A press statement issued by Unity for Democracy and Justice Party (UDJ)
It has been four years now since our party, Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ), started its peaceful struggle to ensure the establishment of an unrestricted democratic system that Ethiopia rightfully deserves. During these four years, our party has struggled resolutely so that the misguided political journey, the violation of human rights and the suppression of democratic rights by the ruling party that is now heading, at full speed, towards absolute dictatorship, would be stopped. In the process of the struggle, the regime has perpetrated and is still perpetrating overt and covert offensives against our party. Our leaders and rank-file-members have paid and are still paying precious sacrifices with ever greater determination in order to achieve their goals. We can cite as examples, young political leaders like Andualem Arage, Natnael Mekonnen and others, veteran journalists who expressed their ideas freely and respected religious elders who expressed their opposition to interference in their religion, who have been thrown into dark prison.
It is to be recalled that UDJ had, repeatedly and with patience, asked the ruling body that: political improvements be made; people should not be imprisoned, beaten or exiled because of their political views; citizens should not be subjected to mass arrests and theatrical charges and thrown into prison just because they demanded that the government should not interfere in their religious affairs and that religious freedom be guaranteed; that journalists should not be considered as enemies and their rights should not be denied and thrown into prison or condemned into exile because they expressed their ideas freely.
Recognizing that the problems of our country could not be resolved through the lone effort of the ruling party, we have also asked that: the ruling party should open the discussion door that it has firmly shut and engage in negotiations with opposition parties on national issues and on their political solutions; there should be a forum where Ethiopians at home and abroad could come together to discuss the future of their country and to reach a consensus. The response we have received for these major demands is imprisonment, being targeted and harassment. Furthermore, the ruling party is busy issuing restrictive laws to prolong and to give legal cover to its oppressive rule and to grant it a free hand to jam people into prison. We have now come to believe that, in order to solve this major problem, it is necessary to create a massive people’s movement through a peaceful means of struggle.
The ruling regime is actively engaged in brutally displacing people from their dwellings in the cities and in rural areas. This displacement takes three forms, namely: ethnically motivated displacement, displacement in the name of development and displacement as a cover for land grabbing. The ethnically based displacement was recently seen in Guraferda in the south, in Gambella, in Benishangul-Gumuz and other places. The development motivated displacement is widely seen mainly in Addis Ababa and other cities. The fundamental cause of this displacement is the misguided land policy of the ruling party. Because land is not sold or exchanged with the will of the owner, it has become a cause for people being callously displaced without due notice and compensation in the name of development. In the displacement related to land grabbing, citizens are displaced from their dwellings, and vast farmlands are given to domestic and foreign investors for a few cents per unit. Our party believes that a people’s movement is necessary for it to carry out is obligations and to stop this national danger.
In addition to the displacement, unemployment and the wildly high cost of living have made life painful for the people. The price inflation that caused the skyrocketing of the cost of living is brought about by the misguided policy followed by the ruling regime. If there is one thing that has resulted from the high cost of living, it is the unprecedented migration of the country’s youth that we are sadly made to see these days. It is the high cost of living, lack of jobs and lack of hope in the future in their country that forces citizens to migrate, even though they are well aware that death lies ahead. The problem becomes even more complicated when lack of freed is added on top of their suffering.
When we look into the condition of the business community, it is becoming ever more evident that being a businessman is becoming tantamount to being a criminal. On the other hand, in the context where the ruling party is, on the one side, a legislator as well as an executor and a merchant, on the other side, a fair business competition has become unthinkable. This has very much stunted the role that the private sector should play in the country’s development. The undue and arbitrary tax imposed on business has taken away the feeling of national pride a citizen enjoyed in paying tax. At times, we see individuals smartly using the system as a means of gaining recognition and by colluding with officials and becoming top wealthy overnight. This state of things, besides being unjust, has become dangerous for many of those who are engaged in honest and legal business. Therefore, we demand that there be a just and legitimate business and that the private sector be given its proper place in the country’s economy.
In view of the prevailing conditions in our country, we shall organize public discussions and peaceful rallies in Addis and throughout the rest of the country to which the people will come out and participate in mass. These discussions and rallies will enable our party members and supporters to come together and demand that oppressive laws and proclamations be abolished and to discuss basic political issues of our country. Hence, we have made public our launching of a sustained national campaign with the motto: MILLIONS OF VOICES FOR FREEDOM!
The objective of our campaign is to oppose the ever growing system of dictatorship that deprives citizens of their human and democratic rights, forces them to live in a state of fear and to sell their dignity for petty favors and privileges. We shall struggle resolutely to create a society where our basic rights are respected, power belongs to the people, citizens are not imprisoned for expressing their views freely and where justice prevails.
We have made public a document on which people will put their signatures in opposition of Anti-Terrorism Law. We are confident that the document will be signed by the millions. Along with this, we shall demand that imprisoned politicians, journalists and those who demand religious freedom be released. To translate this demand into action, we shall organize townhouse meetings and public square rallies. We shall conduct six public meeting in Addis. In the regions, we shall organize ten public meetings initially. The peaceful public demonstrations that give expression to the millions of voices to ensure freedom will involve all Ethiopians.
The objectives of the people’s movement:
- We shall demand that the Anti-Terrorism Law be abolished immediately because: it violates many rights of the Ethiopian people and it is in contradiction with the Constitution. We shall collect millions of votes. We shall gather petition signatures. We shall present our petition through a peaceful public demonstration. If there is no positive response from the ruling regime, we shall go to court with the millions of signatures in our hands.
- We shall demand the displacement campaign that is being waged in the cities and the rural areas be stopped and appropriate solutions be sought to the problem.
- We shall demand that solutions be sought to the problem of unemployment and high cost of living, and that measures be taken to improve the economic policy.
- We shall demand that there be a fair competition within the business community; that the campaign of hatred and harassment be stopped; that there be an end to the system where the ruling party is the legislator and the merchant at the same time and that the private sector should play a major role in the development of the country.
We call upon the people, political parties, civic organizations, the mass media, the Ethiopian Diaspora and concerned members of the EPRDF who give priority to the interest of the nation to take an active part and participate in this major national movement.
Millions of voices for freedom!!!
Unity of Democracy and Justice (UDJ)
June 19, 2013