It has been about 48hrs since Birtukan Mideksa’s release from Prison on Pardon.
Here are Statements from Brtukan and officials of western countries and institutions.
European Government Officials
United Kingdom – Minister for Africa
Minister for Africa Henry Bellingham has welcomed the release of Ethiopian opposition leader Birtukan Mideska.
Speaking after her release, the Minister for Africa said:
“I welcome the release from prison of the Ethiopian opposition leader Birtukan Mideksa. This is an important step forward. We have always taken the view that her re-imprisonment was not in Ethiopia’s interest and that a solution should be found, in accordance with Ethiopian law, for her to be released. People like Birtukan Mideksa have an important contribution to make to Ethiopia’s democratic development. We are delighted that she can now be reunited with her family.”
Norway – Minister of Foreign Affairs
“I am very pleased that the Ethiopian opposition leader Birtukan Mideksa has now been released from prison,” said Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Jonas Gahr Støre.
“Norway has raised the issue of Birtukan Mideksa’s imprisonment with the Ethiopian authorities on several occasions. Her release is an important step forward in the efforts to further develop democracy in Ethiopia. I hope that Ms Birtukan will be able to play an important role in promoting a democratic, multi-party culture in the country,” said Mr Støre.
Germany – Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid
The Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid, Markus Löning, today (6 October) issued the following statement on the release of Ethiopian opposition politician Birtukan Mideksa:
“I am extremely pleased to learn that Birtukan Mideksa has just been amnestied and released from prison. Her imprisonment, which lasted a total of 40 months, was watched with great concern by many people inside and outside Ethiopia. The Federal Government repeatedly raised Ms Birtukan’s case in its contacts with Ethiopian partners.
My wish now for Ms Birtukan and her little daughter is that they may recover quickly from what have been for them very difficult years.
I congratulate the Ethiopian leadership on its farsighted decision and very much hope that this marks the starting-point for an intensified, fruitful dialogue among all political forces in Ethiopia.”
Canada – Minister of Foreign Affairs
(No. 326 – October 6, 2010 – 7:45 p.m. ET) The Honourable Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Foreign Affairs, today issued the following statement welcoming the release of Ethiopian opposition leader Birtukan Mideksa:
“Canada is pleased that the Government of Ethiopia has pardoned and released Birtukan Mideksa. We see this as a positive step toward greater political freedom in Ethiopia.
“Ethiopia is a richly diverse country, and this is best reflected through a vibrant political dialogue. Ms. Birtukan’s voice—and that of other political leaders—is important to Ethiopia’s democratic development. Her release is welcome, and we look forward to the Ethiopian government’s efforts to build upon this constructive measure.”
Ms. Birtukan was imprisoned following Ethiopia’s post-election violence in 2005. Although she received a pardon and was released in 2008, she was subsequently reimprisoned.
Human Rights Watch
Leslie Lefkow, senior Horn of Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch
(New York) – The Ethiopian government’s release on October 6, 2010, of detained opposition leader Birtukan Midekssa should pave the way for freeing dozens of other political prisoners in the country, Human Rights Watch said today.
“Freeing Birtukan was a positive move,” said Leslie Lefkow, senior Horn of Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “But for this step to be meaningful, the government needs to free the many others it is holding unlawfully.”
“Birtukan’s release does not change the fact that Ethiopia’s human rights situation remains dire,” Lefkow said. “International donors to Ethiopia should press for real reforms, including the release of dozens of political prisoners, the repeal of pernicious legislation, and an end to impunity for serious crimes by the security forces.”
[Note that: Human Rights Watch is known for its unfounded remarks about Ethiopian government]
(London) — Amnesty International today welcomed the Ethiopian government’s release of Birtukan Mideksa, a prisoner of conscience, who was arrested and jailed in 2008:
“Amnesty International is delighted that Birtukan Mideksa has been able to go home to her family. A prisoner of conscience, she was held for nearly two years solely for the peaceful exercise of her right to freedom of expression and association,” said Michelle Kagari, deputy director of the Africa program at Amnesty International. “The authorities must ensure that the right to freedom of expression and association will now be respected and protected.”
Horn of Africa specialist at Chatham House
“In the light of the 2010 election and the ending of parliamentary opposition, her release is not going to make much of a difference,” said Sally Healy, a Horn of Africa specialist at Chatham House, a London-based research institute.
Ana Gomez, EU Parliament Member
“We at the European parliament are delighted to hear about Birtukan’s release,” Ana Maria Gomes, an EU lawmaker who led a mission that observed the 2005 vote in Ethiopia, said in an e- mailed statement today. “At the European Parliament, we will continue to support all those who fight for democracy and the rule of law in Ethiopia.”
David Shinn, a former U.S. envoy to Ethiopia
“This may be part of a broader campaign to reorient the political system so that it at least appears to be more democratic,” said David Shinn, a former U.S. envoy to Ethiopia.
“In fact, it might even become more democratic. Many of the original EPRDF leaders have moved or are moving to the sidelines. Meles has stated that he will not run for prime minister in 2015 and I believe he will not,” he told Reuters.
J. Peter Pham,
Africa project director at the National Committee on American Foreign Policy
“Having secured an almost exclusive control of parliament for the EPDRF, consolidated his pre-eminent position within the ruling party, and more or less begun the process for smooth transition to a new generation of leadership, Prime Minister Meles can afford a bit of magnanimity,” J. Peter Pham, Africa project director at the National Committee on American Foreign Policy, told Reuters.
“At this point, it plays well with both international donors and the Ethiopian public, without costing him anything.”
Birtukan Mideksa to the Media
(shortly after release)
(BBC) “I am very relieved,” she told the BBC at her family home where crowds had gathered to welcome her.
“Prison by itself is a very horrible place, especially for me the time I spent alone,” she said.
“Now I am free, I am back to my family and my daughter, I am very elated.”
The BBC’s Uduak Amimo in Addis Ababa says hundreds of her supporters began cheering and singing when she arrived, accompanied by her elderly mother and young daughter.
(AFP) It was very hard in jail. I found it very difficult to be alone for all that time. I am very pleased that I have been released,” she told AFP Wednesday.
“I am happy to be back with my family and relatives after a long time away.”
Asked what she planned to do next, she replied: “I can’t say anything now. I’ll need time to think about the future.”
(Bloomberg) “I’m very pleased to be back with my family,” Birtukan, 36, said in an interview at her house in Addis Ababa, the capital. “I’ve been relieved from a difficult situation. The first five months in solitary confinement were very difficult.”
Birtukan confirmed in the interview that she had “asked for a pardon.” She didn’t elaborate.
“This is time for my family,” she said while surrounded by family members, colleagues and well-wishers at her home.
(Associated Press) She told journalists she had sought the recent pardon, but she did not say whether she would resume her political career or challenge the ruling party.
“Those issues are for another time and place,” she said.