Ethiopian Community letter drawing TUT attention to crimes of human rights violations by its 2017 nominee for honorary degree

24 Feb

Posted by The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)

“February 12, 2017


Dear Prof Hannu Eskola,
Chair of the Master of Ceremonies
Conferment Ceremony Committee

The Ethiopian Community in Finland has learned with a sense of shock and displeasure that the 2017 Tohtoripromootio of the Tampere University of Technology (TUT) should include a nominee unworthy of the traditions, achievements and prestige of this great academic institution in the May 2017 Conferment of Doctoral Degrees.

We dare say it may even be unlikely that in the past 35 years since the university started such a conferment ceremony in 1982 a murderer has ever been awarded honour and recognition for consistently repressing and massacring a country’s citizens. What has led to this in Ethiopia is the absence of rule of law and accountability.

In the circumstances, a killer remains a killer no matter how much one elevates him or her! Consequently, Hailemariam Desalegn’s nomination is not justifiable. It is not in keeping with TUT’s own criteria, which appears on its web page clearly stating:

“Tampere University of Technology invites persons from Finland and abroad to accept honorary doctorates in recognition of excellence in fields represented at the University and other exceptional scientific, artistic or social merits.”

We very much welcome these criteria and also the university’s sincerity in so doing.

This being a highly elevated and honourable call, let it be known, therefore, we could not keep silent in the face of Hailemariam Desalegn’s nomination. He rose from the status of a political cadre in the ruling Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) efforts to control Southern Ethiopia. For his reward, Hailemariam was picked up from Arba Minch University to work as regional administrator, and then deputy prime minister.

Subsequently on the expiry of the TPLF prime minister, Hailemariam Desalegn was made Ethiopia’s prime minister in 2012. The distance he traversed to his present position took him four years after completion of his graduate studies at TUT with a master’s degree in sanitation engineering in 1988.

This Tohtoripromootio nomination is not unique as such. The Ethiopian Community in Finland recognizes the two-sided ties between foreign universities and their foreign students, especially if and when the former students become national leaders. Their students also develop attachment with the institutions as their alma maters.

Unfortunately, the said nominee, as we detail in a moment, does not and cannot meet the standards of a luminary – be it in his academic performance at TUT, moral standing in Ethiopian society or his contributions to societal betterment. Also Hailemariam’s nomination by TUT is hardly consistent with Finland’s own experiences in societal wellbeing. This country is known for its advocacy of equality, human rights, justice and rewarding hard work towards which TUT has also been collaborator through its faculty and graduates that serve the goals and objectives of democratic Finland.

The purpose this letter by the Ethiopian community in Finland is being on record for drawing the attention of the TUT community and universities around the world that Hailemariam Desalegn, as a notorious human rights violator and a killer of Ethiopians is cause of great concern for Finnish Ethiopians and Ethiopian members of the community resident in this country and those around the world.

Hailemariam Desalegn has the blood of tens of thousands of Ethiopians on his hands. In the last year alone, by some estimates over two thousand Ethiopians have been gunned down, several tens of thousands injured and over 60,000 languishing in prison. The fundamental question is why all this cruelty.

There are ample testimonies affirming the fact that the people of Ethiopia are demanding respect for their democratic rights and freedoms. To demand equality, freedom and justice peaceably is not a crime in Ethiopia, if all were according to the law of the land. Ethiopia’s constitution in articles 30 and 31 provides for the right of peaceful assembly, demonstration and petition. Saddening is the arrogance of power of the TPLF leaders.

It is in breach of those rights, the Ethiopian minority regime since November 2015 has been killing citizens at will, shooting live weapons against unarmed protesters and under authorization by Hailemariam Desalegn to the security forces.

It is in observing that the United Nations Human Rights High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on August 10, 2016 said in interview with Reuters: “The use of live ammunition against protesters in Oromia and Amhara [regions], the towns there of course would be a very serious concern for us.”

While Amnesty International has recommended reforms in Ethiopia it has also underlined the importance of recognition that “the sustained protests in Ethiopia are being driven by underlying human rights grievances that remain unresolved to date.”

On its part, Human Rights Watch has been calling for independent inquiry, when the subsequent Ireecha Massacre took place in Debre Zeit, which it strongly felt should not be left unpunished.

The United Nations too remains seized with the ongoing state violence in the country. It has been requesting the “government to allow access for international observers into the Amhara and Oromia regions so that we can establish what has happened and that the security forces, if it is the case that they have been using excessive force, that they do not do so and promptly investigate of course these allegations.”

This request was reiterated in September 2016 at the United Nations Human Rights Council’s 33rd session. Communications between Ethiopia and the United Nations is continuing.

Not surprisingly, on October 8 the regime declared martial law via State of Emergency Law, which all the more has empowered the security forces to arrest anybody they so choose or kill. It is this that Hailemariam Desalegn appeared on national television and iterated the much-dreaded words he employed authorizing the security forces to take necessary actions throughout Ethiopia. That has become one Ethiopian tragic event that to this day continues to be covered under the rubric of Ethiopia falls under six-month state of emergency; it is a story of death and ethnic conflicts that has made the country’s future uncertain.

On 30 August 2016, Finnish Ethiopians and Ethiopians resident in Finland wrote their concerns to Foreign Minister Timo Soini (for the letter, press to read in PDF). In that letter, in reminding the foreign minister of Finland’s responsibility within the international community, they urged him to do something bilaterally, through the European Union (EU) and at the level of the United Nations to save the country from the 1994 Rwanda-type bloodshed in which close to a million-people perished. This had shocked the world community and ever since through an annual commemoration nations have been pledging the NEVER AGAIN phrase.

We are grateful, Finland instantly reacted two days later, by issuing travel advisory whose content agreed with the Ethiopian Community’s assessment about the evolving dangerous situation in the country. Again the Finnish Foreign Ministry on January 5, 2017 acknowledged:

“Etiopiassa on ollut lisääntyvässä määrin sisäisiä levottomuuksia ja etnisten ryhmien välisiä konflikteja. Pinnan alla kyteneet jännitteet ovat purkautuneet väkivaltaisuuksina sekä mielenosoituksina, jotka hallinto on voimallisesti tukahduttanut.”


“Ethiopia has been increasingly embroiled in internal unrest and conflicts between ethnic groups. Beneath the surface is the packed voltage that is discharging violence and demonstrations that the administration has forcefully repressed.”

It is our considered view that Hailemariam Desalegn is one of the authors of Ethiopians’ tragedy, whom the prestigious Tampere University of Technology cannot honour. He is perpetrator of war crimes the modern world cannot and should not ignore or tolerate, much less a respected academic institution awarding him recognition through an honorary doctoral degree.

To be frank, for that matter, we too are in the cloud as to the justification for his qualification to this solemn event. We have been unable to put two and two together to reach the same conclusion as TUT why he – a murderer – should qualify to such honour in the eyes of this country’s one of the most important academic institutions, save they tell us that TUT is the nominee‘s alma mater! To the best of our understanding, excellence and alma mater hardly feed each other in direct measures.

By approaching the Tampere University of Technology through this letter, we are also trying to protect it from grave mistakes and irreparable damage – lest it face the bad fate of Azusa Pacific University (APU). In July 2014, in the United States APU announced withdrawing the nomination of Hailemariam Desalegn from similar award. They also fell into the trap of basing their judgment on the fact that he had tried his hand via correspondence taking management courses, he uses to embellish his personal record.

The cancellation of the award was announced after the prime minister was in the United State and his schedule showing visit to the APU Campus in the West Coast.

At the time, APU’s spokesperson noted: “I can confirm that the event has been cancelled. The university evaluated current developments in Ethiopia including the latest U.S State Department Human Rights Report.”

The spokesperson further indicated that the recent Ethiopian high court decision to file terrorism charges against Zone9 bloggers and journalists was also one of the factors considered for the cancellation of the event to honour Mr. Desalegn.

Today, Ethiopia is a land of continuing bloodshed, ethnic tensions and conflicts and countless deaths of its citizens. We are certain that one of the authors of such shame, disgrace and national pain is Hailemariam Desalegn himself.

If TUT decides to go ahead and lend its name to a murderer, the choice is up to the university authorities. Nevertheless, we remain certain in our conviction that we have done what is expected of us to stand against state violence being perpetrated by the TPLF, its gross injustices and the crimes of its hirelings, such as Hailemariam Desalegn.

The Tampere University has responsibility to protect its name, which is its brand to its faculty and students!

Sir, please accept the assurances of the Ethiopian Community’s highest consideration.

Prof Hannu Eskola
Chair of the Master of Ceremonies
Conferment Ceremony Committee
2017 Doctoral Degrees Conferment Committee: PO Box 527, FI-33101 Tampere

Prof. Moncef Gabbouj, Conferrer of Degrees

Prof. Minna Kellomäki, Head Marshal 

Katja Ayre, Director of Communications and Media Relations

Elina Orava, Academic Officer

Mira Toroi, Coordinator”
Twitter address: @TampereUniTech

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