Saudi Arabia found the lands they developed seized by TPLF officials, without any compensation.

The Saudis paid for flights of over 73,000 Ethiopians, which the TPLF did not announce until Saudi Gazette brought it out. Sad as it may be, the Ethiopian-Saudi engagement also focussed, with Tedros Adhanom leading effort on the Ethiopian side, on trade and investment. Tedros Adhanom was negotiating for more Saudi investments, not the plight of our citizens.

Mr. Ban is nowhere to react to the injustices these people have suffered!

Example III

In late April and May 2014, the TPLF regime in Ethiopia engaged in shooting Oromo university students in different parts of the country. Frankly speaking, Ethiopians do not even know how many students were shot by sharpshooters and point blank in Ambo, Jima, Wollega, Dire Dawa, Harar, Bale, etc. Many were taken to prison and some of the students were found hanged in their cells.

The fact of the matter is that the Ormos are the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia. The TPLF sees them as its protagonists and threat to its power. Because of that, they have all the time been the target of its persecution.

In November 2014, Amnesty International released its research based report, stating that since 2011 it has documented the TPLF detaining 5,000 Oromos. The report observed:

“The Ethiopian government’s relentless crackdown on real or imagined dissent among the Oromo is sweeping in its scale and often shocking in its brutality,” Claire Beston, the group’s Ethiopia researcher, said in a statement. “This is apparently intended to warn, control or silence all signs of ‘political disobedience’ in the region.”

Amnesty pointed out: “The accusation of OLF support has often been used as a pretext to silence individuals openly exercising dissenting behavior.”

This tragic story has been reported widely by the international media.

Where was the Office of the Secretary-General?
TPLF imposing fear on Ethiopian women and the society with beatings the stomach and the back

In this article, we mentioned the case of seven-month pregnant woman beaten like an inanimate object. She lost her baby because of the beatings. This is reported to be the regime’s strategy to discourage the participation of women in protests against the regime.

Indirectly, this is taken to be reflection of the cruelty imposed on every member of Ethiopian society, the intent of which is to discourage opposition to the regime.

Who would have the courage to continue, while his mother is being beaten because of her belief and hunger for a better future for her children? Who would allow his sister to be kicked and beaten in the street because of her conviction for a better and democratic Ethiopia? That also applies for a wife, a neighbor’s daughter, niece, etc.

For the United Nations, especially the High Commissioner for Human Rights, it appears this has not amounted to anything to the secretary-general – because he has heard but chosen to keep quiet. 

‘Unequal nations’, foreseen by the Charter, is not equal to unequal peoples

It is clear that on matters of great importance to the international community, such as peace and security, the decision of nine nations rules the world via the United Nations Security Council at any one give time, although the membership of the security Council is 15. Of the nine affirmative votes always, five belong to the Council’s permanent members that wield veto power; the other four are non-permanent members that serve two year period on rotational basis.

It affects little the work of the Council’s proceedings, if the other five cast negative votes.

This is in keeping with the ambitions of the victors of World War II, which to this day continue to write history to their truths. A typical feature thus of the United Nations Charter and partly contributing to this dysfunction is the fact of states being divided between the powerful and unequal nations.

That is to say, not all nations are equal at the United Nations, with Articles 23 (1) and 27 (3) of the Charter speaking about permanence in the Security Council for the five (China, France, UK, US and Russia) and key to consensus with their affirmative votes on any decision. This thus has defined picture of the international system – governance of the global system by a few powerful nations, to which the secretariat and its head, the secretary-general, must give utmost attention.

The same is true in the financial institutions such as the World Bank, where the wallet speaks and the big European middle powers and the United States dictates who and what is to be funded.

While for the secretary-general ensuring implementation of principles of the Charter is key function, for him/her finding the appropriate balance between the independence and neutrality of his office has been a serious challenge.

The good fortune for the Organization was the early shift in leadership that followed the resignation of Trygve Lie and the coming of Dag Hammarskjold in 1952. This opened a new vista in the early on for the United Nations, under the leadership of Dag Hammarskjold, the second Secretary-General, who strongly believed in the independence of the Organization, as already mentioned above.

Nevertheless, the reality is that each secretary-general brings to the office his strengths and weaknesses. The great thing about Hammarskjold is that he used to rely on principles of the Charter and his personal courage. Because of this, he was able to leave behind unparalleled legacy for the Organization – for that matter from more trying times.

The current secretary-general, whose independence and neutrality has been in need of firming up, seems to see the peoples of the world he is supposed to serve equally with differentiated levels of appreciation for their concerns and problems. This is not in accord with the Charter for any secretary-general.

The point is that, with the practice imposed by the Charter, we live in a world of unequal states, but not unequal peoples. The Charter has not made any distinction, especially for purposes of respect for fundamental human rights.

For a long time many have had this view of Mr. Ban, as secretary-general. He is seen as habitually differentiating in his responses to human situations. These are measured, as we see from his office’s actions and performance. In other words, there are things and situations he could afford to ignore in southern nations and those that keep him on gear to readily react or disapprove of untoward actions against northern citizens.

As learned person, with rich experience behind him, Mr. Ban-Ki-moon is undoubtedly knowledgeable. However, badly troubling observers of his stewardship of the United Nations is his selectivity of issues, already discussed at length. He finds some cases easier to bring to the attention of states or the international community. Many others not, although they deserve doing so.

In that mental fit and performance, the secretary-general appears to be in need of reminding by Secretary-General Hammarskjold*, who in 1953 wrote, less than two years into his post:

“To be efficient, the Secretariat must act with unity of purpose, and the Charter has put the responsibility for such unity on the Secretary-General.”

Therefore, we consider it of great importance to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to look in his remaining times those points we raised in this piece, if not for anything, for legacy’s sakes.

Moreover, in our review of the Authoritarianism Securitization of Development article by Jonathan Fisher and David Anderson, we argued against the fable of Africa having entered the era of genuine election and democracy building.

Based on our national experiences and the article we reviewed, what we have learned is that Africans still languish under donor-supported dictators and authoritarianism. Because of this, today Ethiopians, as are many Africans that are close to the West, are being deprived of the fruits of free and fair elections, human dignity and respect for fundamental human rights and freedoms.

The propaganda left and right should not delude the United Nations Early Warning System, before crisis strikes!

* Quoted in Brian Urquhart’s Hammarskjold (1972)
°When coming to office, the oldest secretary-general was Boutros Ghali.


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