Originally appeared in the Huffington Post on 2/7/2011
John F. Kennedy said:
Those who make peaceful change impossible, make a violent revolution inevitable.”
The English colonial government made peaceful change impossible in the American colonies leading to the American Revolution in 1776, an event memorialized in the American Declaration of Independence and celebrated annually on July 4.
On July 4th 2007, an informal group of Ethiopian human rights defenders, civic society activists, academics, journalists, concerned individuals and others signed a Declaration pledging to defend freedom, democracy and human rights in Ethiopia, and set up an online petition for all Ethiopians worldwide to join in the pledge. The Declaration was signed by 1,875 individuals in 2007.
At this critical moment in African and Middle Eastern history when decades-old dictatorships are being challenged by the people, it is vitally important for all Ethiopians who believe in freedom, democracy and human rights to stand up and take a stand.
The online petition remains open for signature here.
The Declaration with the list of 74 original signatories as it appeared in 2007 is reproduced at the online petition site and here and various other websites.
DECLARATION TO DEFEND FREEDOM, DEMOCRACY AND HUMAN RIGHTS IN ETHIOPIA IN THE NEW MILLENNIUM July 4, 2007
In the history of all great nations, there comes a moment when the people must make a choice that will define them in their own time, vindicate the enormous sacrifices of their ancestors and enable them to bequeath an enduring legacy for generations yet unborn. They are often forced to make that choice by arrogant tyrants who use brute force to entrench and perpetuate their dictatorial rule, and unabashedly proclaim to the world their contempt for the rule of law, democratic principles and civil liberties.
In the history of oppression, tyrants have spared no effort to erode the natural courage of their people and force upon them a life of cowardice and submission, debilitate their natural instincts for bravery and valor and intimidate them into accepting servility, replace their yearning for liberty with false hopes and pretensions of freedom, trick them into bartering their desire to live in dignity for a life of shame and fear, subvert their natural sense of honor, duty and patriotism for vulgar materialism, and corrupt them into selling their fidelity to truth at the altar of falsehood.
In 1776, the American people had their defining moment when they stood up and defended their liberties against a tyrannical king who taxed them without representation, closed down their legislatures and imposed upon them laws made by representatives for whom they did not grant consent. They declared then, as we do now:
“When a government has ceased to protect the lives, liberty and property of the people, from whom its legitimate powers are derived, and for the advancement of whose happiness it was instituted, and so far from being a guarantee for the enjoyment of those inestimable and inalienable rights, it becomes an instrument in the hands of evil rulers for their oppression.”
Our Moment to Stand Up Against Evil Rulers and For Freedom, Democracy and Human Rights in the New Ethiopian Millennium is Here! We Must Act Now!
Ethiopians the world over must now make a choice, a choice that will define them today, tomorrow and in the next Millennium. We must plant the seeds of liberty today so that future generations may harvest its bounty.
We MUST therefore rise to defend freedom, democracy and human rights in Ethiopia against a tyrant who has:
Connived and made alliances with enemies of the Ethiopian people to break up the country and bargain away its territory.
Subverted the civil and criminal laws of the land and encroached upon the fundamental rights of the people by denying them due process of law.
Forbidden the people from speaking freely, assembling peacefully, petitioning government for grievances, and the press from reporting.
Trampled upon the basic human rights of the people, and flagrantly violated international human rights laws and conventions.
Employed the malicious methods of divide and conquer, and dredged up historical grievances to sow hatred and discord among the people.
Threatened and made good on his threats to visit violence, intimidation, terror, arbitrary arrest and imprisonment and torture and untold privation upon the people.
Dispatched swarms of soldiers throughout the land to harass the people and administer street justice against them.
Refused to step down and leave office after he was overwhelmingly defeated in a democratic election, and rejected by the people.
Unjustly imprisoned the elected representatives of the people and persecuted peaceful political opponents on false and fabricated charges and crimes.
Obstructed the administration of justice by neutralizing and intimidating the judiciary to do his bidding.
Intervened in the internal affairs of neighboring countries and waged war against their people creating lasting and insurmountable enmity.
Refused the aid of Great Nations to build democratic institutions and institutionalize human rights and the rule of law in Ethiopia, and has hired at great expense to the people’s treasury, mercenaries to lobby against such efforts in the Legislatures of such nations, and
Practiced cruelty and crimes against humanity scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages.
In every stage of these oppressions, the people have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms. We have sought the intercession of international human rights organizations, the Legislatures of the Great Nations of the world and appealed to his sense of native justice, magnanimity and patriotism.
He has sneered at the people’s pleas for justice, scoffed at their petitions for redress of grievances and turned a deaf ear to the advice of the international community.
We, the undersigned, therefore, solemnly publish and declare, that the People of Ethiopia have the God-given right to live in freedom, democracy and human rights, to be free and establish a government that is of their own choosing and consent, and that we shall work tirelessly and without reservation or evasion to:
Gain the unconditional release of ALL political prisoners of conscience.
Restore the democratic rights of the people.
Institute democratic reform and accountability.
Enhance the capacity of legislative institutions to enact fair and just laws.
Strengthen civil society groups and organizations and support human rights advocates.
Cause the arrest and prosecution of human rights abusers, and to bring to justice the killers of 193 innocent men, women and children and wounding of 763 others.
Increase the independence of the judiciary.
Establish permanent human rights monitoring and reporting processes.
Secure the rights of women and promote families as a foundation for a stable society.
Encourage and engage youth to become future leaders.
Remove all press censorship, restore full press freedom and strengthen private media.
Improve the electoral process to ensure fraud-free elections, and strengthen competitive party politics.
Limit the use of U.S. security assistance to maintain global peace, and NOT against the civilian population, and
Work tirelessly to bring to justice all persons guilty of crimes against humanity.
In support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other and to the People of Ethiopia that we will defend and promote, without evasion or reservation, the cause of freedom, democracy and human rights in Ethiopia in the New Millennium.
IN SUPPORT OF THIS DECLARATION,
ALEMAYEHU GEBRE MARIAM
MARIA C. LUGO
JOSEPH M. CIUFFINI
BELAYNESH T. HAIMANOT
MEKDESE B. KASSA