The police - bunches of criminals?
By: a student from A.AU
None of us students had expected that things would turn out that way. It was all quite a surprise. The destruction and loss of property is beyond what one can possibly imagine. The country as well as individuals have lost, within hours, or even minutes, assests which had taken decades to create. There is no doubt when it comes to the magnitude of the loss. It was enormous. When and how did things go wrong?
Let's start from the very beginning. The question raised by students generally revolve around academic freedom. They were demanding that their constitutionally recognized freedom of speech, assembly as well as expression be respected, that the persistent violations of these and other rights come to an end. The questions were also presented in a very peaceful manner. But it didn't take much time for the police to illegally intervene in the matter. Six students who went down to Arat Kilo and Amist Kilo campuses just to inform fellow students on what was gong on at Sidist Kilo campus were arrested by the police - not by the campus police but by the federal police. This was the first erroneous move made by the police. There was neither any ground nor any need to detain the six students. Nothing unlawful was done by them. They were acting with due recognition from the university administration and even with the go-ahead from the academic vice-president Dr. Engineer Hailu Ayele. The only ground that police officials could possibly give to explain their act is that they condemn and also act against any student gathering, whatever the purpose may be.
Nonetheless, this act of theirs, as observed later on, hasn't taken them anywhere. Students have adamantly refused the proceeding of any discussion with the university authorities unless the six students who were detained by the police were released. This stance of the students deserves applause. No one was expected to be that poor sheep to be sacrificed for the sake of others. "We will all be together in it!" was the tone of the students. If one is ready to solve problems, then one must better start with rectifying the wrong deeds done in the past. We can't simply jump to solving problems without recognizing and correcting the mistakes that have already been committed. That is what the students were saying. This forced authorities to release the detained six students.
The university authorities thought that now that the students were released the discussion could proceed. "In your dreams!" was the students' response. The students had made it clear to them that they can only talk with the Minister of Education. Of course, obviously, students were not expecting a solution to their problem from the same authorities that had turned a deaf ear to their problems and who, in fact, had really made it impossible for students to exercise their basic constitutional rights. A plaintiff can't expect fair trial and judgment from a proceeding run by the defendant himself. The administration can only present itself as a party to the dispute. The day was wrapped up with the students electing a coordinating committee and reaching an agreement to discontinue classes and to go on a hunger strike till the concerned authorities talked to them. Hence, the protest continued to the next day.
The day was Wednesday. It was in the morning. Students were demonstrating in the premises of the Sidist Kilo campus. It was all peaceful. No destruction, no wrong deed. This, however, didn't remain so for a long time. Just in the middle of the singing and shouting something unexpected was heard from within the crowd. "Let's go out!" Those were the exact words. Shocked by what they heard, the students reacted quickly and grabbed the two individuals who were provoking students into leaving the campus. The identity card these individuals produced did not only reveal that they were not university students but also that the cards were fakes. It was at this time that the Sidist Kilo campus was invaded by the police. What followed was really horrible. The police, without even bothering to address the students, went on beating and arresting students they came across.
What happened on that day was a testimony to the fact that the police, that big institution that was supposed to maintain law and order, is itself engaged in violation of the law. Let alone be simply subjected to beatings, it is even our constitutional right not to be punished without due process of law. By simply beating students who were involved in peaceful protest, the police flagrantly violated the constitutional rights students have like any individual. Ironcially, protecting this highest law of the land and to see to it that the rights enshrined there are observed is the main task of the police. For those of us who have witnessed the event, it is crystal clear that members of the police force, let alone being aware of individual liberity and freedom as enshrined in the constitution, don't even seem to be cognizant of the fact that there is something called a constitution. But they have been telling us now and again that members of the police force are given seminars on the constitution and constitutional rights. What we witness, however, is apparently quite contradictory to what we hear. Actually, it seems that the police simply follow orders even without knowing what the matter is all about. The only thing they need to hear, it seems, is the order of their superior to go in there and do the beating as much as possible. It is all about blind obedience.
As we were told later on the police admitted that those two individuals were its members. What a shame! Admitting that the two individuals were sent by the police force would only mean admitting that it had been deliberately provoking students to violate the law by going out of the Sidist Kilo campus (i.e. we all know that in this country staging a demonstration without securing prior permission is an illegal act). Why the rash to create such a havoc? Why not let people express their dissatisfaction and respect the law at the same time? That is what the students were trying to achieve. But the police desperately wanted them to violate the law so that they can do the beating. Clearly this is all because they believe that beating and torturing students would solve problems. This also shows their implicit belief in force - that the people's cry for their right must always be suppressed by force.
The admission by the police implies another transgression of the law. It is said that the two individuals are members of the police force. But the identity cards that they had didn't only show something different but also suggested that there was something fake about it. Such an act is not only illegal but also punishable under the present criminal code. Obviously, apprehending those who are involved in such illegal acts and bringing them before the court of law is, among others, one main task of the police. But how on earth can we now expect it to carry out its task while indulging in such criminal activities?
We are all sorry for what happened in the city last Wednesday. But despite what the state media and the police say we, students, have nothing to do with it. Everybody knows that what happened is not the work of university students. On that same day students were all packing their bags and leaving the campus. Nothing unlawful, nothing destructive was done by students. Students were accused by Wr/o. Genet Zewde of having broken the windows of her office, and other neighbouring buildings.
Later on the state media and the police also pointed their fingers at students for the destruction and looting of property that had occured in the city. But we all now know that this is a lie. We all know who did this: Genet, the state media and the police know for sure that it was committed by non-university students and other members of the society. Why lie?
And why politicize the issue? This is the other error that is being committed by the police and others. The questions raised by the students have nothing to do with politics. They were all about academic rights. The students haven't upheld or condemned any party or the government. They were only complaining against the inefficient, abusive and suppressire administration of A.A.U. Politicising the issue won't help any one. It only makes the matter worse. Or is that to use it as a smokescreen to involve them in further violation of the law? Or is that a political strategy? Maybe.