Between the Lines
Addis Tribune- August 31, 2001
In his speech at the graduation ceremony at Addis Ababa University, the President, Professor Eshetu Wencheko, has
expressed that a forum be organized wherein appropriate bodies from the society and government participate in solving
problems that cannot be solved by the university community.
To believe that he was handing away campus democracy in that speech would be an insult to the professor's intelligence. What
he may have attempted in that address is to pass a clear message in what he did not say.
After all, he was referring to the horrific incidents of last April. He did not mention that the police ("government organ of the
law") stormed the university campus without being called for, while university authorities and students were trying to solve their
problems. He did not mention that the "law" converted the academic environment into a battleground between a special force
well armed below the shoulders and unsuspecting students unarmed except in the head, which was no use for the occasion. He
did not mention that the university authorities and even the Minister of Education have condemned the uncalled for brutal action
of the special force. He did not mention how the incident was maneuvered to spill over to various parts of the city so that
targeted victims such as the Ethiopian Human Rights Council and opposition parties could be caught in association with the
most far-fetched type, on account of which many are still languishing in prison. He did not mention that the blood shed by the
random shootings at the public and brutal beating by the special force remains still unaccounted for. He did not have to mention
all that to a society that has been through it all. He just suggested that there be a committee composed of notable personalities,
religious fathers and representatives of the society to address similar problems if they ever arose in future. This is tantamount to
saying that the campus is not allowed to practice any democracy as is the case everywhere in the country and that it is advisable
to have a body that is not violent and brutal to intervene between Addis Ababa University officials and students whenever
The Ministry of Education says it has completed the necessary preparations to receive 10th grade leavers in the various
technical and vocational training centers throughout the country. According to the Public Relations Officer of the Ministry, 140
vocational and technical training centers are readied to receive 60% of the 10th grade leavers. The Public Relations Officer,
after saying so many things to show that all preparations are done, adds that bids would soon be issued for the supply of
technical workshop equipment and that similar equipment purchased overseas would reach the country in less than two months.
In this case too, the real message is in what the Public Relations Officer did not say. He did not say that 60% of the 10th grade
leavers would not start proper classes until after bids for supply of equipment are issued, tenders awarded and the equipment
delivered, which may take a good part or the whole of the academic year. In view of this situation it would be proper for the
public to ask the Ministry of Education to resort to another option until such a time as it would make everything ready in earnest
which may take a year or more. Let all the 10th grade leavers continue in the academic line without wasting their precious
young years in waiting for the organization of technical and vocational schools.
For months now, the EPRDF and its affiliates have been telling the public that corruption, nepotism, human rights abuses,
narrow nationalism and all forms anti-democratic practices have been rampant in their organizations during their rule of the past
10 years. They make highly publicized gatherings to say this. The press and other mass media make detailed reports of these
gatherings. The take home message between the lines of all the declarations of these gatherings is: "You see, we are corrupt,
narrow nationalists, we violate human rights and do anti-democratic practices and we are here to stay. Besides, what would
you look for in democracy more than such openness?"