Victims of the Hidden War of Meles Zenawi: Profile of Mr. Legesse Deti Dhaba, an Oromo Elder
Profile of Mr. Legesse Deti Dhaba, an Oromo Elder
The Regime of Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia is on an ongoing hidden war against the Ethiopian people. This hidden war is conducted in many forms: torture in concentration camps; extrajudicial executions and coldblooded killings; denial of humanitarian and development assistance where need most; uprooting poor Ethiopian farmers from their farmland to give it to the regime’s benefactors like China; denial of educational, business and work opportunities to the ethnic groups the regime consider enemies; and incarcerating people on doctored and vaguely defined crimes such as terrorism, genocide and crimes against humanity. In recent months, this war of intimidation and humiliation to subjugate and break the free will of the Ethiopian people has grown in intensity and magnitude.
The Arab Spring in nearby countries has worsened the situation of Ethiopian people. It gave the hated regime added pretext to intensify its preemptive war of humiliating and destroying the societal fabric of the Ethiopian people. It is very devastating war, yet highly underreported and hidden war. It rarely draws the attention of international media or even that of the often active Ethiopian Diaspora communities.
The regime’s prime target in this undefined war is the elders, community leaders, members of the Ethiopian opposition groups, journalists, students and academics. Although the campaign of terrorizing the Ethiopian people is unmistakably national, the brutality and the atrocity visited upon the Oromo people are by far the most devastating and one with lasting repercussion. Oromo elders, community leaders, Oromo members of the opposition groups, students and
1 Ethiopian Justice Forum is a non-partisan Forum established to promote rule of law, representative governance and human rights in Ethiopian. Our primary objective is to profile lesser known victims of Meles Zenawi’s regime by focusing on Ethiopian local community leaders, elders, students and academics. We could be reached atEthiopianjusticeforum@gmail.com. academics are being detained, tortured, handed long prison sentence on doctored crimes, and executed in greater numbers. Over 90% of Ethiopian prison populations are Oromo political prisoners.
Overshadowed by high profile detention of Journalists and opposition political leaders, the detention and disappearance of lesser known community leaders, elders, students and teachers are getting little or no attention from international human rights groups as well as from local and international media outlets. As the regime’s repression intensifies, local community leaders, their families, and relatives are suffering from the untold brutality of the regime in darkness.
To address this problem, at least in part, concerned Ethiopians from Ethiopia and Diaspora communities have established the Ethiopian Justice Forum. The Forum’s objective is to profile some of those lesser known community leaders, elders, students and academics targeted by the regime of Meles Zenawi. This week we will profile Mr. Legesse Deti Dhaba, the former Secretary General of Mecha-Tulama Self-help Association (MTA).
Mr. Legesse Deti Dhaba, former Secretary General of Mecha-Tulama Self-help Association, is held incommunicado at the Maikalawi Prison Center (locally known as the Torture Center of Melese Zenawi) in the Ethiopian Capital Addis Ababa. Since his detention on August 29, 2011, the Zenawi regime denied all forms of access to Mr. Legesse Deti Dhaba including visits by family, lawyers and medical doctors. Family and close relatives of Mr. Dhaba are in state of grieve and serious worries since both of Mr. Dhaba’s arms and hands were broken during torture and severe beatings in earlier detention. Mr. Dhaba is the victim of the ongoing waves of arrests by the ethnic minority regime of Meles Zenawi targeting the Oromo cultural leaders, community elders, students and teachers.
Mr. Legesse Deti Dhaba is 58 years old Oromo Elder from Dandi District in Western Shewa Zone of Oromia Regional State in Ethiopia. Legesse was born and raised on his ancestral homestead in his home village of Kere Garie in Dandi District. He is a husband and father of five Children, two sons and three girls. He is the only breadwinner for his family. Mr. Dhaba
also supports his 89 years old elderly mother who lives with him. Mr. Dhaba’s elderly father died while he was in Melese Zenawi’s prison.
Mr. Legesse Deti is a well liked and well respected elderly person in his community and among the Oromo people nationwide. His knowledge of the history of the Oromo people and culture amazes those who know him closely. He is particularly very knowledgeable and well liked due to his narration of the oral history tradition of the Oromo people including stories of traditional tales and cultural ceremonies such as weddings, Christening, Thanksgiving (Irreecha). It was his knowledge of the history and culture of the Oromo people which prompted the elders of the well respected and oldest Oromo Self-help Association, Mecha-Tulama Self-help Association (MTA) to approach Mr. Dhaba to be a member of the Association. Mr. Dhaba was ultimately elected to serve as Secretary General of Mecha-Tulama Self-help Association for the year 2002 to 2003. Mr. Dhaba has been the Chairman of History and Culture Committee of MTA, the Committee responsible for the organization of the yearly Oromo Thanksgiving Holiday ( Irreecha) and other cultural events.
Mr. Legesse Deti Dhaba is a very resourceful person with all rounded personality. In addition to being a well respected elderly person among the Oromo people, he is a trained accountant, economist who attended Addis Ababa University and aviation technician. In fact, till his detention, Mr. Dhaba was working for MIDROC Aviation. MIDROC Aviation is the aviation wing of MIDROC Ethiopia, a holding company for over 30 companies operating in Ethiopia and owned by the Saudi Billionaire, Mohammed Al-Amoudi, who is closely connected with the brutal Meles Zenawi regime. Mr. Dhaba was well respected and highly regarded employee at MIDROC Aviation. He travelled to a number of countries including the United States on the business of the company.
Mr. Legesse Deti Dhaba was detained on August 24 on his way home from a social event in his home District of Dandi. He was returning from a celebration of Gubaa Ceremony, one of the oldest Oromo traditional holidays celebrated in connection with the beginning of the New Year in early September. As local elder, he was invited to the event to pray on the Gubaa Ceremony. It is on his way home that he was detained by the local regime agents. At the time of his detention,
Mr. Dhaba was with Mr. Mulugeta Rikitu, Director of Private School and Board Member of MTA; and Student Sisay Serbesa, 3rd year Information Technology Student at Addis Ababa University (5 Kilo Engineering Campus). They were all detained together at Ginichi Town Police Station, the capital of Dandi District.
On the morrow, August 25, 2011, alarmed by the unlawful detention of Mr. Dhaba and his companions, relatives and family members contacted local lawyers. Their lawyers immediately filed a habeas corpus petition asking the Court for the immediate release of the detainees on lack of probable cause for their arrest, and arrest warrant. The District Court ordered the regime’s security agents to present the detainees before the court and reviewed the petition of the detainees. After reviewing the petition, the District Court ordered the immediate release of the detainees for want of probable cause or even reasonable suspicion of any wrongdoing. The police defied the court order and refused to release the detainees.
On the morrow again, August 26, 2011, the lawyers of the detainees filed a petition at the District Court of Dandi District for the Court to enforce its order on the release of the detainees. The District Court reviewed the petition and gave appointment to hear the petition on contempt of Court by the local police on August 29, 2011 at 2:00 P.M.
On the morning of August 29, 2011at 8:00 A.M. the unthinkable happened. The Meles Regime sent about twenty (20) Tigrigna speaking security forces with machine guns, satellite phones, sharp shooting snipers and military pickup trucks in this rural community in the heart of the Oromo nation. Oromo speaking local regime agents were told to step aside. Tigrigna speaking regime’s forces then started terrorizing the local population with show of forces and sense of disdain for the local population with foul words against bystanders, according to local peoples present at the scene.
The drama was over at about 9:00 A.M. The Detainees were thrown on board the military pickup trucks while being beaten and insulted. Mr. Legesse Deti Dhaba, Mr. Mulugeta Rikitu, School Director and Board Member of MTA; and Sisay Serbesa, 3rd Year IT Student at Addis Ababa University, all of them disappeared with their Tigrigna speaking capturers, the security forces of Meles Zenawi who come from his ethnic homeland of Tigray two thousand kilometers away to this evergreen and pristine Oromo District.
The District Court Judge of Dandi District, seeing what happened that morning, never showed up for the hearing at 2:00 P.M. on that beautiful August 29, 2011 afternoon. There is no law left form him to enforce. The ethnic militia of Mr. Zenawi knows no law and they think they are above the law at least in Ethiopia and until Zenawi is in power. A frustrated local farmer told us "there is no law for the Oromo people under this regime except gun carrying cadres of the who raid our villages now and then to terrorize and kill our people.” Meles Zenawi and his security forces might have been over rejoiced by the humiliation of Oromo elders in their hands and in front of their family, relatives and countrymen; but many Oromo youth also took note of what befell them under this lawless and brutal regime.
This is brief account of how the regime of Melese Zenawi conducts its hidden and brutal war on the Ethiopian people. Mr. Dhaba, Mr. Mulugeta Rikitu and Student Sisay Serbesa are all held incommunicado at the Maikelawi Torture Center in Addis Ababa. There is serious concern as to the safety and wellbeing of these detainees. The Ethiopian regime has well documented history of using torture on detainees, and extrajudicial execution of detainees in cold blood.
Families, relatives and friends of Mr. Legesse Deti Dhaba, Mr. Mulugeta Rikitu and Student Sisay Serbesa seek your help to petition the Obama Administration, European governments, your local and federal elected officials, human rights groups and political leaders to urge the Ethiopian regime to release these innocent detainees immediately and unconditionally; and stop its ongoing war of intimidation and terror on the Ethiopian people