At the beginning of September 2001, the Ethiopian government suspended the
Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association(EWLA) and froze its bank accounts. EWLA was established in 1995 and has been active in defending the rights of women by providing legal services to battered, raped, abducted women and those suffering from all form's of violence. It has also done a commendable job at the level of advocacy by having revision of gender-insensitive articles in the law and by having an entirely new law such as the family law passed by the parliament. EWLA is totally non political and in fact has worked a great deal in cooperation with government agencies.
A few months ago, the Ethiopian TV (i.e. government) organised a panel on
violence against women in which people from the government, NGO, and other
walks of life participated. Cases were also presented where women who
suffered from violence gave testimonies. One of these was the case of a
young woman by the name Hermela. Hermela and her family has suffered over
six years in the hands of a psychopath by the name Negussie Yemane, who
claimed to be in love with her, but resorted to violence when Hermela
declined his advances. Her ordeal begun when he threatened her with
violence, then physically attacked her two sisters by machete. The family of
Hermela reported the case to the police and attempted to sue the culprit.
The police set the man free on bail every time he committed the crime. After
five years of horrendous trauma, the father of Hermela died of a heart
attack as a result of cardiovascular disease mainly caused by the stress.
The psychopath finally came to get Hermnela herself. He waited for her when
she left the office then shot her on the face with the aim of blowing her
head off. He also shot and killed the guard who rushed to her rescue.
Hermela survived by a miracle. The culprit was jailed for a month and again
set free on bail. However, the judge sentenced him to be kept at a
correctionary because of contempt of court.
Following this TV panel, public reaction was enormous. Some newspapers
criticised EWLA for not doing enough to help Hermela. Incidentally, the case
of Hermela was once again raised on a women's programme on TV. EWLA
representative was invited to comment on the case. It was this programme
that EWLA disclosed their efforts to get the attention of the minister of
justice himself but they have not got a response. Later, the ministry of
justice officials asked EWLA to retract the statement they gave on TV
regarding the minister, EWLA refused, as this would be tantamount to a
renunciation of their fundamental principal. After a week, the ministry of
justice announced on the media that it had suspended EWLA because it had
been engaged in political activities and trying to incite the public against
The Ethiopian government is perhaps one of the most ant-civil society
governments in Africa. It rules with terror and is never accountable for its
actions at all. It calls this rule 'evolutionary democracy' a crude reminder
of the red terror days of the ancient regime.
What can you do?
Please write a letter of protest to the prime minister of the government of
Ethiopia and demand the immediate lifting of the ban imposed on EWLA. It
will be helpfull if you also send copies of your letter to the secretary
generals of the UN and AU and the international Commission of Jurists.
Please pass the word and ask civil society organisations to do the same.
Letters to be send to
H.E. Prime Minister Meles ZEnawi
The Federal Government of Ethiopia
P. O. Box 1031,
H.E. Mr Worede Wold Wolde
Minister of Justice,
P. o. Box 1370,