About Andualem

Audio – Andualem Aragie’s Letter from Kaliti Prison

September 14, 2011, the Ethiopian authorities arrested Andualem Aragie, the vice-chairperson of the UDJ, along with two other UDJ leaders and journalist Eskinder Nega, on allegations of terrorism (Human Rights Watch 16 Sept. 2011; AI 19 Sept. 2011). The arrested UDJ members were reportedly prohibited from receiving visitors, including family, doctors, and priests (The Reporter 29 Oct. 2011). Sources report that Andualem was attacked by his cellmate and sustained serious head injuries (VOA 19 Feb. 2012; The Reporter 25 Feb. 2012). The attacker, reportedly serving a life sentence for murder (VOA 19 Feb. 2012), was then moved into a cell with another UDJ leader (ibid.; The Reporter 25 Feb. 2012).

In June 2012, 24 Ethiopians, including Andualem, another UDJ leader, and Eskinder, were convicted of terrorism (AFP 27 June 2012; AI 27 June 2012). Sources indicate that they were targeted for their political activities (ibid.; VOA 19 Feb. 2012; Human Rights Watch 16 Sept. 2011). For example, the journalist Eskinder Nega had reportedly attended a meeting on press freedom at UDJ headquarters days prior to his arrest (VOA 19 Feb. 2012). Both Eskinder and Andualem were reported to have criticized the government’s practice of arresting journalists and opposition members for terrorism (Human Rights Watch 16 Sept.

2011). Amnesty International (AI) reports that evidence brought against Eskinder and Andualem included public speeches they had made advocating peaceful protest against the government, and is of the opinion that Eskinder and Andualem are “prisoners of conscience [who were] convicted because of their legitimate and peaceful activities” (27 June 2012). Similarly, Country Reports 2011 states that “observers found the evidence presented at trials to be eitheropen to interpretation or indicative of acts of a political nature rather than linked to terrorism” (24 May 2012, Sec. 1.e).

Read more – the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) report

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In August 2009 the Ethiopian Par­lia­ment passed an Anti-Terror Procla­ma­tion. The law is said to be delib­er­ately vague to enable the gov­ern­ment arrest oppo­si­tion party mem­bers and jour­nal­ists as ter­ror­ists. And this year the par­lia­ment des­ig­nated five groups ter­ror­ists. Among them Gin­bot 7, Oromo Lib­er­a­tion Front (OLF) and Ogaden National Lib­er­a­tion Front (ONLF). Over 100 oppo­si­tion party lead­ers, mem­bers and jour­nal­ists have been arrested on ter­ror­ism charges and for an alleged link with the out­lawed polit­i­cal par­ties. While most are still at the noto­ri­ous Cen­tral Inves­ti­ga­tion Bureau (Maekelawi), some have since been trans­ferred to Kaliti prison. The Ethiopian gov­ern­ment spokesper­son Mr Shime­les Kemal said they were arrested “for con­spir­ing with ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions such as Gin­bot 7 and other for­eign forces who wanted to wreak havoc in the coun­try.” Two Swedish jour­nal­ists have also been arrested on charges of ter­ror­ism for cov­er­ing the war between Ethiopian gov­ern­ment and the ONLF fighters.

Fol­low­ing is the pro­file of some of the lead­ing oppo­si­tion politi­cians and journalists.

And­ualem Aragie– Vice Chair­man and Head of Pub­lic Rela­tions of UDJ.

Born in the north­ern Ethiopian town of Gondar, And­ualem did his high school edu­ca­tion in Addis Ababa Kokebe Tsi­bah School. As he was an out­stand­ing stu­dent, he earned a schol­ar­ship to the Saint Joseph High School. He was grad­u­ated from Addis Ababa Uni­ver­sity with a B.A. in history.

After grad­u­a­tion he worked with World Bank and the Ethiopian Eco­nomic Association.

The 39 year old began his polit­i­cal activ­i­ties back in the days with Ethiopian Demo­c­ra­tic Party. In 2005 fol­low­ing con­tro­ver­sial gen­eral elec­tions, he was arrested and put in prison where he was sen­tenced to life along with all the oppo­si­tion party lead­er­ship and scores of journalists.

On release he joined Unity for Democ­racy and Jus­tice (UDJ). And­ualem is con­sid­ered to be one of the most promis­ing oppo­si­tion party lead­ers. He served as Sec­re­tary Gen­eral of UDJ for one year.

And­ualem got mar­ried shortly after his release from prison in 2008. He is father of two.

He was arrested on Sep­tem­ber 14 near the party’s office by secu­rity forces. His house was searched.

Asam­new Berhanu – UDJ member

Asam­new Berhanu was born and raised in Addis Ababa. While he has a B.SC in Physics, he was also work­ing for his degree in Eco­nom­ics. He works as a teacher. He joined UDJ not long ago but because of his active par­tic­i­pa­tion he man­aged to be mem­ber of the party’s National Coun­cil. He is said to be a calm per­son. He was arrested from his house in the pres­ence of his fam­ily mem­bers. Secu­rity forces searched his house and took with them his com­puter, cell phones even that belonged to the fam­ily and a num­ber of other stuff. His fam­ily mem­bers say the police who searched and video­taped every­thing warned them not to call anywhere.

Bekele Gerba – OFDM mem­ber and Uni­ver­sity professor

Bekele Gerba was a stu­dent of PHD in Eng­lish at Addis Ababa Uni­ver­sity (AAU) where he also teaches same. Born in 1962 in the Boji Bermeji local­ity in Wol­lega, he com­pleted his ele­men­tary and high school edu­ca­tion there. He worked for long time in the Gedeo Zone of South Ethiopia as a health care worker. He then joined the AAU where he obtained BA and MA in Eng­lish language.

Bekele has been mar­ried for 21 years with Ms Hanna Regassa. They have four chil­dren together. His first daugh­ter is already a Uni­ver­sity grad­u­ate. Another one is said to be join­ing col­lege this Ethiopian year. He started to par­tic­i­pate in pol­i­tics by join­ing the Oromo Fed­er­al­ist Demo­c­ra­tic Move­ment (OFDM) that was founded by the renowned Ethiopian banker Bulcha Demeksa. He is mem­ber of the Exec­u­tive Com­mit­tee (EC) of the party. He is also mem­ber of the EC of the umbrella orga­ni­za­tion Forum (Medrek).

He was arrested on charges of hav­ing link with Oromo Lib­er­a­tion Front, the party that was des­ig­nated ter­ror­ist by Ethiopian largely rub­ber stamp parliament.

Most believe he was arrested shortly after meet­ing the Amnesty Inter­na­tional del­e­ga­tion who was sub­se­quently ordered to leave the country.

Debebe Eshetu – Leg­endary actor and activist

Accord­ing to a state­ment broad­cast on Ethiopian Tele­vi­sion, Debebe was arrested “while orga­niz­ing and coor­di­nat­ing a group of indi­vid­u­als and plot­ting to carry out a ter­ror­ist attack.”

Secu­rity forces also searched the house of the 68 year old for­mer African Actors Asso­ci­a­tion Chair­man. While the state tele­vi­sion claimed that they got “evi­dences that sup­port the charge file”, it didn’t elab­o­rate on the spe­cific evi­dences found dur­ing the search. Debebe is impris­oned in the noto­ri­ous Maekelawi prison.

Debebe was arrested sev­eral times by Ethiopian author­i­ties. In 2005 he had been accused of trea­son and geno­cide along with other oppo­si­tion party mem­bers where he was found guilty and sen­tenced to life in prison. But later on he was pardoned.

Debebe who has played a part in the 1971 movie Shaft in Africa, along with Richard Roundtree, is best known for his leg­endary per­for­mances on stage where he played Shy­lock in the Mer­chant of Venice, a guard in the widely acclaimed Yeaza­wen­toch Kebeb, Nat­nael Tebibu and scores of other plays in a career that spanned over 40 years. He has also worked in almost all the gov­ern­ment owned the­atres in man­age­r­ial positions.

Debebe who has also worked in the Ethiopian radio was one of the reporters who went to cover the last day of Emperor Haile­se­lassie on Sep­tem­ber 12, 1974 at the National Palace.

Recently he has pub­lished a mem­oir Ye Emnet Fetena about his life in the Ethiopian prison where he spent 20 months. Mar­ried to Ms Almaz Dejene for four decades, he is father of four and grand­fa­ther of five chil­dren. Debebe was edu­cated in Teferi Meko­nen School in Addis and pur­sued higher edu­ca­tion in The­atri­cal Arts in Hungary.

Nat­nael Mekon­nen — UDJ member

Nat­nael was detained two days after the Ethiopian New Year on Sep­tem­ber 14, 2011. He was a stu­dent of biol­ogy at the Kotebe Col­lege of Teacher Edu­ca­tion. He was also work­ing as a librar­ian at a school.

He has been an activist for over a decade ever since he joined EDP in 2000. Later on when the party was embroiled in cri­sis, Nat­nael left it. He was among the found­ing mem­bers of UDJ and mem­ber of the National Council.

Secu­rity forces stopped the pub­lic bus and arrested him when he was on his way home from work. Then they brought him to his house to search him. They have taken lots of stuff includ­ing music CDs. They have also taken the cell phone of his wife and other per­sonal belong­ings. His wife was not allowed to see him in prison. Accord­ing to his wife, his two chil­dren have night­mares sleep­ing as they have wit­nessed the harass­ment they wit­nessed when secu­rity forces sur­rounded the house and harassed the parents.
Olbana Lelisa — Vice Chair­man OPC

Olbana was born in Che­lia dis­trict of Oro­mia Region. He com­pleted his high school edu­ca­tion in his home town. He earned a diploma in agri­cul­ture stud­ies. He also worked in a sub­sidiary of Min­is­ter of Agri­cul­ture for a num­ber of years. He was also study­ing to get his degree from Ambo Uni­ver­sity which he quit fol­low­ing a pres­sure on him for his polit­i­cal views. He is Vice Chair­man of the Oromo People’s Con­gress and a full time party activist. He run for elec­tion in 2000 in the Che­lia con­stituency. In 2005 he run for the Oro­mia Regional Par­lia­ment where he won and served for a five year term. The party’s chair­man Dr Mer­era Gud­ina says, he is a quiet and patient per­son who believes in dia­logue to solve prob­lems. That is his unique char­ac­ter. He has been harassed sev­eral times. He is ener­getic and has good rela­tion­ship with his party fellows.

Zemenu Molla — AEDP Sec­re­tary Genera

Born and brought up in Addis, Zemenu Molla was a long time mem­ber of EDP. Then he joined a newly estab­lished All Ethiopia Demo­c­ra­tic Party (AEDP) where he was sec­re­tary gen­eral. He has par­tic­i­pated in a num­ber of elec­tions since 2000. Accord­ing to his friends, there was some drama played out dur­ing his arrest. A lady claim­ing to be a stu­dent of polit­i­cal sci­ence at Addis Ababa Uni­ver­sity begs him for an inter­view as she is doing her the­sis on Ethiopian oppo­si­tion par­ties. He dully agrees to her request and set up for an inter­view at 4pm local time. Then she comes for the inter­view but within few min­utes another per­son comes in and the lady leaves his office smil­ing. Fol­low­ing the per­son who was said to be the dis­tricts secu­rity agent, a dozen secu­rity offi­cers jump in and arrest him. From there he was taken to his house for a search.

Zer­i­hun Gebre Egzi­ab­her — Head ENUP

He was born in Addis Ababa around the Merkato area. He did his edu­ca­tion at Med­hanealem High School. He has a diploma in dis­tance edu­ca­tion. He makes his liv­ing through small busi­ness. He ded­i­cates most of his time for polit­i­cal activ­ity. He started to involve in pol­i­tics even before EPRDF assumed office. After the fall of Der­gue he was mem­ber of the All Amhara Peo­ples Orga­ni­za­tion along with the leg­endary Pro­fes­sor Asrat Wold­eyes. He left the party due to inter­nal power strug­gle that ensued fol­low­ing the death of the Pro­fes­sor. Zer­i­hun joined a cou­ple of other polit­i­cal par­ties until finally he and friends decided to estab­lish Ethiopian National Unity Party (ENUP). Accord­ing to his daugh­ter, Zer­i­hun is in Kaliti prison in the out­skirt of Addis. He has been hand­cuffed and tor­tured for two days. He explained his ordeals to the court which ordered the police to have Zer­i­hun get treat­ment. But he didn’t get med­ical atten­tion. The bruise from his tor­ture is still visible.

Eskinder Nega – Jour­nal­ist and for­mer publisher.

Born in Addis Ababa, he was edu­cated at Eng­lish School in Addis Ababa. He com­pleted his high school and col­lege edu­ca­tion in the U.S. Hav­ing earned an M.A. in Eco­nom­ics, he returned to Ethiopia in 1992 shortly after the cur­rent gov­ern­ment took control.

Eskinder is among the first pub­lish­ers in post Der­gue Ethiopia to start an inde­pen­dent press. He pub­lished a pop­u­lar weekly news­pa­per Ethiopis in 1993. The paper was folded as its pub­lisher and edi­tor were detained for the sto­ries pub­lished in the paper. Eskinder has also pub­lished Habe­sha, an Eng­lish lan­guage weekly. He is mar­ried to a pub­lisher who used to run three weekly papers before the author­i­ties finally denied her license.

Fol­low­ing the con­tro­ver­sial elec­tion of 2005 Eskinder and his wife, along with hun­dred of oppo­si­tion party mem­bers, jour­nal­ists and activists were impris­oned for 20 months. Eskinder was arrested on a false charge of belong­ing to CUD. While the Court later learned he was not a mem­ber, he was still impris­oned. Eskinder’s only son was born in prison.

Hav­ing been denied the right to pub­lish news­pa­pers, Eskinder con­tin­ued to write insight­ful arti­cles in Amharic and Eng­lish on Tues­days and Fri­days respec­tively on Ethiopian web­sites. He was also giv­ing inter­views and pub­lic lec­tures on cur­rent affairs.

He has been impris­oned for a dozen times. The last time he was detained by secu­rity forces, the country’s deputy police com­mis­sioner told him, “We are tired of impris­on­ing you,” and he con­tin­ued, “This time it will not be impris­on­ment.” What­ever that meant.

Eskinder still con­tin­ued to write his ever pop­u­lar arti­cles. He was detained on Sep­tem­ber 14, 2011 while pick­ing up his 5 year old son from school. He was hand­cuffed and filmed while the boy was cry­ing. His house was searched. Secu­rity offi­cials took his car. Though the car belonged to his wife, his jail­ers declined to return the car to the owner.

His last arti­cle pub­lished four days before his arrest was about the deten­tion of Debebe Eshetu. He argued in that arti­cle how Debebe’s arrest on ter­ror­ism charges “defies logic.”

Reeyot Alemu — Jour­nal­ist and Teacher

Reeyot Alemu
Reeyot was born in Nazareth town. She com­pleted her high school edu­ca­tion in Addis Ababa. The high school Eng­lish teacher is a con­trib­u­tor to the Weekly Amharic Feteh.

She first grad­u­ated from Kotebe Col­lege of Teacher Edu­ca­tion and then she man­aged to get two BA degrees in Eng­lish and The­atri­cal Arts from the Addis Ababa University.

Reeyot has been a con­trib­u­tor to var­i­ous news­pa­pers. She was sent to prison on ter­ror­ism charges. But those who know her say she is arrested for her crit­i­cal articles.

Sileshi Hagos – Journalist.

He was born in Meki town, Oro­mia. He com­pleted his high school in Zeway. Then he joined the Kotebe Col­lege of Teacher Edu­ca­tion where he grad­u­ated in lit­er­a­ture. He also earned a BA in The­atri­cal Arts. He is also famous for writ­ing and read­ing poems.

He is known to have launched the now defunct Change mag­a­zine. He was also a host of an enter­tain­ment pro­gram on the Addis Ababa Admin­is­tra­tion radio FM 96.3. Nobody knows why he is arrested. His friends are bewil­dered as he is known to be a peace­ful and serous cit­i­zen. He is said to be the boy friend of Reeyot Alemu.

Woub­shet Taye — Journalist.

Woub­shet Taye has been co-deputy edi­tor– in– chief of Awramba Times, the paper estab­lished in 2008.

Born in Fiche town of Oro­mia Regional State. He pur­sued his ele­men­tary and high school edu­ca­tion in Fitche and Ziway towns. Then he earned his diploma in jour­nal­ism from Unity Uni­ver­sity where he was a stu­dent along with his long time col­league Dawit Kebede who is the man­ag­ing edi­tor of Awramba Times. Before join­ing Awramba Times, Woub­shet has worked in Hadar, Mese­naz­e­ria, Negadras and Gogel newspapers.

He has been harassed and intim­i­dated a num­ber of times. Before he was trans­ferred to Kaliti prison, Woub­shet is said to have been tor­tured at the Maekelawi prison. Though he raised the issue when he appeared before court, the judge sim­ply said: “if there was such inci­dent, it should be stopped.” He didn’t bother to have the mat­ter inves­ti­gated or ask the secu­rity agents who brought him to court. Woub­shet told his wife that his left ear is hurt­ing because of the beat­ing he sus­tained at Maekelawi.
The father of one is the sole bread win­ner of the house­hold, the fam­ily is hav­ing hard time mak­ing ends meet.
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