Ethiopian American Foundation (EAF)

Ethiopian American Foundation (EAF)


††††††††††††††† A Public Statement of the Executive Committee of the Ethiopian American Foundation

††††††††††††††† (EAF) on the Current Crisis in Higher Education and Academic Freedom in Ethiopia


††††††††††††††††††† (An urgent statement and call for immediate action based on a decision

††††††††††††††† unanimously passed at the EAF Executive Committee meeting of May 12, 2001,

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† and agreed upon by the majority of it's members.)





††††††††† Also addressed to:


†††††††††††††† H.E. Mr. Negasso Gidada, President, Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

†††††††††††††† H.E. Mr. Meles Zenawi, Prime Minister, Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

†††††††††††††† H.E. Mr. Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the United Nations

†††††††††††† ††H.E. General Colin Powell, Secretary of State of the United States of America



††††††††† The Ethiopian American Foundation (EAF) was established in 1993 to help advance the causes of

††††††††† higher education and development in Ethiopia. According to statutes of the Foundation: "The aim of

††††††††† EAF is to support and enhance the functions of higher education in Ethiopia by bringing to

††††††††† bear the collective effort of Ethiopians, Ethiopian Americans and American Friends of

††††††††† Ethiopia." Consistent with this objective, EAF has made humble efforts to provide annual financial

††††††††† grants to support research fellowships to faculty and graduate students in Ethiopian universities. EAF

††††††††† is organized for the purpose of performing this and related tasks aimed at enhancing higher education

††††††††† and development in perpetuity.


††††††††† We are therefore deeply concerned and disturbed by the current developments that have gravely

††††††††† disrupted the peaceful and orderly functioning of the university and higher education in Ethiopia, and

††††††††† retarded the advancement of the cause of basic democratic rights and academic freedom. Generally,

††††††††† Ethiopia cannot afford disruptions of such magnitude without risking to be irreversibly marginalized in

††††††††† a global competition of the 21st century, where knowledge, science and technology are

††††††††† indispensable preconditions for development. We also express our deepest sympathy to the families

††††††††† of innocent students and others killed during the unfortunate incident of April 18 on Addis Ababa

††††††††† University campus.


††††††††† The arrest of university students and distinguished academics like Professor Mesfin W. Mariam and

††††††††† Dr. Berhanu Nega for exercising their legitimate rights of free speech and freedom of expression

††††††††† enshrined in the Ethiopian constitution negates the fundamental principles of democracy and due

††††††††† process. Their imprisonment without bail is, in our view, unjust and disproportionate with the

††††††††† allegations leveled against them, which allegedly is for "inciting students" during a panel discussion

††††††††† organized by the Ethiopian Human Rights Council and held on April 8, in Addis Ababa on the topic

††††††††† of "human rights, the nature of a university, and academic freedom".


††††††††† It is our firm belief that the university students and the scholars are within their legitimate rights of

††††††††† freedom of expression provided by the Ethiopian constitution, so long as this is done peacefully and

††††††††† within constitutional rights and obligations. Based on what we have been able to gather from

††††††††† independent international media, we consider the accusations leveled against the two individuals to

††††††††† be totally without foundation.


††††††††† Our organization is non-partisan in political matters, and our statement is not motivated by partisan

††††††††† politics. Our position is strictly to demonstrate our moral obligation to defend basic principles of

††††††††† academic freedom, human decency, and freedom of expression, without which our organization will

††††††††† lose its essence and raison d'Ítre.


††††††††† We therefore, strongly and respectfully urge concerned Ethiopian authorities heed to the tenets of the

††††††††† country's constitution, and to free these scholars and others detained for similar reasons with no

††††††††† further delay. We also respectfully appeal to the influence of all concerned officials of the United

††††††††† Nations, the U.S. Government, and others concerned to help facilitate the immediate release of the

††††††††† two scholars and others detained for the same reasons. Our statement and call is urgent since the

††††††††† two individuals are on hunger strike, and especially the health of 71 year old professor Mesfin is

††††††††† failing under detention.



†††††††††††††† CC: Minister of Justice, Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia


††††††††††††††††††† Minister of Education, Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

††††††††††††††††††† U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia, Addis Ababa

††††††††††††††††††† Embassy of Ethiopia to the United States, Washington D.C

††††††††††††††††††† Ethiopian Human Rights Council, Addis Ababa

††††††††††††††††††† EAF Members