By Betre Yacob
The Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ), the most important opposition political party working under the narrowest political landscape of Ethiopia, has launched a “peaceful struggle campaign” with a motto——“Millions of Voices for Freedom” against the brutal regime ruling the country since 1991. Many millions of Ethiopians suffering from racial discrimination, exploitation, injustice, abject poverty, rampant human rights violations are expected to actively participate in the struggle.
In a launching press conference held on 20 June 2013, Mr. Dawite Solomon, the spokesperson of the party, called upon the people, political parties, civic organizations, the mass media, the Ethiopian diaspora and concerned members of the ruling party who give priority to the interest of the nation to take an active part and participate in the campaign. He said that it is the time to get together and struggle for freedom.
The press release of the party issued on 20 June 2013 says that the “objective of the 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.” The press release further says: “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.”
According to the party, the campaign includes several peaceful activities including public discussions, signature gathering, and frequent rallies. The struggle is planned to be done throughout the country including the capital Addis Ababa.
“We have made public a document on which people will put their signatures in opposition of the Anti-Terrorism Law”, the press release says. “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 meetings and public square rallies. We shall conduct six public meetings 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 press release explains.
Answering questions raised by journalists in the press conference, the Chairperson of the UDJ’s National Council, Mr. Tigestu Awolu, said that the struggle is absolutely different from those in the past. He said that it’s not spontaneous and improvised but strategically well designed in such a way which can bring about the needed changes effectively and efficiently. In line with this, different political activities are suggesting that the campaign would be successful as far as it is well organized.
Ethiopia is one of the most repressive nations in Africa, and has very poor human right records. It is a place where there is no freedom of assembly and freedom of expression. It is a place where law abiding citizens are simply imprisoned, beaten or executed; where innocents are subjected to mass arrests and theatrical charges just because they demanded for their religious freedom; where journalists are considered as enemies and their rights are completely denied and thrown into prison because they expressed their ideas freely.
Different researches show that since recent years these human rights violations coupled with widespread discrimination, corruption, unemployment, and sky rocket price inflation have made the country an intolerable prison for the majority and lead many to the fact that drastic political change is badly needed to transform the country for the better.