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Letter to Ethiopian prime minister Meles Zenawi

Letter to prime minister Meles Zenawi expressing concern over the deaths of many Ethiopians following demonstrations and riots in Addis Ababa.

04 November 2005

You may no doubt recall that in the course of my recent visit to Ethiopia and our meeting, I expressed concern at the growing tension between the Government and the opposition political parties in the aftermath of the general election.

I had then conveyed our deep conviction to Your Excellency for the matter to be resolved through dialogue and for the government to exercise moderation, patience and tolerance and explore all avenues for peaceful and honest dialogue with the opposition.

Subsequent to our meeting, I had written to the leadership of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy and the United Ethiopian Democratic Forces, with the same appeal and underlining the urgent need for a mature and amicable approach to resolve the crisis that has led to the political polarisation and confrontation. I encouraged them, in the larger and long-term interest of Ethiopia, to resolve the political impasse through dialogue.

It is therefore with great sadness that I have learned of the death of many Ethiopians following demonstrations and riots in Addis Ababa this week. Many others are wounded and remain in hospital. The Government has also attacked the opposition leaders arresting key figures and putting them under detention. These developments are not likely to lead to a peaceful resolution, but instead would aggravate the situation.

I am thus writing this letter with a very heavy heart. Consequent to the actions taken by the government the wedge between the government and the opposition will widen, thereby unnecessarily dividing the population and leading to economic and political hardship. It could even destabilise the entire nation with all the adverse effects on the laudable initiatives you have taken on development and democratisation process.

The World Council of Churches urgently and respectfully calls on Your Excellency to exercise utmost restraint and bring to an immediate halt the military action against the people and release the political prisoners as soon as possible. Such actions will help in easing the fast rising political tension. The Government of Ethiopia should open new avenues of dialogue to deal with the broad spectrum of outstanding issues. Any further military action against the people is an escalation of violence and will further damage the political climate and make dialogue even less possible.

With this letter and in the spirit of my recent visit I respectfully call on you as leader of the Ethiopian people to act in the best interests of the people in a manner that the entire nation of Ethiopia will recognize and accept.

Meanwhile we assure you of our prayers and hope for a just and peaceful Ethiopia.

Yours sincerely,
Rev. Dr. Samuel Kobia
General Secretary