YOU CAN'T COMPARE THEN WITH NOW
The Ministry of Education declared the University officially closed for an indefinite time in a statement last Wednesday. The statement was one of three issued that day.
The EPRDF government issued a statement in which it ordered the Federal Police to take measures on all involved in violating peace and order taking the opportunity of the student unrest and promoting it to their own ends. The statement pointed at opposition political parties and human rights organizations.
The other statement was by the Federal Police which said that it was carrying out government orders and advised parents to keep students at home. This statement is however late as already many parents do not know where their children are.
The above statements were issued because a simple protest and boycott of classes by Addis Ababa University students against a repressive administration of the institution escalated to a big crisis involving more campuses and schools which rose in support of the university students.
The demands put forward by the AAU students were basic campus rights. The Minister of Education and the Vice President of the AAU have agreed to the legitimacy of all the demands at a meeting held with the students to seek a solution. Only one issue seemed to have a little problem. The students demanded the removal of the police force in the campuses which they said they found intimidating. The Minister of Education while agreeing to the removal of the police force in principle said that it would take some time to replace them. Students' demand that the time required for the process be determined met resistance and the meeting, which gave solution to the other problems, ended inconclusively on account of it.
On April 11, 2001, students of the AAU were discussing with the Vice President on important matters when a special force stormed the University campus and dispersed the group violently causing much bloodshed. A girl who sustained a severe injury in the incident is reportedly dead in hospital.
The interference by the police was condemned by the Minister of Education and the University Vice President as illegal and uncalled for. The Federal Police Crime Prevention Department, on the other hand, issued a statement on April 12 saying that the police was forced to enter the AAU campus to prevent a crisis and took measures of force in self defence. The statement by the police is so far the only evidence for any crisis that called for external intervention that day.
Other University campuses have demonstrated their support to the AAU students. A student at Mekele University who is reported to have been an active participant in this show of support, whose body was found by police in a river some kilometers out of Mekele has become a victim in circumstances not yet determined whether related to the protests.
There is nothing new about police over enthusiasm on campus issues. Many a time students are shot at and killed during the Emperor's time, during the Dergue and lives have been lost in similar actions in this government before this incident. In an incident before, a sardonic remark, "We do not have plastic bullets.", made by the current leadership is to be recalled justifying police action when they shot live bullets on peaceful demonstrators which cut off lives of student activists. Therefore, it should be realized that there is nothing new going on. This has been happening in all governments in Ethiopia that had a Ministry of Education and a Police Force.
But, the Minister of Education said on TV last Wednesday, "You can't compare then and now." The Minister was answering to
questions in connection to her decision to make a deadline until noon last Wednesday to the boycott the students who were
insisting to maintain until some time was set for the pull out of the police force from the campuses. "Then, you were not allowed
to make any kind of protest. Now it is a democratic right to make any protest...." The question she was answering to was not
loud enough and clear enough. But, from the answer, you may work out your way back to something like,"How can you do
such a thing while you condemn previous governments of being undemocratic?"
That question was yet to be louder and one to be strongly asked by the public, when students who tried to leave the campus carrying their belongings earlier than the deadline for fear of eminent police brutality and took shelter at St. Marry's Church were taken out and beaten according to eye witnesses. Many other shelters were of no use either according to eyewitnesses.
Hundreds of students are missing from their homes, their parents fervently hoping they are in one of the places many are said to have been taken to and hoarded. The number of those killed and wounded is as yet unknown properly.
If there is any difference between then and now, it seems, then you would do whatever you do being more certain about the outcome than now. The outcome is the same.