Head office of the Ethiopian Teachers' Association (ETA) Ransacked

The Central Council of The Ethiopian Teachers Association (ETA)

Addis Abeba, Ethiopia

To Education International, Brussels - Belgium

Ref.No ETA/136/44-5-96

Date March 20,1996

Dear Colleagues,

We regret to inform you that the head office of the Ethiopian Teachers' Association (ETA) was ransacked and sealed by the government security forces on March 18, 1996. The security forces who wore police uniforms and civilian clothes came to ETA's Premise and:

a. harassed every individual found there.

b. arrested Ato Abate Angore, an executive committee member of ETA. He is now detained in Criminal Investigation Bureau.

c. broke into the office of the president, Dr. Taye Woldesemayat, and seized his personal notebooks, books and some documents of the Association.

d. sealed some doors of the head office.

We have also been informed lately that another group of the security force broke into Dr. Taye's residence house and took away all items he had there.

The security forces were not willing to tell us the reasons why they took such actions against ETA. We expect that all of us might be imprisoned very shortly.

Please do not hesitate to write a letter of protest to Ato Meles Zenawi, the Prime minister and Pressure his government to:

- release Ato Abate Angore immediately

- open ETA's head office without any precondition

- refrain from interfering in the internal affairs of ETA.

Yours Sincerely,


Gemoraw Kassa

Secretary of ETA

________________________End of ETA's Press Release--------------------

> From ------- SHINE

Dear Netters (EEDN, Ethiolist), Human Rights Groups, Newsmagazines, etc

On 19 March 1996 we in SHINE posted a message pertaining to the Ethiopian Teachers' Association (ETA). Then we stated that there was an "unconfirmed report" about ETA's head office in Addis Abeba being surrounded by armed EPRDF troops and security men. In the mean time we have made efforts to verify this report. We have confirmed that the premises of ETA in Addis Abeba have indeed been surrounded and that illegal searches were conducted by EPRDF soldiers and security men on March 18, 1996. Above, we have reproduced the full text of the appeal letter which ETA's secretary Mr. Gemoraw Kassa has written to the head office of Education International (EI) - the largest professional teachers' organisations that has more than eighty million (80,000,000) teachers across the length and breadth of the world. As is evident from ETA's appeal letter sent to EI, it has not only been ETA's head office that has been subjected to illegal searches and ransacking but also the residence of Dr. Taye Woldesemayat, ETA's chairman who is currently on a work visit here in Europe. They broke into his house and took away valuable items belonging to him.

Observers closlely monitoring developments in Ethiopia say that the timing of this illegal and dictatorial action on the part of the TPLF(EPRDF) regime has to do with the following things :

1 - The EPRDF regime has consistently sought to portray ETA and other independent professional organisations opposed to its undemocratic practices as "nothing more than oppositon political organizations working under the cloak of trade unions, human rights groups, professional organizations", etc. Hence the effort of EPRDF to look for evidences that would help it prove its paranoic fantasy about ETA's alleged contacts with political groups. This was the reason why they broke into ETA's office to look for incriminating evidences that would help the EPRDF regime as a pretext to dismiss and eventually ban ETA as "political organisation". Unfortunately for the dictatorial EPRDF regime, its armed soldiers and security men could not find a single material that incriminates ETA nor could they find leads that point to ETA's involvement in oppositonal politics. It was this frustration which observers beleive prompted them to imprison the elderly ETA leader Mr. Abate Angore.

2 - With this action, the EPRDF government has sought to scare ETA's president, Dr. Taye Woldesemayat, who is currently in Europe so that the latter may not return to his country for fear of EPRDF's belligerent attitudes as witnessed by what took place in Addis abeba on March 18, 1996. Given ETA's courageous record of peaceful struggle to champion the cause of Ethiopian teachers and the cause of education in Ethiopia, such ridiculous move on the part of EPRDF prove its incapacity to engage ETA peacefully. If anything, such moves reflect badly on the bully boy and gangster character of the EPRDF government in its dealings with civic and professional organisations like ETA.

3 - The move is meant to pre-empt any possible resistance of ETA against EPRDF's move to lay off six thousand teachers (6000 teachers) that are slated for dismissal indefinitely.

We would like to remind readers of this report that the EPRDF regime has in the past tried to destroy free trade unions as witness its attempt to ban the Confederation of Ethiopian Trade Unions (CETU) under the leadership its courageous chairman Mr. Dawe Ibrahim (for a detailed coverage of ETA's travails we refer the reader to the exclusive interview of Mr. Dawe Ibrahim with the Ethiopian Register (EtR) magazine in the August 1995 issue of EtR pp 59-66). EPRDF tried to create and court a rival group within CETU by picking up its own henchmen (mostly Tigrigna speakers). This move did not succeed. Later it froze CETU's bank asset worth millions of Birr deposited at the Commerical Bank of Ethiopia which is owned by the EPRDF controlled state of Ethiopia. CETU's building has been illegaly occupied by EPRDF and CETU's leaders harassed, thrown out on the street and some others thrown into prison. Some are under house arrest, some have fled to neighbouring countries like Kenya where they are forced to stay and some have decided to stay, however temporarily, in countries such as Switzerland. This is the ethnocratic minority government which the 18 embassies of western governments have dubbed "democratic" when they issued a joint communique (in December 1994) panegeryzing EPRDF's "democratic constitution" that has enshrined institutional fragmentation of Ethiopia on ethnic lines. It is this "demnocratic" government which is bank- rolled by western governments that has failed to allow elbow-room to civil instituions such as trade unions and professional organisations let alone accomodating political groups harbouring different views and divergent political programmes. This is democracy a la EPRDF - the ethnocratic cabal whose records do not even remotely smack of democracy. If the records of the last 5 years are anything to go by, democracy and EPRDF are strange bed-mates.

We in SHINE strongly condemn EPRDF's dictatorial move to efface genuine instituions of the civil society such as ETA. We ask human rights groups and institutions concerned with the cause of democracy to register their protest against the intolerable actions of EPRDF. We urge netters of the two Ethiopian computer network groups (EEDN, Ethiolist), news magazines etc to spread the press release of ETA to all appropriate bodies in the respective countries in which they reside. EPRDF is out to stamp out all traces of civil institutions voicing the plight of the civil society. First the victim was CETU, followed by EHRCO (following EHRCO's publication of a book on the human rights records of the incumbent reggime) and today it is ETA. Should we Ethiopians and Ethiopiansists sit idly by and watch in silence as the basic building blocks of a civil society are being dismantled piece by piece ? For how long should we observe such undemocratic forays into civil society with obmutescence ? Should we not rise up to the occasion in the face of such destructive drives of EPRDF to dismantle institutions of the civil society by the ethnocratic cabal - the EPRDF ?

Recommended Actions:

Reach with ETA's press release of 20 March 1996 the following instituions :

1 - National Associatons of Teachers in the respective country of your residence.

2 - Human Rights orgnaizations like Amnesty International, Africa Watch, etc.

3 - Parliamentarians, journalists, church organisations, etc

Ethiopian Information Service Network In Holland (SHINE )

Assefa Negash,

Amsterdam (Holland), March 21, 1996