PM Abiy Institutionalizing the Rule of Law in Ethiopia (Memorandum No. 5)

Alemayehu Gebremariam

… Security forces wearing uniforms and caps (inaudible). Their job is to prevent people from fighting (breach of the peace).

[The inability of the security forces] to perform professionally may be related to the fact that they just don’t know or understand the requirements of their jobs. Or it could be that kilil officials have failed to give them proper professional and  ethical training. But this [lack of professionalism] is a national problem.

When some people wear a uniform and carry a Kalashnikov, they feel powerful and improperly exercise their power over the weak [in society]. This is one of the destructive traditions I talked about earlier. It is proper to help and support the weak, but abuse is improper. Especially severely ugly abuse as the elder who spoke earlier. The option is, one, to teach and the other is to hold the person [suspected of wrongdoing] accountable by law. No one can use his power to abuse others. It is best to show that the law is both for the weak and the strong. The kilil governments must demonstrate [in action] the supremacy of the rule of law.

The law is not something those of us with power and guns use to force our will on others. The law is something to be used to judge those who administer as well as those who are administered. It applies equally to the weak and powerful and both the powerful and the weak should equally believe in the [fairness] of the law. That is the way it should be. All are to be treated equally before the law.

If the powerful are using the law to buy their way, it will not work. Citizens should have confidence in the fairness of the law to the point that when they do wrong and commit an offense, they can say, ‘I have done an offense and must be held accountable’. The  law must be something that will hold us all equally accountable. I am confident the kilil administrators will do what is necessary to ensure this.– PM Abiy Ahmed (author’s translation), May 2, 2018.

Ethiopia is moving in the right direction. We have reached a very advanced stage of rule of law and respect for human rights [in Ethiopia]. Fundamentally, this is a country where democratic rights of people are respected. Meles Zenawi, Aftenposten, October 2011.

Ethiopia’s transition from dictatorship to democracy will be a transition from rule by unjust laws to the rule of just laws. I believe the rule of law will take deep root in Ethiopia when government learns always to fear its citizens and citizens acquire the courage never to fear their government! Alemayehu G. Mariam, The Rule of Law in Ethiopia’s Democratic Transition, April 2012.

Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws… for an unjust law is no law at all.” — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Letter from Birmingham Jail, 1963.

Author’s Note: I have often said that “all of the weekly commentaries I have written over the years have been structured on a single fundamental principle: the rule of law.

Last week, PM Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia offered penetrating observations about the urgent need to institutionalize the rule of law in Ethiopia. I regret my translation just does not quite capture the nuances of his statements nor eloquence of diction.

I am particularly gratified and pleased that PM Abiy hammered on the need to respect the rule of law by those sworn to uphold the law. His remarks quoted above reminded me of my own campaign to defend the rule of law in America.

Exactly 20 years ago almost to the month, I argued the same exact principles PM Abiy talked about in the California Supreme Court. In that case, I defended the rule of law established in the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to protect the right of the accused against self-incrimination. The Court agreed with me that “it is indeed police misconduct to interrogate a suspect in custody who has invoked the right to counsel.” In other words, interrogating a criminal suspect who demands the presence of a lawyer during interrogation is an intolerable disregard for the supreme law of the land. The case was cited in a 2004 decision of the United States Supreme Court.

In 2003, the case I argued provided the precedent for the California Supreme Court to invalidate deliberate police use of tactics that violate a suspect’s right against self-incrimination. The Court explained:

Officers must be made aware that they have an absolute obligation to play by the rules when questioning suspects in custody, and that their deliberate failure to do so will be severely disciplined… In a free society, we place the police in a position of unique power, but only on condition that they will do their best to uphold the law, and to enforce it nobly and fairly. Their ability to function effectively depends upon their credibility in that role. The community must trust that they do not operate by deliberately violating the very standards they are sworn to observe.   When the police dishonor proper procedures, community respect for the police, and for the law itself, is undermined.

For all intents and purposes, and to my complete astonishment, PM Abiy was telling Ethiopians today what the highest courts in America were telling Americans then.

PM Abiy’s message simply is this: When Ethiopian law enforcement officials dishonor the rule of law they are sworn to observe, community respect for the police, and for the law itself, is undermined. Lawlessness by those sworn to uphold the law invites lawlessness from citizens. That is when the principle of right makes might is transformed into might makes right.

I am supremely honored and privileged to defend an important rule of American constitutional law.

But I feel a burning irony. As I observed in 2015 celebrating the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta Libertatum, “I am deeply, deeply pained by the irony that I can freely celebrate and cherish an English charter of liberties written 800 years ago which is not even law today, yet I cannot do the same for the Ethiopian Constitution written only twenty years ago to usher a new era of freedom, justice and equality because it is not worth the paper it is written on!”

I am ecstatic secure in the knowledge that there will be, in the foreseeable future, a Magna Carta Libertatum Ethiopia (The Great Charter of Ethiopian Liberties).

Why PM Abiy’s pronouncements on the rule of law are significant

PM Abiy’s observations on the rule of law have special meaning and significance at a time when the rule of law is subordinated to the rule of a state of emergency in Ethiopia.

PM Abiy’s public statements on the rule of law apply not only to the police officer on the street but also other conducting police business as “command post”. The state of emergency in Ethiopia today signifies that certain people who wear uniforms and carry Kalashnikovs are abusing their powers by acting in disregard to the supreme law of the land. The “command post” in Ethiopia exercises expansive powers of life and death in complete disregard of the supreme law of the land.

PM Abiy does not support the state of emergency.

That is evident in the fact that he has never made a case for the state of emergency in the first place nor in any way attempted to justify it after he took office. More on the state of emergency later in this analysis.

PM Abiy in his defense of the rule of law made three important points. First, he openly admitted (without whitewashing) that there is a “national problem” of abuse of power and disregard for the rule of law by those sworn to uphold the law. Second, he underscored the need to institutionalize the rule of law through education and enhanced professional training for those in law enforcement. Third, he argued strongly for the establishment of a new culture of respect for the rule of law as a precondition for Ethiopia’s successful transition to democratic rule.

I very much agree with PM Abiy.

There can be no democratic rule without the rule of law. Where there is no rule of law, there can only be dictatorship, and resistance to dictatorship is a universal human right.

The Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, “If man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law.”

The American Declaration of Independence says exactly the same thing: “Whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends [life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness], it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, which shall seem to them most likely to affect their Safety and Happiness.”

Simply stated, in the absence of the rule of law, the alternative for the people is o undertake rebellion or revolution. I would add civil disobedience and noncooperation to the list.

To whom this memorandum is addressed

I aim this memorandum to reach not PM Abiy particularly because he really gets it about the rule of law.

I aim it specifically at those who are purportedly part of his administration and insist that the state of emergency is currently necessary and must be maintained.

I also hope to challenge those opposition leaders, human rights advocates, journalists and scholars concerned about the future of Ethiopia to become force multipliers for PM Abiy in his message of institutionalizing the rule of law in Ethiopia.

But the rule of law is not something to be left to a few elites.  All Ethiopians interested in building a truly democratic society must do their part to help institutionalize and create a strong culture of rule of law in Ethiopia.

We must all understand the simple truth that the rule of law is not something that can be accomplished by the order or command of a prime minister or a parliament. It is a task for the entire society. The rule of law is a way of life. It is a way of doing things. It is a way of relating to each other in society.

If these things are too abstract, imagine living in a society where those wearing a uniform and carrying Kalashnikovs are afraid of the people carrying a small document entitled, “The Constitution”.

Be hig amlak (In the name of the God of law): The rule of law as the historical backbone of Ethiopian society

Gaitachew Bekele in his 1993 book “The Emperor’s Clothes” explains how the rule of law has been an anchor and the backbone of Ethiopian political and social life of Ethiopians with an anecdote during the reign of Emperor Yohannes IV:

… Our forefathers earnestly believed in and followed the faith of God who is the creator or of everything on earth and in the universe, the giver of the law that governs his creatures, the appointer of leaders to emerge from the nation to administer his law and dispense justice so as to maintain peace and harmony among individuals and communities. This was the reason for the title of the supreme leader of the nation “Syume Egziabher Niguse Negest (appointee of God King of Kings). The belief in the supremacy of the law was so great, it was said its  power could stop the flow of the river: Be hig amlak sibal enkwan sew  weraj wonz yiqomal.

During the reign of Emperor Johannes IV, an incident which took place demonstrated the administration of justice reached everyone, including domestic animals. The Emperor, was concerned about the proper dispensation of justice under his rule and had the welfare of the subjects at heart, wanted to establish a means by which each one of the subjects could reach them easily to appeal to him against maladministration of justice. He ordered a big bell to be hung close to his palace so he could hear whenever it was rung by those who wanted to draw his attention. It happened one day that a donkey was rubbing his back against the pole on which the bell was hanging and caused it to ring. The Emperor ordered one  of his attendants to go and fetch the person who rang the bell. But the messenger returned alone to inform the Emperor he found only a donkey standing by the pole. “Well,” said Emperor, “go back and bring the donkey. It might have some complaints to make.” Sure enough, when the poor animal was presented to the Emperor he noticed it was suffering from a sore back. The Emperor gave orders that necessary care should be taken for the sore back of the animal to heal completely before it should be handed over to its owner. When it was handed over, the owner was admonished about his responsibility of taking good care of domestic animals. Such [was] the concern for justice and humanity…

My defense of the rule of law in Ethiopia and America

The principal job of the constitutional lawyer is to defend the rule of law. As an American constitutional lawyer, over the past 25 years, I have defended the rule of law in America’s highest courts and promoted it in its legislative bodies, taught it in American higher educational institutions, researched it and advocated it worldwide in the cause of universal human rights.

I have used my experience as a constitutional lawyer to advocate for the rule of law and human rights in Ethiopia for nearly 13 years, publishing long essays every Monday, and not infrequently three or four a week.

My first critique of the flagrant disregard for the rule of law in Ethiopia appeared in a 2006 commentary entitled “Keystone Cops, Prosecutors and Judges in a Police State.” I described the “judicial proceedings” of the Kality defendants as “an elaborate hoax, a make-believe tribunal complete with hand-picked judges, trumped-up charges, witless prosecutors, no procedures and predetermined outcomes set up to produce only one thing: a monumental miscarriage of justice.”

In 2007, I argued Seeye Abraha, the founding member of the Tigrean Peoples Liberation Front, former defense minister of the Pre-PM Abiy regime and Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of the Endowment Fund for the Rehabilitation of Tigray, was denied due process of law when he was jailed for 6 years on allegations of “corruption”. Seeye was no more or no less corrupt than any member of the TPLF ruling class. To me, it was a case of the Meles pot calling the Seeye kettle black, to improvise on an old metaphor. I believe corruption charges were used to neutralize Seeye politically. But my defense of Seeye was not about his guilt or innocence but the fact that he was convicted in kangaroo/monkey court. It was a matter of defending the principle of the rule of law even for those with whom I strongly disagreed on nearly every issue.

In my July 2009 commentary, I amplified on Barack Obama message in Ghana,  “No person wants to live in a society where the rule of law gives way to the rule of brutality and bribery. That is not democracy, that is tyranny, and now is the time for it to end.” That same Obama declared the pre-PM Abiy regime, “democratically elected” in 2015.

There have been outrageous and arrogant examples of disregard of the rule of law by high and petty officials of the pre-PM Abiy regime.

In the run-up to the May 2010 parliamentary election, the late Meles Zenawi told a high-level American diplomat that if opposition groups resort to violence in an attempt to discredit the election, “We will crush them with our full force” and “they will vegetate like Birtukan (Midekssa) in jail forever.”

Birtukan Midekssa, the first woman political party leader in Ethiopian history, was jailed for no other reason but allegedly denying she received a pardon to get out of prison.

In September 2010, I defended Meles Zenawi’s right to speak at an event at Columbia University in New York to wide public condemnation. “ How could you defend the right of a man who has denied free speech to millions of Ethiopians and jailed journalists?” they asked. My answer was simple. The right to free speech is the rule of law in America and extends even to African dictators on American soil.

Meles routinely and publicly talked about the guilt of opposition leaders, journalists and others standing trial without so much of an awareness of the suspects’ right to a presumption in violation of all international human rights laws and conventions.

In October 2011, Meles described Swedish reporter Martin Schibbye and photojournalist Johan Persson as “at the very least, messenger boys of a terrorist organization.” If what they were investigating was “journalism, I don’t know what terrorism is.” That was in clear violation of Article 20 of the “Ethiopian Constitution” which provides the “accused is  presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law.” They were found guilty and sentenced to a lengthy prison term which was commuted under international pressure.

But the disregard of the rule of law reached to the lowest levels of Meles’ officialdom. In my February 2012, I discussed the outrageous conduct of a local police chief in Addis Ababa who threatened to arrest a Voice of America- Amharic reporter stationed in Washington, D.C. calling to ask him questions. Refusing to identify himself, the chief threatened, “I don’t care if you live in Washington or in Heaven. I don’t give a damn! I will arrest you and take you. You should know that.”

In my August 2013 commentary, “Corruption in the Ethiopian JUST US Sector”, I argued that what passes off as a “justice system” in Ethiopia is little more than a marketplace where “justice” is bought and sold in a monopoly controlled by one man supported by a few nameless, faceless and clueless men who skulk in the shadows of power. It is a justice system in which universal principles of law and justice are disregarded, subverted, perverted and mocked. It is a system where the poor, the marginalized, the audacious journalists, dissidents, opposition and civil society leaders are legally lynched despite the criticism and bootless cries of the international community. It is a system in which regime leaders, their families, friends and cronies are above the law and spell justice “JUST US”.

In my July 2014, commentary, “Ethiopia: The Crime of Extraordinary Rendition”, I condemned Andargachew’ Tsigie’s outrageous and illegal abduction by the pre-PM Abiy regime.  Andargachew is the General Secretary of the Ethiopian opposition group formally known as Ginbot 7 Movement for Justice, Freedom and Democracy. In that commentary, I noted the struggle for the rule of (international) law is the unending struggle of civilization against savagery, brutality, depravity and inhumanity. Savagery against the rule of law is not limited to a wild-eyed murderous terrorist. It is equally the stock in trade of those who claim to follow the rule of law by practicing the rule of thuggery.

In my May 2015 commentary, I challenged President Barack Obama for speaking in forked tongue when he told the African Union, “When a leader tries to change the rules in the middle of the game just to stay in office” and claims he is “the only person who can hold this nation together.” In the same breath, Obama  said, “The government of Ethiopia has been democratically elected.”

In my May 2016 commentary, “The ‘Law’ as State Terrorism in Apartheid Ethiopia”, I demonstrated how the rule of law could be transformed into the rule of tyranny and persecution of dissent. I argued that when the State uses the “law” to silence and violently stamp out dissent, jail and keep dissenters and opposition leaders and members in solitary confinement and suppress the press and arbitrarily arrest journalists, trash human rights with impunity, trample upon the rule of law and scoff at constitutional accountability, there is no longer rule of law, only rule  of a terrorist state.

In my February 2017 commentary, “The Day America Taught the World the Meaning of the Rule of Law”, I showed how an independent American judiciary taught the world the meaning of the rule of law. I mean that in the most literal sense.  The American federal judiciary acted unhesitatingly to ensure the executive order of the President of the United States “comports with the country’s laws, more importantly, our Constitution.” President Donald Trump lacked elementary familiarity with the supreme law of the land. He believed as the chief executive and commander-in-chief, he could command policy by executive fiat. But judges of the federal district court slammed his executive orders one after another. Unlike African dictators whose word and flick of the finger is law, the President of the United is powerless against the injunctive orders of the federal courts and must accept and follow their decisions. When executive and legislative actions are subject to judicial review, the rule of law becomes triumphant.

I take immense pride in celebrating the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta on my campus with my students (arguably the only celebration of its kind on any American campus) in 2015. It was a special honor to have my commentary, “A Magna Carta for Ethiopia”, posted on the official website of the 800th Magna Carta Committee.

In my July 2017 commentary, I demonstrated beyond a shadow of doubt that the terrorism charges against Tadesse Biru Kersmo in Britain were trumped up and could not stand rigorous scrutiny in the courtroom. In the last sentence of that commentary I argued, “there are a thousand doubts based on reason and facts as to the guilt of Tadesse Biru Kersmo on charges of terrorism.” I knew that no reasonable British jury would find Tadesse guilty of terrorism simply for downloading on his computer freely available or easily purchasable documents on the internet. In December 2017, I was proven right. Tadesse was found not guilty on all counts by a British jury.

In January 2018, I dedicated my serialized commentaries on truth and reconciliation in Ethiopia “to all of Ethiopia’s youth that have made the ultimate sacrifice to free their country from minority ethnic apartheid rule and establish a democratic society based on the rule of law.”

For the past nearly 13 years, I have been preaching the gospel of the rule of law in the wilderness to the regime in Ethiopia. Today, I am supremely pleased PM Abiy has joined me in practicing that gospel.

Fifteen reasons why the state of emergency should be lifted

The continuation of the state of emergency is a sore point for Ethiopia’s young people and the general population as well as the international community. It no longer serves its purpose. It should be lifted immediately. Here are 15 reasons (I could give a hundred if need be) why it should be lifted forthwith.

I have marshaled every rational argument I can think of to convince those who insist on maintaining the state of emergency. In the end, I can only invoke an old Ethiopian adage. “Mikerew mikerew, embi sil mekra yimkerew.” (Counsel him time and again and if he refuses counsel, let hardship counsel him.)

Reason No. 1: A state of emergency (martial law) is antithetical to the rule of law.

A state of emergency is to the rule of law as military music is to music. Few would regard the drill music of the military as real music.

The rule of law permits deprivation of life, liberty and property ONLY with the due process. There must be a fair hearing and determination of wrongdoing in an impartial judicial process.

A state of emergency permits the arbitrary arrest, detention and extrajudicial killing of any person by one official or a group of officials (“Command Post”) arbitrarily. It is the ultimate negation of the rule of law.

The rule of law commands no one individual no matter how high his office is above the law.

In a state of emergency, the rule of law is the rule of the gun and those who command the “command post”. To borrow PM Abiy’s apt phraseology, in a state of emergency, those who wear uniforms and caps rule by the power of the Kalashnikov. The rule of the gun is supreme over the rule of law.

Reason No. 2. The rule of law is essential for good governance and rule by state of emergency is the absolutely worst form of governance.

The rule of law requires accountability and transparency in political administration and fair and regularized process for the administration of justice.

In a state of emergency, the gun is the only thing needed to rule.

The Good Book says, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” What happens to those who rule by the gun?

Reason No. 3. The state of emergency will fail because it violates Newton’s Third Law.

Newton’s Third Law states, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” It means that in every interaction, there is a pair of forces acting on the two interacting objects. The size of the forces on the first object equals the size of the force on the second object.

In politics, that simply means when a regime exerts a force (oppression) on the people, the people simultaneously exert a force equal in magnitude and opposite (resistance). If the regime oppresses the people, the people will exert an equal force in resisting that oppression. The resistance may be open rebellion. It may be civil disobedience. It may be passive noncooperation. But the people will resist in a thousand and one ways.

My supplementary “law” to Newton’s Third Law as it applies to Ethiopia states, “Ethiopia’s youth united can never be defeated!” There is no way on God’s green earth that a state of emergency declaration could defeat the unified power of Ethiopia’s youth!

Reason No. 4. If you can’t beat them (Ethiopia’s Cheetahs, younger generation), join them.

It is not necessary to beat down our young people by the scourge of a state of emergency. Only psychotic parents would beat their children to death, imprison and torture them. Decent parents listen to their children and guide them. Decent parents also recognize their children have to make their own future.

The fact of the matter is that those who believe in the state of emergency may believe they can break the bodies and spirits of our young people by arresting, jailing and killing them. But they can never, never beat, arrest, torture and kill them into submission. The reasons are obvious. They are smarter than those who insist on maintaining the state of emergency. They are resilient and have more energy and determination. They are incredibly more creative. They are ferocious in getting what they want. Controlling their own fate and destiny is non-negotiable. It is a  matter of life and death for them. They will do anything and everything to be free. They will be free or die trying.

Such is the adversary those who insist on the state of emergency have created. I say, there is no way you can beat the Abo Shemanes (Cheetahs). So, join them!

Reason No. 5. The days of ruling by force, by killing and by torture are over. Power dissolves when people lose their fear.

PM Abiy has repeatedly said that the bad old days of ruling Ethiopia by killing, jailing and torturing are gone. He said Ethiopia will never be ruled by force of arms, only with the consent of the governed. That simply means the only government that can govern Ethiopia today and forever more is a government of laws, not men who use guns to kill and terrorize.

PM Abiy listens to the heartbeat of Ethiopians. He has heard the message of the amazing Aba Geda Beyene Senbeto who matter-of-factly questioned, “Do you think a thousand command post soldiers can suppress one hundred million people? No, they can’t…”

Robert Holmes has restated the immutable law of history.

Power dissolves when people lose their fear. You can still kill people who no longer fear you, but you cannot control them. Political power requires obedience, which is fueled by the fear of pain to be inflicted if you refuse to comply with the will of those who control the instruments of violence. That power evaporates when the people lose their fear.

The days of ruling Ethiopia by brute force are over. The people have lost their fear of their oppressors. Regardless of the military and security power of those who insist on the state of emergency, the command post cannot rule without some degree of genuine cooperation and support of the people. The people of Ethiopia are showing their defiant resistance to the state of emergency by means of civil disobedience, nonviolent resistance, and noncooperation.

The game of ruling Ethiopia by force is OVER! 

Reason No. 6. The state of emergency is clear proof those who insist on the state of emergency are in a state of fear.

The state of emergency is intended to project the image that the regime is in total control. The fact of the matter is that it is conveying the exact opposite impression. Instead of projecting an image of a regime in total control, the state of emergency shows the regime is in a state of fear. The state of emergency presents a regime paralyzed in a “siege mentality”, a psychological state of emergency. It presents a regime that feels surrounded by enemies and is in constant danger from everything and everyone. The state of emergency presents a regime frightened to death by the very people it seeks to rule with an iron fist with a trigger finger. It presents a regime that can’t sleep at night and can’t stop looking over its shoulders during the day. Because judgment day is coming!

The die-hards who insist on the state of emergency are afraid of the people, especially the youth. They are emboldening the youth by proving, every day the state of emergency remains in effect, the unarmed youth are more powerful than those with the Kalashnikovs.

Those who insist on ruling by a state of emergency always find themselves in a terminal state of emergency. Those “who draw the sword will die by the sword.” What happens to those who insist on ruling and staying in power by a state of emergency?

Reason No. 7. The international community is against the state of emergency.

The international community is against the state of emergency. Ethiopia’s largest benefactor is against it. The U.S. Embassy stated, “We recognize and share concerns expressed by the government…  but firmly believe that the answer is greater freedom, not less. The declaration of a state of emergency undermines recent positive steps toward creating a more inclusive political space….” The European Union is also against the state of emergency.

Reason No. 8. Remember those who judge shall one day be judged themselves.

The Good Book says, “For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” It also says, “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” and warns of “visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation.” They should beware, “The wicked have drawn out the sword, and have bent their bow, to cast down the poor and needy, and to slay such as be of upright conversation.  Their sword shall enter into their own heart, and their bows shall be broken.”

Gandhi said, “Remember that all through history, there have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they seem invincible. But in the end, they always fall. Always.” In modern times, it is said, “what goes around comes around.”

Those who insist on the state of emergency should consider carefully what they do in the state of emergency will affect not only them but millions of other innocent people who have nothing to do with their decision to maintain a state of emergency. The longer they insist on keeping the state of emergency, the more certain they make they will one day be judged by the very people they judged in the state of emergency.

I say, “Quit while you are ahead.” Don’t let the sun go down on your state of emergency. The day of judgment will come like a thief in the night.

Reason No. 9. Teach the youth that change can come peacefully without the need for bloodshed. Don’t radicalize the youth by pushing them to become hopeless and desperate.

Dr. Martin Luther King said:

“A riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the negro poor… It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.

I say the same thing. The protests in Ethiopia are Ethiopia’s youth speaking in the language of the unheard. They are speaking their pain with their feet and their hands. Talk to the young people. Nurture them. Make way for them. Encourage and embrace them.

“You reap what you sow.” If you treat the young people harshly when you have power, they will treat you harshly when you are powerless. “Power is a fickle mistress, easy to seduce, but even easier to lose.” When you lose her to a younger suitor, she can be unforgiving.

Reason No. 10. The state of emergency plays straight in the hands of those resisting the state of emergency.

The young protesters have learned the lesson that they can make the country ungovernable through civil disobedience. They can gridlock the transportation system.  They can scare foreign investors. They can ignite mass anger and retaliation.

I say to those who insist on maintaining the state of emergency, “Stand down and drawdown. Let the young people feel they have been heard.” PM Abiy has said on various occasions, he has heard the voice of the young people. He gets their message. Those who insist on the state of emergency must join PM Abiy and let the young people be the best they can be.

Reason No. 11. When you’ve got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose.

The young people feel they have no freedom, no opportunity and no future under the rule of a state of emergency.

There are 75 million of them and they all feel invisible, insulted, interned and inconsequential under the rule of a state of emergency. They feel their future has been stolen by those insisting on maintaining the state of emergency.

Bob Dylan’s lyrics describe their situation best. “Ain’t it hard when you discovered that/ He really wasn’t where it’s at/ After he took from you everything he could steal/… When you ain’t got nothing, you got nothing to lose/ You’re invisible now, you’ve got no secrets to conceal…/

Because the young people feel they have got nothing, they are willing to lose their lives because it is not worth living in a state of emergency.

Reason No. 12. Those who insist on maintaining the state of emergency should learn from Machiavelli. Be smart!

Machiavelli wrote:

You must know, then, that there are two methods of fighting, the one by law, the other by force: the first method is that of men, the second of beasts; but as the first method is often insufficient, one must have recourse to the second. It is therefore necessary to know well how to use both the beast and the man… A prince must know how to use both natures… A prince being thus obliged to know well how to act as a beast must imitate the fox and the lion, for the lion cannot protect himself from snares, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves. One must therefore be a fox to recognise snares, and a lion to frighten wolves. Those that wish to be only lions do not understand this. Therefore, a prudent ruler ought not to keep faith when by so doing it would be against his interest, and when the reasons which made him bind himself no longer exist. Those that have been best able to imitate the fox have succeeded best.

I say to those who insist on maintaining the state of emergency, “Don’t be like the beast of the jungle or live by the law of the jungle. You are in civilized society now. Don’t be a brute. Be smart. Live by the rule of law, not the law of the jungle or bush.”

Rule No. 13. The state of emergency will expire in July at the end of its mandatory six-month period. Why not end it now and declare victory! 

Those who insist on maintaining the state of emergency have everything to gain and nothing to lose by declaring an end to the state of emergency now. Under PM Abiy’s  leadership, I do not believe the state of emergency will be extended as it would be against the rule of law and unnecessary given the conditions in the country.

What compelling reason exists today to maintain the state of emergency? Under PM Abiy’s leadership, the country is attaining considerable stability and his leadership is viewed with wide legitimacy.

Terminate the state of emergency two months early and declare victory!

Reason No. 14. One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.

Dr. Martin Luther King said, “Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws… for an unjust law is no law at all.”

The state of emergency is an unjust law. All Ethiopians have a moral responsibility to disobey it and undermine it by all acts of civil disobedience.

Reason No. 15. There is a great deal one can learn from one’s “enemies”. Hear me well!

I know I am no darling to those who insist on maintaining the state of emergency. After all, I have railed against them for nearly 13 years with a relentless intensity some have described in extraordinary terms. I have been harsh in my judgment of them but nowhere near as harsh as they have been against the millions of Ethiopians they have abused and denied the rule of law.

Those who insist on maintaining the state of emergency have always disliked my relentless message of rule of law and human rights. They have called me a Diaspora “extremist”.  To those who support my cause of freedom, democracy and human rights, I am a “hero”.

I am neither a hero nor a villain. I am just a speaker of truth to power, to abusers of power, aspirers of power and the powerless.

There is a great deal one can learn from one’s adversary. Hear me well!

“Don’t miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity, AGAIN!”

Those who insist on maintaining the state of emergency now have an opportunity to make things right and move on the path towards reconciliation and peace. Don’t mess it up, to put it politely!

Dreams and visions… 

I have made many predictions over the past nearly 13 years. I believe the vast majority of my predictions have come to pass. true. I am not saying this to be self-congratulatory. It is a demonstrable fact.

The one prediction I cherish the most is, “Ethiopian Cheetahs United can never be defeated.” I made that prediction in January 2013.

In 2018, Ethiopia’s Abo Shemanes (Cheetahs), the qeros, the fanos, the zermas and others proved me right!

In 2013, I invoked Scripture to predict, “He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind.”

In 2018, I shall predict those who insist on maintaining the state of emergency and have profoundly troubled the Ethiopian house shall inherit the wind!

But there is still time to do the right thing and save the Ethiopia house and themselves.

Replace your state of emergency declaration with a Declaration of a State of Freedom, Democracy and Human Rights.

For it is written, “Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.”

I dream of an Ethiopia at peace with itself.

The young people see a vision of Ethiopia as the sunlight of Africa!

Oh, yes! About the rule of law, I am still working on a Magna Carta Libertatum for all Ethiopians! (A Great Charter of Liberty for All Ethiopians.)