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Andargachew Tsege's arrest: A milestone in the war against terrorism

By Gulelat Kebede
Tigrai Onlne - July 17, 2014

Time and again the neo-liberal forces come up with an excuse to blacken and defame the constitutional order and the socio-economic stride. They consider every single thing that happens in our mother land as opportunity to belittle the progress made in good governance, social services, etc.

Certainly, these detractors are all-too-prepared to twist events in Ethiopia and start their monotonous song of denouncement and doomsday.

Their latest theme is the detention and extradition of Andargachew Tsigie.

Last week, the Federal Police and the National Intelligence and Security Service Anti-terror Joint Taskforce made one of the highly anticipated announcements. That is the detention and extradition of Andargachew Tsigies, who is one of the leaders of the terrorist group, Ginbot-7. He was detained at Sena’a airport, Yemen while in transit from Dubai to Eritrea.

The Federal Police and the National Intelligence and Security Service Anti-terror Joint Taskforce said that Yemen's officials arrested Andargachew Tsigie based on the intelligence provided by Ethiopia's security officials on June 23 and was transferred to Ethiopia on the same day.

The taskforce noted that Andargachew Tsigie is not the first citizen of Britain to be arrested in Ethiopia. Another British national of Ethiopian origin, Abebe Wendmagegn, was captured, along his collaborators, while preparing to bomb Bole-Medhanialem, a busy section of the capital city, on January 2014. The man, who was under Andargachew Tsigie’s command was tried and convicted later.

The statement warned that having foreign countries’ citizenship, being a journalist or membership in a legal opposition party cannot provide immunity from legal accountability.

Following that, however, several neoliberal forces rushed to make shameful and illogical statements.

The first tactic of misinformation was to present Andargachew Tsege as a peaceful politician. That was the tactic employed by Martin Plaute on theguardian.com. He wrote:

Ginbot 7 is among the largest of Ethiopia's exiled opposition movements. The party was founded by Berhanu Nega, who was elected mayor of Addis Ababa in 2005. Refusing to accept the result, the prime minister, Meles Zenawi, declared a state of emergency ...Ginbot 7 says it stands for the peaceful end to what it describes as the Ethiopian dictatorship.

The sheer number of false claims in this paragraph indicates a deliberate intent to misinform. For example: There is no basis to claim Ginbot 7 is the largest opposition movement. Berhanu Nega has never been elected Mayor, only elected as a counselor and he didn't work on that post even for one day. There has been no state of emergency in the past 23 years. The list of errors goes on.

An important element of the above quoted paragraph is its claim that Ginbot 7 says it stands for the peaceful end to what it describes as the Ethiopian dictatorship.

A similar misinformation and attempt to hide Ginbot 7's violent nature was demonstrated in the statements from other groups as well.  

Human Rights Watch referred to Andargachew Tsege as: An exiled Ethiopian opposition leader unlawfully deported by Yemen back to Ethiopia.  Amnesty International said: Andargachew Tsige, an Ethiopian political activist in exile, appears to have been arrested in transit in Yemen on 24 June and forcibly returned to Ethiopia.

However, these statements, however, are farther from the truth. Ginbot 7 never considered itself as activist or seeking peaceful end. In fact, the one thing that the group is consistent about is its intent to overthrow the government violently.

Even as recent as last year, Ginbot 7 made a public announcement of its military force - Ginbot 7 Popular Force.

It also disclosed that it is stationed with in Eritrea'd territory.

In fact, the role of Eritrea is not a secret. There are atleast ten Ethiopian groups on Eritrea's payroll: EPPF, ONLF, two or three factions of OLF, TPDM, APDM, groups formed in the name of Benshangul, Gambella, etc.

They frequently attempt to attack military and civilian facilities, though they have few fighters and their terror missions often fail as soon as they cross Ethiopia's border.

The next tactic employed by the detractors was to depict Andargachew Tsege's criminal convictions as flawed. In line with that, Amnesty International said that Ethiopia shall ensure that Andargachew Tsige is not required to serve any sentence for a conviction in absentia.

Indeed, it was on December 22, 2009 that Ethiopia's Federal High Court sentenced Andergachew and 39 more Ginbot 7 defendants. The Court sentenced five defendants to death, 33 defendants to life terms, and two defendants to 10 years.

The charges in which the defendants were convicted included: conspiracy against the constitutional system; conspiracy to destroy government institutions; attempted assassination of government officials; and inciting rebellion within the army.

The Court handed down the death sentence to five defendants (Melaku Teferra, Dr. Berhanu Nega, Muluneh Eyoel, Andargachew Tsige and Mesfin Aman). The Court also ruled to confiscate the properties of Dr. Berhanu Nega, Getu Worku, Alehubel Amare, Andargachew Tsige, and Yaregal Yimam, all whom were convicted in absentia. 

The role of Ginbot 7 and Andargachew Tsege in plots to destabilize the nation did not end there. The group was complicit in plots to conduct of acts of terror in the Ethiopian New Year in 2009.

After a proper trial with all defendants - both present and in absentia - represented by a legal counsel, the Federal High Court found the defendants guilty crimes of terrorism, high treason and espionage. The defendants were accused of having links with Ginbot 7, OLF and ONLF, groups designated as terrorists by the Ethiopian parliament. The espionage and high treason charges relate to allegations that the defendants maintained links with the Eritrean government.

Founders and senior leaders of Ginbot 7, Andargachew Tsege and Berhan Nega were among those tried in absentia and found guilty. Several board members of Ethiopian Satellite Television (ESAT), considered as a mouthpiece of Ginbot 7 were also convicted.  

The trial was held in accordance with relevant procedures and attended by members of Parliament, diplomats including US ambassador to Ethiopia, local and international journalists as well as opposition figures.

Yet again, last year in 2013, Ginbot 7 was caught plotting another terror attack. The Ethiopian Federal Prosecutor filed charges against squad members of Andargachew's terrorist force plotting acts through an organized armed group.

This long list of Ginbot-7's terror acts are also observed by international groups. In 2012, the United Nation's Monitoring Group report stated categorically: “the Monitoring Group has confirmed that Eritrea continues to violate resolutions 1844 (2008) and 1907 (2009) by deploying Ethiopian armed opposition groups via Somali territory.”

It detailed evidence of Eritrean support to the ONLF, OLF, the Tigray People’s Democratic Movement (TPDM), Ginbot 7 and ARDUF, and said Eritrea “hosts the remnants of other Ethiopian opposition groups, such as Arbengnoch, Debub-Hizboch, and Beni Shangul”. 

Further evidence surfaced last year, with the appearance of a recording of Dr. Berhanu, head of Ginbot 7. The tape revealed that Birhanu Nega, chairman of Ginbot 7, received 9.5 million birr from Eritrea. As Sudan Tribune had reported it:

"The Eritrean government has offered $500,000 to Ginbot 7, an exiled Ethiopian opposition political organization designated by Ethiopia as terrorist entity, according to a report on a US-based Ethiopia opposition media outlet.

In an audio recording of an interview with the group’s chairman, leaked to AwrambaTimes.com, Berhanu Nega admits that he received the funds."

From the audio recording, we also understand that Berhanu and three more Ginbot 7 operatives met the officials of Eritrea, presented 6-month work plan and received the money.

The recording which was apparently a briefing to officials of Ginbot 7 organization on the receipt of the funds from Eritrea, elaborates that the fund is to be used for ESAT and for Ginbot 7 to organize “military and intelligence works” including the setting up of teams for military operation.

In light of all these, it was expected that Yemen honors the bilateral agreement for joint action to "control elements attempting to destabilise the two countries' peace and stability"; to "jointly engage any third party that attempts to destabilize the long-standing brotherly and historic ties between the two countries"; and "not to harbour elements seeking to destabilize the other's peace and stability".

In fact, any peace loving person cannot object the arrest of a leader of a group that regularly boasts to undertake acts of terror. Even last week, AFP reported that: "Ginbot 7 said in a statement: We declare a war in the name of Andargachew for justice, freedom and equality".

Those who attempt to disguise the true nature of Andargachew tsige's activities and the criminal convictions and sentences on him by a Court of law may talk all sorts of stories all day long.

However, Ethiopia will endure her unilateral, bilateral and multilateral struggle against terrorism in the region.

In the meantime, Andargachew Tsege will settle his debt with the law.