VIOLENCE DOES NOT SOLVE PROBLEMS
Special Report No. 13
The official media has reported that the explosions in Addis Ababa at Tigray Hotel and Blue Tops Restaurant on April 12, 1997 and at Tana Department Store on April 12 had resulted in the injury of several persons and damage to property. According to these reports, one person died and 34 others were wounded due to the explosion at Tigray Hotel, 8 foreigners were injured at the Blue Tops Restaurant and 33 Ethiopians suffered injuries due to the explosion at the Tana Department Store. The same government media have also disclosed that another explosion occurred at Mekonnen Bar in Dire Dawa on April 26 and injured 11 persons. Part of the damage to property was also shown on ETV. The previous year, too, there were explosions at Ghion Hotel in Addis Ababa on January 18, 1996, at Ras Hotel in Dire Dawa on January 28 and at Wabi Shebelle Hotel in Addis Ababa on August 5, 1997. According to the official media, the explosion at Ghion Hotel claimed 4 lives and injured 4 others; the Ras Hotel explosion claimed one life and injured one other person; the Wabi Shebelle Hotel explosion claimed 2 lives and injured 10 persons.
It is very regrettable that the assailants have chosen as their targets for attack hotels, bars and department stores. The victims were innocent persons who were either pursuing their livelihoods by working at these places, or people who have gone to these places to entertain themselves or to dine, or guests staying at the hotels. The department stores are also shopping centres. It was property belonging to the public or members of the public that was destroyed. One can recall that similar attacks with explosives were launched against Addis Ababa Municipality and Wabi Shebelle Hotel at the time of the Derg regime, too.
Such acts of terrorism generally occur when it becomes impossible to hold a roundtable dialogue, when some individuals and groups which claim an interest in national affairs are denied a forum for imparting their views and aspirations to the public and hence feel marginalized, and when they loose hope in peaceful struggle. In our country, there is no tradition of open discussions and dialogues between opposition groups and the government. What one repeatedly hears from those who hold the highest public office is: let he who wants to raise arms in rebellion dare to do so!
At present the EPRDF controls all the major aspects of political and public life. The opposition groups with a vested interest in Ethiopian affairs have been marginalized from the political scene. The activities of some of these groups have been restricted to Addis Ababa, where they have what remains of their offices. Those that set up branch offices outside Addis Ababa in 1992 and 1993 have been driven out of the provinces, and they cannot operate even in Addis Ababa without the permission of the EPRDF.
Let alone the political opposition groups, even civil organisations cannot fully exercise their legal rights. For instance, the Ethiopian Teachers Association has been forced to give up all its branch offices outside Addis Ababa. The Confederation of Ethiopian Trade Unions, too, has been prevented from conducting its normal functions by uncalled for government intervention. The leaders of the Confederation were barred by the police from using their offices. Their appeals to the court to stop the government's undue interference was made to drag on for over two years and before the court could make a final ruling, a new confederation was set up with the support of the government.
The law provides that it is not necessary to get permission from the government in order to stage a peaceful demonstration or to hold a public political meeting. All that is required is for the organiser(s) to inform the appropriate government office about the event 48 hours in advance. In practice, however, it is impossible to stage a demonstration or hold a political meeting in accordance with the provisions of the law. As has been repeatedly demonstrated, one is obliged to secure first a permission from the concerned office. It is enough to recall here the recent experience of Addis Ababa University students who tried to stage a peaceful demonstration. Although the students informed the office 48 hours in advance their intention to stage a demonstration, they were detained and tortured on the pretext that they were not given permission to do so. Such violations of legally recognised rights deny legal platforms for peaceful opposition and create a situation that breeds violence.
The ethnic politics which is nurtured and promoted by the EPRDF also appears to be creating xenophobia. The material and moral support directly or indirectly extended by the West to EPRDF's ethnic politics is giving rise to a dangerous attitude in which foreigners from the West are summarily regarded as being responsible for the problems prevailing in Ethiopia. Nevertheless, however bleak the situation may be, the abandonment of peaceful struggle and a resort to violence is utterly insupportable. Violence destroys the lives and property of innocent people. It can also lead to vengeance and the unleashing of terror and unnecessary suffering against the people. It is with sadness that we recall that the Derg's "Red Terror" was a vindictive response to such acts of violence.
EHRCO is opposed to all acts of violence perpetrated by any party. EHRCO also strongly condemns the above-mentioned attacks with explosions which have caused injuries to innocent victims. It urges the attackers to refrain from such acts of terrorism. EHRCO calls on both the government and its opponents to resolve their differences through roundtable talks.
EHRCO also calls on all those who are committed to the establishment of a democratic system, peace, and respect for human rights and the rule of law to condemn these acts of violence, and to press the government and its opponents to resolve any outstanding problems through dialogue.
His Excellency Dr. Negasso Gidada
His Excellency Ato Meles Zenawi
His Excellency Ato Mahteme Solomon
His Excellency Ato Kemal Bedri